A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Monthly Archives: March 2006

Who Can Name the Bigger Number?

Who Can Name the Bigger Number?


Pew poll on Bush

Many interesting stats, including:

White evangelical Christians were solidly behind the president throughout his first term in office, but that support has waned over the past 15 months. Currently, just 54% of white evangelicals approve of the president’s job in office, while 36% disapprove. Bush’s support has also dropped among people who attend church each week or more frequently. According to post-election exit polls conducted by the National Election Pool, these voters backed Bush over Kerry by a 61%-38% margin. But today more disapprove (46%) than approve (42%) of his performance.


Even though I work at a large government agency, my work life is remarkably free of bureaucracy. Even once in a while, though, bureaucracy brings a smile. I just had an expense report sent back to me because the mileage reimbursement amount on my form was incorrect; it was temporarily raised in the months following Katrina, apparently, but it’s gone back to the old amount.

However, I didn’t claim any mileage reimbursement; but pointing out that:

0 · 0.485 = 0 · 0.455

just doesn’t seem like it’s going to work. I know it didn’t work when I submitted my first expense report following the increase.

One of my life’s goals is to be able to spell “bureaucracy” correctly on the first go.



Orange is a component-based data mining software. It includes a range of preprocessing, modelling and data exploration techniques. It is based on C++ components, that are accessed either directly (not very common), through Python scripts (easier and better), or through GUI objects called Orange Widgets….Orange is distributed free under GPL.
Some of the readily-available features of Orange include:
Data input/ouput: Orange can read from and write to tab-delimited files and C4.5 files, and supports also some more exotic formats.
Preprocessing: feature subset selection, categorization, feature utility estimation for predictive tasks.
Predictive modelling: classification trees, naive bayes, k-NN, majority classifier, support vector machines, logistic regression.

Ensemble methods like boosting and bagging are also included .
Model validation: different data sampling and validation techniques (like cross-validation, random sampling, etc.), and various statistics for model validation (classification accuracy, AUC, sensitivity, specificity, …) are included.

Orange evaluation schemas support caching: validation results (class probabilities) are stored, and rerunning the validation will only validate new classifiers.

Spring seems to be arriving

Spring seems to be arriving. We drove across southern Michigan yesterday (to pick son Mark up from a weeklong internship with my Aunt Kathleen, who is a real estate agent), and then to mid-Michigan to take Mark back to university. We saw dozens of groupings of Canada geese arriving, as well as sand hill cranes. Three fat turkeys were waddling in one field, and lots of hawks. One gave me a good show as it came in across the highway to attack its prey on the center strip. The red wing blackbirds seem to be back, too: I saw three within a mile or so as I was leaving Lansing.
Temperatures were in the 60’s today. Bess pointed out the crocus shoots as we left for church; by the time we returned, one set had blossomed. Our small artificial pond has completely thawed, and the goldfish, purchased for seven cents each a year ago, managed to overwinter, and look something like real koi now. Frogs were hopping into the pond, too.

The forecast is for dropping temperatures and up to three inches of snow tomorrow. But winter’s back has been broken, I think. It could just be the last snowstorm of the year.

A psalm for Tom Fox

The Light is before me, and in me, and surrounds me.
The Light soothes my fears and eases my tremblings.
I waited before the powerful.
I sought to stand in the way of great oppression,
Aware that brutality desires hidden corners and not Light.

Lesser oppressors came and surrounded me as well.
Surrounded my friends, and me.
Yet I held out the Light, even as they hid us,
And pursued justice in places of fear and anger.
What are the thoughts of my killers as they come to slay me?
Do they think their small violence will stop their oppression?
Does violence so cloud their hearts that no Light can enter?

Yet I do believe that the Light overcomes shadows:
Perhaps the despair of their hearts now,
Perhaps the shadows of violent men and women soon,
Perhaps the …

Wait on the Light. Act on the Light.

(loosely based on Psalm 27)

Mourning Tom Fox

Tom Fox is dead. Tom Fox, one of the Christian Peacemaker Team kidnapped in Iraq over 100 days ago, is dead. The other three members of the CPT team were shown alive in a video on February 28.

Tom Fox was, by all accounts, a brave man willing to risk his life in order “to take part in the creation of the Peaceable Realm of God,” as he wrote before leaving for Iraq. He also wrote:

“Why are we here?” We are here to root out all aspects of dehumanization that exists within us. We are here to stand with those being dehumanized by oppressors and stand firm against that dehumanization. We are here to stop people, including ourselves, from dehumanizing any of God’s children, no matter how much they dehumanize their own souls.

This deeply saddens me; our prayers are with Tom Fox’s family, the remaining hostages and their captors.


I upgraded the WordPress weblog software to the latest version. So, if you saw anything strange during that time, that was the reason. If you continue to see oddities, please contact me.

"Baby Got Book"

Baby Got Book–“and if you’re Catholic, there’s even more!”

Language Log: Freedom of speech: more famous than Bart Simpson

This is really worth reading: Language Log: Freedom of speech: more famous than Bart Simpson . It’s a discussion of how public survey data can be spun. Especially check out the “more than one” discussion.

I actually got caught on this, discussing a half-heard report of this on NPR with (wife) Bess and (daughter) Jane.