12 July 2010

Asked and answered

Opinions are great and when expressed with gravitas and consideration are worthy of attention. Facts, however, tend to get lost in the pablum of the loudest denominator.

The disparate organizations, with their panjandrums ensnared in a melee of nugatory and capricious behavior, spend more time bickering over the naming order of coalitions, than on substantive issues.

Few are willing to sit down and discuss facts. There is nowhere to go for real answers and the dross of vituperation, passing itself for dialog, discourages the genuine parties.

StackOverflow was created to serve as the ultimate Q&A repository for computer programming matters. Real, interesting, relevant questions are posed on the site and then answered.

The answers are voted on according to several metrics, one of which is the degree to which it addresses the question and provides a solution. Visitors can vote on the answers provided, ranking them as it were, with the higher ranked answers moving to the top of the list and being the most visible.

No longer does one have to wade through an endless bulletin board of flames and misspellings, to find the answer to some question posed 5 years ago. If the question exists, the best answer is the first one listed, no matter when it was provided.

Open ended questions or questions seeking opinion are tagged as off-topic and wasteful. The site participants gain reputation points based on community voting on whether their answers are relevant.

If somebody just keeps posting crap or opinion, their reputation suffers and their future postings are treated with discretion.

The site concerns itself with facts.

StackOverflow has taken this concept of community and knowledge repository and expanded their offering to myriad and sundry topics through their StackExchange site. They agree to host, through a creative commons agreement, any site on any topic. They provide the real estate, the users provide the community.

In the beta phase, anybody can suggest a site for development. If enough support is generated through participation, and the site reaches a critical mass, StackExchange will take the site live for universal participation.

The beta phase involves creating the format for the site, generating the interest through commitment from users and developing the format of the questions that will be permitted as well as those considered off topic.

I started a proposal.

Check out their FAQ. See if it interests you. If you think this could be something worthwhile, sign up to help create the format. Tell your friends. Get Baffert and Lukas. Davis and Stronach. Zayat and Moss.

Want an answer to acceptable parts per million in an after race drug sample? Maybe somebody from the testing board can answer that for you. The stewards knocked you out of the Pick 4 at Hollywood? Perhaps they could deign to step up to the proverbial mike.

For the site to make it out of alpha, it requires 60 users and 10 sample questions(both good and bad). Everything gets a vote. The format develops organically.

It is a meritocracy. A place for facts.

In a game that lacks transparency, change has to start somewhere.

18 May 2010

Two words

Mullins sues the CHRB for violating his rights to due process.

"Such a lengthy suspension would be catastrophic to Mr. Mulins' career as a professional horse trainer."

I wonder if the lawyer felt as stupid writing that statement as he sounds when I read it. I can't imagine the term professional should be used in any context when it comes to Mullins.

Two words for you, Jeff.

Fuck you.

22 April 2010

The hits just keep on coming

For those of you who haven't noticed, I have been absent from teh interwebs. Sorry. Life, you know.

I imagine, somehow, most of you managed just fine without my insipid aper├žus.

This hiatus will continue for the foreseeable future while I wrestle with fixed point theory and lambda calculus.

Given the sense of duty your humble scribe feels towards you, dear reader, I tear myself away from precious moments of study to bring you this development, from the the folks who made free stats a commodity.

By the bye. Is NTRA.TV adrift somewhere in a brainstorm session or is that just too radical to conceive?

08 April 2010

On Entscheidungsproblem and recursion

Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.
-Albert Einstein

Before turning to those moral and mental aspects of the matter which present the greatest difficulties, let the inquirer begin by mastering more elementary problems.
-Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Except for simple problems, solutions consist of several pieces working together.

When writing code, the problem must be understood before the algorithm can be designed. Every decision should be designed before the code is written. This includes all parameters and aspects in which the solutions will apply and how they relate to each other once written.

Once understood the easy mistake is to write the whole code in one shot. The better, and in the long run, more effective manner, is to break each component down into individual parts and work on specific solutions independently.

You start with the original problem (Level 0) and figure out how can this be broken down into several subproblems (Level 1). Odds are, these individual Level 1 problems can break down into Level 2 and each Level 2 into Level 3 and so on. The trick lies in determining whether to break down each higher Level problem or continue with this algorithmic bifurcation to the lowest level (highest cardinal) component.

A rule of thumb says to pick the problem whose subdivision is obvious and continue in this fashion until the solution to each subproblem is so clear that it can be designed directly. By identifying the obvious problems, one is able to solve tasks that are relatively easy and the solution to other more complicated tasks becomes easier to discern. These more complex tasks, if approached in the same manner, prove easier to solve and one is able to complete the entire design without encountering any individual task that proves daunting.

The mistake, again, is to try to solve the entire problem all at once. Top down design works because it creates solutions for simple problems.

Building a solution from several pieces is simplified when approached individually. The first version of a solution is a working program with a single feature that is free of bugs. The program is saved and work continues on the next, easy to deliver, feature. That is saved and you work on the next. A working program with fewer features is always better than a nonworking program with everything under the sun.

David Allen, in his book Getting Things Done, advocates a similar approach to the execution of ones daily shuffle off this mortal coil. Pick a task, event, project, merger, acquisition...whatever, and break it down until you reach the point where you can complete one item on that list in under two minutes.

If I have to get my car fixed, that event is the end result of a series of individual tasks. I don't "get my car fixed"

I have to:
  1. Find the number of a mechanic
  2. Call the mechanic-or several
  3. Schedule an appointment
  4. Keep the appointment
Each of those tasks, in aggregate, results in my car "getting fixed". But if I had just said, 'Man, I need to get my car fixed, what a pain in the ass...screw it, I'll do it later.' Nothing would ever get done-and this is a relatively simple process.

Putting together a functioning, secure tote system or national regulating body of racing rules, could prove more challenging. Only if looked at as a whole.

At their core, projects are a series of deliverables accomplished by people by a certain time.

As Charles Emerson Winchester said, 'I do one thing, I do it very well, and then I move on'.

07 April 2010

Buying time

On this week's Slate Culture Gabfest, the gang discusses a recent venture where they created a nondescript, bizarre montage of apocalyptic images, with insects, gas masks and mushroom clouds, topped with ominous narration and paranoid instructions to an equally nondescript website:

There was no product or meaningful message.

The commercial aired late night, during reruns of the Glen Beck Show.

Based on tracking information and the 1000 people who typed in the URL, those rapscallions at Slate, determined their little ad reached 1.3 million people.

Total cost: $1,300.

This made possible by the good people at Google and their TVads feature. This will allow anyone capable of using a camcorder and uploading video, to create TV advertising and have it broadcast nationally. One can bypass the marketing and network middleman and just buy time.

Thirteen hundred bucks to reach 1.3 million people. Waldrop has to have that in the petty cash drawer.

03 April 2010

Learning from Alderaan

'I felt a great disturbance in the mutuels, as if millions of horseplayers cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.'

Clay Shirky discusses the collapse of complex business models in a recent post. The argument centers on the inability of complex structures to simplify their operations due to process and dogma.

Some excerpts:

When the value of complexity turns negative, a society plagued by an inability to react remains as complex as ever, right up to the moment where it becomes suddenly and dramatically simpler, which is to say right up to the moment of collapse. Collapse is simply the last remaining method of simplification.

In such systems, there is no way to make things a little bit simpler – the whole edifice becomes a huge, interlocking system not readily amenable to change...Furthermore, even when moderate adjustments could be made, they tend to be resisted, because any simplification discomfits elites.

When ecosystems change and inflexible institutions collapse, their members disperse, abandoning old beliefs, trying new things, making their living in different ways than they used to. It’s easy to see the ways in which collapse to simplicity wrecks the glories of old. But there is one compensating advantage for the people who escape the old system: when the ecosystem stops rewarding complexity, it is the people who figure out how to work simply in the present, rather than the people who mastered the complexities of the past, who get to say what happens in the future.

We may have passed the point of no return but ridding ourselves of the old ways might make this game better...thirty years from now.

02 April 2010

Free stats...Not In My Back Yard!!!!

NBA has a free iPad app for stats. I imagine MLB and NFL have something similar.

How stupid they must feel compared to DRF and Equibase. After all, how can you make any money or build a fan base with free?

We fear change

The locus of my inertia disintegrates after the first five letters of the word. I don't do well in dynamic environments and I require predictability in order to feel comfortable. If asked to deal with change, I assume the fetal position.

So I recognize the intersection of confusion we find ourselves facing, on this side of the pond, as it pertains to the synthetic question.

All else being equal, are synthetic surfaces inherently safer? I have no idea.

Statistics, such as they are, seem to indicate so but statistics can mean whatever you want them to mean. Smart people on both sides of the argument make valid claims and I fall on the side of any well maintained surface possessing the requisite level of safety.

I don't know enough about the facts to speak cogently on the subject but I imagine an underlying truth exists. I think the culprit lies in the spastic and discombobulated manner in which the game has approached the game in general and the synthetic question in particular.

A more reactionary and fear stimulated response, I cannot imagine. Some tracks have synth, others don't. The synthetic tracks vary as well; no standard exists. What is the point? Where does it all tie in?

There is no narrative. Nobody is directing traffic.

This year the US showed poorly in Dubai and with the BC two years ago, players and breeders sense a shift in the wind. The Crist v Kling debate misses the point.

This game relies on the bettor for funding, by choice. The game has done an amazing job at making itself a black hole for casual fans and without them, you don't get advertisers.

So if it wants to rely on the bettor for its cash it has to cater to the bettor. Provide them with value and consistency of product. Give them a reason to keep churning. Swapping surfaces and regulations like Tiger swaps companions, is as stupid as Tiger is an unconscionable cur.

Pick a direction and go with it. Have the courage of your convictions.

Murder the unchosen idea.

The parties are too busy looking out for themselves, throwing whatever at the wall, in some desperate attempt to find the proverbial silver bullet. They refuse to take a step back and look around, then wonder why everything is going to shit.

Apparently, handicappers in the US don't like synthetics because they are new and remove the historic predictability of dirt surfaces. California was speed favoring, the rail at Aqueduct in winter...

Handicappers can't get a handle on the synthetic question because there is no system to its implementation, handicappers don't have a baseline yet to figure it all out.

Santa Anita is on its, what, third synthetic surface?

The KD trail snakes around SA, TP, OP, Aqu, GP, Haw, Kee and FG. The three synth tracks in there have different surfaces, I think, so different techniques apply and horses bounce from one to the other.

The system is new and non-standard. That does not lead to good things.

Breeders, I imagine, won't appreciate the change because the horse we have in the game today doesn't stack up to the proposed change in direction. Drugs and speed madness have arguably weakened the breed here and shifting to synthetics carries with it a change in breeding focus.

Trainers have their own problems with the surfaces and bring their own baggage and rigidity to the issue. Most still look at scientific approaches to training much like the Church looked at Galileo.

The BC is discussing having SA as the permanent host site. If the track stays synthetic what will that do to the breeding industry it purports to showcase? What will dirt tracks do? Have their own championship event? Will there be an alternate championship?

Do we end up with two leagues, like the NFL 40+ years ago? The East v. West as it was 50 years ago in this sport, where California horses were considered inferior.

Perhaps this will involve a change in thinking. A change in training.

Everybody targets the KD and all else be damned. Maybe if the game provided incentive for horses to stick around past their three year old season, there would not be such a mad dash to get a horse to the KD and ruin it in the process.

What if an incentive existed for a horse that won the KD, BC Unisex Classic and the Dubai World Cup? It wouldn't have to happen in order either; just ever. Make it a ridiculous amount too. (Dr. Evil voice...$30 million dollars) Insure against the loss. Maybe the KD winner would stick around a few years. Make it $50 million if the horse wins the Triple crown along the way.

It will never happen. Because change is bad.

"'Beyond the Wild Wood comes the Wide World,' said the Rat. 'And that's something that doesn't matter, either to you or me. I've never been there, and I'm never going, nor you either, if you've got any sense at all.'"
- Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

01 April 2010

I got your tweet right here

I think there is a race in Kentucky, on the first Saturday in May, that might do a little better.

Of course, I think they could do it gratis.

29 March 2010

Playing chess with myself

Is not a euphemism for anything lurid, although Bishop to any "G" spot always make me chuckle. I don't play chess with myself because I am not smart enough to throw myself a head fake.

An article on posits Pletcher could have eight starters in this year's KD. Eight starters! If the man had half the field, I would still make it better than even money against him winning it.

It's easy to make fun of his lack of success in the KD, the man doesn't have to prove himself to anyone as a trainer-Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl and he would be on the top of my list, a dirty nose separating him from Montana-but at what point does the marginal utility of having him as trainer start to work against one as an owner?

From what I gather, the man is a perfectionist. That level of dedication to his craft is commendable and to be emulated but it cannot be maintained in the weeks, days, hours and minutes leading up to the race. If he saddles eight, or six or five, that is time he is not devoting to his other charges.

For a race such as the KD and all it promises, one cannot afford to overlook anything. Who knows the difference between winning and losing? A girth too tight or too loose? A stray grain of sand, perhaps, under the saddle cloth rubbing the horse the wrong way and making him lose interest before the windows close?

Horse fitness is not a zero sum game. Horses are not chess pieces and in theory he could win the eight horse blanket photo but life never does seem to work out that way.

I don't imagine he cares what the press writes about his "0"fer, he probably sleeps well at night and if nothing else, one has to admire his Sisyphean resolve. I also imagine he wants to win this race, badly, but it probably doesn't haunt him-yet.

Insiders know things, better left unsaid for public consumption. He knows what horses are legitimate and what horses are running for ego. Owners have egos and I imagine Pletcher is adept at navigating the Scylla and Charybdis of narcissism and pettiness his job engenders. Even then, strange things happen in a horse race. I guess that's why they created an institution around the event.

He will have them all as fit as he can make them and roll the dice. But there is a moment, after the dice are cast and before they land where a stray breath or random shaft of light can affect the outcome of the roll.

This supernal tightrope is where he pays his bills and why owners are willing to let him give them a run for their money.

How attenuated do they want him to be?

The Bid

The Bid
Greatest horse ever to look through a bridle