The world will never be the same

So I didn’t write a blog post yesterday. It’s actually been a few days since I’ve posted. I skipped Saturday on purpose because I was at Disneyland with my cousins (more on that later). Sunday I was too tired, so I gave myself a pass. Yesterday (Monday), I should have written something. But I didn’t. I sat at the computer and had time to do it. But I ended up listening to Hamilton for an hour instead of writing a post.

Hamilton is the new Broadway musical sensation that is taking over the world. It tells the story of Alexander Hamilton from his arrival in New York City in 1776 through the Revolutionary War, the building of the U.S.A., up to his untimely death in 1804. The musical was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who also just recently received a MacArthur genius award) and is based on the biography by Ron Chernow.

I had first heard about the show a couple years ago. I have always loved musicals and so I kind of follow the news w/r/t new musicals. Lin-Manuel Miranda worked on the show for more than six years before it came to Broadway and early on in 2009, he performed a version of the opening number at a poetry and spoken word performance at the White House. After that, a lot of people were anxious to see what, if anything, would come of an ambitious, rap/R&B inspired musical about a forgotten historical figure.

And last year, the show opened off Broadway to frankly insane reviews and I didn’t think there was any possible way it could live up to all of the hype I was hearing.

In September, NPR was streaming the full original cast album as part of their First Listen series. I listened to the whole thing immediately and was blown away. The hype was real. It is legit.

I like NPR’s description of the show:

The songs he wrote for Hamilton are not rap songs. This is musical theater made by someone who knows rap to be all our cultural lingua franca, whose sense of humor is legible to people like us. It is songwriting done within rap’s regulations and limitations. It’s a work of historical fiction that honors the sentiments of rap, a play off collective memory that feels overwhelming personal.

Like all good musicals, it has highs and lows, powerful songs and sad songs and love songs and an interesting and engaging cast of characters. Also, it’s so funny! The fact that this musical is also (mostly) historically accurate makes it all the more amazing that it succeeds in such a powerful way as a musical in its own right, not just because it handles the subject matter so well. It is a tragic story, but the musical breathes so much life and relevance into the life and legacy of a man that lived more than two hundred years ago, that it almost feels more triumphant than tragic at the end.

I’ve been listening to it pretty much non-stop for the last month. I’ve been trying really hard not to sing random songs during meetings and on the train and I’ve mostly succeeded. It is so good and I just want everyone to know about it and share in the joy that it is bringing me and thousands of others who are listening to it (or are lucky enough to get tickets). Every week I have new favorite songs. Last week it was “Dear Theodosia” and “The Schuyler Sisters” and this week it’s mostly “Helpless” and “The Election of 1800”. Also, the three King George songs will pretty much always be hilarious and amazing.

Most of my knowledge about Alexander Hamilton is from high school AP U.S. History and it comes down to two main bullet points: he was the first secretary of the treasury (and let’s be honest, this is easier to remember because he’s on the $10 bill) and he helped write the Federalist Papers. Since I do a lot of trivia competitions, this is probably more knowledge about Alexander Hamilton than most people remember more than a decade after high school. So Hamilton also excels at bringing light to one of the lesser known and remembered Founding Fathers. He had an extremely important role in the fight for and development of our young country and history should not forget him. It’s wonderful that we have Lin-Manual Miranda and the wonderful cast of Hamilton to continue to tell his story in a very compelling way.

Visualizing without seeing

Last January was the annual Awesome Games Done Quick marathon, where speed runners1 show off and explain their skills while raising money for cancer research. One of the final events of the marathon was a blindfolded speed run of the beginning of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (OoT) (basically, the first three dungeons). Yes, you read that correctly: a speed runner Runnerguy2489 was blindfolded and then played OoT.
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Intro to R

This is the first in a series of posts on the statistics language R.

Do you work with data (doing data processing, analysis, or visualization)? Are you currently using SPSS, Excel, or SAS and you know it sucks but aren’t sure you want to try something new? Have you heard about R and are scared to try it? Have you tried R but are super confused? Do you currently use R but want to know more? If you answered “yes” to any or all of those questions, then this post (and/or one of the following in the series) is for you! R is a free and open source alternative to SPSS, SAS, and other analysis and statistics programs.
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Old Educational Computer Games

I’m hanging out with my brother (and sister-in-law and their newborn twins) this week and in some of our downtime my brother Anthony and I were reminiscing about some of the old computer games we played as kids. We had a Macintosh SE as our first family computer in the late 1980s. There were a bunch of educational games that we played and some non-educational as well.

We both remembered playing Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego1, Dark Castle, Crystal Quest, Tetris (of course), Shuffle Puck, and a few others. But there were two games that we couldn’t quite remember the titles or full descriptions of. Anthony remembered a race car game that had something to do with math and I remembered a quiz/trivia type of game that had something to do with castles. Anthony thought that maybe there was a trophy room in the trivia game where you would be able to over time fill up the room with awards in the game and that sounded right to me as well.
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Aunt Day 2 and a Big Storm

Day 2 of being an aunt is going well. Lucas is still being pretty fussy and Sophia continues to be an amazing sleeper. They are both still adorable and lovely and I just want to cuddle with them all the time. We’ll see how it goes tonight now that I’m staying with them and on call through the night (which is also what I’ll be doing the rest of the week).

We finally received some good rain yesterday and today. California is having a serious drought as you probably know. We are expecting lots of rain over the next few months. From what I’ve read, most of our El Niño rain will arrive in November (that’s now!), January, and February. So it’s beginning now apparently.

Before the rain storm tonight there was an amazing sunset with some spectacular clouds. I ran out a few minutes too late to get the really good pink, but this one was pretty nice:
stormy sea

Lucas and Sophia were also surprised about the thunder and lightning:
Lucas and Sophia
Just kidding, this is them after their bath tonight.

First day on the job as an aunt

My brother and sister-in-law (but let’s be honest, mostly my sister-in-law) had twins almost three weeks ago. Twins! So exciting. So now I am an aunt twice over. They are Lucas and Sophia. And they are adorable.

Here is Sophia:

And here is Lucas:

See, aren’t they are adorable? They are my two favorite babies ever, hands down. This week I took off from work and came down to LA to help out with them. I’d seen lots of picture and video chatted with them a few times, but today I finally met them in person and got to hold them. I fell in love with them immediately. And they seemed to know me (or at least trust me), even though we hadn’t met before. With other babies in the past, I have always felt kind of apprehensive and worried that I would do something wrong, but with Sophia and Lucas, I feel more confident and less anxious about screwing things up. I have no idea why that is; it seems strange that that is the case, but it is undeniable that that is how I felt today.

Sophia was generally an angel all day and mostly slept. Lucas, on the other hand, is a bit fussy (within the normal newborn parameters probably) and was fairly demanding of our attention. Luckily we didn’t have many instances of them both being needy at the same time. I’m not sure how Kristina is going to do it all by herself once she doesn’t have any help. Until then, we will take it one day at a time and just try to get through juggling all of the binkies and bottles and diapers and blankets and burps. I think it’s going to be a long (but happy) week.

Once again it’s time for NaBloPoMo

So it’s November 1st again and I have once again decided to participate in #NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, because I like to challenge myself and I still don’t feel like writing a novel in a month (this is an offspring of the popular #NaNoWriMo movement). Last year I did this challenge and I think it went pretty well. Astute observers of this blog will notice that I haven’t posted on my blog since the final post of last year’s #NaBloPoMo and yeah, well yeah. That’s kind of why I have to do this. Otherwise my blog will never get updated.

In the meantime, I have written many drafts of posts. Sometimes the article is almost finished but I just can’t hit publish. Other times it is a title and the first sentence or just an idea for a post. But, rest assured that I do think about my blog a lot and want to publish interesting stuff on it. I just don’t. Because I like things to be “ready” and good. Which is why #NaBloPoMo is perfect for me, because things can’t be perfect because I need to post something every day for a month. Things will just have to be ok. And I need to be ok with that.

So, here goes another month of blog posts. I hope you find at least some of them interesting. Post topics I have planned for you (no promises on any of these):
– my trip to Alaska this past summer (mostly Denali National Park)
– my trip to Sweden in June
– how much I love the musical Hamilton
– some tutorials about R (the statistics programming language)
– my thoughts on fictionalized time travel
– my favorite pens
– thoughts on being an aunt to two newborn twins

So I hope you stick around for the whole month. Let me know if there are any topics you really want me to talk about. I have 30 days to fill (only 29 now!) and I would love to hear from you.

NaBloPoMo: Wrapping Things Up

Well, I made it through the month of blog posts. NaBloPoMo was an interesting little experiment. I only skipped one day (the day I went to Disneyland), which was intentional that day since I knew I wouldn’t have time to do it. I’m actually kind of surprised that I made it. There were many days when I didn’t feel like doing a post, but setting this goal and having a daily externally visible benchmark for goal success was a good motivator.
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Effect size

There are a lot of different ways to think about comparing two things, or more appropriately perhaps, two sets of things. If they are things we can count, we can easily see which there are more of. If they are more like a score, we can easily see which set has a higher score. We can also fairly easily see what the distribution of the things in each set are, although comparing the distributions is a bit more tricky.

Using some basic statistics measures, we can tell whether or not the two sets of things are different from each other using significance testing. This is typically done with a t-test or an analysis of variance (ANOVA) or a similar measure. These types of measures, based on the mean and variance of a set of data points, are simple and easy to calculate (especially with a basic stats program) and have therefore become commonplace in the research literature. But unfortunately, their simplicity ends up hiding a lot of information and potentially interesting nuance.
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Two movies and a trailer

Movies are a big deal in LA. So, today, my last full day in LA for a little while, was spent watching a couple movies. And also a trailer for a movie that was even a bigger deal than either movie. The two movie-going experiences really represented how much movie-watching has changed just in the last few years.

So, you might have heard that they released a teaser trailer for the new Star Wars movie today. You can watch it online here OR you could go to one of only 30 or so movie theatres that were showing it today to see it on a big screen. Guess which option we chose?

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