I teach political economy and statistics at a large public university in the US. You can find my academic website here.

The Waste Book very occasionally collects my passing thoughts on politics, economics, statistics, data visualization, life, culture, and everything.

We aim for funny, will settle for intriguing, and, the times and the Internet being what they are, resign ourselves to a certain amount of bemoaning.



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stories · October 21, 2015 · comments

The Zemeckis Prophecy

by Chris Adolph

So the Mets swept the Cubs on Back to the Future Day. I think we all know what this means.

Even now, Cubs fans are gathered around blackboards, trying to work out exactly where the timelines changed, sending them off into this terrible place. Once they figure it out and invent the time machine, they will go back in time to restore the correct history in which the Cubs swept the Miami Gators on this very day to win the World Series. (Hint: The damage to the time line probably occurred sometime before the founding of the Florida Marlins. Oh, you wanted a hint on how to travel back in time. Erm, well...)

If the people of Chicago are as good at temporal engineering as they are at baseball, nothing will change. But if they’ve sucked at baseball all these years because they were distracted by a secret, century-long project to build a working time machine, I think we can expect to wake up tomorrow in the land of flying cars and Mr. Fusion.

tags: satire

stories · August 17, 2014 · comments

58th Variety (for Garrison)

by Chris Adolph

“You know, Bob Oglethorpe’s Jimmy never was quite right, but old man Heinz said he’d take a chance on him ’cause he owed Bob for what he did to the Hunt brothers that one time. Damn near killed the company. When Heinz saw the first bottle, he swore we’d never sell so much as a jar of mayo to McDonald’s if anyone ever found out. So he figured it’d be best if we dressed it up as a dog and found it a quiet home. Next day Frank had this idea for a new-fangled tube you could squeeze to get all the ketchup out, but when he told the old man, Henry Heinz just stared at him for the longest time, and Frank let it go.

“And that, son, is why ketchup still comes in glass jars.”

tags: satire

computing · February 16, 2013 · comments

Wedding Website using PHP and CSS

by Chris Adolph

Unhappy with the pre-fab wedding websites available on the web – and not a little suspicious about the uses to which my personal data would be put by generous companies willing to give me a site for free* – I built this website for my upcoming wedding.

To possibly save you some trouble, I provide my code as a platform for building your own site on the following conditions: (1) the code is not warranted for any purpose whatsoever, nor is any documentation or support supplied or promised; (2) you may reuse or rewrite the code without additional permission; and (3) you may not charge anyone for use of the code, in original or revised form, nor may you charge a fee for use of any website built using the code. Note that my wedding site uses proprietary fonts (not included) and image files containing original artwork, personal photographs, and streaming videos (also not included and not available for reuse). You’ll need to supply your own fonts and images, and you’ll need rewrite the website code as necessary to display your fonts and images.

With all those caveats out of the way, you can find my PHP codebase, stylesheet, and file structure here.


*As they say – with a Yakov Smirnoff accent, no less – if you can’t figure out what product a social networking site is selling, then product is you!

tags: technical

literature · November 13, 2012 · comments

Book recommendations: Recent finds, 2012 edition

by Chris Adolph


Ride a Cockhorse by Raymond Kennedy (1991; New York eview Books, 2012) · Satire · The other side of the coin to John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. That book introduced the slovenly, lazy manchild Ignatius eilly, paragon of the isolated faux-intellectual blowhard and precursor of poisonous uneducated know-it-alls like Bill O’eilly and ush Limbaugh. Now comes aymond Kennedy to present Frances Fitzgibbons, ordinary loan officer mysteriously transmogrified into scheming megalomaniac – an ’80s Sarah Palin, winking, backstabbing, and bullshitting her way to power. Like the half-term governor, hilarious and a little scary.

The Drowning Girl: A Memoir by Caitlín R. Kiernan. (Roc, 2012) · Horror · “There’s always a siren, singing you to shipwreck.” A prolific writer with a background in biology, Kiernan is at her best with first person horror. Superficially meandering, this memoir of a mentally ill woman is meticulously structured and skinned over with Kiernan’s killer style. The middle pages – an extended metaphor connecting madness and temptation – are a thing of beauty, worth the cover price by itself. Full of deceptively casual allusion, The Drowning Girl is a work of literature with the compulsive readability of a thriller. Also consider The Red Tree (the best haunted house story I’ve ever read) and frankly anything else by Kiernan, our Lovecraft for the age of uncertainty, ambiguity, and loss.

The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin (1946; Vintage, 2007) · Mystery · A dashing, intricate, old-school mystery caper with flashes of Wodehousian wit. Although lacking any SF elements, this novel is accurately described as “more Doctor Who than Doctor Who.”

Skios by Michael Frayn (Faber and Faber, 2012) · Farce · In this parody of the world of TED talks and Davos, a dull middle-aged academic in a dreary social science field prepares to keynote at a rich donors’ schmooze-fest on an Aegean island. Acting on a whim, a likable young scoundrel takes his place. The satire of superficial conferences and scholarly sell-outs is razor-sharp, and the coils of farce layer satisfyingly until it seems only P.G. Wodehouse could devise a satisfactory resolution. It will help to accept – as the author clearly does – that no mortal can recreate The Code of the Woosters. We get two endings, but neither feels quite right.

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie (Pyr, 2007) · Fantasy · The Fellowship of the ing co-authored by George .. Martin and Joss Whedon’s bitter twin, this is the start of a trilogy that just gets better chapter by chapter, book by book. Abercrombie’s addictive prose blends cynicism, sympathy, and action; the characters face impossible dilemmas like real human beings; and the concluding volume is the most effective gut punch in the fantasy genre.

Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon (1973; Centipede Press, 2012) · Horror · In the early ’70s, an artistic couple from NYC and their teenage daughter move to an isolated New England farming community that has resisted modern agricultural technology and clung to centuries-old Cornish traditions. A finely written literary work narrated by a flawed protagonist, centered on a community of fully realized characters, and overshadowed by exquisitely timed dread. It is the best horror novel of its kind.

Jack Glass by Adam oberts (Gollancz, 2012) · SF · Three connected mystery novellas set in a mostly believable and wholly original dystopia. Strong yet whimsical on science and tautly written, with competent, complex characters who walk a tightrope between the reader’s sympathy and disgust. Not for the squeamish.

tags: books

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Chris Adolph

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Erika Steiskal

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