Saturday, September 29, 2012

What is Hopeless?

1. Having no hope; despairing; despondent.
2. Offering no hope; bleak.
3. Incurable.
4. Having no possibility of solution; impossible.

La Lecture (Woman Reading) by Pablo Picasso

Source: The Free Dictionary

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Teaching Students to Show, Not Tell

According to Prof Mark Spitzer in the Chronicle of Higher Education (2012):
Writing teachers from all disciplines and at all levels have been struggling with the issue of show not tell for centuries. I can't comment on how my colleagues encourage students to cast this demon out, but I can definitely remark on my own approach in introductory creative-writing courses. Basically, for the first half of the semester, I put my students through a drill in which they write "portraits" of people, places, and things. I tell them that what I'm looking for are physical details, and that I'm not interested in anything else. I don't care what their subject matter is, I don't want to see any clever summaries to put anything in perspective for the reader. I just want pure description in the realm of 150 words. Then, after they hand in their portraits, I come along with my red pen, circling words that "tell not show" like a tough-love tyrant.
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Prof Spitzer's observations apply as well to statistics. Too often, students are eager to "tell" the reader their conclusions, completely skipping the duty to "show" their reader how one reached a given conclusion statistically. For example, a learner may be tempted to conclude that a "strong correlation exists between x and y." This statement "tells" the reader that x and y are somehow related. However, the student is failing to "show" how x and y are related, as in a "strong correlation exists between x and y (r = .99; p < .01)" [note the statistically descriptive parenthetical extension to the sentence].

Good writing is good thinking, and while "telling" a story has its place, being able to "show" a reader the basis for one's reasoning is fundamental to good scholarship.

Source: Spitzer, M (2012, September 26), Teaching Students to Show, Not Tell, Chronicle of Higher Education.

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Six Years and Counting...

Today marks the sixth year that I have been living in my home in State College, PA. For the record, I have not lived in one place for more than four years since I left my childhood home in the suburbs of Philadelphia back in 1972.

My Home in State College, PA

I hope this means that I am finally sinking some roots. What is ironic is that I have never held a job in this town, which may very well be why I have lived here for this long already...

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Well Said...

"Those who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants."

~ William Penn

William Penn (1644-1718)

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Bullish on Main Street

Finally, the US Federal Reserve is ceasing to hold Main Street hostage to its efforts to expand industrial production in the US. Manufacturing certainly has access to vast capital from the many "too big to fail" banks that are hoarding cash. Eventually, manufacturing in the US could show real signs of health, who knows. But until now, Main Street USA has been held in economic abeyance due to the dearth of capital for Main Street focused economic development. QE3 promises to place a steady stream of capital into the hands of Main Street entrepreneurs, especially for real estate development. Main Street now enjoys a level playing field with manufacturing and industrial development for the first time since the economic crisis began.

My primary economic concerns have always rested with Main Street issues, including the persistent long-term declines in real working wages, home values, and the employment to population ratio. I am now bullish on real estate development in the US. I anticipate that construction jobs will expand, real working wages have a shot at increasing, and home values will increase. Again, I am delighted to see that Main Street USA has finally found its way onto the monetary policy agenda. Main Street now has a chance of improving its fortunes in a way that does not await "trickle-down" from the manufacturing economy or Wall Street bankers.

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Well Said...

"The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is past the ocean is flat again."

~ John Maynard Keynes

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946)

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

What Employers Look for in a Data Scientist

My editorial comment to this video is to observe that the case is still out as to the difference between a "data scientist" and a "business intelligence analyst." Said another way, the guidance provided above for aspiring data scientists applies equally to aspiring business intelligence analysts as well.

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Central Banks Make Historic Turn

Writes Anatole Kaletsky in Reuters (2012, September 19):
When the economic history of the 21st century is written, September 2012 is likely to be recorded as a defining moment, almost as important as September 2008. This month’s historic events – Ben Bernanke’s promise to buy bonds without limit until the US returns to something approaching full employment, Angela Merkel’s support for the European Central Bank bond purchase plans and the Bank of Japan’s decision to accelerate greatly its easing program – may not seem earth-shattering in the same way as the near-collapse of every major bank in the US and Europe. Yet the upheavals now happening in central banking represent a tectonic shift that could transform the economic landscape as dramatically as the financial earthquake four years ago.
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I tend to believe that global austerity measures have yet to run their full course, especially in public sectors. Nevertheless, all indications are that central banks are seeking ways to inject liquidity into the global economy in ways that will foster consumption. Quantitative easing to date in the US has been about capitalizing producers and bankers. In contrast, QE3 appears to be solidly focused on creating demand, which is a major change...

Source: Kaletsky, A (2012, September 19), Central Banks Make an Historic Turn, Reuters.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Main Street USA Primary Beneficiary of QE3

The primary beneficiary of QE3 will ultimately be Main Street USA -- the Federal Reserve Board's newly announced bond buying actions will cut a wide swath through the existing inventory of mortgage-backed securities -- QE3 will place money into the hands of those who deal in mortgage-backed securities -- now is the time to look carefully for real estate acquisitions along Main Street USA -- record low prices and interest rates make now an ideal time to acquire some "boring" Main Street properties -- small investors who hold and rent real estate stand to do very well as a result of QE3.

I applaud this latest move by Dr Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve Board -- this is the first US stimulus action since the financial crisis began in 2008 that targets dollars directly toward Main Street growth -- "to big to fail" banks and multinational companies in the US will decry QE3 as misguided because these firms are not the direct beneficiaries -- again, bravo to Dr Ben Bernanke and the supporting members of the Fed Board for their courageous and timely monetary actions designed to benefit Main Street USA home owners and real estate investors specifically.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

US Federal Reserve Announces QE3

I am not surprised that the Fed has embarked on QE3, especially given the complete failure of America to create new jobs for the future -- that failure has the potential to overthrow the USA as we know her, something that economists simply cannot comprehend -- said another way, QE3 is required to avert the overthrow of the USA by fascists and socialists -- the same is true in Europe, so I expect to see the ECB announcing monetary expansions as well -- politics always wins over economics -- always.

US First-Class Postage Stamp (1998)

The jobs that America will create will be low paying -- while the number of jobs will increase, real working wages will continue to stagnate at late 1960's levels through the remainder of the century.

The good news is that those who have been buying up cheap equities will see their fortunes rise in the short-run -- assuming that the amount of QE3 required to restore employment growth exceeds a trillion dollars, at least some of that money will find its way into equities.

Watch for cries for capital flight legislation (in one or more of its sinister forms) to appear in the headlines by early 2013 -- also, keep an eye on oil prices, and to some extent gas prices -- finally, watch for global skill poachers to appear in the US seeking to hire professional atheletes, moviestars, skilled surgeons, top scientists, and skilled engineers to work in Asia and elsewhere, either in person or remotely.

We should also keep an eye on the Chinese who are likely to begin buying up equities in the US with abandon, including equity positions in America's prized corporations such as Apple, Cisco, and Intel -- stock prices will surge in the short-term.

Accredited investors stand to win big -- world-class skills will likely earn even higher premium wages in the coming year -- everyone else should remain under cover.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Andy Field on Discovering Statistics Using R

Well, I simply can't resist reposting Prof Andy Field's entertaining promotional video for his new book, Discovering Statistics Using R (2012) by Prof Andy Field, and his compatriots, Prof Jeremy Miles, and Zoë Field.

By the way, R (Project R) is free software!

Follow the link below to learn more about Discovering Statistics Using R (2012).

Source: Field, A, Miles, J, and Field Z (2012), Discovering Statistics Using R, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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Well Said...

"A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals."

~ Larry Bird

Larry Joe Bird (1956- )

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Discovering Statistics Using R

Open source enthusiasts seeking to become statisticians will want to check out, Discovering Statistics Using R (2012) by Prof Andy Field, Prof Jeremy Miles, and Zoë Field. According to the publisher:
Hot on the heels of the award-winning and best selling Discovering Statistics Using SPSS (3rd ed), Andy Field has teamed up with Jeremy Miles (co-author of Discovering Statistics Using SAS) and Zoë Field to write Discovering Statistics Using R. Keeping the uniquely humouous and self-deprecating style that has made students across the world fall in love with Andy Field's books, Discovering Statistics Using R takes students on a journey of statistical discovery using R, a free, flexible, and dynamically changing software tool for data analysis that is becoming increasingly popular across the social and behavioral sciences throughout the world.
Those seeking to practice statistics while learning to use R (Project R) will find Discovering Statistics Using R to be a useful and instructive guide for learning statistics while also conquering the R programming environment. Follow the link below to learn more about this terrific resource.

Source: Field, A, Miles, J, and Field Z (2012), Discovering Statistics Using R, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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Saturday, September 08, 2012

US Employment to Population Ratio for August 2012 Unchanged from Previous Year

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the US employment to population ratio* for August 2012 was unchanged from a year ago at 58.5%, but declined from 58.8% the previous month. 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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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

One in Five US Adults Receives Food Stamps and Lives in Poverty

According to Bonnie Kavoussi of The Huffington Post (2012, Sept 5):
A record 46.7 million Americans -- or roughly one in five adults -- used food stamps in June, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently reported.... Food stamp use has spiked 51 percent since October 2008, when the economy was in free fall. The number of Americans now using food stamps is roughly the same as the number of Americans living in poverty.
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Source: Kavoussi, B (2012, Sept 5), Food Stamps Hit Record High In June 2012, Huffington Post.

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Monday, September 03, 2012

Well Said...

"Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to make something simple."

~ Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson (1950- )

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Saturday, September 01, 2012

Well Said...

"Offense is the essence of air power."

~ Henry H Arnold

Gen of the Air Force Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold (1886-1950)

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