Friday Four

Friday, July 18, 2014

1. Joe Lago of Yahoo Sports notes U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann's pivotal role in helping Germany, where he once coached, win the World Cup:

Winning Sunday's World Cup final at Maracana Stadium would be the crowning achievement for coach Joachim Loew and a golden generation of supreme footballing talent that began with Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteige and continues with Thomas Mueller and Toni Kroos. A title would be fitting because the Germans have easily been the tournament's best team, even before famously destroying Brazil 7-1 in the semifinals, and to raise the World Cup trophy would serve as the ultimate affirmation of a master plan devised 10 years ago to rejuvenate Die Nationalmannschaft.

Juergen Klinsmann's master plan. [minor edits, links in original, some links removed]
I already knew that Klinsmann is attempting to implement a comprehensive overhaul of the American team, including how it locates and develops talent; but had not known that he had aleady done something similar with Germany.

2. From Collector's Weekly, more than you ever needed to know about the South Pacific-inspired "Tiki" fad from the 1950's and 1960's:
Sven Kirsten is among the first to recognize the American obsession with Polynesia as something bigger than the campy films and tropical nightclubs dominating the mid-20th century. A self-proclaimed "visual junkie," Kirsten moved to California in the 1980s to work in film, and soon came upon his first relics of the mid-century Tiki phenomenon. "I lived in the Hollywood Hills and found this great store called Sea and Jungle just over the hills in Glendale," says Kirsten, where he became instantly hooked on the vintage style. The shop had a huge inventory of Tiki memorabilia, including an entire black-light room, but it closed before Kirsten could amass much of a collection.
The article notes some interesting parallels between this "lifestyle" and the hippie movement, although it suffers from a common (but mistaken) tendency to admire the latter.

3. This is not a bad productivity tip, but it causes me to smirk:
Finally, and this is my favorite, install an app launcher. This is a piece of software that, among other things, lets you launch applications with only a stroke of a key or two. I'm a Mac user and I swear by Alfred. LaunchBar is another popular alternative. On the Windows side, consider Launchy. With Alfred, I can open any app by hitting Command-Space and then typing just the first one or two letters of that app's name. I can't even measure how much time this saves me throughout the day. All of these programs do a lot more than launch other apps, but this feature alone makes them worth installing. In fact, when I get a new computer, the absolute first thing I do with it is install Alfred. [links omitted, italics added]
Hmmm. I move my mouse over an open x-terminal, type a few letters, and use tab-completion to do the same thing in Linux. I smirk because: (1) I used to hear, ad nauseam, how much more convenient clicking around in a GUI is than having to remember and type commands; (2) I need no extra software to do this in Linux; and (3) Tab completion has been around since the sixties in Unix and its descendants.

4. It's aimed at new scientists, but here is some good, well-written  -- and brief! -- advice (PDF) on how to read a scientific research paper:
When you read a research paper, your goal is to understand the scientific contributions the authors are making. This is not an easy task. It may require going over the paper several times. Expect to spend several hours to read a paper. [annotation omitted]
This might be helpful or even amusing to keep in mind the next time you encounter some layman trying to get one over on someone by citing some academic paper or other in an appeal to authority. (This seems to happen a lot in discussions about global warming, for example.)

-- CAV


Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you quote, "It may require going over the paper several times. Expect to spend several hours to read a paper."

Yeah, and ugh. I remember one massive paper that represented the closest thing to a thorough study of the subject of my dissertation. It was 60 pages or so that I found remarkably difficult to summarize to myself. Full of interesting data from languages past and present and a congeries of hypotheses argued for and against in...not the most salient fashion. The first five times I read it, I grew increasingly wary of the thing, and finally sat myself down with a full pot of coffee, a pad of paper, colored markers, and a brain full of grim determination and over the next six hours I read the thing like a piece of difficult modern poetry, word by word and line by line, and spared none of the margins with my notes. By the time I finished I knew the damn thing better than its author did. I also knew most of the flaws in the article, which were an interesting combination of too many unsupported assumptions, too many leaps of argumentation, and overmuch reliance on faulty dictionaries...which were at the time he wrote it the only ones available to scholars.

Similarly, a friend told me once of a paper she had to read for an advanced mathematical logic seminar; despite that being her field, she found it inordinately hard going. Finally she discovered that the paper was written almost as if the authors decided, "Hey, let's have some fun! Let's write a poorly-worded clear version and then just jam the second half in front of the first half! Wheeee!"

Steve D said...

'This is not an easy task.'

I agree. Also my experience as a scientist shows that the further from my specific research area the paper is, the more difficult the task becomes.

Not mentioned in the article is that understanding a paper usually requires understanding the previous research on which it is based. Often times, I am forced to go back and find a good review on the subject or read some of the references the paper cites to gain an understanding of the background science.

Gus Van Horn said...


Your mention of your friend's trouble with unclear writing underscores a common difficulty this short paper/lecture alludes to right off the bat.


Yes. Familiarity with the literature is something not even brought up in the lecture that is, as you rightly indicate, usually crucial for understanding a paper. Thanks for bringing that up.


Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, in case you haven't seen this: Wow. A journal retracted 60 articles because of corrupted peer review.

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, also, regarding the Coulter nonsense about soccer as a militant leftist cult, I just thought I'd point you to an entertaining post: No, Conservatives, There Is No Left-Wing Soccer Conspiracy. Short quote: ...let me point out something to conservatives: To the extent that America now accepts soccer, it is due to its being supported by many people in the middle and on the right. The left has done almost nothing to help it, which is why I wrote a book denouncing them.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for reminding me of the article about the retractions and for bringing the soccer post (which is very good) to my attention.