Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mergent Manuals Online

The Alkek Library has purchased online access to multidecade runs of Mergent Manuals. This includes Industrial, Unlisted, Public Utility, International, Transportation, Over the Counter and Bank and Finance.

Mergent Industrial manuals cover most of the 20th century through today and list a corporation's financials, stock splits and dividends. Also included is a corporation's subsidiaries, acquistions and a brief corporate history.

The other categories are also as detailed with the information appropriate to their field.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Book Review: Freakonomics

Somewhere there are a few people who haven't heard of this book. It was a mega hit with thought exercises that culminated in unexpected connections and comparisons.

For example, the authors postulate that legalized abortion reduces crime (less unwanted babies), that the KKK model of information control resembles real estate agents' behavior, how wrestlers' cheat in sumo matches, the difference between white and black parents' naming of their children, and the economics of being a crack dealer.

You may have noticed that few of these chapters have anything to do with economics.

This reviewer puts it the best:

The drawback with such a freewheeling approach is that particular data may be consistent with a range of hypotheses. Picking a hypothesis to suit the data rather than testing
previously-formulated hypotheses may happen regularly in the academy, but written up so breezily, it smacks of ex post rationalisation.

I have hesitated putting this book on the blog because I don't think the authors really prove any of it. At best, there are some correlations that may or may not mean anything. If you want to shock and make flip arguments based on a few cherry picked correlations, read the book.

I suppose I can say two good things about this book: 1) it will teach you to rap persuasively about nothing and 2) irreverent breaking out of thought patterns is always to be encouraged.

By the way, did you know that crime may have declined due to making gasoline unleaded? Concentrations of lead make you homicidal....

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tracking Inflation Online

Hey this is cool.

Track inflation (for multiple countries) based on online prices of anything you can sell at the Billion Prices Project from MIT.

I think this contains only aggregate inflation figures based on those products at this point...but still worth a look. Different gathering method than Consumer Price Index official figures.

By the way, here's the link (pun intended) to the infamous phone complaint to Jimmy Dean Sausage complaining about value deflation in his morning breakfast.

My Ivory Soap and oatmeal have already shrunk.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Evaluating A Website

Here's FYI, Mister Rogers was not a sniper.


* Identify the author and the author's expertise on the topic.

* Verify the facts, statistics, or quotes on the web page in another source.

* Identify the agenda of the page: are they selling something or promoting a point-of-view that benefits them?

* Check to see when the page was last updated. If you can't find a date, consider using a different source.


* Most people don't know what they are talking about.

* Many people will make up facts, misrepresent facts, or leave out facts in order to support their position.

* People will tell you anything if money or power is somehow involved.


* Learn to think for yourself and do not rely on gathering other people's opinions posted on the internet.