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Guess the outlier!

Here’s a quick and timely data science post.

I made a graph (histogram) of the ages of quarterbacks currently playing in the National (American) Football League. The graph is below. Age labels are along the bottom, increasing to the right. Along the left are labels of the number of quarterbacks at each age, increasing going up.

Look at that bar waaaaaaaaaaay oooooooover theeeeeeeeere to the right. Who do you think that is?

A graph (histogram) of NFL quarterback ages (n = 108). Click for a larger view.

Some stats

This guy, WTF?

Number of quarterbacks: 120

Average (mean) age: 27.6 years

Standard deviation (a measure of how spread out the data is): 4.5 years

Conclusion

Love him or hate him, Tom Brady is a freak of nature.

Want to see it for yourself?

Download my Excel spreadsheet!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Welcome back to what is inexplicably my most popular blog topic ever: the announcement of this year’s long-awaited Best Sexy [Thing That Is Inherently Not Sexy] Halloween Costume Contest™!

What is the Best Sexy [Thing That Is Inherently Not Sexy] Halloween Costume Contest™, you ask? It’s an annual event on my social media, now entering its sixth year (although we skipped 2020), celebrating (?) the weirdness that is Halloween as celebrated on Earth, and especially as celebrated in the United States. Specifically, the weirdness of Halloween costumes.

What is so weird about Halloween Costumes?

Imagine that you are a woman (easy for about 50% of you) and that your favorite animal is a moose (easy for me). You want nothing more than to go out with your friends and celebrate the majestic moose.

Behold, the ONLY women’s moose costume I could find on the Internet:

And there is the problem: for just about any costume idea you can imagine, there are no costumes available in women’s sizes for that idea – instead, there are just SEXY costumes. And Sexy Moose is not even in the Top 100 weirdest.

And so in 2015, I decided to take the moose by the antlers and sponsor a contest. I invite you to suggest the best, weirdest, most WTF examples of sexy Halloween costumes. In particular, I invite you to suggest costumes that bring sexy to things that are totally, completely, Inherently Not Sexy.

Presenting the winners from previous years, and the people who suggested them:

2015: Sexy Orca

Suggested by Jeremy Berg

2016: Sexy Scrabble

Suggested by Kelly Simms

2017: Sexy Green Poo

Suggested by Aimee Shoff

2018: Sexy Marcel Duchamp Art Gallery Urinal

Suggested by Christina Rawls

2019: Sexy Mr. Rogers

Suggested by Elliot Kresmer

I’ve already gotten several great suggestions for costumes this year, which I will review on Friday. In the meantime, keep those suggestions coming!

American Democracy Update

During the wild ride that was the 2020 election, I created a new way of visualizing election maps. I started by making a new electoral vote map to replace the one that gets shoved in our faces every four years, but it quickly became clear that my new style of map would be just as useful for showing the legislative branch.

Instead of showing a traditional map that massively distorts the apparent legislative power of large-area states and large-area congressional districts, I made each seat the same size. And because many House districts have completely ridiculous shapes, I displayed each district as the same shape – a hexagon, for easiest tessellation.

The result is two maps – one for the U.S. Senate and one for the U.S. House of Representatives – that show the distribution of political power in the U.S. legislature as it really is. From there, it’s easy to add the names and political parties of each representative to give a comprehensive picture of the legislature.

We last looked at this picture this March, with an update on the Senate, followed by an update on the House. How does it look today?

There has been no change in the membership of the Senate – see the map below, where Senators are shown by name in the approximate location of the state they represent, color coded by party. Red means Republican, blue means Democratic, and light blue means Independent Senators who have joined the Democratic Caucus.

The current United States Senate (click to open a larger version in a new tab)

Meanwhile there have been several changes in the House:

The current United States House of Representatives (click to open a larger version in a new tab)
  • Two elections have finally been settled after multiple recounts, and the candidates have finally taken their seats
  • It’s been a bad year for deaths in the House
    • On December 29, 2020 – before he could even take office – Luke Letlow (R-LA-5) died of COVID-19. A special election was held on March 20, 2021, which was won by his widow Julia Letlow (R-LA-5).
    • On February 7, 2021, Ron Wright (R-TX-6) died, also of COVID-19. A special election was held on July 27th, won by Jake Ellzey (R-TX-6).
    • On April 6, 2021, Alcee Hastings (D-FL-20) died of pancreatic cancer at age 84. A special election will be held on January 11, 2022 to name his replacement.
  • In happier news, some representatives have left for other jobs
    • On January 15, 2021, Cedric Richmond (D-LA-2) resigned to become Director of the Office of Public Liaison in President Biden’s cabinet. A special election on May 11th chose Troy Carter (D-LA-2) as his replacement.
    • On March 10th, Marcia Fudge (D-OH-11) resigned to become the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. A special election to replace her will be held on November 2nd.
    • On March 16th, Deb Haaland (D-NM-2) resigned to become Secretary of the Interior. On June 1st, a special election chose Melanie Stansbury (D-NM-2) to replace her.
    • On May 16th, Steve Stivers (R-OH-15) resigned to become the President and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. A special election to replace him will be held on November 2nd.

So the current party count is: 220 Democratic, 212 Republican, 3 vacant seats. Here is the map again; be sure to click on it for a larger version where you can more easily read the names of the representatives.

The current United States House of Representatives (click to open a larger version in a new tab)

As membership changes, more updates to come… American Democracy updates!

Afghanistan: The Euroscale of tragedy

The Taliban taking over Afghanistan still sucks

Today’s post has the same general idea as yesterday’s post – how can we begin to understand the scale of the tragedy that is the Taliban taking over Afghanistan?

It can be difficult, because Afghanistan feels so far away and so mysterious. So I make a simple map of the cities in Afghanistan and their populations, supplemented by another map labeling each city with the name of a city with roughly the same population.

Yesterday, I chose those equivalent-population city labels from cities in the United States; today, I am labeling Afghan cities with the names of cities in Europe with similar populations. See the footnote at the end of this post to learn how I did it, and how you can make a similar map of your own.

Here it is, my map of Afghanistan, with major cities and their populations (click on the image for a larger version):

Cities in Afghanistan (click for a larger version)

And here is the same map, but with Afghan cities relabled with cities in Europe with similar populations. As you can see, there are some very big cities in Afghanistan.

Cities in Afghanistan labeled with European cities of equivalent population (click for a larger version)

To see it even more clearly, look at the two maps side-by-side. Move the slider in the middle back and forth to switch between the cities in Afghanistan (and their populations), and their European equivalents.

Use the slider to wipe back-and-forth between Afghani cities (left) and their American equivalents (right)

Imagine that you live in one of these European cities – a big one like Madrid or Manchester, or a smaller one like Waterford, Ireland or Sint-Truiden, Belgium.

Now imagine that your city has been taken over by the Taliban.

Footnote: how to show cities on a map of Afghanistan

To help us (including me) learn about what Afghanistan is really like, I used the Natural Earth 1:10m geography dataset to make a Python notebook in SciServer to make a simple map of cities in Afghanistan, and their populations. If you’d like to play with the data yourself, comment with your SciServer username and I’ll add you to the research group. I’m also hoping to make a kaggle.com notebook for this work, but something is buggy with Kaggle and it’s not saving the output image files.

Afghanistan: The scale of tragedy

What I can say about the Taliban taking over Afghanistan

What can I even say about the Taliban taking over Afghanistan?

It’s terrible, and a lot of people will die this week, and a lot of people will suffer for decades to come.

Honestly, it’s probably good that Kabul surrendered so quickly. After the Taliban took over Kandahar, Mazar-e Sharif, and Jalalabad (in that order), they controlled all access roads into Kabul, and had the city fully surrounded and ready for an old-fashioned siege. Kabul could have held out for a few weeks or a few months before inevitably falling – at which point the Taliban would be even more angry and murdery than they would have been already. At least this way, more people get to live.

My only connection to Afghanistan is that I liked their cricket team and their national anthem (both of which no longer exist, since the Taliban have banned both sports and music), and even I am heartbroken by this news. I cannot even imagine how horrific this must be for the people who actually live there.

Part of what makes it hard for us to imagine the scale of this tragedy here in the U.S. is that Afghanistan is so far away and seems so mysterious. Even though we have been there for 20 years, we generally know very little about it, even those of us as geography-obsessed as I am. Where exactly is Jalalabad? How far is Bamian from Mazar-e Sharif? How many people live in Kabul?

To help us (including me) learn about what Afghanistan is really like, I used the Natural Earth 1:10m geography dataset to make a Python notebook in SciServer to make a simple map of cities in Afghanistan, and their populations. If you’d like to play with the data yourself, comment with your SciServer username and I’ll add you to the research group. I’m also hoping to make a kaggle.com notebook for this work, but something is buggy with Kaggle and it’s not saving the output image files.

Here it is, my map of Afghanistan, with major cities and their populations (click on the image for a larger version):

Cities in Afghanistan (click for a larger version)

But that map is still a bit abstract. Great, so Kabul has 3.1 million people, but how many people is that exactly?

A good way to wrap your mind around what these places are like is to compare them to cities you might be more familiar with. That’s what I did in the map below. For each city in the map above, I chose a city in the U.S. with a similar population. Here it is (click on the image for a larger version) – and there some very big cities in Afghanistan.

Cities in Afghanistan labeled with U.S. cities of equivalent population (click for a larger version)

To see it even more clearly, look at the two maps side-by-side. Move the slider in the middle back and forth to switch between the cities in Afghanistan (and their populations), and their U.S. equivalents.

Use the slider to wipe back-and-forth between Afghani cities (left) and their American equivalents (right)

Imagine that you live in one of these American cities – a big one like Chicago or Baltimore, or a smaller one like Apopka, FL or Scottsbluff, NE.

Now imagine that your city has been taken over by the Taliban.

April Fools’, except it’s not

Welcome to an annual series I haven’t actually done on the blog yet: April Fools’, except it’s not.

A screenshot from the original New York production of Hamilton
The hottest ticket on Broadway is [rolls d20]…. a hip-hop musical about treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton?

The concept is simple: write about the modern world in such a way that it would sound like a bizarre April Fools’ joke to someone from the past. I wrote a version of this on social media in 2015 and 2016, but then in 2017 the joke stopped being funny. Fortunately, “Donald Trump was the President of the United States” actually is much funnier than “Donald Trump is the President of the United States,” so the joke can come back.

So imagine that it’s April 1st, 1999, and you have just received this letter from the future. Pretty good joke, right?

Except it’s not.

Dear 1999 fool,

The year is 2021, and the United States has been at war for 19 years.

Everything has changed in the two decades since terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, but the truth is the war has been going on for so long that it hardly ever makes the news anymore. Instead, the big news is something far more deadly: a new disease called COVID-19 has become a global pandemic that has killed nearly three million people and counting.

An illustration from a children's book of fables of the Ant and the Grasshopper
“What?,” cried the Ant in surprise. “Haven’t you stored anything away for the winter?”
“STFU LIBNAZI,” replied the Grasshopper.

Fortunately, the end is may finally be in sight. We have four separate vaccines, created semi-collaboratively by four separate pharmaceutical companies at never-before-imagined speed. But 25 percent of Americans say they would rather take their chances with catching a deadly disease. We also know that wearing a thin cloth mask over your nose and mouth can cut the probability of transmission to near zero, but many people are saying that being told to wear a thin cloth mask over your mouth and nose is just like the Holocaust. It’s like the fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper, except that instead of the Grasshopper laughing at the Ant’s warning, the Grasshopper calls him a Nazi.

Split-screen image
Left: Joe Biden
Right: Donald Trump
The current and former Presidents of the United States

President Joe Biden has promised that vaccines will be available to all Americans by May 1st. Yes, that Joe Biden, who is still around at age 78, his 1980s-era scandals forgotten. But that’s not even the weird part. The weird part is that the previous president was Donald Trump. Yes, that Donald Trump. The national debt increased so much during the Trump administration that Republicans are now saying that the national debt isn’t so bad. Trump also claimed, with no evidence at all, that he was the real winner of last year’s Presidential election that he lost. His wife once posed for a nude lesbian photo shoot, but don’t worry, the Trumps oppose gay marriage.

A wild caterpie appears!
Gotta catch ’em all!

Remember last year when Republicans impeached President Clinton for having an affair with an intern? Republicans now say that the President’s personal life doesn’t matter and the President should never be impeached for any reason.

If you’re into technology and have enough disposable income, you might have a cell phone – today, everyone has them. My phone comes with a video camera, a television, and music player to listen to songs like last year’s number one song, WAP (which of course stands for wet-ass pussy). It also offers instant access to all the knowledge of the world. I use it to catch Pokemon.

Have you heard of Tom Brady, the backup quarterback for the University of Michigan? He has now won seven Super Bowls, more than any single NFL team. But in Brazil he is still mostly known as Gisele Bündchen’s husband.

For the rest of 2021, we’re all looking forward to… anything, really. We’ve all been stuck inside for so long due to COVID-19. Here’s to better times ahead!