Wednesday, October 01, 2014

You Haven't Seen This Before

I still don't like Ben Stiller, though. Best to remove that bad taste.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Arguing With Bad Numbers

There's now a Libertarian image floating around the internet that claims Wal-Mart would go out of business if it paid its hourly employees a living wage. It's too bad they use crappy math to make their case. Let's have a look, shall we?

Employees 2,000,000
Avg hourly wage $8.81
New minimum $15.00
Raise $6.19
Increase/hour $12,380,000
Increase/day $99,040,000
Increase/year $36,149,600,000
Prior Annual Profit $16,800,000,000
Modified Profit -$19,349,600,000

The argument assumes that all 2 million employees get the full $6.19/hr raise, not just those already making less than $15/hour. It also assumes every employee works an 8-hour day, 365 days per year -- every single person.

Does anyone think that's realistic? I hope not. But you have to dig into the calculations to see what bad assumptions and methods are being used.

What happens if you do the math again, but with more realistic numbers? What if we use a more likely $12/hour rate and only make them work 40 hours per week?

Employees 2,000,000
Avg hourly wage $8.81
New minimum $12.00
Raise $3.19
Increase/hour $6,380,000
Increase/day $51,040,000
Increase/year $13,270,400,000
Prior Annual Profit $16,800,000,000
Modified Profit $3,529,600,000

With just a couple of tweaks, Wal-Mart is suddenly back in the black again, profiting $3.5 billion per year.

The claims of Wal-Mart's dire situation only get more ridiculous if you use the $10.10 per hour wage that Obama imposed on Federal contractors, account for the fact that many Wal-Mart employees are part-time, and realize that not all of those two million employees are going to get the raise (since some of them will already be getting more than $10.10 per hour).

Take a few of those issues into account, and Wal-Mart could easily be profiting over $12.5 billion per year without raising any prices.

If there's a case for keeping the minimum wage where it is, this isn't it. The real story is far more complicated, and people with far more expertise have examined the impact of increasing wages at Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Follow Your Passion?

Mike Rowe's take on finding the job you love.

I think it's an important message. I actually do enjoy my work, but maybe I enjoy it because I've embraced it as a "calling". Writing documentation for computer systems isn't glamorous, but it is necessary and valuable.

I don't know which of my friends read this, but I know some are looking for a job they can be passionate about. Mike's advice is to find a job you can do well and use to support yourself and your family. Let it support your passions.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Solomon Kane

I'm watching Solomon Kane tonight. It has a good Netflix rating.

This is a movie with a very Christian premise. I am looking forward to seeing how it unfolds. Some of you who know me may think that strange, but I am willing to suspend disbelief and see how the makers of this movie interpret the concepts of redemption. As I type at this moment, the plot is just getting started. I will be "live blogging" after a fashion -- pausing to add my thoughts as the movie progresses. We shall see how my opinion shifts over time. Spoilers after the break.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Click Bait

Click-bait posts like the one to the right seem to be all over social media these days. The sources on a lot of the ones I've seen on Facebook lately seem to be radio stations.

I assume that the likes, comments, and shares on these posts somehow translate into advertising revenue for the originator. They can claim to have hundreds or thousands or more interested eyeballs on their pages because of all the activity on their posts.

Some of them encourage you to try some simple keyboard trick that causes an image to be displayed (like entering "(^^^)" in Facebook, which displays a shark icon).

But more often they issue some painfully easy challenge like the one in this post, and you get to congratulate yourself for being one of the "smart" people. Come on, internet users -- anyone can come up with a movie name without a "T" in it! They just want you to promote them on your preferred social media site.

WIT's "Scientific Proof"

A friend of mine shared an article on Facebook recently: First Scientific Proof Of God Found. I've seen fundamentalists claim to have "scientific proof" of God many times, so I naturally approached this article with some grains of salt ready.

This one claims that geneticists at the Wyoming Institute of Technology (WIT) examining the human genome discovered patterns in the "junk DNA" that looked like some kind of alphabet. They consulted with linguists at Bob Jones University, who determined that the patterns translate into Aramaic words that make the phrase “At first break of day, God formed sky and land.”

My first clue that the site was a parody was the phrase "Bob Jones University, long noted for its intellectual rigor." Bob Jones University may be known for many things, but intellectual rigor is definitely not one of them.

Other articles on the site include such gems as:
  • “Selfies” Linked To Brain Cancer, Experts Say
  • New Chemical Makes Bacon Good For You
  • Keep Pets Their Same Size Forever With Adoraberil® ; Anti-Aging, Anti-Growing Wonder Drug
  • Autism Linked To Eating Organic Foods
  • Obesity Impacting Earthquakes in US, Experts Say
It seems that some people are willing to believe anything or anyone if it supports their own position.

Edit: An anonymous commenter called me out for saying BJU isn't known for intellectual rigor. I went to college close enough that their student proselytizers would show up on our campus to street preach. I know from personal experience that BJU is not known for intellectual rigor. Their reputation is fundamentalism, creationism, and racism, if anything. Supporting links in the comments.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Curse of the Dragon Slayer

This has shown up on Neflix recently.

It was apparently funded by a Kickstarter campaign. I wasn't really expecting much from it when I decided to watch it. I watch plenty of bad movies, so I can be entertained by the badness itself.

This was better than I was expecting, though. The production value turns out to be decent, the acting is largely acceptable, the direction and editing mostly work, and the costuming is downright impressive (with one very obvious exception at about the 45 minute mark).

The fight choreography, on the other hand, was extremely disappointing. The establishing scenes for the leads don't make them look badass: they make them look incompetent.

The plot also has gigantic holes, of course, and when it comes to keeping the villains from obtaining the resources they need to complete their nefarious plan, the heroes do everything wrong, requiring something of a deus ex machina to save the world. That's a bit lame, but the film-makers obviously wanted to have a big special effects ending, so the villainous plan pretty much had to succeed and then be reversed.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ken Has a Dinosaur Skeleton

Ken Ham has managed to get his hands on what appears to be a genuine allosaurus skeleton for his creation museum. Based on some of the weakest evidence I've ever heard, he claims that it is only 4500 years old and therefore disproves an old Earth.

Serious research could be done on these remains, but instead they're going to gather dust in Ken's museum as he uses them to spread creationist misinformation. I weep for the real paleontologists who won't get to examine this find.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tuna Fallout

I'm seeing another round of Fukushima panic posts going around on Facebook. Apparently every fish in the Pacific Ocean (and probably the world) is contaminated with radiation from the melted-down Fukushima nuclear reactor.

Radioactive material certainly did reach the ocean from the Fukushima meltdown. As I understand it, the amount of contaminated water from the reactor that reached the ocean would fill a large swimming pool or two.

In the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, that doesn't amount to much. Given some time to disperse (like a couple of years), the radioactivity of ocean water contaminated with water from Fukushima is indistinguishable from normal background radiation. Furthermore, the "hottest" radioactive isotopes decay pretty quickly. Iodine-131, for example, has a half-life of eight days; there isn't even a word for the tininess of the fraction of iodine-131 remaining from that incident. It's effectively gone.

There are more persistent isotopes, of course. There are cesium isotopes from the meltdown with half-lives of years, but the danger is still negligible. Information I'm seeing tells me that you would have to eat twenty tuna steaks to take in the amount of radiation you would get from one typical banana.

This is paranoia based on lack of understanding. Don't worry about radioactive tuna.