30 October 2007

Rev-erse psycarlogy

As a general rule manuals get better gas mileage than automatics (just slightly and only if you know when to shift). But when I bought my Honda Civic in 2006 the manual model had an estimated MPG of 38 while the automatic had a 40. People, in general, prefer automatics but price sensitive buyers may be willing to go for the manual if the price is right and they get better gas mileage. But if they don't get better gas mileage more people will now choose the automatic.

So does Honda just make better automatic transmissions than manuals? Or do they purposely lower the fuel economy of manual transmissions to entice buyers to purchase the higher priced automatics?

My bet is that they just make better automatics. If they purposefully try to switch price sensitive consumers over to the more expensive product, they may lose the consumer entirely to a different product (like a Toyota Corolla). Maybe Honda has done the market research and figured it all out, but most likely, they just make good automatics for Civics.

29 October 2007

Ron Paul?

24 October 2007

Halloween Culture: Mass Murderer: Okay! Nazi: Taboo!

Aside from the iPod and Sponge Bob costumes, and oh yeah, the skimpy french maid costumes, Halloween costumes are supposed to be scary! Right...?

Not so fast! I'm sure you all remember the stink over Prince Harry's Nazi Costume. Or perhaps you heard about those unclassy UVA students that showed up to a party in black face. So what exactly is okay to wear and what isn't? First glance tells us to shy away from anything racially insensitive or that is reminiscent of historical tragedies.

But there are clearly exceptions... although not everyone will find these costumes tasteful, they are readily available on the internet and in costume stores (a costume store would be unlikely to stock a costume that most people found objectionable).

1. Indian - May be considered different than black face, because you are simply wearing the costume not usually coloring your skin. But otherwise, wearing this costume is tantamount to claiming Indians were savages. That mind set caused the U.S. to steal their lands and kill them and generally disrespect them.
2. Pimp - Often seen in society as taking advantage of and oppressing women, yet it is classic on Halloween.
3. Convict (especially in chains) - Ostensibly for committing an egregious crime, likely armed robbery, rape, or murder.
4. Jack the Ripper - Probably the closest you'll come to a real historically identifiable murderer on Halloween that is still considered acceptable.
5. Pirates, Gangsters - Both involved in stealing from and killing real people.
6. Devil - Okay, so this one is only offensive if you believe in the devil. But if you do, then this should really be the worst of all of them, right? He will destroy your soul, which is infinitely more important than your life. Yet this is probably the most common costume, even among Christians that celebrate Halloween.

15 October 2007

Where is your mind at?

Click here to be love stoned by a black Kate Moss with a little more boob. Which way does the dancer spin for you at first glance?

For me it was clockwise. But with a little investigation you can get the dancer to change direction at will.

08 October 2007

This blog entry is proven to reduce your gullability by 75%!!!

I have had a lot of "almost posts" in the past few weeks. Most have had to do with how statistics are used to win arguments, scare people, and generally hide the reality. I know it's cliché to mention the book How to Lie with Statistics, so I won't. I just want to vent on 2 things I hate about how people use statistics and one thing I like about statistics that is often glossed over.

Hate #1: "They have proven that X causes/prevents/is better than Y." X can be smoking weed and Y can be lung cancer/Alzheimer's/cigarettes, or whatever. I hate it when people cite papers they have not read in order to claim outright victory in an argument that is by NO MEANS closed. I will cite but not discuss the proposition that most published research is wrong, or at least some is by definition.

Hate #2: "X reduces the risk of Y by 50%." X can be drinking red wine and Y can be dying of heart disease, or whatever. Whenever you hear something like that, your first thought should probably be "so what?!" The relevant statistic is what your risk was and what your risk would be if you do X. Overlooking the possibility that the statement is probably wrong (see Hate #1), if your current risk is 1 in 5,000, your new risk is 1 in 10,000. But if your current risk is 1 in 5, your new risk is 1 in 10. The later is much bigger news to you.

Hate #2 brings me to what I think is glossed over in statistics, especially as reported by the media. Statistics look at a population, but you and I are both individuals. A population statistic, say the risk of dying in a car crash this year, is about 0.013% (40,000 Americans/year/300 million Americans). If you live to 100, the lifetime risk is 1.3% or 1 in 75. But population statistics are meaningless if the population is diverse.

Do you think that your risk is 1.3% if you drink and drive? Nope, higher.

What if you always obey the speed limit? Nope, lower.

The Internet abounds with risk calculators for health problems, presumably because there is so much data in this field. They typically ask you to answer a number of questions and then use some multiplier for each answer to determine your overall risk. Often the calculator will tell you by what % you can reduce your risk by changing your behavior. (Life Expectancy Calculator)

I would like to see a compendium of risk calculators, but for everyday stuff, not just medical conditions. Like, by what percentage can I reduce my risk of choking if I don't eat hard candy or mow my own lawn?!

01 October 2007

Herbal Essences, 1; NYT Magazine, 0

What do 15% of women do on Valentine's Day?
That's what I read on the back of my sister's Herbal Essences Hello Hydration Conditioner bottle... what can I say, I like to read stuff, even in the shower...

Anyway, it goes on to say,
For the answer, see Hello Hydration Shampoo bottle.
Now I thought that was pretty clever marketing. I was hoping (frantically) that my sister had the shampoo bottle! I found it at the other corner of the shower and the answer was, "send themselves flowers."

That got me to thinking about crossword puzzles and how they don't have the answers in the same issue as the puzzle. I always thought that was to prevent cheating. But, honestly, why would NYT care if you cheat or not. Maybe readers have come to demand that answers do not appear in the same issue; a sort of demand for imposed restriction. A more logical reason is that it gives the crossword puzzler an incentive to purchase the next issue. Another clever idea, though I'm giving this round to Herbal Essences because I've never cared to check my crossword answers from a previous week.