Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The power of anecdotes…

March 24, 2020

Trump & Cuomo have jumped aboard the Hydroxychloroquine train, spurred on by pop-docs like Dr. Oz.

Dr. Fauci is “hesitant” because there haven’t been scientifically-pure randomized controlled clinical studies …  just “anecdotal evidence”.

Memo to Dr. Fauci: Don’t underestimate the “power of anecdotes” in shaping decision-making and public opinion.

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In my Business Analytics course, I had students read a couple of excerpts from a book called Think Twice: The Power of Counter-intuition by Michael Mauboussin.

In a chapter called “The Outside View” the author reports findings from a medical study that investigated the relative importance of hard data and anecdotal evidence when patients select from among treatment options for serious health conditions.

Patients were given the hard scientific data about a treatment‘s success rates and an anecdote about a case history.

Some anecdotes were positive (the treatment was a success), some were negative (the treatment failed or had complications), and some were neutral (neither a clear success nor a dramatic failure).

Below is an extract of the study’s results summarizing the percentage of respondents selecting a treatment given the hard data on its success rate and a related anecdote of a specific case’s outcome.

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Let’s drill down …

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Trump: “Maybe I shoulda been a doctor”

March 9, 2020

Let’s start the week on a high note.

Last week, President Trump visited the CDC in Atlanta.

Answering reporters’ questions, he felt the need to substantiate his credentials to be overseeing the COVID-19 response.

His answer — paraphrased above — is classic Trump … this 1-minute video is a ‘must see’.

For skeptics:  His Uncle John Trump was a professor at the MIT,  a recipient of U.S. President Reagan’s National Medal of Science and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.  Uncle John was noted for developing rotational radiation therapy. He was the paternal uncle of Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States. Source

Logical inference: This science stuff is just in his genes.

Case closed.

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P.S. But, I’m not ready to have the guy operate on me.

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The day the music died for Sen. Warren ….

March 6, 2020

Welp, she called it a day … declaring some victory of sorts and pulling out of the presidential race.

She insinuates gender bias, some pundits opine that she was totally inauthentic – having been caught in a couple of whoppers, and some say that her policy ideas were just too radical for mainstream America.

In my opinion, the demise of Warren’s campaign can be traced to a single incident that went viral…

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Has ObamaCare provided more healthcare?

February 19, 2020

Not really: it just covered more people with health insurance?

Since Dems are making ObamaCare an election issue, let’s flashback to a prior post and inject some facts…

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In my consulting / problem-solving class, I always emphasized asking the right question before starting to gather data, doing analyses, drawing conclusions and making recommendations.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Then, would someone please explain to me why the politcos (on both sides) obsess over health insurance coverage (how many people are covered) and largely ignore the quantity & quality healthcare that Americans are getting?

 

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Source: AAMC

My conclusion: More Americans now have health insurance, but healthcare hasn’t increased … it has just been re-distributed.

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Remember how healthcare costs were going to drop by $2,500 for every family?

February 18, 2020

The Dem presidential candidates are making a big deal out of “fixing the healthcare system” … and “cutting healthcare costs”.

That’s noble, but raises a question that’s been bugging me …

Wasn’t Obamacare supposed to do that?

Specifically, Obama — who never lied according to the MSM — told us that every family’s healthcare costs would go down by $2,500.

So what happened?

In 2016 (Obama’s last year in office), employees paid $11,000 out-of-pocket for healthcare … up $2,500 since 2012.

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Milliman – a well-regarded actuarial consulting” firm – has published an annual recap of healthcare spending since 2001.

The Milliman Medical Index tracks the total costs of providing health care to an average family of four covered by an employer-sponsored “preferred provider plan” … that’s about 155 million employees and their dependents.

The total includes the health insurance premiums paid by both the employer and the employee, as well as the actual expenditures for health care paid by the insurance plan and out of pocket by the insured family.

The big news: In 2016, the average healthcare costs for a family of 4 surpassed $25,000 for the first time … the $25,826 is triple the cost to provide health care for the same family in 2001 … and up about $5,000 since 2012.

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The bad(est) news is the increased proportion of the healthcare costs being shouldered by individual employees …

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Reprise: How Beef-Loving Voters Can End Up WithTofu

February 7, 2020

Was Biden a victim of the process or simply an awful candidate?
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This is from the HomaFiles archives – one of my favs.

The original WSJ article was inspired by Clinton’s win over elder Bush (the Perot factor), younger Bush’s win over Gore (the Nader factor), and Jesse Ventura’s gov win in Minnesota.

But, the analysis has current relevancy given the Iowa (partial) results.

Let’s look at how election processes influence results…

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Reading minds to discern intentions…

January 30, 2020

OK, Trump delayed aid to Ukraine and encouraged Zelensky to look into the Biden’s million dollar fauz-job scheme.

But, did he delay aid it because (1) he didn’t think other countries — more dependent on peace in Ukraine — were paying their fair share, or (2) he thought that a VP taking a million dollar bribe — albeit disguised — was corrupt, or (3) he was shaking at the prospects of facing Sleepy Joe in the election and wanted to kneecap him, or (4)  some combination of the above.

The question boils down to how can you discern a person’s intentions?

An opinion piece by Sharyl Attkisson in The Hill titled “Democrats can read minds” crystalized something that’s been bothering me for awhile.

Remember when IG Horowitz outlined 17 (or more) mega-errors in the FBI FISA process.

Though all of the miscues were material and in the direction of securing warrants to surveil Trump campaigners, Horowitz asserted that he didn’t have testimonial or evidential proof (i.e. “smoking guns”) that the “mistakes” were the result of political bias.

Said differently, Horowitz refused to draw a conclusion re: motivation because “I can’t read minds”.

Fair enough.

The  FBI / FISA situation was reminiscent of Comey’s press conference re: Hillary’s transgressions…

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Psych 101: The one thing that I remember…

January 10, 2020

Long ago, one of my students  observed that students  remember, at most,  one or two things from any course they take.

At the time, I would have bet the over on that one … at least for my courses!

Over time, I’ve concluded that he was more right than wrong and that I would have lost the bet.

Partial evidence: I sometimes self-test on what I remember from courses that I took long ago in college and grad school.

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Fast forward to today.

One of my friend’s daughters is graduating today with an degree in psychology.

That prompted me to think back to my undergrad Psychology 101 course.

Here’s what’s stored in my long-term memory…

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Jeopardy Math: What’s the most money that the a contestant can win on one show?

January 9, 2020

Here’s the solution to yesterday’s question.

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Note: Refer back to yesterdays post if you need a refresher on the question and the Jeopardy game essentials

See Jeopardy Math: What’s the most money that a contestant can win on one show?

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OK, let’s get started with the Jeopardy round’s gameboard:

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For starters, assume that our contestant first-buzzes and correctly answers all of the gameboard’s questions.

Each category has questions totaling $3,000 … and there are 6 categories … so the gameboard has an “displayed total value” of $18,000.

That’s not the most that a contestant can win in that round because it doesn’t consider the impact of the hidden Daily Double square.

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Jeopardy Math: What’s the most money that a contestant can win on one show?

January 8, 2020

You don’t need to be a Jeopardy fan to solve this math problem.  Try it!

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Last night, Jeopardy stated running a special tournament head-to-head matching former super-champs Ken Jennings (longest winning streak – 74 games), Brad Rutter (most winnings including special tournaments) and James Holzhauer.

James Holzhauer – a professional gambler –  won $2,714,416 in his 33 appearances. His $82,255 average daily winnings uber-eclipsed other Jeopardy contestants.

See our prior post How a “professional sports gambler” is disrupting Jeopardy for a recap of his strategy

I was chatting with a friend who is a Jeopardy fan and former insurance industry exec.  The question on the table was whether Jeopardy has an insurance policy to cover a runaway daily winner like Holzhauer.  If yes, what’s the insurance risk?

Analytically, that led to today’s math problem: What’s the most that a contestant can win on one show?

For reference, Holzhauer won more than $100,000 five times  … his best day ($131,127) is an all time Jeopardy record. A typical Jeopardy winner hauls in about $25,000 per show.

Today, I’ll set-up the problem.  Again, you don’t have to be a Jeopardy fan or know the rules.  I’ll tell you all that you need to know to solve the problem.

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The perils of long-term financial planning…

December 24, 2019

A couple of months ago, we alerted readers that Congress was targeting frugal estate planner by considering an end to so-called “stretch” IRAs.

Well they did it.

While folks were fixated on a shiny object, Congress passed a massive spending bill … with some of the outrageous spending being funded by limiting IRA benefits..

Why’s that important?

Here’s our original post, in case your memory needs a jogging…

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According to a WSJ recap…

Conventional financial planning wisdom has been to put as much money as possible into IRAs and 401Ks … starting early, maxing plan contributions, benefiting from company matches, growing accounts tax-free … and, if you don’t end up spending all of the dough in retirement, pass anything left in the pot to heirs.

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While that basic logic still holds, Congress is moving to throw a monkey wrench into the works by substantially increasing the tax burden on heirs.

Here’s what’s going on…

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Ken’s UEI (Ultimate Economic Indicator) … the real gauge of the economy.

December 16, 2019

Recently, I placed an Amazon order for a pair of shoes … checked ‘free shipping’ (not Prime) … and it took 10 days for the order to arrive on my doorstep.

Why is that important”

There are a lot of indicators bandied about to ‘prove’ how well or poorly the economy is doing.

There’s GDP, unemployment, CPI, and many, many other metrics.

Sometimes they provide a consistent view of the economy … sometimes they contradict.

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Well, I now rely on my Ultimate Economic Indicator (UEI). An indisputable measure of economic activity …

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Happy Thanksgiving !

November 27, 2019

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* * * * * 
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Flashback: Obama schools Romney that “Russia isn’t a threat”

November 25, 2019

Watching the Impeachment Inquiry last week I was struck by Dem witnesses’ hyperbolic concern about Russia.

Just a minute guys…

Remember the 2012 Presidential debates?

A key moment was when President Obama ridiculed Gov. Romney’s knowledge of foreign affairs.

Given the current hysteria over Russia, the clip is a classic …  try to stay calm when you watch it

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Here’s more that’ll should make you scream …

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Before climate change, there was the “Population Bomb”.

November 21, 2019

And, there are remarkable similarities.
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Recently, in one of her articulated streams of consciousness, AOC warned that we all would be toast in 12 years if global warming wasn’t arrested.

Time to metal-cube our SUVs and mass-slaughter the bovine-methane creatures, right?

Well, not so fast.

While AOC’s warning may come to fruition, I’m betting the over on the 12 years … in part, because it fits a pattern of hysterical unrealized doomsday predictions.

For example, circa. 1970, Prof. Paul Ehrlich  (Stanford University) wrote Malthusian-inspired book: The Population Bomb. The book became a runaway “scientific” best-seller.

image
Smithonian.com

Ehrlich warned that because of unchecked population growth:

The battle to feed all of humanity is over.

Hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.

All of us will face mass starvation on a dying planet.

While their were some deniers, demographers agreed almost unanimously with Ehrlich’s doomsday prediction ….

(more…)

More: Have colleges watered down their curriculums?

November 15, 2019

A survey of 700 schools answers the question.
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In a prior post, we outlined the criteria and method that the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) used to assess whether students are learning the “essential skills and knowledge” for work and for life.

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In a nutshell, ACTA researchers culled through over 700 schools’ course catalogs and web sites to determine what courses were being offered and, more important, which courses were required of all students.

Specifically, they investigated whether undergraduates are gaining a reasonable college-level introduction in seven core subject areas:

  1. Composition & argumentation
  2. Literature and critical thinking
  3. Foreign language & culture
  4. U.S. government & history
  5. Economics: Macro, micro, behavioral
  6. Mathematics, logic & computer science
  7. Science & scientific experimentation.

Here’s what they found …

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Have colleges watered down their curriculums?

November 14, 2019

A survey seeks to  answer that question.
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In a prior  post, we reported that employers think that most college graduates are poorly prepared for the work force in such areas as critical thinking, communication and problem solving.

See A bigger college scandal than the recent admissions bruhaha…

Let’s dig a little deeper on that sentiment.

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The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) conducted a survey of “Core Requirements at our Nation’s Colleges and Universities” to determine what students are really learning in college.

Specifically, the ACTA survey focused on the courses that a student is required to take outside the major.

These courses — commonly called general education classes or the school’s core curriculum — are, according to the ACTA, “ the foundation of a school’s academic program”.

They are the courses “generally  designed to equip students with essential skills and knowledge” for work and for life.

Here is specifically what ACTA was looking for…

(more…)

More: Have colleges watered down their curriculums?

November 12, 2019

A survey of 700 schools answers the question.
===============

In a prior post, we outlined the criteria and method that the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) used to assess whether students are learning the “essential skills and knowledge” for work and for life.

image

In a nutshell, ACTA researchers culled through over 700 schools’ course catalogs and web sites to determine what courses were being offered and, more important, which courses were required of all students.

Specifically, they investigated whether undergraduates are gaining a reasonable college-level introduction in seven core subject areas:

  1. Composition & argumentation
  2. Literature and critical thinking
  3. Foreign language & culture
  4. U.S. government & history
  5. Economics: Macro, micro, behavioral
  6. Mathematics, logic & computer science
  7. Science & scientific experimentation.

Here’s what they found …

(more…)

What are your chances of dying from ___ ?

November 8, 2019

Yesterday, we posted that men are 9 times more likely than women to be attacked by sharks … and 6 times more likely to be struck by lightning.

Continuing in that vein, here’s a test for you  …

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Rank the the following by the odds that somebody who is in the group or who is exposed to the risk is likely to die.

Make #1 the highest risk of dying in the next year; make #7 the lowest risk circumstance

  • For women giving birth
  • For anyone thirty-five to forty-four years old
  • From asbestos in schools
  • For anyone for any reason
  • From lightning
  • For police on the job
  • From airplane crashes

And the answer is …

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The degree-earning gender gap…

November 6, 2019

An interesting analysis done by economist Mark Perry concludes:

Since 1982, women have earned 13 million more college degrees than men.

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Let’s drill down on those numbers…

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Do students really learn what’s taught?

November 5, 2019

Though I’ve retired from the practice, I’m still very engaged on education issues … especially whether our students (at all levels) are being adequately schooled to compete in the real world.

So, one of my summer reads is “What Schools Could Be” by Ted Dinterersmith – a well credentialed, experience-deep educator.

In a nutshell, author Ted Dintersmith spent a year visiting schools across the nation to identify outstanding teachers and catalog their secret sauces.

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One of the anecdotes that he recounts in the book hit one of my longstanding questions: Do students really learn what they’re being taught?

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“Half of all U.S. colleges to close or go bankrupt in the next decade”

November 1, 2019

That’s the gloomy prediction of disruption guru Clayton Christensen
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And, it’s not just the tidal wave of online programs or ballooning college tuitions.

Moreso, Christensen’s prediction is on track, according to a WSJ recap of economist Nathan Grawe’s “Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education.”

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Grawe’s central thesis: Birthrates have plunged 13% since the Great Recession … and that “birth dearth” will cost America 450,000 fewer college applicants in the 2020s.

Here are some of the specifics….

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Before climate change, there was the “Population Bomb”.

October 31, 2019

And, there are remarkable similarities.
============

Recently, in one of her articulated streams of consciousness, AOC warned that we all would be toast in 12 years if global warming wasn’t arrested.

Time to metal-cube our SUVs and mass-slaughter the bovine-methane creatures, right?

Well, not so fast.

While AOC’s warning may come to fruition, I’m betting the over on the 12 years … in part, because it fits a pattern of hysterical unrealized doomsday predictions.

For example, circa. 1970, Prof. Paul Ehrlich  (Stanford University) wrote Malthusian-inspired book: The Population Bomb. The book became a runaway “scientific” best-seller.

image
Smithonian.com

Ehrlich warned that because of unchecked population growth:

The battle to feed all of humanity is over.

Hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.

All of us will face mass starvation on a dying planet.

While their were some deniers, demographers agreed almost unanimously with Ehrlich’s doomsday prediction ….

(more…)

How do the rich get richer ..

October 30, 2019

… while others seem to just tread water?

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Interesting study reported in the NY Times

The rich really are getting richer …  growing net worth faster than those on lower wealth rungs.

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… and, there’s a logical reason why.

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So, how many “rich” folks are there?

October 29, 2019

Yesterday we reported survey results from Schwab and the WSJ that pegged the threshold for being classified as “rich” or “wealthy” at about $2.5 million.

Just being a millionaire doesn’t make the cut any more.

See What’s the “magic number” that makes you wealthy?

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Source: NY Times

OK, so how many households do make the cut?

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What’s the “magic number” that makes you wealthy?

October 28, 2019

Several years ago I asked a colleague “What do you need to retire?”

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His answer: “$5 million and playmates.”

Playmates?

What he meant was having enough leisure-time folks to hang out with during the day.

So, about the  “magic number” …

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Blame it on a Macedonian “content farm” … say, what?

October 25, 2019

Hillary is back … outing imagined Russian “assets”and rationalizing why  she lost.

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So, let’s flash back to her first book launch…

Remember when HRC perched on a faux-throne at CodeCon and the Javits Center … spilled the beans on why she lost?

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Of course, there are the usual villains: Comey, the Russians, WikiLeaks, deplorables, etc.

But, she’s also starting to turn on her support base: the DNC (bad data, no money, no ground game), mainstream media (for disclosing that she had classified docs on her server), women (both suburban and rural, urbans were ok), and low-information voters (her base !).

My personal favorite: “content farms in Macedonia” … apparently there’s an army of tech savvy social media writers based in Macedonia who turned their cannons on her.

Really?

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Here’s a current list of culprits and ill-wishers …

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Last week on the HomaFiles

October 20, 2019

What’s the impact of declining birthrates on future college enrollments?
Schools will need to adjust their business model … or close their doors.

Why some millennials are fleeing the cities…
Workers with mobile jobs trying to improve their quality of life.

“Making dishwashers great again”
DOE drafting regs to shorten cycle times and get dishes clean

Move over FitBit …
Counting steps is passé … now, count your prayers!

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Why Johnny can’t write …

October 10, 2019

Faculty colleagues and I often bemoaned that there seems to be a consensus that writing skills among MBA students have been declining.

I’m not talking about flowery prose and precise grammar.

I’m talking about logical argumentation … being able to explain why something is happening and what to do about it.

My hypothesis was that colleges aren’t requiring students to take courses (or demonstrate proficiency) in, say, critical thinking or logic … and that college students today aren’t required to write many papers that hone their thinking and writing skills.

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Testing my hypothesis on a middle school math teacher-friend, I got a rude awakening …

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I do my best thinking when I sleep … another scientific rationale.

September 18, 2019

 By default, your brain “defragments” when you sleep.

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In a yesterday’s post, I reported some scientific evidence that most people really do think when they sleep.

For details, see: I do my best thinking when I’m sleeping … say, what?

Let’s take the science a step further…

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First, an analogy…

Have you ever defragmented your computer’s hard drive?

Just in case your answer is “no” – or, you’ve never heard of defragmentation – here’s a short course:

When you save a file on your computer (think: Word, Powerpoint, Excel), the file isn’t stored in one piece.

Rather, it’s automatically broken into smaller pieces … and each piece is stashed in the first place that the computer finds an open space on the hard drive.

Since the file is stored in scattered pieces, the computer has to reassemble it when you subsequently re-open the file.

That takes time … and slows the process.

There’s a process called “defragmentation” that sorts through a computer’s hard drive, eliminates “dead links” and reassembles “live” files into contiguous pieces … making the save & open processes more efficient.

Well, it turns out that your brain comes with a process analogous to defragmentation … it’s called “synaptic pruning” … and it happens automatically when you sleep.

Here’s how it works …

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For climate change zealots: More perspective on China…

September 4, 2019

As the tariff war escalates, it’s a good time to dig into the archives for some climate change perspective.

Loyal readers are familiar with the 16 Reasons why I’m lukewarm on climate change …

Note: I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.

One of my reasons is particularly relevant in our current dealings with China:

Reason #10 that I’m lukewarm on climate change – Letting the perps walk

This one is pretty straightforward …

China has reached record-breaking levels of air pollution that the monitoring equipment can no longer keep track.

Unfortunately, air pollution isn’t just affecting China. Greenpeace states that India is now the world’s worst when it comes to air pollution.

The average India citizen is exposed to 5x as much air pollution as the average Chinese citizen. Source

Ouch!

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And, the revered Paris Accords won’t make things better any time soon…

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Flashback: My dumbest post ever … with a mea culpa.

September 3, 2019

Some may disagree … arguing that I’ve made some posts that were even dumber … but, in light of last week’s DOJ-IG report, I nominate my Dec. 21, 2015 post:

My nomination for President … experience, integrity, leadership.

OK, I’m ready to declare my pick for the top spot.

It’s a long-shot, especially since he’s not a declared candidate.

But I can dream, can’t I ?

I hoping that since the current field – on both sides – doesn’t have a president-ready candidate, that this guy will ride in on a white horse … or, be dragged in …. I don’t really care.

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Here’s his top line bio:

Education: William & Mary, University of Chicago Law School (doubt that he studied under Prof. Obama)

Gov’t experience: DOJ under both GOP and Dem administrations

Business experience: Worked in both the defense sector and the financial sector (not just a political hack)

Proven track record: Has been demonstrably successful in everything he has done

High Integrity: Consistently praised by both ends of the political spectrum  — not for being bi-partisan, but for being non-partisan

Apolitical: He’s clearly “in the game” for the right reasons – to serve the country and its people.

Independent: Earned enough FU-money in his real world jobs that he can’t be bought or swayed.

Orientation: “Gets it” regarding the war on terror … realistic, aggressive

Strong leadership: When the guy talks, I think he’s telling the truth and glad that he’s got a hand on the tiller (think, the polar opposite to Obama’s speech after San Bernardino.)

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Pretty solid, right?

So, who’s my pick?

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Happy Labor Day !

September 2, 2019

Time to reflect…

The unemployment rate is below 4%.

Black and Hispanic unemployment are at an all time lows

Wages have started  to creep up.

And, according to a recent Harris poll, blue collar job satisfaction is over 80%.

Thanks to all who do the heavy lifting so that I can sit back and enjoy my retirement.

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The Chinese cyber-threat…

August 27, 2019

Yesterday, we outlined China’s 9 Principles for Replacing America as the Global Superpower … excerpted from The Hundred Year Marathon: China’s Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower by Michael Pillsbury.

  1. Don’t provoke a powerful adversary.
  2. Turn your opponent’s house on itself.
  3. Be patient to achieve victory.
  4. Steal your opponent’s ideas and technology.
  5. Target an enemy’s weak points rather than relying on an accumulation of brute strength.
  6. Beware political states that have a dominant influence or authority over others.
  7. Deceive others into doing your bidding for you.
  8. Establish and employ metrics for measuring your status relative to other potential challengers.
  9. Maintain a deeply ingrained sense of paranoia.

Today, let’s focus on #5 and drill down on  the Chinese cyber-threat.

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Michael Pillsbury nails the point in his book …

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China’s 9 Principles for Replacing America as the Global Superpower

August 26, 2019

Keep that in mind during the escalating tariff war … there’s a higher purpose. 

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One of my summer reads has been The Hundred Year Marathon: China’s Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower by Michael Pillsbury.

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Pillsbury is a bona fide China expert, having served 8 administrations in a variety of high-level positions in the state and defense departments and having worked for heralded think tanks, including RAND and the Hudson Institute.

Note: To me, the guy seems very credible since (a) he footnotes every major point with compelling source documentation, and (b) he is very self-effacing – often pointing out the mistakes that he had made in his China analyses.

As the title indicates, Pillsbury concludes that China is about midway through a 100-year strategy to replace the U.S. as the global superpower…

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What’s the “magic number” that makes you wealthy?

August 21, 2019

Several years ago I asked a colleague “What do you need to retire?”

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His answer: “$5 million and playmates.”

Playmates?

What he meant was having enough leisure-time folks to hang out with during the day.

So, about the  “magic number” …

(more…)

The (personal) economics of Medicare premiums

August 7, 2019

After paying Medicare taxes for years, weren’t the benefits supposed to be free?
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Yesterday, we argued that Medicare’s payroll taxes can thought of as a mega-joining fee … or, as prepaid premiums that amortize to the equivalent of $10,000 per year over a retiree’s post-65 life span.

See Ouch: The (personal) economics of Medicare payroll taxes

And, we pointed out that the prepaid premiums are just the tip of the iceberg.

Once retired, the Feds collects additional annual Medicare premiums.

This may surprise pre-retirement folks who think that they pay in during their working years, but then get “free” healthcare insurance when they retire.

image_thumb[3]After

Today, let’s take a look at Medicare premiums…

 

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Trump: Inspired by the 1972 Cuban Olympic boxing team?

August 5, 2019

Last week the WSJ ran a piece calling him “Trump: A Brawler for Democracy” .

That calls for a reprise of a HomaFiles post from August 2015 … way ahead of its time !

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Trump: Inspired by the 1972 Cuban Olympic boxing team?

Many of you may be too young to have witnessed and remember, but…

In the 1972 Olympics, the polished U.S. boxing team was predicted to sweep the competition.

But, something happened on the way to the medals’ platform that shocked the sporting world.

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Here’s the story and why Trump’s first days in office jogged my memory of the 1972 Olympics …

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#16 – Why I’m lukewarm to climate change …

July 24, 2019

Reason #16: Pretending that the 1930s didn’t exist.
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For the record: I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.
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During a recent DC heatwave, we did some historical data-digging.

Among the conclusions that we drew was that it was pretty damn hot during the 1930s … when SUVs didn’t roam the earth and factories were operating.at Great Depression levels

Heatwaves in the 1930s lasted longer in the 1930s (over 10 days then vs. less than 7 recently) … and hit higher temperatures (101 degrees then vs. 99 degrees recently).

And, based on a WeatherFacts analysis, “19 (38%) of the 50 U.S. states recorded their (current standing) hottest temperatures in the 1930s.”

More broadly, only 13 states have recorded their highest temperatures since 1940 … and, only South Carolina has set its record in this decade.

Hmmm.

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So, is the globe really warming?

I guess it depends on:

(1) What’s your starting point

(2) What parts of history you flat out ignore

(3) How much you dink with the data … See Dinking with the data  

(4) Where you take your temperature readings and how you combine them into a “global metric” … See What’s the earth’s temperature?

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See all 16 Reasons why I’m lukewarm on climate change …
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Recap: 16 Reasons why I’m lukewarm on climate change …

July 24, 2019

I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.

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For the record, here are 16 reasons that I’m a lukewarmer … with links to the prior posts:

1.   Unsettling science   From “Ice Age” to  “Global Warming”  to “18-year Pause” to“Climate Change”.

2.   Expired doomsday predictions   By 2016, NYC would be swamped, Polar bears would be extinct, etc.

3.  The “97% of scientists” baloney   Oft-repeated doesn’t make it true – here’s the real story

4.  Dinking with the data   Temperature data “adjusted” by the NOAA eliminated the 18-year pause and bolstered the global warming case

5.  Temperature readings – plus or minus   Bottom line: thermometers weren’t very precise in the old days … and still have wide variances

6.  What’s the earth’s temperature?   It depends on the mix of reporting locations and an array of factors at each of them

7.  The Climategate Emails   Climate scientists were exposed hiding exculpatory data for political purposes

8.  Low on American’s worry list   Folks will nod that it’s probably getting warmer, but have more urgent matters to worry about (like keeping their jobs or getting healthcare)

9.  Seen a Volt recently?   Obama vowed a million EVs by now – where are the “believers”?

10. Letting the perps walk   For all practical purposes, the Paris Accords gave the world’s worst polluters – India & China – a free pass.

11. Celebs who “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”   In the aftermath of a flood or hurricane, you can count on celebrities coming forth to bellow “I told you so”  …. even if the facts and the science say otherwise.  You see, science – and its relevance – is always malleable to the cause..

12. When is weather “climate”… and when is it just “weather”?   The short answer: hot spells are “climate”; cold spells are just dismissed as “weather”.

13. The “moral license” that “believers” carry in their wallets.  A rationale for the classic “do as I say, not as I do”

14. Climate change zealots are piss-poor marketers.  “The promotional efforts of the climate catastrophists have lacked the cornerstones of effective persuasion: clarity, credibility, and empathy.”

15. Did Paris just pull out of the “Paris Accords”? Macron enacted a gas tax … then retreated when the mass of working folks objected.

16. Pretending that the 1930s didn’t exist … even though heatwaves were worse then and many states recorded all-time high temperatures in the 1930s

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And, my advice to climate change advocates:

(1) “Re-brand” the cause to fighting pollution — people can relate to that and it gets to the same end-point

(2)  Stop the incredible (i.e. not credible) scare tactics

(3)  Walk-the-talk … dampen the hypocrisy

(4)  Keep an open mind … sorry guys, the science isn’t really settled yet

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Remember how healthcare costs were going to drop by $2,500 for every family?

July 18, 2019

Since Joe Biden is hanging his hat (for now) on expanding ObamaCare (rather than signing up for the other candidates’ Medicare for All (MFA), let’s flashback to a prior post and inject some facts.

In 2016 (Obama’s last year in office), employees paid $11,000 out-of-pocket for healthcare … up $2,500 since 2012.

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Milliman – a well-regarded actuarial consulting” firm – has published an annual recap of healthcare spending since 2001.

The Milliman Medical Index tracks the total costs of providing health care to an average family of four covered by an employer-sponsored “preferred provider plan” … that’s about 155 million employees and their dependents.

The total includes the health insurance premiums paid by both the employer and the employee, as well as the actual expenditures for health care paid by the insurance plan and out of pocket by the insured family.

The big news: In 2016, the average healthcare costs for a family of 4 surpassed $25,000 for the first time … the $25,826 is triple the cost to provide health care for the same family in 2001 … and up about $5,000 since 2012.

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The bad(est) news is the increased proportion of the healthcare costs being shouldered by individual employees …

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Facial recognition: This could be a big idea…

July 12, 2019

Yesterday, we posted how it may be possible to create a facial image  (called a phenotype) from DNA … and bounce it against DMV photo files to ID suspects and witnesses.

And, we’ve previously posted how facial recognition has been gaining traction at airports, in some schools, on Chinese streets and even in some amusement parks.

Recently, NY Gov. Cuomo announced that cameras with facial recognition software were being installed to spot criminals in some of the state’s traffic tunnels, bridges and other choke points.

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More specifically…

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Gov. Cuomo revealed that facial-recognition cameras were already in place at  bridge and tunnel toll plazas across the state.

The cameras scan drivers’ faces and feed them into databases to catch suspected criminals.

“We are now moving to facial-recognition technology which takes it to a whole new level, where it can see the face of the person in the car and run that technology against databases.”

When a match is made, an alarm is triggered for follow-up by law enforcement.

In China, images are posted to real-time digital billboards to shame perps.

See More great moments in facial recognition

My hunch: This is less of a tool to nab petty offenders … more intended to deter or snag terrorists.

That would make it a big idea.

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Of course, civil libertarians oppose the use of facial recognition as an invasion of privacy … and claim that facial recognition is unreliable for children and “persons of color”.

The former is true since kids’ facial structures change rapidly as they age and grow … but, kids don’t drive, right?

The claim that facial recognition isn’t accurate for persons of color is a headscratcher.

Think about it for a minute or two…

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Happy 4th of July !

July 4, 2019

Take a moment to remember how lucky we are …

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What I learned at the beach…

July 1, 2019

Easing back into the “real” world with a couple of takeaways from beach week…

1) While a dying breed, there are still families.  It’s fun being with your’s … and fun watching other families have fun … especially multi-generational families (<= grandparent bias).

2) Kids grow up quickly.

(more…)

Beach Week …

June 17, 2019

Taking a break … back next week.

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Bethany Beach, Delaware

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Words really do matter … especially in a kid’s early years.

June 14, 2019

Interesting study reported in The Atlantic

A pair of psychologists – Betty Hart and Todd Risley –  got curious about why some 3 and 4 year old kids are more academically ready than others.

“They devised a novel (and exhaustive) methodology: for more than three years, they sampled the actual words spoken to young children from 42 families at 3 different socioeconomic levels: (1) welfare homes, (2) working-class homes, and (3) professionals’ homes. Then they tallied the quantity and quality of the words spoken to the kids. “

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The results were – in the words of the researchers – “astounding”…

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Dilbert asks: “Who wants a dangerous man in the White House?”

June 13, 2019

Well, not actually Dilbert … rather Dilbert’s author Scott Adams.

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With all of the MSM “Trump is a wild & crazy guy” hysteria … fever-pitched during the Mexican “play or pay” negotiations … I was reminded of a prior (and once again timely) post.

During the Presidential campaign, Adams hit the nail on the head on his Dilbert blog, …

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Adams observed that, during the campaign, , Hillary’s constant refrain that we can’t have a loose cannon in the White House.  Of course, Dems and the MSM have kept that notion front-burnered for the past 2-1/2 years.

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Adam’s cut to the chase on on “Dangerous Trump”:

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Life in the digital age …

June 12, 2019

Quick: Name the last book you read.

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That’s the simple question Jimmy Kimmel asked people on the street.

The results are predictable … most choked on the question.

You can view the 2-minute clip below … or just take my word for it.

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What  the heck is going on?

(more…)

Mastering math … or anything else.

June 7, 2019

Some insights on the science & practice of learning.

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Interesting article buried in a weekend edition of the WSJ: “How a Polymath Mastered Math—and So Can You”

The subject polymath (a person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning) is Prof. Barbara Oakley.

To make her long story short, she was a self-proclaimed horrible math student in high school, dove back into math in her mid-20s, and is now an engineering professor..

“Her progression from desultory student to respected scholar led her to a sideline in the study of learning itself.”

She is the author of ‘A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra)’ and ‘Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential’.

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Here are a few snippets from the article …

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Star gazing: How reliable are online user ratings?

June 6, 2019

When we’re buying something on Amazon, we all glance at the user ratings, right?

5-stars, it’s a keeper … 1 star it’s a bummer.

Real reviews from real users.

What could be more accurate?

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Some researchers tried to answer that question.

Since Consumer Reports has been in the quality testing business for decades with a reputation for rigor, objectivity and impartiality … So, to test the reliability of user ratings, the researchers took the Consumer Reports’ scores for 1,272 products and compared them to more than 300,000 Amazon ratings for the same items.

Their findings may surprise you …

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