How to Lie to Computers

How Wall Street Lied to Its Computers
New York Times (09/18/08) Hansell, Saul

Most Wall Street computer models radically underestimated the risk of complex mortgage securities, partially because the level of financial distress is “the equivalent of the 100-year flood,” says Capital Market Risk Advisors president Leslie Rahl.

Rahl, and others, say that the people who ran the financial firms chose to program their risk-management systems with overly optimistic assumptions and to provide those systems with oversimplified data, preventing the systems from detecting the problem before it was too late. Top bankers cannot simply ignore computer models, because after the last round of significant financial losses, regulators required financial institutions to monitor their risk positions. If a model says a firm’s risk has increased, the firm must either reduce its risk or provide more capital as a cushion should things turn south.

“There was a willful designing of the system to measure the risks in a certain way that would not necessarily pick up all the right risks,” says RiskMetrics’ Gregg Berman. “They wanted to keep their capital base as stable as possible so that the limits they imposed on their trading desks and portfolio managers would be stable.”

Berman says one way this was accomplished was to make sure the computer models looked at several years of trading history instead of just the last few months, which made the computers slow to report that risk had increased as defaults started to rise because the markets had been placid for several years.

Something else we need

Software Spots the Spin in Political Speeches
New Scientist (09/17/08)No. 2674, P. 22; Hutson, Stu

Queen’s University researcher David Skillicorn has created an algorithm
that evaluates word usage within the text of a conversation or speech to
ascertain whether a person is being truthful. The program counts usage of
first person nouns, seeks out phrases that offer qualifications or
clarifications of more general statements, and looks for increased rates of
action verbs and negatively charged words, which signal higher levels of

Skillicorn used the algorithm to study speeches of 2008 presidential
contenders John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, and determined
that the level of spin in their addresses reflected the occasion.

Voice analysis is another technique for determining spin, and Vox Institute
founder Branka Zei Pollermann uses auditory analysis software to build a
voice profile by mapping seven parameters of a person’s speech and then
comparing the profile with the speaker’s facial expressions by using
researcher Paul Ekman’s Facial Action Coding System as a guide.

Pollermann’s analysis of McCain’s speeches demonstrates that the
candidate’s flat tone and mismatched facial expressions could work against
him, while Obama, who exhibits greater pitch modulation and closer
correlation between speech and facial expressions, is a more politically
astute speaker.

Meanwhile, University of Tokyo researcher Yoshimasa Ohmoto
and colleagues are working on a facial recognition system for robots and
artificial intelligence agents that studies basic eye, nose, and mouth
movements to determine whether a person is lying.

and now, back to our regularly scheduled posting

Whew, I had a little political-itis today.  If my blog won’t load, that would be all the link backs to the video.  Give it a day or two.

Here’s Scuff, enjoying her new Kitty Wig.

Or not.

Lewi The Lobster –

Here’s Lewi in his new Halloween costume.  It looks more like he’s being attacked by a Giant Lobster than wearing a costume, doesn’t it?   He’s got a new squeaky toy in the first one which is monopolizing his attention.  For whatever reason, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by a little dress-up.  Maybe his prior owners did this a lot.

Or, maybe he was like that Paris Hilton Chihuahua.  Not Paris’ dog, but a dog named Paris Hilton who was on Dog Whisperer and owned by the two gayest young men (Nelson and Jhett) I’ve ever seen.  Marvelous!

This is all coming up because Cesar Millan’s 100th Dog Whisperer show was on today.   I bawled like a baby through the entire thing.  Twice. It was enchanting to see it (on NatGeo).    I loved re-visiting all those obnoxious-then-healed dogs and owners, all re-habbed and socialized.   They were mostly, dare I say it?  All Grown Up.   Jhett wasn’t there, though.   I have to assume Paris’s parents broke up, and Nelson has gone on to become the most androgynous person ever.  Or maybe he was just pretty.   [Gawd,  I love cable.  And weird people.  I didn’t see any capes, though.  And to be honest, the Blues Brews and BBQ here in town last week had a lot weirder people.  I need to post that, I got two superior mullet shots.]

We watched a little DogTown right after Dog Whisperer.  Sissy loves DogTown and stays focused right on the screen for the whole thing with her ears up in interest.  The other two dogs run around and bark and wonder where the dogs are.

An end to the confusion

This is from 60 Quick Seconds –
Understanding McCain & Palin

Now I understand McCain and Palin

I’m a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight.

If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you’re “exotic, different.”

If you grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers, you’re a quintessential American story.

If your name is Barack, you’re a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.

If you name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you’re a maverick.

If you graduate from Harvard law School, you are unstable.

If you attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you’re well-grounded.

If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters*, spend 12 years as a constitutional law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13-million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veterans’ Affairs committees, you don’t have any real leadership experience.

If your total resume is: local weather reporter, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you’re qualified to become the country’s second highest-ranking executive.

If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you’re not a real Christian.

If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you’re a Christian.

If you teach responsible, age-appropriate sex education, including protecting oneself against predators and the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.

If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state’s school system, while your unwed teen daughter becomes pregnant, you’re a responsible person.

If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner-city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family’s values don’t represent those of America.

If your husband is nicknamed “First Dude,” with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn’t register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

OK, much clearer now.

* This number is wayyyyyyyy off, by the way. A quick Google search shows 300,000 new registered voters this year in Florida alone.

Posted by renee michael

Are you registered to vote?

Register online and find your polling place, register to vote absentee.


Do you think voting for change will work?  Not doing it will definitely NOT work.

We know that.  We’ve had 8 years of the same old shit, I don’t know if we can survive any more of it.

Here’s the nuts and bolts of Obama’s financial plan

Bring about real change to our economy

$1,000 Tax Cut for Middle Class American Families

Obama and Biden will cut income taxes by $1,000 for working families, because the economy needs to be revitalized from the bottom up, not top down. Read more »

Energy Rebates

Obama and Biden will enact a windfall profits tax on excessive oil company profits to give American families an immediate $1,000 emergency energy rebate to help families pay rising bills. Read more »

Create Jobs through Fair Trade

Obama and Biden believe that trade with foreign nations should create American jobs, not send them overseas. They will stand firm against agreements that undermine our economic security. Read more »

Create 5 Million Green Jobs

Obama and Biden believe that we should invest in innovation and manufacturing jobs in the growing clean energy market, freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil within a decade and creating 5 million green jobs. Read more »

New Jobs Through National Infrastructure Investment

Obama and Biden believe that rebuilding our highways, bridges, roads, ports, air, and train systems will create jobs, ensure safety, and bolster our long-term competitiveness. Read more »

Technology, Innovation and Creating Jobs

Obama and Biden will increase federal support for research, technology and innovation for companies and universities so that American workers can lead the world in cutting edge jobs and products. Read more »

Support Small Business

Obama and Biden will level the playing field for small business by eliminating all capital gains taxes on start-up and small businesses. Read more »


Obama and Biden will strengthen the ability of workers to organize for good wages, healthcare, and secure pensions. Obama and Biden will fight for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. Obama and Biden will ensure that labor appointees support workers’ rights and will work to ban the permanent replacement of striking workers. Obama and Biden will also increase the minimum wage and make sure it remains a real wage year over year. Read more »

Protect Homeownership and Crack Down on Mortgage Fraud

Obama and Biden will crack down on fraudulent brokers and lenders. They will make sure homebuyers have honest and complete information about their mortgage options, and they will give a tax credit to all middle-class homeowners. Read more »

Address Predatory Credit Card Practices

Obama and Biden will establish a five-star rating system so that every consumer knows the risk involved in credit card borrowing. They will establish a Credit Card Bill of Rights to stop credit card companies from exploiting consumers with unfair practices. Read more »

Reform Bankruptcy Laws

Obama and Biden will reform our bankruptcy laws to protect working people, to ban executive bonuses for bankrupt companies, and to require disclosure of all pension investments. Read more »

Work/Family Balance

Obama and Biden will help working families by doubling funding for after-school programs, expanding the Family Medical Leave Act. They will provide low-income families with a refundable tax credit to help with their child-care expenses, and encourage flexible work schedules. Read more »

What’s going on

1.  Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day, Mateys!

The word of the day is ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

For more emphasis, you can say Great Neptune’s Nutsack!


2.  The roomba broke past its barrier and went into the bathroom yesterday.  It wadded up the throw rug and shoved it behind the door so the door closed and wouldn’t open easily.  It couldn’t get out.  Apparently that made it angry.   It went over to the basket of magazines and grabbed the hanging-down edge of the Rolling Stone (a three-page foldout cover) that had flopped over the side.  It ripped the cover off, took it over by the door and munched it to pieces.  And died.

Only temporary, though.  It chewed until its battery died.  Little fucker.


3.  We have, as you may know,  a big retarded German Shepherd named Gunner.  He sleeps in a gigantic cage at the end of the bed, because we just don’t really trust him to know the right thing to do. He is perfectly nice, and is generally well-behaved, but he has cat fantasies, and garbage fantasies.  It’s just easier to lock him up at night and he likes it, anyway.

Cheetah, Bob’s hideous little diabetic cat, also likes the cage.  She sleeps in it whenever it’s devoid of dogs.

Cheetah pretending she's a caged animal


So, last week, Andrew was here.  He stays up late.  The dogs stay with him because he’s the main reason they live, apparently.

I got up at about 3 a.m.  and saw Goober/Gunnar in the hall, so I took him in the dark and put him in the cage.  He went in willingly, and I locked it up and went to bed.

Cheetah must have gotten hungry about 5:30, she started clawing the end of the bed, making a racket.  Bob finally had to get up and see what it was … and of course it was Goober and Cheetah in the cage together.  Goob was sitting up, pushed to the back and Cheetah walked to the cage door when Bob got up, none the worse for the wear.  She was just hungry, went straight in to the food bowl.  It’s that diabetic thing.   I guess this means Goob passes the kitty safety test, but Cheetah is the toughest cat alive so I’m not sure it’s a fair test.

Bob went to put Goob to bed last night and Goob went in front of Bob and opened the cage and walked in … over Cheetah, who walked out.  Guess they didn’t want to bunk together again.


4.  I think this might be my new avatar, everywhere.