Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Poor Red Sox

Here we have the American League East standings as of the morning of April 25, 2012. I can't remember ever seeing 4 teams tied for first before. It may have happened, but I can't recall it.

While the topic of numbers is open, I have a lotto pay scenario I need you to resolve.

You win a lottery and are given a choice of two payment methods.
Method #1: $23 per day for life.
Method #2:  Your daily payment is randomly chosen from a drwawing out of a hat to be a whole dollar amount of at least $1 but no more than $100.  In choosing this option, starting with the second day, and for each day thereafter, your award gets reduced by a random whole dollar amount between $1 and the amount you were paid the previous day. For example if on day one you drew $78, and on day 2 you drew $98, the $98 dollar amount would be reduced by some value from $1 to $78. Your actual winnings would thus be less than $98. Here are 3 possible outcomes for the first 10 days. (Remember: this is for the rest of your life, and realize that in method 2 some days you might even loose money).

Which of these 2 methods of payment is to your benefit?

Feel free to leave your answer with an explanation. Use the "comment" link below.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Health Insurance or Health Care?

I need someone to help me out. I am confused. Living through the 70's and 80's I heard a constant stream of chatter regarding the increasing cost of health care.  New technologies, new diagnoses, new treatments, people living longer, more people, it all kind of made sense.

Enter the 90's, the conversation seemed to switch from the cost of health care to the cost of health insurance.  People began to expect their health insurance to pay for more and more items. Insurance costs naturally rose. See this web page .

Enter the new millennium. Drug companies began to advertise directly to the patient/consumer.  TV became overrun with ads for every type of pharmaceutical imaginable. (Big difference now is it is targeted: which ads you get depends which channels you watch, which web sites you visit, which magazines you read.)  Most of these drugs are sold only with a prescription, which means that a doctor has to initiate any purchase. Why advertise to the patient? Have doctors lost the initiative? Are patients now prescribing treatment?  If the inmates are running the asylum, its not surprising the cost are going up, no matter who pays.

Procon.org makes the claim that the US and New Zealand are the only countries where "direct to consumer (DTC) advertising of prescription drugs is legal". (See this.)

Is this country going to control its health care costs or be controlled by its health care costs?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Streakless Start

Here I have the major league baseball standings from this mornings Albany Times Union. Some people may look at this and say "who cares?".

Normally this early in the season not many do care.

But: notice the absence of zeroes in the W and L columns.  Teams have played between 4 and 7 games, yet no team is undefeated, and no team is winless.  No hot streaks and no cold streaks starting this season.

Just for the record, I searched through last year's records and found that the Texas Rangers were the last team to record a loss, after starting the season with 6 wins.  This year, the Mets made it to 4-0 before losing a game. 

I hear people talk every year about the Yankees with comments such as "with the money they spend" and "of course, they buy the championship."  Maybe over the long haul there is such a trend, but in the short haul it looks like parity rules, and perhaps randomness rules, too.

Before anyone places too much emphasis on early season standings, I strongly recommend that they read Leonard Mlodinow's The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives.

Also, read that book in order to put my last blog entry into perspective, where I show one of my recent Othello game results.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

No More Men in Space

I consider myself one of the lucky ones. When I was born air travel was just making a full-scale adoption of passenger jets (a trip to Miami became as time-consuming as a drive to the Catskills). When I got my drivers license $5 would fill the tank, get a glass with a cartoon character on it, with enough left over for a soda and a candy bar. between 1st grade and high school he space race graduated from Shepherd's  and Grissom's  suborbital flights through the Project Mercury men orbiting solo, the tandems of the Gemini missions, through the Apollo trips to the moon and back.

I am know 58. Airlines still use jets. My gas purchases now need a $50 bill, with no glass and an uncertain amount of change, if any.  And the Russians have one the space race.

That last items galls me. Not that the Russians are still sending men into space, but that we, the US, are not. Why not?

I remember JFK's statement about putting a man on the moon, words spoken before Congress in May 1961, when the US man-in-space time was a total of 15 minutes and 28 seconds: I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project...will be more exciting, or more impressive to mankind, or more important...and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish...".

The benefits of the "space race" were plentiful.

The only Presidential statements that come close to Kennedy's in my mind are Reagan's "Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall"  and his comment "The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave." This last comment was made during his message to the nation after the Challenger disaster in 1986.

Now we no longer have a space race. No more men in space. People I know say that that is good, we have better things to spend our money on. They must be omniscient, being able to determine the value of scientific quests before they have even happened.

When I see what our culture pays professional athletes and Hollywood actors and actresses, and how we cut funds to schools on an annual basis, I am not surprised that we have killed the space program.  Not surprised at all.