Sunday, February 17, 2013

Spoken Word Poetry and fun with data

And now for something completely different.... Or is it? It's another TED talk by a teacher, but the topic is not STEM, not software, not design - It's poetry. 18 and a 1/2 minutes that reminded me how few English teachers I have had who were really memorable. But memory is slippery stuff.

I have a clear memory of the time Mrs. McCutcheon had us bring in a poem to read aloud to the class. I have no idea what poem I brought in and read, but remember clearly that Mark R. brought in the lyrics to "Get a Job" and with a straight face, read aloud every syllable of the song. I thought it was marvelous subversion of the assignment, and was surprised, years later, when I ran into Mark at a class reunion that he had no memory of the occasion. To her credit, Mrs. McCutcheon didn't object to Mark having chosen a "poem" that was a bit outside of the expected.

Anyhow, from way outside of my comfort zone, here's Sarah Kay in March 2011 on spoken word poetry.

If I should have a daughter...

Lest I lose my credibility as an engineer, I also offer here the 500th TED talk: Hans Rosling speaking to the state department in June 2009 (22.5 minutes, long as TED talks go).

Let My Dataset Change Your Mind

where he shows that things change with the passage of time and your mindset might not match the dataset. An impressive demonstration of data visualization.

If you're still unconvinced about the value of hard data, here is a brief, light musical interlude that came to my mind while I was watching this next video:

and finally, here's another data-centric talk (15 and 1/2 minutes) looking at what we know about the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

Emily Oster Flips Our Thinking About The AIDS Epidemic in Africa

That talk was in March, 2007, and I confess to more than a little discomfort that in the years since, I haven't seen any signs of people changing their thinking on this topic. Esquire magazine hardly ever has occasion to talk about economists, even attractive female economists, but the TED biography for Emily Otter quotes from Esquire: "At just 26, economist Emily Oster may have the highest controversies-generated-to-years-in-academia ratio of anyone in her field.". Now there's a score that I can envy!