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: Okay, the Cookbook is basically done. Yay! I went through my mail looking for old feedback and cleared out about 100 messages pertaining to the book. What's left? Mostly Beautiful Soup stuff I haven't really looked at. Hopefully it's 50 people all saying how great Beautiful Soup is and reporting the same three bugs. Somehow I doubt it.

: This is really cool: gerrymandering can be quantified. My new Congressional district features "moderate gerrymandering". Also it seems to include Central Park.

[Comments] (1) Local Science: A decent heuristic for seeing whether something is real science is to check whether other places have it too. This is probably the flip side of Jared Diamond's idea about why China's early lead in science and exploration died out (more on this later, actually).

Everyone has relativity and genetics and evolutionary biology and quantum physics and plate tectonics, but only the US has creationism (similarly for intelligent design, or as I call it, c******nism). Only the USSR under Stalin has Lysenko-style evolutionary biology. Everyone has astrology and alchemy, but everyone's astrology and alchemy is different. And only the UK has this special newspaper-based "formula for the perfect x" branch of science.

This is where you take something vague, dissect it into a bunch of vague contributing factors, assemble them back into a vague equation, and claim that it represents perfection. This gets you in all the papers and nowadays the weblogs as well. As far as I know only one article two years ago has ever dared to point out the ridiculousness, and it's still going on.

Oddly, NYCB has previously encountered Len Fisher, unwitting founder of this particular branch of pseudoscience. He's the one who started it with his measurements of liquid absorption in biscuits, and his use of a real, preexisting equation to describe it. I think he deserves some kind of meta-Ignobel for the monster he's created.


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