Songs in the Key of Allovue

When I entered high school, video games were beginning to lose their appeal. So I sold my four video game systems and all their games at a garage sale and that money, plus some Chanukkah money, bought me my first guitar and amp. I had just tried joined a band as a singer with a couple of guys I knew from school. I didn’t know anything about playing guitar. In fact, it took me a while to figure out what distortion was and why I my guitar didn’t sound like Kris Roe from The Ataris.

Jason P. Becker

A note on sequels

I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, genres filled with long running book series. Until the last couple of years, I mostly avoided any series that wasn’t already complete. First, I don’t like truly “epic” sci-fi fantasy. On-going series without an end in sight, or series that go beyond roughly 3,000 to 4,000 pages never end well for me1. I simply lose interest. Second, I worry that series won’t actually reach completion, either because the books are not successful enough or the author gets writer’s block2, or even just getting caught up in waiting way too long between books3.

Jason P. Becker

Returning to Tumblr

I have had a Tumblr site for a long time but never knew what to do with it. What is Tumblr exactly? Is it a hosted blog? Is it a hosted blog for hipsters? Is it a social network? Why should I put content into Tumblr? I have this blog, but I barely use it. I don’t have a Facebook page, because I don’t trust Facebook and how it repeatedly changed and confused privacy settings and after college, I rarely found that Facebook was a net positive in my life.

Jason P. Becker

News on Assertions in R

How many times have you written R functions that start with a bunch of code that looks like this? my_funct <- function(dob, enddate = "2015-07-05"){ if (!inherits(dob, "Date") | !inherits(enddate, "Date")){ stop("Both dob and enddate must be Date class objects") } ... } Because R was designed to be interactive, it is incredibly tolerant to bad user input. Functions are not type safe, meaning function arguments do not have to conform to specified data types.

Jason P. Becker

Rhode Island Disease

When discussing policy in Rhode Island, I almost always encounter two bizarre arguments. Rhode Island is completely unique. Ideas from other places don’t adequately take into account our local context. What is working there either won’t work here or isn’t really comparable to our situation here. What is happening nationally is directly applicable to Rhode Island. We can make broad sweeping statements about a set of policies, ideas, or institutions currently in play in Rhode Island without any knowledge of how things are going locally and how it’s different from other places.

Jason P. Becker

Acceptable Terms

An initial proposal has been made to the city of Providence and state of Rhode Island to keep the PawSox in Rhode Island and move them to a new stadium along the river in Providence. The team is proposing that they privately finance all of the construction costs of the stadium while the land remains state (or city? I am not clear) owned. The state will lease the land underneath the stadium (the real value) with an option to buy for 30 years at $1 a year.

Jason P. Becker

A PostgreSQL Cheat Sheet for OSX and R

I keep this on my desktop. Install: brew install postgresql initdb /usr/local/var/postgres -E utf8 gem install lunchy ### Start postgres with lunchy mkdir -p ~/Library/LaunchAgents cp /usr/local/Cellar/postgresql/9.3.3/homebrew.mxcl.postgresql.plist ~/Library/LaunchAgents/ Setup DB from SQL file: ### Setup DB lunchy start postgres created $DBNAME psql -d $DBNAME -f '/path/to/file.sql' lunchy stop postgres Starting and Stopping PostgreSQL lunchy start postgres lunchy stop postgres may run into trouble with local socket… try this:

Jason P. Becker

Taking Control

Severing My Daemon When I was in high school, I piggy-backed on a friend’s website to host a page for my band. We could post pictures, show locations and dates, lyrics, and pretend like we produced music people cared about. It was mostly a fun way for me to play with the web and something to show folks when I said I played guitar and sang in a band. One day, my friend canceled his hosting.

Jason P. Becker

Amazon Creating A Services Marketplace Online

A few thoughts: This is a very interesting way to take advantage of a number of existing Amazon technologies–primarily their payment processing and review system. Services are an increasingly important part of the economy and is less subject to commoditization. This is Amazon dipping into a massive growth area by commoditizing discovery and payment. It also offloads some of the risk from both sides of the transaction. It’s very bold, possibly brilliant.

Jason P. Becker

The Power Of Sound

It has been said a thousand times before, but I feel the need to say it again. So much of what Star Wars got right was creating a fully realized, fascinating world. As much as stunning visual effects that have largely stood the test of time were a part of that story, it was how Star Wars sounded that is most remarkable. Watch that trailer. It has moments that look an awful lot like Star Wars– vast dunes in the middle of the desert, the Millenium Falcon speeding along, flipping at odd angles emphasizing its unique flat structure.

Jason P. Becker

School Funding Reform, Hard Work and Fraught with Potential

Because of the primacy of equity as a goal in school finance system design, the formulas disproportionately benefit less wealthy districts and those with high concentrations of needier students. … because of the universal impact on communities, school finance legislation requires broad political buy-in. I think it is worth contrasting the political realities of constructing school finance law with the need and justification for state funding of education in the first place.

Jason P. Becker

How do we attract the best teachers to struggling schools?

There are some basic facts about the teacher labor market that are inconvenient for many folks working to improve education. I am going to go through a few premises that I think should be broadly accepted and several lemma and contentions that I hope clarifies my own view on education resources and human capital management. Teaching in low performing schools is challenging. If I am looking for a job, all else being equal, I will generally not choose the more challenging one.

Jason P. Becker

NaNo(Blo)WriMo

November marks the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The quick version is folks band together and support each other to write 50,000 words in November. I would love to write a novel one day. I am not sure I could do it well, but I am pretty sure I could hit 50,000-80,000 words if I dedicated time to tell a story. I don’t have a story to tell.

Jason P. Becker

Growing Up in the Internet Hate Machine

A terrible thing is happening this year. Women all across the internet are finding themselves the target of violence, simply for existing. Women are being harassed for talking about video games, women are being harassed for talking about the technology industry, women are being harassed for talking, women are being harassed. A terrible thing is happening. Women are finding themselves the target of violence. A terrible thing has always happened.

Jason P. Becker

When We Legislate and Ajudicate Our World View

The Vergara v. California case has everyone in education talking. Key teacher tenure provisions in California are on the ropes, presumably because of the disparate impact on teacher, annd therefore education, quality for students who are less fortunate. I have fairly loosely held views about the practice of tenure itself and the hiring and firing of teachers. However, I have strongly held views that unions made mistake with their efforts to move a lot of rules about the teaching labor market into state laws across the country.

Jason P. Becker

They really don't make them like they used to...

I have never found dictionaries or even a thesaurus particularly useful as part of the writing process. I like to blame this on my lack of creative careful writing. But just maybe, I have simply been using the wrong dictionaries. It is hard not to be seduced by the seeming superiority of Webster’s original style. A dictionary that is one-part explanatory and one-part exploratory provides a much richer experience of English as an enabler of ideas that transend meager vocabulary.

Jason P. Becker

Pindown: Failed Dreams

I had never thought of a use for Brett Terpstra’s Marky the Markdownifier before listening today’s Systematic. Why would I want to turn a webpage into Markdown? When I heard that Marky has an API, I was inspired. Pinboard has a “description” field that allows up to 65,000 characters. I never know what to put in this box. Wouldn’t it be great to put the full content of the page in Markdown into this field?

Jason P. Becker

Symlinking Your Data

I frequently work with private data. Sometimes, it lives on my personal machine rather than on a database server. Sometimes, even if it lives on a remote database server, it is better that I use locally cached data than query the database each time I want to do analysis on the data set. I have always dealt with this by creating encrypted disk images with secure passwords (stored in 1Password). This is a nice extra layer of protection for private data served on a laptop, and it adds little complication to my workflow.

Jason P. Becker

Expressiveness Counts

Education data often come in annual snapshots. Each year, students are able to identify anew, and while student identification numbers may stay the same, names, race, and gender can often change. Sometimes, even data that probably should not change, like a date of birth, is altered at some point. While I could spend all day talking about data collection processes and automated validation that should assist with maintaining clean data, most researchers face multiple characteristics per student, unsure of which one is accurate.

Jason P. Becker

Latinos in Rhode Island Face Housing Burden

We burden Latinos (and other traditionally underserved communities) with expensive housing because of the widespread practice of using homestead exemptions in Rhode Island. By lowering the real estate tax rate, typically by 50%, for owner occupied housing, we dramatically inflate the tax rate paid by Rhode Islanders who are renting. Echoing a newly filed lawsuit in New York City over discriminatory real estate tax regimes, this new report emphasizes the racist incentives built into our property tax.

Jason P. Becker