Miscellaneous stuff about P.B. Stark

applications | ultras | espresso | bread | forage | wheels | Erdös | Newton | schooling | the king and I | Vicarism | In Memoriam | pithosophy | neologisms | haiku | stuff I wish I'd said | 12-step programming

Thoughts on applied Statistics:

Some ultramarathons I've run:

  Event Distance     Year  State     Climb
Angel Island 50k50 km2005 CA 4,200' 
Backward Western States100+ mi2004 CA 21,970' 
Backyard Hundred100 mi2006 CA  ~20,000' 
The Bear 100.33 mi2004 ID 21,061' 
 Berkeley to the Boardwalk Boondoggle~100 mi2008 CA  ~15,000' 
Bighorn Mountain Wild & Scenic103.6 mi2005 WY 18,308' 
Calico 50k50 km2011 CA 3,890' 
Cascade Crest Classic100 mi2005 WA 20,470' 
Coyote 2 Moons100 mi2008 CA 28,102' 
Dick Collins Firetrails 5050 mi 2006, 2007 CA 7,800' 
Miwok 100k100 km 2004, 2005 CA ~10,000' 
Mt. Diablo Trail Run50 km2004 CA 8,200' 
Octo-Dipsea56 mi2004 CA 18,552' 
Ohlone Double100 km2008 CA 15,600' 
Paatuwaqatsi Water is Life Run30 mi2010 AZ ~6000' 
Rocky Raccoon50 mi2004 TX
San Diego 100100 mi2004 CA
San Diego 5050 mi2003 CA
Seacliff Beach Trail Run50 km2003 CA 3,710' 
Skyline 50k50 km2003, 2006 CA 4,750' 
Wildcat to Diablo50 mi 2006, 2008 CA ~11,300' 
Wildcat to Diablo44 mi 2010 CA ~11,300' 

Lately, I've been running barefoot and in minimalist non-shoes, primarily homemade huaraches. In cold and mud, I run in homemade moccasins or split-toe surfing booties. I believe humans are well suited to distance running in minimal footwear or barefoot.

Philip in homemade huaraches Philip in surfing booties Philip barefoot snow sandals

I'm serious about espresso:

I roast coffee on the stove using a heavy 6q pot and a whisk; I cool the beans in wire collanders. I grind using a Knock Hausgrind hand mill or a Rosco Mini Hand Grinder. In 2011, I abandoned my Olympia Cremina 67 (another review) for a Bacchi stovetop espresso machine. It is not a mokka pot, although it looks like one. It's a steam-powered piston espresso machine, truly a marvel of engineering. In 2016, I replaced it with a Rossa HC Hand Espresso machine, a hand-cranked screw-driven piston machine, with a naked portafilter. It consistently pulls (pushes?) amazing shots; it's silent; and it's small and light enough for travel.

Ethiopian wet-process bonko, green Ethiopian wet-process bonko at 2nd crack Bacchi shot

I bake:

I don't eat wheat, rye or oats now, but I used to bake bread from scratch, including grinding the grain by hand.

grinding red winter wheat Cinnamon cardamom raisin walnut loaf Sage-oregano loaves with black sesame seeds

Now I do some grainless baking. These are a pumpkin seed and coconut brittle with cardamom; grainless peanut butter and mace cookies with foraged bay nuts, orange zest, and sel gris; and pecan brittle with orange habanero, cinnamon, and orange zest:

grainless peanut butter mace cookies with foraged bay nuts grainless peanut butter mace cookie with foraged bay nuts brittle

I forage, mostly for greens. See forage.berkeley.edu

These pictures include blewitt mushrooms, cat's ear, chickweed, cow parsnip stems, dock, field mustard leaves and flowers, plantago, fennel, sheep sorrel, purple sage, miner's lettuce, western lettuce, bitter lettuce, sow thistle, prickly sow thistle, several varieties of dandelion, mallow, bracken fern fiddleheads, bay nuts, bay leaves, young pine needles, mugwort, pineapple weed, wild onions, wormwood, yarrow, wild blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, gooseberries, and wild plums. See also the Berkeley Open Source Food Project.

foraged greens wild blueberries even more foraged greens more foraged greens bracken fern fiddleheads bay nuts roasted bay nuts bracken fern fiddleheads wild blackberries wild raspberries wild plums and a blackberry huckleberries mustard, yarrow, mugwort, onions, and more salad lambchop with young pine needles and bay laurel tuna steak with yarrow and mugwort tuna steak with yarrow and mugwort, cow parsnip stems, salad homemade pho with dandelion, dock, sow thistle, fennel, field mustard bracken fern fiddleheads salmon with mustard flowers bay nuts roasted bay nuts

Favorite wheels:

Mostly I walk or run for transportation. When I ride, my "commuter" is a 1999 De Rosa Giro d'Italia with Campagnolo Chorus gruppo. I miss my 1981 Hujsak Columbus-tubing bike with a first-generation Dura-Ace gruppo: It sacrificed itself to save me in May 2013 when I was hit by a car. My "hit the ground rolling" bike is a Brompton Superlight 6S with a rear triple substituted for the stock double (making it 9-speed), and a bunch of weight-saving modifications, mostly titanium. (It's amazing to be able to put a functional bike into the overhead bin on a plane, carry a bike into a cafe, onto a train, etc.) I also ride a 2002 Colnago C40 Carbon, full Campagnolo Record 10-speed gruppo, Ultra Torque carbon cranks, 3T Ergonova team bar, KCNC Knife Ti pedals. In 2013, I drove my car about 146 miles; drove my Vespa scooter about 298 miles; and covered about 3500 miles on foot. I sold my car and my Vespa in 2016: I hadn't used them for more than six months. In late 2017, I bought an Alta Redshift SM. I've only driven it twice: I prefer to be self-propelled.

My Erdös Number is 3:

(Erdös → Felzenbaum → Hochberg → Stark)

(Erdös → Diaconis → Freedman → Stark)

(Erdös → Diaconis → Evans → Stark)

(Erdös → Tovey → Donoho → Stark)

(Erdös → Kleitman → Rivest → Stark)

(Erdös → Linial → Rivest → Stark)

(Erdös → Odlyzko → Rivest → Stark)

(Erdös → Spencer → Rivest → Stark)

In December 2006, there were about 33,605 people with Erdös number 3. I believe that my Erdös number of the second kind is also 3; in December 2006, there were about 10,118 people with an Erdös number of the second kind equal to 3.

I'm an academic descendent of Sir Isaac Newton ;-)

Sir Isaac Newton1642-1727
Roger Cotes1682-1716
Robert Smith1689-1768
Antony Shepherd1721-1796
Samuel Vince1749-1821
Robert Woodhouse1773-1827
George Peacock1791-1858
Augustus De Morgan1806-1871
E.J. Routh1831-1907
Lord Rayleigh1842-1919
J.J. Thomson1856-1940
Lord Rutherford1871-1937
Sir Edward Bullard1907-1980
Robert L. Parker1942-
Philip B. Stark1960-

(Devised by Duncan Agnew.)


My education is unusual for a professor of Statistics. I dropped out of high school to go to MIT, where I intended to major in Physics and Philosophy. After a year, I transferred to Princeton University, where I majored in Philosophy. I spent a semester in Oxford as a junior. From Princeton I went to law school at the University of Texas at Austin (UT). I dropped out after six weeks, and worked in management for an industrial marketing company. After a year, I switched to part-time consulting and took undergraduate courses at UT in Biology, Chemistry, Geology, and Physics, then started graduate work in Geophysics. I transferred from UT to University of California, San Diego (Scripps Institution of Oceanography), where—while self-employed as a car mechanic—I finished my Ph.D. and started postdoctoral work in Geophysics. I came to UC Berkeley as a postdoc in Statistics, which was my first formal exposure to Probability and Statistics. I was hired as Assistant Professor of Statistics in 1988 after a year as a postdoc.

The King and I

I am not King Harald V of Norway. But I could play him on tv.

picture of P.B. Stark and Kong Harald V of Norway

Moral system

I am the founder of Vicarism.

In Memoriam

Two of my dearest friends died in late 2008:

John Matthew Emery III, M.D., 8/23/1957–12/7/2008: obituary, eulogy, second eulogy.

David A. Freedman, Ph. D., 3/5/1938–10/17/2008: obituary, eulogy.


Favorite neologisms

To estimate by making unrealistic assumptions. Usage: They assumptimated the cost of climate change over the next 300 years.
To go to absurd lengths or make absurd arguments to rationalize an action, opinion, or conclusion.
Someone who is a slave to his or her parasite masters (be they the microbiome, nematodes, or other); i.e., most of us.
Experience, distilled.
To assign a meaningless number, then pretend that since it's quantitative, it's meaningful. Examples: student evaluations of teaching effectiveness; earthquake probabilities.
Somatic satisfaction
Don't stand on it.

Haiku on working as an Expert Witness

The job is simple:
Help the judge and the jury
understand the truth.

If the other side
were scrupulous and careful,
I would be useless.

Opposing counsel:
They feed me and my children.
Why don't I love them?

Favorite quotations and things I wish I'd said (first)

Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man. —Sir Francis Bacon

By far the best proof is experience. —Sir Francis Bacon

He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune. —Sir Francis Bacon

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. —Gloria Steinem

The more you assume, the less you know. —Robert L. Parker

Caeteris are never paribus. —Andrea Saltelli

It's hard to tell the difference between science-based policy and policy-based science. —Andrea Saltelli

Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. —Niels Bohr

Timing Toast.
There's an art of knowing when.
Never try to guess.
Toast until it smokes and then
Twenty seconds less.
—Piet Hein

The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away. —Tom Waits

We pass over all regularity conditions in respectful silence. —David A. Freedman

Naturally, there is a desire to substitute intellectual capital for labor. —David A. Freedman

Keep after the rascals. —David A. Freedman

You can express the most outrageous heresy and—if you get the tone right—people will just nod and smile. —David A. Freedman

If we are uncritical we shall always find what we want: we shall look for, and find, confirmations, and we shall look away from, and not see, whatever might be dangerous to our pet theories. In this way it is only too easy to obtain what appears to be overwhelming evidence in favor of a theory which, if approached critically, would have been refuted. —Karl Popper

Whenever a theory appears to you as the only possible one, take this as a sign that you have neither understood the theory nor the problem which it was intended to solve. —Karl Popper

[] no matter how many instances of white swans we may have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that all swans are white. —Karl Popper

It seems to me certain that more people are killed out of righteous stupidity than out of wickedness. —Karl Popper

Science may be described as the art of systematic over-simplification – the art of discerning what we may with advantage omit. —Karl Popper

No rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude. —Karl Popper

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it! —Upton Sinclair

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. —Albert Einstein

There is no problem so bad that you can't make it worse. —Astronaut saying

We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. —George Bernard Shaw

There is no sincerer love than the love of food. —George Bernard Shaw

I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it. —George Bernard Shaw

Never attempt to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig. —Robert A. Heinlein

An armed society is a polite society. —Robert A. Heinlein

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. —Psalm 90:12

Life is short, but the days and nights are long. —Cheryl Wheeler

An alleged scientific discovery has no merit unless it can be explained to a barmaid. —Ernest Rutherford

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken. —Oliver Cromwell

When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir? —John Maynard Keynes

Far better an approximate answer to the right question, which is often vague, than an exact answer to the wrong question, which can always be made precise. —J.W. Tukey [I would add, "if you know how bad the approximation might be."]

The combination of some data and an aching desire for an answer does not ensure that a reasonable answer can be extracted from a given body of data. —J.W. Tukey

We've heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true. —Robert Wilensky

After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. —Jack Kornfield

Old age is the most unexpected of all things that happen to a man. —Leon Trotsky

Revolutions are always verbose. —Leon Trotsky

In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is. —Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut

The difference between theory and practice is smaller in theory than it is in practice. —unknown

Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice. (The Napoleon-Clarke Law) —Vernon Schryver and/or Paul Ciszek.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo. (Grey's Law) —Andy Finkel

The core of [the scientific method] is remembering your own level of ignorance. —Jaron Lanier

It is inappropriate to be concerned about mice when there are tigers abroad. —George Box

No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks. —Mary Wollstonecraft

Reality: what a concept! —Robin Williams

If everybody's grateful, how come nobody's satisfied? —Ryan Adams

I'm not a passenger: I am the ride. —Chris Smither

And when I do my job, I am thinking about these things. Because when I do my job, that is what I think about. —Laurie Anderson

Just because you shot Jesse James, don't make you Jesse James. —Mike, Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 3

If you don't become the ocean, you'll be seasick every day. —Leonard Cohen

Such is life, and it just gets such-er and such-er. —Hungarian saying

Today is an average day: worse than yesterday but better than tomorrow. —Russian saying

Life is good. But a good life is better. —Russian saying

Ne quid falsi dicere audeat, ne quid veri dicere non audeat. —Cicero

If the shortcut saved time, it would be the regular route. —unknown

No ask, no get. —unknown

The squeaky wheel gets the grease. —unknown

A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. —unknown

Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions. —G.K. Chesterton

If something isn't worth doing, it isn't worth doing well. —unknown

"Research" is when you don't know what you're doing. —unknown (By this definition, I do a lot of research.)

Life isn't one damned thing after another. It's the same damned thing over and over. —unknown

12-Steps of Programming for Reproducible Data Science

  1. We admitted we were powerless over data—that our code had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a workflow greater than ours could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our code and our data over to the care of a revision control system, even if we didn't understand it.
  4. Made a searching and fearless inventory of our bugs, undocumented scripts, and files named final.txt~, final.revised.txt, final.rev3.2-7b.txt~-~, etc.
  5. Revealed to journals, to ourselves, to our colleagues, and to our students the entirety of our data and code, including the "documentation."
  6. Were entirely ready to write unit tests to remove all defects of functionality.
  7. Humbly used lint, pytest, coveralls, and TravisCI to identify our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all papers we had published, and became willing to retract them all.
  9. Made corrections to such papers wherever possible, even when doing so would embarrass ourselves and others.
  10. Continued to run unit tests, regression tests, and coverage tests, and when we were wrong, promptly logged it in the issue tracker, wrote a patch, and made a pull request.
  11. Sought through pair programming, code review, documentation, and transparency to improve the quality and reproducibility of our work, praying only for correct results and the data, theory, understanding, algorithms, bandwidth, storage, computational power, caffeine, graduate students, and funding to carry that out.
  12. Having had a rude awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to publish our code and data to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our work.

Last modified 5 July 2018. www.stat.berkeley.edu/~stark/other.htm