The Ideological Echo Chamber of the Beach

Disclaimer: I think that the beach should be open to all. Clearly there are some who unfairly malign some beach-goers. However, we need to have an honest discussion about the differences between different types of beach denizens. Thankfully, because I am a Star-Bellied and not Star-Eyed Sneech, I believe that we we can have an open and frank discussion about why Sneeches who originally did not have stars on their bellies have been disrupting the natural hierarchy of the beach. This bias towards equal-starness in Sneechdom threatens the viability of the beach and makes pariahs of those Sneeches whose came by their stars honestly [1]. It is imperative that we have this conversation now before the beach is destroyed forever.

There are obvious innate biological differences between Star-Bellied Sneeches and Common Sneeches. Star-bellied Sneeches have stars: this makes them more adept at skills that require people who have stars on their bellies [2]. Star-Belliedness is heritable: evolutionary sneechology shows that the reason Star-Bellied Sneeches are the “best kind of Sneetch on the beaches” because of the benefits conferred by their stars. What could be more simple? Of course, there are occasional bad Star-Bellied Sneeches and occasional good Common Sneeches, but the fact is on average, the Common Sneech is simply not as good on the beach as the Star-Bellied Sneech. Since the only difference between them is the star, it is only logical to assume that having a star makes a Sneech better at being on the beach.

Star-Bellied Sneeches are better at beach-related activities such as hiking and playing ball [3]. They are natural denizens of the warm beaches. By contrast, the Sneeches without stars are less adapted, preferring the “cold in the dark of the beaches” and “moping alone on the beaches.” This explains why the two types have different roles: Common Sneeches prefer the cold and moping alone because that is what they are good at. Unfortunately, because of our new culture of suppressing traditional viewpoints, we cannot have an honest discussion about this beach-appropriateness gap; the dire consequences of attempting to make all Sneeches have equivalent stars discriminates against the true Star-Bellied Sneeches. The time has come where a Star-Bellied Sneech can no longer speak of “frankfurter roasts, or picnics or parties or marshmallow toasts,” without requiring that Common Sneeches be invited too (despite the superficial appearance of their stars).

As an employee of Sylvester McMonkey McBean Corp. (SMMC), I feel it is my duty to speak out against unfair discrimination against Star-bellied Sneeches. The company offers special “fix-it-up” training and that puts stars on the bellies of Common Sneeches. What’s more, this star service is only available to Sneeches without stars! This is highly discriminatory: how can will we ever know whose stars are original and whose stars are the result of special training? This violates the natural order of things. Because Common Sneeches have a tendency to mope alone, we run the risk of having Sneeches without innate hiking- and ball-playing-skill gaining prominence on the beech. Again, this is not bad for specific Sneeches, but on average will make SMMC less competitive and the beach sub-optimal.

My recommendation is that we should treat each Sneech individually. Those Common Sneeches who are demonstrably non-mopey and can, in controlled environments, enjoy a marshmallow toast, could be possibly considered for further admission into frankfurter roasts and picnics. However, we cannot simply erase differences between Sneeches by allowing non-Star-Bellied Sneeches to obtain stars. It may be politically incorrect to say this, but we must have a way of distinguishing those Common Sneeches who are deserving of stars from those who are not [4].

Sylvester McMonkey McBean Corp. is treading down a dangerous path and is alienating a great number of Star-Bellied Sneeches. I have received very positive feedback regarding these opinions, so there is clearly a “silent minority” of Star-Bellied Sneeches who are yearning for an open conversation [5] about these topics. However, the beach has become an inhospitable plate for the rational-minded Sneech.

In closing, I wish to state here that I do not intend to offend Common Sneeches: therefore I cannot possibly have offended any of them, because I said so. That is logic that any Star-Bellied Sneech can understand: Sneeches who cannot are clearly Common mopes.

[1] That is, they were born with them.

[2] For example, fooling starfish while snorkeling is something only Star-bellied Sneeches can do.

[3] While it’s true that in previous years “you could only play ball if your bellies had stars,” I would like to strenuously emphasize that that is #NotAllStarBellies. Not mentioning this disclaimer is evidence of the ideological commitment to the notion that all Sneeches are similarly capable of playing ball. Common Sneeches should perhaps play in a league of their own.

[4] Although there may be Star-Bellied Sneeches who fail to meet the bar, this can be addressed by introducing better role models and mentors. Unfortunately, such programs are only available to Common Sneeches.

[5] Preferably one only involving non-mopey Sneeches.



Cheating: The List Of Things I Never Want To Hear Again. This is an almost definitive list of plagiarism/cheating excuses. I both love and loathe the idea of making students sign a pledge, but there’s that saying about a horse and water… (h/t Daniel Hsu)

This note on data journalism comes with a longer report about how to integrate data journalism into curricula. It strikes me that many statistics and CS departments are missing the boat here on creating valuable pedagogical material for improving data analytics in journalism. (h/t Meredith Broussard)

Speaking of which, ProPublica has launched version 2.0 of it’s Data Store!

Of course, data isn’t everything: The Perils of Using Technology to Solve Other People’s Problems.

DARPA just launched a podcast series, Voices from DARPA, where DARPA PMs talk about what they’re doing and what they’re interested in. The first one is on molecular synthesis. It’s more for a popular audience than a technical one, but also seems like a smart public-facing move by DARPA.

My friend Steve Severinghaus won the The Metropolitan Society of Natural Historians Photo Contest!

My friend (acquaintance?) Yvonne Lai co-authored this nice article on teaching high school math teachers and the importance of “mathematical knowledge for teaching.”