28 April 2018

What's a Blit?

It was many years ago today that Dr. McElhone came to say a new word (to me, anyway): blit. What's a blit, you might ask? Well, I'll tell you: five pounds of shit in a four pound sack. Being from Texas and Nevada, it was sack and not bag. Kind of the same vein as, "Girl, you're as dumb as a sack of hair!" So, what's up with blit and hair? The death spiral of capitalism.

"Robert, you're out of your bleeing mind!"

Could be. But follow along with me. More than once, these pages have described the problem of heavily capitalized production, namely the strait jacket of amortization and the need for stable, if not growing, demand. As more cost is claimed by capital, the more difficult it is to manage average cost, and thus price (modulo customer discrimination). Ya gotta pay the vig. In the Olde Days, as demand softened you just fired employees. Average cost dropped to more closely match market clearing price. Capital heavy production makes that anywhere from difficult to impossible, since they ain't no bodies to fire.

"But Robert, that never actually happens!" Thanks to all the news that's fit to print, we get a case study.
The Headline:
For Cancer Centers, Proton Therapy's Promise Is Undercut by Lagging Demand

Can't get more on point than that. Proton therapy is a five pound cost in a four pound sack of demand. The shit drips over the top. Yuck.
But about 30 years after the Food and Drug Administration first approved proton therapy for limited uses, doctors often hesitate to prescribe it and insurers often will not cover it.

That means there simply may not be enough business to go around.

Or, as has been argued in these pages more than once: if only the 1% have healthcare, even they won't be able to afford it. Another bone oft picked here: Say's Law, aka supply creates it's own demand. Laffer being the modern zealot of that knucklehead idea. Were it true, we'd never have recessions, much less panics and depressions.
At Indiana, he added, "we began to see that simply having a proton center didn't mean people would come."

What's even worse is that such machines seem to be no better than regular treatment.
But its pinpoint precision has not been shown to be more effective against breast, prostate and other common cancers. One recent study of lung-cancer patients found no significant difference in outcomes between people receiving proton therapy and those getting a focused kind of traditional radiation, which is much less expensive.

Remember 2005, when all the smart people in the room told us that skyrocketing house prices were the new normal and that there had never been, and could never be, a nationwide stall in home sales? Remember?

26 April 2018

Old Guys Finish First

Well, now we know, again, that youth ain't all that neat. Jim Keller is now at Intel. Hardware guru is a fair description. At 58, he's had the time to see and do a bit of work. Be still my heart.

We Save Lives

The constant refrain from the most profitable industry (not counting the FIRE parasites), "we need sky-high prices because we save lives", is, once again, belied. Here's the story.
Those who received pumps (785) survived a median of 67 months, compared with 44 months for patients who did not get them (1,583). The result was especially striking, Dr. D'Angelica said, because patients who got pumps were sicker to begin with.

May be there'll be enough backlash to throw the critters out of the swamp.

25 April 2018

Skew You Buddy

A recurring theme in these endeavors: data analysis is helpful only when there's a stable underlying data generation process. Among other things, this makes stat as a tool for macroeconomic policy analysis fraught with danger. The members of that branch of study have been arguing over the structure of analysis. The quants against the historicals. On the whole, historicals have been right. On the other hand, there's the old saw, "economists have accurately predicted 10 of the last 5 recessions!" As an example, here's an interesting post. I'll leave it to the reader to decide whether the effort is Type III error.

An even more egregious error happens when median/mean is relied on. It's also worth noting that one of the few shorts was explicit: they didn't believe an MoA existed. Ouch.
This time around, Celldex had comparison data that strongly suggested its lead candidate, glemba, could provide a survival benefit over chemo for patients with a difficult-to-treat form of breast cancer. Unfortunately, the data came from a subgroup contained within an otherwise failed trial. In retrospect, it looks like several outliers resulted in a lot of wasted resources.
[my bold]

Outliers, on one side of the median/mean, will skew you dead. Not to mention: subgroup post-hoc "analysis" is the Very Big Red Flag biostats. On often wonders why a legit math stat would get within a barge pole's length of such companies. But they do. I guess the money's not bad.

It is all too common for small bios to go all in, given that they have, in general, small pipelines. If I had a nickel for every one of these that generated traffic like, "but there's one guy still alive after 5 years taking WhizzBang250", I'd be sipping tequila on a Caribbean island. ImmunoOncology is one of the bigger deals these days, but there're even spontaneous remissions in cancer and always have been.

With PhARMA constantly braying that it costs $X billion to get "a drug to market" so drugs have to be really expensive to pay for all that, it's worth pondering whether the moolah is funnelled into R&D or mgt. pockets?

20 April 2018

The Asymptote of Progress - part the ninth

Yesterday morning was going to be a Carnac day, in which a missive stating the prediction that FAA/NTSB would demand stepped up inspection of high-cycle engines was to be offered. Never got around to it and, naturally, such was reported later in the day. Which brings us to today's reporting where we get some fruitful quotes about jet engines.
Like the engine on the Southwest jet, two others — one used on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and another on some Boeing 767s — developed cracks. On Tuesday, the same day as the engine failure on the Southwest plane, the Federal Aviation Administration said Boeing 787 Dreamliners powered by Rolls-Royce engines could no longer be flown on ultralong, over-water flights.

The engines are produced by three different manufacturers, but the fact that all three have developed safety issues is prompting questions about the engines' design, operation and their inspection procedures.

The worry is that the flaws are part of a trend as manufacturers push to develop ever more powerful and complex machines.

"We've gotten smarter," said Richard Giannotti, an aerospace engineer. "We can design things to a very low margin with a lot of reliability data to back it up. But when we get to the ragged edge, it doesn't take much for things to go wrong."

Sound like turbofans have reached the wall? Along with Li-ion batteries?

16 April 2018

The Asymptote of Progress - part the eighth

This hot off the presses (7:56):
VALE Vale S.A. reports Iron ore production reached 82.0 Mt in 1Q18, 4.2 Mt and 11.4 Mt lower than in 1Q17 and 4Q17, respectively (13.12 )
Iron ore production reached 82.0 Mt in 1Q18, 4.2 Mt and 11.4 Mt lower than in 1Q17 and 4Q17, respectively, mainly due to management's decision in 2Q17 to reduce production of lower grade ore, reinforcing the positioning of Vale as a premium producer and resulting in higher price realization and better margins since 1Q17. The more intense rain season also affected production in 1Q18.

So, let's make America Great Again with imported iron ore, since we haven't enough in the ground worth digging for. Such a Wonderful Idea.

15 April 2018

The Deplorables - part the second

Yet another series, with unknown length, impelled by the Trumpistas. I'm going to guess that Bevin hasn't the faintest idea that he's indicting his state's redneck deplorables. And he's implicitly demanding that public school teachers be domestic violence cops, in addition to gun-totin', rootin-tootin eraser cleaners. Hillary is lookin righter by the day.
I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them. I guarantee you somewhere today a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were home alone because a single parent didn't have any money to take care of them.

13 April 2018

The Case for Public Goods

Since Orange Julius Caesar is the illegitimate love child of Ayn Rand and Benito Mussolini, we've seen (I'm talkin Pruitt, Ryan, et al) the rise of Social Darwinism to never attained heights. Which brings us to this "study".
When curing a disease with gene therapy is bad business

The answer, naturally, is that such science has no business being a business. Especially in the cited cases where the "cures" are for truly rare diseases, and not the faux types which Pharma is jumping into with both feet.

So, where's the moolah going to come from?
Novartis's projections that the treatment could bring in several billion a year in revenue also suggest that the company might charge unheard-of prices, perhaps $2.25 million according to Wall Street bankers.

Society as a whole, through whatever damn gummint insurance exists and "taxing" the privately insured, should shift mountains of money for some basic science?? Time to wake up and smell the coffee. There are public goods, and there's no benefit to piling on gobs of empty profit to the price. The science will out, no matter.

09 April 2018

The End of The World as We Know It - part the second

In today's news
According to Mintel's research, 43 percent of adults eat cereal as a snack at home. Of people who eat cereal, 30 percent choose cereal that tastes good regardless of how nutritious it is.

Stupid is as stupid does. Or as Mrs. Darcy says at the end of that 'Law and Order' episode,
Girl, you're as dumb as a sack of hair.

R.U.R. - part the second

The first installment in what is now another series of data analysis made this point:
The standard whipping boy of the lunatic right, who are clearly conflicted, is the unionized auto worker. On the one hand, they've spent decades demonizing such folks, just the Rust Belt angry white folks who're now out of work. But, now of course, Kim Jong-Don claims that he's their savior. Baloney, of course. Here's a detailed analysis of the way the world really was, at the time of the auto rescue.
A final note on all this: Labor costs only account for about 10 percent of the cost of producing a vehicle.

Today we get the news that Der Trumper Bankster, aka John Cryan CEO du Deutsche Bank, is out the door. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. But, he's not the only one likely to get FIREd in the coming times. Last fall, we heard this:
AI has, however, piled pressure on costs by automating mundane and repetitive tasks. The implication is that employees like the accountants singled out by Cryan as "doing work like robots" are living on borrowed time.

Which raises that nasty existential question yet again: if high-value, high-wage, high-education FIRE jobs are on the bonfire, how is it that education is the key to prosperity? Will we really need millions of new EEs in the coming years? And if so, can your average MBA actually earn the lowly BSEE? My wild ass guess? Not in a million years. It's that Pareto gut punch, yet again.

08 April 2018

The Asymptote of Progress - part the seventh

Another note of asymptote existence. Anandtech just reviewed the latest SSD from Western Digital. For the first time in a while, they implemented their own controller. One of the comments complained that the review didn't reveal the entire design/implementation of said controller. Billy Tallis replied (in part):
We asked repeatedly, and all we could get was that it isn't RISC-V. But every other NVMe controller used in consumer SSDs uses Cortex-R, and there's no reason to suspect WD is doing anything different. There aren't many alternatives.

Which comment points to, at least, two asymptotic factors:
1) CPU availability (not the whole controllers, of which there are legion) boils down to something ARM or RISC-V
2) The designers assert that new principles are becoming rare in instruction set design, as the most successful designs of the last forty years have become increasingly similar. Of those that failed, most did so because their sponsoring companies failed commercially, not because the instruction sets were poor technically. So, a well-designed open instruction set designed using well-established principles should attract long-term support by many vendors.

That second is from the wiki article on RISC-V. This is the quote's link. That old Zeno problem, stepping halfway to the wall. Or as stated in recent missives, CPU is a manifestation of maths, and in the end there will be one "best" resolution to a maths problem. You really should read the whole thing. One, therefore, might wonder how much microarchitecture "evolution" is pointless wheel spinning?
If you are one of the few hardware or software developers out there who still think that instruction set architectures, reduced (RISC) or complex (CISC), have any significant effect on the power, energy or performance of your processor-based designs, forget it.
Not to say that engineering of chip production has hit the wall (it is close, though). (And an amusing stackoverflow discussion.)

The commoditization of even CPU and OS might lead one to ask the next question. What becomes the high-value/high-wage occupations? Do we really need to repeat the fiasco of FIRE burning down the global economy? But if real science/engineering becomes unnecessary (in the creation and production of consumer goods; cosmology need not apply), how should we educate all those little grey cells (yes, that's not original, and you should look it up) for what sorts of work? The soft questions are always the most difficult to answer.

And, it turns out, that RISC-V machines are being made. Not all is peaches and cream, naturally. A short tour of the innterTubes will dig up criticism. But CPU was, is, and always will be a manifestation of maths, and as every other type of maths, there's one best way to do it. Guido says so.

06 April 2018

Parts is Parts

"Parts is parts"
-- Wendy's ad making fun of Mickey D

I've been waiting for some time for the primetime pundits to figure something out. Which is that much of China's "exports" to the USofA isn't visible as such. So today, (I hate) Neil Irwin and Paul Krugman both point to the real issue. Which is that red-blooded, God fearing American corporations use Chinese labor and capital to a significant extent. That iPhone is a Chinese "import", even as Apple is an "American" company.

When Apple assembles an iPhone in Zhengzhou and sells it in Shanghai, that doesn't count as international trade, though the profits accrue to the benefit of a California-based company. The Chinese government has any number of tools to try to weaken that business if it wishes. It could decide that phones made by a foreign company are a national security threat, or shut down plants because of minor regulatory problems.

China is the Great Assembler: it's where components from other countries, like Japan and South Korea, are put together into consumer products for the U.S. market. So a lot of what we import from China is really produced elsewhere.

Just as American capital fled New England for the Rebel South, and then Mexico; they now decamp to China. The impact on American labor is not subtle, which fact played into Orange Julius Caesar's paranoid mind (note to self: some praise paranoia), and he lied on it to the Throne. As previously noted, the USofA no longer has the raw materials to make primary steel or aluminum in quantity. The salvation of redundant coal miners and steel workers is socialism. Taxing, which is what tariffs do (just read up Smoot-Hawley), just makes things worse for everyone. The right wingnuts, naturally, cry "but Pareto says you can't redistribute!!". There are only two choices; 1) let them perish or 2) support them. Socialism makes the support explicit and efficient. Tariffs and other market meddling only rewards the 1%, mostly.

Here's some arithmetic about the issue (2011):
[T]he total wholesale value of the iPhone — for the 3G model it was about $180 — goes on the Chinese import side of the trade ledger. As a result, says economist Rob Feenstra of the University of California, Davis, "The U.S. trade deficit with China tends to be exaggerated."
In a much-talked-about paper, Chinese economist Yuqing Xing took a stab at the figure. "If you look at the manufacturing costs, China's contribution is $6.50."
He says that figure represents the actual cost of assembling each iPhone. And he concludes that if that number were used instead of the entire wholesale cost, the U.S. trade deficit with China would shrink by roughly $2 billion.

So, we know that the net Chinese imports, and by net we mean product fully created within China with Chinese materials and capital and labor, is far less than the $375 billion (yes, Orange Julius Caesar brays $500 billion) that even the mainstream pundits state.

The moral of the story: figures don't lie by liars figure.

03 April 2018

The Left Behind - part the second

Every now and again, I get the feeling that Krugman reads me as much as I read him. He gets paid to do so. Alas, I don't get paid on either end of the process. Nevertheless, today brings a timely example discussing the left behind phenomenon. Not surprisingly, he reaches much the same conclusion, and offers up some useful quotes from others.
On the economic side, some parts of America, mainly big coastal cities, have been getting much richer, but other parts have been left behind. On the political side, the thriving regions by and large voted for Hillary Clinton, while the lagging regions voted for Donald Trump.

See, he even says "left behind". I should have copyrighted that. Likely would have been sued by that nutball Christian cult, though.

The most interesting part of the text is taken from recent academic writings (I know; that makes it Fake News to the rednecks) on regional economics.

He references a 2012 book "The New Geography of Jobs" which I haven't known,
As a result, these regions are experiencing a virtuous circle of growth: Their knowledge-intensive industries prosper, drawing in even more educated workers, which reinforces their advantage.

And at the same time, regions that started with a poorly educated work force are in a downward spiral, both because they're stuck with the wrong industries and because they're experiencing what amounts to a brain drain.

Crooked Hillary got roasted, of course, when she stated the obvious: her voters represent 65% of US GDP. Now you know the details.

The most astounding finding: from the socialism of FDR and subsequent Democratic administrations which saw the poor Red states move upwards, we've had them fall very much back near where they were (in a relative measure) prior to FDR thanks to their voters' insistence on installing right wingnut governments at the local, state, and Federal level. At some point you just have to say, "well, you want to live in shit, so be it".

Once again, with feeling: since Reagan (that's 38 years and counting) the Right has controlled
House: 20
Senate: 22 (Cheney effect)
White House: 20 (if Orange Julius Caesar finishes, which is not quaranteed)
Supremes: 38

To put it more succinctly:
Reagan had: 2 out of 3 for 6 years
Poppy Bush had: 1 out 3 for 4 years
Clinton had: 2 out of 3 for 2 years
Dubya had: 3 out of 3 for 6 years (Cheney gave control)
Obambi had: 2 out of 3 for 2 years
Orange Julius Caesar has: 3 out of 3 for 2 years, so far

In that period, only Dubya and Orange Julius Caesar have had Congress for more than a single session. And the Right has had the Supremes for the whole time. Those left behind have done it to themselves. Whenever they've made some progress, it was the Democrats that gave it to them. Low informatin ingrates, all.