Monthly Archives: October 2012

“Save X% When You Buy Y” Fallacy

This logical fallacy is cited over and over again.  “Save 30% when you buy our product!  Limited time offer!”

Suppose that the “normal” price is $100 and the sale price is $70.  You don’t gain 30 dollars by not buying.  You lose the $70 you paid for the “sale”.

If $70 is a good price, then the normal price is a ripoff at $100, and the company normally is overcharging customers.  It’s dishonest to have a “normal” price that’s too high and have frequent sales.  The most honest policy is to give your best price to all your customers.  Superficially, you make more money cheating customers, but you will start losing customers when people notice.

Is Political Polling Inherently Biased?

When you hear about a political survey, the results are often stated as “With a sample size of 200, 52% of the people prefer X to Y with a margin of error of 3%”, or some such.  The figure “3%” is calculated based on the assumptions that:

  1. Everyone who is queried responded.  I always ignore surveys, because they sound like spammers and telemarketers.  This leads to bias, if members of one group always ignore polls.
  2. To be statistically accurate, the poll should start with the entire sample population, and pick names with a uniform distribution without replacement.
  3. Some pollsters may be lazy and use as a starting point the list of names from the previous poll, which leads to bias.

This can also leads to problems with an election.  If the difference between candidates is small, the cost of time spent voting can be greater than the expected gain.

Comparing The Yankees To The Braves?

I saw a lot of articles like this one, comparing the Yankees to the Braves, for their extensive postseason futility. From 1995-2005, the Braves made the playoffs 11 times and won the World Series once. From 2002-2012, the Yankees made the playoffs 11 times and won the World Series once.

The Yankees’ batting was embarrassingly bad, even though they did well during the regular season.  The slogan is “good pitching beats good hitting”.  During the regular season, teams play every day.  They use their #5 starter and all their relievers.  During the playoffs, there are lots of extra off days.  Instead of using all their pitchers, teams only use their best pitchers, the best starters and the best relievers.  Therefore, a team with 2 great starting pitchers has a huge advantage in the playoffs.  During the regular season, the two best pitchers play 2/5 of the games.  During the playoffs, the two best pitchers play 4/7 of the games.

If someone has a .300 batting average, a lot of those at-bats come against weak pitchers.  Those pitchers don’t play in the playoffs.  A batter will do substantially worse against superstar pitchers.  The superstar pitcher only does slightly worse against great batters.

In the playoffs, the outcome is determined a lot by chance.  Even though it’s a 5 or 7 game series, there’s a huge random element.  There’s a huge luck factor in a short series.  The teams usually are closely matched.  If a team makes the divisional round 8 times, they would (on average) win the World Series once.

The Yankees and Braves seem bad due to their own success.  They made the playoffs every year.  Once in the playoffs, they only have a 1/8 chance of winning the World Series.  When they won 1 time in 11 tries, that’s only slightly below average.  It seems like a huge disappointment, because they made the playoffs every year.  However, the Yankees were embarrassingly bad this year.

Reader Mail – 10/14/2012 To 10/20/2012

My cold/flu is still pretty bad. I'm behind on my draft queue.
OIFDisabledVet commented on Do Disabled Veterans Deserve Respect?.
You are a freaking moron. People join the military to serve no matter what the mission. Some missions are more just than others. The point is we joined to defend your sorry asses no matter what. If I am injured in the line of duty I absolutely deserve a disability check. I am not whole because of the job I chose to do. I bet if your no good sorry ass fell on your job and bumped your elbow you would be drawing a workman compensation check the next day.

The heart to tell them their loved one was in jured for no reason at all? Do you realize where you live? You have better than anyone else in the world. Why hasn't this country been overrun by people like Hitler, Stalin, Hussein, Acmoudinajad (whatever the fuck way his name is spelled)? Because of men and women who put their lives on the line for YOU. Even when we are not at awar we are a deterrent, and it is a hard life. Noone goes into the military to get rich asshole, or to get hurt and disabled 1005 for the rest of their life for a measily 3k a month.

Esse commented on "State Gambling Supports Schools!" Fnord.
It's similar to their monopoly on murder. The state brainwashes children in school and church and media that killing is always wrong.

Then the children grow up and are recruited to become soldiers in a war that benefits the interests of the elite. When they return, they become police officers whose job is to beat protesters, arrest minorities and harmless drug users, and destroy their lives. Anyone who resists is killed. Those who fight back we then hear about how killing is wrong and there is no such thing as self defense.

Robert commented on Forged Unemployment Statistics - Jack Welch Vs. BLS.
I watched some of the Vice-Presidential debate recently. At one point Biden quipped rhetorically "how are you going to pay for those tax cuts?". "Pay" for a tax cut?? That is a contradiction. It really offends me that State beauracrats operate with the assumption that my money is automatically their money. Local taxes pay for schools and roads. The federal government taxes me for things I don't need and never asked for in the first place. Watching these "debates" between two people of the same ruling oligarchy talking about nuanced differences in how they will screw us all over is insulting. All of the "issues" are so important they espouse. In reality, the federal government could completely collapse tomorrow and not only would that not stop economic activity, it would actually be a huge benefit. The federal government reduced its budget in 1946 after World War II and in that same year the economy grew by 30%. 30%!! When watching these sham debates about "things would be better if we do this..", "things would be better if we do that."", I want to get through the screening process in the crowd and say "things would be better if you ass clowns didn't exist at all."

The Presidential debates are one big fnord. The debates are an advertisement for the candidates and the State. The candidates from the minor parties are left out. Because they get no media exposure, they have no chance.

Also, they have special microphones at the debates. If someone in the audience makes a noise, it automatically gets filtered out.

commented on Blogging Break - New Job And Sick.
My boss said “I have worked on several previous projects where Accenture was fired for gross negligence!”

I like when that happens

Blogging Break – New Job And Sick

Due to my new job, I haven’t had as much time to work on my blog, and I’ve fallen behind.  I exhausted my draft queue.  I normally try to make one post per day.

Also, I have a pretty bad cold.

At my new job, I have the misfortune of working with some consultants from Bigtime Evil Consulting.  I work for a different consulting company, hired by the same bank.  Bigtime Evil Consulting set up the software and we are users.  The Bigtime Evil Consulting twits are good at emotional manipulation.  They are rude and condescending and extremely unprofessional.  The head boss from Bigtime Evil Consulting talks exactly like Lumbergh from “Office Space”.  They are barely technically literate.  They were supposed to set up the software we’re using, but it’s a buggy POS and they can’t set it up right.

The bank hired Bigtime Evil Consultingto set up the software and two other consulting companies as users.  Bigtime Evil Consulting bid on the whole thing and was rejected.  In restrospect, that was a brilliant idea, because the consulting companies are a check and balance against each other.  If Bigtime Evil Consultingwere awarded the whole contract, it would have been easier for them to cover up problems.  It’s an amusing strategy for mitigating the damage of incompetence, hiring different consulting companies to work on different pieces of a big project.

The project is on the doomed path.  Now it’s time for the death march, the political manipulation game, and blame-deflecting.  My bosses have the facts 100% on their side, because I’ve explained all the major bugs in simple reproducible details.  I’m going to take a stand against demands to work unreasonable hours.

I can read the body language of the Bigtime Evil Consulting consultants, and I can tell they’re panicking.  It does affect me emotionally, because when people panic like that I usually get scapegoated.  When I hear them talking, I also can tell they don’t understand the complex data issues.  For each example I worked through by hand, I found a DIFFERENT problem.  They gave us super-simplified super-sanitized examples for User Acceptance Testing, but even those may not work.  I doubt it will work with “normal” data and not super-sanitized data.

There’s one bug that makes one key program completely unusable.  Instead of admitting the problem, they covered it up and hoped we wouldn’t notice.  When I raised a problem report, their attitude was “It doesn’t work because you’re stupid and doing it wrong.”  As skilled evil people, they don’t explicitly say that, but it’s strongly implied by the body language.  That activated my BS meter.  That works on most people; it would have worked on me 10 years ago.  Not anymore!  The Bigtime Evil Consulting consultant accidentally showed to me how to notice, confirm, and reproduce the fatal bug.  I explained it to my bosses and coworkers, who don’t work for Bigtime Evil Consulting.  Did they really expect us to never notice?  Bigtime Evil Consulting probably advised the bank to use this lousy software (probably in exchange for a kickback), and can’t admit it’s defective.

My boss said “I have worked on several previous projects where Bigtime Evil Consulting was fired for gross negligence!”

The management at the bank is starting to joke “HAHAHA!  Maybe we shouldn’t have hired Bigtime Evil Consulting!”  If there’s one thing senior management at a big bank can do, it’s can read body language.  It’s obvious that the Bigtime Evil Consulting twits know they’re screwed.

The Fiscal Cliff – A Fake Crisis

The mainsteam media talks about the “fiscal cliff” a lot. The fiscal cliff is not a real crisis. It’s a fake crisis created by the State.

In the USA, the fiscal cliff refers to two laws. First, the “Bush tax cuts” are set to expire at the end of the year. Second, during the last “debt ceiling” debate, the law had an unusual compromise. If Congress cannot agree on a budget, automatic budget cuts take effect. (the “sequestration”) That would lead to a tax hike and huge budge cuts, if there is no compromise.

There’s an obvious fallacy. If Congress wanted to, they could change the law. It’s a fake crisis and not a real crisis.

In Europe, there also is a fiscal cliff. There are several insolvent governments, with huge debts. Periodically, they get bailed out. Each bailout gives the governments enough money to pay the creditors/banks for a few more months. However, the budget deficit is not fixed and there’s another crisis every few months.

In the USA, the Federal government’s debt is in dollars and the Federal government is the issuer for dollars. The budget deficit is just a number on a piece of paper. In a paper monetary system, you can have arbitrarily large deficits. The budget deficit isn’t free. The cost isn’t deferred to the future. The cost of the deficit is higher inflation. The only limit to deficits is the risk of hyperinflation.

In the EU, no government controls its own money. Because the EU governments ceded monetary sovereignty, they can’t inflate their way out of debt like the USA. If Greece has a huge deficit, the cost is paid by inflation throughout the EU.

Who benefits from the European government bailout? The main beneficiaries are the banks who own the bonds. Banks borrow cheaply from the central bank (Federal Reserve or ECB), and buy high-yielding government debt. When there is a bailout, those bonds get paid off at face amount, leading to huge profits for the banks. If there were no bailout, those banks would lose a lot of money due to high leverage. The government bailouts are an indirect bailout of the creditors, the big banks.

Once in a while, there is not bailout and there’s a default. In that case, insiders and the big banks know it’s coming, and make a fortune short-selling.

Who benefits from the periodic crisis? The politicians benefit. It seems like an urgent problem that the politicians are fixing. They get to make deals every time there’s a new compromise.

Most people don’t realize that the “fiscal cliff” problem is 100% caused by government. They passed laws that set up a future crisis, if the law is not changed. It’s a fake crisis, because they could always change the law.

Reader Mail – 10/07/2012 To 10/13/2012

A Hungarian website "weblabor" cited my blog, leading to a traffic spike. According to Piwik, it was double my normal reader count for a few days.
B commented on node.js Is VB6 - Does node.js Suck?.
Holy crap you're such a moron! I couldn't read anymore after you said:

"Javascript is incredibly ugly. Why would anyone extend it to a full server-side language?"

You're such an idiot! Lol. Guess what? *Your* javascript is ugly because you suck at programming. Javascript is an incredibly powerful language you can easily make beautiful with reasonable knowledge about object composition.

I did read through the comments and laughed at how you said setting up a LAMP stack is a day of work. Good job man. Hope you're working on something unimportant.

commented on Brian Banks, Victim Of A False Rape Accusation.
Are you fucking kidding? You are exactly what's wrong with religion. In such a horrible story, you saying the victim "must have God next to him" is completely fucked up. This should have never happened.

According to Piwik, I got a lot of traffic from this website. (original untranslated link) It isn't English. It was 60+ pageviews in one day! Surprisingly, it didn't generate a pingback.

It was mostly bounces or 2-3 pageviews. That's another advantage of Piwik over Google Analytics. Google Analytics only tells me overall bounce rate. Piwik is better at giving me details on traffic from a specific source. Cynically, because Google Analytics makes it hard to track the effectiveness of links and ads, that makes it easier to trick people into advertising on Google! With Piwik, I can identify the original source of regular readers; that is not available with Google Analytics.

I read another interesting bit about Test Driven Development. It's a stupid idea that combines well with Design Patterns, another stupid idea. When you use Design Patterns, your project is broken up into lots of classes. When you have lots of small classes, it's easier to write unit tests. When you have lots of small classes, you have more potential problems, so you need more testing.

Anonymous commented on Test Driven Development - How Stupidity Spreads.


Weblabor is a Hungarian community site for web developers, now there is a heated debated about TDD since many people agree it has nothing to do with automated tests or optimalization but anyway that has not much to do with the article which is informative and great

Blacksonic commented on Test Driven Development - How Stupidity Spreads.

Which one is easier:

find a bug between 5k lines of code or 100 lines of code?

Yes, the places are increasing, but they became separated following the SRP, and easier to maintain

Finding bugs become much faster

Just because you have fifty 100 line components, all of which passes every single unit test, doesn't mean the program as a whole works. When you break the application up into more components, you're adding more lines of code for the interfaces.

Suppose your program has a lot of 100 line components. The program as a whole has a bug, even though each component tests perfectly. You still have to dig through and find the problem, exactly the same as if you had fewer components.

My point is that Test Driven Development adds overhead. It isn't a substitute for skilled people working intelligently. A highly skilled person will be frustrated in a TDD environment, due to the productivity-draining added overhead. If you have a large group of mediocre programmers, TDD might help you manage them better, but they won't perform as well as 2-5 highly skilled people managed properly.

Here's an example of automated testing at one job I had (but not TDD). It was financial number-crunching, so automated testing made a lot of sense. The program was in C. In C, an uninitialized variable has a random value (actually, it was a global variable re-used from a previous iteration). When the program parsed the input, there was no clause to handle unexpected input. I added a clause that said "If input is not one of the expected values, raise an error instead of continuing with an undefined value." This broke the automated tests, because one input file contained invalid data. They didn't want to admit to the customer that the previous version of the program had a defect, so they ordered me to remove the error-checking code!

At my current (new) job, the software I'm using is a lousy POS. I have no idea if they were using TDD. It's obvious that nobody competent ever sat down with the program for 5 minutes and pretended to be a user. I found some real boneheaded bugs after using the programs for a few minutes. It is possible that the program passed every single automated test, but I'm finding obvious defects nobody ever tested before.

Here are some bugs I found:

* If you close the program while it's saving, it saves corrupted data instead of exiting gracefully.

* The program has various editing modes. When you load a file, it enters "undefined" editing mode instead of a specific mode.

* The program works fine when editing a 300kb file, but it chokes on a 3MB file! (I.e., it's 1000x+ slower instead of 10x slower.) It's obvious that someone used a lousy data structure.

* When the program generates a textbox for me, I'm not able to resize or move that box.

* The input screens have 50-100 fields each, and I'm only using 1-3 fields on each screen.

* The button labels on the input screens are misleading. One button is labeled "Accept" (i.e. start working), but it actually means "Submit" (i.e. I'm done.). One button is labeled "Revert" (i.e. discard changes) but it actually means "Refresh screen". When I edit something, the data onscreen is not updated until I click "Revert".

All of these bugs could be handled by automated testing. However, that requires someone intelligent to test the program. I have no idea if the authors of those programs were using TDD or not. They certainly were incompetent. (They're probably billing the bank $10M+ for that POS.) It is possible that those programmers thought they had a perfect program, because it passed every automated test.

Anonymous Coward commented on GCW Zero - Linux Gaming Handhelds Vs. Android Gaming Handhelds.
If your precious Google clowns are so clever, they why did they have to buy in the Android operating system? Why couldn't they write it themselves?

Why didn't the Google clowns take the insides of the web browser Konqueror and rebrand it as their Google Chrome web browser? Why couldn't they write this technical stuff themselves?

Why did they have to buy in the technology for StreetView? Why couldn't they do this by themselves?

If the Google Clowns are so clever why can't they write anything outside of Google Search? What is the point of having proclaimed technical interviews, if the clowns can only create something new by getting out their check books?

A university professor was sent to investigate click fraud and he wondered why the Google Clowns took so long to fix it.

What goes on with these Google Clowns? If they are so clever they should write some new software instead of buying everything new in.

asdf commented on GCW Zero - Linux Gaming Handhelds Vs. Android Gaming Handhelds.

I'd say go with the GCW Zero and keep your phone. The GCW Zero is a handheld while the Open Pandora is a laptop with a controller built in. I've been following the GCW for a while and I decided I'm going to get it.

Anonymous Coward commented on GCW Zero - Linux Gaming Handhelds Vs. Android Gaming Handhelds.

Your precious Google Clowns are in the news.

The FTC is _thinking_ of bringing an anti-trust lawsuit against them.


We all know what lovely people the Google Clowns are and that they would never do anything evil.

They surely must suffer temptations.

In the past 6 months I've dropped for third place to near the bottom of the first page in the Clown search results. As a side-effect (purely unintentional) this is forcing me to spent more on Clown adverts.

The thing is I compete against low-cost East European producers that can quite simply offer a product for half the price. I've seen them play with playing Google for adverts. It never lasts for them. They dabble and then give up.

It is difficult to produce cut price goods and pay the clowns for advertising. commented on Taxes And Profit Margins.
You are absolutely right - when taxes are taken into account many profitable activities are no longer such. I believe that in order to end the recession all that needs to be done is to lower taxes. I have never understood why it is socially acceptable to add sales tax to a price. Why only sales tax, why a store would not add other taxes such as federal, state etc

The other taxes are included in the price (income, corporate, property, etc.). They aren't explicitly added, but they're in there. When a business has property tax as an expense, that cost must be added to the price. When a business has corporate income tax on profits, they must charge more for the same profit margin.

sth_txs commented on Taxes And Profit Margins.

People are so oblivious or just being slaves. When I lived in a state with an income tax, I figured out before and after my check I worked darn close to 5 months of they year and that is what I could visibly count. I could only guess how much of my rent was taxes and other fees paid by the property owners.

In NYC (and most other states), the property tax rate for rentals is higher than the property tax rate for single family homes. It's a subtle way of tax gouging the poor, because the property tax expense is invisible to them, paid by the landlords. If you own your home directly and paid off the mortgage, you pay the property tax directly yourself, and it's more visible.

In NYC, if a commercial property is fined for a building code violation, it's added to the property tax bill if unpaid. Many owners never find out about the fines, due to bureaucratic incompetence. Most commercial properties have mortgages. The property tax addition is added to the mortgage, and the bank adds it to the bill without itemizing it.

Forged Unemployment Statistics – Jack Welch Vs. BLS

This story was interesting.  Jack Welch accused the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) of manipulating unemployment statistics. The mainstream media focused its hatred on Jack Welch. How dare he criticize a statistic published by the government!

I know that the CPI is biased and manipulated.  I know that the “official” GDP statistic is wrong, due to improperly adjusting for inflation. If the CPI and GDP statistics are biased, it’s also reasonable to question the official unemployment statistics.

I saw some clips of Jack Welch on The Daily Show. Jack Welch made a weak criticism of the unemployment statistics. By promoting someone who makes a weak criticism, that makes all “conspiracy theorists” seem crazy,

Here is a better criticism of the unemployment number. The most important discrepancy is the labor participation rate. The unemployment rate went down *AND* the labor participation rate went down. That suggests manipulation. If your unemployment benefit runs out, you might no longer count as “unemployed”.

For example, at my previous job, I quit. I wasn’t eligible to collect unemployment. Therefore, I may not have counted as “unemployed” in the official statistics.

If some unemployed people count as “discouraged workers” or “not part of the labor force”, then the unemployment rate is manipulated down.

Also, the total number of employed people is less, compared to 4 years ago, even though the unemployment rate is similar. (2008=145M, Sep 2012=143M)  That also suggests manipulation. Due to population growth, the number of jobs must increase to keep the unemployment rate the same.

The unemployment statistics are determined by a survey. That opens the possibility for bias, if the survey sampling method is defective. I always refuse to answer surveys and polls, which leads to bias.  Can’t they get the exact employment numbers by looking at tax records?

There’s another big flaw in the unemployment statistics. It does not count people who are underemployed. It does not count people who have jobs with zero economic value. If someone is working in the parasite sector of the economy, they count as “employed” even though they produce no useful goods or services.

I’m really overqualified for my current job. I count as “employed”, even though my skills are mostly wasted. If someone is unemployed for a long time and then accepts a lesser job, they count as “employed” even though they are underemployed.

My job has no real economic value. I’m working for a bank, cleaning their contract data for Dodd-Frank compliance. My job only exists because of the Dodd-Frank law. I count as “employed”, even though I’m producing nothing useful.

The media criticism of Jack Welch was interesting. Jack Welch is not sent to a labor camp for questioning the State. Instead, the State media sharply criticizes him for questioning official propaganda. The net effect is almost the same, except it happens via the “free” market.

Jack Welch has an important point. “It should always be acceptable to question a government statistic.” Even if he is wrong, there’s nothing wrong with questioning anything published by the government.

This Huffington Post article criticized Jack Welch. The criticism was mostly ad hominem. “Jack Welch used accounting tricks while at GE. Therefore, his criticism of the BLS unemployment rate is wrong.” That is invalid reasoning. Those are two unrelated subjects. I’ve seen a similar argument when people criticize me “FSK has switched programmer jobs a lot. Therefore his criticisms of node.js, Rails, TDD, and Design Pattens are wrong.” If you can’t criticize someone’s argument directly, you instead point out other things. That’s a common propaganda trick.

Due to the ad hominem attack and strong backlash, that convinces me that Jack Welch made an important point. If Jack Welch’s criticism was so obviously wrong, State liars would not have spent so much time spreading propaganda against him.

If you really believe that State bureaucrats would *NEVER* manipulate statistics, you aren’t paying attention. The people at the BLS put a lot of effort into pretending to be impartial. There always is bias, especially for a career State bureaucrat.  They know where their bread is buttered, and what conclusions their “research” is supposed to have.

In the present, most of the leaders are criminally insane. Most CEOs, politicians, and leaders have the same personality type as Bernard Madoff. 20-30 years ago, it was still possible for an honest and intelligent person to move up the ranks and become a CEO. Jack Welch seems more honest than the current group of criminally insane leaders. However, Jack Welch certainly had a bit of Clint Eastwood senility. It would be better to see someone else more clearly explain the flaws in the unemployment statistics.

It is misleading to talk about unemployment the same time as discussing government policy. It isn’t the government’s role to create jobs. When someone says “Government should create jobs!”, that makes as much sense as “An NFL referee should score touchdowns!” Most of the “jobs” created by government are wasteful ones, like my current job performing Dodd-Frank compliance.

Jack Welch said that the “official” unemployment statistic is manipulated, and there was a lot of mainstream media backlash against him. That is evidence that he is right and it is an important subject. There are a lot of flaws with the “official” unemployment rate. The labor participation rate is decreasing. The total number of “employed” is decreasing.  The unemployment rate does not count “discouraged workers”. The unemployment rate does not count workers who are underemployed (like me). The unemployment rate does not count workers who have jobs with zero economic value (also like me).