22 March 2018

Here Come Da Judge

More gaga news.
In addition to the new dual-rank 64 GB RDIMM module, Samsung is set to develop quad-ranked 128 GB RDIMMs and octal-ranked 256 GB LRDIMMs. Today's servers running AMD's EPYC or Intel's Xeon Scalable M-suffixed processors feature 12 or 16 memory slots - if the processors were capable of fitting all 256 GB modules, this could lead up to 4 TB per socket. This should be a massive advantage for applications like in-memory databases, virtual desktop infrastructure, and so on.
[my bold]

Such a machine, though costing a bit more than a generic white-box, could handle 99.44% of R use case data sets without the onerous cost of SAS/SPSS. I suspect such a machine could pay for itself in software license cost avoidance in a year or two?

21 March 2018

Iron Fisted Rule

Regular reader may recall a recent missive offering data on iron and aluminum ore reserves here in the USofA. It is not a comforting picture for those eager to return to the 19th century's industrial model. Today, Eduardo Porter reports on further research regarding tariffs on steel and aluminum vis-a-vis their use. The main point being: how many jobs are affected by tariffs in steel making and steel using industry. Not surprising, the numbers still say that the USofA workers (net, all of them) take it in the neck as do consumers of USofA manufactures.
For every job in Tupelo producing steel or aluminum, there are 200 jobs in industries that consume them that could be put at risk as tariffs push up the prices of these metals, according to research from Jacob Whiton and Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution.
Take a look at those colorful maps: the redneck knuckleheads, once again, voted for suicide. They don't need no education.

This finding is not an outlier, by any means. Total employment in steel and aluminum has been dropping like a rock since the end of WWII, when we gobbled up vast quantities of the Mesabi Range ore
While the Mesabi Range had single-handedly supplied the iron for steel during World War II, it essentially dug its own grave. The Range totaled output of over 188 million tons of ore during the course of the war, and exhausted itself of natural hematite until the process of making taconite into iron was discovered into the 50's and 60's. The Mesabi Range lived like a star, dimly lighting the industry, and going supernova when it was most needed, provided for the country and gave everything it had until it had nothing left. In being the key for us winning the war, the Mesabi Range gave its life force, becoming just another casualty of the war.

The USGS has a report on the levels of mining, production, and reserves. It agrees with other data from that previous missive.

Stupid people make stupid choices. That fact has always, and will always, be true.

16 March 2018


There are times when one couldn't say it better (scroll to 3:11 PM - 14 Mar 2018):
17 people die in a high school and a month later there's a nationwide protest to get the attention of lawmakers. One dog dies on an airplane and there's a bill in the Senate rectifying it within 48 hours.

As pointed out here many times, this is of a piece with HRC's "deplorables" and 'the states I won are 65% of GDP', IOW, the left behind knuckleheads are in that situation just because they insist on electing fascist governments. The coastal states mostly do otherwise. You elect government that treats you like chattel, you'll be left behind. And it's your fault.

HRC has been excoriated for telling the truth, even by pundit Democrats. The truth hurts some times.

14 March 2018

Jobs R Us

Here's the headline: "Toys "R" Us liquidation could cost tens of thousands of jobs"
Toys "R" Us is expected to start court proceedings to liquidate as soon as Thursday. That's a first legal step in moving to close all of its 850 brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S. -- and to lay off up to 33,000 workers.

So, let's see if Orange Julius Caesar thinks they're worth saving; the way coal miners and steel workers are. Ya think may be not????

13 March 2018

Predestination - part the second

Ben Casselman's at it again. As regular reader may recall, these missives have pointed out that macro and micro data are very much brothers from different mothers. Micro data is, within a teeny epsilon, population while macro is samples. Today's piece is filled with quotes from important pundits, which make the points seen here.

"We have trouble measuring any of these things," said Tara Sinclair, an economist at George Washington University and for the job-search site Indeed. "This is definitely one of those situations where you can feed in the data and get out whatever response you're looking for."

IOW, the wiggle room in the data is sufficiently large that one can make any argument, plausible or not. Just take a look at the technical section of the Monthly Report to see the admission that the numbers are of Gumby.
BLS analyses are generally conducted at the 90-percent level of confidence.

For example, the confidence interval for the monthly change in total nonfarm
employment from the establishment survey is on the order of plus or minus 115,000.

Let that warm and fuzzy sink in. OK, back to Casselman's quotes.

Despite the familiarity of the average hourly earnings figure, however, economists say that it is among the least reliable indicators, especially in the short run.

Most government statistics, for instance, have failed to adapt to the rise of the so-called gig economy and other trends that are changing the relationship between companies and workers. The hourly earnings measure in the monthly jobs report excludes Uber drivers and similar contractors.

Now, does that bit of missing data mean; A) higher earning folks are being missed or B) lower earning folks are being missed? The answer, naturally, is B. IOW, the data/report are, to an unknown degree, rosy.

Moreover, Americans are increasingly refusing to respond to government surveys. The response rate to the monthly Current Population Survey, the data source that underlies the unemployment rate and many other key statistics, has eroded in recent years. Of the households that do respond, about a third refuse to provide information about their earnings, a rate much higher than for most other questions. Similar problems have affected other government and private-sector surveys.

Without accurate macro data, all we get is demogogic policies. Demagogues prefer to ignore data, but when the data is known to be wonky, pushback gets tougher.

08 March 2018

Blind Pundits

Yet another case where Red/Blue is being misconstrued, and over an issue of some significance. Here's a report on 'electric' cars. With this assertion:
Out of the top 10 states for new and used hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric cars, only two -- Arizona and Utah -- voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, according to an analysis of 2017 auto sales from from research site iSeeCars.com.

I don't doubt that for a second. But it would be helpful to readers seeking to understand WHY that is true to explore the motivation. As they say in the real estate business, it's location, location, location.

At no time in the text is it offered that electric/micro cars only make sense in urban areas. If you have to drive 100 miles to the grocery store, and the only charging station would be the one in your garage (if you actually bought an 'electric' car), you're not likely to buy one. States which, in toto, vote Blue are ones where cities overwhelm empty counties. Red, the other way round. Why won't mainstream pundits figure this out?? I guess it's too sophisticated to actually think about a subject, and look at the data.

03 March 2018

Yes Ore No

To paraphrase Orange Julius Caesar, "if you don't have iron ore and bauxite, you don't have steel or aluminum". And, one might add, to turn bauxite into aluminum eats prodigious amounts of electricity.
CSIRO calculate that the embodied energy (all the energy used to make the material) for aluminium is 211 GJ per tonne, compared to 22.7 GJ per tonne for steel.

Not for nothing, our economy would rather burn all that electricity on bitcoins. Make sense to you?

As to base ore endowment, the USofA has nearly no bauxite and has depleted iron ore to about the noise level. Without imports, we don't have industry.

Here's iron reserves. And, bauxite; you're not missing something, the USofA isn't listed.
However, since 1981, none of the bauxite mined in the US was used to make metallic aluminium. US bauxite is instead used for abrasives, high-temperature refractory materials, and as a high-strength proppant for hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells.

Besides announcing tariffs while "unglued", there really, really isn't viable US supply. Moron.

We Don't Need No Education

The West Virginia teachers remain on strike. About time that someone in the Empty States takes a stand. From the beginning of these endeavors, it's been asserted that there's a reason they have been "left behind", and it hasn't been a conspiracy among the elite Eastern intellectuals and nattering nabobs of negativism. It has been the Right Wingnuts elected by the residents of the Empty States who treat said residents as indentured servants. And those folks accept the situation blindly.

It should come as no surprise that West Virginia ranks at the bottom, topping only a few other Empty Red States. Keep 'em stupid and breeding. Works OK, for the Marie Antoinette Class when your economy is largely agrarian/extractive. Not so much in the 21st century. Also not surprising that Orange Julius Caesar promised these morons that he'd send the country back to the 19th century. And they bought it. Stupid is as stupid does.

It's not a coincidence that the prosperous coastal Blue States are closer to socialist than social Darwinist. The West Virginia teachers are figuring it out.

01 March 2018

The Asymptote of Progress - part the sixth

As mentioned a few times, there's an advantage to having a NYT press pass: you get great quotes from intelligent folks. And so it is today with some reporting from Binyamin Appelbaum. The piece is, superficially, about the cost of mining bitcoin and follows on previous reporting from many sources. But it's really about the dirth of productive investing venues. In other words, the Asymptote of Progress©.
While Bitcoin mining may not be labor intensive, it diverts time, energy and capital from other, more productive activities that economists say could fuel faster growth.

"It appears that much of our evolving digital infrastructure is devoted to activities, like the proliferation of cybercoins, that are worse than frivolous," said James McAndrews, the former head of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Where is the next steam engine??

The driving notion behind bitcoin is the blockchain, naturally. And, naturally, it's spiffy spanking new. Well, not so much. Databases have been based on, and some are explicitly as datastores, append-only data files. Here's a famous one. Current RDBMS keep their data in immutable transaction logs. As you might expect, that's just a blockchain. Zebra skips the nicety of writing out to user-facing tables/files, and just keeps the log. Blockchain is nothing more. The use of cryptokeys as pointers is a minor tweek.

As mentioned here a few times. The Asymptote of Progress© forces the Marie Antoinette Class into odd places. On the one hand, there's risk averse Treasuries. On the other, all manner of MeToo Corps and crazy shit.

The problem with keeping only the translog as the datastore is that processing is a royal pain.
But Bitcoin remains so hard to use that a major Bitcoin conference in January had to stop accepting Bitcoin. It is, in practice, a speculative investment, like gold. And Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University, said mining gold was a better use of resources, because even if it lost value, it could be used to fill teeth.


28 February 2018

wHo NkeW

One of the most interesting uses of R popped up on "R-bloggers" today. It's a test of reading. In R? Yes. Moreover, the earliest cite in the article is 1981, and text makes reference to research done in the 70s. Who Knew?

An earlier missive here asked what sense it makes to build computers that are more "brain like". Text recognition has been of interest for some time, and highlights the (nearly?) unique capabilities of the human brain. Not so much for processing Big Data, alas.

24 February 2018

The Asymptote of Progress - part the fifth

If there are any stragglers among the readership who deny the reality of the Asymptote of Progress©, here are a couple of links from comments to a piece on Anandtech.

The first is from 2017, and is generalist. And is, on the whole, optimistic.

The second from this year, on the other hand, is decidedly not.
In fact, depending on what aspect of Moore's Law you look at, it ended a long time ago (power scaling), or recently (cost per transistor scaling) or still has several nodes to go (technical barriers).


And, in conclusion, it gets worse:
Moore's Law is, indeed, ending. But that is only one part of the problem:

MOSFETs have run out of steam, with newest nodes requiring more money for very limited improvements
FETs of all the weird types are not going to save us
Von Neumann compute is reaching its limit

Read that last point. Let it sink in. Offer up a superior alternative. This is his:
On a longer term still, we will end up moving away from von Neumann architectures to something more "brain like."

Of course, we don't even have a definition of how the brain actually does what we call computing. Show me a brain that computes Big Data? It's one thing to conjure up the words to "War and Peace" in a "brain like" brain, and quite another to run multiple regression on a million row data frame in a "brain like" brain. Why would a neuron based compute engine be successful at such a task? All that nonsense about only having a hammer seeing the world as nails. Any answer welcome.

22 February 2018

I Still Hate Neil Irwin - part the tenth

It's the nature of quants to be lazy, despite all the brow sweat they brag about. This laziness leads them to seek out easy data. Which, in turn, leads them corporations, i.e. the micro sector, who collect as much data as they want. And, since corporations are mostly rolling in dough, fat salaries to be had. So long as the quant doesn't find the requirement to pander undesirable. Hog heaven for the quant. The problem is that, as any macro quant will tell you: 99.44% of micro performance is the result of the macro environment. Do the CxO class, and their quant servants, really think Mr. Market's spectacular rise over the last years is due to their brilliance? The CxO class has had, at most, an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka-dot effect; almost entirely M&A to destroy competition.

So, today is another reason to hate Neil Irwin!! As stated here more than once, Say is crap. If it were true, there'd never be recessions or depressions because business would ramp production (and employment and wage incomes) in the face of falling demand. I dare anyone to cite any company that did so. You won't find one. They follow the Lemming Law: each attempts to conserve cash and profits by cutting production and employment. Thus constructing a downward spiral of global contraction. What the individual sees as rational through his own eyes, leads to a mess when everyone does it.
The latest wrinkle is that the researchers now believe that productivity growth depends not just on the supply side of the economy — what companies produce and what technologies they use to do it — but also significantly on the demand side.
[C]ompanies need to increase production to match demand for their goods, and a shortage, either of workers or of materials, forces them to think creatively about how to do so.

As Homer says, "D'oh!!". And, it's worth noting, McKinsey has an extreme rightwing reputation in the consulting world.
McDonald comments that apart from slashing cost by slashing headcount (increasing employee churn in order to keep costs low), there have been many instances where the recommendations that have come from McKinsey seem to focus on cold blooded cost cutting at the expense of long term staff loyalty, creating a culture of fear and short-termism in the organisational culture.

It is kind of amazing that McKinsey and Irwin seem to ask, "What would Jesus do?". Again, the repeat: go read Baumol, as well. FIRE has eaten GDP, and measuring productivity using tools created for a manufacturing economy will, by definition, show lousy productivity as GDP skews more toward services. Which is not to assert that some other measure of productivity would both be honest and at much higher levels than we've actually seen. After all, productivity is supposed to be a measure of labor output. A few years back, GDP's definition was fiddled to add IP related activity. No one seems to ask the fundamental question: is there any productivity benefit to a mobile phone that runs "Candy Crush" 10% faster???

Here's a long-ish article making these points.
A problem with GDP even when it is being asked to do nothing more than measure production is that it is a relic of a period dominated by manufacturing.

Just like I said. Of course.

21 February 2018

A Brother From Another Mother

We all now know, beyond doubt that Dear Leader is an illiterate moron. With the brain of chicken, as Connie used to say when she did something silly. Orange Julius Caesar does nothing else. So, today brings us some stark contrast.
"How did you end up here, Marilynne? What happened? Was it libraries?"

In 2015, President Obama sought out the novelist Marilynne Robinson, the author of the acclaimed Gilead trilogy, for a wide-ranging conversation. They spoke with the ease and deft mutual flattery of friends, touching on democracy and education, their Midwestern roots and love of literature. Obama's question lay at the crux of their discussion.

Is there any way to imagine Carrot Top even considering books???

Here's the quote that made me stop.
As a child, her teachers told her, "You have to live with your mind your whole life"; they taught her the value of building it, making it worthy. It was, she has said, the most important lesson she ever received.

Since at least high school, I've always answered various existential questions with, "you live between your ears". A point of view that doesn't drive one to keep up with the Joneses, naturally. All these years later, it's more than a tad comforting to find it in print.

An ironic way to close the piece
"Slander" is the story of Robinson's strained relationship with her mother. "With a little difficulty we finally reached an accommodation, an adult friendship," she writes. "Then she started watching Fox News." Her mother and her fellow retirees began to share "salacious dread over coffee cake," fretting over the rumored "war against Christmas." "My mother lived out the end of her fortunate life in a state of bitterness and panic, never having had the slightest brush with any experience that would confirm her in these emotions, except, of course, Fox News," Robinson writes. The essay brings all the abstractions home, makes real and painful the cost of ceding an independence of mind.

19 February 2018

Thought For the Day - 19 February 2018

17 of my classmates are gone. That's 17 futures, 17 children, and 17 friends stolen. But you're right, it always has to be about you. How silly of me to forget. #neveragain
Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign - there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!
-- Trump/2018

18 February 2018

Shooting Fish in a Barrel

N. Gregory Mankiw is a Marie Antoinette Class quant type, with a very public platform. Recently he expounded on free trade. Much of it is baloney, but this bit
To be sure, expanding trade hurts some people in the short run, especially those in import-competing sectors who have to find new jobs. That fact may call for a robust safety net and effective retraining. But it does not undermine the conclusion that free trade raises average living standards.
[my bold]
deserves shooting. Like a fish in a barrel.

I wonder how he feels about all those coal miners? Not to mention that, being a card carrying economist he knows better, citing "average living standards". Given the continuing income skew towards the 1%, and documented destruction of the remaining 99%, that cite rather then median income (or, as even some Trumpians cite, vis-a-vis 1970s income) which has barely budged since the OPEC oil embargo sent the economy into the ditch. IOW, any data analysis of known skewed distribution, income or wealth or widget weight using mean rather than median (or some other skew reducing/removing measure) is politics, not analysis.

14 February 2018

Two For the Seesaw

Regular reader likely realizes that I don't often just say, "go read this". Mostly because the mainstream pundocracy hasn't caught up yet. Eduardo Porter, on the other hand, does so more than the others. Well, not counting Krugman, naturally.

Today Porter takes on Mr. Market. As has been the case with the rest of the pundit class, he avoids asking the basic question, "where have all the dollars gone?" But he does deal with the obvious question of overall stock prices.
What I contend is that if the American economy behaved in the way that most economists say market economies should, stocks would in all likelihood be cheaper.

The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index increased 8 percent per year from 1970 to 2015, on average.
What makes this particularly puzzling for scholars reared on the classical models of competitive economies is that all this happened despite a persistent decline in real interest rates.

The money quote, buried in the middle
The ratio of the capital stock — the value of factories, machines and such — to the nation's economic output has actually declined a little since the 1970s.

So where have all those dollars gone? Well, to Treasuries and other fiduciaries. Capitalists were, are, and always will be risk averse. Little to no rise in physical investment in a decade of low rates, yet all that idle moolah keeps buying Treasuries, and knocking down the opportunity cost of real investment. And they still won't bite. The obvious reason is that, intuitively, they understand that only massive capital (e.g. Fab 8) can eke out a teeny increment in progress. So they toss in the towel and buy Treasuries. In due time Orange Julius Caesar will demand that Treasury cease the auction and sell at named interest rate. Chaos follows.

12 February 2018

Bad Vibrations

The recent fibrillations of Mr. Market have been the grist for countless pundits. Rather than attempt to precis all of them, I'll just note this one from Jeff Sommer
"What we have seen in the last week or two is minuscule compared with the amount of real risk that is coming in the months and years ahead," said Salil Mehta, an independent statistician with deep experience in troubled markets and their consequences. He was the director of research and analytics for the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and for the Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program, which was set up to help stabilize the financial system in the 2008 crisis.

Is that a grand oops? Perhaps so. What Mr. Sommer, and his correspondents, miss (and such media pundits do so frequently) is that Mr. Market can only go on a Jabba The Hut binge if he's fed lots of moolah, increasingly. Where does the moolah come from? As well, so far as stocks are concerned, it's the opportunity cost (and imputed risk aversion) of Treasuries. But opportunity cost is a two-say street. Many/most pundits take as an article of faith that "government borrowing steals from private investment". That's never been true, of course. There are, fundamentally, three things to be done with idle moolah. You can stuff your mattress. You can buy Treasuries. You can buy corporate instruments. From left to right, increasing (universally assumed) risk. If you want to make more moolah, you go corporate. If you want safety, you go gummint. And so it went after the Great Recession. Why? If you read up the recent piece on Fab 8, you can see that returns on corporate instruments is limited by science/engineering progress. Ever more Bongo Bucks to spit out chips. The only way that can generate financial returns is if there's an expanding market for those chips. Remember that the 300mm wafer was dead meat more than a decade ago? Still around.
If the foundry can keep its wafers-per-hour production rate on 450mm wafers close to its 300mm wafer production rate, it can produce vastly more chips per hour. This helps reduce costs, provided that the semiconductor economy is healthy and the foundry utilization rate is high.

Hasn't happened. So, Treasuries and private physical investment are competitors, but the former is driven by psychology (mostly) while the the latter is driven by physics (mostly). The added risk, as the Extreme Tech piece tells us, is that cheaper unit fixed cost leads to capital returns if, and only if, output can be sold at high enough price. As we've seen in the Treasuries market, all that moolah chasing a, more or less, fixed supply drove up prices; and down imputed return. Now that more and more corporates find themselves in the tech cul-de-sac of the asymptote of progress, returns there still have risk, but lower intrinsic return. Unless, naturally, floor sweeping wage earners do earn enough to want and pay for the iPhone X. Good luck with that.

And, by the way, here's another quote from the Fab 8 story:
Growing up is realizing that fabs are sophisticated sinkholes of ever-increasing capital expenditure in the eternal quest to outsmart physics, so much so that where there used to be dozens of foundries and IDMs jostling at the cutting edge, there are now just four: TSMC, Intel, Samsung, and GlobalFoundries. Of them, only TSMC and GlobalFoundries are pure-play foundries, only taking orders from fabless chip designers rather than fabbing their own designs.

Don't screw with Mother Nature.

09 February 2018

Where Have All The Dollars Gone?

The recent fibrillations in the market, at least on a post hoc analysis basis, have been driven by a smidgen of increase in wages for the 99%. In retaliation, the Marie Antoinette Class has burned down the asset markets. Spite. The thing is: where have all the dollars gone? The inflation in the asset markets could/can only happen if there's excess moolah chasing the instruments. Right? Treasuries represent the lowest risk opportunity cost to the MAC, and the MAC has shown over the last decade or so that they'd rather hold Treasuries than expand the real economy. Spite. One might even harbor the notion that the MAC would prefer the "return" from catastrophic deflation (held moolah buying a bit more each day as prices plunge) over building out new physical capital.

But, you say, what if there's a sharply diminishing venue for new physical capital? Fab 8 is instructive (see recent missives). What if the notion that new knowledge of the scientific/engineering kind is slowing? What if Treasuries aren't the opportunity cost, but it's really the other way round? What if the MAC look at their world from the other direction? What if they say, "I'm not going to dump Treasuries and make real investment until the real return difference is way higher than it is today"?

If so, then the turbulence of recent days is just pique at the fact of a bit more in the pockets of the 99%. It won't last just because the Era of Low Returns is here to stay. All that idle moolah will, soon enough, go back to chasing Treasuries. As the punch line of the adage of the frog and scorpion says, "It's just my nature".

08 February 2018

Brave New World - part the second

Despite the Pollyanna spewing from some folks, here's the future:
The operations engineer would tell us that this was the most automated fab in the world, where no one moves or touches the wafers at all. GlobalFoundries had built Fab 8 from the ground-up to be highly automated, and the 'vehicles' were the key part.

As one version of these escapades puts it, "It's the distribution, stupid". If capital continues to displace labor, who's going to have any moolah to buy the neato products???? Riddle me that, Batman.

05 February 2018

Dee Feat is in Dee Flation - Part the Thirty Third [update]

So, what's going on with the 1,000 point (or so) drop in the DOW? All together now: "it's the 1%!" Recall all the braying about TARP and QE and such leading to ruinous inflation? Well, as reported here many times, ruinous inflation in stocks and bonds has been going on since 2009; March of that year.

The 1%, being utterly risk averse, mostly have plowed their idle moolah into Treasuries, and some into private instruments. Enough to drive DOW over 26,000. But now that there's just a whif of wage growth in the 99%, they bail. Figures. So, yes, that's really all there is to it. They've stuffed their mattresses, again. But not for long. Economies are caught on the leveling part of the asymptote of progress; there is no steam engine to invest in. You want to live on 10% vig? Hop in your time machine to 1900.

Well, well, well. Today the estimable Andrew Ross Sorkin weighs in:
Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Don't forget what set off the plunge on Friday: better-than-expected job growth numbers.

A day late, a dollar short!

01 February 2018


Tomorrow's (in a few hours) the day for the monthly labor report. It's been discussed here a few times, mostly around the reliability of the sampling. 99.44% of damn gummint macro-data is from sampling surveys, not population data. And, if the Right Wingnuts get their way, the 2020 census will be as polluted as a Superfund Site.

Anyway, a recently minted NYT reporter offers some additional thoughts. Worth your time, if you care about macro-data.
[I]t's really two reports stitched together. One, based on a survey of employers, provides information on jobs: how many were created (or eliminated) the previous month and how much those jobs pay. The other, based on a survey of households, focuses on individuals: how many are working or not working, along with information on their age, race, education and other characteristics.

For me, the second most interesting aspect (beyond the difficulty in tracking the SDs of the surveys) of the report is that it is released on the first Friday of the following month. So, BLS/Census have to crunch the numbers in a very short window for this report. As Casselman mentions, reports are subsequently updated, and short window reports being the most volatile.

Thought for the day - 1 February 2018

Well, this didn't take long. Now more reporting on the thin ice bitcoin, et al, skate on.
Tether offered a preliminary report last year from Friedman, the accounting firm, suggesting that it had bank accounts with dollars corresponding to all the Tether that had been issued. But the report was far from conclusive and Tether has never produced a real audit, leading to suspicions that Bitfinex may be printing virtual money backed by nothing.

Off to the Yukon!!! We don't need no damn gummint!!!
"Greater assurances are needed that the trades taking place are in fact legitimate and reflect buying and selling by independent actors," said Mr. Moore, an assistant professor at the University of Tulsa. "Unless and until such oversight is implemented, we cannot trust the exchange rate to reflect only legitimate sources of supply and demand."

I Cudda Bin a Contenda

Not for nothing, but the continuing quest for the "best" intro to R book finds a new contenda. It's name is "The Book of R" by Tilman Davies. Yes, it likely, on purpose, sounds like "The R Book" by Michael Crawley. Moreover, Davies is a Kiwi. A bit of island rivalry? And, yes, while Pluto is no longer a planet, Australia never was a continent.

So, what's the difference between them? Let me count the ways.
Crawley: hardcover, best binding I've encountered in ages, ~1,000 pages, only base graphics, liberal use of color, 2012, expensive
Davies: paperback but RepKover so a beneficial binding, ~800 pages (the page size is the smaller, so easier to tote around), relies on ggplot2, monochrome with some color plates tacked on at the end, 2016, quite inexpensive

If you look at the ToC of the two, you'll see the differing emphasis. Both offer some preliminaries, and then diverge. Crawley offers the remaining chapters by stat/quant procedure, including GAM, Bayes, and survival analysis. Davies, on the other hand, views R as a programming language, so devotes more of the text to such concerns. The furthest he gets is multiple regression.

Davies is a contenda if your interest lies in programming R. If your interest is doing quant studies, you'll definitely need other sources.

It's about time for Crawley to make a 3rd, with a substantial chapter on ggplot2. That would make it a no brainer. Wiley shows it as out of stock, so may be.

30 January 2018

Thought for the Day - 30 January 2018

So, there's a braying replacement for New Gold called bitcoin. You may have heard of it and there have been numerous reports that actually spending it can be a clusterfuck. Now, it turns out, the attempts to augment transactions have led to pilfering. Isn't Bitcoin, et al supposed to be super-duper secure?? Right.
The whole point of Bitcoin was to get rid of the middlemen that dominate the financial system. But in the past few years, most bitcoin buying and selling has been conducted using middlemen--the exchanges that let people turn traditional currencies into digital coins. Users have flocked to exchanges in part because the original Bitcoin network can't process enough transactions to allow for seamless trading.

Not to mention the damn gummint. Off to the Yukon!!!

28 January 2018

Poor Little Rich Boys

Every now and again, some reporting generates such a level of outrage that one ought to let some little time pass before putting pen to paper, or in this day and age, fingers to keyboard. Well, here's the latest such. To be frank, I can't tell whether the Editors of the NYT are attempting to show the Trumpistas that even the Failing New York Times understands and has mucho sympathy for the plight of the highly paid yet uneducated and unskilled (and increasingly unemployed) in the Empty Counties.

Or, one might hope, the intent is to provide transparency into their arrogance and self-entitlement. Who knows?
At age 28, Mr. Zmija, like most of the coal mineworkers here, has not lost faith in the industry. He is considering applying for a coal job in Alabama, or he may return to his old mine job in Maryland, although it pays far less than the $106,000 he made last year at 4 West. A sign in his living room says, "I'm a proud coal miner."

Still, he grumbles about the turn of fortune at 4 West, saying, "It feels like a slap in the face."

Right. And how much does a school teacher, a person whom you've likely never paid any attention to, make? $35,000 minimum and $40,275 average. Now, that's fair, right?

So, for those who still think that micro-quants are the bee's knees and the macro-folk are just politics, consider such a distortion. Or not.
William Laviolette, a 26-year-old maintenance worker at the mine who made roughly $55,000 last year, said that if he didn't find another mine job, he would go back to school to get his high school degree.

Some how, I don't think his heart is in it. After all, he'd be taking a giant step down if he goes on to get a BA in education and gets a position teaching other members of the uneducated elite.

24 January 2018

I Told You So - 24 January 2018

Remember all those missives about New Gold and the effects, always ignored by Orange Julius Caesar and his minions? Well, mainstream pundits are beginning to notice:
... the world believes your national currency -- and the world's reserve currency -- is suddenly not worth what it used to be. Moreover, the dollar's decline could eventually have some very serious knock-on effects on the president's precious stock market performance.

Moreover, all that looming inflation, by Democratic Socialists of course, has been here for years. But, of course, it's driven by the 1% dumping all that idle moolah into stocks and bonds. Being the New Gold means you have to pay attention.
... if the greenback's rout deepens and pushes crude oil past the $70-a-barrel threshold. This isn't the kind of round number Mr. Trump will want to brag about on Twitter.

I told you so.

20 January 2018

Chinese Checkers

More than once in these endeavors the notion that Orange Julius Caesar will seek to squelch or even pervert macro data to support his agenda. We see this already at EPA (the top of the linked page is a screenshot from EPA, not the site; just so you don't get confused). We can expect the same, and I already sense that a thumb is on the scales with recent reporting from the agencies (call me suspicious), as time goes on. Remember, fascists turn to lying when the tale gets too outlandish.

Those who look at the "Chinese miracle" have long suspected that Beijing has a 3 kilo foot on the scales. Here's a recent report. Expect similar from this administration.
"It's just simplistic to say they lie or they don't lie," said Pauline Loong, the founder and managing director of Asia-analytica, a Hong Kong consulting firm specializing in mainland China. "They define their data differently, and they keep changing their definitions."

What Kellyanne calls alternative facts.

All macro-quants should be concerned.

19 January 2018

Days of Future Present

If you're old enough, and I sure has heck am, then the term "sneaker net" will be familiar. Hadn't run across it in a while. Today is one of those times.
The use-case presented to us in our briefing was one for video editing, where a film studio has a server/machine full of these drives, and when a days recording is done, the drives can be packed up and shipped to a visual effects studio (either by courier, or by placing an intern on a flight) to do their magic. This is commonly known as sneaker net, and offers much better bandwidth than transferring the raw 8K/16K footage through fat internet pipes. (Big data center services, like Google/Amazon, literally ship petabytes of data around using couriers, as the overall bandwidth is quicker.)

And there's this from that embedded link (and the memory of reading it years ago still gets tickled in the lower brain stem!).
Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.
-- Andrew Tanenbaum, 1981
[my bold]

And cheaper, I'd bet.

18 January 2018

Hadley R [update]

Previously mentioned, "R for Data Science" is useful reference for the WickhamWay of doing R. I've been reading in a desultory way since receiving it, thus came across this bit on p. 291 "Vectors":
I think it's better to start with tibbles because they're immediately useful, and then work your way down to the underlying components.

Yes!!! Finally, An Important Person who takes my view! R is, first and foremost, a Stat Pack Command Language. 99.44% of R users just want to get some study done with Existing Machinery. Yes! Which, not to put too fine a point on it, is why so many have difficulty with math and stat in school: the curriculum is set up to build a "solid foundation" before teaching anything the student, in a later academic/professional venue, will use. By the time that stuff comes around on the guitar, the "solid foundation" has devolved to mush in the lower brain stem. Fact is, most of the angst in learning later math/stat comes from having forgotten Algebra I/II in high school.
An easy-to-read guide to sharpening math skills for those who have taken mathematics and elementary algebra in high school or college and find they need to brush up on these skills for use in their professional or personal life. Examples and problems are related to real-life situations.

No More Distractions [update]

An occasional subject of these endeavors is the non-productivity of GUI "productivity" programs in the PC/Mac arena. I've made reference to studies going back to early Word showing that WYSIWYG does little to improve quality of content. From personal experience, folks get enamored of playing with fonts and other filigrees. Attention to content actually goes down (and that paper is from 1999; I read others earlier).
For what it is worth, in my opinion as somebody who used Word for several years before switching to TeX, and who has a keen interest in typesetting, no worthwhile features have been introduced into MS Word for Windows since version 2.0 of circa 1990.
Another take on the issue (and the comments are a stitch):
[Word] guarantees job security for the guru, not transparency for the zen adept who wishes to focus on the task in hand, not the tool with which the task is to be accomplished.

The way we got control of it was to give people a workflow that said "don't bother about any formatting whilst you write". No headlines, no figures, as basic and unadorned as possible. This had the advantage that they could use anything they liked to generate it.
-- Comment 10 of post

Well, a couple of recent stabs at that pinata for your amusement. From some time now, turning off the color bling.
To combat phone addiction, Harris suggests enabling grayscale on your phone.

Then, today, Farhad Manjoo has his take on the problem. Reaches the same conclusion, not surprising.
Companies that make money from your attention — that is, ad-supported apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube — now employ armies of people who work with supercomputers to hook you ever more deeply into their services.

One of the side effects of Data Science is its complicity in manipulation of "users". Doesn't sound much like science to me. The end of Western Civilization is before our eyes.

15 January 2018

The Devil is in The Details

So let me get this straight. Anonymous sources tell the WaPo that Orange Julius Caesar referred to some countries as "shithole". Later, Durbin confirms; likely the original source (but hasn't admitted, to the best of my knowledge as of now). Right Wingnut brown nosers deny he said those words. Now, it happens, that the argument is whether it was shithole or shithouse countries. So, I guess, Durbin lied. May be.

14 January 2018

If The Only Tool You Have Is A Hammer

... everything tends to look like a nail. Let's start with the latest edition of The Transitory Quote:
We have built the digital world too rapidly. It was constructed layer upon layer, and many of the early layers were never meant to guard so many valuable things: our personal correspondence, our finances, the very infrastructure of our lives.
-- Zeynep Tufekci/2018

You'll see it for the next few days in the preamble.

It should come as no surprise that I was involved with computers at the birth of the innterTubes, though not a moving force in that birth. Even in the early days of the World Wide Web (I wonder, does anyone remember that term?), I knew the history of its origins: ARPANET. The multi-level network model was worked out the make all this happen. HTTP, also, actually had a meaning: HyperText Transfer Protocol. The design, and purpose, of the net was to facilitate the movement of technical papers among researcher. IOW, text files of moderate size. Unix, likewise, was designed for the purpose of driving in-house, character terminal based, word processing systems. IOW, text files of moderate size.

Should it be surprising that such tech can only be finagled into streaming porn to your phone or desk or 80" plasma with difficulty?

09 January 2018

Another R Book

It should come as no surprise that I, being a codger, prefer my books with pages sewn into a spine and hard covered. For the last few decades those have been mostly about relational databases and things quant. R being the latest obsession. The pile never seems to diminish.

One kind of interesting aspect of the R world is that there is a bomb thrower amongst them, not wholly unlike what's going on in the political world. That would be Hadley Wickham. Some years ago there were reports of naughty words towards him. You can let your fingers do the walking through the Inntertubes (you'll even find a bit of prose from Your Humble Servant in one such thread).

Which brings me to his latest (with co-author), "R For Data Science". I don't think it's best as a learning text for R per se; Crawley is still (but, yes, a little long in the tooth) my preferred intro with ggplot2 to get up to date graphics. But as a reference on Wickham's tidyverse, it's canonical.

Here's a recent view:
The tidyverse is an 'opinionated' collection of R packages that duplicate and seek to improve upon numerous base R functions for data manipulation (e.g. dplyr) and graphing (e.g. ggplot2). As the tidyverse has grown increasing more comprehensive, it has been suggested that it be taught first to new R users. The debate between which R dialect is better has generated a lot of heat, but much light.

Here's one point from the book that, at one time, likely would have gotten major flames:
R is an old language, and some things that were useful 10 or 20 years ago now get in your way. It's difficult to change base R without breaking existing code, so most innovation occurs in packages. Here we will describe the tibble package, which provides opinionated data frames that make working in the tidyverse a little easier.

Anyway, recommended. O'Reilly spent some extra moolah on color graphics and text to make a pretty book. On the whole, I'd rather they'd spent the money to put it in a Rep-Kover binding.

05 January 2018

Wages of Sin

There continues to be noise from both sides, both sides, about why it is that we have more than traditional Full Employment, ~4.1%, yet wages/incomes have barely moved up since the Great Recession. Orange Julius Caesar brayed during the election that the issue was that Obama/BLS were lying, and the "real" employment rate was much, much higher; 42% was his favorite. No one who has a brain believed that. But doubting the truth of U3 is valid.

But the fact is, BLS has always published various versions (with various definitions, naturally) of the unemployment rate. The one labeled U3 is the "official" rate over the years. But that rate doesn't include folks who would be looking for new/better full time employment if they thought it mattered. Including those folks, and other marginally attached workers, makes for U6. You can play with the display.
The current U6 unemployment rate as of December 2017 is 8.10.

So, for the first time in history, Orange Julius Caesar is sort of right. The slack manifest in such a much larger U6 is why "full employment" U3 doesn't drive wage/income increase. The Right Wingnut Leona Helmsley Memorial Tax Cut for the 1% won't trickle down to drive up wages. There is zero historical evidence that such will happen.

James Bond vs. Spectre

I'll reference the Anandtech discussion of Meltdown and Spectre, just to have one. I expect any of the myriad others will do.

The question of interest to me is: how can there be a common "hardware bug" on, at least, five different machines? Those being Intel, AMD, ARM, POWER, and Z. It is acknowledged that the execution units on the metal aren't the ISAs of these machines, but rather some "simpler" RISC-y machine. Is there really only one way to build such a machine, algorithmicly? Or has the cross-licensing of patents led to there being one-best-way? Is the reality, there really is only one processor out there with myriad front-end decoders for all ISAs? And is the bug really on the metal, what most folks consider the hardware? Or is the bug in a common algorithm, implemented by all these 'proprietary' machine front-ends? Does Spectre, in particular, make a laughingstock of cpu patents? After all, if all of these allegedly unique architectures can be fiddled with in the same way, there has to be a common nexus in the implementations. And it is settled that algorithms can't be patented.

That the fixes are (going to be) in micro-code leads one to suspect that there may be just one hardware cpu in the world. It's a small world after all.