# HomePosts

## Some Holiday Cheer for Nascent Writers

Readers of my blog know that I’m not given to chatty, optimistic posts. In fact, my typical post is more along the lines of “Not only will you fail at writing, but your cat will run away, your house will burn down, and you’ll spend the rest of your life tweeting from a phone you forgot to take out of airplane mode.” This post is different. While it isn’t quite optimistic, it does offer a perspective you may find uplifting, perhaps even liberating.

## Kindle Scribe — An Interesting Device Crippled by Bad Software

I’m a big fan of Kindle ereaders. However, since the long-defunct Kindle DX there hasn’t been one with sufficient screen real estate to read scientific papers and pdfs. The Kindle Scribe boasts a (slightly) bigger screen than the Kindle DX and allows writing as well. Couple that with the insanely long battery life of a Kindle ereader and it sounds like a dream machine, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, Amazon decided to follow Apple and Garmin down the path of crippling great hardware. As a result, the writing function is all but worthless to sensible users. There were warning signs about whom…

## “The Tale of Rin” serialization is live!

My epic fantasy series “The Tale of Rin” now is being serialized on both Amazon Vella and Substack. New episodes come out on Sundays. Here’s the description: “Just because Rin is indestructible doesn’t mean she can’t be hurt. On her quest to remedy an ancient sin, a single act of casual cruelty sets off an avalanche of events which threaten to destroy everything. Rin must rein in her assistant, a man of fierce attachment and questionable conviction, while avoiding her devious ex-husband, who will stop at nothing to reclaim her. In the balance lies her heart and the fate of…

## The Most Important Problem in the World — Solved!

Toilet Seat Problem Should the toilet seat be left up or down after use?   I decided to undertake a rigorous investigation of this critical issue.   Every woman I asked knew the answer: leave it down.  Every married man also knew the answer:  do what she says.   The truly domesticated men did one better:  leave the cover down too.  I stood in awe of their sheer servility. Sadly, nobody seemed to feel any need to investigate further.   But, like Galileo, Einstein, Anthony Bourdain, and Stalin I was not  deterred by the disapproval of my peers.   In fact, it invigorated…

## Two Countries

There once were two countries, A and B, and two kinds of people, purple people and green people. Each country had both purple people and green people. In country A, the purple people were in charge. A small group of purple people were the gatekeepers of all things, the decision makers, the managers of life. In country B, the green people were in charge. A small group of green people were the gatekeepers of all things, the decision makers, the managers of life. The two countries shared a large border and a free one. By ancient treaty, no visas were…

## What happens when you iterate Bayesian Inference with the same data set?

I’ve recently been reviewing Bayesian networks with an eye to learning STAN. One question which occurred to me is the following. Suppose we are interested in the probability distribution $P(\mu)$ over parameters $\mu\in X$ (with state space $X$). We acquire some data $D$, and wish to use it to infer $P(\mu)$. Note that $D$ refers to the specific realized data, not the event space from which it is drawn. Let’s assume that (1) we have a prior $P(\mu)$, (2) the likelihood $P(D|\mu)$ is easy to compute or sample, and (3) the normalization…

## Trash Talk

These days, every minor institutional faux pas draws a melodramatic fawning apology utterly devoid of a modicum of self-respect and expressed through the metallic insincerity of boilerplate buzzwords . By now, one or more generations have grown up bombarded with such nonsense. We  only can imagine what they must be like at home… Hey Bob, listen, it’s no big deal, but could you take out the trash when it’s your turn? It’s really been piling up. I’ve heard you loud and clear. Fantastic. My top priority has been fostering a community which values inclusiveness, mutual respect, and constructive engagement. A…

## How to Produce a Beautiful Book from the Command Line

Book Production Framework and Examples on GitHub Introduction Over the last couple of years, a number of people have asked me how I produce my books.  Most self-published (excuse me, ‘indie-published’) books have an amateurish quality that is easy to spot, and the lack of attention to detail detracts from the reading experience.  Skimping on cover art can be a culprit, but it rarely bears sole blame — or even the majority of it.   Indie-published interiors often are sloppy, even in books with well-designed covers.  For some reason, many authors give scant attention to the interior layout of their books. …

## Be Careful Interpreting Covid-19 Rapid Home Test Results

Now that Covid-19 rapid home tests are widely available, it is important to consider how to interpret their results. In particular, I’m going to address two common misconceptions. To keep things grounded, let’s use some actual data. We’ll assume a false positive rate of 1% and a false negative rate of 35%. These numbers are consistent with a March, 2021 metastudy [1]. We’ll denote the false positive rate $E_p=0.01$ and the false negative rate $E_n=0.35$. It may be tempting to assume from these numbers that a positive rapid covid test result means you’re 99% likely to be infected,…

## “The Delivery” now is fully available!

Great news! My new short novel, The Delivery, is available in both print and for Kindle, both in the US and internationally! This book has been some time in the making, and I hope people enjoy it.  Her is a brief description: The Delivery is what happens when Kafka meets Monty Python.  Wilbur is an unassuming little man living an unassuming little life. He and his wife have a stereotypical 1950s existence, but in modern America. One day, he arrives home to discover a mysterious crate. His attempts to deal with a seemingly minor mistake lead to an escalating series…

## Fun with Voting in Cambridge, MA

My city of Cambridge, MA is one of a few municipalities which employs ranked choice voting for City Council elections. Unlike most cities, the Mayor is chosen by the City Council and is largely a ceremonial position. Most real power resides with the City Manager, who is appointed for an indefinite term by the City Council. This means that City Councils which get to appoint a new City Manager exert an inordinate influence over the future course of the city. One such point is fast approaching. Unfortunately, given the present and probable near-term composition of the City Council, the decision…

## “The Delivery” now is Available for Kindle!

Great news! My new short novel, The Delivery, is available on Amazon for Kindle. This book has been some time in the making, and I hope people enjoy it. A print edition (softcover) will be available shortly. All materials have been sent to the printer, and I currently am awaiting galleys. From past experience, there will be a bit of back and forth as we iron out the appearance. Depending on Ingram’s backlog and shipping speeds (for my test copies), I expect the process to take anywhere from a few weeks to two months. Wilbur is an unassuming little man…

## My Moral Metrics Paper Has Been Published!

The paper develops a geometry of moral systems with applications in social choice theory. I submitted it last October, and it recently was accepted by AJEB (the Asian Journal of Economics and Banking) for publication in a forthcoming special issue on Social Choice. As far as I’m aware, the print version will be issued in November. However, the paper is available online now. AJEB is an Open Access journal, so there is no paywall. It can be accessed here: PDF Version HTML Version The paper offers a more concise introduction to the subject than my monograph, and also introduces a…

## Audiobook Samples

All three of my flash-fiction audiobooks are now available for sale. Below are 5 minute samples of each, downloadable as mp3’s. If the covers look a bit weird it’s because ACX doesn’t allow items in the lower right corner, so I had to rejigger some of the titling. Available Now on Audible, ACX, and Itunes. Available Now on Audible, ACX, and Itunes. Available Now on Audible, ACX, and Itunes.

## The Last Cloud revision 1 released

A newly revised edition of “The Last Cloud,” is now available. In the process of developing my audiobook (currently under review by ACX), a number of typos and errors were revealed. It was surprising how much turned up aurally that had not been evident even after several edits, beta readings, and proofreadings. The pieces have been rearranged as well, to better showcase the variety of themes and styles. Far fewer typos appeared in “The Man Who Stands in Line” and “The Way Around.” Although I eventually will put out revisions of those books, that may be a way off. The…

## How to Get a Patent in 2 Easy Steps!

1. Expedited Process: [Note: if your name is not Apple, Google, Microsoft, Sony, or Oracle, skip to step 2]: Scribble a drawing in crayon on a napkin, write ‘for, you know, stuff’ and drop it off at the Patent Commissioner’s house when you have dinner with him and his wife. On the off-chance it isn’t accepted the next day, be polite but firm. The assigned examiner may be new or overworked. Bear in mind, he is NOT your employee. He serves several other large corporations as well. By the way, don’t forget that the Patent office is running a special…

## The (quasi)-Duality of the Lie Derivative and Exterior Derivative

A short set of notes that arose out of an enigmatic comment I encountered, to the effect that the Lie and exterior derivatives were almost-dual in some sense. I wanted to ferret out what this meant, which turned out to be more involved than anticipated. Along the way, I decided to explore something else I never had properly understood: the nature of integration from a topological perspective. This led to an exploration of the equivalence of de Rham and singular cohomology.

## The Truth about Stock Prices: 12 Myths

No-fee trading has invited a huge influx of people new to trading. In this article, I discuss the basics of “price formation,” the mechanism by which stock prices are determined. This is a very gentle introduction to market microstructure, and hopefully will be of some small help to new traders who wish to better understand the dynamics of the stock market. At the very least, it will make you sound smart at cocktail parties.

## My new monograph is out!

My new math monograph now is available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, and soon will be available on other venues via Ingram as well.Amazon US PaperbackAmazon UK/Europe Paperback

## Why Your Book Won’t Be an Amazon Success Story

I’m going to be that guy. The one nobody likes at parties. The one who speaks unpleasant truths. If you don’t want to hear unpleasant truths, stop reading. If you want to be told which self-help books to buy and which things to do and which gurus will illuminate the shining path to fame and fortune, stop reading. If you want somebody to hold your hand, and nod at all the right moments and ooh and aah about how your writing has come a long way and you’re “almost there,” stop reading. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve come a long…

## PACE Sample Chapter

A Sample Chapter from my Novel PACE

## CCSearch State Space Algo

While toying with automated Fantasy Sports trading systems, I ended up designing a rapid state search algorithm that was suitable for a variety of constrained knapsack-like problems. Here is a discussion of the algorithm and a link to a reference implementation on github.

## Two-Envelope Problems

In this piece we play with two incredibly counterintuitive puzzles involving a pair of envelopes which contain unknown amounts of money. First we describe a famous fallacy when it is known that one envelope contains double the money in the other. Then we discuss an actual mechanism (probably first discovered by Thomas Cover in the 70’s) for achieving a better than 50-50 chance of picking the larger amount. This latter is one of the most stunning puzzlers in probability theory, and we dissect precisely what is going on there.

## Ken Writes a Film

Scroll down for the link to the movie, and to read my original script. A few months ago, I participated in a 72 hour film contest with some friends. It was a lot of fun, and we actually filmed in my condo — which was quite a blast. Aside from ducking out of the way whenever necessary, my role was to write the script. The basic premise was that we had to write a horror film in 72 hours with a certain prop, action, and theme. We were given these at 10 PM on the first night, which meant that…

## Do’s and Don’ts for Modern Authors

Do’s and Dont’s for modern authors. Timeless suggestions for timely publication, success, eternal happiness, and the satisfaction of self-satisfaction.

## Why NOT to use Amazon Ads for your book

A review of Indie publishing, KDP advertising, and the auction process, along with an analysis of the economics of conversion rates and why it never pays for authors to advertise via Amazon ad campaigns.

## The Art of Writing Circa 2019 in 44 Easy Steps

The modern art of blogging in 44 easy steps.

## Some Pet Peeves of a Grammar Snob

Language evolves organically, and only a fool would expect the world to remain the same just to accommodate their own inability to move past the life knowledge they happened to acquire during their particular formative years. But I’m a fool and proud of it. Or more precisely, I’m selective in my folly. I choose to accept changes which arise organically in a sense which meets my arbitrary standards, but have nothing but disdain for those changes effected through the apparent illiteracy and incompetence of celebrities (also known as “influencers”). To me, it’s like corporate-speak but dumber. And that’s saying a…

## Semidirect Products, Split Exact Sequences, and all that

A detailed discussion of semidirect products, groups extensions, and split exact sequences.

## 180 Women and Sun Tzu

A perplexing tale of Sun Tzu, and a meandering, highly improbable, and possibly offensive interpretation of it.

## How 22% of the Population can Rewrite the Constitution

This is a scary piece in which I analyze precisely how many voters would be required to trigger a Constitutional Convention and ratify any amendments it proposes. Because the 2/3 and 3/4 requirements in the Constitution refer to the number of States involved, the smaller States have a disproportionate effect. In Congress, the House counterbalances this – but for a Constitutional Convention, there is no such check.

## A Travel-Time Metric

Especially in urban areas, two locations may be quite close geographically but difficult to travel between. I wondered whether one could create a map where, instead of physical distances, points are arranged according to some sort of travel-time between them. This would be useful for many purposes.

## Inflation, Up Close and Personal

We examine the real effective inflation that individuals experience and offer suggestions to mitigate it.

## A Proposal for Tax Transparency

A system of direct attribution is proposed, to allow taxpayers to understand where their money is going.

## Probabilistic Sentencing

I propose adopting a sentencing mechanism based on a probabilistic assessment of guilt or innocence. This allows jurists to better express their certainty or lack thereof than does our traditional all-or-nothing verdict.

## The Requirements of Effective Democracy

We consider the components which support the popular conception of democracy, and whether these are present in our society.

## A System for Fairness in Sentencing

We often hear of cases that offend our sense of fairness – excessive sentences, minor crimes that are punished more severely than serious crimes, or two equivalent crimes that are punished very differently. We consider the question of whether mathematically a well-intentioned individual can assign sentences in a way that seems reasonable and consistent to him.

## Differential Entropy

A discussion of some of the subtleties of differential entropy. This also contains a review of discrete entropy, various entropy-related information quantities such as mutual information, and a listing of various axiomatic formulations.

## Why Voting Twice is a Good Thing

We should require that every bill be ratified by a second vote, one year after its original passage. It goes into effect as normal, but automatically expires if not ratified at the appropriate time.

## The Optics of Camera Lens Stacks (Program)

Here I link to a C program I wrote which computes the optics of various configurations of stacked lenses. It also searches all combos of stackings and reversals to give the best options for a given set of lenses.

## The Optics of Camera Lens Stacks (Analysis)

I examine here the behavior of stacked and reversed camera lenses for Macro photography. This paper is mathematical, while in another post I link to code which performs the calculations for us.

## Cardinality

A compilation of useful results involving cardinal numbers (small ones, not huge ones) and arithmetic, along with the cardinalities of certain useful sets. There’s also a small section on bases of infinite-dimensional vector spaces. Proofs and justifications for many of the results are included in an appendix.

## Tless Table Viewer

C program to provide lightweight version of ‘less’ utility but for tables. Allows row/col splits, inspection of large files, synchronized scrolling, and searches.

## Influence in Voting

Have you ever wondered what really is meant by a “deciding vote” on the Supreme Court or a “swing State” in a presidential election? These terms are bandied about by the media, but their meaning isn’t obvious. After all, every vote is equal, isn’t it?