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August 2004

Novelist Douglas Adams wrote

I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

Anything that is in the world when you're born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

Anything that's invented between when you're fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Cute, but untrue. The commercial Internet was developed after I was 35, and I think it's just great.


Two B-School economics professors, Andrew Bernard and Meghan Busse, constructed an economic model of Olympic medal-winning that was recently published in the Review of Economics and Statistics. Since there's no better way to test a model than by forecasting, the authors put on the Web their forecast for this year's Games.

How did they do?

Below I list their forecasts for the 34 countries on their Web page and the actual result. In a third column, "naive forecast", are listed the number of medals won by each country in the last Summer Olympics.

The mean square error of Bernard and Busse: 28.5.
The mean square error of the naive, no-change forecast (not including the last three nations): 25.6.

Oh, well . . .

(To be fair, their model missed badly on just two countries, Greece and Japan, and they thought Greece would benefit a lot from being the host. Without Greece, the naive model's MSE is 25.4 and their model's MSE is 24.9. And they also forecast just the number of gold medals. There, even with Greece included, their model outperforms no-change by 9.6 to 10.9)





Naïve Model Bernard & Busse Actual
U.S.
97
93
103
Russia Fed.
88
83
92
China
59
57
63
Germany
57
55
48
Australia
58
54
49
France
38
37
33
Italy
34
33
32
U.K.
28
27
30
Greece
13
27
16
South Korea
28
27
30
Cuba
29
25
27
Romania
26
23
19
Netherlands
25
21
22
Ukraine
23
20
23
Japan
18
19
37
Hungary
17
14
17
Belarus
17
13
15
Canada
14
13
12
Poland
14
12
10
Brazil
12
12
10
Spain
11
11
19
Sweden
12
11
7
Bulgaria
13
10
12
Norway
10
8
6
Switzerland
9
8
5
Czech Rep.
8
6
8
Mexico
6
6
4
Indonesia
6
6
4
Ethiopia
8
5
7
Kazakhstan
7
5
8
Denmark
6
5
8
Kenya
7
4
7
Jamaica
7
3
5
Georgia
6
3
4
Turkey
4
 
10
Poland
14
 
10
Thailand
3
 
8


Rich Lowry has Senator McCain's number:

. . . on almost any issue not directly related to the war on terror, McCain can be expected to come down on the side not of the conservatives, the liberals, the Republicans or the Democrats, but of the journalistic clerisy. Determine what the conventional wisdom of the press is (in this case that the Swift Boat vets are discreditable), and there John McCain will be, standing like a stone wall.

Lileks has Senator Kerry's number:

Some men run because they truly wish to shake up the old order. Alan Keyes ran because he believed passionately in his ideals, but unfortunately he struck many people as somewhat insane. Ronald Reagan ran because he believed in a new direction, and inhabited his ambitions with ease and grace.

John Kerry is running because his turn has finally come. See also: Bob Dole, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale. And Richard Nixon.


I suppose I should read the whole book before I make this comment, but, hey, this is a blog and you get what you pay for.

In a passage from his new book, Tom Wolfe writes, "Beverly's web of extension cords plugged into knuckle sockets in midair, her rat's nest of a percale-sloshed unmade bed, her littered CD cases, uncapped skin-care tubes, and spilled contact lenses, her techie alphabet toys, the PC, the TV, the CD, DVD, DSL, VCR, IM, MP-4, all of them currently dormant in the absence of their owner, each asleep rattlesnake-like with a single tiny diode-green eye open . . ."

Uh, Mr. Wolfe, sir? DSL, IM, and MP-4 are not things that could be "dormant" nor could they have "diode-green eye[s]". You need to get better research on What the Kids Are Up To These Days.