The Apostles Query

Saw this on my feed the other day:

Beautiful queries

“Just wrote the most complex SQL statement I have ever written. It won’t scale, but it’s so beautiful. :)”

Cal’s query brought tears to my eyes. When a finch landed on it, I saw it pivot. It was deeply religious…


I believe in Codd, the Father Almighty,

and in MySQL, His PRIMARY KEY, our INDEX:
Which was established by the DB driver,
born of the Open Source;
suffered under Larry Ellison,
was TRUNCATE’d, DELETE’d and was DROP’d.
It RAISE()ed into non-TEMP, RIGHT JOIN’d with Codd the Father Almighty;
from thence It shall come to SELECT FROM the relational and non-relational.

I believe in the DB driver,
the Fourth Normal Form,
the relations of tables,
the ROLLBACK of failed transactions,
the RESTORE from logical backups,
and the persistence of storage.


Next up: Ave MariaDB.

When statistics say the opposite

This article shows how discussions of political statsitics is in the dark ages. Here is the relevant graph:

Both polls, released on Sunday, showed Mr. Trump in worse shape than he had been a month ago… Despite his woes, not all the results of the new polls were heartening for Mrs. Clinton. The Journal-NBC survey found that her lead essentially disappears when candidates from the Green Party and Libertarian Party are included. She essentially tied Mr. Trump, with 39 percent to his 38 percent. Together, third-party candidates grabbed 16 percent of the support.

Actually, that’s even worse news for Trump than polls showing that Clinton has opened up her lead. To understand this, let’s look at the conservative WSJ-NBC News poll mentioned.

That poll has Clinton at 46% and Trump at 43%, a three point lead nationally. This is one of the most conservative two way polls out there as aggregate polling (which includes three way polling) has her ahead by 6.8%, so we can see the understandable Republican bias in a Wall Street Journal poll. But even taking that into account, we see a 11% undecided/non-reporting account so the real question that all the early reporting needs to answer given how well known both candidates are is: which way is are these huge number of non-reporters going to break?

What the three way race shows is a window into these undecideds. It says right now Clinton has the larger number of holdouts than Trump: about ~60% of these people would rather vote for her than Trump, making her lead much bigger than the numbers are showing.

It reminds me when people say stupid things like, “It’s okay to vote for a third party in a blue state” when studies have conclusively shown that the best way to push policies in a direction is with a bigger margin of victory because the more competitive the election, the more moderate the politician’s position irrespective of incumbency or how “fixed” their candidate position seems.

In other words, if Bernie Sanders really wanted the outcomes he espouses, he’d be endorsing Hillary and pushing hard for a large electoral win, because that, more than anything, would give President Clinton the freedom to move to the left. Instead, he acts in direct opposition to his stated outcomes and pushes her toward the middle.

Everything is a remix

Hitler, in addition to his oratorical and organizing abilities, has another positive asset—he is a man of the “common people”…
But several reliable, well-informed sources confirmed the idea that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch messes of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes.
The New York Times, November 21, 1922

Stephen E. Ambrose’s supposed thesis of Band of Brothers was that American citizen solders were better than the Germans because uniquely “American” autonomy and attitudes in lower officer corp gave them battlefield superiority due to flexibility in tactics and decision-making. This thesis is refuted in the same book by fact that it mentions that after soldiers were in combat for more than six months, they started to fall apart. The Germans, by this point, had been at war for six years.

An interesting side note was who the American servicemen found it easiest to relate to: not the English they trained and fought with, nor the French or the Dutch they freed at Normandy and Arnhem, but the German soldiers they fought at Bastogne and who surrendered to them at Berchtesgaden.

In the end, the real lesson of that book is a far deeper one: when Easy Company rolled into Dachau concentration camp, they were staring at a human horror that none of us are above because we are no different then our enemies.

Someone recently tweeted that if you ever wondered what you would do in 1930’s Germany, now you get to find out.

About gerrymandering

I was surprised that the betting markets had the Democratic Party with a 19% chance of retaking Congress. To do so, they would have to flip nearly 50 seats!

In the modern era, the Republicans have pulled this off twice (1994, 2010), while the Democrats have only reached this number in 1974 (Watergate scandal). That’s because wave elections of the magnitude needed usually occur only in midterm years when the sitting president has an ebb in popularity and the Republican party is stronger voting patterns during midterms.

Perhaps an interesting way to look at the current situation is: right now the Republicans have their largest House majority since just before the stock market crash kicked off the Great Depression.

The challenge of flipping that seems insurmountable in an electorate as polarized as this one.

The press has mostly been focused on Donald Trump dragging down the ticket and Paul Ryan’s attempt to dance with him. So the articles focusing on the chances of the House flipping have actually decreased from previous years because the conventional wisdom is the only incumbents who actually are at risk are Republican U.S. senators in blue or battleground states like (Illinois, Wisconsin, New Hampshire), and (Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio).

But the betting markets are capturing something the press isn’t: a wave is a wave is a wave, and this year is looking to be a Democratic wave due to raw demographics, being a presidential election year, and Donald Trump. This is compounded by the fact that strategically the Trump campaign is planning on funding and running its logistics by piggybacking off the Republican National Committee. This exacerbates the problem because: 1) it siphons funds and resources from congressional elections to the general; 2) battleground states are ones with large electoral vote counts and have no correlation with contested districts; and 3) the Republicans have increasingly depended financially on large donors via Citizen’s United and outsourced most of the voter outreach and research to third party organizations, so neither the money, nor the knowledge for the republicans is actually in the RNC.

By giving 5-to-1 odds, the markets are saying, “Yeah, it’s going to be a wave, but that’s not enough. But hey, we could always be wrong!” My instincts say it should be closer to 25% than 19% — akin to saying, “It’s possible the wave will be big enough, but it’s still far more likely it’ll take another election year for this wave to crest.”

That’s because I think betting markets have not (yet? ever?) correctly priced in the non-linear impact of gerrymandering. Right now everyone is saying that gerrymandering favors the Republicans. This is certainly true: through gerrymandering, Republican state houses in 2010 has acted as a deep red firewall against a Democratic demographic wave and districts are more partisan than ever because of it. Evidence certainly backs the power of gerrymandering up as, nationally, there were more votes for Democratic congressional candidates than Republican ones in 2012 and 2014, and yet the Republican party gained seats.

Continue reading about the double-edged sword of gerrymandering after the jump

Aged to perfection

Eight years ago, at a party, a friend asked me who I preferred for the Democratic nomination. I said, “Barack Obama.”

“What about Hillary?” she asked, clearly bummed.

“She’s great too, and if she wins, I’d be proud to cast my vote for her to become the first female President of the United States.”

Looks like I’ll get my chance.

I wonder what my friend is thinking right now. To all you die-hard Hillary-supporters: sure, it was an eight-plus year wait, but it’ll have been worth it.

Continue reading adendums after the jump

A Confession of Totebagger Sanctimony

I found this column by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times highly offensive. The premise is that our nation’s “ivory tower” academia is some sort of racism in reverse.

Ignore for the moment that a conservative totebagger like Kristof claims to be a liberal so he can attack them and I’ll talk about an obvious anecdote and apply a bit of common sense.

Where was the confession of conservative intolerance?

I went to college at Caltech, the very definition of ivory tower for a budding young scientist.

Back then, the few people who would openly express their political views were all rabid conservatives to the point where one pair had a picture of Reagan in their dorm room and had a poster with a bunch of Jimmy Carter quotes mocking him outside posted outside it. I know this because they were friends who I engaged with but didn’t have enough knowledge to dispute even though I believed they were wrong at some level—kind of like a kid in high school right now who is a closet Hillary supporter amongst their friends who feel the Bern.

Historically, scientists as a class have been conservative politically—hence all the question of Hitler’s nuclear bomb program or the space race being “between our Germans and their Germans.”

The only modern right wing view that I ever saw attacked was strict Creationism. And the few people who held that clearly unscientfic view were only lightly teased by their friends… and only if they were biology majors.

When President George H.W. Bush came to Caltech to give a commencement speech and some protesters not part of the community protested, people were pissed. And not at the University for escorting the protesters away but at the protesters for disrupting a Caltech event.

And while CLAGS (The Caltech Lesbian and Gay Society) would host a pretty kickin’ party once a year in the student center and the college guide claimed a statistically a significant percentage of students were gay, the lesbian woman who ran the CLAGS booth was ostracized and made fun of while every week the largest and most social dormitory on campus would host a bible study that was not only accepted, it was well attended.

And yet where were was the RINO conservative columnist for the New York Times writing “A Confession of Conservative Intolerance?”

There were none because it, like “liberal intolerance,” is not where the problem lies.

False equivalence and common sense

When you say or bolster your argument with, “The same arguments I hear people make about evangelicals sound so familiar to the ways people often describe folk of color, i.e. politically unsophisticated, lacking education, angry, bitter, emotional, poor,” you make an equivalence between some close-minded people getting their fee-fees hurt in academia when they express a deliberately counter-factual view and the real racism that is still occurring today in our nation’s institutions.

That equivalence is false.

If scientists are naturally inclined to respect authority and share affinity for the conservative party of a country and you find that your top scientific institution doesn’t have a Republican among them and the refrain becomes “reality has a well known liberal bias,” then the natural conclusion is that that party is no longer conservative but anti-scientific and anti-reality.

If evangelicals were on the rise up until a decade ago and Christianity has and continues to dominate this country since its founding, and suddenly they’re on the decline and mildly ostracized now then maybe they should be looking at how they have changed instead of the demanding that we suddenly blindly accept anything a small religious sect slapped a “Christian” label to: whether it is a “war on Christmas,” “evolution is just a theory,” gay marriage, transgender bathrooms, or that the sun orbits the earth. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because they’ve become increasingly less “evangelical” or “Christian” and started simply to be fundamentalists?

The natural conclusion is not to blame people who traditionally share your views for being intolerant of them. Liberals value freedom of speech, and the ACLU will fiercely protect that right. But they are under no obligation to protect a non-existent right for you to never feel ashamed when people laugh at you for saying stupid shit.

Nicholas Kristof, who among your colleagues will write an article defending you from the butt-hurt you’re about to receives (and rightly deserve) in the comments when you wrote this stupid column comparing people who celebrate their ignorance with the civil rights movement or the plight of gay and transgender peoplee?

Because apparently that “persecution” of you is exactly the same as racist rhetoric.

EDIT: Apparently the answer to the above question is the moderators at the @nytimes who closed the comment section. Lolz!

Remembering Mister Rogers

Marie posted this link of Mr. Rogers:

It reminded me how I was fortunate enough to have met him.

My mom’s side is Catholic, but my Dad’s side is Presbyterian—Dad’s family, not Dad—Dad is what my mom liked to call a Seventh-day Absentist—every seventh day, he was absent from church. After Ken was confirmed Mom would allow us to go to either church. In high school, when my brother had a car, this meant trips every Sunday to the Korean Presbyterian Church.

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was filmed at the local public television station of Pittsburgh and he was ordained a Presbyterian minister. He belonged to the Sixth Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh located in Squirrel Hill. At the time, in the afternoon on Sundays the Korean Presbyterian Church hadn’t scraped enough money yet to buy their own church so the services would be out of the Sixth Church. Sometimes Mr. Rogers would stay late for Korean Sunday school kids.

One time he made a guest appearance with us high schoolers. He sat down and had a suitcase with all his puppets on his lap. We’d ask him to do all the voices of our childhood: King Friday, Queen Saturday, Henrietta Pussycat, etc., and with a nervous smile, he’d reach into the suitcase and the requested character from the Neighborhood of Make Believe would pop up from behind the open case and address us. Even Daniel Striped Tiger made an appearance even though he was very worn-through and extremely shy.

Some people are exactly who they appear to be, and Mr. Rogers was one of them. It was pretty awesome.

He was pretty awesome. 🙂

Rituals and Religion

From an e-mail I received a year ago:

What does that actually mean? It means facilitating the “rituals” that
are part of an agile team’s work (e.g. the daily stand-ups, the
sprint planning meetings, retrospectives, etc.) and continually facilitating
the team’s discovery of improving the way they work.

What is the difference between a software process and a religion? Nothing.

I’m cool with software process, just like I believe in God.

I hate named software process because, like organized religion, it’s full of theology removed from reality, practice without the empiricism, theory without the application. When you show them empirical evidence on the consequence (or outright failure) of one of their particular rituals, they’re quick to maneuver with the words, “That’s ‘big A Agile.’ I’m not talking about that, I’m ‘little A Agile.’” (Whatever the fuck that is.)1

You can’t pin them down because they actually stand for nothing—there is no “there” there. It is the natural result of adapting a process that originated to allow sub-1000 page software consulting contracts with Fortune 500 multinational industrials in the 80’s and 90’s and blindly applying it to a shoe-string funded startups over a full decade after the dotCom crash in non-enterprise consumer-facing Internet whose entire business is software. Two different worlds; two different failure costs; one would assume that there would be two different names for two different software processes.

Instead there are hundreds of different processes all under the “little A agile” banner. And they look not alike at all. To watch the rhetorical hoops these agile adherents go through to call it “all agile” would be amusing if it wasn’t so unnecessary.

When I was a kid at evangelical summer camp, there was a parable I heard the counselor’s tell:

A man gets the opportunity to visit Heaven and Hell. He visits Hell first and meets Satan and asks, “Do you have any Catholics here?”

Satan responds, “Oh yes, we have a lot of them.”




“Them too!”

And so on, listing every denomination and finding them well-represented in Hell.

Depressed he goes to Heaven and chats with Saint Peter. “Do you have Catholics in Heaven?”

“No,” Peter says.


“No, none of those.”



And so on. Exasperated, the man asks Peter, “Well then what do you have in Heaven?”

“Christians.” Peter responds.

Catholicism is Scrum; Presbyterian is Extreme Programming; Baptists is Kanban. I suppose Hell is the dead-pool, Heaven is getting a getting funded or IPO2, and Martin Fowler is Saint Peter.3 It reads the same.

“Little A Agile”: the “non-denominational Christians” of the software process religions. If it works, it’s “Agile.” And if it fails to get you to Internet Heaven?4

Oh, that shit is “big A Agile.”

  1. If your process is defined by the outcome alone, then it is useless in a business setting. 
  2. A successful exit, in life or startups. :-) 
  3. Does that make me Satan? 
  4. The goal is to have an lucrative exit so you can blog about how hard it is to be a Founder and tweet about your First World problems. 


Guest blogger, Charlotte Allen, of the LA Times, berates people for mocking Republican Joni Ernst’s irrelevant, stupid, and obviously-fake anecdote:

You see, growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry.

But I was never embarrassed. Because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet.

People are not mocking her because they’re rich coastal snobs1 and she’s some rural salt-of-the earth. They’re mocking her because everyone who used bread bags on cold, wet days back in the 70’s and 80’s knows you put them on the inside of your shoes to protect your socks, not the outside to where they would cause you to slip on snow and wouldn’t last ten yards on asphalt.

Also people of that generation know only a few would be so rich (and stupid) enough to wear nice shoes on a school day.2 This was back when shoes and clothing were expensive, and Gore-tex was still patented and only in expensive ski jackets.3

Finally, this trick is also not related to the income or urban/rural divide, since I grew up in the richest (by far) suburb in a large midwestern city, and we kept old bread bags for this very reason.

The fact that these two sentences are littered with at least three major errors shows that Joni Ernst never actually never did the bread bag trick. The fact that this right wing nut job disguised as a “guest blogger” in the LA Times is defending such obvious stupidity shows that neither did she.

In the case of Charlotte Allen, by being born in the 40’s she is too old to know about bread bags in shoes.4 In the case of Joni Ernst? Either she was too rich then;5 or she is too stupid to have corrected her too-young speechwriter.6

  1. OTOH, the blogger, Charlotte Allen, brags about how she writes for periodicals based in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC and went to school in Stanford , Harvard, and USC. Speaking of rich, costal snobs? The hypocrisy… IT BURNS! 
  2. Exception: When I went to private school, we were required to wear leather shoes in school. In that case, people often wore docksiders or penny loafers which some others would call “nice shoes.” If you were worried that they’d fall victim to salt and water before you outgrew them (unlikely as you were going through puberty and wore these shoes all day every weekday), you would buy a pair of galoshes to cover them up or wear boots and switch them before class started. 
  3. Now tell me you wore 80’s ski jackets taped to the outside of your shoes and then we’re getting somewhere! 
  4. Plastic bread bags were popularized in the 70’s 
  5. We can eliminate her coming from a warm weather state since she grew up in Iowa. 
  6. Clothing got cheaper, better, and (in cold weather areas) lined in Gore-tex. 

The National Day of Prayer

(Last month)

M—: My aunt sent an e-mail to everyone the other day saying, “President Obama cancelled the National Day of Prayer. I know some of you are Democrats but I hope as good Christians, you can get angry.”

Me: Oh, that again.

M—: I was half tempted to link the snopes article refuting it, but I didn’t want to get into that drama.

Me: You should have just sent back that as a good Christian it gets you angry when a relative bears false witness.”

Happy National Day of Prayer, America!