Why 64.8 percent of Americans didn’t get a flu shot

Earlier today…

Why are flu vaccination rates so low? Lori Uscher-Pines, a policy researcher at the RAND Corp., estimates that part of the issue has to do with no consequences for not getting vaccinated (well, except for coming down with the flu). Unlike childhood vaccines, which are generally required to start a school year, employers don’t stop their workers’ from coming to work if they cannot prove flu immunization.
“Children have regular encounters like well child visits where they get vaccinated,” she said. “There’s a constant contact with the health-care system.”
Americans also tend to have negative perceptions about the flu vaccine. A study Uscher-Pines did in 2011 found that about half of those who did not get vaccinated agreed with statements such as “I don’t need it” or “I don’t believe in flu vaccines.”

This year’s flu vaccine is 62 percent effective, meaning that those who receive the vaccination are 62 percent less likely to develop the flu than those who don’t. That does leave space for someone who receives the vaccine to become sick but, as public health officials would argue, gives them better odds than an individual without any protection at all.

Why 64.8 percent of Americans didn’t get a flu shot

Home Court Advantage

Frank Erwin Center

Interesting interview with Jon Wertheim1

I’ve long been befuddled as to home court advantage, and never quite understood how it could be possible that professional athletes would play better in one sporting arena rather than another, especially in today’s sophisticated sport teams. Turns out the key is how the referees/umpires react to the crowd (even subconsciously). So, it is good for the Chicago Bulls that they are winning their division (so far this year).

Wired.com: So why does the home team win more often?

Wertheim: What’s really interesting is how consistent that truism is. The WNBA has almost the exact same home winning percentage as the NBA. A soccer league in Central America is almost the same as the Premier League. Japanese baseball has almost the same as MLB.

Before you even dig into the “why?” of home-field advantage, you see the data that 100 years ago the home winning percentage in Major League Baseball was almost exactly the same as it is today, and you find the same in other sports.

I think most people think, “Well, you’re playing at home and you’ve got people cheering for you and booing the other the guy,” but we didn’t find that to be the cause. Then you have the theory that home teams get to sleep in their own beds and road teams had to fly in the night before, but that didn’t seem to be the case either.

Wired: Right. You made the point in the book that travel has gotten so much better than 100 years ago, but winning percentage didn’t change from when teams were on buses to now, when they’re taking charters.

Wertheim: Yeah, and in games like when the Angels play the Dodgers or the Ravens play the Redskins — games where there’s negligible travel — the winning percentage stays the same. If you fly across the country, you’re not losing any more than you are when you’re the Chicago White Sox playing across town at Wrigley Field.

So we looked at how games are called and that’s where the data went berserk. Yellow and red cards in soccer, calls in the NFL before and after replay’s implementation, called balls and strikes in baseball — that’s where we saw games are called totally differently based on where they’re played. And the more attended the games are, the more striking the bias.

(click to continue reading Scorecasting Tackles Sports’ Biggest Myths | Playbook.)

  1. Jon Wertheim, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated (right), and Tobias Moskowitz, a finance professor from the University of Chicago, with their Freakonomics-influenced book Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won. []

Reading Around on December 18th through December 23rd

A few interesting links collected December 18th through December 23rd:

Reading Around on September 8th through September 10th

A few interesting links collected September 8th through September 10th:

  • dy/dan » Blog Archive » What I Would Do With This: Groceries

    – “The express lane isn’t faster. The manager backed me up on this one. You attract more people holding fewer total items, but as the data shows above, when you add one person to the line, you’re adding 48 extra seconds to the line length (that’s “tender time” added to “other time”) without even considering the items in her cart. Meanwhile, an extra item only costs you an extra 2.8 seconds. Therefore, you’d rather add 17 more items to the line than one extra person! ” I’d add – when I do the mental calculations as to what checkout line to choose, I also add gender and age into the mix (of cashier and customer both)

  • Pchela (Bee) No 5 1906..jpg
  • Post Office Buyer May Not Deliver | NBC Chicago – my photo used by NBC Chicago with a fairly crappy credit link: better than none I guess, but NBC didn’t ask either.
  • Peapod celebrates 20 years :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Business

    – Thomas Parkinson, co-founder with his brother Andrew of online grocer Peapod 20 years ago, recalls checking customers’ 1200- and 2400-baud modems while he delivered groceries in those early days.

    “There were moments of sweat rolling down my face as I thought I’d messed up someone’s hard drive,” recalled Thomas, Peapod’s chief technology officer. “One woman asked, ‘What do I use this foot pedal for?’ Turned out, it was the mouse.”

    Andrew Parkinson serves as president. The two brothers started Peapod 20 years ago in Evanston with $25,000 they’d raised from friends and family.”

    I find I use Peapod more frequently in the winter months

    William Blake - Ghost of a Flea.jpg

  • Tasty ways to use seasonal tomatoes | Frugal Village – “photo by swanksalot

    If you have an abundance of juicy tomatoes this season, consider yourself lucky to have escaped late blight. For folks not so lucky, I’m sharing recipes that don’t use a ton as the main ingredient but will let you savor every delicious bite.

  • Interview: Wallace Shawn – Chicagoist

    “I suppose I should say that all my roots are all in Chicago,” Wallace Shawn told us. “Both sides of my family. My parents were very identified with being from Chicago, really. My childhood memories of visiting the relatives in Chicago are central to my being. And all sorts of things that some people associate with New York, I associate with Chicago, like going to hear jazz. I went with my uncle to hear Erroll Garner in Chicago.” Shawn is usually thought of as the quintessential New Yorker (in fact his father William was the long-time editor of The New Yorker) but his new book is published by Chicago-based Haymarket Press.

  • Wonk Room » Joe Klein Compares ‘Left-Extremist’ Van Jones To ‘White Supremacist,’ ‘Nazi’ – ”

    Joe Klein, the prominent Time Magazine liberal columnist, has embraced the right-wing

    Hate that Joe Klein aka Joke Line is still called a liberal columnist, even after being a Republican suck-up for twenty years or more.

  • Terror Slaves of the Nile - March 1963.jpg

Long Tail theory not supported by facts

“Long Tail, The, Revised and Updated Edition: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More” (Chris Anderson)

Funny, for all the press that Chris Anderson generated with his Long Tail book, I never heard that his thesis was actually refuted by some facts. Power of the Long Big Lie, presumedly.

The internet was supposed to bring vast choice for customers, access to obscure and forgotten products – and a fortune for sellers who focused on niche markets.

But a study of digital music sales has posed the first big challenge to this “long tail” theory: more than 10 million of the 13 million tracks available on the internet failed to find a single buyer last year.

The idea that niche markets were the key to the future for internet sellers was described as one of the most important economic models of the 21st century when it was spelt out by Chris Anderson in his book The Long Tail in 2006. He used data from an American online music retailer to predict that the internet economy would shift from a relatively small number of “hits” – mainstream products – at the head of the demand curve toward a “huge number of niches in the tail”.

However, a new study by Will Page, chief economist of the MCPS-PRS Alliance, the not-for-profit royalty collection society, suggests that the niche market is not an untapped goldmine and that online sales success still relies on big hits. They found that, for the online singles market, 80 per cent of all revenue came from around 52,000 tracks. For albums, the figures were even more stark. Of the 1.23 million available, only 173,000 were ever bought, meaning 85 per cent did not sell a single copy all year.

[Click to continue reading Long Tail theory contradicted as study reveals 10m digital music tracks unsold – Times Online ]

Turns out the Long Tail [wikipedia entry] received so much press because reporters wanted the theory to be true, and because Chris Anderson made a plausible case for it. Scientific Method, hunh, what is it good for, absolutely nothing (when it comes to selling books). I’ll say it again…

Mr Page and Mr Bud believe, however, that their findings seriously undermine Mr Anderson’s thesis, which came with subtitles such as: How endless choice is creating unlimited demand and Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.

“I think people believed in a fat, fertile long tail because they wanted it to be true,” said Mr Bud. “The statistical theories used to justify that theory were intelligent and plausible. But they turned out to be wrong. The data tells a quite different story. For the first time, we know what the true demand for digital music looks like.”

Mr Page, who carried out the economic modelling for Radiohead’s In Rainbows album, which was released free on the internet1, said: “The relative size of the dormant ‘zero sellers’ tail was truly jaw-dropping. Rather than continue to believe the selective claims of ‘here’s another great example of the long tail at work’, we wanted to find out how longtail markets should be analysed, plotted and interpreted.”

  1. actually, pay as you wish. I paid $5 i think []

Reading Around on May 22nd through May 26th

A few interesting links collected May 22nd through May 26th:

  • Concurring Opinions » Some Thoughts on the Supreme Court’s Reversal Rate – "Overall, this past term the Supreme Court reversed 75.3 percent of the cases they considered on their merits. The pattern holds true for the 2004 and 2005 terms as well, when the Supremes had overall reversal rates of 76.8 percent and 75.6 percent, respectively.

    It is interesting how remarkably constant the reversal percentage is — 75%. It suggests that the Supreme Court primarily takes cases it wants to reverse, with only a few exceptions. Assuming the Court takes about 70 cases a term, it will only affirm in about 17 of them. So perhaps the new game for commentators should be listing those 17 lucky cases that will get affirmed."

  • BW Online | April 26, 2004 | Trader Joe's: The Trendy American Cousin – "Welcome to Trader Joe's. About all this 210-store U.S. chain shares with Germany's Aldi Group — besides being owned by a trust created by Aldi co-founder Theo Albrecht — is its rigorous control over costs. But where Aldi carries such basics as toilet paper and canned peas, TJ's, as it's known, stocks eclectic and upscale foodstuffs for the wine-and-cheese set at down-to-earth prices."
  • Mad Dog Blog – Mark Madsen actually makes a lot of sense:
    "If Congress and the government allocate and allow so much time to pursue professional athletes and their statements about their own, or others’ possible steroid use, perhaps we should examine statements of elected officials and the CIA when it relates to interrogation, torture and national security. Surely we must pursue these issues with the same energy and effort with which we pursue the statements of professional athletes on personal steroid use."

Reading Around on May 21st

Some additional reading May 21st from 10:35 to 17:13:

  • David H. Murdock: A Recipe For Longevity: 33 Of The Healthiest Foods On Earth – No pills, not even aspirin, and certainly no supplements ever enter my mouth — everything I need comes from my fish-vegetarian diet, which incorporates 30-40 different kinds of fruit and vegetables every week. Even though I am Chairman and Owner of Dole Food Company, I do most of my own grocery shopping, and even took Oprah on an impromptu trip to Costco, in a day that included bike riding, exercise in the gym, and juicing vegetables in the kitchen. Oprah marveled at how much I eat, and yet never gain a pound. In fact, I expend a lot of energy in my 50-60 minutes of cardio and strength training every day. Plus there’s the fact that fruit and vegetables tend to be lower in calories, but higher in filling fiber and other nutrients that help you feel satisfied.
  • Expert Tips on Photographing Your Pets – Gadgetwise Blog – NYTimes.com – “Back in the day when I was obsessively photographing just my own cats, I’d wait for them to do something interesting or cute before I actually brought the camera up to shoot. Of course by that time, 1 or 2 seconds have elapsed, and they’re doing something less interesting, and I’ve missed the shot.Now, I sort of treat my still camera as a video camera. Even if I’m not actively shooting, and even if the subject is not doing something “capture-worthy,” I continue tracking through the viewfinder and recomposing. Because soon enough they will do something capture-worthy, and I’ll be ready to press the shutter the second it happens.”
  • Data.gov – The purpose of Data.gov is to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Although the initial launch of Data.gov provides a limited portion of the rich variety of Federal datasets presently available, we invite you to actively participate in shaping the future of Data.gov by suggesting additional datasets and site enhancements to provide seamless access and use of your Federal data. Visit today with us, but come back often. With your help, Data.gov will continue to grow and change in the weeks, months, and years ahead

Swanksalot’s Geek Chart

Reading Around on April 14th

Some additional reading April 14th from 14:44 to 18:08:

Reading Around on March 13th through March 16th

A few interesting links collected March 13th through March 16th:

  • The NYT should just give Cheney a byline – “Dick Cheney isn’t Vice President any more, but the New York Times is still treating his comments as so newsworthy they must be presented without rebuttal. The Times devotes 558 words to Cheney’s appearance on CNN yesterday – 501 of which are devoted to simply quoting or paraphrasing Cheney. The 57 words that weren’t devoted to amplifying Cheney’s arguments didn’t include even a word of rebuttal:”
  • 25 Things I Learned at MIT – TrueHoop By Henry Abbott – ESPN – Last Saturday I filled most of a notebook with thoughts from the MIT Sloan Sports Business Conference. It’s all good fodder for TrueHoop. Pieces have made their way onto TrueHoop. More to come.

    But it has been a busy week ever since (there is no rest when you’re determined to write about Trevor Ariza every ten minutes!) and I don’t want to let those thoughts slip through the cracks.

    Some notes:

Reading Around on January 27th through January 28th

A few interesting links collected January 27th through January 28th:

  • EveryBlock partners with New York Times to expand NYC site / The EveryBlock Blog – We're excited to announce a partnership with The New York Times and a new section on EveryBlock New York City: political news items.

    One of our goals at EveryBlock is to notify you when local news sites or blogs mention something in your neighborhood. This far, we've focused on specific addresses and places, which you can see in our "locations in the media" section. There, we catalog local news coverage to figure out which articles mention which particular places.

    Now, we're taking this philosophy further by applying it to local elected representatives. This new section, "political news items," notifies you whenever your local elected representatives — such as your city councilman or state assemblyman — are mentioned in The New York Times.

  • http://www.flightbasketball.com/100-0-Texas-Game-Response-From-Coach.html – Re: Dallas Covenant School girls basketball team lopsided 100-0 victory, the coach writes:

    "The game started like any other high school basketball game across the nation. …We started the game off with a full-court press. After 3 minutes into play, we had already reached a 25-0 lead. Like any rational thinking coach would do, I immediately stopped the full-court press, dropped into a 2-3 zone defense, and started subbing in my 3 bench players. This strategy continued for the rest of the game and allowed the Dallas Academy players to get the ball up the court for a chance to score. The second half started with a score of 59-0. Seeing that we would win by too wide of a margin, running down the clock was the only logical course of action left. Contrary to the articles, there were only a total of four 3-point baskets made; three in the first quarter, and only one in the third quarter. I continued to sub in bench players, play zone defense, and run the clock for the rest of the game"

Six Degrees of Separation Study was a Fraud


Two Sides to Every Midnight Tale

pretty much everyone knows the theory of Six Degrees of Separation: That everyone in the world somehow connected through a chain of six people. What most people don’t know is, the results from the study that supposedly proved the theory were actually bogus …

The phrase “Six Degrees of Separation” was coined by Stanley Milgram — the famous and largely controversial social psychologist who originally conducted the Milgram Shock Experiment, examining people’s obedience to authority by testing how many would administer potentially lethal electric shocks to screaming victims (a study that oddly just repeated his research).

For his Six Degrees of Separation study, Milgram asked people to give a letter to other people they knew by name, then he tracked how long it took for each letter to end up in the hands of a person the original sender didn’t know in another city. He reported that the average number of people it took to get from the sender to an unknown person was six. Hence, the phrase “six degrees of separation.” But apparently no one ever bothered to look into his data, until now:

Judith Kleinfeld, a professor psychology at Alaska Fairbanks University, went back to Milgram’s original research notes and found something surprising. It turned out, she told us, that 95% of the letters sent out had failed to reach the target. Not only did they fail to get there in six steps, they failed to get there at all. Milgram was a giant figure in his world of research, but here was evidence that the claim he was famously associated with was not supported by his experiments.

[From Culture Dish : Famous Six Degrees of Separation Study was a Fraud]

I guess I’m not really six degrees from Kevin Bacon. How will I sleep now?

23 Randomizations

I’ve always1 loved this particular math factoid/game/mind-boggler:

Wired News: My IPod for a Random Playlist [sic – iPod is the preferred spelling]
To illustrate his point, [mathematician Jeff] Lait referred to a phenomenon statisticians call the birthday paradox. Roughly stated, it holds that if there are 23 randomly selected people in a room, there is a better than 50-50 chance that at least two of them will have the same birthday. The point: Mathematical randomness often contradicts our intuitive expectations of randomness.

If the group expands to 57 or more people, the probability approaches certainty.

On the larger point, randomization: I’m significantly better now, but when I was younger, I made many decisions after applying some ‘randomization‘ protocols (such as I always carried around several Chinese coins – and gave different values to heads or tails, flipped them and added up the numbers; or used dice; or other tools like the added-up page numbers of a randomly opened book). Yes, I had problems making decisions sometimes. Some folk resort to tarot cards, or media pundits – I used my own home-grown methods. Did I mention that I used to ingest plenty of inebriates?

SoundJam‘s randomization algorithms (and hence iTunes too) always seemed a little to prone to repeats, so I’ve worked many, many an hour creating playlists that eluded the need for ‘true‘ randomization. I still use the artfully created playlist instead of using Smart Playlists, even though that particular tool has improved, a bit. My playlists still give better results.

On this score, Apple’s iTunes takes the lead with a feature called Smart Playlists. It allows you to set all kinds of conditions as to what songs do and don’t get played. For instance, you can tell it to select songs at random but to select only tunes that haven’t been played in the last two days, or week.


Funny, I still try to incorporate random behavior into my life, whenever feasible. Our 21st Century culture is so computer driven, so regimented by Manichaean choices, that there is a real danger of losing the spontaneous juxtaposition of every day occurrence. Or something.2

  1. a repost from 2005! for some reason []
  2. I do believe clarity is being sacrificed in this paragraph because I only had about 3 hours of sleep last night []

Who Says Breast Related Math Can’t be Fun

Well, a certain kind of fun, for a certain type of person, namely those obsessed with tits

More important equation news from the Sun this week, with the exciting headline “How to tell if the boobline is too low … use this equation 0=NP(20C+B)/75“. Alongside a photograph of poor old Britney Spears with her boobs falling out.

“Following her wardrobe malfunction – where she was snapped nearly popping out of a very low-cut dress at her 27th birthday bash – scientists, undies experts and mathematicians have been trying to figure out where the decency perimeter lies. And here we can exclusively reveal the formula to work it out.”

I will talk you through this important work. “To figure out the naughtiness rating (O), you times the number of nipples exposed, from zero to two or expressed as fractions of nipple shown (N) with the percentage of exposed frontal surface area (P).” We’ll stop there.

This is, of course, part of a crap effort to sell a presumably crap book by an apparently crap mathematician who I shall not name1, partly in protest at the crass way he makes a big fuss about doing maths at Cambridge (congratulations), and partly because it seems to me that he can’t do basic arithmetic.

“Britney’s tight fitting Roberto Cavalli dress showed off around 70% of her breasts,” said the Sun: “and experts at Wonderbra think she is a 32D. Without any nipple exposure, Britney’s formula works out as 0x70x(20×5+32)/75 = 123.2.”

No. Without nipple exposure Britney’s score is zero, because zero multiplied by anything is zero. In fact, even if that error wasn’t made by our genius mathematician (did you know he did maths at Cambridge?) the formula is still rubbish, because if all women walked around wearing absolutely nothing but tassles on their nipples they would still have a naughtiness rating of zero.

[Click to continue reading Bad Science: How the Sun boobed over Britney Spears equation – The Guardian ]

I suppose I should link to the boobage in question – of such luminaries as Beyonce, Courtney Love, Nigella Lawson, Anne Hathaway, Salma Hayek, Rihanna, et al.

Ok, I confess, am just trying to juice up my site traffic with some plump melons.

  1. but I will: Mathematician William Hartston, who holds an MA in Maths from Cambridge University []

Illinois Corruption

I wonder if the media obsession with Illinois being corrupt has anything to do with the President-elect? Ya think? Because Illinois is no more (or less) corrupt than other states. Politics is a dirty, full-contact sport, and the lure of power and money lead politicians to do many questionable things, some of which are illegal, and some of which they get caught doing.

How many times does the rest of the world need to be reminded that three of our last seven governors went to prison or that at least 79 of our elected officials have been convicted since 1972? Yes, there was a time when it was a very big deal that an entire year had passed without a Chicago alderman going to jail. Do we have to trot that out every couple of weeks?

It was refreshing, then, to learn that USA Today had done some original reporting on the subject and determined that Illinois is not, in fact, the most corrupt place on the planet or even in the United States. That distinction belongs to North Dakota.

That’s right, governor—North bleeping Dakota. Illinois is No. 18.

If you visit the USAToday.com Web site, you’ll find a nifty little interactive map that allows you to roll your cursor over any state and see how many public officials have been convicted of corruption there since 1998. The map is color coded, based on badness, and Illinois isn’t even one of the dark blue ones. Based on an analysis of Justice Department statistics, North Dakota (population 639,715) had 8.3 federal corruption convictions per 100,000 residents; Illinois (population 12.9 million) had 3.9.

[From We’re No. 18 — chicagotribune.com]

Since even the new-look Chicago Tribune refuses to link to other news sources, the USA Today article reads:

On a per-capita basis, however, Illinois ranks 18th for the number of public corruption convictions the federal government has won from 1998 through 2007, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Department of Justice statistics.

Louisiana, Alaska and North Dakota all fared worse than the Land of Lincoln in that analysis.

Alaska narrowly ousted Republican Sen. Ted Stevens in the election in November after he was convicted of not reporting gifts from wealthy friends. In Louisiana, Democratic Rep. William Jefferson was indicted in 2007 on racketeering and bribery charges after the FBI said it found $90,000 in marked bills in his freezer. Jefferson, who has maintained his innocence and will soon go to trial, lost his seat to a Republican this year.

Sometimes Numbers Aren’t Numbers

Simply outrageous. Outrageous is an overused word, here, and elsewhere, but the callousness of our government, and the majority of our media, is despicable. If an invader killed 7.5 million Americans in three years of occupation, would we be throwing rose petals or bombs at their feet?

Eric Alterman: 655,000 Dead: Reporting the Reporting | The Huffington Post

According to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, George Bush’s lies have killed not 30,000 innocent Iraqis, as the president not long ago estimated, but nearly 22 times that amount, or 655,000. Neither the Pentagon, nor much of the mainstream media have made much attempt to make their own counts — it’s just not that important to anyone.

So how has the U.S. media reported on these shocking-albeit-necessarily-imprecise findings, based on door-to-door surveys in 18 provinces, by the experts trained in this kind of thing? The actual methods included obtaining data by eight Iraqi physicians during a survey of 1,849 Iraqi families — 12,801 people — in 47 neighborhoods of 18 regions across the country. The researchers based the selection of geographical areas on population size, not on the level of violence. How strict were their standards? They asked for death certificates to prove claims — and got them in 92 percent of the cases. Even so, the authors say that the number could be anywhere from 426,000 to 800,000.

Dr. Alterman continues