06 October 2011

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

I realize that there is going to be a lot said about Steve Jobs (who died this week at only 56 years old), but I feel the need to put in my small contribution to the long list of blog posts and web articles. Jobs was the co-founder and later CEO of Apple. I'm not even an Apple user (yet), but I'm amazed at how much Apple and Jobs' ideas have still impacted my life.  On the Telegraph's web site, they claim that Steve Jobs "did more to determine what films we watch, how we listen to music, and how we work and play than any other person on the planet." I think they are right.

I collect quotes. (You can see my collection on the web site at
www.catherinechhood.net/quotes.html.) To celebrate the life of Steve Jobs, I'm posting some interesting and favorite Steve Jobs' quotes below.

For some historical perspective

From an interview in Playboy, 1 February 1985:
"The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into a nationwide communications network. We're just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people--as remarkable as the telephone."

From an interview in Rolling Stone, 16 June 1994:
"Unfortunately, people are not rebelling against Microsoft. They don’t know any better."

(For the record, I was in college in 1985, writing programs for IBM mainframes, and scared to death of computers. The idea of actually owning one and putting it in my house would have made me laugh. And now I sit here with one on my lap, and I can't imagine life without it. And my favorite computer is my Toshiba laptop, and it runs Windows, even though I hate MS Windows.)

Steve Jobs on Design

From an interview in BusinessWeek, 25 May 1998:
"That's been one of my mantras -- focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."

"It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

From an interview in Inc. Magazine:
"You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new."

In the New York Times, "The Guts of a New Machine," 2003:
"[Design] is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works."

From CNNMoney:
"It's not about pop culture, and it's not about fooling people, and it's not about convincing people that they want something they don't. We figure out what we want. And I think we're pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That's what we get paid to do."

Steve Jobs on business

From an interview on 60 Minutes, 2003:
"My model for business is the Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other's kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That's how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person, they're done by a team of people."

Steve Jobs on moving forward

From the commencement address at Stanford University, June 2005:
"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."

"Stay hungry. Stay foolish."

From an interview on the NBC Nightly News, May 2006:
"I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what's next."

From an interview in Fortune:
"We don't get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we've all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it."

Steve Jobs on Life

"Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

11 September 2011

The September 11 Anniversary

This has been a very difficult anniversary for me.  I know there are people who lost a lot on that day, and by comparison, my losses seem small.

I lived and worked in the DC suburbs back then, and I felt the shockwaves from the Pentagon when the airplane hit.  My then 5-year-old was very traumatized, especially when she learned that her Sunday school teacher worked in the section of the Pentagon that had been hit by the plane. It was shortly after September 11 that my 7-year-old decided she should join the armed forces, a decision that she is still working toward.  It was just a few days after September 11 that my husband and best friend decided he needed to rethink his religious views, a decision that has made it difficult for us to talk about religion, politics, and other issues even after 10 years.

I remember that day very well. Who would have thought that it would still be so difficult all these years later?

05 September 2011

The Summer of Fun

My oldest child graduated from high school in May and left for college a couple of weeks ago. As a celebration of our last summer together, we decided to pull out all the stops for a "Summer of Fun."

My middle child (who is now a senior in high school) planned a college-tour trip to Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska. It isn't that she wants to go to college in any of those states, it turns out, but her older sister got to go on a college tour, so it seemed like the thing to do. What she really wanted, and what we did, was to go to the Monkees (as in "Hey, Hey, we're the Monkees") reunion tour concert at the Minnesota Zoo on July 1. Then we visited relatives in Iowa and Nebraska. In late July, to celebrate a monumental birthday of my mother's, she took all her kids and grandkids to Disney World for a week. In early August, my oldest and I went to the Joint Statistical Meetings in Miami Beach while the other two hung out in the ocean and at the pool.

The first trip was a working trip, but the trip to Disney World was a real vacation for me.  I didn't even check my email.  Then as soon as we got home, it was time to take my oldest to college, and it's difficult to work when you are constantly driving.

I have two more kids in high school.  My children take their courses by correspondence, which means that they are working at home --- usually in the dining room while I'm working in my office. After years of being home with my kids, it feels very strange to have one of the children not here.

It was nice at the time to have a real vacation and some quality time with my child, but now that it's time to get back to work, I'm feeling the stress. The extra quiet in the house isn't helping matters either.  Hopefully I can get caught up in another week and be ready to take on new projects again. 

11 March 2011

Pi Day Recipe

Below is my favorite recipe for Pi Day, a very geeky U.S. holiday --- March 14 or 3/14 is the first three digits of pi.

Pi Day Ravioli Casserole
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Baking time: 40-50 minutes
Serves 8

  • 2 bags (22 or 24 oz) frozen, round, cheese-filled, mini ravioli (slightly thawed for ease of stirring)
  • 1 large or 2 medium zucchini, cut into slices
  • 1 jar/can (26 oz) tomato and garlic pasta sauce
  • 1 c. pepperoni slices (5 oz)
  • 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 t. Italian seasoning, if desired

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In large bowl, mix all ingredients except cheese and Italian seasoning.
  3. Spoon mixture into an ungreased 9- by 13-inch glass baking dish. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and cheese.
  4. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

In some stores, it is difficult to find the small, round ravioli.  I used to find them at Kroger, but now I have my best success at Food Lion.  Finding the correct ravioli for Pi Day is very important. :-)

I also usually use more Italian seasoning than the recipe calls for, probably more than 1 t. for a square baking dish. I really like oregano.

You can also make this ahead the night before, cover it and store in the refrigerator, then uncover and bake the next day.

08 March 2011

Mardi Gras Recipe

To celebrate Mardi Gras, here is an alcohol-free version of Bananas Foster, created by Brennan's in New Orleans. This recipe was created in the 1950's when New Orleans was a major port for the import of bananas.

Catherine's Bananas Foster
Serves Six

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 bananas, cut in half lengthwise, then halved
  • 6 scoops vanilla ice cream

  1. Combine the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in skillet.
  2. Place the pan over low heat and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Place the bananas in the pan and heat until the banana sections soften and begin to brown.
  4. Lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream.
  5. Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately.

For the original version of this recipe, please check out the Brennan's recipe on the New Orleans Recipes site.

03 March 2011

New "Case Study" Paper on the Web

A new paper on the Catherine Hood Consulting site:
Case Study: Fixing Residual Trading Day Effects in the Seasonally Adjusted Series

Now that my boxes are unpacked (yes, yes, I know, it only took me five years), I have the notes I need to continue writing the case studies book that Kathy and I started back in 2004. To see the outline in its current state, check out the "Case Study Project" page.

21 February 2011

"Make them do math"

One of the more controversial books in recent days is called The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua.  In January, an excerpt from the book appeared in the Wall Street Journal under the headline,  "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior."  Amy Chua didn't write the headline, but in the book she does describe forcing her daughters to practice the piano and work on their math problems.

Monica Hesse from the Washington Post in an article titled "'Tiger Mother' author faces a tough crowd at Politics and Prose" writes, "Maybe the way to help children do better in math is to make them do math, rather than make them talk about how math makes them feel."

If that's what being a Tiger Mother is all about, then sign me up. Especially if it also includes forcing my daughters to play the piano.

10 February 2011

Year-over-year changes versus seasonally adjusted data

In the article "Seasonally Adjusted, the Job Market Is Great" by Randall W. Forsyth, he says that the current seasonal adjustments won't be accurate because of the recent bad economy. In a lot of ways, this is correct, but it's not that simple.

Forsyth quotes John Williams from Shadow Government Statistics (www.shadowstats.com) who says that seasonal adjustment "has fallen apart in the last several years due to the effects of the extraordinarily protracted and severe economic contraction. Simply put, the severe decline in economic activity has overwhelmed traditional patterns of seasonal activity, destabilizing the calculation of seasonal-adjustment factors using the traditional mathematical models that are based on a number of years of activity, with the greatest weighting given to the most recent period's patterns."

Forsyth then says, "That means the worse the recent experience, the greater the seasonal adjustment to boost the unadjusted result."

However, what both Forsyth and Williams aren't taking into account is that the seasonal adjustment procedure used to produce the employment/unemployment numbers takes unusual events into account. Depending on the filters used and the settings for the extreme value procedure, the values in recent years may NOT be getting the largest weights. The current seasonal adjustment procedure also takes the length of the reporting period into account, something that can sometimes have a significant effect on the numbers.

I was recently looking at some specific manufacturing series for a client. In some sectors, their production dropped significantly in 2008, and when production began to pick up in 2009, the seasonal pattern was different than it had been earlier in the decade. For a series like this, the seasonal adjustment could be quite unstable for several years as the software tries to discover what the new seasonal pattern will be. However, for the employment series I've looked at over the past two or three years, the actual seasonal pattern (and the pattern related to the length of the reporting period or the weekday composition of the month) has remained quite steady. It doesn't matter if the overall level of the series drops --- if the seasonal pattern stays the same, the seasonal adjustment procedure can estimate the pattern and remove the pattern.

As often happens in articles about seasonal adjustment, the "solution" that is often suggested is to look at year-over-year changes. This, in fact, was suggested in the comments by Stephen Wilson, who wrote, "As to seasonal adjustment, I can't imagine why anyone cares. It snows every winter and it's hot in the summer. If you look at year-over-year rates of change the only distortions are from truly unusual events. Both the household and payroll survey agree that jobs are growing slowly and the rate of growth is slowly rising."

The problem with year-over-year changes is that it takes too long to see any meaning changes in the economy. When will we come out of this slump? Isn't that really what everyone is talking about, what everyone wants to know? Year-over-year changes won't let you see a turning point in the economy until it is well past.

Seasonal adjustment does result in loss of information. It is critically important for analysts to look at the original numbers and the year-to-year changes. It is also important to remember that the seasonal adjustment procedures in use now are much more sophisticated that simple exponential weighting of past values.

By the way, the subheading of the article is "Past years' bad economy ironically help flatter current data. Bob Dylan knew better." And he begins the article by saying, "Everybody talks about the weather, but government statisticians actually do something about it: they seasonally adjust it." If only that were true about the weather. I'm reminded of a favorite quote of mine:
The role of the economist is to make weathermen look good. --Stephen Gallogly

17 January 2011

Seasonal Adjustment for a Bad Mood

In my search for articles about seasonal adjustment, I often find articles about seasonal adjustment disorder, also known as seasonal affective disorder. But aside from seasonal affective disorder, there is some truth about moods being seasonal, and I always wish that I could seasonally adjust my moods because December and January can be difficult times.

In the article, "Feeling Blue? Some Say Jan. 17 is the Worst Day of the Year" by Shelley Emling at http://livingston.patch.com/articles/jan-17-the-worst-day-of-the-year. She says that several years ago, a British psychologist named Dr. Cliff Arnall devised a formula that combined "various ingredients" in a "complicated equation" to calculate that the third Monday in January is the "gloomiest" day of the year. The variables include weather, debt, monthly salary, time since Christmas, and low motivational levels.

When I first read about this formula, I thought that maybe he had done some kind of regression analysis, but after more reading (http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/story.html?id=6637dce1-14f7-403b-9b46-a347bd3c8f23&k=53047 for example), it seems that the formula isn't so scientific. He says that most of his data comes from talking to people, seeing when they feel down, and working out a common denominator. The original sponsor of the study was an airline magazine, and the purpose of the study was to encourage people to book travel.

Dr. Arnall has since admitted that knowing the worst day of the year could make it be the worst day of the year. And the worst day of the year would depend on the person.

I was thinking that I should write an application that would run a regression on the amount of sunshine in a day, temperatures, debt, etc., and find the worst week. I wouldn't even need trading day because it's always good to blame Monday as the worst day of the week.

In the meantime, I will try not to think about this being the worst day of the year.

14 January 2011

Bad Seasonal Adjustments

Several web sites have referred to "bad seasonal adjustment" or "bad seasonal adjustment combined with inclement weather in late December" as the cause for the increase in unemployment claims or problems with the payroll numbers.

Sometimes I take the phrase "bad seasonal adjustment" as a criticism of the seasonal adjustment software or the people who set the options in the seasonal adjustment software. I have to remind myself, though, that most people think about any kind of seasonal adjustment like it's a black box. So I suppose that a bad seasonal adjustment means that there is an extreme seasonal factor for that particular month so that the changes to the seasonally adjusted series from the raw series will also be extreme.

And if there was unusual weather in December that was causing something unusual to happen in the time series, then the seasonal adjustment software will take this into account.

Maybe I take it too personally. I looked at the seasonal adjustments for payroll, and all the factors and all the diagnostics, and it all looked really good to me.