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August 2005

Lynne Kiesling lists some "dominant themes" of recent coverage of oil and gasoline markets. I especially like these two observations:

  • Every spring like clockwork, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin whinges about "greedy, price-gouging" oil refiners who are sticking it to consumers.
  • Every spring like clockwork, the Federal Trade Commission spends a lot of time and effort to investigate the competitive conditions in retail gasoline markets. Every spring like clockwork, they find no evidence of oil refiners' abilities to influence retail prices in an anticompetitive fashion

Congratulations to the students and staff of Raleigh Charter High School for combined SAT scores that are continuing to rise briskly:

2003 2004 2005
Raleigh Charter High School 1190 1240 1257
Number Taking 88 110 132
NC School of Math & Science 1327 1313 1311
Number Taking 276 263 301
Wake County 1067 1063 1075
Number Taking 4531 4655 4958
William G. Enloe 1146 1153 1178
Number Taking 460 445 438
Chapel Hill High 1175 1174 1166
Number Taking 325 331 369
East Chapel Hill High 1181 1197 1207
Number Taking 308 304 325

From http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/docs/accountability/reporting/sat/2005/sat_report_2005_part2.xls

Edward Tufte, quoting Dr. E. E. Peacock, Jr., tells a lovely little story to remind us that good statistical analysis is always about comparisons:

One day when I was a junior medical student, a very important Boston surgeon visited the school and delivered a great treatise on a large number of patients who had undergone successful operations for vascular reconstruction. At the end of the lecture, a young student at the back of the room timidly asked, "Do you have any controls?" Well, the great surgeon drew himself up to his full height, hit the desk, and said, "Do you mean did I not operate on half of the patients?" The hall grew very quiet then. The voice at the back of the room very hesitantly replied, "Yes, that's what I had in mind." Then the visitor's fist really came down as he thundered, "Of course not. That would have doomed half of them to their deaths." God, it was quiet then, and one could scarcely hear the small voice ask, "Which half?"

And then there's this: "Most Scientific Papers Are Probably Wrong". (Well-known in social sciences, even if it's big news to the media.)

The Rock Snob is dead, killed by technological advance:

But there's a dark side to the iPod era. Snobbery subsists on exclusivity. And the ownership of a huge and eclectic music collection has become ordinary. Thanks to the iPod, and digital music generally, anyone can milk various friends, acquaintances, and the Internet to quickly build a glorious 10,000-song collection.