Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Well Said...

"The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart."

~ Elisabeth Foley

Simon (the gray cat in the middle) enjoys having real friends who love him...

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"Banksterism" Uncloaks

According to the news, MF Global commingled upwards of $1.2 billion of client funds with the firm's internal accounts.

If these allegations are true, then the aberration of "banksterism" is uncloaking right before our eyes...

Well Said...

"When the rich wage war, it is the poor who die."

~ Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre (1905-1980)

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What is Oligarchy?

n pl ol·i·gar·chies
a. Government by a few, especially by a small faction of persons or families.
b. Those making up such a government.
2. A state governed by a few persons.

Source: The Free Dictionary

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Well Said...

"The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be ignited."

~ Plutarch

Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus (46-120 AD)

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Krugman on Class Warfare

According to Prof Paul Krugman,
The notion that denying health care to the near-poor is a serious deficit-reduction policy, but raising taxes on the very rich is not, is not something you can justify at all on the basis of the actual numbers. Anyone who says different is practicing, well, class warfare.
Read More

Prof Paul Robin Krugman (1953- )

Source: Krugman, P (2011, November 26), Money At The Top, New York Times Online.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Well Said...

"You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created."

~ Albert Einstein

Dr Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Understanding US Debt via Excel + PowerPivot

For those interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the US national debt, I commend Tyler Chessman's new book, Understanding the United States Debt (2011) and its companion website. Excel (Microsoft) and PowerPivot (Microsoft) users in particular will want to follow the link below to download a free copy of the PowerPivot-enabled Excel workbook (requires Excel 2010 with PowerPivot installed).

Companion Website

To order a copy of the book, follow the link below.

Order Book

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Deep-fried turkey makes for good eating, but please watch this video before trying out your new turkey fryer at home...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rubinstein: Advice to Graduate Students

Prof Ariel Rubinstein offered the following personal advice to his graduate students during a recent "happy hour" at NYU:
Remember that you are one of the most privileged people on earth. Society has given you a wonderful opportunity. You are supposed to do whatever you want, to think about new ideas, to express your views freely, to do things in the way that you choose and on top you will be rewarded nicely. These privileges should not be taken for granted. We are extremely lucky -- we owe something in return.
Well said, indeed...

Prof Ariel Rubinstein (1951- )

Source: "Happy Hour" (2011, October 28), NYU.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Well Said...

"The infectiousness of crime is like that of the plague."

~ Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

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How to Buy Congress

One can only wonder what a cash-filled suitcase will buy in Washington these days...

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60 Minutes: Grover Norquist on Taxes

With only two days to go before the Congressional "Super Committee" officially fails America, Grover Norquist is again making headlines.
As head of Americans for Tax Reform since 1986, Grover Norquist has transformed a single issue - preventing tax hikes - into one of the key platforms of the Republican Party. As Steve Kroft reports, his biggest coup was getting more than 270 members of Congress, and nearly all of the 2012 Republican presidential primary candidates, to sign a pledge promising never to vote to raise taxes. But some opponents say the pledge may be hindering a solution to America's debt crisis. (CBS News, 2011)

Holding the line on taxes appears to make good news...

Read More

Source: The Pledge: Grover Norquist's Hold on the GOP, CBS News.

Parsing Business Intelligence (BI)

Business intelligence (BI) is now a vital imperative of 21st century enterprise. Yet, a unified view about just what BI is and does for enterprise is only now emerging. Prof Ronald K Klimberg and Prof Virginia Miori (2010) address the challenge by parsing BI as follows:
Organizations, both corporate and academic, have been rushing to the table with their own BI groups and programs. Though these groups share a common title, BI, they do not share a common understanding of all that BI comprises. The establishment of their functions follows from the specific strengths and expertise within all of these organizations. This shared limitation was not based on a lack of inclusiveness, but merely a lack of cohesive vision. Further, consider that industry’s definition of business intelligence is by and large quite different from academia’s definition. More so, within industries and within academia, these definitions also vary. The definition of BI seems to depend heavily upon your particular perspective or training. What then is business intelligence...?

Despite the appearance of BI in both academia and industry, until now the field has lacked a clear definition. Not all aspects of BI will be exploited in every situation, but it is still important to know what the future holds. Within this structure, BI was broken down into three significant areas: business information intelligence (BII), business statistical intelligence (BSI) and business modeling intelligence (BMI). Specialists exist in all of these areas, but the importance of the intersection and unions of these areas needs to be emphasized. True intelligence results from the melding of all of these technologies and tools....

Figure 1 presents a cohesive vision of business intelligence as a melding of technologies, models, techniques and practices. The three circles of the Venn diagram each represent areas of study and application that had previously been considered quite distinct: 1. information systems and technology, 2. statistics, and 3. OR/MS [Operations Research/Management Science]. It serves to encapsulate the broadening definition of BI. With this new vision, we may now characterize BI from each of three viewpoints as: business information intelligence (BII), business statistical intelligence (BSI) and business modeling intelligence (BMI). Each of the viewpoints has particular business aspects, and academically speaking, courses that are independent of the other viewpoints. Conversely, each viewpoint can work together or utilize techniques/skills from one or possibly two of the other disciplines. For example, data mining, which requires a high level of statistical knowledge as well as the availably of necessary data, may require significant IT skills and/or knowledge. Further, if data mining analysis demands a systematic process of analysis, modeling skills may be required.

Business analytics (BA), within our framework, is classified as a combination of business statistics intelligence (BSI) and business modeling intelligence (BMI): BA = BSI + BMI. BI is the union of the areas of BA, BI and business information intelligence (BII): BI = BII + BA or more specifically BII + (BSI + BMI). As evidenced in the data-mining example, black and white distinctions between disciplines can quickly become gray.
Figure 1: Business intelligence/business analytics breakdown

Note that modeling is a central practice in BI. Follow the link below to read the entire article.

Read More

Source: Klimberg, R K & Miori, V (2010, October), Back in Business, INFORMS, 37(5).

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Five Attractions of OLAP for Excel Users

Online analytic processing (OLAP) is attractive to Excel (Microsoft) users for five major reasons:
  1. OLAP offers one version of the truth
  2. Fast report development
  3. Immediate spreadsheet updating
  4. Independence from IT
  5. Reduced errors
Follow the link below to learn more about why Excel users are attracted to OLAP.

Read More

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Self-Service Business Intelligence with Excel 2010

For those who have not yet taken a moment to experience the new self-service business intelligence features in Excel (Microsoft) 2010, here's a great overview of those capabilities in action.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gingrich on Occupy Wall Street

Here's a short clip of Newt Gingrich communicating with alienating young voters...

What is Graft?

1. Unscrupulous use of one's position to derive profit or advantages; extortion.
2. Money or an advantage gained or yielded by unscrupulous means.

Source: The Free Dictionary

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Decision Making Processes and Routines

The following quote from Prof Daniel Kahneman's new book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, is instructive for executives:
Organizations are better than individuals when it comes to avoiding errors, because they naturally think more slowly and have the power to impose orderly procedures. Organizations can institute and enforce the application of useful checklists, as well as more elaborate exercises…At least in part by providing a distinctive vocabulary, organizations can also encourage a culture in which people watch out for one another as they approach minefields. Whatever else it produces, an organization is a factory that manufactures judgments and decisions. Every factory must have ways to ensure the quality of its products in the initial design, in fabrication, and in final inspections. The corresponding stages in the production of decisions are the framing of the problem that is to be solved, the collection of relevant information leading to a decision, and reflection and review. An organization that seeks to improve its decision product should routinely look for efficiency improvements at each of these stages. The operative concept is routine. Constant quality control is an alternative to the wholesale reviews of processes that organizations commonly undertake in the wake of disasters. There is much to be done to improve decision making. (p. 418)
Let's face it, the best firms treat decision making processes and routines as core disciplines.

Source: Kahneman, D (2011), Thinking, Fast and Slow, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What is Narcissism?

1. Excessive love or admiration of oneself. See Synonyms at conceit.
2. A psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation, lack of empathy, and unconscious deficits in self-esteem.
3. Erotic pleasure derived from contemplation or admiration of one's own body or self, especially as a fixation on or a regression to an infantile stage of development.
4. The attribute of the human psyche charactized by admiration of oneself but within normal limits.

"Narcissism" by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610)

One might also observe that the line between narcissism and grief is very thin...

Source: The Free Dictionary

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US Home Values Caught in Rut

According to Zillow, the median home value in the US declined from $239,400 in September 2006, to $171,500 in September 2011. In other words, the median home value in the US dropped by $67,900, or 28.4%, for the five-year period ending in September 2011.

For the record, today's 28.4% five-year decline in US home values surpass the 25.9% decline experienced by depression-era homeowners between 1928-1933.

Source: Zillow

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Roubini: Monetary Expansion Best Choice for Eurozone

Regarding the future of the Eurozone, Prof Nouriel Roubini urges monetary expansion as the best way forward:
Symmetrical reflation is the best option for restoring growth and competitiveness on the eurozone’s periphery while undertaking necessary austerity measures and structural reforms. This implies significant easing of monetary policy by the European Central Bank; provision of unlimited lender-of-last-resort support to illiquid but potentially solvent economies; a sharp depreciation of the euro, which would turn current-account deficits into surpluses; and fiscal stimulus in the core if the periphery is forced into austerity.
The monetary and fiscal challenges in Europe and the US can only be resolved through one or more of the following multiple avoidance options: (a) default; (b) austerity (e.g., spending cuts and/or tax increases); and (c) monetary expansion (i.e., "printing" money leading to inflation). Prof Roubini is for monetary expansion, which is likely to be the only remaining option once the people make clear that austerity is unacceptable, and governments make clear that defaults are out of the question.

Prof Nouriel Roubini (1959- )

In my opinion, monetary expansion is in the future, both for the US and the Eurozone. Follow the link below to learn more about Prof Roubini's views on the global economy.

Roubini Global Economics

Source: Roubini, N (2011, November 11), Down with the Eurozone, Project Syndicate.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) for Excel

The Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis has released a new Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) add-in accessory for Excel (Microsoft). The FRED add-in provides direct access to over 30,000 free data series from a variety of sources (e.g., BEA, BLS, Census, & OECD) directly from Excel. Other key features include:
  • One-click instant download of economic time series.
  • Browse the most popular data and search the FRED database.
  • Quick and easy data frequency conversion and growth rate calculations.
  • Instantly refresh and update spreadsheets with newly released data.
  • Create graphs with NBER recession shading and an auto update feature.
The video below provides a quick summary of features.

Follow the link below to download a copy of the FRED add-in software or to learn more.


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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

What is a Savant?

savant [ˈsævənt (French) savɑ̃]
a man of great learning; sage
[from French, from savoir to know, from Latin sapere to be wise; see sapient]

Project SPORE by Richard "Dr" Baily (1953-2006)


Center for Visual Music

The Free Dictionary

Image Savant

Why Italy Matters More Than Greece

The economic disaster in Greece has reached a crescendo in recent weeks, and the Greek tragedy is indeed worrisome. However, the real problem that Europe must confront is not Greece, but Italy, which represents 16.9% of Europe's total GDP. As the chart below makes clear, the GDP's of Greece, Spain, and Portugal are essentially sideshows to that of Italy and the Eurozone as a whole.

Europe simply does not have the resources to act as lender of last resort to Italy. Certainly, Greece is a major issue for Europe, but if Italy defaults, then the Eurozone will disintegrate.

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Well Said...

"Beware the analyst who proposes to model an entire social or economic system rather than a problem."

~ John Sterman

Prof John David Sterman

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Nevada Makes Foreclosure Fraud A Felony

According Nick Timiraos of the Wall Street Journal (2011, Nov 7):
Foreclosure filings in Nevada plunged in October during the first month of a new state law stiffening foreclosure-processing requirements.... Nevada’s state Assembly passed a measure that took effect on Oct 1 designed to crack down on “robo-signing,” where bank employees signed off on huge numbers of legal filings while falsely claiming to have personally reviewed each case.... Among other steps, the Nevada law makes it a felony — and threatens to hold individuals criminally liable — for making false representations concerning real estate title. Individuals are also subject to civil penalties of $5,000 for each violation.
Other states should follow Nevada's lead by passing and enforcing laws designed to discourage incidents of title fraud by banks and others in the courts. Foreclosure rates in Nevada have lead the nation since the financial crisis began in 2008.

Source: Timiraos, N (2011, Nov 7), Nevada Foreclosure Filings Dry Up After ‘Robo-Signing’ Law, Wall Street Journal Online.

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In the Greek Midwinter

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Best Smartphone (So Far)

The HTC Trophy with Windows Phone 7.5 (Microsoft) is the best smartphone I have ever owned (so far).

Learn More

Mandelbrot Voyage

In my view, a better way to think...

Best viewed in full-screen mode.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Pendulum Wave Effect

Experiments such as that below are why I am a student of wave theory.

Be sure to watch all three versions of the demonstration...

Friday, November 04, 2011

US Employment to Population Ratio Improves

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the US employment to population ratio* for October 2011 improved to 58.7%, up from 58.5% the previous month, and up from 58.6% a year ago. The US employment to population ratio has been trending downwards since 2000.

[click to enlarge]

Many economists believe that reporting the number employed as a percentage of the civilian population provides a more accurate description of the current state of employment than conjecturing the number of "unemployed" in a population. The US employment to population ratio reached an historical peak of 64.4% on an annual basis in 2000.

*The BLS defines employment and population (civilian noninstitutional) as follows:
Employment consists of all persons who, during the reference week (the calendar week including the twelfth day of the month), (a) did any work at all (at least 1 hour) as paid employees, worked in their own business or profession or on their own farm, or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of the family, or (b) were not working but had jobs or businesses from which they were temporarily absent because of vacation, illness, bad weather, childcare problems, maternity or paternity leave, labor-management dispute, job training, or other family or personal reasons, whether or not they were paid for the time off or were seeking other jobs.... The civilian noninstitutional population consists of persons 16 years of age and older residing in the 50 States and the District of Columbia who are not inmates of institutions (for example, penal and mental facilities and homes for the aged) and who are not on active duty in the Armed Forces.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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