Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lessons from Moneyball

Over the weekend Nicole and I got out of the house and watched Moneyball. I believe this was the first movie that we have watched in the theaters since our daughter, Keagan, was born about a year and a half ago. We aren't too much into watching movies in the theater in the first place, but we figured we should go out an support a good story about data and statistics trumping “conventional wisdom”.

The movie is the (mostly) true story about how Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the Oakland Athletics general manager, turned their very small budget into a wining team by rethinking what makes a winning team. The old timers in the organization wanted to replace key players from the team that were lost, where Billy questioned if there was a better way to build the team from the ground up. Billy meets up with a Yale graduate who looks at baseball through a statistical lens. And together they go about rebuilding the A's.

This movie should be seen by all college students about the power (and more importantly the pitfalls) of applying statistics to their profession. In the movie, Billy assembles his team of undervalued players which were gathered to stay under budget while maximizing the probability of winning each game, from a statistical standpoint.

So they used statistics to overcome their problem, happy ending right? Heh, we aren't even half way through the movie yet. The problem is now an unconventional baseball team is taking the field and the A's manager, Art Howe, is trying to play them like a conventional team -with disastrous results. This is the first great lesson that this movie teaches about statistics. If some decisions are made due to analysis, but then other decisions are made that do not follow the results, the resulting situation could be worse than if no analysis had been done, this is especially true if the analysis suggests results that are not conventional.

Luckily, Billy stood by his team and pulled some trades so that the correct players had to be played. So the A's took the lead in the division, right? After all, decisions were made based on statistical analysis. Not yet, see there is no magic bullet, and even though a good team was assembled and it was being used correctly there still was a lot of ground that the A's had to make up to catch the raw talent that the Yankee's have. Billy then embraces other data driven results about how to play baseball; bunting is abandoned, walking is welcomed, and they strive for easy outs. The movie doesn't spend too much time on this part, but does make note of it. The first important idea here is that there are many areas for statistical improvement in every process, an analysis leads to answers, but also leads to other areas for further improvement. Secondly, Billy took his findings and got the players involved in why the decisions were being made, he didn't just proclaim the decisions made by the analysis, but instead talked with the players about what he found and how the changes can make an improvement. It doesn't matter if something is highly significant, if the people controlling the process do not implement the results of the analysis it is a waste.

So the A's started to win and the great Moneyball experiment was paying off, they broke the record for wins in a row and things were going to plan. So they won the World Series right? Well, no, didn't even make it there. This might be the greatest lesson of the movie. Even though everything was correctly being followed they still lost. The problem is that the regular season is a large sample of games, and over the long haul the statistical results will hold up, but when we look at a playoff series there is only 7 games to play, and there is random chance -even the best teams can lose 4 out of 7 games. So the A's not making it to the World Series is just a case of random chance in a small sample, not a case of a bad analysis. And this is important to remember, generally in statistical analysis we are concerned about the long term results. We shouldn't get discouraged if the results don't come back good right away after implementation, give it time to work towards the long-term means.

It turns out that the ideas that the A's introduced to the league soon became a common way to view baseball and the Red Sox won their recent Championship using the principles.

Statistical analysis is like having an ace relief pitcher or a sure-thing pinch hitter -they could change the game, but only if used correctly.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How Times Change

Looking back through old product photos and watching old videos on the computer with my daughter, I see how much she has changed in the last year. So, I am sharing with you how much she has changed in the last year. :)

My Daughter through a Nausicaa Distribution Product Photo Tour

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Lack of Cross-Stitching

I have not cross-stitched in a few months. Things have been getting pretty busy, namely we are moving in less than two weeks to a town about 7 hours away. I'm pretty excited about it. I'm going to be teaching math at the community college I attended and my husband is going to start his own statistical consulting business. But before any of that happens, we need to finish moving out of this house and into a new place.

But although I haven't been cross-stitching, others still have! Here is a picture from a customer who recently completed a cross-stitch.

This nerdy piece will grace her classroom in hopes that it helps students remember the important rule.

Thanks for sharing!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cross-Stitch from a Berkeley Alumnus

This customer cross-stitch come from Elizabeth, an alumnus of the University of California, Berkeley. And her colors are direct from the school.

She used a neat technique of mixing two flosses to create a fun blue/gold thread on the graph portion of the pattern. She said she used one dark royal blue and one strand metallic gold strand and as the flosses twisted one way or the other you could see different amounts of gold show through.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Attack of the Custom Plushies!

Making custom distribution plushies is almost always fun. The only time it isn't is when something doesn't come out right and I have to redo it. But besides that, its fun to pick the colors and make something that is different than the usual.

During this past month, I've made lots of custom plushies. Here are some of my favorites.

The back of a Poisson plushie, including pmf and special note:
A blue Gumbel for a color-blind dad's Father's Day gift.
Erlang plushie with big eyebrows.
Green chi-square plushie. I just liked the way he looked when done.
Pink Gamma with a grumpy face.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cross-Stitch for a Shower

Another customer's finished piece! I love getting these pictures. (keep them coming.)

This one comes from a cross-stitcher whose been doing it since she was in preschool. How cool is that! She made it as a wedding shower gift for her friend.

She did make some additions to the pattern. You'll notice the back-stitiching added to the border and the "area fill" added to the pdf curve. Pretty groovy. :)

Thanks for sharing, Michelle!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Quick Project: Tyke Hike Chair

Over Christmas at my inlaws (that sounds pretty cold, we're actually quite friendly!), we went through some old boxes of things. Found in one of those boxes was an old toddler chair from when my husband was a, well, toddler. It has a TYKE-HIKE patch on the original seat. But doing a quick search just now shows that you can get the same chair from Hoohobbers.

The old seat was quite worn. It had been glued back together (perhaps a couple of times). I took the old seat off, made a pattern from it and then made a new seat with duck cloth.

Now its all clean, seatable, and ready for Keagan!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Conference on Applied Statistics in Agriculture

This past Monday and Tuesday, Nausicaa Distribution had it's first appearance at a conference (or show of any sort), at the K-State Conference on Applied Statistics in Agriculture. We had a great time!

Sunday we helped Dr. Boyer set up the poster room and set up our own table. But I didn't have everything finished, so the table was a little bare. Not to worry! Sunday afternoon and night my mother-in-law and sister-in-law stayed up with me till about 1 am sewing, turning, and stuffing plushies! We finished 21 plushies Sunday.

Monday was the first day of the conference for us (there was a workshop Sunday, but we did not attend). It was great to hear live comments from people and to see what they thought. Not only could we see what people thought, but we had a great crowd of statisticians to get feedback from. One woman told us we would do great at JSM. I don't know if my little fingers can work fast enough for that, even figuring it'd be too late for the 2011 meeting. :)

Monday night there was a dinner event at Konza Prairie Research Center. Konza is set up to do long-term research about the tall-grass ecosystem. It's pretty impressive when you think about what they are doing out there. That night, there were dinner and tours. One tour was a walking tour of some research tools and set-ups. The other was a bus tour through the "bison lands." I'm not sure what it's actually called, but they have some 200+ bison in a 20+ square mile setting. The tour was sweet! We saw a lot of bison and some turkey and deer too.

Tuesday was the second (and last) day of the conference. We did some more visiting, promoting, and sales.

Over all, it was a great experience and we are so glad Dr. Boyer and Dr. Neil allowed us to come. We learned that the MCMC Hammer cross-stitch is well enjoyed by those in the know and that the Poisson distribution is among the most popular for agricultural statisticians (that's the only one we sold out of).

Hopefully we can attend again next year!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Facebook Plushies

That's right, the Facebook! I recieved a request to make 19 plushies for some Facebook employees in late March. They came complete with custom embroidery on the backs. :) It was not only fun to work on, but probably the funnest box to address that I've done yet. Well, mailing posters to Dr. Leemis was pretty sweet, too.

Here are some pictures that they shared with me. Enjoy!

They look happy in their new home. :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Sis!

For one of my sister's birthday's (back in February) I made her a case for her new hobby. She has recently started to knit and crochet things. Since Christmas she's finished (that I know of), a scarf, a few pairs of baby booties/mittens, and at least one hat.

Rumor had it that she needed a case for her hooks and needles. So I made a giant pencil pouch for her to keep some stuff in. She's a professional tuba player so I lined the inside with some music fabric.

Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chalkboard Paint

I had no idea you could make your own chalkboard paint. I should try it with some of the leftover paints we have in our garage.

Here is a link from Martha Stewart for uses and, more interestingly, making your own!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Thank-You Gift

Back in November, a fan asked is she could interview me for her crafty blog, Nerd Craftices. It is in Portuguese, so you may not be able to read it (but its a very nice looking blog with good photos). Here is a direct link to the interview itself: Interview by Érica.

Well, after the interview, she sent me a sweet gift. And I mean sweet, this calendar is pretty awesome. :)

It's truly a stat nerd's calendar. She used R to create the images for each month! How cool is that. I love it. It sits on my bookcase where I can see it easily from my desk. :)

Thanks so much for the great interview and awesome gift!

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Twist on Science

You may have seen pictures of my subject pencil pouches, in particular the SCIENCE pouch. That one is by far the most popular.

A week or two ago I was asked if I could put a different word on the side of the pouch, instead of SCIENCE. After come conversing, we decided I would make a custom pencil pouch that said CULINARY instead.

I found some groovy purple print fabric for the lining. I like the way it came out and it sounds like she did too!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cross-Stitching for the Classroom

I always enjoy pictures from customers! Be they pictures for contest, appreciation photos, or pictures of finished cross-stitches. Well I've got another one, and it's extra extra educational!

An AP Statistics teacher purchased a few patterns and has finished the first one! She stitched it up quickly so it could make it to her classroom in time for teaching inference.

How cool is that?! I'm so pleased to see it as educational classroom art!

A couple notes about how she made it and the finished product:
  • It's framed in a 9"x12" frame and is large enough to be read from the back the classroom.
  • It's done with #3 Perle Cotton thread, but it didn't quite lay flat for each stitch.
  • Aida fabric was used, she doesn't quite remember the size, but it's probably about 11 count. (original pattern is for 18 count and finishes for a 5"x7" frame)
Thanks so much for the picture and for sharing your method! Can't wait to see the next one!

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Hat for Keagan

My aunt bought my daughter her first winter coat. Its mint green and lilac. And I've been meaning to knit a new hat for the little girl, too. What a great time to do so. And I don't have to decide the colors.

It also works out that I don't have to choose a pattern. Before she was born, my husband and I created a little hat for her, a little bug hat. But she has the curse of a large head (from me) and outgrew it in about 4 days.

So, her new hat is like her old hat, but bigger and different colors. I decided to write up the pattern as I went and share it with the world. It is my first time writting a knitting pattern, so hopefully its understandable. I'd love comments or pictures if you make it!

Keagan's Bug Hat

Fits about size 6-9 months. Finished size: 7.25" by 6" tall , when laid flat.

Uses less than half a skein each of 2 colors of yarn. I used I love this Cotton in a light purple and a light green.

Worked on size 6 DPNs.

Cast on 64 stitches with the long tail method. Distribute evenly among 3 dpns.

Rows 1-5: Work in 2x2 ribbing around in one color.
Row 6-35ish: Work in stockinette stitch around. Change colors after every 5 rows.

Bind off using your favorite method.

With seam line (where color changes occurred) at the middle back, stitch the top of the hat together, except for the last 5 stitches in each corner. I don't know what the name of the stitch I used is, and you may know of a neater way to do it. But I basically used a mattress stitch to join the two sides.

In one corner, pick up the last 5 stitches and use it to make I-cord. I changed the color every 5 rows again. My I-cords are about 8" long each. When you're done with the first corner, cut the yarn and go to the second.

Weave in all your ends and that's it! A hat with little bug antenna.

  • My daughter likes to chew on the cords, so I'm glad I made them long.
  • You can make your color change at any point you'd like. If you want smaller or larger rows, or a mix, go for it!
  • I also made her a scarf to go with it. I just cast on 16 stitches and did 2x2 ribbing for about 33 inches,changing color every 10 rows. Oh, I also slipped the first stitch of each row.