Author: patruff

Where the U.S. middle class has gone

There are a couple of graphs which explain the phenomenon of why the middle class has been shrinking and people seem poorer (because relatively THEY ARE). So while Americans are more productive (it’s more than doubled since the 70s), wages have stagnated, meaning that people are producing more but not making more money.

That’s the first graph, but these others are also pretty revealing. Basically, where has the money then gone if productivity is going up but wages aren’t? Who’s getting the extra value? THE RICH. So as can be seen from the graphs below income has risen only modestly for almost all Americans but has increased dramatically for the top 1%.

 

 

 

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that the power of workers, namely organizing together to form unions, may also have an effect. One thing is certain, unions have been getting absolutely smashed by big business. Feel free to leave a comment or if you want more cool graphs, check out the link to this cool article from Mother Jones.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/income-inequality-in-america-chart-graph

 

 

DJ Patil Twitter Storm

So last Saturday I replied to a retweet of DJ Patil (data science guru). The whole exchange involved me responding to another person “StartupLJackson” who posted “No. More STEM workers creates more companies making $, which creates more STEM jobs in the US. We have massive shortage.” My response to this was “More STEM workers, like PhDs making lower than the median wage as postdocs? Or ones out of work?” I went out that night and didn’t see what happened until the next day, when lots of people had responded to StartupLJackson, including DJ Patil again.

  

Mainly the conversation revolved around StartupLJackson making comments about how welding will be completely replaced by machines in 10 years and that lots of “kids” need to get “skills” for the new economy that is coming. Also the argument against postdocs was that they should just get “tech writer” jobs and make a “decent paycheck” instead of staying in their “shitty postdoc jobs.” The two sides were broadly that 1) we need STEM workers (their side) or 2) we don’t and that we already have enough now (which is roughly my side of the argument). I think there’s more evidence on our side, but feel free to comment on your take. I think if the comment was that we need more developers I might agree (and Microsoft’s Steve Balmer would for sure…see link).

 

 

George Washington was a billionaire

An interesting article about the United State’s first president and a topic not often discussed, his finances. Basically, Washington (and other founding fathers of America) was incredibly wealthy due to land speculation. As much as he was a leader of the revolution, he was also a leader in the real estate sector. The link is below but I took an excerpt in case the link breaks.

http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/winter13/washington.cfm

“What was the president’s financial position relative to the size of the economy?” At the time of his death, Washington’s $780,000 estate was equivalent in value to almost one-fifth of 1 percent—0.19 percent—of the $411 million GDP. If Washington had lived two centuries later, and boasted a fortune worth 0.19 per cent of the nation’s approximately $15 trillion 2011 GDP, he would have been worth $25.9 billion, taking fourth place in the Forbes list of seriously wealthy Americans. Bill Gates is in first place at $59 billion, Warren Buffett in second at $39 billion, and Larry Ellison of Oracle fame gets the bronze medal with a $36 billion stash. Washington’s $25.9 billion sneaks him in just ahead of Christy Walton of the Wal-Mart chain. The first president is in rich company.

The Rise of Python

So after being out of the programming world for a few years during grad school I’ve come back into it to find that Python has really taken off. From being a “toy” language, it’s gone on to become THE language of choice for data science, arguably even over stand-alone statistical software like R. In grad school I was programming mainly in Perl, and I just want to say that it was all about the $ with that language (or rather, it was all about odd scripting like declaring an empty string as $s = q++ and other code that could be very confusing to understand ESPECIALLY when the people coding did not write clear comments). That being said I look forward to learning and working more with Python, a language that seems straightforward and handles a lot of things for the user so we can save time and post stuff on our websites that probably nobody is reading. If you read this and are not a bot, please feel free to leave a comment. Thanks.

X-Men

This post is about a childhood obsession of mine, perhaps my favorite show as a kid growing up (until it got bad and different voice actors were used). X-Men, The Animated Series, that came on Fox Saturday mornings was a piece of my childhood I’ll never forget. It wasn’t just the fact that the show was gritty and action-packed, it wasn’t that the plot was great and carried over into future episodes, and it wasn’t that the show dealt with serious topics like race/international relations, bullying, or genetics (well this was a big part of it). I think the major driving force of the show was that the characters were unique, they each had different personalities, and they didn’t always get along. It was a very well-written and realistic show, and it was a “children’s” show!

 

This show came out in the 90s and was well ahead of its time. Remember how everyone was freaking out about Game Of Thrones because they kill off a central character? X-Men did that from THE FIRST EPISODE (maybe 2nd technically). Anyway, one of the characters is killed and another character is thrown in jail, not to return to team of X-Men for a season or two. The show did some many things right, I’ll expand more on this later.

United States political affiliations

The US is divided in terms of its two major parties, with Democratic controlled states known as blue states and Republican controlled states known as red states. Here is a map that shows the urbanization of America.

 

 

So, given that 80% of people live in urban areas, you can see above where those areas are. Now let’s look at the last 4 presidential elections.

 

 

In this map you can see that (with the exception of Georgia and Texas), states with major urban areas tend to vote democratic more often than not. I lived in Atlanta for 6 years and during Obama’s campaign there was a majority of popular opinion for him there but that stopped outside of the city limits. I’m assuming it is similar to major urban areas in Texas as well.

Thundercats

Quite possibly the best show for children, and certainly better than 99% of the stuff made for children these days, Thundercats was a cartoon show from the 1980s like no other. I will write more on this later.

CRISPR

Below is an example of the hot new (as of late 2012) gene editing system taken from bacteria’s innate immune system useful for them for chopping up viral DNA, useful for us for chopping up any DNA we want (you can program the RNA to be whatever DNA you want to cut). Almost every talk these days has a reference to this technology and for sure Jennifer Doudna will get a Nobel Prize for it (among others like Feng Zhang and George Church).

Cool 80s music

Here’s a link to some cool 80s music. It’s actually a new genre known as New Retro Wave, which is a play on the 80s music genre New Wave. If you like highly electric, synthesized music, you’ll like this.