18 June 2012

We're All Running Backs Now

It is widely understood that NFL running backs have a very short worklife one source says, 2.57 years. After that, worthless and off to the scrap heap. One part of the Right Wingnuts' meme is that if only folks had appropriate skills (from for-profit "schools", of course!), they'll get rich. Well, sort of. While I can't recall specific cites, there've been studies done since about 1980 debunking the American Dream, upward mobility for all, myth.

Recently, Joseph Stiglitz (smarter than Krugman and with more bite) published this book. Have a look at the Table of Contents, and you'll see that the last 100 pages is notes, including data sources. There have been a host of reviews. Try this one on for size.

What all this has to do with NFL running backs? First, running backs are very well paid, but are a vanishingly small percent of the population; dedicating an education regime to "empower" ghetto kids to be running backs doesn't make much sense; nor for any low count job. Education, which isn't the same as vocational training, is said to be the solution to the mess, but consider that all too many 40-plus professionals have found their careers ended by cheap, young Indians. Why would an 18 year old not see that handwriting on the wall? Society will fracture even further if the army of the unemployed is better educated, and done so on the promise of upper-middle class prosperity. In fact, the number of math and science majors (proportional to population) has declined. Here's a story dealing with part of the issue. And this is a Time magazine piece.

Second, age discrimination is rampant. In the late 19th century, shops had signs, "No Irish Need Apply". Now, it's "No Adults Need Apply". We're all running backs; you have to make a lifetime's worth of income before you're 30. I wish they told me that when I was 20.

Even that Right Wingnut bastion, "The Wall Street Journal" adds some fuel to the fire. "Although the number of college graduates increased about 29% between 2001 and 2009... The number with computer and information-sciences degrees decreased 14%." It shouldn't come as any surprise; IT jobs are among the most off-shored. One Kiddie Koder of my acquaintance noted that his age-mates were bailing from IT, or not entering at all, back in 2005. We worked at a Fortune 100 company that was shedding Americans for Indians at breakneck pace. Kids notice; they aren't quite as stupid as some think. Another quote: "'If you're a high math student in America, from a purely economic point of view, it's crazy to go into STEM,' says Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown center."

These articles also touch on something I've noticed, again, in quant texts: rather than take an apprenticeship tack (here's how to do X, then how to do Y, and so on), there is this need to build a "foundation" of disconnected principles, which may or may not be connected (among themselves or even to the vocation being studied) sometime much later. After a couple of classes of this, they bail. If they want to get rich, they become banksters. I've mentioned a few times that my historical profession, economics, was overrun by failed PhD mathsters starting as far back as the 1970's. Not sure that being an associate econ professor is the road to riches, but an unfinished math PhD is worth much less.

So, we get to the nub. I read this article when it came out, but didn't get around to writing about it. In fact, I've been worried about just such attacks for sometime. The "Don't Bother Me with Reality" forces are evil. Now's the time. The Cheney "we don't need no reality" meme will get implemented if Mitt is It. The only way to shut up guys like Stiglitz is to shut off the data. The Right Wingnuts will do it. With no data, the argument devolves to propaganda, and the Wingnuts have shown that they're better at it than Democrats.

15 June 2012

Pretty Beads

Have you been paying attention to the new-ish Apple computers? They've become disposable cell phones; nothing is replaceable or upgradeable. These devices go for nearly $3,000, and can, I gather, only be repaired by Apple. This became clear with the Retina Display Mac Book Pro as can be seen here. All the bits are either Apple only connections/forms or soldered in. For those with long memories, the original Compaq machines would only accept Compaq pieces.

When I was a kid, Vance Packard was already well known and widely published. I knew of his writings from yellowed paperbacks. His most famous is likely "The Hidden Persuaders", but he also dealt with the process of planned obsolescence with "The Waste Makers". In the 1960's, and certainly 1970's, American auto makers were pilloried, and warned, that their obsession with churning their product base was dangerous and market threatening. And so it came to be. If one looks at a current American auto, most of the engineering and design of that car originated in either Europe (where engineers know what they're doing) or Japan (ditto).

Europeans and Japanese understand what engineering means: make the most of the least. Until the 1973 Oil Embargo, American design and engineering was about profligacy; who could implement it most thoroughly. Not so much, now.

Apple is behaving like the Big Three Autos. The difference is that Apple, emboldened by a totally hosed patent system, has been able to constrict competition. Jobs fancied himself a Buddhist. I wonder what his bhikkhu would think?

Sounds a bit like what happened with Manhattan, which was ceded for some pretty beads. Apple wants your soul and freedom for about the same.

04 June 2012

Subtraction By Ad-ition

My long time reader might remember that I've been preaching the Gospel of Codd from the beginning, and that multi-stuff/RDBMS/SSD is the saviour of applications. Further, the mobile/tablet space is ripe for a paradigm shift to fully normalized relational datastores, which can thus be easily served up to a pick-able (finger or mouse, doesn't matter) small data interface. This stock promotion page reveals that the other, but related, paradigm shift is finally recognized by Main Stream Pundits. To quote: "... up until now the primary form of Internet advertising has been the display ad, and it's hard to display a static ad on a 3.5 inch screen size without annoying the user."

What the piece misses, of course, is that what did in newspapers (less so, magazines) wasn't Google and such but Craig's List. What CL took was classified adverts, and this was the cash cow of (local) newspapers. While not quite the meme that some would have us believe, it proved the main point: any endeavour which depends on adverts for revenue is ultimately doomed. As my Pappy used to say about women, "They're like buses, there'll be another one along in 10 minutes." The same is true for adverts. Some other way, which is more alluring to ad buyers, will soon enough pop up.

As I've been drum banging for some time: advert business is tough. For those of a certain age, or perhaps certain undergraduate major, "The Hidden Persuaders" is a very early tale of how the advert business works. I haven't re-read it in years, by the way. Whether the notion of "engagement ads" provides any real improvement to ad buyers is up for debate. That won't stop the sites from making them. Just because they can. Kind of like GUI-fied software, distract the user into the trivial, while avoiding the substance. I guess that's the advert business in a nutshell.

02 June 2012

Ballard Spots SS Disc, Very Deep

News has arrived. Bob Ballard, noted wreck diver, has spotted the SS Disc at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, pulverized to itty bitty bits. Oh! The horror. The humanity. (Mixing metaphors a bit.)

Some weeks ago, I reported the collision of the SS Disc with an iceberg, and the resulting carnage. Little did I know that the damaged hulk would find its way to warmer waters in the very deep Pacific. Well, now we know. In the ensuing time, all four of the prominent public companies doing SSD (STEC, Fusion-io, OCZ, LSI) have suffered the aftereffects, perhaps, of Mr. Market getting a bad case of the grizzlies. One year lows are well within sight. Or, have the four horsemen done something wrong, at least not doing the right thing?

Never one to ignore the siren song of speculation, here's what appears to be going on.

First, EMC has jumped on the flash bandwagon with the purchase of XtremIO; STEC may get a headache since many had predicted that EMC would swallow STEC. From the (now tagged as EMC) XtremIO web site: "XtremIO is the only vendor building an enterprise-grade, scalable all-flash (not flash cache, flash-tiered, or hybrid) storage system." I suspect Texas Memory, among others, might quibble with the "only" bit. They refer to the components as SSD on one page, but also as a "flash array" on another. What's that line from "Chinatown"; "She's my sister AND my daughter!"

Second, none of the vendors makes any public noise about the "killer app" which requires their SSDs. XtremIO, among others, make noise about on-line de-duplication. This is getting closer. But, fact is, flash/SSD as primary store supports high normal form relational databases, where only huge HDD arrays, short stroked up the wazoo, can get close, with little to no price advantage. But this leads to another issue.

Here's a recent language discussion in the context of moving from java to ruby; replacing a codebase that "works" with one which (may) work better. Much the same argument has been made about three tape drive sort-merge sequential operations software that "still works"; "we don't need no stinkin' four table joins!". Which is why so much COBOL code running on IBM big iron ignores the relational strengths of DB2. The SSD vendors are, slowly, through the de-dupe meme moving toward parsimonious data footprints as critical to SSD adoption. Ain't never going to get cheap enough or dense enough to challenge HDD.