Zero Hedge June Retail Sales graph. Opposing views or how to add more context to a graphic

First of all, sorry for the delay in posting.  Life has been very different in these last 6 months.  I have a backlog of ideas I need to work through.  Anyways a few weeks ago I read this article from Zero Hedge titled “Spot The Grotesque Retail Sales Seasonal Adjustment Outlier” and it seemed to imply that the Government has grossly over/under adjusted seasonal retail numbers for June. While I admit that the original article does seem to make a good point with the outlier, I wanted to provide more context than their original chart.

For reference here is their original chart:
June Retail Sales Seasonal Adjustment_0

I have provided some other charts using Tableau to show how this June adjustment is not very remarkable (although the sign change from – to + is interesting).

In this first graph I am showing all the adjustments by month for all the past few years.  As you can see June (in red) is hardly as dramatic of an outlier compared to other months:

In this second chart I have plotted the log of the difference in adjustments and I have labeled the min and maximum years.  (Without the log of the difference 1992 seemed to show up more).

So here is the entire view.  You can see that other months ‘straddle’ the zero seasonal adjustment axis, and June ‘was always close’ to the zero line, so it is ‘conceivable’ that there is nothing wrong with June 2013′s adjustment.  However even at this larger view, June 2013 does seem to stands out!  Is it a large deviation?  No not really considering the whole picture.  This is either a legitimate change in American retail sales for June (is Memorial day becoming a larger retail event than in the past?) or a one-time adjustment (June 2013 weather event?).  I have no opinion, but I wanted to present a different picture.

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Change in labor costs for Georgia departments

I have been playing with some sankey graphs. This graphic shows the change in labor costs by departments year over year. This is not per person, just the total labor costs by department. Please note that it excludes certain educational employees, read the fine print in the graphic.

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Using Slice by Juice Analytics I was able to make these two dashboards showing state employee pay in Georgia. I collected the data, scrubbed some of the names and departments and excluded anyone with less than $1000 avg pay in the last 4 years. Data was collected from and includes only State Agencies,Boards,Authorities and Commissions. Units of the University System and Georgia Military College, Regional Educational Service Agencies, Technical Colleges, and Local Boards of Education are excluded.

Keep a few things in mind as we look at this data. The Teachers retirement system has ~55 billion in assets. The GA Lottery has around 38 billion in sales. The GA ports authority does 26.5 M tons annually.

Top 100 Employees by average pay over the last 4 years.

Georgia State pay by Department

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Another Processing application for blink(1)

I have made another program for the blink(1) product. This Processing sketch uses the mouse location and determines the color of the blink(1) light. The speed of the mouse will determine whether the light blinks. The ‘blink threshold’ will determine what distance in pixels the mouse must travel before it blinks. Press ‘b’ to lower this and ‘B’ to increase it. If your mouse moves more than X pixels per second then it will blink. The interface for the program currently looks like this:

There is 1 bug I have discovered. When windows 7 logs you off (or you press ctrl+alt+del) the program will crash.

Enjoy the Processing PDE.

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Blink(1) by ThingM

So I finally got my blink(1) from ThingM! I will call the blink(1) product a small-scale indicator.  Small-scale sensors have been proliferating in recent years.  The smartphone is the most obvious.  Another revolution I see coming is in the small-scale indicators.  Blink(1) is one such device.  Since I love Processing and anything nerdy, I have written a Processing Sketch to show some of the abilities of blink(1). The Mouse’s X and Y position determine color. The blinking is based on the speed of the movement. After a certain pixel distance threshold the color is set to 0.

First you obviously need to get a blink(1) and plug it in!

Secondly you need to add in the blink library into a 32 bit version of Processing:

Third, you need to open this PDE and copy it into your Processing environment:

If you have all the stuff installed correctly, then you will see this marvel!

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Headcharts using Processing

Headcharts, (or facegraphs) are like headshots for data.  Well, no not really, it just sounds like a catchy opening sentence.  Anyways I was playing with Processing awhile ago and I did a basic tutorial and got processing to find my face and draw a rectangle on it. I used a library called openCV (Open Computer Vision).  It worked well and it was a fun activity to try.  (This website has more information on getting openCV into Processing: )

This week I decided to re-visit the software and I was able to get a simple chart to follow my face.  Imagine if every morning your intelligent mirror showed you what you ate yesterday and your exercise levels.

Here is a low-res video:

Another video of a chart following me but this is much higher qualityq.

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Area Charts are bad.

Lets say you’re against taxes and spending.  Should you use a graphic that over-represents, under-represents, or accurately displays taxes and spending relative to something else?  The Heritage Foundation released this graphic last week:

The problem with Pie Charts and these type Area charts is that the something 4x the size only really looks like 2x the size and so on.  Assuming The Heritage group is against the taxes and spending, (as my knowledge of them and the the big red letters seem to indicate), it’s bizarre why they would choose an inferior chart to show how large difference between the two things they would like to compare.  1.6 trillion is 4x 400 billion, but in their graphic the left box is only ~330 pixels tall, while the right graphic is about half that at 163 pixels (y axis was the same).  The problem is that they are taking one dimensional data and distributing it across two dimensions!  There’s no need for it when a simple bar chart would get the point across better.  For instance, here is a comparison of what that 2d volume chart would look like vs a similar bar chart:

Which graphic clearly shows “one thing is 4 times another”?  IT JUST MAKES NO SENSE!  Why undermine your position by inaccurately under-representing your cause!?  This is why the left is ‘winning’, they’re not shooting themselves in the foot with terrible understanding of graphics and data representation.

Full link to their report:

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Terrible Political Math in GA by Chip Rogers

So today I got an email from my state senator in GA, Chip Rogers. This issue at present is whether the GA constitution should be amended to allow to multi-year rentals by the state of GA. The idea behind the state can save money by entering into multi-year rentals at lower rates.  The state Majority Leader, who is in favor of it, claims it will save $66 million over 10 years. A counter-argument can found here.
My issue is this piece of terrible mathematics by my state senator Chip Rogers:
A conservative estimate prepared by the State Properties Commission estimates over $66 million in savings will result over ten years, with the potential of even more future savings. $66 million could pay the average salaries for over 1,300 teachers or police officers in Georgia.” …Yeah if we ignore the math by a factor of 10.
The problem with this and other ‘savings’ purported by our government officials is this ‘over 10 years’ crap. It is a ploy to inflate their numbers and make mathematical deception much easier. In reality the plan would only annually save 130 jobs IN THE ENTIRE STATE OF GA, which for you out-of-staters, has a population of ~9.8 million. Basically they have to multiply their achievement by 10 because they’re not doing jack squat to help us.
$66,000,000 over 10 years = $6,600,000 average per year savings. $6,600,000 / 130 jobs is ~$50 k a year.
I have a hard time believing this is an ‘honest mistake’. I mean we are in freaking 2012. If you had a question about the whole thing, just type the crap directly into Wolfrum Mathematica and see what it says!
Also, this amount is truly trivial in the entire scope of things:
$19,300,000,000 – 2012 State Budget
$6,600,000 – Average 1 year savings
0.03% Of Budget saved!

Politicians, please don’t make me barf and insult my intelligence. This small of a savings shouldn’t be touted as a great savings for the people and insist we vote for it. It’s absurd. Hey look at me! I saved .03% of the budget over 1 year… that’s .3% over 10 years! Or 3% over 100 years! What is really happening is this is a give-away to the politically connected. Their friends will likely get nice sweet deals, probably multi-year leases with big penalties for early cancelation. THIS IS CRONY CAPITALISM! I voted no on the amendment by the way, if it were 2 or 3 years I would have voted yes regardless of the terrible political math. Frankly vote no so we can “limit the amount of money that can be stolen from taxpayers at one sitting.” to quote Charlie from PeachPundit.

Note just to be fair here is the 2012 donation cycle for Chip Rodgers: He has some Real estate donations but it appears most of the campaign money comes from health-care companies.

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Fraction of US Population that is employed

This was made by and in-law of mine, Charles C., and I thought it was a great chart showing the trends in employment. I have zoomed in on the last two presidents. The funny codes are actually BLS numbers so you can get the data yourself and make your own charts. For instance here is the data for LNS12300061

The full Image:

Via a relative: Charles C.

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Value of a home game.

Here is a quick chart showing the value of a home game for soccer (aka football). I took the Manchester City football (aka soccer in the US, but I will call it football or association football from here on out) data and aggregated it by team and make this cool chart showing the differences between home and away games. Home games have more goals and assists, less goals conceded and penalties. Clearly the fans have an impact on the games.

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