Yesterday I worked on my post about John Tukey and his contributions to statistics, data analysis, and my cell phone addiction.
As I did research to supplement my personal knowledge about Dr Turkey— near the end of his life, a good friend did work with him and one of my grad school professors (Bob Abelson) was one of his most influential students — I noticed the brevity of the bio in Wikipedia about him (less than a half a window on my computer) and contrasted this to the large number of screens of information available on the Kardashians, Justin Bieber, Rodrigo Borgia, Al Capone, and Richard Nixon. Even R2D2 has a much longer biographical entry.
At many times the Internet is like ancient Rome (bread and circuses) or an episode of (un)reality television.
I dread to think how the aliens in the next galaxy are going to react when the television waves hit their planets. The two likely responses I forecast will be to either classify humans as a lower life form or to be delighted they have all the episodes of the Kardashians. I am betting on the latter (or probably both).
I was sitting in the office of an individual designated as an “essential” federal employee at mid-morning on November 14, 1995. We were meeting at the US Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration main offices in the Parklawn Building in Rockville, MD.
My federally funded Evaluation and Technical Support Center for a HRSA Initiative on Implementing the zidovudine protocol for preventing HIV transmission from HIV-positive mother to her child during birth was meeting with 10 federal grantees the next day in Baltimore. The meeting was mandated by the HRSA funding agreements.
Each project had at least three staff in transit to Baltimore (most by air) for the meeting the next day. At least one representative of each project was a woman living with HIV/AIDS; this was mandated.
The bell rang at noon in the Parklawn Building. The loudspeakers had started squawking earlier reminding all non-essential employees that they must exit the building by noon. Guards came through the building reminding people to leave. It was eerie to be in the second-largest US federal office building with almost no other people around.
I met with the essential employee, the head of a very large program on HIV/AIDS treatment. She could not tell me whether to have the meeting the next day. While she could guarantee that the representatives from the projects would have their travel reimbursed she could not tell me whether the scheduled meeting rooms, scheduled food service, and other costs would be covered although she would allow me to pay for costs already agreed to through contracts with the hotel. She did note that we could not use use the meeting room we had paid for nor eat any of the food we had pre-paid. The meeting would no longer be a federal meeting. Everybody there was just a private citizen meeting because they wanted to be there after being stranded by having flown to a mandatory federal meeting that was cancelled without notice. No federal employee, however, could be at the meeting because they were not working and they were not allowed to go to any activity that could be construed as federal “work” since they might then demand payment for their time.
I had to tell this to about 50 attendees at 9 am on Wednesday morning. The Maryland Dept of Health agreed to let the group use space at their offices 15 or so blocks away. Everyone walked over there in freezing rain. Maryland made available a conference room that could seat about 12 comfortably, about 25 uncomfortably, and the rest squeezed in and stood. The State Director (part of the group) lent us her personal 10 cup Mr Coffee to brew coffee. In trying to make enough coffee for 50, I broke it, and when I returned to California, I sent her another one by FedEx because I was a little annoyed that she got very upset that I had dropped the $20 machine and had announced to 50 people that I was the reason there was no coffee.
After about an hour or so of chaos and having everybody totally upset — as they should have been — about having about 15 women with HIV (many with advanced stage AIDS) in an overheated claustrophobic facility along with another 35 people in an overheated claustrophobic facility, I decided that the company I owned would personally guarantee the costs for the meeting facilities and food that had already been paid — if the government asked for the money back from anyone because I had decided that those who had come to Baltimore in good faith could meet in the rooms already paid for and eat prepaid food that was going to be thrown out. As I recall this was probably close to $5,000 or more. Fortunately no one ever asked me for the money back and since I over-ran our budget by far more than $20,000 (which we never billed) in part because the feds had totally screwed up the process, that we were even. And, no woman with HIV had fainted or otherwise hurt herself during the meeting because we did not have healthy conditions.
The grantees were — as would be expected — totally pissed off. The initiative ran for several more years, but in a fairly “inefficient” way. Chaos. The feds went back to work after Thanksgiving, but then went out again for more than a month starting in mid-December when Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton still would not do their jobs. When the budget was settled in mid-January, the government announced it would pay all of the federal employees for all days they had been sitting at home in Maryland and Virginia and the District playing in the snow and worrying about their personal finances.
A demotivated, angry workforce went back to work to deal with a number of demotivated, angry contractors and grantees. It wasn’t the same for another two years.
Obamacare was passed by a majority of the US Congress, all of whom had been elected by the majority of their constituents. It was signed into law by a President elected by the majority of the US electoral voters as specified in the Constitution. When the Constitutionality of Obamacare was challenged by those who did not like it, the majority of the Supreme Court Justices, each confirmed when appointed by a majority of the US Senate, decided that Obamacare was constitutional.
Each step of passing Obamacare into law was done according to the specifics of the US Constitution.
Those attempting to derail Obamacare by using certain procedural technicalities in ways never intended and just plain silly, are acting in opposition to the approved Affordable Care Act passed by the Congress and approved by the President and the Supreme Court according to the procedures specified in the US Constitution.
Are those in Congressional representatives holding the budget hostage Congressional “Leaders” or (in words attributed to Al Gore) “terrorists?”
Today, I hope that the US government will decide to “feed” those sitting around waiting for their US Congress and Executive Branch to meet their Constitutionally assigned responsibilities that the elected officials of the United States have sworn to uphold. Fortunately World War II vets in wheel chairs were allowed to look at the barricaded World War II memorial on the federal mall today (the barriers were lifted by Congress members in front of TV cameras); my further hope is that all of the veterans in VA hospitals get fed dinner tonight whether or not the TV crews are parked in front of the facilities.
Those elected officials who claim that their Tea Party is as much against “taxation without representation” as the founders were in 1776, obviously have not read the Constitution resulting from the actions in 1776. Thankfully, a majority of the Supreme Court justices and the President were in school that day.
Can Big Data/Data Science avoid the train wreck of Big Pharma? I believe that the Big Data disaster will make the Big Pharma issues seem small in comparison.
But the issues will be about the same. A lot of the Big Pharma execs have become quite skilled at “beating the system” using “undocumented science” and many will move to Big Data and employ all of their very “best” moves and tricks. Big Data/Data Science has the potential to hurt the average individual even more than the greediness of Big Pharma.
This afternoon I went to the local Panera and paid by credit card. My bank declined my charge of $4.82. I figured it was the magnetic strip on the card which had failed or that the new trainee using the cash register may have made a mistake. She ran the card three more times and it was rejected. Then I got four text messages from the bank saying that they are rejected my charges. To text me, they used my phone number.
I called. They had put a hold on my card because they had some questions about my charges from the prior few days. The red flag event was that I had made an earlier charge of $9.65 at Panera about eight hours before. Their computer program was not smart enough to figure out that it was not unreasonable for someone to have breakfast at 6:30am at a Panera in Durham and then walk into a Panera in Chapel Hill later in the day with 30 minutes to kill and had a coffee (and a Danish I probably should not have had) while I played with my iPad on their free wireless connection. The computer also questioned the $1 charge at a gas station this afternoon (which the human representative immediately recognized as the established practice of gas stations opening charge lines with their automated payment systems of $1 when you swipe your card and then next day putting a $92 charge on the card for filling the tank). I was also asked if the payment made on the account was one I had made (I asked the customer service rep if she thought that if someone had paid a bill for me that I would tell her it was an erroneous transaction and she laughed for a long time) as well as a $71 charge to a software company outside the US.
They had freaked out because they could not reach me by phone at three numbers that were old ones not active (I know they have my current number because they sent me texts at it and same bank sometimes calls about my other accounts at the cell phone I never turn off and which has a voice mailbox). Of course, if they did not have a no reply text address, I could have responded to the four texts they sent.
Predictive models have been around for a decade or more in banks as they attempt to identify fraud and protect themselves. The episodes I have with my bank about every 2-3 months illustrate what happens when somebody blindly runs predictive analytic programs through big datasets without using some commonsense to guide the modeling process. Just because anyone can buy a $100,000 program from IBM or others for developing predictive analytics does not mean that the model that comes out of the Big Data and expensive program makes any sense at all.
Or that the NSA or FBI or CIA or Google or Amazon models make much sense as they probe your private information.
If a computer predictive system is going to think that somebody is committing credit card fraud because they purchase two cups of coffee at the same national restaurant chain in a day, we are in big trouble.
The bottom line is that Big Data models are going to have to be regulated before some idiot accidentally turns on Sky Net.
Or maybe the problem is that the NSA or FBI or CIA or Google has done it already.
I have wasted much of my professional life (writing time) since 1985 messing around with fonts and formatting indents and outlines and bullets and placement and TABLES and bibliographies while trying to actually create original content. It was always a lot easier to fool around with the next great font or the indent levels on bullets than it was to focus on the content. WordPerfect (I am that old) and Microsoft Word and more recently Apple Pages were not the great steps forward in productivity they claimed to be. [Before 1985 who ever cared what font text was in or how the bullets lined up? In fact, who ever knew what a bullet was before 1985?] I have come to think in recent years that “office automations” may be one of the lowest circles of hell for content creators.
Like many, I have gotten interested in writing environments and other tools that just let you write and don’t tempt you with a font change or better spacing while you are trying to actually finish writing a creative page. If I could only have all of that time spent changing fonts and styles I wasted over 27 years back, I probably could have written two more books.
So far as I can see, I am not the only one who is seeking to get rid of the distractions from Word and Pages and their ilk; there is a booming market on the Mac for writing environments, enhanced text editors, and simple word processors. I downloaded a copy of Ulysses III today after thinking about it for months and agonizing over the choice between Ulysses and Scrivener. [I did something I rarely do and actually made quite a bit of use of the demo versions of each program.] Within the next few days I expect that I will be brave enough to remove Pages and maybe even Word from my Mac. [Yes, of course I am keeping the backups, I am not that brave!] My initial experience is quite encouraging; as many have found writing in Markup (the enhanced text language of most of the current crop of writing environments) the change is for the better.
At the same time that I have concluded that formatting is not an integral part of the creative process of writing original text, I concluded that formatting IS an integral part of the creative process in mind mapping where it can help develop innovative models and methods of visual expression. I have determined this by using both the most elaborate and creative mind map program (iMindMap) that gives you great creative control over visual thinking and other programs that prepare visuals that look like my pencil drawings on file cards. Color and organic looks and clip art and spatial reorganization are integral parts of the visual creative process and become part of the creation.
A Duh Moment: Stop wasting a lot of time on formatting text materials while you are creating them. Invest your “formatting time” into creating compelling visual models using mind maps or alternatives.
There are a number of things that can be done to cut the cost of healthcare while, at the same time, freeing doctors and others to do their jobs better. These improvements cost almost nothing to implement [if all of the constituencies and politicians do not compete to be King Kong].
Visiting legislator who stumbled across this web page? Here’s your chance to act like a grown-up and represent the people of the world, not drug companies nor major research universities nor individual “researcher” egos and retirement funds.
I always look forward to the release of many Apple app updates on Saturday morning with anticipation and fear. At times these updates (really bug-fixes of not-acknowledged problems that should have been initially discovered through enough testing before release) provide useful new methods. At times they introduce a whole new set of bugs to frustrate you, hone your work-around skills, and make you look forward to the next updates.
I guess developers who sell millions of copies of small apps that replicate all of the functionality of another developer’s apps do not feel the responsibility to release a bug-free product after a lot of beta testing. Perhaps this lack of regard for the customer is because a programmer who ignored doing sufficient beta testing therefore releasing buggy and bloated software that probably wasted a year of my professional life went on to become the richest person in the world and pretend that all he ever wanted to do was to solve those six world problems that are simple enough for him to understand.
The well publicized “generosity” of the Gates Foundation is really not that; Gates is simply repaying with no interest a few cents on each dollar taken from the world as excessive profits by a monopoly and the waste of the world’s resources in the loss of billions of hours. Bill Gates should be severely criticized, not lionized for his charitable work; it is a tiny distraction from a life of greed and shirking responsibility for the products you sell. I certainly hope the little guys who “only” make a few million dollars from simple apps will not look to Gates as a role model.
This analysis, that analysis, yesterday’s analysis, tomorrow’s analysis, Uncle Izzy’s analysis … is there anything that is a not a form of analysis? Create your own bullshit anagram and bullshit detector. And then see how well it applies various politicians, political claims, the cable news stations, and others. You’re on your way to become a walking, human bullshit analyzer.
So without much further ado, a new form of analysis. And a make your own anagram template.
We have sequestration and a US Congress that refuses to develop a realistic compromise US federal budget and long-term economic plan. Never one at loss for ideas, I propose that the US Congress initiate the following silent auction. As absurd as my proposal is, it seems no more absurd than the ideas expressed on cable news each night by our “striking” employees (the US Congress). Before starting this auction, I prefer that the Members of Congress and POTUS sit down once and for all and do their jobs in managing the economic future of the USA. Otherwise, they are going to have to conduct something like this auction (currently going on in a limited and inefficient manner through lobbyists and Cabinet Level administrators).
My lack of admiration for the inability of the US Congress and the President to resolve budget issues in a way that will preserve the economic recovery, provide needed services, and balance the budget should be fairly obvious.
What the current sequestration comes down to is that 535 individuals in Congress who make between $180,000 and $240,000 per year, have exceptional health and pension plans, and have $4,000,000 (tax-free) expense accounts that can be used as needed without audit, are simply not giving the tax payer a very going return for their generous salaries and perks.
This needs to stop. If these folks cannot do their job and pass a compromise budget that meets the goals of long-term economic recovery, high priority services, and debt reduction, we should fire and replace them in 2014. After all, the fact that discussions seem to have ended means that 535 well-compensated public employees have decided to thumb their nose as those who employ them and spend their energy appearing on cable news channels or working on their memoirs or using their expense accounts to get into trouble. No business would tolerate such behavior.
If Congress refuses to work on a compromise they should feel the pain. After all, 10s of millions of Americans are currently feeling it. Every day.
Look around at the restaurant or on the subway or on airplanes or at bicycle riders (yup, see it a lot around here) or at store workers or person in the car next to you at the red light or in television shows and at businesspeople, teens, tweens, older adults, hospital patients, hospital doctors, athletes, the disabled, those wearing the most trendy clothes and those dressed in all black with black hats/scarves. Data is streaming into all of their lives: email, texts, videos, music, e-magazines and e-newspapers, web sites world wide, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the local restaurant’s menu. Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Prime, your bank, your doctor, your pharmacy, your local fast food purveyor, extra news and feeds from the sporting event you are attending, the latest Kardashian kamikazi komedy.
The video game is the work of the Devil.
With the exception of an increasingly small percentage of individuals with unlimited data because they were early adopters and have not changed their cellular plans, most of us are paying by the gigabyte. Those with free plans are throttled so that they really cannot use an unlimited amount of data for a fixed price so the fixed prices will go away soon.
Drop data prices, streaming will expand exponentially, the phone companies will make even more money, you will never see your friends in the flesh anymore, family dinners as we knew them in 1960 or even 1980 will be dead and replaced by family members sitting at the same table eating junk food and each watching their own data stream, and no one will want to go to the movie theater or red box anymore. Even the Columbian cocaine lords may go out of business.
Data overload will lead to data addiction and probably result in humanity evolving into the Borg Collective.
We need to make some changes before Skynet and the Terminators become inevitable.
I think the human race has no more than 30 years to evolve before the bytes take over. It will make the “War on Drugs” seem like the good old days and war with the Cylons inevitable. If you thought Big Pharma was going to control your life by promising the end to pain and disease, think again. Big Wireless will be even more insidious and the way Big Pharma has increased healthcare costs significantly will turn out to have been smaller than wireless when the historians look back in 100 years. Wireless data streaming is already starting to become the crack of the next decades.
Turn the Devil’s toys off when you: go home, go to dinner, watch TV, are in a meeting, are in a class, are in a place of religious observances, go on vacation, go to bed, take a shower, go into the bathroom (yup, your screaming boss may be in a toilet stall at DFW or ORD), or go to a friend’s home. Get out of the habit of pulling your cell phone out to take a picture of your family and then checking your email or Twitter account while you are at it. And stop modeling the “cellular data comes before everything else” lifestyle to your kids.
Even Spock turned the data stream off sometimes. Do so and “Live Long and Prosper.”
I confess. In 1979 Pete Bentler and I published an article entitled “Simple Minitheories of Love” in the highest prestige journal on personality and social psychology.
Blame it on the exploits of the greatest psychometrician of his generation and a 28 year-old wanna-be psychometrician, both active personality researchers, trying to convince the field that the new statistical modeling methods (Structural Equation Models; LISREL) they were testing would revolutionize the field (I was wrong on that one, too).
Now ask yourself why neither of these guys — nor any of the other main figures in the fields of psychometrics, sociometrics, personality, social psychology, attraction research — ever went on to start a web site to match individuals on the basis of personality and life style questionnaires (I won’t dignify them by calling them tests); such sites became quite lucrative. This was in spite of the fact that at least one (Huba) had the opportunity to do so during the years when he was the Vice President of R&D for a major psychological testing company and later when most of the other competing testing companies hired him as consultant. Or why did the major personality test developer of his generation and the owner of a psychological testing company (the late Doug Jackson) never consider developing such a product?
See a pattern here? Even the folks who made the most $$$ from psychological instruments and had the most influence in the psychological assessment journals and industry did not develop a Love Site.
I concede that a Love Site may be a good place to find people you might not never meet otherwise through your social and work friends and these might be good mates or sex partners. Or they might be psychopaths, perpetuators of sexual or domestic violence, dependent individuals, or alcoholics.
So far as I can tell from the undisclosed algorithms of the dating sites and their unpublished outcomes, I have no way of knowing for sure if the sites have a good chance of producing a good outcome and avoiding a terrible (and life-threatening) one. I suspect that if there were strong scientific evidence that the sites “work” in both cases, there would be a lot of scientific research published that supports this notion. Where is the incontrovertible evidence? Can I can read it or hear it at professional conventions? Claims on TV that a lot of people got married mean little or nothing without information about comparison groups or negative outcomes.
I would have no problem concluding that the Love Sites are effective if there were psychometric and other scientific evidence that the algorithms used are valid. Without such evidence, I worry that they are more voodoo and “smoke and mirrors” than places where you can find a mate and your date will not result in a rape. Of course I cannot prove my position is right, but neither can the Love Sites. My stance is safer for individuals.
There is that old fashioned system of “meet and greet and respect the people you meet” that did produce so many humans that we now have a problem with world-wide population growth. Sometimes older methods work better if you are patient.
Yeah, I know most Americans do not want to hear this.
You are required to wear seat belts, in part because of the potential for brain injury sustained from a crash.
Football helmets do not provide adequate protection during football games OR practices.
There are lots of alternative sports without the same high potential for brain injury.
Hundreds of professional football players (and their doctors and lawyers) are certain that the players’ current cognitive and motor problems were caused by playing football: they are suing for hundreds of millions of dollars.
Don’t quote the Constitution to me like you do when rational people want to control the sale of guns. The Constitution does not guarantee you the right to kill yourself or your children or your peers by playing a team sport.