Here is what my eye sees in the inflation data – a big increase starting in December 2010

Been thinking about the inflation data I posted earlier today. Also been thinking about data visualization – how do we accountants present data so other people can see what we see.  Lets go back to the monthly inflation data for the last 2 1/2 years.

I see a major change at the end of 2010. Inflation moved from a plateau of reasonable amounts (all things considered) to a high level.  All at once.  How to show that?


Inflation watch

April inflation data is out. Adjusted for seasonal factors the increase was 0.4%. Without seasonal adjustment it was up 0.6%.  That makes adjusted increases for last five months 0.4, 0.4, 0.5, 0.5, and 0.4. Not good numbers and a worse pattern. That’s a 2.2% increase in consumer prices in five months.

Put the data into a graph like last month. Also added the adjusted amounts. Here’s the graph:


Cheapeners make life really fantastic for all of us – the radical cost reductions in technology

It isn’t the initial idea of a technology that makes life so fantastic for all of us. It is the next round of people who figure out how to make it ridiculously cheap that lets everyone enjoy the really cool inventions. So explains Matt Ridley, of the Wall Street Journal, in Three Cheers for the Cheapeners and Cost-Cutters.

 “A feature of innovation is that the greatest impact of a new idea comes not when the light bulb goes on over the geek’s head, but when the resulting technology eventually becomes cheap enough for many people to use—perhaps decades later.

This is the driver behind the tremendous productivity gains in the last few centuries.


Does humanitarian aid actually help? How do we know?

Outcome measures are being forced on ministries. Does this organization actually create change in the area of their cause? Ultimately, answering that question will be a good thing, even though it is very hard.

How about asking the same questions of humanitarian aid? Does the help provided actually make the lives of struggling people better? How do we know?

Measuring How and Why Aid Works – or Doesn’t, written by William Easterly in the Wall Street Journal, discusses two books that help us ask questions. The same concepts apply to aid as to domestic non-profits. Are they making any difference?

Mr. Easterly focuses in on the core issues when he says:


Rappin’ economists, round 2. Yes, rapping. Yes, round 2.

The great economists Hayek and Keynes continue their rap encounters. This time they go to a congressional hearing and wind up in a boxing ring.

Check out Fight of the Century at EconStories.


Some of my favorite lines:


Is inflation back?

Various news reports suggest that inflation is returning to the economy.  See this article from the AP for one example: That’s pricey: 13 items that cost more, or will.

Officials of the Federal Reserve indicate the recent price increases won’t be sustained. 

I decided to do some checking on my own.

I pulled down the CPI data for a look-see.  See this post for links to get the data yourself.


Comparing GDP of US states with foreign countries

You’ve played the word game — if California was a separate country, it would be the Xth largest economy in the world.   

The Economist magazine has revised the game with a graph that matches the GDP of each state with another country with the closest GDP.  Map is here.  The ‘population’ button at the top changes the map to match each state with a country with the closest population size.

A few fun observations:


Why are cartoons such a popular explanation of economics right now?

Amity Shlaes, in her current Forbes column, Economics by Cartoon, points out that the cartoon Quantitative Easing Explained and the rap debate between Keynes and Hayek have received 3.5 million and 1.7 million hits on YouTube, respectively.  I’ve mentioned these videos here on this blog and here on my other blog.  (Just checked – the QE cartoon is up to 4.0 million visits.)

Over 5.7 million hits on YouTube video explanations of what is going on?  Why?


Economic development makes every country healthier and richer

Incredible visualization of 200 years of economic development and improvements in health around the world.  A professor creates an entertaining visual of how health and wealth has increased in 200 countries over 2 centuries.  Does it all in under 5 minutes.  (more…)

New blog –

I started a new blog today, Attestation Update, It will provide news and updates to the CPA community on audits, reviews, and compilations.  Some posts are only at the new site and some attestation posts will be left here. In the future, posts that are focused more on the CPA community will be at the new site.

Why make this change? I realized there are very two distinct audiences for my writing:  the non-profit community and CPAs. While there is a lot of overlap, particularly with the CPA firms in Southern California with whom I count as friends at the same time as competitors, the interests are very different.  Thus, two blogs.  This will allow for more focused attention by time constrained readers.  Enjoy them both!

Easy-listening explanation of Quantitative Easing

Quantitative Easin’ is a new song in easy listening style that explains what the Fed is planning for the very near future.  Fun explanation.  Watch out for the depressing graphs though.

The singer, Curtis Threadneedle, is on facebook here.

Update: Fed announced the QE2 will be for $600,000,000,000 spread in $75B purchases per month of longer-term treasuries. Typo in title of this post corrected.

Rapping Economists debate how to improve the economy? Rapping? On economics?

As news reports indicate the Fed plans a half trillion dollar quantitative easing, it is a good time to revisit the Hayek and Keynes debate.  If you would like a rap explanation, check this out: “Fear the Boom and Bust”. Yes, Hayek presented in rap. (more…)

10 leading causes of death in 1850 and 2000

Fascinating display at the Reuben Fleet Science Museum in San Diego listing the top 10 causes of death in 1850, 1900, and 2000 caught my interest while on vacation.  Focus of their discussion is on the change over time, particularly the change from infectious disease to other causes.  Look at this list (more…)