Monthly Archives: February 2018

Remembering Tom Rapp and one very appropriate song

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In the very early 1970s, I had passed the FCC test for what was commonly called a “First Phone” radio operators license, which allowed me to work briefly as an engineer for two Upper Peninsula Michigan radio stations. Warner Brothers Music and their Reprise label would supply stations regular demonstration LP records, which would contain sample tracks from upcoming albums, and… Read more »

Ambulances, drugs and the fixed-cost dilemma

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Vox.com’s Sarah Kliff has been mounting an excellent campaign to make hospital emergency room charges more transparent. One example making the rounds is several accounts of short ambulance rides being billed in the vicinity of $2000. I have yet to see a good discussion of this rate level presented as the very basic math problem that is the “Fixed-cost Dilemma.”… Read more »

Wait for it…wait for it…

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If you were a horse soldier in the Prussian Army in the late 1800s, you were obviously not at any risk of dying in an automobile accident, but there was a persistent, yet low-risk, problem with soldiers dying from being kicked by their horses. Polish/Russian statistician Ladislaus Bortkiewicz famously found that these “random” deaths did indeed form a pattern, in this… Read more »

Cancer, probability, normality and theodicy – part 4

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Said no one at any funeral ever: “I figured out the probability for why he died.” [1] Part Two and Part Three of this series of posts looked why the statistics for cancer, automobile accidents and other unfortunate life events are often so rigidly probabilistic in narrow ranges in aggregate. In other words, we can often predict “How many?” down… Read more »

Free trade #2 – It’s personal

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In Part One of this series, I discussed the best, largely-unspoken argument in favor of free trade, where the increasing fungibility of goods and services will largely circumvent any attempts to make effective one-on-one trade deals. In this second part, I want to address what is, in my view, the best populist argument against free trade too often ignored by… Read more »

Cancer, probability, normality and theodicy – part 3

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Part One of this series of posts introduced the idea that natural probabilities for life events like a cancer diagnosis or a traffic accident are counter-intuitively very predictable in the aggregate, although usually not individually. Part Two demonstrated how a low-probability and very skewed random event begins, after a lot of time and repetitions, to look very “normal” because of… Read more »

Free trade #1 – Assume everything is fungible

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With free trade hitting the news in conjunction with the President’s recent visit to the Davos conference, I was looking again to see if either side could identify the best arguments for the other side of the debate. Advocates don’t like to give press to strong ideas from the other side, so too often the ideas get passed by. In… Read more »

Cancer, probability, normality and theodicy – part 2

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In Part One of this series, I suggested that you imagine what happens when a wonky die is rolled over and over again. Cancer probabilities are kind of wonky this way, with a low probability of happening, followed by an unpredictable course when it kicks in, possibly including death. The mathematical principle illustrated here is called the Central Limit Theorem…. Read more »

Remembering Lenore and George Romney

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With Mitt Romney possibly returning to politics to run for U.S. Senator from Utah, and with his niece, Ronna Romney McDaniel as current Chair of the Republican National Committee (although she has now dropped the “Romney” at the President’s behest), I decided to engage in a little remembrance as a demonstration on how political positions can change 180 degrees, and… Read more »

Diversions: Kansas City to Iceland non-stop

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IcelandAir just announced the addition of three-times weekly in-season non-stop flights from Kansas City to Reykjavik, and from there you can connect to several primary and secondary cities in Europe. We have flown this route twice in recent years out of Minneapolis, and since I had already written up some tips for friends in the past, I thought I would… Read more »