All posts by ZweiBieren

Author, Photographer, and Developer

Do the polls agree

The New York Times posts “The Upshot”, estimating the chance of each candidate winning. It leverages some thirty-seven polls and does some sort of pseudo-scientific evaluation of scenarios. to report headlines like

Hillary Clinton has a70% chance of winning the presidency.

With cute sports analogy caveats like

Mrs. Clinton’s chance of losing is about the same as the probability that an N.F.L. kicker misses a 47-yard field goal.

The site shows prominently the changing probabilities over time. I thought it might be interesting to look at the progression of individual polls. Here’s what I found, looking only at the polls with nine or more instances.pollprogressionsThe phone polls are solid lines. (Rasmussen combines an online poll and robotic telephone surveys.)

As Clinton was gathering the last of the delegates she needed to win, the telephone polls converged on giving her a 5 point edge. Only CNN reported a poll between the conventions; in it, Trump had taken the lead. A short while later the Democrats  completed their convention and Clinton zoomed back to the lead. Rasmussen and Morning Consult showed similar effects. During the convention season, the on-line polls were a bit erratic.

Since the high point of the last convention, Trump has regained some ground. The online surveys have settled into agreement with a 2-3 point lead for Clinton. Curiously, the phone polls diverged.

Which are right, the phones or the online? The only answer to that question is still six weeks away. In the meantime we can expect to discuss the effects of the debates on the polling results..

To Teach, First Watch

Recently I suggested to a daughter that in order to teach–say a child or an intern–you should “watch” as the student applies a recent lesson. I now realize that I left out everything that matters. The most important and difficult part of watching is to know when to do anything else. The answer is, “Seldom.” Do not talk. Do not distract. Try to understand not only what the subject is doing, but what the subject is thinking. You must not distract by taking notes, so your concentration must be that much greater to remember what you have observed and how you want to react.

There are two times to say or do anything. The best is after the task has been completed, even if it takes several times as long as it would have taken you. Then the first thing to say is congratulations on completion. And the second is to express interest or praise for some aspect of the performance. If you can devise a metric for the trial, compare the performance with the metric. Only after all that can you offer one, two, or three suggestions. No more. Learning is never instantaneous. More trials will be needed and will leave room for other suggestions.

The second occasion for talk is when you see the subject frustrated and failing in some simply-correctable manner such as holding a hand in a wrong direction. Suggest an adjustment that can be seen–by the subject–to simplify a task that was impossible with the observed behavior, Be judicious and sparing in your interruptions. Mistakes are a vital part of learning. Try to figure out what model of the universe the subject is constructing and whether you can make suggestions within that model or if you need to try to replace portions of it.

Working with young children is easier because, first, it is easier to see their thought processes, and, second, they have little prior learning to interfere with the new. Habits and prior learning are difficult to change. A recent note in NYT Magazine described one way art schools break bad drawing habits. It may be possible to devise something to break your subject of some bad habit. Try to figure out what it is. And explain why you are suggesting it. (Exercise for the reader: You may yourself have a habit while watching of talking too soon and too much.  So figure out and suggest an approach to break yourself of that habit)

So… WATCH.  It is a lot harder than you might think. But it’s a lot of fun and your student will learn faster and better.

The World According to . . .

I’ve split what I want to talk about amongst Pictures, Prose, and Programming.

Pictures We got a camera in 2005 for Semester at Sea and I took lots of photos. I began photography in earnest in 2008 when I decided to take pictures every day at the nearby Elizabethan gardens. We also took many vacation pictures. In recent years I’ve taken fewer pictures and been more selective so there are fewer pictures for you to look at.

Prose  Although I’ve already written a few essays,  this section is slim because I have concentrated on other sections so far. What I want to write about is fundamentals. The fundamental pieces of matter as found in physics. And the fundamentals of human behavior, especially the wielding of power.

Programming I still like writing programs. This program will highlight my efforts and will also include tips and tutorials.