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September 29, 2011


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That's because statisticians and economists are good at modelling risk (the chance of something knowable happening) and bad at modelling uncertainty (the chance of something truly contingent and unknowable happening). The chances of the financial crisis in '08 happening, according to their models, were roughly equal to a black hole popping up in Nebraska. In other words, there are limits to what they know (but possibly no limits to what they think they know).

big bad wolf

reality-based communities are to be preferred to the alternative, but sports often reminds us that there is more to reality than post-hoc stats used to predict future human actions. now i know some sports number geek will run some numbers and "prove" that relieving papelbon would have yielded a scenario where the odds were even better for the sox, but i ain't buying it. there are more things under heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our numeracy.

Sir Charles

And goddamn it there is such a thing as the hot hand and clutch play.


The thing is (and I am a superstitious baseball fan from way back) there is a certain look that Papelbon gets on his face when he is going to prevail -- a very tightly pursed mouth, so tight his lips are nearly white accompanying that riveting focus on the zone -- and last night it wasn't there and you could see the hit coming. Francona was right to use him despite the fact that he had his adrenaline fix the night before because he does his best work when the stakes are the highest.

Still, even the reality-based fans would probably agree that the Boston Red Sox can outhit the team that beats them more reliably than any team in baseball today.

MR Bill

After all the depressing comments in "Tuesday Trivia", one looks for a similar crash in Republican hopes next year.
I'm depressed, having troubles, the play is almost over, but I still think Obama can pull it out, and the Dems make a showing against the Crazies...

Sir Charles


I think there was no choice but to live and die with Papplebon. I wish that he had had the confidence to throw something other than heat when it was unraveling.

MR Bill,

I think that this could well be an election where the generic conventional wisdom about the economy may not prove to be the deciding factor.

Keep hope alive as they say.

Prup (aka Jim Benton)

I have to break my 'no politics' rule briefly, because Steve Benen so hit my worry today -- and his figures are for today, before the economic downturn I expect.

In 2008 we had a 'great adventure' defeating the dragon of the Bush regime, aiding our hero to become the first black president, stopping the economic meltdown that was happening around us. Now...

It’s tempting to think the combination of Democratic accomplishments and Republican radicalism would shake up the left. For that matter, the prospect of the United States turning sharply to the right — a right-wing Congress sending extremist legislation to a GOP White House — and putting the nation’s future and much of the progress of the 20th century in severe jeopardy, would seemingly boost Democratic voters’ eagerness.

Apparently, though, that’s not the case. Indeed, it’s not even close — even as GOP officials push the ideological envelope to levels unseen in modern American history, “Democrats’ net enthusiasm (+1) now trails Republicans’ net enthusiasm (+28) by 27 percentage points. By contrast, Democrats held the advantage on net enthusiasm throughout 2008 — on several occasions, by better than 40-point margins.”

And all we can do is quote another famous work:

"Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point," said Scrooge, "answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of the things that May be only?"


"Good Spirit," he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: "your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me by an altered life?"

Prup (aka Jim Benton)

"And all we can do" etc., is me, not Steve, i just screwed up the HTML, as usual.

Sir Charles


I've got to think that the enthusiasm numbers are going to recover as the reality of what we face is upon us.


After yesterday, I thought an art break might be useful.

And I agree, the enthusiasm numbers will recover. But will the campaign contributions arrive in time? My household is behind schedule.

kathy a.

oh, for dog's sake. wtf is an "enthusiasm" poll supposed to mean? and 14 months out from the big day?

people who feel beaten down and tired are unlikely to characterize themselves as "enthusiastic." we've been beaten on and are tired.

but as a really fabulous colleague used to say in times when a lot needed to be done on deadline (you'll have to imagine the eeyore voice): "ohhh, shit. time to go forth and do justice. agaaaain." which cracked us up and made us feel more energetic, if not enthusiastic.

yeah, nancy. time to pull out the wallet and toss a few toward the masses of worthy, desperate causes that have taken up residence in my inbox.


What happened last night just demonstrates once again that baseball is the greatest game of all.

Polls this far out don't really mean anything. I don't think anyone is terribly enthusiastic at this point.


Am I to understand that there are no Wilco fans in the house?

These things are good to know of course. I'll keep my gems to myself. Pearls before swine and all that. :-))


lordy -- why is Judy Woodruff talking to the Newtster on the Nightly News Report? He's announcing his website address along with his Presidential bona fides and special Gingrich platform and prescriptions for us all. She's taking him seriously. Jesus.

PBS goes down too.

Sir Charles


I am definitely a Wilco fan -- although I can't say I know all of their work. (I think I've posted at least three Wilco songs here -- "I am Trying to Break Your Heart," "Heavy Metal Drummer," and "California Stars" leap to mind.)

I was going to reply but was caught up in work and home. I thought the piece was quite interesting in terms of the process -- and I really like the song.

Sir Charles


The taking Newt Gingrich seriously thing seems to be a bizarre Village thing -- he's got so many ideas! -- fortunately, no one else in the rest of America seems to be taking him seriously.


Hey, I like Wilco too! I think "Sky Blue Sky" is probably my favorite...like "Solitare" too.

Sir C, glad you didn't jump off that ledge last night. ;) It was fun liveblogging all that craziness with you.

low-tech cyclist

Nate Silver confirms that the confluence of events that occurred yesterday, culminating in the Red Sox ultimate collapse and elimination from playoff contention, was not really statistically possible. And yet.

The problem is, everything is statistically unlikely. 20 years before we met, what were the odds against my wife and I eventually finding one another and marrying? Astronomical. And yet totally mundane. I just flipped a coin 10 times, and it came up H,T,H,H,T,H,T,T,T,H. The odds against that unremarkable sequence? 1,023 to 1. But if I flipped the coin 10 times, one of 1024 sequences, each with odds of 1,023 to 1 against, was going to become reality.

All the time, we're in the midst of simultaneously perfectly ordinary but astonishingly unlikely sequences of events. The only time we notice the unlikelihood is when a particular sequence seems out of the ordinary.

low-tech cyclist

A case in point: the captcha for that last comment was 74f3tu. Assuming any of the six places can be filled by any of the 36 alphanumeric characters, the odds against that particular sequence were something like 2.2 billion to one against. And yet it happened just the same.

MR Bill

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds approves of a sexist, stoopid and FAILing parody of Elizabeth Warren's statement on "no one got rich by themselves.."
I threw up a little, and Whiskeyfire has the goods.
Sorry to harsh a good Friday.
We supposed to have lows in the low 40s-high 30s, highs in the windy 60s, and fall color coming along nicely, even with the recent rains...Last weekend of the show, and I'll miss it even if it is a lot of work..


Autumn color around where I live is going to be awful this year. When Irene blew by a ton of trees got hit with ocean spray that turned their leaves prematurely brown. Now they're falling off early.

Sir Charles


It was fun -- in the way that watching video of a disaster is fun.

l-t c,

Good point.

MR Bill,

Jesus is Glenn (I am employed by the state) Reynolds a fucking clown. Another example of the incredibly medicore intellectul quality of law professors.


It's still really green here -- we are going through a Pacific Northwest period right now -- a lot of rain and cloud cover with very moderate temperatures -- in the mid 70s to low 80s. I guess tomorrow it is supposed to turn into autumn.


The temps. here are typical of early autumn and it's been rainy this year in general. The ocean spray is salt water. I'm sure what's happening is a direct result of the leaves receiving all that ocean spray in the tropical storm's winds. It's salt damage to leaves that don't generally receive that much salt spray. The storm had passed by mid-afternoon. By sundown all the trees showing this damage showed it most on the leaves directly facing the ocean. Those also have been the leaves to fall soonest.

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