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Librarian Blog

Is it Greek to investors?

How will the U.S. stock market react today to yesterday's vote by Greeks to reject an austerity plan put forward by wealthy Europeans and their banks?

My guess, put into play here on Monday morning, is that the market will take a dive.

What I don't know is why that should be the case. I only know that in the past few weeks as Greece has shown resistance to the new European financing plan the market seems to be following the Greek reaction very closely. Thus my prediction.

Let me say that again: I don't know why U.S. market should tumble because of what happens in Greece.

The market didn't go into the tank when the Chinese marketplace had a hiccup recently. Greece is not nearly as significant as China.

I have long thought this: The U.S. stock market is no longer rational, no longer based on logic or reason. It's computerized to the max; trades happen in nanoseconds; humans are marginalized.

Worse, most Americans, including economists, don't have good enough information about what's going on in the world to be able to make rational decisions even if they could.

This was confirmed in the Sunday New York Times Magazine in an article written by Adam Davidson, a contributing writer. Davidson points out how antiquated oiur economic references, terms and statistical inputs are.

Davidson wants an upgrade using modern computer equipment so we have better information.

Would better information help the Greeks out of their mess?

I don't think so.

Make that movie

Quiet on the set!

Action!

It's time to start making that award-winning movie so you can enter it into the second annual Wimberley Film Festival before the end of the year.

We're accepting original indie films no longer than 7 minutes with credits in two categories: 17 and under and 18 and older.

Last year, we had more than a half-dozen entries, and we had a lot of fun at the festival itself, which this year is on Jan. 23, 2016, at the Emily Ann Theater.

We'll have a special screening of the zombie movie we made here in June. And we hope to have some entries from stop-action animators.

By the way, we'll have a stop-action expert in the library all day on Aug. 1 to show you how to make that stop-action film.

Need more information? Call me: 847-2188.

Pretty bad

Before this past weekend, the last time I flew anywhere was about three summers ago, and the experience was terrible.

I wound up getting into Austin from Oakland, Calif., at about 3 in the morning, then having to drive to Wimberley, because of various delays.

This weekend, we left Friday and came back Sunday, and there were no glitches on our Southwest flights.

The experience was kind of like it was to ride a cross-country bus in the '60s, which is something I did in 1966, to be specific.

No frills. No thrills.

This weekend's flight was memorable mainly because of the undiluted rudeness of every single TSA employee I ran into, and it seems like when you fly these days you do run into quite a lot of them. There must be a ratio of something like three TSA workers for every traveler. How in the world do we as a nation afford this?

I don't know. And not much I can do about it except try never to fly again if I can help it.

On the other hand, the highlight of the trip was eating the absolute very best hotdog I have ever had in my life -- at a stand in Midway International in Chicago.

That almost made the whole thing worth it. Almost.

Innumeracy ...

Like other forms of illiteracy, innumeracy seems to me to be a growing problem and one that is most certainly a threat to democracy.

Since a guy named Huff invented the word back in the '50s, lots of math-literate writers have warned about how the media and politicians can mangle "data" in the service of whatever scoundrelly purpose they are up to.

The examples are too numerous to mention here.

But, thanks to Jordan Ellenberg of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and author of a book on math and society we are reminded about how numbers can be made to lie.

Ellenberg's piece is in The Wall Street Journal of 6-27-28.

I have seen much on the challenges of dealing with Big Data recently, but little on how even small data can be changed to meet the needs of liars and thieves.

Ellenberg makes a strong point: We need people in the newsroom who can check not only a number's value but also its meaning.

Amen, brother.

My experience as an editor informed this perception: Few reporters go into the news business because they are good at math. It's up to editors to make them learn what they need to know in order to be responsible purveyors of the truth.

Say what?

At least 15 years ago, America's statisticians knew that before too long those public opinion polls that everyone loves to cite would be woefully inaccurate.

I remember reading exactly that in a scholarly journal. The reasons they discussed: the rise in use of cell phones; the use of caller ID; and the growing refusal of people to participate.

The prediction came true in the last general election.

Yet, polling continues at all levels as if those factors simply did not exist.

Now comes Cliff Zukin, writing in the Sunday edition of The New York Times, who notes that polling is getting ever harder and the results ever less relevant and reflective of actual opinion.

Zukin is among the first of the chattering classes to acknowledge that the emporer does not have a stitch of clothing on.

Will others follow suit?

Don't bet on it. As a group, pundits and newspeople are addicted to polling as if it is the only way to tell a story.

Beware as a news consumer, though: the results of those polls that will inevitably track the public love of the candidates in 2016 could be wildly inaccurate.