Wednesday, May 27, 2009


First, a rhetorical introduction.

Success can breed hubris, as we all know. Granted, one of our goals is to increase our certainty, yet no amount of success reduces uncertainty.

Engineers know this and get some comfort from their lab efforts, namely testing. Managers? Well, we have to guard against their paths to perdition (of several types, but an example is not knowing about near-zero).

Second, the message.

Fortunately, people have thought about the technical aspects of these things for some time, yet some of the more important views are considered as unnecessary and as being outside of practical importance. But, their consideration keeps us honest.

Any engineering view that would take computational output (we'll elaborate more on this) as equivalent to some natural event (observation and measurement thereof, okay?) has a very problematic basis, and we are talking much more than just quasi-empirical issues here. That this might come into acceptance is a natural result of advanced computing, its successes, and misunderstanding of what the successes (more luck than not) mean.

We'll be addressing these things more regularly, hopefully with real-world events to point to.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Class acts III

The listing started on the down side. Let's look at the other side, as balance is what the house of cards that recently fell did not have.

The judge's view of capitalism's failures is a class act and an example of blogging by the legal community. There are many others which could be used to describe some type of ethical code for this rapidly growing set of spaces (web-log, tweet-ville, ....).


04/03/2011 -- Need to look at some background. Too, tranche and trash.

10/22/2010 -- We need more like Perelman in order to have a fair economy.

06/17/2009 -- Class acts IV.

Modified: 04/03/2011

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Class acts II

Foreword: Class acts III.

To commemorate his ideas, and to just keep old George in mind, we'll have a string of class acts to enumerate. Who else to start with than banks (see the rogue table)?

In their special report last week, the Economist covered what is needed to get the banks back in business. This report is very good and ought to be generally read.

Two types of banks are identified in one discussion: utility and casino. You see, many of us see the side of banks that is supposed to be conservative, watch our money for us, and be there when we need them.

Unfortunately, that part of the bank was seduced, by many things, into thinking that capitalism is synonymous with casino gambling. Actually, Marx got it right talking about 'fictitious' capital.

Well, we need to add another type: scavenger (as in, like the hyena, vulture, and others). Today, the WSJ reports that "Banks Use Life Insurance to Pay Bonuses" and suggests that this has been shown to be legal. Well, no matter, as it stinks to the max. Unfortunately, the article is not open to general reading, so here is another link (don't know how long it'll be there).

What this thing entails is that the bank covers an employee's life with a huge policy and collects upon death. Supposedly, the employee consents. Ah, but do they get the whole picture?

In one case (Amegy bank), a guy was fired before dying (41 years old of cancer), and the family (Irma Johnson and two young children) got nothing; did the bank laugh all the way to its own vault?

The amount of money in this pile, rank and smelling to high heaven, is just mind-boggling.

What has happened to basic human decency? This thing is definitely immoral; why is it not unethical? And, where are the law makers who ought to know better than to allow this type of thing to happen let alone become acceptable?

And, insurance companies, where is your say in the matter? You must be hurting to pay out on some of these policies in that you fell into the same casino pit as the banks.


05/17/2011 -- Golden sacks (leftmost mug), by Rolling Stone and Daily Ticker.

04/03/2011 -- Need to look at some background. Too, tranche and trash.

01/01/2011 -- The bank settled.

10/22/2010 -- We need more like Perelman in order to have a fair economy.

12/19/2009 -- Dead peasant, indeed.

08/10/2009 -- As promised, FEDaerated is here.

07/31/2009 -- Let's see, 5,000 got over $1M for services rendered. Well, that's probably a sign of being a best-and-brightest, at least to certain eyes; it's called rolling-in-the-dough.

Now, this can be used to illustrate how the game it to fill the pockets of a small set to an exorbitant amount. Does the game need to be that way? Hell no. We'll look at that some more.

06/29/2009 -- The Economist's article on a related subject may suggest the next bubble.

06/02/2009 -- Class acts III.

05/21/2009 -- Amegy is owned by Zions. Mormon and family values? Should they not have squelched this long ago by paying up?

Modified: 05/17/2011

Monday, May 18, 2009

Class acts I

Foreword: So, George had it right about class; we can commemorate this 25th year look back by collecting various class acts.

Well, we're 25 years beyond the concerns about 1984 (the book and its predictions, if that brief reference doesn't cause a recall) which brought us lots of ideas to think about. 1984 passed, as did 2000, without much of the todos that had been expected.

Oh, in other posts were we not talking about expectations versus fruition and the psychology of a business?

Recently, the New Yorker ("A Fine Rage") had a review of George Orwell's life and times, including his ideas about class. Of course, George is of the Eton class, but he didn't go on to Cambridge or Oxford. What's of interest is that in George's time, the concept of corporal punishment was still in vogue.

Anyway, since he had to go an unusual route, his opinions were able to mature, somewhat differently than they would have in the university club.

So, how does this relate to the themes of the blog. Ah, good question. Like Tolstoy, and many others, who did not let their riches control their lives, we can use old George as a point of juxtaposition to look at those who are running after their new riches. Too, having gone beyond the greed, which business seems to think is their calling to wallow in (thankfully, we have a new day), people like George can give us some insight into the failings.

Humans seem to have these perennial problems. G-d, please save us from the immaturity of the supposed best-and-brightest, one could very well pray.

Even engineers, who get much appreciation here, are not without fault (quasi-empiricism has not been seen in its importance and has really been given nary a glance), but then who is. It's an open question whether an engineer at the top is better than one from finance. The former did solve real problems and has appreciation for reality; the latter? Ah, so many ways to look at that.

But, back to 1984, as it is interesting that business is more of a big-brother (and, with the negative connotations) than not, stomping on its employees (many times, with black-booted bully-ness), peering into their lives, controlling their human resources as if those entities were born to the subjugation of the business, and a lot more.


07/03/2014 -- The Magna Charta is a wonderful example for us to apply to provider (king)/user (baron) issues. 

04/03/2011 -- Need to look at some background. Too, tranche and trash.

10/22/2010 -- We need more like Perelman in order to have a fair economy.

06/17/2009 -- A fresh look will be needed.

05/21/2009 -- WSJ book review mentions George's views. Every generation has its strivers and slackers. Slacking from something can be in vogue; slacking from nothing is problematic. Similarly, striving from something can be other than flattering; striving from nothing (especially, when successful) is the American way.

Modified: 07/03/2014

Testing, again

A question, or two (also, see bet2give), has been asked about the new plan (asked May 3rd) and about the new enthusiasm (or one might say, certainty) for getting the plane delivered given the experience of two years ago.

Well, as an aside, isn't it great how the new media allows such unencumbered discussion? Or does it?

Suppose one could use some of the psychological insights for related events, as humans are at the core of an organization and its accomplishments, then we could use positive psychology. That is, for whatever the organic whole that a company is, it's sole goal is to thrive.

To continue, a positive outlook has a futuristic bent; we could use a more technical parlance and say that it's like a long extrapolation at an edge. And, as those who have dealt with geometry know, one has to be really careful about moving off what is known into the grand unknown, which would include projections toward the future. Yet, we do this all the time and assume 20-20 foresight. Actually, it's a syndrome which expects that declarations lead to results, by some type of necessity, if the right process is followed.

That a program can lose its sight may be due to several factors, such as the exhilaration with the potential (and changes on all fronts) almost to the extent of megalomania (assume that we would want maturity for the organization?) such that the uncertainty related to process change is overlooked.

We really must remember the other side which is the negative outlook and which is more driven by what's happening; that this is driven by data around the current position is important. Consider, did we not see a serious mismatch a couple of years ago between expectations (assumed earned value) and what was actually the case? Did we also not see that a planned event was held as if there were no wrinkles or as if no one would care that there were problems being broad-brushed over?

The mathematical metaphors (geometry) are being used as the program pushed use of abstraction-phile techniques to the max from the beginning. We'll be looking at that in much detail (or as much as we are allowed to see). Just the other day, this blogger heard a modeler exclaiming about how finely he can predict with his computer. Well, nature has it own ways; unfortunately, failures are mostly subtle and allow many possible explanations; yet, it'll come about that we need humans in the loop - as borgs and more. And, computational results are not reality, though humans are fooled thereby (see flight simulation - actually, everything could probably be approximated close enough except for this - going from point a to point b).

A company would want to balance these outlooks (the positive and negative). Guess what? It's not easy. In fact, somehow those at the top seem to think that they're the only ones who can handle the future and relegate the underlings to the supposedly more mundane aspects of the operation.

Then, these guys/gals may act like rogues (some, many?, don't). Tsk, Tsk. Wise up people to the newer way of doing things that is unfolding under your noses.

Of course, you need the big picture, goals, and strategy. But, those at the top seem to fall into some type of rhetorical blindness. Ah yes, let's execute the plan. Unfortunately, the only 'E' in the title is for the chief guy/gal who can be so far removed from the nitty-gritty of reality to be essentially more of a bane than a boon. That is 'executive' evidently trumps 'execution' for some reason that seems to be more grounded in the past (long history of class issues) than in what is really needed for the future.

What are some impacts of the current imbalance? Engineers can be pushed to the side; rhetoric, and selling, become the prime focus; we all have to be more paranoid just to protect ourselves from the manipulations whose results can border, many times, on the barely legal. Ah, the litany could be long (this blog and truth engineering will continue to enumerate and describe these).

Fortunately, test flight events are real and sound. So, expect that the engineering view will have more prominence.

This ought to be very interesting.


07/22/2015 -- Some of these are, now, poster boys.

01/20/2013 -- Change link to bet2give.

05/17/2011 -- Golden sacks (leftmost mug), by Rolling Stone and Daily Ticker.

09/13/2009 -- More on sandbox, the economics testing facility. Need to pause for a bit, to look at Bookstaber's work.

07/14/2009 -- Nope, confounding continues.

05/19/2009 -- Positive psychology seems to focus on the optimal which for an organization (business) may mean sub-optimal for all involved but a few. Seems that for some businesses it's the very few. And, the 'sub' is way down to being just a resource chewed up and cast off when worn out.

The trouble is that companies talk as if they want people to feel fully utilized, but the reality is that one has to work to the plan and to the process. That latter, especially in the context of 6-sigma, is both tedious and arduous. And, those who put their noses to the grindstones are not always rewarded. Those at the top? Oh, 'golden' safety apparatuses galore. Yes, we know what is maximized in many cases (link to examples of extractions, Grasso, et al).

Modified: 07/22/2015

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Remuneration, finance style

The WSJ (week of 5/11/09) had an article about this subject that referenced academic work by Thomas Philippon (New York University) and Ariell Resheff (University of Virginia). The WSJ touted the "long bull market for wall street pay." Using graphs from Philippon and Resheff, the WSJ article mapped events related to regulatory and deregulatory legislation to the timeline.

So, let's go to the source which is a paper titled "Wages and Human Capital in the U.S. Financial Industry: 1909-2006" and which was submitted to the Journal of Finance. Two figures from the paper tell a lot.

Figure 10: Actual and Benchmark Relative Wages in the Financial IndustryIn this Figure, we see that there is a drop in 1940 accompanied the Investment Advisors and Investment Company Acts. Then, there was a long period where the money guys were paid like the rest of us stiffs. But, notice the upshot of the finance pay after the relaxations of 1980 after which we saw bunches of supposedly creative methods come into play that mainly lined certain pockets but extracted oodles from countless pockets of the hapless.

Figure 7: Annual Income of Engineers and Financiers
An earlier Figure in the paper compared the pay of the financiers and engineers. Needless to say, those of the latter set, who do real work and cope with real problems, lags behind the ego-stroking pay given those with big egos and not much else. It's interesting that there were fewer finance graduates which could be used to explain the pay gap; yet, comparative superiority of the engineering education over the financial can be easily argued. The latter is heavily influenced by quasi-empirical issues (though, they have not awakened to this, as of yet).

In his post on the Stern blog, Philippon asks "Are Bankers Over-Paid?" and concludes that they are; Philippon says about 40% too much pay in 2006.


08/01/2013 -- Ben cannot unwind or taper downhe has too many Doves. We'll have to get back to the king thing (yes, the divine rights of the CEO, new royalty, in other words) and dampening of these types by a new outlook (Magna-Carta'ísh).

03/06/2012 -- 4 Myths.

02/05/2012 -- Time to update the theme of the best and brightest.

01/13/2011 -- Pay seems to be a continual issue.

09/24/2009 -- Things looking up for those who churn.

09/03/2009 -- Computational foci raise miraculous need.

08/10/2009 -- As promised, FEDaerated is here.

07/31/2009 -- Let's see, 5,000 got over $1M for services rendered. Well, that's probably a sign of being a best-and-brightest, at least to certain eyes; it's called rolling-in-the-dough.

Now, this can be used to illustrate how the game it to fill the pockets of a small set to an exorbitant amount. Does the game need to be that way? Hell no. We'll look at that some more.

07/17/2009 -- China has eaten our lunch (and dinner). Shows how silly our games are. Yet, finance can be run by people who can be non-profit in scope and who have an impeccable (oh, what quaintness!) un-interest in money.

06/17/2009 -- A fresh look will be needed.

Modified: 08/01/2013

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Certainly certainty

Our every day events would have, with sufficient insight, enough meat to support very deep and prolonged discussion of the many philosophical issues suggested by the title of this post which will deal with unknown unknowns (the opposite, so to speak).

One could put it this way: we see 20-20 only when looking back. But, guess what? Even that is wrong; we never see 20-20 (assuming that pair of numbers represents some type of perceptual paragon). The problems of the world stem from several things, but cognitive mismatches are a very large one.

Case in point is the manager who has to exhibit some type of optimistic view (he or she thinks) in order to keep the troops motivated to work hard. "Oh yes," he says "we'll have this thing tested and out the door on time." Without naming names, one just has to go back a couple of years to see this.

As with any new program, we can look at both the process and the product and, of course, a lot more. But, let's look at these two. In this particular case, the process was shown to be other than was forecasted, and admitted to. Now, that in itself is not an issue, as who does not daily handle knowns and unknowns (see above). How these are handled will tell a lot about how the day develops. Being aware and able to handle curves as they are thrown by the daily life is an important part of success.

Now, speaking of the product side, there have been tests to date that have confirmed the thinking that went into functional design, which can be separated from process design. But, more tests are forthcoming which will be visible and of continuing interest. So, expect more comment.

Now, there will be knowns involved with the coming tests, such as those based upon the knowledge acquired by aerospace engineering (and other disciplines) over the years or derived from extrapolations that will be allowed by the tests to date. Of course, there are other sources of knowns.

And, unknown knowns (yes, and known unknowns) would have been handily taken care of by the advances in risk management. We saw this same discipline fail on the process side, but those delay factors may have been more management, and execution, failings rather than that of the planners. After all, the whole framework (on many sides) was new (which was gloriously touted early on). On the product side, there is more science that comes to bear which ought to help the management of this type of uncertainty if given the proper time.

It will be the final class, whose cardinality may be larger than we allow (that is an issue being addressed by truth engineering), that we'll have to watch, namely the unknown unknowns. You see, all along this program there have been mathematical and computational methods used that are more new than not. Just the fact that these have to slide along with advances in computer hardware speaks to that.

So, in a sense, the residue related to risk handling coverage (its incompleteness, if you would) will be a continuing subject of study. Too, some of these issues which can raise the philosophical conundrums do have a way of being unmanageable.

What? Yes, we need to recognize that and reward managers (the engineers already know this) that allow truthful handling of this phenomenon. In short, more of these things are influenced by basic undecidability than has been admitted, to date.

That we have a program with which to review and discuss this topic is something that is too important to just overlook. However, from the outside, there are always limitations in trying to accomplish such analysis.

But, it may be that the emergence of the internet-based information sources will help overcome some of the constraints that were formerly very difficult to surmount.


05/28/2012 -- Can we tell if we're on a limb?

09/14/2010 -- Must and may. Two important concepts.

09/02/2009 -- Lets face it, folks, undecidability needs to be discussed and adopted in any complex situational setting, especially if computers are involved. Only hubris pushes us to make loud exclamations about what we're going to do in the future.

07/14/2009 -- Nope, confounding continues.

05/18/2009 -- Testing in flight is within sight.

Modified: 05/28/2012

Friday, May 8, 2009

Best and brightest

Gosh, haven't we heard a lot of those folks lately?

If we start from first principles and re-visit issues related to smartness (or idiocy) and rewards (or not) thereof, a more solid view could be attained. The principles are varied and many (despite notions that we can start from the simple).

Here are some truisms offered in the sense of disclosure. Comparative analysis will always show that money is not as high in scale as many believe; it cannot be eaten (it can buy what we need to eat; it allows efforts at generating food to eat; so, it, its varied looks, and its theoretical basis have necessary functions). But, it's not just money, as many abstracted view are not really conducive to anything positive; of course, that we've excelled in abstract nonsense (used generally, but the specifics apply, too) since the turn of the 20th century (yes, 20th and little before) is one key factor to consider here. We could list a few of these.

This theme will continue across several posts.

That those with the algebraic talents can learn new ways does not give them any more stature than any other of the planet's inhabitants. It especially does not give them the right to foster means that are unstable in their pursuit of big pockets to the detriment of the hapless. Hopefully, the new day will see some of this addressed.

Note: That the Treasury is run by a New Yorker (Wall Street experience) means that we'll have to be more watchful. That the President was in Chicago for an extended period of time and not roped in by casino capitalism (CBOE, etc.) tells us something, to boot.


09/19/2013 -- To some, evidently, grabbing oodles of money, without due consideration of ramifications to others or to the common weal, is the smartest thing; but, we do know that virtue is smart, to boot. Even the secularists are trying hard to show how their worldview can lead to right living (as in, they do not need God to have a conscience). And, what virtue might be prime important to this discussion? Prudence (see Remarks, this day).

08/01/2013 -- Ben cannot unwind or taper downhe has too many Doves. We'll have to get back to the king thing (yes, the divine rights of the CEO, new royalty, in other words) and dampening of these types by a new outlook (Magna-Carta'ísh).

02/05/2012 -- Time to update this theme.

02/03/2011 -- This is a place holder, for now, for Lewis' article. The Irish people (where is the rage?) there were screwed over even more than the Americans. Now, one could argue oops; but, the truth is that certain minds need much more restraint than they are willing to admit. Unfortunately, other people bear the effects of these idiots (who, by the way, may, in many cases, test well - too bad there is not an effective arse test).

11/30/2010 -- Finance and pay, always problematic.

10/22/2010 -- We need more like Perelman in order to have a fair economy.

07/27/2010 -- The Boston Globe had an interesting op-ed, recently, about these types. Of course, there are several types, including the quants. We'll need to address this topic again using what we know of the new kings. Ah, such confidence when underdetermination reigns, especially when systems are the main tool.

01/27/2010 -- It's really ca-pital-sino.

11/30/2009 -- No one climbs above our neuropeptidergic limitations.

11/08/2009 -- The gigantic chimera needs proper attention.

10/11/2009 -- Discussion has gone over to FED-aerated. Note the 10/11/2009 Remarks about the Business Week article on India's progress' inhibitors. 'Near zero' recognizes that some always suffer more than others, especially in win-win situations, as the whole notion of characterization minimizes visceral reactions by diminishing the real in favor of the abstracted (ah, the modern world, you say?).

09/24/2009 -- Things looking up for those who churn.

08/10/2009 -- As promised, FEDaerated is here.

08/02/2009 -- Wait! More exposures: "computers, some housed right next to the machines that drive marketplaces like the New York Stock Exchange, enable high-frequency traders to transmit millions of orders at lightning speed and, their detractors contend, reap billions at everyone else's expense." To anyone who isn't at Goldman Sachs or the like, does that appeal to you as the way that we ought to be handling our beans?

07/31/2009 -- Let's see, 5,000 got over $1M for services rendered. Well, that's probably a sign of being a best-and-brightest, at least to certain eyes; it's called rolling-in-the-dough.

Now, this can be used to illustrate how the game it to fill the pockets of a small set to an exorbitant amount. Does the game need to be that way? Hell no. We'll look at that some more.

07/17/2009 -- China has eaten our lunch (and dinner). Shows how silly our games are. Yet, finance can be run by people who can be non-profit in scope and who have an impeccable (oh, what quaintness!) un-interest in money.

06/20/2009 -- Yes, rent can go to labor (new look at capitalism), and finance can have a higher calling.

06/17/2009 -- A fresh look will be needed, including a newer look at the hapless.

Modified: 09/19/2013

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Math and theories

At the Woodstock for Capitalist (WSJ 5/4/09) last weekend, Buffett and Munger waxed forth, with musings, about things related to business and finance (with its silliness). Topics included Insurance, Housing, Moody's, the Future, and that subject named in the title.

Disdain is the term used for the opinion of these two guys for those modern contrivances that have been brought on by advancing computational prowess (which will necessitate truth engineering among other things).

Well, anyone reading this blog will see that its view agrees, in part, with these two gentlemen, as addressed in these posts are topics related to the modern conundrum (quasi empiricism, economics/engineering, etc.), and more.

Buffett seems to suggest that an application of understanding (is that a diminishing factor?) is needed. Ah, we have John von Neumann to thank for this quote in regard to mathematics: you don't understand it, you just get used to it.

Perhaps that is true in mathematics, yet engineering practices, and success in the 'real' world (especially people interactions), stress understanding.

So, we can say that we have let the computer take over too much which is problematic from several views. For one, those talents we honed (as a species and as individuals) have not adjusted themselves yet to the new paradigm.

Too, there are modelers who dare (or without sufficient thought) to take output from a program as being equivalent to a naturally based measurement, even in an engineering framework where physicality is paramount. We'll be watching for this as data is collected from the 787 flight testing (two-year wait for this validation attempt).

That the "false and nutty" (Buffett's words) in the realm of finance takes this big step is serious foolishness indeed. Especially, as the actions of the few impact all of us.


11/02/2010 -- Over a year later, the message is the same, except some changes have occurred. But Big Ben continues in his ways. Of real note is that the jobless rate is high; out-housing really set up for that. Also, we need to re-look at that learned from the 'vons' guys, Ludwig and Friedrich. See Near Zero.

05/06/2009 -- Spooky science (in conjunction with truth engineering) may have an application in keeping the silliness contained.

Modified: 11/02/2010