Nothing in Particular

April 06, 2014
Enough with numbers and March Madness and Flight 370; let’s talk about words instead. John Merrow of Learning Matters, the Education Correspondent for PBS NewsHour, has written a nice obituary for the word “Whom.”

March 14, 2014
Today – March 14, or 3.14 – is Pi Day, a day celebrated by mathematics aficionados the world over. I shudder to think of the partying that will break loose in two years, when the date is 3.14.16. Hide the women and children!

January 06, 2014
Happy New Year! If you’ve been reading my posts, you’ll know that if there’s one thing I dislike as much as deliberately misleading quantation, it’s pie charts. So in honor of the New Year, I want to present the most unarguably accurate and readable pie chart I’ve ever seen, sent to me courtesy of my pal Hal Ettinger.

December 22, 2013
A few days ago, I wrote a post about a fascinating quiz testing our knowledge of the world. Did you take the quiz? How did you do?

December 12, 2013
I ran across a fascinating quiz today, which will test your knowledge of the world as it is today and where it’s headed. It’s been administered to about 9,000 people in Scandinavia, and about 1,000 in the U.S. The test itself is interesting, but even more interesting – and perhaps even shocking – is the test score results.

November 05, 2013
This week I attended an alumni function at my old high school, St. Albans in Washington, DC, where one of the events was a presentation by Michael Hansen, a St. Albans math teacher, on “metaknowledge,” the awareness of what we know and what we don’t know.

January 14, 2013
Big news! The formerly humble percentage sign has received the coveted “Symbol of the Year Award” from the Stanford University Symbolic Systems Program. Well, OK, the percentage sign received the first such award. The announcement came on last Saturday’s Weekend Edition, in a visit from Keith Devlin, NPR’s “Math Guy” and himself a math professor at Stanford.

February 28, 2012
In today’s broadcast of Marketplace on NPR, David Brancaccio led a great discussion about using statistical indicators to predict presidential elections. Which works best? GDP? Disposable income? American war casualties? Unemployment? Gas prices? Durable goods spending?

May 17, 2011
Housing starts in April dropped more than 10% from housing starts in March. That was one of NPR’s lead stories this morning , as it was for many other news services. In the spoken version of the story, the NPR reporter attributed the drop in new construction to the glut of existing homes that are on the market because of mortgage foreclosures. The reporter went on to say that one of the problems these foreclosed homes posed was that they “were selling below their value.”

May 09, 2011
When you write about presenting numbers, sometimes your subject matter is right under your nose. This morning I was in my local county clerk’s office, and I ran across a piece of paper taped to a table in the waiting room...

April 10, 2011
In the mid-1980s, I joined Oracle as Corporate Controller. Not only was I hopelessly under-qualified for that job, but the entire finance and administration function was held in generally low repute and didn’t add much value to Oracle’s operations. The principal problem, truth be told, was simply understaffing in an area not appreciated in a newly public company where engineering and sales were kings of the hill.

March 29, 2011
Have you ever been asked to make a decision based on numbers that you just didn’t understand? Sometimes those numbers were provided electronically or in a hardcopy report, but most likely you were in the audience for an oral presentation, with glitzy PowerPoint slides, loaded with impressive numbers, zipping past your eyes.

January 01, 2009
Happy New Year! Today’s post is about an easy way to quickly estimate annual return for very high returns over several years, without needing a calculator. My New Year’s wish to you is that this will actually be useful to all of you, and soon.

October 19, 2008
This morning on Meet the Press, Colin Powell announced his support for Barack Obama. His comments about both Sens. McCain and Obama were balanced and largely positive, but two factors seemed key: the negative tone of the McCain campaign, and the choice of Sarah Palin as running mate – a choice you could argue was motivated in the first place by the tone of the campaign.

October 10, 2008
I launched this blog by practicing on uninteresting, non-controversial topics like the U.S. financial meltdown and software revenue recognition. Now that I’ve gotten a few posts under my belt, it’s no more Mr. Nice Guy for me! I now take on the really tough issues, like tipping in restaurants!

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