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Gender shifts in US given names

About a month ago I read this excellent article on the fall from grace of the name ‘Hilary’. That alerted me to the fact that you can easily get US Social Security records on frequency of first names right back to the 1880s. Although Hilary focused on the raw numbers, I commented that I’d be interested in seeing the behaviour with respect to gender – specifically the tendency for ‘male’ names to become unisex or even predominantly ‘female’. Today I actually got around to crunching the data!

I found myself with 37,407 names that had been used for males, and 62,318 for females – so we immediately see that there’s a lot more diversity for female names. Of all these, 9800 are common to both genders – but only 8,564 have instances with both genders in the same year. Any such year I could use for a scatter plot of the proportion of males with a given name, out of all people with that name. So a value of 1 indicates a name was assigned only to males that year, with 0 showing that only females received it. Here’s the ratios for `Hilary’:

Proportion of male Hilarys.

Continue reading Gender shifts in US given names

Travel 2012

This year has probably been my most travel-full so far, racking up over 21,000 miles across 15 flights – with two more still to go, and another half dozen scheduled for January. Although I despair of organising my photos from domestic wanderings, I do now have most of the international trips added to my flickr travel collection. For convenience, the new additions are:

In the process, I’ve become somewhat hooked on the art of maximising returns from airline and hotel loyalty programs, a task made much easier with the guidance of the wonderful folks of FlyerTalk. With the demise of SoSauce, I’ve been in search of a way to keep travel journals, and so I wrote up both Assisi and Gibraltar for their trip report forum. Be warned, though, that given the audience, the emphasis is more on the technicalities and perks of the journey, than the merits of the destination! I still toy with setting up a straylight subsection for such musings, but would I ever find the time to update it properly?

Upchuck 2012

Here’s the highlight reel from this year’s slow motion filming session at the Bath Upchuck juggling and circus skills convention. More to follow, hopefully!

Photography and the 3rd generation ipad

With my current camera gear filling an entire carry-on bag, a laptop is too much extra bulk/weight, so on my last few trips I’ve been surviving on an ipod touch for limited web browsing, email access and so on. This got me wondering whether a tablet would be a good fit, especially if it gave me the ability to review, back-up and share photos on the move whilst also improving my internet experience and offering video/ebooks for when IFE doesn’t cut it. The launch of the latest ipad, with a screen resolution that puts even my desktop to shame, provided just the extra nudge I needed to explore the idea seriously.

But in researching my options I found myself immediately confronted by a stack of conflicting information regarding what was or wasn’t possible with the ipad. Presumably to encourage uptake of the higher-capacity models, apple don’t include a memory card slot, nor standard USB sockets, on the ipad. Instead there’s an external connection kit, and establishing which permutations of ipad model / iOS version / camera brand / connection type would co-operate was not easy – perhaps not helped by the lack of tech savvy from some users, as many comments on apple’s site strongly suggested PEBCAK. A visit to the store didn’t allow for a practical test as they didn’t have adaptors in stock, but they were willing to accept a return of the ipad if it proved not to be suitable for purpose. Probably knowing that I’d really struggle to give it back after playing for a while, even if some sort of android tablet would be more useful for my needs!

Well, mine arrived yesterday, and I’m pleased to report that for the Canon 550d (T2i) – and presumably their other sd card based models – it all plays together beautifully. But in trying it out, I stumbled into various other seas of online confusion regarding photo handling, so I thought I’d collect together what I’ve learnt so far (admittedly, in all of 24 hours) in the hopes it helps save others some time/effort. This is not a guide to taking photos with the ipad, which still strikes me as a ridiculous idea!

Continue reading Photography and the 3rd generation ipad


I spent a couple of weeks in Canada at the end of the summer, and this weekend I finally got around to putting together a highlight reel from the footage I shot along the way, my first attempt at DSLR video. You can enjoy my efforts above; the clips at the end are not by me, but were filmed with a helmetcam by my guide for an activity called EdgeWalk. You can read my account of that on everything2, and there’s a longer video showing off my (sometimes less than confident!) attempts at the various challenges we were set along the way.

If you prefer stills, there are flickr galleries for Montreal and Toronto (2011); as planned this has given me an opportunity to revisit my previous shots, so I’ve added further sets for Toronto (2009) and Niagara Falls.

Finally, I also found the time to give a maths talk whilst I was out there, at the University of Waterloo – details and slides are in this Modulo Errors post.