Thursday, April 10, 2014

Too long for Twitter

Agatha Christe once wrote that, as a girl, she (mis)estimated she would never be so rich as to be able to afford a motor car, but never so poor as to be unable to hire servants.

HT Brad DeLong 


Monday, April 7, 2014

spacing effect

The spacing effect essentially says that if you have a question (“What is the fifth letter in this random sequence you learned?”), and you can only study it, say, 5 times, then your memory of the answer (‘e’) will be strongest if you spread your 5 tries out over a long period of time - days, weeks, and months. One of the worst things you can do is blow your 5 tries within a day or two. You can think of the ‘forgetting curve’ as being like a chart of a radioactive half-life: each review bumps your memory up in strength 50% of the chart, say, but review doesn’t do much in the early days because the memory simply hasn’t decayed much!
the whole thing here...

Saturday, March 22, 2014

the irony of Benn

The irony is that, had Benn stuck to the centre ground that he occupied for his first 20 years in parliament, he may* well have become Labour leader and possibly even prime minister. In the end, however, the die was cast in the early 70s when he opted to throw his weight behind the grassroots uprising and against the party establishment. He once explained his disaffection thus: "I was brought up to believe that when you were elected to parliament, you were elected to control the statute book, the purse and the sword. But I have sat in a commons that has abandoned control of the statute book to Brussels, control of the sword to the White House and the purse to the IMF."
Chris Mullin on Tony Benn here

*Brits. Do not argue with a Brit about moods and tenses. DO. NOT. DO. THIS.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

faint but pursuing

Somewhat demoralized.  I put in an application for the winter session of Hacker School - this is a program in New York in which participants spend three months coding - and had my second interview yesterday and then heard I had not got in. 

I can't say that this comes as a great surprise - the last time I did any serious work coding was back at the end of April, and as so often this was only one of a whole slew of things I was grappling with for my book. Then I went back to Vermont because the book was not finished, and on May 2 my very dear friend up the road turned up on my porch in the middle of the night and the whole long legal saga began. So I have not been building on whatever progress I had made up to the end of April - not just with coding, of course, but also with my book. But it is still rather disheartening. But onwards and upwards.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Like. Follow.

Long-time readers of PP will know that I went to Vermont in October 2012 with the plan of being offline for two months or so and finishing a book.

Things went badly wrong. The isolation which made the cottage good for writing - it is on a private road in 11 acres of woods with only one house nearby - made it vulnerable.  The owner of the house up the road had let a local handyman live rent-free in return for work on the place. X had offered to do some odd jobs for me the previous year, just before publication of Lightning Rods; I knew he had a way of outstaying his welcome, so tried to avoid him on my return.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

plots of binomial distribution in basic R and ggplot2

Basic R: dbinom, p = 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 7/8, 1 to 8 trials

ggplot2: dbinom, p = 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 7/8, 1 to 8 trials

Basic R: dbinom p = .5, 10 to 100 trials

ggplot2: dbinom p = .5 10 to 100 trials

Monday, March 18, 2013

That time of year

I need an accountant who is up to speed on writers'/artists' tax affairs, and in particular one who understands the intricacies of residence and/or obligation to file in more than one country.

I have been what I believe is called "domiciled" in Germany for several years but most of my income arises in the US; I am also a UK citizen which turns out to mean the Inland Revenue likes to be sent a tax return. I came over to the US last October and will probably be here through the end of May, having spent 4 months in Vermont, 1 in New Hampshire, 2 in Texas and 1 in a state yet to be determined.  I might spend the summer in the States (state to be determined) or I might return to Europe; I might go back to Germany or might go to the UK.

The agents representing Lightning Rods overseas say its foreign publishers must deduct 30% taxes at source unless I provide a certificate of tax residence in some other country.  I have been filing my primary tax return in the US all this time, but the forms relating to the relevant certificate don't seem to fit my situation.  It would help to talk to an accountant who understands these things.

I've asked for recommendations from various writers and artists I know; some say they are too poor to afford an accountant, so prepare their own tax returns; others have an accountant who is not really especially au fait with writers' affairs, or not especially au fait with expats.  It seems just possible that one of the readers of pp might know someone who could help; if you do, I'd love to know.

I have filed form 4868 for a 6-month extension, so the US return does not need to be turned around by April 17; it's more a question of getting things straightened out for the longer term and of providing correct documentation to foreign publishers. Again, if anyone has any good suggestions it would be enormously helpful if you could let me know.