December 8, 2012 archive

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In Glorious Black & White

Frank CapraIt’s a Wonderful Life (1946) (2:10)

His pictures let viewers witness “a triumph of the individual over corrupt leaders”, and experience “inherent qualities of kindness and caring for others.” Most of his best works have been revived, and are today considered timeless fables filled with love and respect for the struggles of the common man.


Faith in Numbers.

Tell YouTube their new system sucks and you want your old school embed codes back.

(Yes, we’re working on it.)

On This Day In History December 8

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 8 is the 342nd day of the year (343rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 23 days remaining until the end of the year.

John Lennon, October 9. 1940 – December 8, 1980

The Tea Maker

Yoko Ono

John and I are in our Dakota kitchen in the middle of the night. Three cats – Sasha, Micha and Charo – are looking up at John, who is making tea for us two.

Sasha is all white, Micha is all black. They are both gorgeous, classy Persian cats. Charo, on the other hand, is a mutt. John used to have a special love for Charo. “You’ve got a funny face, Charo!” he would say, and pat her.

“Yoko, Yoko, you’re supposed to first put the tea bags in, and then the hot water.” John took the role of the tea maker, for being English. So I gave up doing it.

It was nice to be up in the middle of the night, when there was no sound in the house, and sip the tea John would make. One night, however, John said: “I was talking to Aunt Mimi this afternoon and she says you are supposed to put the hot water in first. Then the tea bag. I could swear she taught me to put the tea bag in first, but …”

“So all this time, we were doing it wrong?”

“Yeah …”

We both cracked up. That was in 1980. Neither of us knew that it was to be the last year of our life together.

Trickle Down Economics

Just don’t tell me it’s raining.

Innumeracy and Magnitude

I know none of my regular readers have a problem with concepts like this because…

Well basically because they’re not ignorant rubes who reject mathematics in favor of magic.

Herr Doktor Professor

Dean Baker catches David Ignatius suggesting that trade liberalization can provide enough economic boost to offset the effects of austerity. As Dean says, the arithmetic is totally off – almost two orders of magnitude off.

Order of magnitude.  What does that mean?

Without overly complicating things (there are 10 types of people, those who know binary and those who don’t) what makes our modern, Arabic system of numeric notation superior for quick calculation to that used by Rome is that we represent numbers positionally using a zero to indicate that no elements occupy a particular multiple of our base.

When you line numbers up in columns this gives you a quick and easy way to see which numbers are about the same size.  Which is bigger- MM or MCMXCIX?



Why MCMXCIX obviously, it has more numbers.

How about this way?



Now that’s actually a bad example because 1999 and 2000 are really close together.  Let’s try something where we are actually displaying some orders of magnitude.




So 10 is 9 more than 1 and 100 is 90 more than 10.  What’s important to notice is not only is 100 more than 10, it’s a lot more than 10.  The difference is bigger between 100 and 10 than it is between 10 and 1, a lot bigger.

Conveniently for us the difference between 100 and 1 is exactly 2 orders of magnitude, just what Herr Doktor ordered.

Let’s look at what Dr. Baker says-

Ignatius’ trade deal will increase growth over the next decade by an average of 0.09 percent a year.

By comparison, the Congressional Budget Office’s projections show that the tax increases and spending cuts associated with the end of year fiscal dispute will reduce GDP by close to 4.0 percent, or roughly 40 times the impact of Ignatius’s trade deal.

40 times?  How does he come up with that number?  If we take out the confusing decimal place it looks like this-



So the real number is something like 45 (44.4) times, but that’s still rather big.

Ok, so what does this have to do with the price of tea in China?  Well, if you don’t know how to deal with orders of magnitude you might end up spending an awful lot more for your Chinese tea.  Let’s look at another example.

Goldman Fined for Failing to Block Trader’s $8.3 Billion Bet

By Silla Brush, Bloomberg News

Dec 7, 2012 4:30 PM ET

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) will pay $1.5 million to settle U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission claims the firm failed to supervise a trader who hid an $8.3 billion position. One CFTC commissioner dissented, saying the penalty is far too small.

Goldman Sachs inadequately policed trades made by Matthew Marshall Taylor on seven days in late 2007, ultimately suffering more than $118 million in losses as his bets were unwound, according to the CFTC. Later, Goldman Sachs didn’t send the regulator “important information” on the incident that was provided to another industry watchdog, the CFTC said.

$1.5 million, that’s a lot of money isn’t it?  Perhaps to you and I, but let’s take a look at those orders of magnitude shall we?

       $8,300,000,000 == Amount of the illegal trade ($8.3 Billion)

         $118,000,000 == Amount the trade lost ($118 Million)

           $1,500,000 == Amount of the fine ($1.5 Million)

So the fine was $116.5 Million dollars less than Matthew Marshall Taylor cost Goldman Sachs just by being stupid and wrong and $8.2985 BILLION less than the amount of money at risk in the trade.

And a billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

The moral of the story is, don’t let verbal shortcuts confuse you.

Not so much equality

Somewhere along the line  the concept of equality has become muddled.  We can certainly see that in deliberations around North America in the past week.

In Boise, ID, Helena, MT, East Aurora, IL and Canada we have seen what happens when the public chooses to consider the equality of minority people…especially those of us in minorities that most people don’t know much about, don’t want to know much about and generally detest anyway.

The idea that giving us equal protection under the law will endanger other people because a third set of people might take advantage of our protections is just ludicrous.  It’s like saying that disabled people shouldn’t have protections because able-bodied people might use their set-aside parking spaces.