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  • pslarkin 7:28 pm on November 11, 2010 Permalink  

    Teddy Roosevelt: Carnivore and Conservationist 

    I’m journeying through Ken Burns amazing documentary about America’s National Parks. Teddy Roosevelt’s zeal for stuffing animals was as unknown to me as the degree of his importance in protecting our nation’s beautiful landscapes. Here are two quotes I found most interesting:

    “Why, in your hurry to subdue and utilize nature, squander her splendid gifts? Why allow the noxious weeds of Eastern politics to take root in your new soil, when by a little effort you might keep it pure? Why hasten the advent of that threatening day when the vacant spaces of the continent shall all have been filled, and the poverty or discontent of the older states shall find no outlet? You have opportunities such as mankind has never had before, and may never have again. Your work is great and noble: it is done for a future longer and vaster than our conceptions can embrace. Why not make its outlines and beginnings worthy of these destinies the thought of which gilds your hopes and elevates your purposes?” -James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, vol 2

    Our path could have easily ended at a country in ruin from complete resource depletion. Thankfully several leaders were wise enough to think past their own generation. TR was leading the charge:

    “I think it is hard to exaggerate the significance of Theodore Roosevelt in the history of American conservation. He creates a presidency, when he arrives in the white house, that sets in motion most of the conservation agendas that will define the first half of the twentieth century.” William Cronon, The National Parks, America’s Best Idea (1890-1915)

    • Mein Schatz 12:26 am on November 12, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Sounds like a good read. I only hope our generation can continue the fight to conserve our nation’s beauty and greatness.

  • pslarkin 5:28 pm on April 3, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: census data, ,   

    US Census: Our window into the future. 

    Census data is immensely important in understanding the evolution of our country. Questions of where we are, and where we want to be are answered every day with this data.  Businesses use construction spending data to target hot markets. School districts use demographic data to plan expansion, and contraction, effectively. Transportation authorities analyze statical abstracts like accident rates, fuel consumption and roadway congestion to best plan for the future. These examples of beneficial use, along with many others, are apparent on a daily basis. The positive social and economic effects of this utilization are impressive and should be noted.

    Consider this interactive graphic from IBM’s Many Eyes:

    (follow image link to interactive version)

    A nation in perpetual movement.

    Immediately apparent are winners and losers in the game of attracting and retaining human capital. Important questions arise from this and other census datasets. Why does this state succeed at attracting young educated adults and that one fail? Who is moving south, and why on earth would they choose to do so? Florida has a high home foreclosure rate, are they still the number one destination in 2010?

    The answers to questions about the complex nature of our populace are invaluable and difficult to find. However, thanks to the hard work of the US Census Bureau we are able to answer them with greater ease.

    PS. As useful as this data is, problems do exist. It also costs way too much (14-15 bil.). It is my hope that our 2010 survey is free of accuracy issues and available at a much lower price. As a customer of this product, we should expect the highest quality possible.

    • Mein Schatz 7:34 pm on April 3, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      This is a great tool, although the link doesn’t seem to lead me to a functioning interactive program as promised. I share your enthusiasm for the value of the Census, but I also share your apprehension at the cost. It would seem there should be many companies that could perform the same function for much less money, but then again, it is a massive undertaking.

      On the other hand, in this age of statistics, do we really need an old-fashioned hand count like this? Can’t most, if not all, demographic data be reasonably deduced from statistical analysis?

      Also, it is a crime for me not to fill out and return my census card. I wonder if this has ever been prosecuted. What happens if I refuse to be a part of the bean counting?

      In the era of instant information, wouldn’t it make more sense to automate the census process, rather than clog up old-fashioned snail mail with billions of dollars worth of garbage?

      • The Bruce 7:42 am on April 5, 2010 Permalink

        I can’t imagine we’ll ever see the Census go private – that would require common sense and a contraction of government, which only seems to expand endlessly – regardless of who is in office.

    • pslarkin 8:04 am on April 4, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Thanks for noting the link problem. It should be fixed now.

      Using the private sector for this data collection and analysis is an exciting possibility. This avenue would invariably come with caveats, but it is my assumption that it might provide a much more reasonable solution to the problems noted in the post. 15 billion dollars is a disgusting amount of money to spend.

      Here is an example of uhaul harvesting its own census-like data:


      • The Bruce 7:50 am on April 5, 2010 Permalink

        I agree, 15bn is an appalling amount of money, Census data – as you aptly portray it – is like a wondrous treasure trove of information and I am sure the government would gladly spend twice or three times that amount to maintain control of that information.

        I recently encountered two Census agents and mentioned how they could save a significant amount of money while simultaneously getting the work done faster. I often advise businesses on these matters – and they appreciate it and thank me. The Census workers however only chortled and expressed with sincerity how little they care about such trifles.

  • pslarkin 3:16 pm on March 12, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: Flowing Data   

    Flowing Data Pyramid Challenge Submission 

    Thine Consumer Demands Cheap Big Macs

    The endlessly creative Nathan Yau posted a challenge on Flowing Data. This is my weak answer.

    The Flowing Data post is in answer to a post by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. PCRM’s post discusses subsidies that promote obesity.

    [Source Data: Journal of the American Medical Association]

    • The Bruce 2:38 pm on March 15, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      This is absurd. The obese are not buying Big Macs because they are cheaper than salads, they are buying these so-called poor foods because they are lazy. Unless there’s some promo going on, a Big Mac costs over $3 pretty much anywhere in the US – not including at all the cost of a drink and probably fries.

      Six heads of romaine lettuce cost as little as $2.99; frozen, boneless, skinless chicken breast cost $1.59/lb; bananas cost $0.44/lb, the list goes on and on – including such staples like rice, dry beans, and potatoes.

      The fact is, people simply don’t want to take the time to plan and prepare meals. They are buying fast food because it is easy, not cost effective. It has little or nothing to do with farm subsidies.

      Nice work on the graph though.

    • pslarkin 3:04 pm on March 15, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      People buy fast food for many reasons and cost is certainly one of them.

      My uneducated suggestion here is that salads demand a premium because the consumer pool is much smaller and potentially less likely to buy a Big Mac over a more healthy choice. Maybe this blog’s resident economist can debunk/support/poke fun at this idea.

      Farm subsidies do affect food prices. Price is a huge factor in consumer selection. The two are intimately intertwined. I would support this with evidence but it is 5 o’clock and I’m hungry.

    • Mein Schatz 9:24 pm on March 15, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Bruce, you are making a good point, showing that healthy food prices are often much cheaper than fast food per unit, but I don’t believe this is the case per calorie. Fast food is the cheapest way to get big calories on a limited budget. I don’t have the data in front of me right now. And, or course, there is the laziness factor.

      Phil, farm subsidies most definitely affect food prices, but I am confused about your statement of salads demanding a premium because of a smaller consumer pool. I just don’t understand what you mean here.

      • The Bruce 7:23 am on March 16, 2010 Permalink

        A Big Mac has 576 calories and 32.5g of fat, for the same price you can eat a meal containing a cup of cooked rice, a baked potato, steamed corn, a ceaser salad, and a piece of fruit for around 800 calories and only 2.5g of fat.

        And for the record I did not say that farm subsidies do not affect the price of food, I said people are not buying savings they are buying convenience, therefore price – farm subsidies – have little to do with the issue.

    • pslarkin 7:13 am on March 16, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I usually trip over myself when discussing things I know little about…so enjoy the show.

      It seems to me that the price difference here can be less attributed to cost of ingredients and more to the consumer’s group size and demographic characteristics. If a salad was in higher demand, McDonalds would be pressured to lower the price to parity with an equally in-demand item. As it stands, salad’s prices are 30-50% higher than a very popular menu item, the Big Mac. If The Bruce’s suggestion that salad ingredients are cheaper is true in McDonalds case, salads should be much less expensive. Because the salad consumer group is smaller and willing to spend more on items its collective bargaining power is much less. Thus, salads are a boutique item that should sell for less, but don’t because the minority of interested consumers are willing to buy them at a higher price.

      However, this is mostly speculation. I don’t have the economic chops to argue with much authority. My goal with the graph is to suggest that consumers have a much more commanding role in our economy than government subsidies. I think this holds true.

      • The Bruce 8:03 am on March 16, 2010 Permalink

        Yes, large value added retailers like MacDonald’s wield their massive market share to lower the price of the products they buy. When MacDonald’s buys beef they don’t consult an index or ask the salesman to see his price list, they calmly explain to the broker what the price will be and he sells it at that price, lest he lose twenty percent or more of his business. The same goes for any product they buy, be it beef, buns, and yes, even lettuce.

        You seem to be arguing that the price of a salad at the restaurant is higher than a Big Mac because there are fewer consumers of salads, and within that consumer group they are willing to pay more for this healthy option, so they charge more. I’m included to agree with that.

        My point, however is that if you are interested in saving money, you wouldn’t be frequenting restaurants at all, you would be buying raw ingredients and making meals at home – it is far cheaper.

    • Mein Schatz 12:17 pm on March 16, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Yes indeed. It is always cheaper to make it yourself, except lasagna. For some reason its always way more expensive for me to make lasagna than purchase it frozen. I would imagine that restaurant lasagna is only slightly more expensive than making it myself. It kind of sucks, because I really love lasagna.

  • pslarkin 7:35 am on February 19, 2010 Permalink  

    Sagamore Hill – Teddy Roosevelt’s home. 

    Created By: http://www.visual-genesis.com/

  • pslarkin 3:22 pm on February 17, 2010 Permalink

    Bush/Obama Job Loss Graph – A Redux 

    Because the flipped axis phenomenon was confusing to some I flipped ‘er back around. Now it doesn’t look so “manipulated”.

    Gdamn flippy floppy axis gettin meh all flustered!

    • The Bruce 4:58 pm on February 17, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      We should remember to come back and do a job graph in a few years when Dear Leader is out of office and look at job creation and average unemployment rate over the Bush and Obama administrations.

      Larkin, put that in your Google calendar.

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