Does playing basketball make you taller?

August 29, 2014

Of course not … that’s silly.

OK let’s try a variant of the question: Does education make you smarter?




I bet a lot of you would bet the over on that one.

Here’s what the researchers say …

Read the rest of this entry »

Flashback: Buffett says”increase taxes on estates” (since mine is sheltered).

August 28, 2014

OK, he really didn’t say the last part., I made that up.

Since Buffett shed his hypocritical “please tax us more” sham and hopped on the BK inversion deal, I thought it was fair to flashback to some of Buffett’s pro-tax rants and our proposed “Buffett Rule”



According to CNBC, Warren Buffett is one of several dozen wealthy people who have signed a statement calling for a “strong tax on large estates.”

Buffett & friends say:

  1. “Dynastic wealth, the enemy of a meritocracy, is on the rise. Equality of opportunity has been on the decline. A progressive and meaningful estate tax is needed to curb the movement of a democracy toward a plutocracy.”
  2. We (the wealthy) have “benefited significantly” by government investments in schools, infrastructure. and public safety, among other things, so it is “right morally and economically” to have a “significant” tax on large estates because it “promotes democracy by slowing the concentration of wealth and power.”
  3. “It is right to have a significant tax on large estates when they are passed on to the next generation …  it is right morally and economically, since an estate tax promotes democracy by slowing the concentration of wealth and power.”

OK, so what constitutes a sizable estate and how much of it should the government take?

Read the rest of this entry »

Is that Warren Buffett driving BK’s getaway car?

August 27, 2014


This one is too good to be true.

Burger King is planning to buy Tim Hortons – a Canadian coffee-and-doughnut chain.

Forget for a second that this is 2014 and doughnuts are, shall we say, a bit out of fashion,

Conventional wisdom is that BK isn’t strategically driving thru the doughnut hole left by Krispy Kreme’s woes.


Though the company denies it, BK seems aimed at turning things upside down tax=wise.

You know, “invert” itself into a Canadian company so that it doesn’t have to pay U.S. taxes on money it earns outside the boundaries of the U.S.

Here’s where things start to get interesting ….

Read the rest of this entry »

Remember when e-commerce was going to take over the planet?

August 26, 2014

From the HBR blog site: “The Myth of E-Commerce Domination” …

Forrester’s data on the top 30 product categories (which account for 97% of total e-commerce sales) indicates that e-commerce growth is clearly slowing overall:



If historical trends continue, e-commerce’s share of retail will rise from 11% today to about 18% in 2030, way below projections from a few years ago.

Of course, 18% isn’t shabby, but it’s not exactly world domination.

What’s going on?

Read the rest of this entry »

Cubs lose … blame Obama.

August 25, 2014

Since Obama is still blaming Bush for everything, it’s good to see the tide turning and see him get tagged for some losses.

Here’s the scoop according to several sources:

The Cubs were leading the SF Giants 2-0  last week when the game had to stopped due to heavy rain.

The ground crew struggled to get the tarp across the field.




After a 4-hour rain delay, the field was declared unplayable.

Since the teams had played more than 5 complete innings, the Cubs were declared the winners.

Here’s where things get interesting.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Sir or Madam: I’m the perfect candidate for the job … oh no, you’re not.

August 22, 2014

US News & World Report says to keep these 10 catch phrases off your cover letter:

1. “I meet the requirements for the position.”Explain why you’re an excellent candidate, not just an adequate one.

2. “I’m hard-working and a great communicator.” These are cliches that cause hiring managers’ eyes to glaze over …and don’t convey anything of substance.


3. “I’m a visionary leader.”  Proclaiming this about yourself comes across as, well, weird. Show accomplishments.

4. “You won’t find a candidate better qualified than me.”  This comes off as needlessly cocky hyperbole — and it’s generally inaccurate..

5. “Dear sir or madam.” In most industries, this will come across as an antiquated, stuffy salutation. If you know the hiring manager’s name, use it … if not, simply writing “dear hiring manager” is fine.

Read the rest of this entry »

Math Trix: The case of the gifted stock-picker…

August 21, 2014

I’ve been reading a book called How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg

The author recounts a classic stock advisor scam that goes like this …



One day, you receive an unsolicited newsletter from an investment advisor, containing a tip that a certain stock is due for a big rise.

A week passes, and just as the Investment advisor predicted, the stock goes up.

The next week, you get a new edition of the newsletter, and this time, the tip is about a stock whose price the adviser thinks is going to fall.

And indeed, the stock craters.

That’s good, but it gets even better …

Read the rest of this entry »

Surviving a post-med school residency …

August 20, 2014

We’ve been spending a lot of time at Georgetown Hospital recently.

In the process, we’ve developed a deep respect for some of the key cogs in the system: nurses, nurse practitioners and doctor-residents.

In casual conversation, our surgeon mentioned how she had managed to “survive her surgical residency”.

That got me wondering, about the life of a resident.



Here’s what I found …

Read the rest of this entry »

Cheap Tricks … err, make that cheaper tricks.

August 19, 2014

Warning: Adult Content.

The Economist – a reputable publication — recently reported the results of a groundbreaking economic analysis.

Specifically, staffers “analysed 190,000 profiles of sex workers on an international review site … with data going back to 1999 … with prices corrected for inflation.”

What did they find?

“The most striking trend our analysis reveals is a drop in the average hourly rate of a prostitute in recent years”


What explains the 30% drop in prices?

Well, pardon the pun, it’s pure economics …

Read the rest of this entry »

27 Questions to ask about an innovation …

August 18, 2014

Been The First Mile Mile  by Scott Anthony … a practical book re: how to ID practical innovations and launch them.

Anthony characterizes an innovation as having a combination of a deep customer need, a compelling solution, and a powerful economic model.

He argues that the first 2 items – a deep need and a compelling solution – are often overstated … and that the 3rd – the economic model – is often completely ignored.

So, as everybody know, most innovations fail in the marketplace.

To increase the odds of a innovation’s success (think new product or start-up company) he proposes a a process that borrows from the classical scientific method, discovery driven planning and the trendy “lean start-ups”.

Anthony acronyms his process DEFT: document, evaluate, focus, (test & adjust)





The first step in the DEFT process is to document the essence of an initiative … not voluminously, but insightfully … with an eye to separating facts from assumptions … and then concentrating on the assumptions that are least certain and most impactful.

Specifically, Anthony offers up 27 specific questions to answer when documenting an innovation …

Read the rest of this entry »

“The single biggest problem in business …”

August 15, 2014

Dan Lovallo, a professor and decision-making researcher says, “Confirmation bias is probably the single biggest problem in business, because even the most sophisticated people get it wrong. People go out and they’re collecting the data, and they don’t realize they’re cooking the books.”

What’s this “confirmation bias” that Lovello is talking about?

No surprise, people tend to seek out information that supports their existing beliefs.

You know, liberals watch MSNBC, read the NY Times listen to BBC podcasts; conservatives watch FOX, read the WSJ and listen to Rush.

Behavioral psychologists call the he dynamic “confirmation bias”.




In socio-politics, the confirmation bias tends to harden polarized positions. People just gather debate fodder rather than probing both sides of issues.

In the realm of decision making, confirmation bias has a dysfunctional effect: it leads to bad decisions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sparkling water … but, no brown M&Ms !

August 14, 2014

Awhile ago,, I was invited to do a radio interview on NPR.

When I told my daughter-in-law, she suggested that I request sparkling water and green M&Ms.



I thought that was pretty funny, but didn’t know the story behind it Read the rest of this entry »

It takes more than a swig of ‘tussin …

August 13, 2014

Chris Rock is a very funny guy.

His routine on the many uses of Robitussin (‘tussin, for short) is a comedy classic.

The ‘tussin skit sets the context for the rest of this post.

If you haven’t seen it – or want a refresher — click to view it now.



I always assumed that Rock was a naturally funny guy who just stoked up and unleashed a stream of top-of-mind consciousness on stage.

I was surprised to learn that Rock takes his craft very seriously and toils long and hard to test and fine-tune his material.

Here’s a glimpse at his recipe for success …

Read the rest of this entry »

Maybe, the best college essay ever written …

August 12, 2014

Too bad it was written after-the-fact.  After the rejections.

The WSJ published an op-ed by a HS senior: To (All) the Colleges That Rejected Me


It’s worth reading … says the things that most of us are probably thinking.

Here are some highlights:

Read the rest of this entry »

Why didn’t he look us in the eyes?

August 11, 2014

This may seem petty, but it has been gnawing at me …

Last Thursday, President Obama announced to the nation that he had authorized airstrikes in Iraq.



His rationale: act against an act of genocide and protect Americans stationed in Iraq.

I’m ok with the reasons and the actions.

This isn’t a political observation.

Here’s what’s been bothering me ….

Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t be so paranoid, assume a “positive intent” …

August 8, 2014

I know that Andy Grove of Intel says “only the paranoid survive”.

But, work relationships are sometimes corrupted by negative assumptions that take on a life all their own.

A jabrone speaks out against your idea in a meeting, and you naturally assume that he’s trying to sabotage your or embarrass you in front of the boss.

If this situation happens a couple of times, you might declare war and go on the offensive to neutralize or defeat him.



To interrupt this cycle, some organizational leaders urge their employees to “assume positive intent,”

Read the rest of this entry »

The 7-year itch … here’s proof!

August 7, 2014

Here’s an interesting study excepted from Kahneman’s Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow

Let’s start with some background … straight from Wiki:

The “seven-year itch” is a psychological term that suggests that happiness in a relationship declines after around year seven of a marriage.

The phrase was first used to describe an inclination to become unfaithful after seven years of marriage in the play The Seven Year Itch by George Axelrod, and gained popularity following the 1955 film adaptation starring Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell.

The phrase has since expanded to indicate cycles of dissatisfaction not only in interpersonal relationships but in any situation such as working a full-time job or buying a house, where a decrease in happiness and satisfaction is often seen over long periods of time.



* * * * *

OK, so is the 7-year itch just folklore for real?

Read the rest of this entry »

Booming business: Debt collections …

August 6, 2014

According to an Urban Institute study, more than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been handed over to collection agencies.

The unpaid bills include credit cards, hospital bills, mortgages, auto loans, student loans, gym membership fees or cellphone contracts.




Here are some interesting factoids …

Read the rest of this entry »

What the hell is a “devil’s advocate”?

August 5, 2014

We’ve all been there …

We’re in meetings pitching an idea when some jabrone pipes in:

“Let me play the role of devil’s advocate …”

He then blasts your idea with half-baked criticisms.

As you aggressively defend your cherished idea, he backs off:

“Hey man, I’m just playing devil’s advocate”.

“Say, what? You mean your  just made up those cheap shots?”




I’ve been reading books on decision making this summer.

A couple have praised the use of so-called devil’s advocates to validate ideas and arguments.

Here’s what they’re talking about …

Read the rest of this entry »

Come closer … jump … adios.

August 4, 2014

Summertime means America’s Got Talent.

Every year I swear off the show, when my favorites get sent pack.

Heartbreak came early this season when my early fav act got eliminated by the judges.

The act is called Flight Crew Jump Rope.

Click below for 2 minutes of pure fun and “wow”.



Here’s what happened …

Read the rest of this entry »

Deciding? Check your mindset …

August 1, 2014

In Decisive, the authors (Heath Brothers) observe that people often approach problems from two radically different mindsets: “promotion” and “prevention”.



The mindset one adopts can bias the way solutions are considered and selected.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dilemma: The case of the lost concert tickets …

July 31, 2014


A classic “framing” question from Kahneman’s Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow

Here’s the situation:

A woman has bought two $80 tickets to the theater.

When she arrives at the theater, she opens her wallet and discovers that the tickets are missing.

$80 tickets are still available at the box office.

Will she buy two more tickets to see the play?




Most (but, not all) survey respondents answer that the woman will go home without seeing the show.

Let’s try another situation …

Read the rest of this entry »

She’s back … now, with money to burn.

July 30, 2014

We’re talking Sandra Fluke today.

You know, the Georgetown law student who couldn’t afford $3,000 for birth control pills while going to law school.




Not to worry, we’re not taking sides on the ObamaCare contraceptives issue … this is all about money — freakonomics.

Still, since it’s critical background, here’s an excerpt of her infamous Congressional testimony:

My name is Sandra Fluke, and I’m a third-year student at Georgetown Law School.

I attend a Jesuit law school that does not provide contraceptive coverage in its student health plan.

We students have faced financial, emotional and medical burdens as a result.

When I look around my campus, I see the faces of the women affected by this lack of contraceptive coverage …

On a daily basis, I hear from yet another woman from Georgetown or from another school … and they tell me that they have suffered financially, emotionally and medically, because of this lack of coverage.

Without insurance coverage, contraception, as you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school.

For a lot of students who, like me, are on public interest scholarships, that’s practically an entire summer’s salary.

Forty percent of the female students at Georgetown Law reported to us that they’ve struggled financially as a result of this policy.

Click for full unedited transcript

OK, I understand.

Sandra is cash-strapped because of the high cost of attending Georgetown and she wants other folks to pay for her contraceptives.

But now, there’s a strange twist to her “poor me” story.

Read the rest of this entry »

Gains, losses, the endowment effect … and ObamaCare

July 29, 2014

Behavioral theorists have long observed that most people are risk adverse and, due in part to an “endowment effect”, they “value” losses greater than gains.

Endowment Effect: People tend to ascribe a higher value to things that they already own than to comparable things that they don’t own. For example, a car-seller might think his sleek machine is “worth” $10,000 even though credible appraisers say it’s worth $7,500. Sometimes the difference is due to information asymmetry (e.g. the owner knows more about the car’s fine points), but usually it’s just a cognitive bias – the Endowment Effect.

The chart below illustrates the gains & losses concept.

  • Note that the “value line” is steeper on the losses side of the chart than on the gains side.
  • L & G are equivalently sized changes from a current position.
  • The gain (G) generates an increase in value equal to X.
  • The loss (L) generates a decrease in value that is generally found to be 2 to 3 times an equivalently sized gain



For example, would you take any of these coin flip gambles?

  1. Heads: win $100; Tails: lose $100
  2. Heads: win $150; Tails: lose $100
  3. Heads: win $200; Tails: lose $100
  4. Heads: win $300; Tails: lose $100

Most people pass on #1 and #2, but would hop on #3 and #4.

OK, now let’s show how all of this relates to ObamaCare.

Read the rest of this entry »

Buyer’s remorse, post-purchase cognitive dissonance, and the 2012 election …

July 28, 2014

First, a definition lifted from Wiki:

Buyer’s remorse is the sense of regret after having made a purchase. It is frequently associated with the purchase of a big ticket item such as a car or house.

It may stem from fear of making the wrong choice, guilt over extravagance, or a suspicion of having been overly influenced by the seller.

Buyer’s remorse is thought to stem from the post-decision cognitive dissonance that arises when a person makes a difficult decision.

Factors that affect buyer’s remorse include resources invested, the involvement of the purchaser, whether the purchase is compatible with the purchaser’s goals, and what positive or negative evidence the purchaser encounters post-purchase that confirms or denies the purchase as a good idea.



= = = = =

Bet you can guess where this one is going.

Remember the 2012 election when Obama squared off against Romney?

Obama won the election with 51% of the popular vote.

My, how things have changed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fed are raking in the dough … and still spending more than they get.

July 25, 2014

The WH-OMB estimates that, in FY 2014, the federal government will collect a record amount in inflation-adjusted tax revenues (i.e. taxes) while still running a deficit,

Source: CNS; See the Monthly Treasury Statement. for details


More specifically …

Read the rest of this entry »

Part-time nation: Even on college faculties …

July 24, 2014

interesting factoid from “ What universities have in common with record labels” …

Used to be that the majority of college faculty were on the tenure track … with less than 1 in 3 being non-tenure track “part-timers”.



With the cost pressures that universities face these days, those numbers have completely reversed.

Now, the majority of university faculty s part-timers … and about 1 in 3 are on the tenure track.

And, Quartz points out that there’s increasing separation between content producing “marquee”  profs and “average” profs.

“The ranks of professors will quickly diverge into the 1% and everyone else.”

As the original Grandma Homa used to say; “It’s easy to be good, hard to be great.”


Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

Test your intuition: Can you tell a book by its cover?

July 23, 2014

Here’s a classic test of intuitive skills excepted from Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow

As you consider this question, please assume that Steve – the subject — was selected at random from a representative sample.

Steve has been described by a neighbor as follows: “Steve is very shy and withdrawn, invariably helpful but with little interest in people or in the world of reality. A meek and tidy soul, he has a need for order and structure, and a passion for detail .”


* * * * *

Is Steve more likely to be a librarian or a farmer?
Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive Biases: Which is more painful?

July 22, 2014

Interesting study on cognitive biases from Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow

Patients undergoing a painful medical procedure – think, colonoscopy without anesthesia – recorded their pain levels during the procedure on a range from no pain (zero) to excruciating (10).

Some of the procedures were short in duration … others were longer.

Below is the pain chart for 2 representative patients.


The patients were asked – after the fact—how painful the procedure was.

What’s your bet?  Which patient claimed to have undergone the more painful procedure?

Read the rest of this entry »

Decision Making: Beware the villains …

July 21, 2014

According to Chip & Dan Heath in Rotman Management article “The 4 Villains of Decision Making” …

“Research in Psychology over the last 40 years has identified a broad set of biases in our thinking that doom our decision making. If we aspire to make better choices, we must learn how these biases work and how to fight them.”


Confused man


According to the Heath Brothers – academics & popular authors – there are 4 decision making villains that have to be confronted

Read the rest of this entry »

He cares about me, but …

July 18, 2014

Recent Pew Poll …

Slim majority of folks agree that President Obama “cares about people like me”.

There are still believes: 51-49 on “trustworthiness”

But, less than half agree that he’s a “strong leader”  who is “able to get things done”.


Source: Pew

* * * * *

Poll didn’t ask”faithfully executes laws” or “able to raise big money for political campaigns”



Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

Oops: Plagiarism discovered in the Journal of

July 18, 2014

Academic and Business Ethics.

Yesterday, the Washington Post  reported  that an academic journal —  had to retract 60 research articles had to be retracted because its peer review process had been compromised.

Apparently, the Journal of Vibration and Control (JVC) —  no, I didn’t make that title up —  fell victim to a “peer review ring”.  A close knit group started cloning their electronic identities as experts.

So, while the journal thought that it was sending candidate articles to a broad sample of experts —  they were really sending them to a small handful of cronies.

In fact, because of the law of averages, on at least one occasion, an author got to peer review his own paper.


When the fraud was discovered, the journal ‘fessed up , retracted the compromised articles and allowed the senior editor to resign.

But, will the Journal of Vibration and Control (JVC) ever be able to restore its good name?

The incident reminded me of my absolute favorite academic journal scandal…



Awhile ago, I got an email from the Executive Director of the Academic and Business Research Institute:

Read the rest of this entry »

What would your boss say if your project estimates were off by a factor of 3 or 4?

July 17, 2014

Probable Answer: “You’re fired!”

Not so in ObamaLand …

There, bossman would be ordering pizza for the victory celebration.

Let’s look at the facts …

Flashback to March 2010, when Obamacare was being steam-rolled though Congress.

At that time, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that Obamacare would cost $938 billion over a decade, that the Federal deficit would shrink and 19 million uninsured people would be insured as of 2014.

As a frame of reference, those estimates work out to be about $5,000 in annual cost per newly insured person … about par for private market medical insurance.



* * * * *

Unfortunately, but predictably, those estimates were wildly off the mark …

Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s go bowling … say, what?

July 16, 2014

According to Business Week

There was a growth spurt in bowling alleys after World War II. The U.S. added 2,000 bowling alleys between the end of World War II and 1958.

In 1958, the American Society of Planning Officials reported that “the bowling alley is fast becoming one of the most important—if not the most important—local center of participant sport and recreation.”

But, the bowling craze peaked and started to fade as folks found other ways to spend their spare time.

The U.S. had 4,061 bowling centers in 2012, down 25 percent from a high water mark in 1998.



* * * * *

To counter the downward trend, bowling alleys are rebranding themselves as “bowling centers”, spiffing up the facilities, and adding ancillary entertainment (e.g. rock music, gaming arcades).

Following the industry lead,  “the exclusive bowling lanes reserved for White House employees and their guests are getting an upgrade.”  Read the rest of this entry »

What do universities have in common with record labels?

July 15, 2014

Interesting article on tracking how “the internet’s power to unbundle content sparked a rapid transformation of the music industry’ and arguing that”and it’s doing the same thing to higher education today.

Let’s start with the recorded music industry.

It’s no surprise that

The unbundling of albums in favor of individual songs was one of the biggest causes of the music industry’s decline.

It cannibalized the revenue of record labels as 99-cent songs gained popularity over $20 albums.

What did surprise me us that recording industry revenues have dropped by half from the $14 billion in 2000.

QZ Chart 1

The eroding revenues and and internet dynamics have “changed the way music labels had to operate in order to maintain profitability.

The traditional services of labels: identifying artists; investing in them; recording, publishing, and distributing their work; and marketing them—are now increasingly offered a la carte.”

And, talk about the top 1%  and distribution of riches …

Being a recording artist these days is a hard gig …

Pressure from labels then had downstream effects on content creators, specifically artists.

The top one 1% of artists now take home 77% of revenue, and the rest is spread across an increasing number of artists.

The pain of the record labels is forced on artists through smaller royalty payments.


Now, what’s the parallel to higher education?

Read the rest of this entry »

More on “liberation from the burden of work” … say what?.

July 14, 2014

Last week, we pointed out that the 288,000 jobs gain in June wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be since full-time employment declined by over 500,000 and part-time employment increased by almost 800,000.

For details see: Last week’s employment report in 4 charts …

I thought the spike in part-time employment was a bad thing … a drift to a part-timer economy.

Silly me.

Liberal economist Dean Baker hset me straight in a HuffPost article:
“The Good News About Obamacare in the June Jobs Report”

Here’s Mr. Baker’s spin …

Read the rest of this entry »

Muslims like him; Mormons, not so much…

July 11, 2014

A recent Gallup poll reports that 72% of Muslims approve of the job that President Obama is doing.

78% of Mormons dis-approve …

More generally, the President is under-water with Christians …  above water with non-Christians and atheists … and still has Jewish support.






Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

8 Rules for Healthy Living

July 11, 2014

Forwarded by a friend …  cuts to the chase.

==== =

Thanks to KZ for feeding the lead.


Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

Metrics: How effective is your decision making?

July 10, 2014

Interesting cut at measuring decision making effectiveness from Bain.

Bain says that:

One thing that sets great companies apart is the ability to make high-quality decisions.

But it isn’t just decision quality—the top performers also make those decisions quickly and execute them effectively. And they don’t spend too much or too little effort in the process.


Source: Bain Decide & Deliver


In other words, evaluate decision making along 4 dimensions:

Read the rest of this entry »

Who really benefits from increases in the minimum wage ?

July 9, 2014

An article in the WSJ this week is causing a bit of a stir.

Titled “Who Really Gets the Minimum Wage”, the report concluded that Minimum wages are ineffective at helping poor families because such a small share of the benefits flow to them.

Specifically, “Obama’s $10.10 target would steer only 18% of the benefits to poor families; 29% would go to families with incomes three times the poverty level.”


How does that happen?




The essence of the dynamic: counter-intuitively, low-wage workers and low-income (i.e. “poor”) families are not the same folks.

According to the article, data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that there is only a weak relationship between being a low-wage worker and being poor.

Three reasons for that:.

  1. Many low-wage workers are in higher-income families—workers who are not the primary breadwinners and often contribute a small share of their family’s income.
  2. Some workers in poor families earn higher wages but don’t work enough hours (and have hours cut when the minimum wage goes up)
  3. About half of poor families have no workers, in which case a higher minimum wage does no good. This is simple descriptive evidence and is not disputed by economists.

Bottom line: Not much help to the well-intended anti-poverty movement.

There’s another “non-poor” group that benefits when the minimum wage is raised..

Glance at the picture above and see if you can guess who that is.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ah, to be a Federal employee …

July 8, 2014

Interesting piece in the NY Post titled “Federal worker gravy train” … 

It’s not new news, but the Post points out that firing a federal worker is almost impossible, and making a termination stick, is even less likely.

Data published in the Federal Times supports the Post’s claim. (and common wisdom)

Federal Firings

Think about it: 1 in about 200 get culled each year.

Hardly Jack Welch’s “bottom 10%” program.

More generally, data from the Office of Personnel Management indicate that it is five times as hard to get fired from a federal job as from a private-sector one.

It’s commonly claimed that federal workers settle for lower pay in exchange for job ­security.

The Post says: Don’t believe it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Last week’s employment report in 4 charts …

July 7, 2014

Lots of hoopla last week that the unemployment employment rate dropped to 6.1% as employers added 288,000 jobs

Yep, 288k jobs added … which continues a year-over-year running rate growth in employment of slightly less than 2% …  a little less than real GDP year-over-year growth.

FRED Total Employment  June 2014

But, there’s more to the story.

Let’s dissect that 288,000 …

Read the rest of this entry »

Biases: The favorite-long shot bias …

July 3, 2014

In gambling and economics, there’s an observed phenomenon favorite-long shot bias.


Here’s how it works …


Read the rest of this entry »

Decisions: How often do corp execs make the right call?

July 2, 2014

I often confess to my students that I thought about 51% of the business decisions were correct … and that was despite my analytical pre-disposition and the benefit of a highly proficient team of managers and analysts.

Apparently, my record was about on par.




According to decision scientists Chip & Dan Heath in Decisive: How to Make Better Choices …

Read the rest of this entry »

Hacked: What I learned when I was credit hacked …

July 1, 2014

Last year around this time, I told the said story about how some bad guys tried to steal my identity and open up credit cards and car loans in my name.

Bottom line: An ordeal that burned up a bunch of my time and caused plenty of angst … but, no serious damage (that I know of).

A friend just got had his identity hacked.  Somebody filed an IRS 1040 under his name and social security number, hoping to bag a refund check.  Fortunately, the IRS flagged the return as suspicious and didn’t pay-off against the fraudulent return.




Now, as a public service, here’s what I learned that may help you …

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The Lerner emails: Interesting twist …

June 30, 2014


First, some background on a group called Judicial Watch …Judicial Watch is a non-partisan conservative organization whose motto is “Because no one is above the law”.

To achieve this goal,” Judicial Watch uses the open records or freedom of information laws and other tools to investigate and uncover misconduct by government officials and litigation to hold to account politicians and public officials who engage in corrupt activities.” Source

For example, when the White House was claiming (a) that it had no involvement in the development of Susan Rice’s infamous “it was the video’s fault, not terrorists” talking points, and (b) that all emails had been turned over to Congressional committees … it was Judicial Watch that worked the courts using the Freedom of Information Act to get a copy of the smoking gun emails that put tied the talking to Ben Rhodes – the White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser at the time. Source

Somehow, Judicial Watch’s courts actions seem to get better access to sensitive government info than the Congressional Committees.

Go figure.


Well, now Judicial Watch is targeting Lois Lerner’s missing emails … (pun intended)

Here’s the scoop …

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Problem Solving Tips: Patterning, framing and the astronaut’s pen …

June 27, 2014

Excerpted from Think Better

Among the many discoveries NASA made when it began sending people into space was that the astronauts’ pens did not work well in zero gravity.

The ink wouldn’t flow properly. You can simulate the effect at home by trying to write with the business end of your pen pointing up.

Pretty soon, the ink stops flowing and the pen won’t write.




The solution – giving astronaut’s a way to write upside down —  depends on how you frame the problem …

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Hiring: Don’t trust your gut……

June 26, 2014

According to an HBR article “In Hiring, Algorithms Beat Instinct” …

Studies of applicant evaluations shows that a simple equation outperforms human decisions by at least 25%.

And, the effect holds in any situation with a large number of candidates, regardless of whether the job is on the front line, in middle management, or (yes) inthe C~suite.




Why is that?

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Stop right there, professor … proof of citizenship, please !

June 25, 2014

Unfortunately, this has become an annual event.  A summer initiation of sorts.

Once again, I was detained for questioning by government officials.

This year was unusually unnerving.

No, it wasn’t by rogue IRS agents in Cincinnati targeting an alleged conservative blogger.



I was suspected of crossing a border to illegally access government-provided services.

Here’s the story …

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What are the odds of 7 specific IRS hard drives crashing?

June 24, 2014

Here’s why I think there’s a cover-up happening in the IRS targeting scandal …

Lois Lerner is at the heart of the investigation.  She exercised her 5th amendment right to not self-incriminate and didn’t testify to Congress.

Then, it’s “discovered” that 10 days after the scandal inquiry kicked off, her PC hard drive – which contained the only permanent copies of emails she sent to folks outside the IRS – crashed … and all data – including the subpoenaed emails – was lost forever.





Then it was revealed that the hard drives of 6 other IRS “persons of interest” had also crashed (after the investigation was kicked off.

Double hmmm.

Got me to wondering: What are the odds of that happening?

Let’s do some arithmetic …

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