The Spectre of Math

November 24, 2008

yet more cats

Filed under: Economics — jlebl @ 4:03 pm

The cat is bouncing, but it appears to be bouncing down a staircase.

November 20, 2008

dead cats, gas prices, and why are republicans socialists

Filed under: Economics,Politics — jlebl @ 6:03 pm

So I thought the dead cat hit the concrete yesterday end of trading.  So right after open I buy AINV for $8 (about) and within an hour I am down $1200.  Yaikes!  This was not a dead cat, this was a stone thrown into a pond … oh well.

And what about gas prices.  I thought the election was over.  There is no need for low gas prices anymore.  Well maybe it’s just momentum.  I bet they will be up reasonably soon.  Except we won’t have any cars and we’ll be walking to the soup line by foot after we have been scavenging on all the trash that we were so happily throwing out while capitalism and consumerism still worked.

That brings me to socialism and republicans.  I find it odd that the people who are most screaming about how socialism is bad and redistribution of wealth is bad are from states that get more money from the federal government than they pay in taxes.  Example: Alaska.  A through and through republican state and they hate socialism there as long as it’s just a word and as long as it doesn’t mean anything.  The moment you’d try to say: “OK, don’t pay any federal taxes, but you won’t get any federal money,” I’m sure they’d be very upset.

Republicans are selective socialists, they redistribute the wealth from everyone to only small percentage of people.  Normally that would be called stealing by many (by many “right wingers”, whatever that terms means nowdays), but I’ll be nice and call them socialists.

So apparently a lot of this stuff is not the meanings of words but the sound of the words themselves.  Maybe if we start using the word “capitalism” for a working social net, equal opportunity and fair wages, then all the republicans will get on board.

November 17, 2008


Filed under: Personal — jlebl @ 11:05 pm

Yay!  It snowed today.

I hope I get a tenure track position somewhere warmer … or colder, I wound’t mind more snow during the winter, I just don’t like much the cold-but-no-snow winters that we get here.  Best would be a double appointment, spend the summer/fall somewhere colder, and spend the winter/spring somewhere warmer …  Now I’m really being picky.

November 11, 2008

Ebay math

Filed under: Mathematics — jlebl @ 4:11 pm

Somebody should be smacked upside the head. I am not a big ebayer, but sometimes I buy a few things there. Hence I do not have too many “ratings.” Now recently I looked into their page “how are these ratings calculated” because it says my positive feedback rating was 0%. Now this is because I had no ratings in the past 12 months. So far so good, though it does seem arbitrary to then make it 0%, it could have been 100% or any other number just as well.

Now comes the fun part. So they give a formula on how to compute the percentage: \frac{Positive}{Positive + Negative}. Allright, so far so good, except I had no ratings. Next they give their calculation and write:

\frac{0}{0+0} = 0\%

Hmmm … now I know why the ebay interface is so horrible, it is designed by people who think \frac{0}{0} = 0.

November 7, 2008

cats, dead

Filed under: Economics — jlebl @ 1:22 am

This dead cat’s got a lot of bounce.  I don’t think a real dead cat would ever bounce so many times.

November 3, 2008


Filed under: Politics — jlebl @ 11:48 pm

One thing that continually boggles my mind is how much of a mess is the election in the US. For a country that thinks of itself as the “beacon of democracy” it is strange that the process is so tangled and odd. I can only compare to Czech Republic where I also have a lot of familiarity with the system (is it actually possible to be familiar with the US system if it is different in every state and to some degree in every county?). I will not list the many problems with Czech election system. It has it’s own set of issues, but they don’t have to do with the physical election, but rather with what do you do with the numbers. There are very few people who feel disenfranchised, or who feel that the vote totals are manipulated. The process of getting those vote totals and making sure that everyone can vote is completely transparent, and vast majority of the electorate is happy with how the elections happened, even if they are not happy with the outcome. What’s a mess over there is what you do with the vote totals afterwards, that’s for another time.

  1. Voter registration: this is very strange. Why is this registration different from anything else. I still don’t see a problem with national id card and database that every citizen needs to be part of. There are already many such databases, why not have just a single one for voting, social security, etc…
  2. Huge lines. There is something fundamentally wrong with the system. There should be a way to prepare the ballot at home or some such. Voting in Czech takes a few minutes at most, you can prepare the ballot at home, at the polling place they just check your id, you go to a private booth where you can do any last change on the ballot, then you stuff it into a box.
  3. How come it is the party currently in office who oversees the elections. That just seems wrong on so many levels.
  4. Why are some citizens not allowed to vote? (for example felons, but that could include crimes which are not universally accepted as “bad” such as drug related offenses.) This make the voter registration process so much more messy since you suddenly have to worry about eligibility, and some state official who happens to be a member of one or the other party makes those decisions.

In the end, I think that statistically, if we assume that errors and corruption are relatively equally distributed among parties, then the outcome is (statistically speaking) reasonably close to the “will” of the electorate. But the fact that it’s a mess leads to a significant part of the electorate thinking that the election can be (or was) “stolen.” One can assume that after tomorrow, there again will be a large set of people who will believe that the vote totals have been manipulated, and most likely to a certain degree they are in fact right.

On the other hand, if you had the process be completely transparent, things would become lot more boring.

Gas prices

Filed under: Politics — jlebl @ 1:03 am

Is it just a coincidence that the gas prices went down dramatically, just like 2 years ago just before the elections.  Then they went up again.  So I filled up the tank today.

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