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State Name Popularity

After Brandon posted a map of places in one state named after other states, I was curious which states are the most popular. I had some guesses: lots of Washington because of the president, older and bigger states more heavily represented, but I wasn't very confident in any of it. So I downloaded the list of domestic names from the USGS to find out. [1]

179Washington
42Virginia
41Texas
28California
22Delaware
21Wyoming
20Oregon
19Kansas
16Georgia
15Oklahoma
15Michigan
14Montana
14Maryland
13Nebraska
12Nevada
11Minnesota
11Florida
11Colorado
11Alabama
10Ohio
10New York
9Maine
9Iowa
7Vermont
7Connecticut
6Missouri
6Kentucky
6Illinois
6Idaho
6Arkansas
6Alaska
5Tennessee
4Utah
3Rhode Island
3New Hampshire
3Arizona
2West Virginia
2Pennsylvania
2Indiana
1Wisconsin
1New Mexico
1Louisiana

No matches for: Hawaii, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota. The Dakotas and Carolinas make sense: if you consider them without "North" or "South" you get 9 for "Dakota" and 16 for "Carolina". You could think "New Jersey" is just suffering because it has "New", but "New York" did fine. Still, I can see why people don't want to name their town "New Jersey", and "Massachusetts" and "Mississippi" are kind of awkwardly long, but why not "Hawaii"? That's a nice place, and "Alaska", equally recent, has six towns including two in PA.

If people aren't naming their towns "Massachusetts" are they at least honoring our excellent state in naming their children? The Social Security Administration provides names for people born since 1880, where at least five people were given that name and gender that year. Doing the same calculation we get:

Virginia648,005
Georgia146,132
Montana9,879
Florida3,532
Nevada3,431
Washington2,518
Arizona2,273
Indiana1,553
Missouri1,541
Maryland1,288
Kansas1,017
Tennessee806
Texas544
Alaska400
Utah341
Louisiana278
Alabama194
California150
Iowa79
Nebraska75
Colorado59
Vermont28
Illinois16
Wyoming11
Maine9
Oklahoma5
Michigan5
Hawaii5
Because first names can't have spaces, the ten states with two-word names aren't included. But again if we break out "Dakota" and "Carolina" we get 108,013 and 39,348 respectively, so they would be up there.

How well do these two measures of popularity correlate?

Not very well. Except everyone agrees not to name things "Massachusetts".


[1] Following Brandon, I filtered out anything containing "trailer", "historical", or "mobile home". Unlike Brandon I required whole-word matches, so Bidahochi AZ would not be counted towards Idaho.

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Pricing Benefiting Everyone

Parking, traffic, CO2: there's not enough street parking in our cities, not enough room on our roads, and too much carbon in our air. Economists have a simple solution: charge for it! Instead of free street parking, or $40 permits issued to any resident, count the spaces and auction them off. Instead of allowing so many people onto the highway that it clogs up and stops moving, put in tolls and keep raising the price until traffic flows freely. Instead of letting anyone burn as much as they want, charge a tax high enough to cover the full cost the polluters impose on everyone else.

No more traffic jams, no more circling the block to find parking, even no more global warming if we can get the rest of the world to sign on; sounds great! So why don't we do this? A big concern is often that these charges hurt poor people more. For example, if I'm a rich gentrifier I could afford the permit to park my car at home and the tolls to drive it to work, while if I'm a poorer long-time resident this change might make my current driving commute expensive enough that I can't keep my job. What happens to our society when we put things up for sale to the highest bidder?

The thing is, all of these raise money. If they get up to unaffordable levels, they raise a lot of money. What do we do with this money? What if we distribute the money back to residents? We can give it preferentially to poor people [1] or just distribute it equally: just as taking $10 from everyone hurts poor people more, giving $10 to everyone helps them more. The important thing is to include the money distribution in the same law as the money collection, to make sure you do have both halves of this.

Does this get these market-based changes to where most people would support them?


[1] The downside of adding another means tested program is high effective marginal tax rates, which can form a "poverty trap" which keeps poor people poor.

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Baby Sleep II

Two months ago I wrote about how we had recently switched to a new method of putting our then five-month-old to sleep. Instead of comforting her until she fell asleep we would comfort her only until she stopped crying, after which she would start crying again and we would resume comforting, repeating this cycle until she fell asleep. This was an improvement—she slept in longer blocks at night than she had been—but she still would sometimes wake up on her own and need to be settled.

Two weeks ago we decided she was old enough to be falling asleep on her own, and we stopped comforting her to sleep. We would put her down in her crib, and let her cry until she fell asleep. If she cried for more than ~15 minutes we would double check her diaper, see if she was hungry, calm her down, and then put her back down. Hearing her cry was painful. Really painful. But she does need to learn how to fall asleep.

We did this for both night-time sleep and naps, and for the naps I tracked what time I put her down, when she fell asleep, and when she woke up. Some naps are missing if I forgot to write them down, and these are only her crib naps; if she napped on me in the sling or riding in the car I didn't include those. Here are all these naps, arranged from shortest time falling asleep to longest:

Her median time was 6 minutes, average was 8.6. The longest few times, however, don't represent continuous crying. Instead those are times when I put her down and she did a bunch of babbling and humming before falling asleep. She was probably not tired enough to go down these times, and over time I think I would get better at telling whether it's good to put her down yet.

One big change we noticed was that she started taking longer naps. When I had been comforting her to sleep she tended to nap for just 30-50 minutes but once we started letting her fall asleep on her own she woudl often sleep much longer. Here's her naps lined up from shortest to longest, blue for comforting and red for not:

You can see almost all her short naps were from before, and most of her long naps were from after. [1] Qualitatively she also seemed less cranky during the day.

Still, we're not sure whether we'll keep with this. She's still crying for 5-10 minutes each time we put her down, and while the research is a mess this does seem like something that might not be good for her. (While she would still cry when we would comfort her to sleep, it wasn't as intense as when she's crying alone.) On the other hand, the longer naps do seem like something that would be good for her. And then there's the hard-to-consider factor that comforting her can be tiring and frustrating, especially in the middle of the night, so it's physically really nice not to need to do that. But how to weigh these I'm really not sure.

(It also doesn't seep to work well when the situation changes: this weekend we were spending time with relatives and she just wouldn't fall asleep in the crib there, even with comforting. And she's starting daycare soon when I go off paternity leave, where I'm not sure how they'll do naps.)


[1] Running a two-tailed t-test I got a p-value of 0.00025 which seems extreme enough that I'm really not sure I did the test right. The raw data is here.

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Two Kinds of Vegan

"Go vegan!", you hear, "it's cheaper, more environmentally sustainable, and just as healthy and delicious!" The problem is, these aren't all true at the same time. You cut animal products out of your diet, and what do you replace them with?

  • Beans, hummus, peanut butter, nutritional yeast.
  • Tofu, tempeh, seitan, soy cheese, soy milk, almond milk, almonds, "fake-meat" products.
There are a small number of vegan protein [1] options that are cheaper than the animal-based equivalent, and then there are a wide variety of ones that are more expensive. If you build your diet from the first category it's cheap and environmentally sustainable, but the limited choices mean most people won't find it as enjoyable as what they were eating. On the other hand, the second category offers enough options to suit most palates but it costs more.

And really, we should expect this. When deciding what to eat people balance taste, health, time, variety, and money. Remove some options, and something has to give. If you're willing to accept less taste and variety, you can go with beans. If you're willing to accept more cost you can go with seitan and soy milk. If you're willing to accept less time you can cook more meals at home and become an excellent cook who does more with less.

(This is a motte-and-bailey argument, where the defensible "motte" is "the cheapest diets are vegan" and the expansive "bailey" is "eating vegan is cheaper".)


[1] I'm mostly just talking about lysine here. Fruits and vegetables don't have much of it, and while Grains tend to have enough of the other essential amino acids that it's easy to get enough of those, in order to meet your lysine needs with them you'd need to eat very large amounts. For example, 12.75 cups of corn or 15.5 cups of cooked brown rice will meet all your amino acid needs, but they will also give you 7,300 and 3,350 calories respectively. Instead you need to eat some foods that have more lysine per calorie, and while beans really shine here other options are generally more expensive than animal products.

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Paying Cash on T Buses

The MBTA should add a $0.50 surcharge for loading your CharlieCard on a bus. When people pay cash on buses it slows everyone down. The MBTA understands this and set up fares to discourage paying cash:

  • CharlieCard: $1.60
  • Cash-on-board: $2.10
This makes sense: people can pay cash if they need to, but you save money for yourself and time for everyone else if you put money on a CharlieCard (RFID) at a fare machine instead.

The problem is, there's a loophole: the bus also lets you put cash on a CharlieCard. This is an even longer process than paying with cash: press a button, tap your card, put in cash, and tap your card again. And then you can immediately use the money on the card to pay your bus fare. Someone doing this saves themself $0.50, getting the discounted $1.60 CharlieCard fare instead of the normal $2.10 cash fare, while making everyone else wait.

A $0.50 surcharge would fix this. If you needed to you could still use the machine on the bus to load your card, but there would be savings for putting more money on at once: you'd only pay the $0.50 once per transaction whether you were putting on $2 or $20. And you could save even more money by using a fare machine, off the bus, where you wouldn't be holding up a bus full of people.

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Trumpets Belong in C#

People typically write for trumpets in Bb [1] or nearby keys because that's where their fingerings are simplest. But if you're willing to tune your trumpet for the key you're going to play in, C# is actually the one where the notes will need the least lipping to play in tune.

The valve system of a trumpet is superficially simple: you have three valves, one that lowers pitch by a whole step, one by a half step, and one by a step and a half. For example, the easiest note to play on a trumpet is the 'Bb' you get with all the valves open. From this position the first valve will lower you from Bb to Ab, the second from Bb to A, and the third from Bb to G. To get other notes, however, you're going to need to start combining valves, and that's where the fudging comes in.

The note you get out of a trumpet depends on the length of tubing the air travels through. To make a valve that lowers pitch by a half step, you send the air through 5.95% more tubing. [2] The problem is, after the first valve lowers us a whole step by adding 12.2% more tubing, adding the second valve on top of that only lowers us by 5.30%. But it really gets bad once we add the third valve. If the valves are set at exactly a whole step, half step, and step and a half, then when we put all three in we'll be adding 37% instead of 41%. So as you play the note you adjust with your lips, or you use a third-valve slide to add a bit more tubing.

But what if you don't want to have to make adjustments? What if you want each note to come out as close to where it should be as possible? Then play in C# major and set the tuning slides to make that as in-tune as it will go. I wrote a simulator that figures out the optimal settings for the tuning slides for a given set of notes and computes the remaining error, and here are the twelve major keys in descending order of intonation:
KeyError
C#0.20%
Eb0.26%
Bb0.31%
F0.36%
Ab0.37%
C0.39%
F#0.47%
E0.49%
D0.51%
A0.51%
G0.53%
B0.58%
This is assuming that you use the standard fingerings, but what if we allow the optimization to also choose the best fingering for each note, even if that gives us something pretty weird? Then it can do even better:
KeyError
C#0.05%
Eb0.05%
E0.05%
Bb0.12%
Ab0.25%
F0.26%
A0.29%
C0.35%
F#0.45%
G0.49%
D0.50%
B0.58%
What crazy fingerings did it come up with for C#?
NoteNormal FingeringOptimal Fingering
F32-13(sharp 0.07%)2-13(flat 0.04%)
F#32-23(flat 0.09%)2-23(flat 0.04%)
Ab32-1(sharp 0.06%)2-1(flat 0.05%)
Bb32-0(flat 0.04%)2-0(sharp 0.01%)
C43-13(sharp 0.19%)3-13(sharp 0.07%)
C#43-23(sharp 0.02%)3-23(sharp 0.07%)
Eb43-1(sharp 0.17%)3-1(sharp 0.06%)
F43-0(sharp 0.07%)4-13(flat 0.04%)
F#44-23(flat 0.09%)4-23(flat 0.04%)
Ab44-1(sharp 0.06%)4-1(flat 0.05%)
Bb44-0(flat 0.04%)4-0(sharp 0.01%)
C55-1(flat 0.73%)6-13(sharp 0.07%)
C#55-2(sharp 0.20%)6-23(sharp 0.07%)
Eb56-1(sharp 0.17%)6-1(sharp 0.06%)
F56-0(sharp 0.07%)8-13(flat 0.04%)
F#58-23(flat 0.09%)8-23(flat 0.04%)
Ab58-1(sharp 0.06%)8-1(flat 0.05%)
Bb58-0(flat 0.04%)8-0(sharp 0.01%)

The fingerings are actually almost the same. It made four substitutions:

  • 13 on the fourth partial instead of the raw third partial for F#4
  • 13 on the sixth partial instead of 1 on the fifth partial for C5
  • 23 on the sixth partial instead of 2 on the fifth partial for C#5
  • 13 on the eigth partial instead of the raw sixth partial for F5

These let it tune the fundamental (Bb and harmonics) sharp by just a little bit more and lengthen the first valve to compensate, and then choose more notes using the first valve.

Overall, the main thing I'm taking away from this is that the intonation issues I'm having playing trumpet and baritone in contra dance sharp keys like D and A is to be expected and requires active compensation by the player. In other words, I should learn to use the third valve slide.

(All this holds for other three valve instruments like the ones I was talking about yesterday.)


[1] Which trumpet players call "C" for historical reasons. In this post (and in life in general) I'm going to be ignoring this and using concert pitch.

[2] Why? Well, if you lower a note by a half step twelve times you need to get the same note an octave down, which means we need to end up with twice as much tubing. Solve for this amount and you get 5.95%. It's the twelfth root of two (1.0595), less one to make it a percentage increase instead of something to multiply by.

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