Way back, at the dawn of time, my faculty advisor in my MBA program ground something into my head that has stuck with me ever since: “Data is just a pile of discrete facts arranged in no particular order. Information on the other hand, is data arranged in a way such that it becomes actionable. As a senior manager always keep that in mind. More decimal points don’t mean better decisions – there’s an illusion in precision…”
And I have. I don’t bother with pennies when doing taxes, I don’t quibble with who’s working 39.8 hours a week compared with 40.2. Instead, it’s the big stuff that matters – not the little stuff. When I’m driving, used to be a ‘hold the speed to within half a mile per hour, or flying, hold altitude within 20 feet. Malarkey. Life’s too short to spend excessive time on the small stuff.
Not that there aren’t a few things where precision isn’t nice: Starting a ham radio net, or client conference call is something I usually hold to a 15 second +/- window…and for whatever reason, I drink a measured 2.5 cups (as in 24 ounces) of coffee in the morning. Although that’s not necessarily out of a desire for precision in the wake up department, so much as it falls out from drinking coffee from a measuring cup, since there are damn few good (large) coffee mugs on the market. Most hold about 6-10 ounces and when I get to writing, I generally don’t move for hours.
“OK, fine and interesting and all, but can we get on to the point — if you’re going to make one sometime today?” you’re thinking…
Oh yeah. It’s about the Census Bureau going around and making GPS readings of every habitable dwelling in the country. I talked with one of the Census workers last week when I noted a strange car sitting out on the road.
”Are you lost?” I inquired.
“No sir, I’m with the Census Bureau and we’re collecting home locations for the 2010 Census. In a few minutes, I’ll be coming up to near your front door and noting the position of your home’s main entrance. Is this the only habitable dwelling on the property?”
“Depends what you mean by habitable…”
“Well, is this the only home that people could sleep in on your property?”
“Oh…like has bedrooms and such….well, yeah, the house is the only place. I thought you were wondering if someone could snooze in the office or the shop out back, or over there in our storage building.” I wasn’t going to tell her that I really have nodded off, more than once in the office
because who knows? That might be breaking some kind of law…there are so many any more.
I didn’t think much about it at the time…but several readers have asked me for my take on it.
A few have pointed to headlines like “Big Brother GPS Doorway Census: Big Brother is watching you via the U.S. Census Bureau shooting GPS coordinates of your doorway.” and have asked me if this isn’t some kind of grand conspiracy.
A few sites have even suggested that only the GPS locations of gun owners are being noted, but I hardly think this is the case.
Best I can figure, the use of GPS could actually result in some improvement in the data collection process because while it might just be a single digit different between 123 Main Street and 124 Main Street, the GPS locations are distinctly different.
Moreover, on-the-ground GPS readings can give an altitude, too.
But beyond that, it allows a much more convenient way of sorting through data. If you think about it, a heap of addresses is a whole lot more difficult to throw into a data search or sort than GPS-based data. In the first case, you’d have to go out and write a whole bunch of code that starts with [convert address 123 Main Street into geo coordinates. Repeat until all addresses in the region are converted into GPS equivalents. ]. Instead, Census is just collecting the data in the field, and to me it makes sense, not some plot for a grand conspiracy.
But now I get to scratching my head and wondering about the precision problem. Let’s take highly refined altitude data. Doing the right kind ofa sort, I’m sure that by sometime in 2011, someone will publish a report that says something like “Higher income people tend to live at higher altitudes.”
Well, gee, gosh, how about that. Why do you think that might be? Could it have something to do with ever since Medieval times castles have been located on hills because it’s easy to defend (and where the you know what rolls down hill probably came from, LOL). Or, in contemporary times, because the best homes are built on hills because they have what? The best views you think?
Another study I’m looking for would point out that the ‘rich people tend to live on the east side of cities where geography allows. But you already know – or at least should know why this is so: Because if you live on the east side of a city, you can drive west (to work) in the morning without the sun in your eyes and drive east (returning to your home at night) with the sun at your back.
Obvious as much of this stuff is, people seem to often miss the obvious. So, what we get are huge projects like gathering the main entrance to every home in the nation. And using the latest and greatest of technology we’re going to find what? Obvious answers to a whole lot of questions that we already knew the answer to.
If that means that it will be possible in the future to analyze just how much the price premium is for a high altitude home east of a city, that might be interesting.
But is much of this likely to be distilled down into personally useful information? You know…the actionable kind?
I wouldn’t bet on it.
Lingo Lango Bongo 3^
The Urban Dictionary’s new ‘word of the day’ is “swine flucation” which is a mandatory break from work of school to let the flu rates come down a tad.
Fate and Ink
Although the national trend may be for newspapers to wither up and blow away in the winds of change…more like a hurricane lately, come to think of it, the Boston Globe has reached an agreement with unions that may keep Bean Town hands dirty a while longer.
There have been some wondering if the new Kindle 2: Amazon’s New Wireless Reading Device (Latest Generation) which hits the street this week for $359 might somehow turn into the ‘savior for newspapers’. Time will tell, but count me as a skeptic. Nor am I alone...check out this CNET piece.
I must be a Neanderthal (not to dis old hairy people, LOL) because I take huge joy in books. I’d be perfectly happy in a home where a modest family library of 5-10-thousand books was readily available (along with the time to read them all). If I kindle could add another 15-minutes to the day, I’d buy one in a heartbeat. But as things are now, if I drop a book when the cat jumps up in my lap, t’ain’t no big deal. On the other hand, if the cat were to cause me to drop a $359 door piece of electronics on the floor, the offending cat would be in trouble.
Like I say, I must be some kind of throwback.
Meanwhile, the “White House says “No” to newspaper bailout” which is really too bad. Why the administration hasn’t event spent a trillion dollars yet this week.
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Around the Ranch: Decked Out
Today is finally ‘nail gun day’ on my deck project. The deck is up, the joists are all hung, and so it will be with great pleasure this morning that I get out my framing nailer after breakfast and go around and put the final nails into my new 480-square foot deck on the front of the house. this project – like most – has taken longer than expected for a number of reasons ranging from rain last week to pressing client work, and the list goes on.
In an effort to speed up things, I decided to use pre-cut stairs…figuring that will save 20-minutes to a half hour of screw-around time.
The only part of the project which seems likely to slow things up now is Elaine’s desire for a deck railing that ‘doesn’t block the view’ of the birds, wildlife, goats, and such. Makes sense, but that leaves me wondering about design issues. “You want a Plexiglas railing…you know, like around a hockey arena?” “Don’t be silly” didn’t need to be spoken. What I had in mind was something like this one.
So I wonder whether a low bench around the perimeter would be acceptable. Or, maybe nothing at all, since we’re the only folks who will use the deck, except maybe for an occasional visitor. Still, a railing would be nice and I saw some premade stuff at Lowes last night that looked pretty good – kind of light and airy and nicely done, but it was also about $35 bucks for what looked like a 4 or six foot hunk…and it would take many of those.
Manhandling 20 foot 2 by 6′s onto the deck (43 of them, thanks for asking) has been almost as much fun as throwing around the 50-pound 4 by 4′s – normally much lighter, but these are of the wet treated kind so they weight a bunch more than usual. Ditto the 2 by 6′s – which come in about 60 pounds.
I suppose I shouldn’t bitch too much about the project. It really adds value to the home, it has gotten me back in shape – and this week I will cross under the 200-pound barrier last seen…er….20-years ago. The price? About $2-grand in parts so far, although $553 of that could have been saved if I hadn’t sprung for pea gravel and ground cloth under the whole thing. But compared to what it would cost to have someone else do it, it’s a very good deal. And yes, I will be doing the actual deck part with screws, thanks to ready comments about stainless nails (even ring-shank) working themselves out over time. I appreciate the input – even if it results in more (bad pun warning) more screw around time.
There are two lessons in the deck project if you’re a newbie to this site. First one is that if you really want to get projects done around the house, invite a bunch of people to come and visit you. My son, who’s visit was canceled due to work at his end, is due in about 3-weeks and we want to have the deck, new door, windows, and such done before he arrives. (He & I are gong to do a bathroom remodel while he’s visiting.)
The other lesson is about net worth. Adding the deck – or most any home improvement project done by a homeowner – usually adds value to a home. Not that you’d be able to sell it these days, but it’s nice to have a home that’s customized to just the way you like it. Besides, over time, all the hours that you put into such things usually show up eventually as an improved personal balance sheet.
The Case for Client-Server Government
Before we launch into the two main items of this week’s report, namely the concept of installing a client-server architecture on the federal government and a deeper analysis of bank failures that makes the case we’re really much closer to a ‘clean replay’ of the 1930′s Depression than MainStream Media (MSM) let’s on, I’d like to begin with a huge “Thank you!” to the subscribers who keep the IndependenceJournal.com, UrbanSurvival.com, and Peoplenomics.com web sites going via their subscriptions. With this weekend’s report, Peoplenomics is now 400 issues along…so if you count back 400 weeks that’s when our first edition hit – October 19, 2001. The focus of that first issue, written just a few short weeks after 9/11? Two items that are very much current today: The first real discussion of my “systems perspective of life” and “Clash of Civilizations? Cyclical Aspects of Major Religions at 1,000 and 1,500 years…” Back in 2001 when Peoplenomics got started, I wanted to write something that would be a useful ‘look-ahead’ source news and financial analysis. Thanks to the predictive linguistics work of Cliff at HalfPastHuman.com and more than 13-years of major market journalism by moi, I think Peoplenomics has hit the mark more often than not and we’ve been far enough ahead of the MainStreamMedia as to make it almost humorous. So it’s with some considerable pleasure I’ll begin this week’s report with a discussion of how the current flu scare makes an even stronger the case for modeling our physical government after client-server architecture topologies in computing….
Tell Your Friends About this Site
So let me ask you this: When was the last time you ran into a no BS site about economics, investing, and the changing lifestyle that a resource-limited world needs to evolved? Well, why not tell someone about it? Click here for a tool that may help.
“Live on $10,000″ Updated
What? You haven’t ordered the ebook “How to Live on $10,000 a year — or less”? Suit yourself. We’re all going to live it shortly, anyway. I just thought you might like a heads up by reading about how to do it before you get pink-slipped. But, suit yourself OR visit www.liveontenthousand.com or, click one of the following button:
Yep – still possible. I also took a bit of additional material that was pertinent from recent issues of Peoplenomics and included them. The whole thing runs about 65 pages, but it gives you a vision of how to not only live on the aforementioned dollar amount, but also how to migrate up the economic foodchain if you make a little more than that and do some active savings… Click here for the page with more details on it.