Tag Archives: podcasts

Contingency Table Analysis What?

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned
lies and statistics.”
-Mark Twain*

I established in another post that I hate school. It partly stems from my dismal mathematical abilities. I wanted to understand calculus. I wanted to understand chemistry formulas. In college, I even took Basic Applied Statistics. After three minutes of lecture I wanted to puke on my shoes. I had no idea what was happening. Yet, I persist in reading books about math and physics and economics, even if I don’t always understand them.


Thankfully, the rockstar economists (Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner) who brought you the ground-breaking Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything and Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance (as well as the movie and weekly podcast) have come out with a new book that will retrain your brain to think about economics and statistics creatively, productively, and sans math skills.


For example: remember the “Year of the Shark” in 2001? During that entire year, there were 68 shark attacks, 4 of which were fatal. Four in a world of 6 BILLION people. Elephants kill at least 200 people every year, but we never hear about the “Year of the Elephant” (International Shark Attack File  if you’re really that interested in shark attacks).

Vicious killer.

Vicious killer.

Or see the math that proves drunk walking is far more dangerous than drunk driving. In one of my favorite chapters, find out why a “street prostitute is like a department store santa” (hint: it involves spikes in demand).

Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics are about recognizing the tricks in statistics and economics. Yes, elephants kill more people yearly but elephants don’t have an image problem. Unless you consider Dumbo or Babar “too” cute. And, yes, on a per mile basis, drunk walking is more dangerous. Does that mean the next time you drink too much whiskey you should go on a joyride or become a seasonal prostitute? Probably not. So the first two books focused on the magic behind the numbers. Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain instead wants you to recognize your attitude toward these numbers, in a local and global context. Some advice from the book includes:

  • Think like a child.
  • Never be afraid to say “I don’t know.”
  • Be prepared for a really, really simple answer.
  • Get rid of your moral compass.
  • And, seriously, never forget incentives. Ever. It’s a thing in economics.

Along the way, you’ll learn about hot dog eating competitions (Kobayashi!) and why those pesky Nigerian scammers will never, ever give up. Learn when to break up and discover that David Lee Roth isn’t being a diva when he wants his brown M&Ms removed.

Finally, find out here why there is no such thing as a free appetizer and why Americans just aren’t into soccer (Be prepared to waste some serious time on this website. The questions are better than Dear Abby!).

happy mathing!


*Mark Twain is maybe the author. Or Benjamin Disraeli.



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Let us come to you.

CLP podcast iconA few weeks ago, I announced the launch of Radio CLP, Carnegie Library’s new official podcast. Since then, we’ve posted thirteen weekly episodes. So far, they fall into several categories: librarian book reviews, excerpts from recorded events, like Sunday Poetry and Reading Series and The People’s University, and excerpts from visiting author lectures. In case you haven’t listened or subscribed via RSS or iTunes yet, here’s a sampling of what we’ve offered. If the holidays are keeping you too busy to visit the library, but you’re craving entertainment, book recommendations and the sound of your favorite librarian’s voice, then let us come to you with our podcast. Enjoy!

RadioCLP002: Time Is a Goon, Right?
A depressed former spastic punk rocker, a womanizing music mogul and a kleptomaniac assistant are only some of the casualties of time discussed in this librarian’s book review of Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squad.

RadioCLP011: A Futuristic 80’s Quest
In this librarian review of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, a gamer’s pop-culture infused quest for a multibillion dollar fortune proves more gripping than A Dance With Dragons and being bitten by a small child.

RadioCLP006: The Wild Woman of the North Side
Nothing is sacred and everything is hilarious in Holly Coleman’s poignant, irreverent memoirs about her experiences growing up in Pittsburgh’s charismatic Troy Hill neighborhood. This episode is an excerpt of a reading the Wild Woman of the North Side herself gave for Carnegie Library’s Sunday Poetry and Reading Series.

RadioCLP009: Beyond Space and Time: Manly Wade Wellman
This week’s episode is a librarian’s discussion of lesser-known pulp author Manly Wade Wellman, who mastered a blend of Appalachian folk tales and sci-fi/fantasy in his John the Balladeer stories.

RadioCLP010: The Myth of the Battle of the Little Bighorn
“If history is close to a myth, the myth is the thing that projects into the future,” author Nathaniel Philbrick says in this excerpt from his appearance at Writers Live @ CLP – Main. As he explores the mystery that will always be attached to this legendary battle, he describes the first shots fired in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the last time George Armstrong Custer was seen alive, and the final moments of Sitting Bull. Philbrick is the author of the best-selling books The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, and In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex.


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Be exquisitely literate.

Radio CLP PodcastBe exquisitely literate with Radio CLP, the brand new official podcast of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. You probably already love the popular podcast versions of radio shows like This American Life, The Moth and Radiolab. Maybe you also listen to the ones The New York Times and NPR offer. Well, now you can bring the library straight to your ears with your mp3 player or computer!

Get a professional’s take on your next favorite book with our librarians’ reviews. Hear beloved authors talk about the story behind their books. Listen to words come to life in our poetry readings. Episodes will include excerpts from our entertaining and informative events, like the Sunday Poetry and Reading Series and People’s University lectures. We’ll also feature essays and book reviews by your favorite librarians and occasional collaborations with Eleventh Stack. Some episodes will feature readings and talks from national authors who have visited the library as guests of Writers LIVE @ CLP – Main.

We’ve already made two episodes available: “It’s about a time machine repairman,” Don‘s review of Charles Yu’s novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe,  and “Time is a goon, right?” Tara‘s review of Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squad. We’ll upload a new episode every Wednesday. Check us out on iTunes or the Radio CLP page podcast.carnegielibrary.org, and be sure to subscribe so you catch every one. Enjoy!

– Renée


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Poetry Audio: In the Library and on the Web


In recent years, the Main Library has made a concerted effort to improve its audio poetry collection. A general search for poetry audio books on compact disc and tape brings up scores of items. A selection of personal favorites include:

The last item in the list, pictured above, is an oversized book with three compact discs that includes historic recordings of Tennyson, Browning, Whitman and Yeats up to modern classics such as Frank O’Hara, Etheridge Knight and Sylvia Plath.  This is truly an amazing collection of some of the best poetry ever recorded.  Also available from the library is the Naxos Streaming Spoken Word audio, which offers a number of audio poetry collections to kick back and listen to.

Besides the library collection, there are a number of excellent free websites of audio poetry worth knowing about.  PennSound at the University of Pennsylvania has a stellar collection of readings and lectures by the likes of William Carlos Williams, Amiri Baraka, John Ashbery, Lyn Hejinian, Albert Goldbarth, C. K. Williams, Anne Waldman, Jack Spicer and many, many more. 

There is a fine and ever-growing collection of audio called the Listening Booth at poets.org from the American Academy of Poetry.  Some select readings can be found by Louise Glück, Jack Gilbert, Terrance Hayes, Margaret Atwood, Lucille Clifton, Gerald Stern, and Billy Collins, with over 300 total and many more promised. 

Salon.com has a fairly large archive of audio dating back to 2000, with many of the items being excerpts of the “Voice of the Poet” audio series.  There are readings of individual poems by Charles Bukoswski, Henry Rollins, Quincy Troupe, Wanda Coleman and James Merrill among others.   

Ubuweb has a boatload of poetry audio, including selections from the legendary Dial-A-Poem Poets and Cocteau, Creeley, cummings and many modern and experimental poets.  The Writer’s Almanac Archive has realaudio readings of a poem everyday of the year, from early February 2001 to the present, with archival listings going back to 1993.  

The Poetry Foundation, too, has a gazillion poetry-related audios, with six separate podcast programs: Poetry Magazine Podcast, Poetry Off the Shelf, Poem of the Day, Poem Talk, Poetry Reader, and Avant-Garde All the Time.  Some of these are relatively new programs, some have deep archives, they are all interesting.  Obviously, they are putting to good use that massive $100,000,000 Ruth Lilly bequest they got a few years back. 

Last, but certainly not least, is the Library of Congress “Poetry Webcasts” page, which includes the Poet Vision (video) and The Poet and the Poem (audio) series.  Rita Dove, Lucille Clifton, and Nick Flynn are among the many poets spotlighted in these historic collections.

Obviously, the above is just the tip of the iceberg for poetry audio, in both the library and on the web.  Let me leave you with one of my favorite audio performances, captured on video: Robert Hass bringing to life 9 haiku by the gentle haiku master, Issa.

Short, but, oh, so sweet.



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