The NerdNumbers Podcast: the Reboot!

I had started up the NerdNumbers podcast a while back, before I ended up doing the Boxscore Geeks show weekly. Well, the NerdNumbers show is coming back. Who better to have on than E.J. Fischer, star of the infamous “lost episode”.

This Week’s Show

The NerdNumbers show is back! We have a special guest, who’s on to discuss Batman vs. Superman and everything else.




Show Notes

E.J. and I have podcasted before. In fact, there’s a “missing podcast”, I never ended up posting back in the day.

Indeed, Eugene is a popular holiday location.

We decide to talk Batman vs. Superman, which I recently wrote about. That was the plan anyway.

We discuss the depressing nature of DC comics. Also in a weird turn we actually suggest taking Orson Scott Card and Frank Miller off your reading lists!

One of my favorite series: Impulse, ended with the authors complaining about executive meddling.

We end up discussing Big Hero 6, which is amazing! Seriously, check it out! Although, as E.J. says, you could rename the movie: “Hardware solutions to software problems.”

Damon Wayans Jr. from Happy Endings and Scott Adsit from 30 Rock are in Big Hero 6 if you needed more convincing.

Ratatouille had massive rewrites in the middle of production.

Reminder, Avatar: the Last Airbender is amazing.

The Harvard Implicit Association Tests are great to make you realize how you may have subtle biases you don’t realize.

Shout outs to both Feminist Frequency and the fantastic book Delusions of Gender.

The “10% of your brain” myth infuriates me. It’s wrong. Screenwriters please stop using it.

E.J. made a map of rhetorical relationships between genres.

There are pervasive ideas in mainstream media. I feel it’s naive to think we’re immune to this.

John Boyega plays the Stormtrooper in the new Star Wars trailer and E.J. says he was good in Attack the Block.

Whitewashing the Mandarin in Ironman 3 may have been justified given the character’s racist origins. However, replacing Ricardo Montalbán with Benedict Cumberbatch though? Unacceptable.

Superman is Moses. I’m dumbfounded I never realized this. Also, we talk a lot about how Superman should be an interesting character. Sadly Zach Snyder doesn’t get this.

I wrote about why Superman is interesting a while ago.

E.J. did not like Man of Steel, at all, like at all.

Marvel’s Joe Quesada had an interesting metaphor for D.C.’s inability to make good things.

DC couldn’t let Batwoman have a lesbian wedding. However, they’re completely fine with the current storyline (content warning if you click on link.)

I have written a lot about the Mighty Ducks 2…

We originally decided to talk Exterminite, a new series by Mikey Neumann, Len Peralta, and Kris Straub. Check out the first issue here! Only the “pilot” episode is out. We agreed we liked it, but that didn’t make for compelling podcasting. We’ll talk more as the series unfolds.

E.J. has a short story coming out in the April-May issue of Asimov’s magazine. I’ve committed to reading it and having E.J. back on the show to talk about it.

E.J. won the “my move sucked” contest.

Dan O’Brien has a hilarious video about being awkward.

No, Batman wouldn’t win a fight with anyone! Just stop.


This is a popular question that comes up all the time. And internet, we need to talk. Batman is a crazy guy in a bat costume. He lives in a world with gods. He’s not taking down Superman. He’s not outwitting the Flash. If anyone’s taking down Darkseid it isn’t Batman, even if he *gasp* uses a gun. Here are some common arguments I see about Batman being able to win a fight vs. various super beings, and why they’re wrong.

Batman is Super Smart!

Smart Batmobile

Smart Batmobile

This is a common one. TV Tropes is riddled* with tropes about outwitting, outthinking, etc. that Batman is pretty much the epitome of. However, this falls flat pretty quick when we consider:

  • Superman’s main nemesis is a genius that Superman regularly trumps.
  • Speedsters like Superman and the Flash can think super fast, and more importantly, act on this.
  • There are legitimate villains that have the power of super intelligence. I mean, Brainiac anyone?

Batman is that straight A student from a small school that just showed up at MIT. Also, everyone at this fictitious MIT is on speed…and a superhuman mutant.

Another side note here is the fact that Batman’s “foes” are often stupid, even if we’re told they’re smart. In the Princess Bride, the only reason Wesley defeats Andre the Giant is because Andre wants to have a one on one fight. He quickly shows he could have just beaned Wesley with a rock from far away. Why Superman would ever bother fighting up close to Batman is beyond me. And yet, we see “smart” villains/heroes engage in strategies against Batman that a five-year-old would consider ridiculous.

Batman has Advanced Technology


Where does he get those wonderful toys? Batman is chocked to the brim with technology. He’s got Batmobiles, Batwings, his utility belt, etc! He invariable has just the gadget to solve any problem. That’s all well and good, except…

Various heroes have alien technology that trumps Batman’s. Superman’s fortress of solitude, Green Lantern’s ring, etc. So many people in the DC universe are aliens with advanced technology that Batman being able to just buy stuff isn’t that impressive.

Also, in general advanced technology isn’t that impressive because others can catch up. There are secret labs, like Cadmus that are working on similar technology. The military and other forces can get it too. And in the DC universe being able to just make advanced, powerful technology doesn’t seem that hard. Remember Steel? He just whipped up his super-suit in a basement in one day.


The same amount of time they spent writing the script for Shaq’s movie version.

Batman has Money!

Batman Money Clip

This kind of ties into the technology part, but I think needs some elaboration. Batman is a billionaire. However, the reason he’s a billionaire is because of his company Wayne Enterprises, which sells defense technology. In the Christopher Nolan movies, we basically see that Batman gets his gadgets via the research and development from his company. This poses quite a few problems.

Essentially, Bruce Wayne is embezzling from his company. Any half-decent audit would eventually notice that a lot of resources just going to Wayne’s side projects. Also, shouldn’t various groups, like the military, notice that various technologies they’ve been demoed are being used by Batman? Also, shouldn’t the same groups have technology as good or better than Batman’s? If Batman’s in-world wealth is to be believed, the following things have to be true:

  • Wayne Enterprises is a successful, multi-billion dollar firm that Wayne controls a majority of.
  • Bruce Wayne can take technology and resources from Wayne Enterprises with no one noticing.
  • Wayne Enterprises develops great technology, but they don’t sell it. They sell inferior technology and keep the best for Batman. Somehow, no one at Wayne Enterprises notices.

In essence, Batman’s wealth in the DC universe makes about as much sense as him winning a real fight with any major power.

Batman knows Everyones’ Weakness


Despite this post, awesome movie, check it out!

Many heroes have weaknesses. Superman has kryptonite; the Green Lantern has the color yellow; Martian Manhunter has fire; Wonder Woman has misogyny. And, of course, Batman knows them all. If push came to shove, he’d exploit them to win, which is the premise the series/movie Doom.

Here’s the problem, every single weakness of every hero applies to Batman. Kryptonite is a rare and radioactive mineral to Superman. Well, there are tons of radioactive substances to humans, and Superman can safely handle all of them. Yellow things are ineffective to Green Lantern’s ring? That’s objects of every color to Batman! Batman is hurt by fire, and can be tied up. Batman doesn’t have an edge on any hero/villain because of their weaknesses. At best he starts on the same page before being knocked back a hundred feet due to no super powers.

But, the Authors Love Batman!


Perhaps the start of the most bizarre fanfic ever.

Batman is the Wesley Crusher of the DC Universe. I said it! Batman’s major edge is that the authors like him. Here’s TV Tropes take on “The Creator’s Pet”

Sometimes, however, the creator(s) have become so attached to this character for whatever reason, whether because they see something of themselves in the character or the character reminds them of someone they were close to or the character represents something they admire, that they decide to increasingly focus on him, magnifying the importance of his role…

I can’t actually argue here. This is Batman’s gift. To be fair, Batman comics have understood the importance of the audience being able to empathize or even place themselves in the story. The whole reason Robin worked is that it allowed children to pretend they could adventure alongside Batman. As Kevin Smith regularly says, he knows he can’t ever be Superman, but with enough money and training, any of us could be Batman. It makes at least as much sense as the plot to Chasing Amy. There’s a reason that this “normal” guy being able to triumph over gods in the DC universe resonates with so many. But seriously, Batman would beat few if any in the DC Universe. I mean, come on, his biggest nemesis is literally a clown!


To be fair, clowns are scary.


*Pun intended.

Why it’s difficult to tell Steve Nash was much better than Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash

In the 1996 draft, two future MVP players entered the league. Kobe Bryant was a promising high school recruit drafted in the lottery. He only went as low as 13th because he made it clear he only wanted to play for Los Angeles. Steve Nash was a fringe player selected by the Suns. Both players would go on to define their franchises, but in different ways. Kobe would be the staple of the Lakers. Through good times and bad, Kobe was there scoring points. Nash would bounce around until becoming an MVP player on the Suns.

To start their careers, Nash didn’t look like he’d become much while Kobe definitely showed promise. By the time their careers were fleshed out though, Steve Nash was one of the greatest players to grace the game. Kobe Bryant was, well, an all-time player but not an elite player at the level of Nash.

Now, when I say this, people fight back quickly. They forget that Kobe’s rings came with giant Shaq and Pau Gasol sized strings attached. They ignore that most of Kobe’s shooting is average and his clutch ability, despite its massive reputation, is virtually non-existent. They don’t realize that Steve Nash is one of the most efficient players to ever shoot the ball and that Kobe is often the textbook definition of a chucker. But, the reality is it’s easy to see why it’s so hard to tell that Nash is much better than Kobe. The difference is in the details, and, as they say, the devil’s in the details.

Compared to Average

Something baseball has understood for a while is the importance of comparing a player to their respective position. The Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric does just this. First basemen are compared to first basemen, shortstops to shortstops, etc. In basketball, this is equally important. The Wins Produced formula does this. Many of the older conventional metrics (PER, Win Shares) don’t.

Let’s add a little more perspective. Basketball is a game of possessions. A possession starts when a team gets the ball. This happens either by a steal, rebound, or inbounding the ball after the other team makes a basket. A possession ends when a team takes a shot, turns the ball over, or a foul happens. The average game has around two hundred possessions (these are evenly split amongst the teams, so roughly a hundred possessions per game per team). Even without timeouts and commercial breaks, the average NBA game is close to an hour in length. That means; an astute fan has to keep track of lots of possessions over a long period and somehow be able to make a judgment on that.

With that in mind, let’s unravel Kobe and Nash.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant vs. Average

Let’s examine Kobe Bryant’s game to an average shooting guard. Above is how Kobe’s per-game numbers in the major stats compare with an average shooting guard. As an example, during Kobe’s career an average shooting guard took 3.6 three-point attempts (P3A) per 48 minutes. Kobe Bryant, however, took 5.2 three-pointers per 48 minutes. Kobe Bryant played roughly 36.6 minutes a game. So if we take the difference between what an average player would have done in 36.6 minutes and what Kobe did, we get the difference: Kobe took 1.2 more three-point attempts per game. One last note, in regards to Personal Fouls and Turnovers I have swapped the value. As in, if a player gets more turnovers than average, I show it negative, not positive on the scale.

Kobe’s shooting stats are the most obvious ones, and even those are a small part of the game. Kobe took almost five more shots a game than an average shooting guard. That’s only 5% of the Lakers offense and less than three percent of the total game! His free throws, which are where he truly excelled, boil down to two trips to the line a game. This is not to denigrate Kobe. It’s more to point out, even the most significant difference in his game amount to a few possessions.

In fact, areas Kobe did excel are not scoring. He’s actually been pretty good at passing. He’s an excellent rebounder. He doesn’t foul. Yet, even looking at these, it’s hard to notice. Kobe dished the ball out 1.1 more times a game than the standard guard. He got 1.2 more rebounds. This is part of why Kobe was a good player. Yet, can you tell me you noticed in a given game that extra rebound Kobe got in the second quarter on a routine play is why he’s a good player? In fact, barring Kobe’s shooting stats, the difference in most of Kobe’s game can be counted on one finger. One or fewer possessions a game decided that Kobe played well or didn’t. I’m willing to bet most fans didn’t notice.

Steve Nash

Steve Nash vs. Average Numbers

Nash is more subtle than Kobe. Most of his stats were within two of an average guard. Nash played fewer minutes per game; so this does impact that. Nash’s major contribution came in two areas. His assists were absurd. Additionally, his three point shooting was great, both in attempts and makes.

In regards to offense, Nash essentially took the same number of shots and free throws as compared to an average point guard. Except, Nash took a higher rate of three-pointers and passed a ton. Kobe, by contrast, took more twos. The rest of Nash’s stats follwed the same trend. He was better in some areas – defensive rebounds and personal fouls. He was worse in others – he didn’t get a ton of steals and turns the ball over. But, none of these even hit one a game. It takes analyzing many games of stats to see the difference. And, it’s worth noting, Nash slowly improved most of his stats over his career. It’s tough to notice, but it’s mattered a ton.

Kobe vs. Nash

Kobe vs. Nash

Let’s get to the showdown. If we compare Nash to Kobe, how does he stack up. If we take the level Nash exceeds (or misses) the average point guard and then subtract the level Kobe exceeds or misses the average shooting guard, how does it look?

Only one area cracks four a game, and that’s two-point shot attempts. We’ll get back there shortly. Nash “crushes” Kobe in two spots. First, he made 0.4 more three-pointers a game relative to his position. This is particularly impressive as he only took 0.1 more three-pointer attempts than he’d be expected to versus Kobe. He also got 1.4 more assists per game than Kobe. Remember, this is giving Kobe the benefit of being a shooting guard and not even being expected to pass as much. Nash also beats Kobe in regards to turnovers. Barring personal fouls, Kobe is better than Nash at the rest of the game. Of course, the difference doesn’t match the value of Nash’s assists and threes. Let’s examine Nash’s three-point shooting a bit more.

Kobe Bryant vs. Nash Net Points

The biggest difference between Nash and Kobe is shot attempts. Kobe’s shot level far exceeds Nash. But does this matter? A test I use is net points. If we compare the points from a shot and factor in the shot attempts, we can see how many points a shot nets. We can then compare how well our player shoots vs. an average player. This lets us know how much their shooting is helping or hurting their team.

The good news is both Kobe and Nash helped their team by shooting. The issue is how. Kobe’s two pointers and three pointers were actually negative relative to an average shooting guard. He simply did not shoot that efficiently. However, he is amazing in regards to free throws. He both gets to the line more than average and shoots better once there.

Nash though, is a killer. A majority of Nash’s damage came from three. That said, he was still efficient from two. Finally, while he didn’t get to the line often, his efficiency there still keeps him better than the average point guard. In the end, Nash has been around 35% better at scoring — in regards to helping his team — as compared to Kobe. As a reminder, this is factoring in their different positions and difference in minutes per game.


It’s easy to notice large changes. When a player goes from scoring ten points to scoring twenty points, we notice. But it’s really hard to notice little changes. Yet, these little changes are what can turn a good player into an all-time great. A small tweak in turnovers or shooting efficiency is virtually undetectable in a single game. But over an 82 game season or a twenty-year career it can amount to a huge difference. And Steve Nash is the epitome of this. When we compare him to Kobe, a lot of their stats are close. Nash’s assists, turnovers, and three-pointer attempts put him over against Kobe. But on a per game level, this is almost impossible to notice. Their shooting efficiency gets even worse. Nash’s two-point shooting has been around three percent better than Kobe’s. Even his amazing three-point shooting only amounts to around half a three point shot a game! But this efficiency is what separates the good from the great.

Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash were drafted with different expectations. The were given different roles. And over the past twenty years they’ve provided an amazing natural experiment. They’ve shown how hard it is to notice small differences between great players. Over his career, the small differences in Nash’s game have made him a much better player than Kobe. But without looking closely, most people would never guess this. And, as we repeatedly see, most people won’t look this closely. But for those of us that do dig deep into the stats, it’s easy to say Nash is one of the most amazing players ever to play.

How Many Keys Can You End Zelda 2 With?

The Question

How many keys can you end Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link with?

Answer: 24 (or 0)! We’ll get there.


In Zelda 2 you require keys in the Palaces to unlock doors. You acquire keys in said Palaces. If you play the game “on rails” you’ll use almost all of the keys (I’ll elaborate in a bit.)

There are two loopholes though.

  • In Mido town, you can learn the Fairy spell. With this spell you can turn into a fairy and sneak through keyholes.
  • In new Kasuto, you can get the Magical Key. This lets you unlock any door in any Palace. Once you get this, you just keep any key you acquire and have acquired.

The one thing about the Fairy spell is that if you do have a key, it will still use it on the door. Also, you can’t pick up any items while in Fairy mode.


Our strategy is to get the Magical Key using as few keys as possible. To advance in Zelda 2, you need to acquire special items that help get rid of natural blockages in the games. Most of these are in Palaces and require keys to get. So we’ll get them in the order that will use the fewest keys and lets us advance through the game.

  1. Handy Glove: This let’s you break bricks inside of Palaces. You need it to acquire the raft in the third Palace.
  2. The Hammer: This breaks boulders on the world map. You need to get this to acquire the Fairy spell.
  3. The Raft: You need this to get the second continent.
  4. The Boots: These let you walk on water on the world map. You need these to get to the Palace on the Seas.
  5. The Flute: This gets rid of a spider of the world map and makes the Tri-Rock  Palace appear.
  6. The Magical Key: Our end goal, we can get it as soon as we have the Flute.

Now, we just have to spend the fewest keys in each Palace. We’ll map it out below!


All maps acquired from NintendoMaps, click on each for larger version.

World Map

In case you wanted the route through the world we’ll take. Obviously some back-pedaling is required. Still, this is the minimum route to get the Magical Key.

Parapa Palace – Keys Acquired (4)

Good news, the special item in this Palace is the Candle, which is needed to see in caves. This is not strictly required. We can just skip this Palace completely and come back with the Magical Key and get all four keys in the Palace.

Midoro Palace – Keys Acquired (2)

The most obnoxious of the Palaces. To get the Handy Glove requires three keys! As mentioned, you can’t use the Fairy hack to get through a door if you have a key. You also can’t pick up the Handy Glove while in Fairy format. That means you have to grab all the keys required to get to the Handy Glove, which is three. You can leave two keys in the Palace to come back for later.

Maze Palace – Keys Acquired (4)

The Island Palace has the Raft, which we need to get to the second continent. Good news, there are only two doors between us and the Raft. We can use the Fairy trick to get through the first door, and there’s a key waiting before the second door. We need to use the key on the second door, because it’s in the same room as the Raft, so we can’t be in Fairy form. That means when we come back; there will be four keys waiting for us! Score!

Island Palace – Keys Acquired (6)

We need to hit the Maze Palace for the Boots. There’s only one door between us and it. It’s in the same room as the Boots unfortunately. Still, this Palace has seven keys in total. So we spend one key to grab the Boots, and there will be six waiting for us when we return!

Palace on the Seas – Keys Acquired (4)

We just need to grab the Flute before we’re done with our quest for the Magical Key. There are three doors in our way. We can use the Fairy trick on one. Be sure not to pick up the first key though, because even in Fairy form, Link will use a key on a door if he can. We have no choice but to use two keys on the remaining doors. The first is because there are no keys before the last door. The second is the classic problem that the Flute is in the same room as a door. We leave four keys waiting for our return though.

Three-Eye Rock Palace – Keys Acquired (3)

This Palace requires you have the Magical Key to traverse. However, there are actually three keys you can pick up. I’m not sure if the level was redesigned, or if it is just legacy code — bosses tend to drop a key, there are three bosses in this Palace. You acquire the keys just by solving the Palace.

The Great Palace – Keys Acquired (1)

The Thunderbird, the second to last boss in the game, drops a key. It’s the last key in the game. Good game!

Bitter Irony

There is only one character for the number of keys. After you hit nine keys it starts using letters. A = 10, B = 11, etc. Guess what happens when you hit 24? The letter O! Now, it does look different than the 0s. Here’s what 0 keys looks like below.

Still here’s an image of Link with “N” keys right before grabbing the last one.

Even ending with “O” keys is impressive. As I mentioned the Three-Eye Rock Palace and Great Palace both have bosses that drop keys. If you pick up every key you see, you would normally finish the game with 4 keys. Anyway, 24 superfluous keys! They’re not worth anything but bragging rights. So I’m cashing em in.


Life with a Scientist and Pets


It’s an experiment!

My wife lives with two dogs and me. I like to consider myself a scientist, so this leads to a funny scenario that often happens. Sometimes our pets will beg for food. I do not condone giving them food. However, sometimes they will beg for food my wife will assure the dogs (earnestly) they will not like it. On several occasions I’ve be incredulous that we don’t know this. Of course, an experiment is required! Case in point, this last week we’ve discovered our dogs do in fact like butternut squash soup, and tomatoes!

Where’ve I been?

Apologies but I’ve been downright terrible updating this blog. I’ve had personal projects I’ve been working on and other blogs I’ve been at! I’ll do my best to try and least “check in” weekly here, but no promises. Here’s what I’ve been up to recently:

Cool Stuff

I just saw “the Book of Mormon” with my wife. I loved it and definitely recommend it, but warning the language is quite vulgar.

Speaking of my awesome wife, she completed a half marathon this last weekend!

I just finished reading Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley, a fantastic science-fantasy book about small choices.

Finally, I found two great quotes on failure this week, here are they are in Tweet format!

Seeya next time!


The Issue isn’t “Big Data”, it’s “Clean Data”

Hoo boy! Wow, I started this blog “back up” in the middle of June! Since then, I’ve moved to Oshkosh, Wisconsin and been busy as heck. My blogging has lagged, but I don’t want that to be a habit. My goal will definitely be one post a week (interspersed with whatever Quora/Basketball stuff I get in), as well as the weekly Boxscore Geeks podcast (on Thursdays). Bug me if you don’t see it :)

Big Data?

In graduate school I was running face recognition on a “huge set of data”. Be ready to laugh. I believe it was somewhere around 2-4 gigs worth. Since then data has exploded in both ease to get and ease to store. I have gigs and gigs of data on my Amazon AWS account. About once a month they send me a bill for a little under a dollar. If you’re not talking in Terabytes, or heck, Petabytes, it’s small potatoes. Yet, interestingly, the issue I see with data is not big data, no, it’s clean data!

On a great podcast with Ari Caroline about healthcare, this issue came up. In sports, we have lots of data. And most of it is in useful, tabular formats. Want to know what hand a player shoots with? That’s a check box in a column on some site. In healthcare, it gets more complex. From any set of doctors’ notes, you could easily infer some information. And you can easily store an infinite amount of notes on the cloud. For making robust data sets easy to browse though, you’d need to be able to ask the notes question. And there the data gets trickier.

This isn’t uncommon. In fact, on a recent Freakonomics podcast, Steven Levitt said this was a problem he noticed at many of the companies he consulted for.

I never would have thought this before I started working with companies. I never would have imagined that it is an I.T. problem that you simply cannot get the data you want, and the data are held in 27 different data sets that have different identifiers, so you simply…So sometimes when my little consulting firm TGG comes into a company we’ll spend something like three or six person months working with a company of trying to just put together a data set to do a basic analysis that I think many listeners would think wow I would think that a big, fancy company would be able to do this with the push of a button. But it really is… the I.T. support and the complexity in these big firms blows your mind about how hard it is to do the littlest, simple things.

The issue isn’t companies don’t have the data. It’s that they don’t have the data in easy to digest formats!

I noticed an example of this first hand at a job for one of the big companies I worked at. I had a side project I wanted to work on. In the middle of one of those team building sessions, I was talking with a co-worker. A project he was working on lined up perfectly! I excitedly told my boss about it in our next one on one. And… he was completely confused. He didn’t realize my co-worker even was working on a project that related. This was baffling to me. Seriously? My boss wasn’t aware of what one of his own employees was working on? And consider the implications. If instead of randomly talking with my co-worker, I’d asked my boss: “Who would know best about…?”, could he have answered it?

It used to be really hard to collect data. That’s changed. Write a scraper, sign up for a cloud account, and go! If you’re inside a company, the data’s probably somewhere… Now, the issue is how to make sure the data is in a usable state to glean information from it. It’s a much harder problem, and one I hope gets as much buzz and press as “Big Data.”


Welcome Back!

And I have returned with a blog! Yes, I’m currently using the older WordPress 2012 theme. Frankly, it’s simple and easy to customize. I’ve got some fun projects I’d like to share, and figured it was worth getting my own place on the web to do it again.

While I’m doing intros, I figured I’d throw out that I don’t intend to do comments on my blog. Don’t get me wrong, a ton of you say great stuff. The time and effort to cultivate a good comment section though is more than I want right now. So, feel free to ping me @nerdnumbers on Twitter. I’ll probably add a contact form at some point.

Anyway, it’s good to be back!