Friday, February 28, 2014

More legwarmers

Since the last set of baby legwarmers was too small for the recipient, I gave them to a different baby (c.f. the name posts; we are swimming in friends' babies around here) and then made some bigger ones.  These were going to be plain black, but I got bored and added some stripes.  If you look closely, you can see that one of them has an extra stripe in off-black.

The Ravelry project.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hat #30. Manos: Ribs of Leaves.

It's nice to get a new pattern down to the point that you can do it fairly automatically. For Ribbed Leaves, I was there by the second hat.
Rows 1, 3, 5, and 7 are k1p1, yo, yo, k1p1k1p1k1, R2Dec, p1k1 x 5, p1. Rows 9, 11, 13, and 15 are k1p1 x 6, L2Dec, k1p1k1p1k1, yo, yo, p1.
 All even rows are k1p1. And I only had to look that up twice just now in order to recite it from memory. Fortunately, when you are working a project you can read the last few rows to refresh your memory. Unless you screwed up already. Anyway, this should be much closer to infant-sized than the first Ribbed Leaves hat. And I'm almost out of my Manos del Uruguay yarn, and almost caught up on baby hats.   I love using silk blend yarns, but I'm not sure how to find humanely manufactured silk (where they don't boil the silkworms to death).  On the other hand, I'm not sure how much the silkworms are capable of suffering, so maybe it doesn't matter.  I guess I'll have to find out what Peter Singer thinks.

Here's the Ravelry project.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Pop Quiz

Which is best?

a) increasing productivity in your cross-functional team
b) identifying insights to optimize your teamwork midflight
c) maximizing the return on collaboration

Sunday, February 23, 2014

True decadence

I read that some sheik bought out three whole resorts for a vacation.  That's not a very creative expression of wealth.  That's just pointing and saying "more."  True extravagance would be to have your minions use tweezers to tease out every single dog hair from the cloth upholstery of a car, hairs so embedded that a vacuum cleaner, even a Dyson vacuum cleaner, doesn't touch them.  And to do this not with a luxury car but with an economy sedan over a decade old, with a Blue Book value not actually all that much greater than the Dyson vacuum cleaner.  That would be true extravagance.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Souls can't move that quickly

She knows, now, absolutely, hearing the white noise that is London, that Damien's theory of jet lag is correct: that her mortal soul is leagues behind her, being reeled in on some ghostly umbilical down the vanished wake of the plane that brought her here, hundreds of thousands of feet above the Atlantic. Souls can't move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.
William Gibson, Pattern Recognition

You may object that your body is moving faster than jet speed at all time; certainly if you are within 40 degrees of latitude of the equator, your body is moving at least 800 miles per hour at all times and in a constantly changing direction.  Not to mention the rotation of the Earth around the Sun, the movement of the solar system, and whatever else.  But these are all natural motions.  It is the unnatural motion of the airplane, and often the unnatural motion of the person sitting directly behind you on a five-and-a-half-hour flight whose skeleton is not well-suited to the distance between 24A and 23A and who insists on transmitting their discomfort to your lower back via their knees with both frequency and amplitude no matter how hard you jam your seat backwards in an attempt to dislocate their kneecaps, that exceeds the soul's natural ability to shadow your body.

This is also the cause of space sickness.

There is no cure but time and rest.  Palliative care is possible via organic chocolate ice cream with caramel and fudge bits.  Chocolate pudding helps as well.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Elevator musing

Are FIFO and LILO the same thing?  And FILO and LIFO?  And why hasn't the City of San Francisco inspected this elevator since 2011?  It breaks at least once a month.

Hat 29: Ribbed Leaves

This came out almost exactly as I'd intended, and the picture doesn't quite do it justice. It's my first project with the Ribbed Leaves pattern, which seems complicated but wasn't too hard to master. It is a repeat of 22 stitches, and I went with 4, for 88, and it came out too big for an infant. The Manos 70/30 wool/silk blend is quite pleasant to knit with; I used size 3 bamboo circulars.  It should fit a one- to two-year-old pretty well. Unfortunately I have a queue of about three or four infant hats, so maybe I'll try this pattern again but with three repeats and a bigger needle.

The Ravelry project.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Where is the gene for corgiousness?

This article (mostly about Cesar Millan's image rehab) says that
every dog’s mitochondrial DNA is 99.9% the same as a gray wolf’s—so close they are the same species. One-third of that 0.1% difference is in the genes for fat and carbohydrate digestion. Half is in the brain and the tiny remainder ... controls the time and rate of physical development and accounts for the vast differences in size and shape between breeds.
So that's the only difference between this creature hiding under the futon:

and these creatures?

(Maybe get your grain of salt ready. Mitochondrial DNA is only a fraction of total DNA; I'm sure corgi awesomeness cannot be contained in 0.1% of any genome.)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The golden calves are done


The Golden calves are done.  I really like the yarn, despite the silliness of the name (Fibre Company: Organik) so if you want something, send me more of this yarn.

I'm already thinking about what to get Aaron for his future birthdays, like Singin' in the Rain.

See the Ravelry project for knitting details.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

OSU Socks

Baby socks, based on the toe-up northsea socks pattern.  I improvised the tie cords and ankle pom-poms.  Karabella Aurora 8, in the closest I could get to Buckeyes colors.  Metal #6 needles with magic loop technique.  Ravelry project here.

Even more name MADness

We have been looking (previously, previouslier) for names that are both Timeless and Goldilocks, meaning neither too popular nor too rare.  The initial definition of Timeless was "stays-in-range", meaning the number of years that a name was in the top 500 but not in the top 50.  Is Median Absolute Dispersion, or MADness, a better mathematical definition of Timelessness?  It's hard to say, in part because it's mixed up with popularity.

This graph shows years of popularity (rank), MADness, and median rank for 49,150 female names, which is all of the names used in the US since 1880 that show up in at least two different years:

We have three different variables going on here, so it's kind of busy.  MAD is shown on the Y axis.  A more consistent (Timeless?) name has a lower MAD score; on this graph, up is good.  The highest dots should be the most Timeless.   However, a name that only shows up a few times could also have a very high MAD score, so the X axis shows how many different years a name shows up in the data.  Names that only showed up once will have no deviation, hence a perfect but meaningless MAD score, so they are omitted.  By the way, all of the dots are randomly wiggled around up to a half-point to make the graph more readable, since otherwise the dots stack on top of and hide each other.

So the cluster up the left side is names that have been around all 133 years; if we had data going back a few more centuries, they would probably smooth out, though I suppose there must be a statistical cluster of names that are millenia old, like Muhammad or Aaron.  And the cluster on the right side is all the one-hit wonders, with bogus high MAD scores.  The third variable we are looking at is popularity, which is shown with color.  This is the median rank of a name, so lower median rank (blacker) is more popular.  By the time you can see blue a name is out of the top 500 (e.g., Theodora), and red or yellow mean it's way out there (Adonica).  So a Timeless (as measured by MAD), Goldilocks name would be on the left side, basically black, and somewhere in that top left area.  With this popularity scale, the top 1000 are all the same color black, so let's zoom in by cutting unpopular names (as measured by median rank). Where should we cut?  At median rank 2000, the cut falls between Hortensia (1999.5) and Lollie (2000).  But Norah (2004) is out, and Andrew (1996) is in.  Hmm.  Norah stands out as a rare (down at this ranking) full-133-year name.  The lowest full-133-year name is Isa, at 3152 (Nevada is at 2441).  Let's lower the cut to median rank 3152.

We are getting somewhere, but remember that the question we are trying to answer is, is MAD a better definition of Timeless than stays-in-range?  Stays-in-range gave us a very clear cluster of names, ten names with a perfect record of rank between 50 and 500 for 133 straight years.

Let's keep zooming in MAD and look for a similar cluster.

If there is such a cluster, I don't see it in this plot.  Let's flip around our axes for a different view.  What's the relationship between MAD and popularity (median rank)?  In this chart, MAD is on the Y axis as before; Median Rank moves to the X axis, with lower (left side) being a more popular name, and color showing number of years. A Timeless, Goldilocks name will be blue or black, higher than the other names (more consistent) but not all the way on the left (too popular).  Is there a cluster?

Maybe?  Nothing as obvious as when we use stays-in-range, but let's look at the actual names:

I'm still not seeing it.  Those names floating far above are yellow dots in the previous graph, meaning they've only been around for maybe 5 or 10 years, so their MAD is excellent but invalid. I'm ready to throw in the towel on MAD.

Let's check the male names just in case.  Here's the big picture:

Very similar.  One big difference between male and female names in the US is that for female names, Mary is so far ahead of the other names that there isn't a second or third place.  Mary doesn't even show up on these graphs because it breaks the math.  Mary's median rank is 1.  Mary's MAD is 0.  Mary is the #1 name for 76 years and #2 for 10 more.  Mary fell out of the top 50 ten years ago and that still hasn't touched its popularity.  The second most popular name is Elizabeth, in literally tenth place (median rank = 10), with no names in two through nine.  For the male names, it's not quite so extreme; James and John are neck and neck at the top, and William, Robert, Michael, and Charles all have single-digit median ranks. 

An obvious cluster of Timeless, Goldilocks name is no more evident here than with the female names.  Let's zoom again.  This time, the least popular in-all-133-years name is West, at median rank 1834, so let's cut there.  Just missing the cut is Kathleen, at 1834.5, followed by Gaylen and Kelsey.  Just making the cut are Fate and Sylvan.  This is very interesting because with the female names, the names around the cut (see above) were not completely unfamiliar, even though that cut line was at a less popular point, but these male names sound really weird to me.  I'm sure this means something, but all of these names are well outside any reasonable Goldilocks range so it's moot.  Let's see the male names above median rank 1834:

Again, I don't see any kind of clear Timeless, Goldilocks cluster.  Okay, MAD loses by a knockout to stays-in-range. 

I previously showed the best female names by the stays-in-range method; here are the male names:

And here's a zoom on the Timeless, Goldilocks male names:

I have, of course, blurred the absolute best ones, so that they don't get ruined.  Once again, you can look yourself using tools from my github ssn_names project.  And if that doesn't work for you, here are some other ideas, forwarded by a friend:

a) Some suggestions, based on names traditionally used in sinister Temples:
Male: Oger, Hacon, Serell, Noctulius, Athor, Engar, Aulwynd, Algar, Suevis, Angar, Wulsin, Gord, Ranulf

Female: Sirida, Eulalia, Lianna, Aesoth, Richenda, Edonia, Annia, Liben, Estrild, Selann

b) Contract and/or transpose your own name to form another; for example, 'Conrad Robury' gives Cabur, Nocra and so on.

c) Find a demon form with whom you feel an affinity, and use that name, either as it is or contracted/transposed.

d) Construct your name from a Satanic phrase or chant - for example, 'Quinvex' can be derived from the Quando Vindex' of the Diabolus.

What is important about all the above is that you feel 'attracted' to a particular name or phrase.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Digging more broadly for Timeless, Goldilocks names: MADness

In my initial search for Timeless, Goldilocks names, I defined Timeless as "staying within a fixed range over a long period of time". One problem with this "stays-in-range" definition is that the range is arbitrary.  This can introduce shelves in the data, or make it impossible to visualize data just out of range that might make a qualitative difference.  Another problem is what to do with names that simply haven't been around for the full 133 years in the dataset.  Presumably they are less timeless, but how much less?  Is there a better definition of Timeless?

Gus suggested MAD: Median Absolute Deviation, which was first mentioned in print by Gauss, so you know it's legit.  MAD is the median of how far a curve deviates from its own median.  For example, here's a curve:
Here's the median:
  And here's the deviation from the median at each point:
Treating each of those bars as an absolute (so that -1 is just 1), the eight bars are 0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 4.5, 5.5, 5.5, 5.5, and 7.5.  The Median of the Absolute Deviations is 5.  So half of this curve is closer than 5 to its median and half is further away.  One thing to notice is that this method is not very sensitive to narrow spikes.  If this curve started at 50, instead of 5.5, the MAD would still be 5.  I don't know if that's good or bad, because I'm still not totally sure mean by Timeless.  This is one of the limitations of statistical analysis: you can't precisely analyze something that you can't precisely define.  I'll know when I see it.

So how does MAD compare to "stays-in-range"?  Here are three curves; they could be the relative popularity of three names.  I've highlighted the 8 to 12 range as the Goldilocks range ("stays-in-range" ties Timeless very closely Goldilocks, whereas MAD tells you how close a curve sticks to itself).  Which of these names do you think is most Timeless?
All three of these names have the same median, or "popularity".  By MAD, Alice and Chang score the same (1.5), and Bob scores much worse (5).  Chang's two big excursions out of the zone aren't counted any worse that Alice's much small deviations.  By stays-in-range, Alice is the clear winner with 6, and Bob and Change tie with 3.  Does that match what your eyeballs are telling you?

I declare this inconclusive as a tie-breaker for a few names.  But does MAD help us pick out a few Timeless names out of the tens of thousands in the data set?  And does it do that any better than stays-in-range?  In our next installment, we'll look at the data to find out.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Baby legwarmers

Very simple two by two ribbing, 24 cast on, about 7 inches long each. 
I used my #6 long circular needles for magic looping.  Legwarmers are a good fallback project to have handy whenever I need to knit without thinking.  This is the last of the Lorna's Shepherd Worsted that was disappointingly much more pink and much less multi-pastel than expected.

The Ravelry project.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

What is a Goldilocks, Timeless name?

Since moving to San Francisco a few years ago, seven of our friends in the Bay Area have given birth.  Five of the baby names I had never heard before, and one of two recognizable names is so rare that less than 100 other people got it the year he was born.  Only one of those seven names is remotely common; specifically, it's been a top-50 name in its gender every year since 1970.  For the other five names, the total number of American births ever recorded with those names are less than 1000, less than 50, about 500, about 600, and less than 50.  If you live in Israel or speak Hebrew, these names are all very easy to remember, but here, in English, I maintain a wall chart that I hide when my friends visit.

A decade ago I served as naming consultant to a couple who are not native English-speakers.  We came up with a list of requirements, such as recognizability to English speakers, unambiguous spelling and pronunciation, pronounceability by non-English-speaking grandparents, pleasing sound, the actual meaning of the name if any, and so forth.  This got me thinking about names and what they mean and what they are for.  Of course other people use your name to identify you; they also project onto you properties of other people with that name that they've met. You project onto yourself properties of your name.  Ideally one would select one's name to match the personalities already developed, which means waiting until perhaps age 25 to select a name.  But your temporary name may influence your personality, and just imagine having to get new checks all the time.

For the purpose of being identified by others, then, a good name is rare enough that you are usually the only person around with that name, but common enough that most people can recognize, spell, and pronounce it. And most names have a popularity spike, which means that the name is common in only one generation. So a good name is one that is, over an extended period of time, never too rare and also never too popular.  Let's call these properties Goldilocks and Timeless.  Can we quantify them?

The Social Security Administration provides a list of all birth names in the United States since 1880. The Baby Name Wizard does a very good job of providing charting tools based on this data (for example, me). But I wanted to do some more comprehensive investigation.

First, how can we define Too Popular and Too Rare?  My instinct is to declare Too Popular to be in the top 50, and Too Rare to be out of the top 500.  If we check the data, does this seem right?  For a pseudo-random sample, let's look at the 5th, 50th, 500th, and 5000th most popular female names in the last year of each decade since 1880:

I recognize all of the #5 names, although some sound very dated.  I recognize all of the #50s.  I've probably seen all of the #500s at least once, or they are alternate spellings of something I've seen.  The #5000s are completely novel to me, although a few seem like distant variants of more popular names. By the way, merging similar names (Sara, Sarah) is something that the Baby Name Wizard does very well.  I'm simply going to ignore the issue in my data analysis.

Note that US names are getting more diverse over time; before the 1950s, there simply weren't enough unique female names to get down to 5000.  The big caveat here is that the SSN raw data, for purposes of privacy, excludes names in years where there are less than five people born with that name.  So there are more than 5000 unique female names in 1940, but when you are down in the 5000s each name belongs to about two people per year. Similarly, by the time we get to #500, and especially #5000, there are a bunch of ties, so the #5000s are all randomly selected from all names with e.g., 5 or 7 or 10 owners.  The average #5 name in this set has 19,000 people; #50 under 5000, #500 under 300, and #5000 only 15.

I think this data validates my targets of 50 and 500.  With a top 5 name, you will know other people with your name.  With a top 50 name, if it were geographically evenly spread, there would still be a hundred people per state with your name and your same birth year, so you probably will still meet people with your name, but not every day.  At #500, I'm guessing you don't meet people with your exact name very often.  At #5000, everybody in the country with your name and birth year would fit into a van.

So I'm going to stick with my gut definition of Goldilocks: popularity between  50th and 500th.  And Timeless would mean Goldilocks over an extended period of time, maybe even back to 1880.  Are there any Timeless, Goldilocks name?

There are 63,246 distinct female names in the data.  61,373 have never been in the top 500 even once.  Of the remaining 1873,

1594 have never been in the top 50. The Y axis shows how many years nice 1880 the name has been out of the top 50, so those 1594 are the ones crammed up against the top so tight that you can't even read them.  Most of those are Too Rare, because not only have they never been in the top 50, they've also never been in the top 500.  That's shown by the X axis: the number of years that a name made the top 500.  The Too Rare names have spent less than a hundred years in the top 500.  Examples include Danika, Zelma, Sophronia, and Sue.

Sue seems common to me, suggesting the limitations of this kind of analysis where I don't merge Sue, Susan, and other related names.  Let's look in more detail.  Sue has never been top-50, and has 95 top-500 years since 1880. Pretty good.  But:

Basically Sue ran perfectly well in the 200s for fifty years but then got greedy in the 30s and 40s, peaking just below the top 50 names.  And then everybody got sick of Sue and it declined and then disappeared by the 1980s.  Possibly also tainted by association with Susan, which has 40 very peaky top-50 years, centered around the 1950s).

Meanwhile, a nearby cluster of names, the One-hit wonders, have been popular for a few years, but invisible the rest of the time.  For example, Harper (2010s),  Caitlin (1980s/90s), Noreen (1940s), and Daisy (1890s, but making a comeback in the 2010s to become a two-hit wonder).

Some names are always popular.  Always too popular. Mary was the #1 female name from 1880 to 1946, and then 1 or 2 for another two decades, and then still top 50 for three more decades, until finally dropping out of the top 100 in 2009.  Elizabeth, Anna, Margaret, and Sarah are some other perennials.

Finally, let's close in on the Timeless Goldilocks names.  80 female names have been popular enough at least 100 times and rare enough at least 100 times.  Some of these, though, are still really peaky, like Alma or Teresa. Let's narrow it down to names that have been in the zone almost every single year.  Claudia, for example, is basically timeless.  We might do a bit better with a more targeted definition of Goldilocks, such as a mathematical expression of how far the name deviates from the average year by year.  By our original definition of Goldilocks, there are exactly 10 female names that have always been in the top 500 but never been in the top 50.  I'll zoom in on the chart so that you can see them (I've added a bit of jitter so that names that exactly overlap are shifted a bit randomly to be more legible):

Oh yes, and I've blurred out these names because, if this blog post were to become popular, then by definition these names would all be ruined.  If you want to find the most Timeless, most Goldilocks names in the United States, you can do the analysis yourself.  I'm sharing my scripts at my Github ssn_names project.  By the way, in addition to the ten female names, there are 31 male names that meet the same criteria every single year since 1880.  Joel is one of them.

For what it's worth, Goldilocks has never been a name in the US, but Goldie has been around for a long time as a rare male and female name.

One more thing. When I started hanging around a lot more Jews, I caught on that Semitic names ending in El have religious meanings.
In Northwest Semitic usage El was both a generic word for any "god" and the special name or title of a particular God who was distinguished from other gods as being "the god", or in the monotheistic sense, God.
So Samuel means "God has heard", Michael "Who is like God?" (how would you like your name to be a rhetorical question?), Angel "messenger of God", Ariel "lion of God", and so forth. And then there are names like Joseph, meaning "God will increase". And you might wonder, where's the El? In English, we translate many historical names for a monotheistic god into God, but historically that god had several names, including Yahweh/Yehowah/Jehovah. So the Jo in Joseph is the Hebrew god YHWH. Which means that my name, Joel, is "Y El", or "YHWH Elohim" or "God God", or "Yahweh is El" or "It has become politically expedient for it to have always been the case that this one tribal god called Yahweh is and has always been the same entity as that other tribal god, El, and anybody who says differently is going to get stabbed." This is the root content of the Sh'ma, arguably the holiest Jewish prayer.

My given name is not and has never been a reflection of my values.

I have therefore been experimenting for several years with using my middle name, S. My mother and sister are willing to use it consistently, and I've gotten to the point where I respond to it more often then not, and now seems like as good a time as any to start a wider rollout. Please feel free to refer to me as either Joel or S, with my personal preference being S.

The origin of my middle name, for the curious, is that my parents couldn't agree between two different names beginning with S. Same as Harry S Truman. Unlike Truman, who was only joking when he told reporters it should be spelled without a period, my middle name is actually spelled without a period
Wrong: S.
Right: S
Just like on my birth certificate:

Damn it!

I've never tended to get upset when someone mis-pronounces "Joel". I use a one-syllable American pronunciation, but having lived in various countries I'm used to anything from "Jo-el" to "Zholl". What does bother me is when somebody spells my middle name incorrectly, usually somebody filling out official paperwork and adding a period to it. As you can see, the very first time that happened was the very first time it could have happened. This document was filed when my parents noticed the problem, a year after my birth:

See also part 2 and part 3, about the quest for a better mathematical definition of timeless.