Sunday, March 29, 2009

What If We Actually Check the Math?

So in this article, the author talks about how shutting off computers at night saves energy. So, outside of his outright Algorism, he gives a statistic to appeal to people like me, those who actually have a brain and choose to use it. He says,
If you run a company with 1,000 PCs left on overnight, you can save about
$28,000 a year if they are turned off after hours. That's not chump change.

Okay, let's break that down. That means for one computer, you would save $28 a year in electricity ($28,000/1000). Okay, well, what is that in perspective. Time to go back to the article. The guy also says,
I leave my laptop running overnight because I know it'll take five minutes or
more to get things going in the morning -- not just booting up, but launching
the various apps I start the day with, downloading my overnight email, filtering
out the spam, and otherwise "getting settled."

Okay, 5 minutes eh? Let's assume that is true. (My laptop running Vista takes a heckuva lot longer, but let's call 5 minutes a conservative estimate.) So, how time is that in a year? Well, there are about 260 working days in a year. So that 5 minutes per day for 260 days is ...dun da dun... 1300 minutes, or 21.67 hours. Hmm...more than 20 hours per year wasted in booting up a computer? How much time does that cost? Well, I don't remember what the racist minimum wage is these days, but assume $10 an hour for a nice easy number (and one that is pretty dang close to accurate).

Time for the big reveal. So, shutting off one computer saves $28 a year in energy. But...but! Starting up that computer each morning costs the firm $216 dollars a year in wasted time on the clock. Yeah, something tells me leaving it on is better for the company.

(Now reading the comments, a few people mentioned that they used that wasted time to get coffee, which I won't discount. But remember, we are talking $28 vs. $216. And, that assumes everybody gets coffee. What about those who don't drink that stuff?)

Oh yeah and point number two to remember, at least for companies that would have 1000+ computers. Where I work, overnight is when the IT staff runs updates and installs new programs/security patches. So, yeah, actually, it is better for our computers to be left on overnight. Then again, something tells me that level of detail is beneath this author. (And, for those of you complaining about anecdotal evidence, where do you think the 5 minutes comes from? It is the author's anecdotal time. I just used it because I didn't have an accurate figure and I wanted to stay close to what this idiot's math would have been had he performed the same math that I did.)

Finally, remember that this author is essentially parroting the religious line about anything we can do to save the planet is worth it. Brain power and actual analysis is a sin in that religion, mainly because they are following their Pope, Algore.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What is 5 Months Worth to You?

So yeah, a study just reported that "cleaner air adds 5 months to average U.S. lifespan."

Okay, let's assume that the study is correct. (Without getting into it too deeply, it should be noticed that this study automatically suffers from the Thank You for Smoking complaint, i.e. that because taxpayer funds paid for this and it is based on government law, then the scientists have a "stake" in its outcome just as cigarette makers had a stake in smoking studies.) So cleaner air adds 5 months. What isn't mentioned is the cost of the programs.

Why do I say this? Well, what is 5 months worth to you? Think about it. For some people, 5 months is priceless. But to others? What if those months were spent in a coma? What if you spent those months in tremendous pain? For some people, they willingly end their lives early to avoid that pain. So those months are worth zero.

See, life is about trade-offs. You do this everyday. Cars are one of the most deadly items people use and yet we willingly take that risk to get to where we need to go.

When you hear this story, you have to ask, is it worth it? Are the trade-offs worth it? Remember, the number one guaranteed killer is poverty. Everything else is chump change compared with that. So, if these 5 months cost us enough, poverty will make us lose those extra months.

So is it worth it? From what I know, probably not. But as that gets into the corruption of a current Senator and former Klansman, it is probably best left to another post.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Doofus In Action: NBC and The Office

So okay, I have this pet peeve when people act like idiots, it frustrates me. So, here we go.


On The Office tonight, the main story line is that Andy finds out Angela is cheating on him with Dwight. So, the two fight. Well, it turns out Angela was cheating on Dwight so the guys decide to break up with her. Okay, no big deal. Except, right before the station goes to commercial, NBC decides to try and get people to come to their website by promoting "Angela and Andy's Wedding Page." Yep, check out pics and stuff about a wedding that was just called off 15 seconds earlier.

Now sure, I understand this is just a TV show, but we are discussing timing and decisions made by NBC. A foolish act makes someone a fool. Is it that odd to expect competency? I hate commercials; I don't go to TV network websites; don't compound the mistake by acting like a doofus. Is that really too much to ask?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A New Term for Government Interference: "Removin' Cats"

Okay, so each time some self-centered politician puts forth a plan for government to do SOMETHING, we all should remember this story.

Well, so on this island in Australia, scientists and other "experts" decided to remove feral cats to save the bird population. Okay, no biggie right? These guys are EXPERTS; they can't make a mistake. Or can they? Bwaa hahahaha!

Yep, of course they screwed up. Life is much more complex than scientists can even imagine. Adjust one thing and something else changes, but not the thing they were expecting.

So what happened here? Well, turns out those cats were a check on the rabbit population. So remove the cats, the rabbits multiply...well, like rabbits. Turns out rabbits eat the vegetation that birds need to hide. So of course, birds were screwed!

Well, if you read down in the article, it turns out that neither cats nor rabbits were native to that island and that other experts said that the scientists needed to get rid of the rabbits either before the cats or with them. But, then again, that might have let other animal populations change, once again suffering from the same elitist attitude.

So what can we take from this story? Well, look at "global warming." (And yes, that is now in quotes because, as Algore is finding out, the Earth is cooling. Oh dang!) Remember, scientists can barely predict the weather for the rest of the week; and they are somehow able to predict 100 years in the future? Ahh, no. What about other complex systems? Anytime a politician chooses to get involved in the economy, think of "Removin' Cats" cause that can only be trouble. I mean, if these scientists can't figure out what rabbits are going to do, simple rabbits, how the heck are they supposed to know what HUMANS are going to do? Yeah, humans are much more complex than rabbits. (Can you say elitist? I sure can.)

By the way, some scientists DID understand what was going to happen, but that doesn't discount this idea; in fact, it enhances it. See, these scientists were IGNORED! Can you think of economists who have been ignored in these "Chicken Little" calls for more government? Yeah, there are quite a few. See, that is the other half of this. Not only do the "experts" make some critical errors, they also tend to politicize the process, eliminating other points of view from the discussion. So someone who has at least an idea that a complex system is complex is ignored. And so, we get politicians "Removin' Cats!" (Use that phrase whenever you can cause it is awesome, mainly cause this story is just hilarious.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

When Does a Victim NOT Get a Choice?

Okay, so here is an update on the Roman Polanski case. If you don't remember, this guy got convicted 30 plus years ago for raping a child but before going to jail, he fled to France (which doesn't extradite). Well, he is trying to get his case thrown out and there is an update to the story.

See, here is an article discussing how the girl he raped wants the case thrown out. Okay, basically this lady is saying by bringing the case up again, she has to relive what happened to her.

Okay, I say this lady doesn't get a choice. Now, that may sound harsh, but hear me out. No, she can't ask for the case to be thrown out. Why? Because if she did, and they throw out this case, it would set an awful, AWFUL precedent. If his case gets thrown out, it means he won't have served any time for his crime. Now, in another article, the lady said that Polanski had been forced in exile and that was bad enough for her. But no, that ain't the way it works. Living in freedom in another country is not the same as living in a tiny cell in an American prison. And if he gets off for this horrendous crime, all any other rapist would have to do is flee to France and viola, no more prison time.

Now, some may say that is absurd, but is it? Is it absurd to think that maybe rape is an evil thing and that it should be punished? Heck no!

Let me leave you with one last thing. Do you know there are people who have done way less, WAY LESS, and have spent more time in jail than this rapist? Anyone whose sole crime is smoking marijuana is treated worse than this guy. Heck, there are currently men and women who have been convicted of prostitution, the selling of sex, that have been punished more than this guy who raped a child. If that doesn't make you think, I don't know what will.

Yes, this lady is probably mad her story is being told again; I understand that. But guess what? She doesn't get a vote on whether this guy broke society's laws! There are far too many people being prosecuted for truly victimless crimes; in an obvious case with an actual victim, there needs to be some dang punishment.

Forgiveness is one thing; punishment is something completely different. And an Oscar...well that ain't punishment!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Do You Swim Without Lifeguards On Duty?

So, I have a question for you. Do you swim in pools that don't have lifeguards on duty? I do. Think about at hotels. (I have seen that disclaimer quite often.) Come to think of it, the only time I could ever say I swam in a pool with a lifeguard was when I was taking swimming lessons. And, truth be told, I think the lifeguard was the instructor in the pool with us. (Of course, we were all kids about 7 or 8 years old that were taking lessons, i.e. we couldn't swim, so does that really count? I don't know.)

Why do I ask that question? Well, let me ask you something that I don't have a statistic on. How many people drown in pools without lifeguards? (To be honest, let's make sure we don't count non-pools or personal pools where a lifeguard isn't an option.) Are you more likely to drown in a pool without a lifeguard? Probably. Common sense says yes, but it doesn't matter. What we need to ask is, "what is the amount of lives saved by lifeguards at what cost?" While people argue about how many lives are too many, I am one that uses a pretty simple logic: if something is widely used and less than 100 people die per year, then I really don't care. (Do more than 100 people die in pools each year? Who knows. But it really doesn't matter with my main point, which I am just now getting to.)

Okay, that was kind of long and convoluted, but here is why I mention it. A lifeguard is like a regulator. People give lifeguards and regulators responsibility that they would normally keep in their absence. (This is also similar to helmets and pads worn by children on bikes; when they have them, they are more likely to screw around and be more reckless.) Well, this idea has been written about by author Sheldon Richman in his article "Madoff Scandal Exposes Government Failure" and discussed by Richman (who is the editor) on the Foundation for Economic Freedom blog. I want to quote the parts Richman himself quotes.

[A] false sense of security is worse than none at all. When people believe government is protecting them from bad financial services, they are more vulnerable to scams than if they knew they had to protect themselves. The government’s huge regulatory apparatus broadcasts one unmistakable subliminal message: Have no fear because Big Brother is watching over you. Is it any wonder that people are less wary than they would be if they did not believe that?

As long as government plays a regulatory role — or people believe it does — they will assume that key activities are being monitored. And even when an activity is known to be unregulated, the implication is that if regulation were needed, government would be doing it. Why else did worldly investors fall for Madoff’s self-described “giant Ponzi scheme”?

The call for regulation assumes — without grounds — that government can protect investors from con men. But government regulators have never been able to make good on that promise. Con men prosper no matter how much the government regulates. They often understand the system better than the people running it. (Madoff was an insider!)

See, the mere existence of the regulators makes people believe they are safer and thus take more risks. (Richman also discusses the idea of "if needed, it would exist" that is also important.) Think back to the lifeguard example, but let's move it to the beach (like Baywatch) to make this connection easier. (Mind you, I have never swam at a beach with a lifeguard either so pools are my first lifeguard instinct because of the "No Lifeguard" disclaimer.) If there is a person in a red suit, are you likely to swim in a strong undertow No, because the lifeguard pulls people out of the water. So when a lifeguard is on duty and people are swimming, people assume there is no undertow or sharks nearby right? Cause if so, then nobody would be swimming. Well, that is what Richman's second paragraph gets at, the "if needed, it would exist" idea. But if there is no lifeguard, then people choose not to take risks and swim stupidly; they take responsibility for themselves.

By having regulators, by the mere existence of regulators, people don't take responsibility for their actions. We see this situation when we are discussing lifeguards, but few want to admit it when discussing regulators. And yet, it is the truth. At least someone decided to write an opinion piece pointing it out.

Quick Shots: NFL Fantasy Ad

So while watching the NFL Playoffs, the NFL has this ad promoting the NFL's fantasy game. Only one weird thing. The people they show in the ad all have a win-loss record adding up to 14 games. Umm...yeah, the football season is 16 games, 17 weeks when you add each team having a bye week. So does the NFL's fantasy program not run the first 3 weeks of the season or something? Just odd. Oh well. At least that is one thing I never got addicted to, fantasy sports. Something to be thankful for I guess. Hehe.

A Study About Racism Shows REAL Racism

Okay, so here is a story about a psychology racism study. To summarize briefly, non-black students are picked for this study where some read a situation and others see it acted out. So, a room has a black and a white person and while leaving, the black bumps the white. After the black person leaves, the white person does nothing or says "hates when black people do that" or says the N-word. The participants are then told the experiment is starting and to pick one of the two as a partner.

Okay, the researches found that even though people would say they wouldn't pick the racist white person when reading the story, those who saw it acted out picked the white person by a larger margin.

So, yeah, the research is what it is. I have a basic comment on the study itself at the end, but I would really like to comment on what is being unsaid. Where is the study of black people? No really, where is that study?

From the article's description, I am assuming Asians and Latinos were part of the participants. But there couldn't be black people! So finding non-blacks are hypocritical of sorts is fine and all, but where are the black people? So what you may be asking? Well, the problem may not lie with the researchers but with the news reporters. (Doesn't it usually? Hehe.) See, saying non-blacks have a gap in what they say vs. what they do is one thing, but isn't it racist? Without a study examining black people as participants, this report is implying that blacks aren't racist, even though some of the most famous black "race relations" people are as racist as a white supremest. (Yes, I am talking about Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton here, but there are far more examples as well. And, unlike David Duke and his ilk, these jackholes are idolized by the media. Now who's the racist, eh?)

Okay, here is my one problem with this study. Even though someone makes a racist statement, it is difficult to say why others do what they do. Sure, when reading the story, you can think one thing, but when you see it acted out, there is another variable: the actors. Let me make this real by using myself as an example. Sure, I wouldn't care for either comment, would that make me more likely to pick a black person as a partner? Maybe, maybe not. Growing up in pretty much an all-white area, how comfortable would I be with a black partner? (Having had some in school, my reaction is different from when I graduated high school.) But if given a choice? I probably would still pick the white person; not from any overt racism, but because that is what I am comfortable with. Now, this is why you need a black participant study. Would black people choose the black partner because that is what they are comfortable with? Maybe, maybe not. But is that really racist? Not really. This is kind of like picking a male or a female as a partner. It depends on the people involved. In today's society, if I didn't know either person, I would probably pick the male simply because there is less risk for me. (Remember, think worst case scenario. The risk of me finding a femi-Nazi would be something to worry about. Is that sexist? No, cause I admit the guy could be a femi-Nazi, but he can't say I oppressed him because he is female. Even something as unlikely as that can play a part in who we would choose.)

There is another side of the actor situation to think about: the black actor. While I won't disagree that the two comments the white person said are racist, the black person not saying "I'm sorry" is rude. Thinking like myself again, I can ignore racist comments; do I want to deal with a rude partner? No, that is not to say rudeness is worse than racism, but remember, participants are told to pick a partner. If the participants are white, then they won't have to hear racist lines that often right? But, they would still have to deal with a rude partner. (Let me give you an example of this from a more legal standpoint. Say you have to choose between two criminals which will spend time alone with you in your house: a thief or a child rapist. Now, nobody would say a petty thief is worse than a child rapist, but put yourself in that situation. As an adult, do you have anything to fear from the rapist? Eh, probably not. But, how about a thief? Sure, that criminal could steal tons of stuff. So which would you choose? Remember, you don't have to like either person; you have to be around them. Can you see where I am coming from with this critique?

See, just because something appears to be racist, humans are bloody complicated. Unless someone says, "Hey, I'm a racist," you can't really say with any certainty. (That leads to an issue that I will look at briefly with this study, the idea that people tell researches what they want to hear. If you read a story featuring a racist, you are probably going to recognize that and say you would avoid the racist; if you see the act, there is the chance you could do the same, but then again, you might not pick up on it as easily. Though, that says people could be more observant when reading than participating. Also, did the researchers make sure people were fully paying attention to the act? If reading something, you end up saying the racist statement and you notice it; if you are experiencing the racist comment, do you always pay attention to it? I am not saying you would be fully distracted, but how often do you have people say something and you have no clue what they just said? Far too often for me unfortunately. I can't say whether the researchers asked the participants if they even noticed the racist comment or not. Now what would it say if someone heard it but didn't think it was a problem? Or, what if they just blindly ignored it cause it was racist? Wouldn't people who ignore racist comments be likely to still pick the white like my rudeness example above?)

Anywho, hope this rant made sense. It was hard to write this cause I had so many tangent thoughts and it was hard to keep a steady stream of thought. I hate news reports of academic studies because they don't always say if the researchers examined other explanations and I don't feel like trying to figure out what the heck the academics are talking about most the time. There are definitely some issues with this study, but I can't say with any certainty whether the researchers examined them or not. Oh well. You never know what criticisms have been levied against a study and what ones were actually answered by researchers. Just something to keep in mind when you read news stories about academic studies.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Does the Truth Matter in the News?

So yeah, I just have one question. At what point do headlines have to report the truth? Let me give you an example. Take this headline.
One Man's Obsession Saves "Extinct" Species

Okay, that isn't that bad right? No, if he really saved them. But alas, you have to read the story to find out all he did was search another island that hadn't been explored to find the birds. Yeah, they were "extinct" on the big main island, but there was this smaller, hard to reach island that still had them. Were they extinct? No! Would they have gone extinct on this island? No! They only died on the first island because fur trappers introduced foxes to raise for pelts. But, there aren't foxes on the other island cause it was too hard to get to so no trappers went there.

So at what point does hyperbole become outright lying? Because last I checked, they weren't extinct. And if you take the view that scientists thought they were extinct (cause they didn't know about the smaller island), then fine, but then he didn't "save" them now did he? If that is your view, then the headline should be "One Man's Obsession FINDS 'Extinct' Species." I could live with that; that would be true.

Is it really that much to ask news reports' headlines to tell the truth? Guess so....