Saturday, June 30, 2012

Darren McGovern: Ode to Generation Jones

Dedicated to all members of Generation Jones (born 1954-1965), whose voices have yet to be heard. Follow the link below to learn more about Generation Jones and other age cohorts.


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Friday, June 29, 2012

Microcomputers in 1978

How society marvelled over the advent of microcomputers and the emergence of personal computing during the late 1970's.

My late father, Ralph E McKibbin (who was age 59 in 1978), was an early proponent of microcomputers as a hobbyist. The entire family enjoyed learning about microcomputers hands-on via my father's TRS-80 (Radio Shack) computer, complete with a 5.25-inch floppy disk drive and a basic telephone modem. My father later installed a networked computer system into a local manufacturing firm (Somat Corporation) where he served as Controller and Treasurer for many years. My father's profession was accounting, and he was fascinated by the potential of microcomputers to automate accounting tasks in enterprise.

TRS-80 Color Computer (Radio Shack)

Since the late 1970's, I have systematically built a career around microcomputers and software. The above video and image provide a nostalgic glimpse into the times upon which that career is grounded...

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

RStudio in Action

The following short video provides an instructive demonstration of RStudio's many features and capabilities.

Users of R (Project R) will find the capabilties that RStudio adds to R, useful, if not essential. In fact, I cannot imagine using R without RStudio as the user interface. I have also experimented with Revolution R (Revolution Analytics), which is a powerful commercial alternative to RStudio. However, RStudio's free price tag is hard to pass up.

Follow the link below to learn more about RStudio.


RStudio is "alive and well" on my desktop...

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Delaware to Legalize Online Gambling

According to Alexandra Berzon (2012, June 27) of the Wall Street Journal:
Delaware's legislature on Wednesday passed a law that could make the state the first to open its population to a full range of legal online gambling, including Internet blackjack, poker and slot games.... The bill is expected to be signed by the state's governor and comes in the wake of a Justice Department legal interpretation last year that allowed states to authorize Internet gambling within their borders.... Delaware's move marks a significant step in the long-running debate between the US government, states and gambling companies over whether and how online gambling will become legal in the US It is also likely to help spur legislatures and lotteries in other states to legalize or implement Internet gambling, a long-predicted change that is taking more time to materialize than some observers expected.... The Middle Atlantic region has become a hotbed of gambling competition, and Delaware's move could create a domino effect there, experts said. Earlier this year, nearby Maryland's legislature passed a budget that included $2 million from expected online lottery sales.
Read More

Delaware Governor Jack A Markell is expected to sign the legislation into law shortly. I expect that surrounding states will soon revisit their own online gambling laws, if only as a source of revenue.

Source: Berzon, A (2012, June 27), Delaware Lawmakers Clear Online Gambling, Wall Street Journal.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What is a Fiduciary?

n pl -aries
(Law) a person bound to act for another's benefit, as a trustee in relation to his beneficiary
a. having the nature of a trust
b. of or relating to a trust or trustee
[from Latin fīdūciārius relating to something held in trust, from fīdūcia trust; see fiducial]
fiduciarily adv

For example, members of a corporate board of directors hold positions of fiduciary trust. In other words, directors are accountable to the shareholders (owners) who elect them...

Source: The Free Dictionary

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Top 10 Causes of Death: 1900 versus 2010

According to Dr David S Jones, Dr Scott H Podolsky, and Dr Jeremy A Greene (2012) of the New England Journal of Medicine, the top ten causes of death in the US changed significantly between 1900 and 2010. The chart below contrasts the times.

[click image to expand]

Read More

Sadly, heart disease and cancer claim more lives today than ever, despite the fact that deaths from pneumonia, influenza, tuberculosis, and gastrointestinal infections have declined dramatically over the past century. While modern medicine has reduced the risks of infectious diseases, the reality of obesity and carcinogens in today's society has created new risks for society in the 21st century.

Source: Jones, D S; Pololsky, S H; & Green, J A (2012, June 21), The Burden of Disease and the Changing Task of Medicine, New England Journal of Medicine.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Five Hallmarks of Highly Respected Achievers

According to David DiSalvo (2012) of Forbes:
The intersection between drive and respect is an important one, because we all know people who are highly driven but think nothing of running others over along the way. And, we know examples of people who are respected but stagnant.... What follows... are a few initial thoughts on what makes respected achievers different.
  1. Tempered Tenacity
  2. Consistent Commitment
  3. Soulful Pragmatism
  4. Strategic Resolution
  5. Responsibility Ownership
Read More

Those aspiring for an achievement lifestyle should read the full article linked below.

Source: DiSalvo, D (2012, June 21), The Five Hallmarks of Highly Respected Achievers, Forbes.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Middle-Aged Unemployment at 70-Year High

According to Ben Casselman (2012, June 22) of the Wall Street Journal:
Much of the attention during the prolonged US employment crisis has been on high rates of joblessness among young people. Less noticed, but no less significant to many economists, has been the plight of the middle-aged. More than 3.5 million Americans between the ages of 45 and 64 were unemployed as of May, 39% of them for a year or more—a rate of long-term unemployment that is unprecedented in modern US history, and far higher than among younger workers. Millions more have quit looking for work or... have taken part-time jobs to get by.
Read More

[click image to expand]

Unemployment amongst Americans ages 45-64 remains near its highest rate in 70 years. The plight of middle-aged workers in the US is the most significant national tragedy of our time.

Source: Casselman, B (2012, June 22), For Middle-Aged Job Seekers, a Long Road Back, Wall Street Journal.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sandusky Guilty Verdict

The Sandusky guilty verdict arrived late last night here in State College, Pennsylvania, my home now for the more than a decade. The jury's verdict sends a clear message to and from residents of Centre County, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the entire nation -- pedophiles are a public menace that decent people in society will neither tolerate nor forgive.

Gerald Arthur "Jerry" Sandusky (1944- ) [Photo: Centre County Correctional Facility]

Sandusky will spend the rest of his life in prison, which is fitting. My heart goes out to the victims, and especially those who courageously stepped forward to confront Sandusky face-to-face in court. Our community is rid of a scoundrel...

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Friday, June 22, 2012

US Still a Dangerous Place

While the US has suffered over 5,000 killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, Philadelphia alone reported almost 9,000 murders over the past 23 years as shown below.

[Click on map for interactive version]

The US is still a dangerous place...

Source: Duchneskie, J (2012), Homicides in Philadelphia,

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Global Perfect Storm

According to Prof Nouriel Roubini (2012, June 15):
Dark, lowering financial and economic clouds are, it seems, rolling in from every direction: the eurozone, the United States, China, and elsewhere. Indeed, the global economy in 2013 could be a very difficult environment in which to find shelter.... Batten down the hatches.
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Prof Nouriel Roubini (1959- )

I tend to agree with Prof Roubini -- now is the time to take cover, not only in Europe, but globally...

Source: Roubini, M (2012, June 15), A Global Perfect Storm, EconMonitor.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Idiot-Proof Problem-Solving for Idiots

According to Doug Gray (2012):
The more idiot-proof the system, the more you will constrain behavior, forcing people to act like idiots, even when it’s against their better judgment. Even when people know there’s a better way to do something, they will often be constrained by policies and procedures that were designed to reduce variety in the system. If your system needs to solve problems that you can’t anticipate, then you have a problem, because automated systems and idiots can’t solve problems.
Well said...

Doug Gray

Source: Gray, D (2012, May 3), Idiot's Can't Solve Problems.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

10 Steps to Designing an Infographic

Josh Smith (2012) proposes that the creation of infographics entails a 10-step design process:
Information can be useful -- and even beautiful -- but only when it’s presented well. In an age of information overload, any guidance through the clutter comes as a welcome relief. That’s one reason for the recent popularity of information graphics. Infographics are visual designs that help to explain complicated data in a simple way (mental-health emergencies at Burning Man, anyone?). But how are they created? What can we learn from the designer’s process? And what does an infographic designer know about storks delivering babies?
Josh Smith's 10-steps include:
  1. Gathering Data
  2. Reading Everything
  3. Finding the Narrative
  4. Identifying the Problems
  5. Creating a Hierarchy
  6. Choosing a Format
  7. Determining a Visual Approach
  8. Refinement and Testing
  9. Releasing It to the World
Read More

[click image to enlarge]

I tend to be skeptical of "steps" and prefer to view processes as iterative. Nevertheless, Josh Smith's proposed methodology is instructive for those of us who deal in data and infographics professionally. Follow the link below to read Josh Smith's entire article in Fast Company.

Source: Smith, J (2012, June 13), 10 Steps to Designing an Amazing Infographic, Fast Company.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Simplicity's Best Friend: Small Groups of Smart People

According to Ken Segall (2012), small groups of smart people are simplicity's best friend:
Start with small groups of smart people -- and keep them small. Every time the body count goes higher, you’re simply inviting complexity to take a seat at the table. The small-group principle is deeply woven into the religion of Simplicity. It’s key to Apple’s ongoing success and key to any organization that wants to nurture quality thinking. The idea is pretty basic: Everyone in the room should be there for a reason. There’s no such thing as a “mercy invitation.” Either you’re critical to the meeting or you’re not. It’s nothing personal, just business.
Read More

Ken Segall

Many of the meetings I have attended over the years regularly included nonessential participants. There's a lesson to be learned here for those seeking to achieve excellence...

Source: Segall, K (2012, June 6), Meetings Are A Skill You Can Master, And Steve Jobs Taught Me How, Fast Company.

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What are Histrionics?

histrionic, histrionical
1. excessively dramatic, insincere, or artificial histrionic gestures
2. Now rare dramatic
1. (plural) melodramatic displays of temperament
2. (Performing Arts / Theatre) Rare (plural, functioning as singular) dramatics
[from Late Latin histriōnicus of a player, from histriō actor]

Gerald Arthur "Jerry" Sandusky (1944- )

Source: The Free Dictionary

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Tight Money Threatens the Economic Outlook

According to Charles Kadlec of Forbes (2012, June 11):
Monetary policy in the US has tightened, inadvertently, but with potentially dire consequences for the economy, employment and the stock market. The source of tight money is a failure of the Fed to act in the face of a surge in the demand for dollars as individuals and corporations shift money balances out of the euro and into the dollar.
Read More

Charles W Kadlec

I am relieved to see that the US Federal Reserve's tight money policies are now being increasingly challenged by some in the media.

Source: Kadlec, C (2012, June 11), Tight Money Threatens The Economic Outlook, Forbes.

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Congratulations to Eagle Scout Kyle Jeffrey McKibbin

Warm congratulations and regards to my nephew, Kyle Jeffrey McKibbin, who recently earned his Eagle Scout Medal.

Kyle Jeffrey McKibbin

Well done, Kyle...

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Saturday, June 09, 2012

Living Without Fear

The R Imperative

Prof Courtney Brown makes a succinct case for learning the R programming language.

I concur with Prof Brown. The R programming language is real. Much more to follow...

Project R

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Friday, June 08, 2012

Beware of Zombie Banks

According to Yalman Onaran (2011) in Zombie Banks: How Broken Banks and Debtor Nations Are Crippling the Global Economy:
Zombie banks refers to an insolvent financial institution whose equity capital has been wiped out so that the value of its obligations is greater than its assets. The level of capital is crucial for banks, more so than for non-financial companies, because the event of bankruptcy, a bank's assets lose value faster and to a bigger extent. Thus, when a bank's equity declines significantly due to losses, its creditors panic and head for the door (deposits are insured in most Western economies, so depositors don't run away as easily).
Read More

Banking stakeholders will find the contents of this book disturbing...

Source: Onaran, Y (2011), Zombie Banks: How Broken Banks and Debtor Nations Are Crippling the Global Economy, Bloomberg Press.

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Well Said...

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."

~ Dr Seuss

Theodor Seuss Geisel aka "Dr Seuss" (1904-1991)

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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Business Intelligence Process Integration via Knime

The business intelligence (BI) production path integrates data access, transformation, analysis, visualization, and exploitation into a unified process. Knime (Konstanz Information Miner) is a professional open-source software package that integrates all of these functions onto a single platform. According to the Knime website:
Knime, pronounced [naim], is a modern data analytics platform that allows you to perform sophisticated statistics and data mining on your data to analyze trends and predict potential results. Its visual workbench combines data access, data transformation, initial investigation, powerful predictive analytics and visualization. Knime also provides the ability to develop reports based on your information or automate the application of new insight back into production systems.
Knime is supported by an expanding number of third-party extensions that enable interfacing with Excel (Microsoft), R (Project R), BIRT (Eclipse), WEKA (University of Waikato), and more. Expand the graphic below to see how Knime integrates various functions and processes via its discrete process simulation features.

Knime Function Nodes [click to enlarge]

Follow the link below to learn more about Knime and its powerful BI production features for enterprise.


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Make It Matter...

Here is some motivation for the exceptional few who seek to pursue a life that matters....

Brand advertising at its best, from HP.

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Your Life...

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Brain Gym

Those looking for a "brain gym" might consider practicing arithmetic with an abacus.

The abacus, also called a counting frame, is a calculating tool used to perform arithmetic processes. Abaci were in use centuries before the adoption of written numeral systems and are still used by merchants in Asia, Africa, and other places.

The user of an abacus is called an abacist. I keep an abacus in my study, which I use on occasion. I guess that makes me an abacist...

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Rhyming on Purpose

There once was a man who had weighed
All the plans for his life he had laid.
But now at its end,
(I am sorry, my friend),
He’d discovered his purpose unmade.

At that point it was easy to see:
All the goals he had reached steadily
Had amounted to naught,
Not at all what he’d thought
And meant nothing to his legacy.

He awoke suddenly with a scream
It had been nothing more than a dream.
T’was clear to him then,
To start over again,
So he set out to craft a new theme.

A statement of purpose he wrote.
For the rest of his life to devote:
“I found here within,
Whom I will have been,
Now that is what drives me.” Unquote.

So how does this tale affect you?
Take a lesson from what my friend knew.
You’ll see fear’s abatement
With your purpose statement
Which directs everything that you do.

~ Jeffrey Tobin

Jeffrey Tobin

Follow the link below to learn more about Jeff Tobin's other writings and activities.

Source: Tobin, J (2012, June 4), Why You Need a Purpose Statement.

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Saturday, June 02, 2012

US Employment to Population Ratio Marks 2-Month Rise

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the US employment to population ratio* for May 2012 rose to 58.7%, up from from 58.5% the previous month, and 58.5% a year ago. The May 2012 increase follows a similar increase in April. The US employment to population ratio has been trending downwards since 2000.

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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