advice you never asked for: volume 1

I often find that people don’t ask me for advice. This is a good thing as I don’t know anything. Still, it means that in order to provide people with advice, I have to give it unsolicited. As you might expect, this works hand-in-glove with blogging which, after all, is a pass time for people who want to offer their opinions to those who haven’t asked for them.

Today I want to briefly touch on a topic that some of my fellow grad students out there might be struggling with: writing loops in Stata.
Continue reading “advice you never asked for: volume 1”

my issue with the bailout

So I’ve been reading up a lot on the financial crisis. Along with a great group of grad students, my colleagues Josh Whitford, Sudhir Venkatesh, and I have been dedicating a couple hours every other Friday to read through and make sense of what’s going on. Yesterday word just came down that GM’s CEO has been fired by the Obama folks. I don’t have much of an issue with this. But here’s what I DO have an issue with: Continue reading “my issue with the bailout”

challenge the scatterbrains

So during our visit day a prospective student and scatterplot reader proposed a challenge to our fellow sociologists. I won’t out said person here unless they want to reveal themselves. But here’s the idea: sociology posts on wikipedia are enormously popular (thousands of visits a day) but tend to be quite terrible. So, folks should improve them. That means you! As an incentive, a special prize will be awarded to anyone who re-writes (or writes) the best wikipedia sociology entry. Before and after accounts will be required. The panel of judges is to be determined (likely, yours truly). The prize will be awarded at the annual scatterplot gathering (which the ASA has wisely decided to coordinate its meeting around). To quote from the originator of this idea (I edited the quote to suit my needs): Continue reading “challenge the scatterbrains”

fouls as resources in basketball

This one is in honor of March Madness, even though I am now officially in last place in both brackets I filled out. Oy, vey!

A common scene in the first half of a college basketball game: a player is called for his third foul and, in the words of the announcer, “he’ll rush to the bench.” Ditto with the fourth foul in the second half, because the fifth foul is when the player “fouls out” and must leave the game. Fouling out is relatively uncommon, largely because most coaches follow this rigid rule of removing players after their fourth fouls (or third if during the first half).

My question is: why?! It seems to me that fouls in basketball are a bit like pollution in a cap-and-trade system: licenses to commit a certain amount of a kind of semi-forbidden behavior that can often lead to gains in a field. The sanction for using too many of these licenses is–not having access to the gains available if one used more. (Of course I’m not talking about intentional, technical, or flagrant fouls here.) So removing a player before he can commit his fifth foul is voluntarily withholding team talent from a field whose whole existence is legitimated by the successful deployment of that talent.

Time would be a legitimate reason to withhold such talent but for one thing: greater deployment of talent earlier in the game tends to diminish the need for that talent later in the game. So if a star player is kept in until his fifth foul, it is less likely that the game will enter “crunch” time later on and require that player’s star power to rescue the team. In other words: a basket with 30 seconds left is no more valuable than a basket with 10 minutes left.