Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Tim Fuerst, R.I.P.

This is sad news indeed.

Tim was generally acknowledged as the nicest person in my year at Chicago.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Movie: John Wick, Chapter 2

John Wick: Chapter 2 is essentially the old video game Castle Wolfenstein with Keanu Reeves as the shooter, with the castle replaced by Roman catacombs and an art museum, and with somewhat different bad guys. Put differently, there really is not much here other than shooting.

While very stylish and pretty, the movie lacks both plot and character development. Ex post, the relatively high rating on Rotten Tomatoes (89 percent among the critics as I write) surprised me. Conditional on genre it is pretty good, but it is not that good. More humor would have helped.

The NYT review is here.

Recommended only if you need a gratuitous violence fix.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Assorted links

1. I enjoyed this reason interview with Food Network celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian

2. The optimal office - a brief literature review from the Atlantic

3. A plug for only children from the NYT. I am one, along with my daughter and my father.

4. On being an East German deep undercover in the US

Hat tip on #3: Lisa Gribowski

Sunday, February 19, 2017

On rapid cycle evaluation

CIRE #EvidenceInsight Video Series - Rapid Cycle Evaluation from Mathematica Policy Research on Vimeo.

See Michigan Ph.D. Alex Resch talk about "rapid cycle evaluation", which basically means using administrative data to do very quick program evaluations, often via random assignment or regression discontinuity.

Viewed as an alternative to simplistic performance management based on outcomes, I am all in favor of this. Viewed as a substitute for more serious evaluation efforts I am a bit less enthused. I would say that rapid cycle evaluations complement, rather than substitute for, more ambitious evaluation efforts that aim to look at longer term effects, at mechanisms, and/or at outcomes not available in administrative data.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Movie: Elle

Wow ... intense, violent, surprising, and very French.

The A.O. Scott review captures it well. I particularly like his phrase: "it is both an impeccably Gallic delicacy and a gleeful parody of Frenchness"

Scott also says: "After it’s over, you may find yourself in an argument about just what kind of movie you saw. A nasty, exploitative spectacle of a woman’s victimization, or the celebration of her resistance? A feminist tale of rape and revenge, or an exercise in chic, cynical misogyny?" In fact, I had exactly this discussion after the movie, and the answer really isn't clear.

And the director - something I did not realize until reading the review - did "Robocop" back in the day.

Recommended, but not if you are triggered by sexual violence.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Book: The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Biography by Donald Lopez

Lopez, Daniel. 2011. The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Biography. Princeton University Press: Lives of the Great Religious Books.

What a fun book! This book tells, with great brevity, the story by which a set of Tibetan manuscripts came to be packaged as the Tibetan Book of the Dead and to make a splash in various circles in the west. This is a fine tale of nutty colonials and wanton cultural appropriation. Plus the author takes the novel tack of highlighting the parallels to another important "found" spiritual document, namely the Book of Mormon. I raced through it and really enjoyed it. Oh, and the author is a faculty member at Michigan.

Recommended for those into such things.

Purchase the book at Amazon
Purchase the book at Barnes and Noble
Purchase the book at the Seminary Coop

Sunday, February 12, 2017

So many titles to choose from ...

Some thoughts:

1. How to get 795,000 youtube views.

2. Imagine how proud her parents must be!

3. Is this better or worse than the original Disney song?

4. Children are the future

Hat tip: EJCS