Rebuilding A Vintage Tube Amplifier

As someone who works mainly with digital data and software, it’s nice to have a “material” hobby that can get my hands dirty. That’s why I’ve been building my own guitar effects recently (but more about that in a later post…). For now, consider that the only guitar amplifier I’ve had for ages is my Peavey Classic 30 (ca. 2000, back when they were still made in…

Most Livable Cities: A Meta-Analysis

Every few weeks, my Facebook newsfeed throws me an article like “Most Livable Cities” or “Best Cities for Quality of Life”or “Happiest and Unhappiest U.S. Cities” or somesuch. These rankings are generally quite different (though with a few common themes), and often include — in the top ten or so — the home city of whoever shared the link with their…

Encoding Human Thought Processes into a Computer

One of my favorite characters in William Gibson’s Neuromancer was a so-called “psychological construct” named The Dixie Flatline. Dixie wasn’t a person, really, but an emulation of a famous computer hacker named McCoy Pauley (based on a brain scan that was made before he died). As he — or, it — said in a conversation with the novel’s protagonist…

On “Geek” Versus “Nerd”

To many people, “geek” and “nerd” are synonyms, but in fact they are a little different. Consider the phrase “sports geek” — an occasional substitute for “jock” and perhaps the arch-rival of a “nerd” in high-school folklore. If “geek” and “nerd” are synonyms, then “sports geek” might be an oxymoron. (Furthermore, “sports nerd” either doesn’t…

Machine Learning and Social Science: Taking The Best of Both Worlds

Machine learning and social science are converging, since both are hot to answer questions and challenges raised by vast modern social data sets. The more I talk to and work with social scientists, the more I realize that we use the same basic statistical tools in our research (e.g., linear or logistic regression), but in…

Machine Learning and Personality Type

Here are some thoughts on statistical approaches for pinpointing personality types. Text analysis and crowdsourcing FTW! Myers-Briggs I recently discovered Typealyzer, a service that analyzes a web page and tries to determine the author’s personality type, in terms of Myers-Briggs Type Indicators. I’m not sure what kind of classifier it uses, but it’s apparently built on uClassify‘s API…

Community Demographics and the 2012 Presidential Election

Earlier this month I was fighting a pretty bad cold. While I probably should have been doing “real” work during the sinusy waking hours at home, I decided instead to finish season two of The Walking Dead and scratch an itch regarding the 2012 presidential election. I feel like I’ve seen some sloppy journalism and…