Sunday, May 02, 2010

Some predictions work out

I was going to title this something like Jack Kelly deconstruction by other means, but this isn't really about his column per se.  I know some others have a cottage industry poking at the weekly Jack Kelly column in the PG...  There is just some personal history embedded in what he wrote this week that is amazing to me.

So a long time ago in college some may be surprised I never used spreadsheets.  Don't think I spent 4 years waxing on literature and philosophy or anything.  Software like MATLAB, Maple and spice filled my days and nights. If you don't know what they are, you really don't want to ask, but I know many a reader here knows what I am talking about. I've purged my memory of integrating equations with imaginary exponential numbers. 

But when I had my first real job it was all about spreadsheets and I had a quick learn of... I guess it was Lotus 3 or something like that. I think in my sleep I still try to hit Slash-F-S. Blah blah, who cares.  One of the very first spreadsheets long ago I worked on was a pretty simple little piece of analysis focused on the then future cost of something called the F-22 fighter.  A pretty straightforward result was that looking into the future the likely costs for the plane would mean only a fraction of what the AF wanted would ever be built. It was a big deal as I sat behind my bosses as this was all presented to some congressional committee (HASC or SASC I just can't remember) but it also made some big news nationally and inside the beltway.  There was consternation and lots of rebuttal from the folks at the Pentagon all of which freaked me out a bit at the time. I was young, naive, and had lots of hair.

Was the analysis all wrong I wondered?  People were looking at the same data and adding up numbers that differed by billions of dollars.  I know there are some different numbers in say the health care reform debate being bantered about, but this was about a single plane.  Originally they wanted to buy 750 of these planes, but now go read the JK column from today and see that they are now looking at only being able to buy 187 mostly because the cost per plane has jumped so much. Yet that spreadsheet from decades ago was dead on both quantitively and qualitatively .  Go figure. Was it some deep piece of analysis?  I doubt it.  Sort of like pension math, the simplest truths are the most rejected. 


Yeah, yeah... if you look elsewhere on the PG forum section.  I should be quiet, I think people have heard enough from me for today, but see: Pittsburgh's new workers have left behind the region's industrial psyche.  I think what made it into ink was shortened along the way from its earlier drafts.  Comes across a bit more boring than it started as a result, but one way or another it is a big factoid for the region.  What it means for the long run is deeper than could be fit into 700 words or so.


Anonymous MH said...

Don't know about F-22s, but as to another article in the same issue, I'd feel more enthused about the change if Pitt weren't looking as willing to give raises as Andrew Carnegie.

Sunday, May 02, 2010 2:04:00 PM  
Anonymous johnnyg said...

Don't know about raises at Pitt, but MH's focus seems a bit myopic. The numbers in Sabina and Chris' article are truly stunning. It's stunning and very exciting that, in the under 40 group (and, yes, I know that I'm stretching Chris' numbers a bit) the region is in the top 5 of educational achievement nationwide.

I'm not sure what it portends for the future, exactly. But it can't be a bad thing to market our region as having a workforce that as educated as any in the nation--including places like DC, Austin, San Francisco and Boston that are generally considered very smart places.

Sunday, May 02, 2010 4:26:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

MH's focus seems a bit myopic.

I get that all the time.

Sunday, May 02, 2010 4:56:00 PM  
Blogger n'at said...

You skip past mathmatica?

The piece in the P-G speaks of the changing demographics with respect to education, but that will not reconcile the growing trend of service jobs supplanting our region's definition of "blue collar " labor. What is more interesting is legislated increases to the prevailing wage of service labor as a means to eliminate the subsidies to the employer and the employees. No TIFs and other corporate tax credits, and no Section 8 vouchers and ACCESS cards...

Sunday, May 02, 2010 6:49:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Mathematica was actually kind of new at the time.. and if I had ever taken the time to fully learn it it would have helped with many a problem set.

Sunday, May 02, 2010 11:39:00 PM  

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