My significant other and I had a discussion on clichés. She hates them and typically calls me out when using them, the most recent being “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. While I get that they can sound trite and boring, I think many clichés have an element of truth to them. So perhaps when someone calls you out on the cliché, maybe its because they are upset that you pointed out an unpleasant truth?

So, when someone gives you shit, make fertilizer (or a blog post).


A Good Rule Of Thumb For Solving Complex Problems

“Choose the right level of complexity for the particular problem, at the time that you have the resources to do it.” - Shian-Jiann “S. J.” Lin, NOAA (Climate and Weather Modeler)

I love this quote. S.J. Lin is a leading climate and weather modeler at NOAA. The quote was in the context of Lin’s earlier experience of trying to model tornados in the early 90’s when computer technology hadn’t advanced enough to model events at that small a scale. HIs attempt ended up in failure, but like any failure, there are learning experiences if you can do the post mortem.

My simple interpretation of his quote is simply that you have a problem that you want to solve. You also have constraints. Note, I am referring to real constraints, not obstacles, there is a difference, though at the time it may be difficult to tell the difference. Your solution must take into account these constraints. In Lin’s case, the computing power needed to create an accurate tornado model, where basically he was trying to model the tornado at almost molecular level, just didn’t exist at the time he was trying to do it (early 90’s)

Where I find this interesting is in the financial and economic models. If we were going to try and break these down into their finite parts, similar to a physical model at the molecular, then those models would go to individuals, or perhaps households. I think this presents several obstacles, some of which might turn out to be insurmountable constraints. One, I am not sure we have a full understanding of household finances. Yes, we have surveys and the shift to debit/credit card transactions are making it easier to model that, but it is still not fully developed. Addressing privacy concerns will also be a very challenge, but not insurmountable. The one area that might be an obstacle is consumer behavior. Current models are based on rational behavior, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case.

Global Hot Spots

I was attending a dinner function where someone asked what were the thoughts about the international relations between India and Pakistan? For those unfamiliar the two countries are very antagonistic towards each other and have a history of skirmishes that make the Cold War look tame. To complicate matters, both countries have significant nuclear arsenals. Relations between the two countries are very hot, and while a nuclear exchange is unlikely, it is not impossible. In addition, Pakistan has several unstable regions within their country that are essentially ruled by religiously fundamentalist driven warlords.

Both countries are extremely populous, each more so than the US. It is estimated that hundred of millions could die due to a nuclear exchange. This is not even counting the long term effects of nuclear fallout and its complications. For example, could trade winds carry the nuclear fallout to China or Japan? In addition, could so many nuclear devices go off in a relatively concentrated area have an impact on the earth’s orbit. Before you shrug that concern off, it should be noted that the US didn’t test one, that is one, nuclear bomb because of the fear that it could significantly alter the Earth’s orbit.

And we didn’t even bring up North Korea.

Why I bring this up, is that many people in my industry try to predict the economy, I don’t see any accounting of what to do if the aforementioned concern actually happens.