Core principle of science goes into um, a bathroom fixture

Science.mag has a depressing piece summarizing efforts of scientists to reproduce results from earlier studies. To make a long story short, it doesn’t look good.

The title of the Aug. 28, 2015 article is “Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science.”

Reproducibility is a core principle of scientific progress,” the article begins, then proceeds to destroy the believability of more than half of the tests of the older studies that were investigated.

From the abstract: “We conducted replications of 100 experimental and correlational studies published in three psychology journals using high-powered designs and original materials when available.”

Researchers defined “the sampling frame as 2008 articles of three important psychology journals: Psychological Science (PSCI), Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (JPSP), and Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition (JEP:LMC).”

Now, before you go to sleep, keep in mind that millions of education dollars are at stake, since wholesale changes in school curricula and advanced academic degrees are based on studies like these.

Furthermore, millions of dollars worth of psychoactive drug sales are also at stake, since new mental illnesses can be defined based on studies like these. No doubt more millions are at stake that we couldn’t determine, since no actual studies were described. Really.

“… publishing and analytic practices make it likely that more than half of research results are false and therefore irreproducible…,” was one conclusion.

After a long explanation of methods, much statistical measurement reporting, etc. – all aimed at heading of the inevitable barrage of attacks by alarmed academics, there was one clear conclusion:

 A large portion of replications produced weaker evidence for the original findings (31) despite using materials provided by the original authors, review in advance for methodological fidelity, and high statistical power to detect the original effect sizes.”

And here’s a sentence that would get the writer thrown out of any Tea Party convention:

“Because reproducibility is a hallmark of credible scientific evidence, it is tempting to think that maximum reproducibility of original results is important from the onset of a line of inquiry through its maturation.” Of course not, you silly goose!

“This is a mistake,” they say. “If initial ideas were always correct, then there would hardly be a reason to conduct research in the first place. A healthy discipline will have many false starts as it confronts the limits of present understanding.”

What a terrible gaggle of misleading sentences. The reason this notion is wrong is that we are not talking about the IDEAS, we are talking about the experimental RESULTS. The results can and should always be accurate. They may not substantiate the IDEA the researcher began with, but that’s what science is about.

Isn’t it?

In any event, this is the state of science today. The analysis above does not discuss political or financing issues, but it’s easy to extrapolate. Think Global Warming/ Change/Chaos, etc.

We’re betting that medical research is the least likely o experience these dismal results. To paraphrase what a friend said about another topic, “You can’t bullshit your way out of a patient death.”

Think about this the next time you hear, “The science is settled.”

 

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Retirement planning – don’t panic

“Don’t panic,” seems to be a recurring theme these days. Last night, we heard a Dave Ramsey broadcast which featured his retirement guru, whose name IFO can’t locate on his website.

The topic under discussion was the tendency people have when considering their own retirement to look at their financial situation and panic. What? No savings?

Ramsey discussed a government report noting that more than 1/3 of all workers have NO savings whatsoever!

One out of every three people? This was as astounding to them as it was to IFO. Why? How? But these gentlemen are kind and comforting, not judgmental like some people IFO knows. Okay, it’s me.

IFO just doesn’t have any empathy or sympathy, though she knows she should. She’s an automatic, unthinking saver. It is in her genes. Nobody told her or taught her to do it.

She just saved quarters she got from her uncles for years and one day asked what she could do with them. Her father suggested opening a savings account. She did and became an obsessive saver, especially after learning about the magic of compound interest, one of the few math concepts she mastered IMMEDIATELY.

What about the non-genetic non-savers who are suddenly realizing they aren’t going to have much money coming in after they retire?

Of the 2/3 of people who aren’t in that desperate group, probably about half have company retirement plans and the other half are self-employed, like farmers, small business people, and professionals like doctors or lawyers.

Ramsay and his pal gently suggested ways to get started NOW and encouraged their listeners in that situation not to panic. For the rest of the program, they issued their standard recommendations: make a budget (it’s not as hard as you might think), pay off ALL your debt, start saving NOW.

Even if you are 60 years old, you can still start to save and have a tidy nest egg in just 10 years. You’ll only be 70 then! You can probably work until you are 70, so you’re going to be okay. Just don’t get paralyzed by the enormity of the task. Take it one step at a time.

For anyone who thinks it might be hard to save money, you have only to Google the term “Saving Money.” Voila! 86 MILLION results! You’re sure to find advice you can live with.

At the risk of being snarky, see paragraph #3 above, we note the Ramsey show’s heavy emphasis on fundamentalist-style Christianity. Having grown up surrounded by such warm and loving, but often impractical, people, we totally understand their need for his show.

But being a Jewish lady now, she is struck by the lack of such learning programs in her new community, which offers classes in every aspect of Jewish culture to all kinds of us, from the highly liberal Reform Movement to the highly fundamentalist Chassidic movement.

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Rich people like to work and it pays off!

Parker Bros. game – Careers. Good for hours of fun!

This may seem a truism to some, but we’ve been noticing specific examples lately that show that rich people like to work. They enjoy it. They revel in it.

Everybody from our neighbors across the street in the big house with the big, manicured yard and many cars parked in the driveway to Carly Fiorina. Yes, Carly – our tough lady from yesterday’s post! Yay!

Go Carly Fiorina! We just learned she’s been invited to be in the next major Republican debate. CNN caved in to … wait for it … tweets from Donald Trump and Ben Carson. So much for Republicans beating up on each other. It is just SOME of them. Ahem. Note: not all news stories are mentioning that little fact.

We also have learned that Ms. Fiorina is a native of Texas, which explains a LOT about her. In IFO’s former home town, there were three women who were Texas natives. Their toughness and their contributions to the town were and are legendary.

Our neighbors both work at day jobs and are raising two daughters. They have four raised garden beds in the front yard where they are producing huge vegetable crops, plus apple trees in the little orchard next to it. Plus, kiwi vines next to their swimming pool in the back yard.

As you can see, they work hard and play hard. Their girls are involved in some school sport that involves sticks and a net on the ground.

And then there’s the young woman from Amazon who was quoted in a NYT story several weeks ago as saying,

“One time I didn’t sleep for four days straight,” said Dina Vaccari, who joined in 2008 to sell Amazon gift cards to other companies and once used her own money, without asking for approval, to pay a freelancer in India to enter data so she could get more done. “These businesses were my babies, and I did whatever I could to make them successful.”

Well, that’s what the NYT story said. But Dina Vaccari had much more to say. Her quasi-rebuttal story was in LinkedIn, a jobs site owned by … Amazon! Vaccari no longer works for Amazon, but she clearly still loves the company. Her story, linked above is really worth reading.

We have a friend who knows lots of Amazon people and he confirms the work ethic there. But he suspects that the article may have been an outgrowth of fear and loathing at the NYT brought on by Jeff Bezos’ purchase of the Washington Post! He could be right!

IFO had a job like that about 15 years ago, but that company didn’t have a genius like Jeff Bezos running it. It was a business news website, built on the model developed by American City Business Journals. But company founders were more focused on news than income. Sigh. Went bankrupt in 2001.

But before that, IFO had more fun and worked harder and made more money than she ever had before or has since. It’s a thrill you can’t describe unless you’ve been in the middle of it. It’s the Game of Careers writ large: Stars! Hearts! Money!

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Happy Anniversary self! Five years and counting…

Wooden earring

So, we’re going to celebrate and give ourself a Fifth Anniversary gift. According to the Internet, the traditional gift is wood and the modern gift is silverware. We already have wonderful wood products here at IFO-central, otherwise known as Home.

We have our 20-year old lilac wood bell-shaped earrings (left) and just-purchased wooden peel for getting bread products in and out of our gas-fired oven. We also still have a couple of wooden necklaces from our hippie days. So, that takes care of that.

Here’s the text of our very first post on Sept. 1, 2010:

Here’s a new look at personal investing. After years of practice, I have picked up a few ways to look at investing that work for me. I’ll be posting my highly-opinionated view of how single people should look at the world of wealth management.

I won’t be giving stock tips, just ways to think about stocks and investing.

Rule #1 – never take investment advice from an Irish person, no matter how long it has been since they or their ancestors left the Old Country. As a certified Irish person who watched her father attempt to “play the market,” this is my first best tip.

Well, that still holds. As today’s market continues its downward slide, we are again watching our net worth decline. But, guess what? We aren’t “playing the market” or “trading” or relying on “experts” to manage our money.

Looking on the bright side, our dividends still provide the income we need, we have NO debt at all, a fully-insulated house, cute little red car, and a tiny, still struggling garden that will be better next year.

Besides, it seems like only yesterday that we were watching the stock market sink, causing panic in the financial and political world, but little else. The globe kept turning, seasons kept changing, family and friends supported each other, and we weathered that storm.

We think recovery and resurgence will happen again.

Marissa Mayer, one of most powerful women in IT, married, has kids and is pregnant again! Superwoman!

As long as our country produces men like those three young American men who tackled the terrorist on the French high-speed train and American women like Marissa Meyer, 40, CEO of Yahoo!, and Carly Fiorina, 60, presidential candidate, we’ll be just fine.

What do we learn from this? Work hard, stand tall, do the best you can with what you’ve got to work with. You’ll be fine in investing and life.

Carly Fiorina, possibly toughest woman in the world: former HP CEO, presidential candidate, cancer survivor!
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How the oil industry experienced Hurricane Katrina

Sallie Rainer, president and CEO of Entergy Texas, which is owned by New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., an integrated energy company

“We always had a plan in place, but with the full devastation that came with Katrina, we had to create a new plan,” said Sallie Rainer, Entergy Texas CEO. In the wake of the storm, hundreds of people from Entergy’s New Orleans headquarters were shifted to The Woodlands, with some staying permanently. — HBJ

Everyone in the U.S. is remembering New Orleans today, the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Today, the Houston Business Journal has published a Special Section on the subject, concentrating on Houston and the oil industry. We’re going to print a few excerpts and we urge you to read as much as you can – some of it is pretty technical.

What it illustrates for us is just how resilient our free enterprise capitalist system is. How has the South fared, especially the Gulf Coast of Texas, since Katrina, and what were the early days following the hurricane like?

Rainer had nine people staying in her Houston home in the wake of the hurricane. She said the company’s internal disaster-preparedness plan was also turned upside down.

“It was a huge learning experience,” she said. “We developed much more robust plans built on business continuity. Our company is much more focused on preparation now and having plans in place for that. There is a lot of coordination that has to happen.”

W&T Offshore Inc. (NYSE: WTI) “…moved 150 employees and their families to Houston almost overnight, putting them in host homes, hotels and other spots, and finding them clothing and schooling for their children,” said the HBJ article.

“We did have a disaster plan, but it didn’t include a total move of the office from one city to another overnight,” said Tracy W. Krohn, chairman and CEO of W&T.”

“Then, just two and a half weeks later, Hurricane Rita was threatening to hit Houston. Not willing to take any chances this time around, W&T chartered a 757 airplane and took all of the employees that were now in Houston to Kansas City,” according to the HBJ.

The City of Houston also helped “by opening public shelters, feeding the evacuees, getting children enrolled in schools and helping relocated employees reconnect with their companies, W&T’s Krohn said.”

Patrick Jankowski, SVP of research at the Greater Houston Partnership, said Houston was ready when the spotlight turned on the City — and it did. He said “many apartment landlords opted to waive deposits, background checks and credit checks in order to provide living spaces for evacuees, and office-building landlords were willing to offer short-term leases for three or six months.”

Does this restore your faith and confidence in the intelligence and goodness of Americans, generally, and Texans, specifically? It certainly does ours.

What do we learn from this? Don’t panic!

[P.S. This is Post #14 in binary – 1110 in the decimal system.]

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What causes forest fires? It depends…

“We have left undone those thinges whiche we ought to have done, and we have done those thinges which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us, but thou, O Lorde, have mercy upon us miserable offendours.1559 Book of Common Prayer, Anglican

Seeing the recent reports of massive forest fires throughout the Pacific Northwest, we wondered what the prime causes were. Humans are constantly being accused of causing all the environmental ills of the world, or globe as we are being taught to say. Why?

Perhaps due to the strong Protestant influence on our American culture, which attributes everything to us. This means WE control our destinies and our environment. It did not mean at that time (1559) that everything was hopeless because we were so bad.

We were capable of improvement! What a hopeful message in all that gloom.

In the lead up to this Morning and Evening prayer, instructions were that “the Minister shall reade with a lowde voice,the listed prayers. Imagine hearing THAT every time you went to church.

But, back to the original thought. Are the forest fires our fault? You know what Smoky the Bear says, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.” However, we also read that lightning causes forest fires.

Furthermore, we are assured by some environmentalists, that no matter what the cause, forest fires are good because they are “natural.” Human activity does cause bad forest fires, they say, because we act to prevent them, thus leading to really big ones.

If we allowed natural fires to sweep through the forest on a regular basis, the argument goes, the fuel load wouldn’t be so bad and older stronger trees would survive. This assumes that humans are not and should not be using wood created by trees.

The “real” answer is, as usual, more complicated and nuanced, as the following examples show.

In the example on the left, we see that 72% of forest fires are caused by humans, although we would add ag burning as well, since these are deliberately set fires to clear the forest floor in preparation for re-planting.

The website where we found this graphic is quite sketchy (no sources cited, no date on post), but we like the colors. Also, it is a general overview, and our own research shows that fires and their causes differ by geographical location and other factors.

Another, more reliable site, has this cute graphic. Note the dates and source of information. We’re already feeling reassured. You won’t get to read the full article without registering, but what is there is interesting. It is about British Columbia.

Note also that the bad guy is lightning in BC’s forest fires.

Now, for a COMPLETELY different view of causes of forest fires, check out this graph from Mexico!

It comes from a website that is attempting to create definitions of terminology covering deforestation and “other land use change processes.” It reads like a federal report and probably is, to put it kindly.

However, there is a sentence in the wordy and graphics-filled document, that we are going to use to close this post with. It contains what we believe is the definitive statement about forest fires, causes, effects, benefits, and drawbacks. Here the bad guy is agriculture. Still, it is definitely worth reading.

“The issue of deforestation in Mexico involves a huge disparity in the estimates obtained from different sources.”

In other words, consider the source and evaluate accordingly. This is true for investing in the stock market, or actually, any other material you may be looking at.

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Good gardening = good food

Today's DinnerDidn’t IFO tell you not to worry? We hope you listened. The market roller coaster is continuing, but we got a bit woozy and have stepped off for a bit. These last days of summer are too precious to waste on watching stock prices go up and down for no apparent reason.

So, today, we’re going to talk about food. We haven’t whined too publicly about what a hard time we are having with our garden. Above is a picture of one day’s harvest.
It is also one dinner.

Production has been just dreadful. Funnily enough, that’s not as bad as we thought, since harvesting has been very low key. So, we took a picture of everything we had picked yesterday. For scale, figured the tomato is about 2.5″ in diameter.

Main ingredients are above, we also chopped a large clove of garlic and used about 3 T of EVOO, plus salt. We toasted the tomato over the flame to remove the very tough skin, then used have in the eggplant dish and half in the green bean dish. We sliced the onions and used half in each dish. We salted everything liberally and added a touch of rice vinegar to the green beans.

Next we tore up lots of lettuce and put it in the very same bowl you see above. Thinking that green beans and eggplant would not go well together at all, we dumped the eggplant stew over the greens first, ate them, then poured the green beans over the remainder.

This made a lovely, healthful, low calorie yet filling dinner. The garden is just about done, although we have high hopes for the next couple of days, when rain is forecast. Also, we finally got around to putting vegetable fertilizer on everything.

Our last batch of fertilizer did seem to produce some enthusiasm among the tomatoes and beans, so we shall see. Also there was some rain a couple of weeks ago that produced some excitement.

All of the herbs are doing quite well, but there was real dirt in the area where we planted them. The lavender has gone nuts. We’re harvesting that gradually. And in fact the calm induced by gardening, watering, fertilizing, harvesting, then preparing and eating is just what we needed for this otherwise hectic time.

It’s obvious what we learn from this: relax! It’s amazing what a little olive oil and garlic can do for vegetables!

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Market antics – the inmates are running the asylum!

Can you believe the stock market these days?

Panic-up. Frightened-down.

Happy – up. Scared – down.

Absolutely insane. Stormy weather these days.

IFO sincerely hopes that NONE of her readers is buying or selling stock right now. This is where the amateurs get slaughtered! If you have done your own due diligence (research) in to the companies you have picked, you should just sit still. Wait until the storm subsides.

It may take a while. There is a lot to consider. Governments, of course, are panicking, too. When a dinosaur like China starts to flounder around, everybody is in danger. Remember, they are new at this capitalism stuff.

They never really let go of the government strings (controls), they just parceled out some business entities, which we hesitate to call companies or banks, to their friends and relatives. Then capitalism’s greatest weapon, greed, was unleashed.

Greed, like fire, can operate for good – cleaning out deadwood, allowing new healthy sprouts to grow, or for evil – destroying living tissues, laying bare the landscape. So, the Chinese have to figure out which it is in their own economy as well as the world’s economy.

We called China a dinosaur deliberately. This is an image raised by a former Econ professor of hers at Michigan State University – Walter Adams, pictured below right.

Walter Adams

Adams was highly popular with the students because he was a marvelous lecturer and didn’t like to play the typical academia political games.

He accepted a temporary appointment as president of MSU, making it clear he would not accept a permanent appointment. He won IFO’s heart by smoking a cigar and attending every MSU baseball game he could.

He said, back in 1970, that GM should be broken up into its original constituent parts. Total heresy in Michigan!  GM had bought numerous startup auto companies and built itself into what seemed to be unstoppable.

Adams said GM was like a dinosaur. When it walked its tail moved about, knocking over and killing smaller critters. It wasn’t evil. Wasn’t doing it on purpose. It was just because it was so big that that happened. Also, it took ages for information to get from the tail up to the little head and vice-versa. Not efficient from an economic point of view.

But, as we all remember from 2008-2009 and an other earlier time, GM and other auto executives had to go begging to Congress for a bailout. Remember when the news broke that executives had flown in company airplanes??? Big hullaballoo.

So, for their next appearance, they took regular, commercial flights. Even though, at their salaries, it was far less expensive to GM to fly on their own planes. But the ignorant hoi polloi, the media assumed, didn’t understand that highly sophisticated point.

We think the public anger was over the d*mned bailout, not the private airplanes. But since the media supported the bailout – jobs, dontcha know, they chose the false narrative.

What do we learn from this? Don’t go out into the stormy market! Just sit back and enjoy the show of rain, thunder and lightening.

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More politics – we just can’t help ourselves

HT: Africa Young Voices

On The Conservative Treehouse, we readers are being treated to a superb analysis by the key poster known as SD, for Sundance, of how the Republican Establishment has made plans to win the 2016 Presidential nomination for Jeb Bush.

Too bad Donald Trump apparently is throwing a monkey wrench in to those plans – bwahahahaha!

In the discussion thread of this blog post was this naïve comment:

OMG. I bet Trump has had some amazing follow-the-money investigation going on. The next step is to figure out a way to hand an olive branch to Wall Street so they can bow out gracefully – when the time comes to cut bait. I don’t see all-out-war working in the long run.

Here is our answer:

OK, forget the olive branches. This is the big problem with nice people. They think you have to be nice all the time. Not so. When you are in a battle to the death, it is not the time for nice.
It took me a while to understand what SD is saying. Yes, I’m slow. But then I recalled my own previous political battles. Started out innocent, inexperienced, naïve. Finally, we won one. Then another. And another. “We” was my DH and me and a gaggle of other interested parties. Different ones for different battles.
With each battle, local issues only, we learned more and got stronger. We fought urban renewal twice, a sign ordinance, and a room tax – twice. We had no chance, the whole establishment was against us, but we won them all.

Lessons:
1. Stay intensely focused on the issues and the opponents.
2. Fight until the very end of the voting day… and beyond. (you don’t know whether you might have to fight a challenge, or the same issue over again – so don’t leave any loose ends. Check vote totals a couple of days after the election.)
3. Give people a positive reason to want to vote your way. Negative campaigning may work for candidate races, but it doesn’t work for issue races. Yes, you have to let voters know why it is bad to vote the wrong way, but you have to go the next step and make them feel good about voting your way.
4. Get into the weeds. Know everything about the proposal you are opposing, the election rules, your opponents, and your supporters.
5. Raise your own money and, if you have a committee, you and they all should contribute as much as they can. They should commit to getting the money. Don’t accept money from outside the group that you did not ask for.
6. Hold short, infrequent meetings, but stay in near-constant email contact.

<<End Of File>>

These are hard-won lessons and IFO has at least one example for each one. One day she may write a book.

We have been involved, peripherally, in a few candidate campaigns, and she assures you that they are a completely different animal. The rules above are helpful, but we would guess there is much more to winning than there is in an issue campaign. Personalities alone can wreck a plan.

So, get out there and get involved. Winning one of those fights is the highest high you can experience outside of sex or baseball.

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Still in a good mood – let’s talk politics

First, note that the Heroes in France story is still active. Choked up fathers marveling at the brave deeds of their sons, proud mothers who knew all along that their sons are heroes, public figures trying to get in on the glory: Hollande & Obama. Great fun.

But even more so are the political pundits trying to make sense of current crowd pleasers – Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. We read an interesting analysis saying both guys had populist appeals and were against the Washington political elites, and that’s why they were getting big audiences. Whatever.

Of course, the Washington political elites are currently scared spitless. Hyar-hyar-hyar. We find it all fascinating. Wonder who the Libertarian candidate will be?

Comments by readers are even more fun, since they don’t aim to impress anybody with their highly intellectual abilities, but were just making fly-by observations.

Some commenters sound like trolls or whatever the current term is for staffers from other campaigns. They write: “Trump is really a Democrat!” Or, better yet and trying to sound like what they think conservatives sound like, “Trump is a DemonRat!” So witty.

Our favorite comment by far was the guy who called Donald Trump a honey badger! That’s a keeper!

Since IFO likes to maintain a highly intellectual tone on her blog, she won’t post a link to the original honey badger video narrated by Randall that got 75 million views!

Here’s her high-toned contribution, which has achieved a magnificent 75,000 views!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQkFULUjsc4

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