We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Thursday, January 19. 2017
I focus on the fact, in general, our lives are improving. Today, most of us hold more computing, audio and video power in our pocket, at a reasonable cost, and this device can help us control our houses, cars, and money with a few swipes. We text or call someone and are sure they got a message. Our diets are vastly improved, our choice of diets extensive, and we have more options regarding the quality and types of foods. When I was in my teens, few people had flown in a plane. Today, most have. I was the first of my friends to visit Europe in 1976. Today, most of them have kids who have vacationed or studied abroad.
Continue reading "The Most Dangerous Time to Live"
Monday, December 5. 2016
Validation is always welcome. It's great to see someone pick up on your writing and think "I am glad I was able to add to the discussion." I believe this holds when a piece is shared on a site opposing what you've written. I'm not interested in an echo chamber.
Twenty months after writing this post on data, I received notification of its inclusion on another site. Upon reading, one might be inclined to believe I'm not a fan of data. Not true, I just don't put my full faith in everything as it is presented, or simply because it's presented, to me.
Since my post, 20 months have passed and nothing has changed. In fact the 2016 election was an example of organizations simply accepting data, becoming reliant on it, while few questioned its value. The data left me, and many others, inclined to believe Hillary would win. At the same time, it left me angry about how it was presented in a "See? We have more information and you don't know what's really going on" manner. The day of the election, however, the long lines I saw (in New York City) left me with the impression the data may not be telling the whole story. If Hillary voters in a safe city were turning out in droves, I came to the conclusion turnout would be high across the board, and high turnout usually coincides with a desire for change. The data itself may not be 'wrong' but whoever was using it was doing so improperly.
Continue reading "Data and Risk"
Thursday, July 28. 2016
Sit Down, Science. We Need to Talk, He begins:
Science is fetishized only by people who do not know science.
Saturday, June 4. 2016
It depends on how accurate. Stereotyping is a form of mental shorthand. We all use stereotyping during the day, whether of people or of things and of situations. Rules of thumb. Sometimes wrong, but with limited information we have to go by something.
Friday, April 22. 2016
Why are there so many Canadians and Russians who play hockey?
Why are most of my friends Jewish?
Why is one side of my family comprised overwhelmingly by educators, while the other is in some form of business management?
There is a knee-jerk response by the Left to always and everywhere explain gaps by relying on 'discrimination' of some kind. While this may be true, it's rarely the sole or even the primary reason for gaps. Gaps sometimes happen because certain groups pursue opportunities and benefits differently and/or more effectively. But there are many reasons for gaps, and discrimination isn't even the most interesting one to study.
Monday, January 11. 2016
I imagine this is Bernie's thought process. But if he's in control, he's the entitled minority.
I don't consider my loathing of Dunlap to be particularly unusual or unjustified. I don't know the man, but his behaviors were pretty transparent. It was easy to not like him, as opposed to a Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, who have proven themselves astute and relatively even-handed businessmen (even if you don't necessarily admire their politics).
There are still other reasons why people loathe the successful, and the death of flamboyant glam-rocker David Bowie reminded me of some. Many popular music stars have no problem speaking out against successful business people or businesses - even those in their own industry. I don't know if Bowie ever had anything bad to say about the marketers who helped turned him into a cottage industry, but plenty of his contemporaries certainly had/have very negative things to say about the successful. I have sat through more than one concert (Roger Waters in particular) which did nothing but complain about corporations and greed.
As a younger person, I used to complain about paying $X to go see a band. "The greedy music companies want to soak us." I still paid and saw the band. I never considered that the $X I paid covered a large number of costs which provided jobs to people. Sure the music promoters got wealthy, but these promoters were usually making money on the margins, and managed several events which also lost money. Whatever I ultimately paid for the ticket probably covered the costs for the show, as well as some losses on other shows.
As I aged, I realized even though I paid $X, jobs were created to service my entertainment needs. I also realized my willingness to pay $X meant I believed $X was a fair exchange for my entertainment. I no longer believed some wealthy promoter was ripping me off - I was engaging in a fair trade which left both of us better off. I enjoyed my entertainment and the promoter got paid for his ability to put together a show which thousands may enjoy.
Continue reading "Loathing Success"
Monday, November 30. 2015
It is central to all studies, but what does it really reveal?
Thursday, November 12. 2015
But I'm at a loss for words when it comes to stuff like this.
We have a name for activists who don't want the media around. They are called fascists. They seek to impose their views by force, and having media around exposes their sometimes brutal and always childish behavior to the world. It has nothing to do with sensitivity or "safe space" (what the hell is that?). It has everything to do with hiding your aggression from visibility.
Now, as the University continues to spin out of control, we're learning that most of the claims were lies. We're learning the hunger striker is really just an entitled brat. The football team are just useful idiots, pawns in a bigger game of stupidity, which became apparent when the students sought to separate themselves to create "black only healing space."
I have no doubt these students have grandparents who fought to have schools integrated. So I'm confused. Did we come full circle? Is separate but equal the law of the land, or is separate but equal only in effect if and when a certain group of people say they want it to be in effect? I'm all for their right to voluntarily segregate themselves, but if they do so they should be aware they are simply making things unequal once again, and they have no standing to ask to be treated equally.
They have created a very arbitrary line. I think I'll go create my "white only healing space" to sort through my emotions on this, but I have a feeling I'd be called a racist for having that space. I know these kids are wrong. It's hard for opinions to be wrong, but when they are, they are usually wrong by a long shot. In this case there's no question. These are not students, because they've learned nothing and are acting out on childish impulses. If the university had a president, I'd think the correct response is to expel each and every one of them. There's always room for protest on campus, there's always room for freedom of speech. But there isn't room for lying, misrepresentation, and there's certainly no room for closing one's mind to history and/or the law simply because your emotions were 'triggered'. Time to grow up, snowflakes.
Wednesday, October 7. 2015
Friday, May 29. 2015
The Law says that there always are some of those. People in business analyze them carefully, as do war-planners - in advance. Even so, many or most things do not work out as planned. When it comes to politicians and policy-makers, often-enough things that appear, in retrospect, as Unintended, were covertly intended.
Sunday, May 17. 2015
Friday, April 10. 2015
I had several questions about the project. For one, was there a revenue impact which was expected to offset the cost, and if so how was it calculated? What was the timeline for introduction at departmental and company-wide levels? What were the expectations of the use of the data? Was it better to implement in a piecemeal fashion, department by department - continuing the current path we are on - or was their top-down approach more efficient and likely to yield better results? Each question received an answer, sometimes dismissive, which led to more questions.
I was viewed negatively for my inquisitiveness. I explained I wasn't opposed to the project, but that I'd seen projects like this many times. None have worked as expected and most never paid off. These were not reasons to avoid doing it, but it is good to ask questions and be sure. I was told to 'trust' the data scientists, none of whom I know, and don't stand in the way. I acquiesced, and ceased my questions. Groupthink is a powerful thing. Data was here to save our business, I was assured.
On the train ride home, I ran into a colleague from another department who is much closer to this project and he told me even more details about the project. For one, it was the third attempt by this team to implement the 'vision' (so much for trust!). For another, they were abandoning all the work done in the previous 2 operations and starting from scratch, meaning work which had been done on all the old systems had to be reassessed and either tossed or transferred to newer platforms. Finally, they'd spent exorbitant sums of money already, to the point that break-even was probably 10 years off, assuming they met their 4 year timeline. He listened to my questions and nodded, saying they were all the right questions and there was good reason to question the nature and scope of this project.
Google, Facebook and all the other firms with huge data systems have the benefit of being young and starting from scratch while new technologies were being introduced. This is how business works, it's part of the process of creative destruction. The newer companies benefit from untried, but potentially beneficial products, living or dying by their ability to manage and incorporate these ideas and technology. Older companies have to try and keep up, and many are incapable of doing so. However, these older firms need to be careful about the implementation. Data is as much about art as it is about what the data tells us, sometimes less is more. Sometimes your gut tells you as much as $10mm worth of information does. I have seen people collect information on months-long projects only to confirm suggestions which were made at the outset. The delays cost money. There are rare, very rare, occasions when the data tells us something different. Sometimes the reason it tells us something different is due to the time delay in collecting the data. Perhaps this is a form of Heisenberg's Cat played out in the realm of business.
I am a huge believer in collecting and managing data. My job relies on it. But as I tell my boss, data and technology are like Stradivarius violins. You can give me a Stradivarius and I will make awful noise with it. Give it to a concert violinist, and beautiful music is made. The same is true of data. Many data scientists today, I've found, make very basic mistakes in their assumptions about what data tells them. The most common is the confusion over causation and correlation. I have had arguments with PhDs over this very issue when they present correlative data without proving the linkage to causation.
Baseball is a great example of this point. Sabermetrics have revived and increased my interest in the game. Yet Sabermetrics have limits. A cute, sappy movie Trouble With The Curve illustrates where data intersects with knowledge and experience. Data can provide support, but it takes experience to know what that data is telling you.
Dr. Joy Bliss recently posted about this issue, as the problem has infected even the realm of medicine and health.
Data can do many things. But the last thing it should be used for is policy-making, because data is typically utilized under the 'pretense of knowledge' and applied in a fashion that has unintended consequences. They may also have politics, which don't benefit you, built in.
Michael Crichton famously warned us of the problem of politicized science and data. Sadly, many intelligent people remain ignorant of misplaced trust in data, demonizing critics without explaining fully why the critics' logic is flawed.
A company, like the one which employs me, is just as likely to politicize positions. We call it groupthink. In my briefing, I was not part of the groupthink. I enjoy being on the outside. I may be wrong at times, but when I am, I'm happy to know that I have played the role of Captain Obvious, asking difficult questions in a fashion to open up the thought process further - if it can be opened up further. Sadly, as I watch what happens in the office, I begin to understand why Progressives remain so prevalent in our society. They are incapable of moving past groupthink. If everyone else is doing it, it must be good - right?
Tuesday, April 7. 2015
Saturday, March 14. 2015
The guy annoys me a lot, but it's a good intro (in series, automatically) to several of the common fallacies we can all fall into: The Guide to Some Common Fallacies.
This brings to mind something I have been thinking about. I think colleges (and high schools) ought to offer lots of one or two-month courses, as my prep school did. These were mostly ways of applying basic knowledge to real life.
We had lots of short course options: intro to logic, public speaking, argumentation and fallacy, etymology, the Parthenon and Greek architecture, opera history, local geology, basics of meteorology, ornithology, paper-making, the math and science of sails and sailing, human anatomy, emergency first aid, typing (was required), the natural history of New England woodlands, intro to the American legal system (by a local lawyer), how doctors think and diagnose (by a local doc), the life and music of Brahms, Freud's main theories, What banks do and the math of banking, Adam Smith's life and work, ballistics and firearm design, geology of the sun, the US Constitution and the Federalist Papers, etc. etc., - along with the usual full trimester things and the required daily sports and daily chapel (which was, in effect, a 4-year Bible study). Wonderful. In four years, you could do a lot of them.
(We all had to be on a dirty jobs crew throughout the year too. Slave labor saved the school money, and protected us privileged boys from being complete spoiled brats. Dishwashing, leaf-raking, mowing the sports fields, serving at faculty tea, vacuuming the dorms, cleaning the chapel, and so much more!)
With the short courses, you had to learn it fast, which was good brain-training. The masters got to chose their own offerings from their own interests and hobbies. 10 kids per class, max.
Our required trimester courses? That's another topic, but they were good indeed and there were no choices at all. It's a shame that few colleges are as fine and as demanding as was my prep school. Gosh, it was fun, and they improved my Skeet skills too. The things that make preppy preppy, I guess. Not brains necessarily, but exposure, discipline, and training.
Sunday, July 27. 2014
"Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance."
Low-information voters often willingly confess that they know nothing despite their college paperwork, but in general ignorance begets confidence and wisdom destroys it. It's Dunning-Kruger.
Saturday, May 10. 2014
It is not only true in medicine, it applies to all statistical research. Here's Why Most Published Research Findings are False.
1 Boring Old Man has been devoting himself to uncovering the Pharma-Psychiatric research cabal, but nobody is really listening. My rule of thumb is to take everything I read with a a few grains of salt.
Friday, February 14. 2014
P values, the 'gold standard' of statistical validity, are not as reliable as many scientists assume.
At Maggie's we are all perennial skeptics, and we think that the average business "murder board" is far more rigorous and critical than any academic peer review. There is more at stake.
Saturday, February 1. 2014
This author explains why the problem isn't the government, but the entrepreneurs looking for money. I'd say she's incorrect. People are frequently distracted by shiny objects. Government offers of cash are usually rule-bound and inflexible. meaning we alter our decisions to get 'free stuff'. If you told me that you'd pay 1/2 of the price of a car, but I had to buy a $70,000 Tesla (costing me $35,000) as opposed to a $25,000 Mini which I have the cash for, chances are I'm going to scrounge for the extra $10,000 even though I could use that $10,000 to repay a loan or take a vacation. We always tend to try and 'trade up' in the world, and if the incentive seems too good to be true, we'll usually take it. Unfortunately, Sky Masterson's wisdom regarding an offer which is too good to be true:
Yes, the entrepreneurs should be more thoughtful and careful. It says much about their ability to run a business if they deviate from their business plan for less than optimal reasons. But what does it say about the government that is encouraging them to deviate from the business plan? Sky Masterson likely recognized the government as the biggest con running.
Saturday, November 16. 2013
That's why wise people are always skeptics about "studies." Ten years ago, transfats were to save us from butter. Now, vice versa. Ten years ago, broccoli was good. Now, it's said to be carcinogenic. Ten years ago, the experts told us to avoid fats. Now they tell us they made a mistake; bacon is back and carbs are the bad thing (I think this seems correct from what little I know about insulin and carb metabolism). I take to heart little of what I read, but I read it anyway. Reading is recreational, often entertaining, and beats hard work.
Were I to live with no TV, no internet, and no newspaper, I think I would be a wiser man to simply focus on my daily experiences.
Friday, November 15. 2013
Here's an online course: How to Think: An Introduction to Logic
Speaking of logic, here's a comment on the fallacy of the precautionary principle from one of this morning's links:
A little risk is good, isn't it? It adds zest to life, the hot sauce. I would never go outdoors without my tin foil hat, however. Never know who might be listening in to my brain waves. Beware of the Thought Police.
Friday, November 8. 2013
Keep the article handy for the times you screw something up and decide to finesse the problem in a sneaky way. You will screw up, because we all do.
Thursday, October 31. 2013
It would term this fallacious effort as a sub-category of the "baffle them with bullshit" informal fallacies. Via Wiki:
Friday, October 25. 2013
I use adverbs mainly because my verb vocab is weak. Colorful verbs elude me. This short post is about "statistically significant," which does not mean "significant."
Saturday, September 7. 2013
Apparently, it doesn't take much schooling to become a CEO, just the ability to shake hands, tell anecdotes, and generally be personable.
Sunday, September 1. 2013
The recent train wreck in Connecticut brings to mind the classic 1999 book, Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies. This book spurred the development of the field of accident research, but it is somewhat dated now. Accidents are inevitable, and at some point efforts to prevent dangers creates new forms of danger.
A more recent book on the topic is Inviting Disaster: Lessons From the Edge of Technology.
There is no safety in life.
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