Monday, January 28, 2008

Causation vs Correlation

A lot has been written on the topic of causation vs correlation, usually in refuting "studies" that are published based on an agenda.

I had reason to think seriously about this topic, as a result of something the American Farmer wrote.

There is a relationship between data that is not strong enough to be causation, and stronger than mere correlation. I'll call it foundation.

Note: I think this is prevalent in education, maybe not so much in data analysis. It seems almost self-evident in education, as one of the examples I'll give shows, but I've never seen this idea used in analyzing data, so in that realm, this is a new idea to me. If someone has presented this thought before, I'd like to know, so I don't claim to have dreamed up something new, even if I arrived at this conclusion independently.

Example of causation vs correlation vs foundation, using math:

Arithmetic is a learned skillset. Algebra is also a learned skillset. For the sake of brevity, we'll call Arithmetic (a) and Algebra (b).

(b) is never found without (a). Some would say that, therefore, (a) causes (b). However, since (a) can be found without (b), this is proof that (a) causes (b). BUT, for a true causality relationship to exist, (a) must ALWAYS cause (b), and that is obviously not true. Plenty of people can add, subtract, multiply, and divide, but can't solve a quadratic equation. So, (a) doesn't CAUSE (b).

BUT... since (b) is never found without (a), ie, anyone who can solve a quadratic equation can also add, subtract, multiply, and divide, we can accurately say that (a) is a FOUNDATION for (b). (b) cannot exist without (a), but (a) can exist without (b).

When one can exist without the other, but the inverse is not true, we can call that not causation, or correlation, but foundation.

Comments welcome.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Huh? What Happened to January?

-or- "Dang! I'm Not Ready For Gardening Yet!"

One of the things I had planned heavily for this spring is a good-sized garden, planting a good amount of all the different veggies Lisa, Alex and I eat, and lots of extras of ones that are easily put up for storage.

At Dad's, I've got the space. I've got the mulch (and then some). I know of a few horse barns who are happy to have people haul away manure - so happy, they'll even fire up the front-end loader and fill your truck FOR you. This spring, unlike last year, I have the time.

I don't have a tiller, at least not yet - still trying to get the thing running, in between getting broke cars back on the road.

And today, reading through target planting dates for various veggies, I discovered that I should be getting some of the cold-hardy plants in NOW, as in, as much as 10 days ago.

This is something I did NOT remember from childhood and teenage years helping in the garden: How Texas' short Spring season and mild winters mean some parts of the garden that are intolerant to heat (such as carrots) need to go in between 15 January and 1 March.

Indoor tomatoes also need to be started around this time. Got a start on that tonight, should be seeing a few little baby tomato stems in about a week or two.

Oh well, live and learn. If I hurry and get the Blazer done, then hurry and get the tiller running, then hurry and get the ground prepped... maybe I'll get things planted in time.

And I printed a bunch of material out, to put in a Garden Notebook, so I can start committing this stuff to memory and not get surprised next year.

*NOTE TO SELF* Start tilling in compost and manure around Fall Daylight Savings time in '08. That should get me done in time for next spring.

On a related note: Anyone know of a large pressure canner for not too much money? New ones are a little spendy, and I hope to be needing one in a few more months. Leave a note in Comments, or email me at if you know of any leads. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Note to Detroit Designers

Thirteen (13) head bolts to seal three (3) cylinders might, just MIGHT be a little excessive.

Maybe. If it does a better job sealing, and prevents blown head gaskets, I can see it being not entirely negative.

But when six (6), yes SIX of those bolts (on each head!) can only be reached through the fenderwells, after possibly needing to remove the steering column to get to the ones on the driver side, somebody needs to back away from the friggin' crack pipe.

I mean, c'mon, even a friggin' TAURUS isn't this hard to work on, and its engine faces the wrong way!

Just a suggestion.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Righteous Shooting

This is somebody's daughter. Maybe somebody's wife, sister, aunt, or mother.

Audio is gut-wrenching, imagery (via Oleg Volk) is awesome.

This one turned out ok. What about the next one?

Laws that prohibit gun ownership violate the most basic of civil rights, the right to self-defense.

"Protection could be in your hands, now... or parked by the donut shop".

"911 will send crimestoppers at 80 mph... her rifle, at 800 mph. Which will save her life?"

I love Oleg Volk's imagery... but in this case, I thank God that she had a friend who would loan her a gun, that she had the will to use it, and that her parents aren't burying their daughter.

Guns in the hands of normal people save lives, folks. Outlawing guns only means that only outlaws have guns, and and normal people (like the woman in that 911 call) are defenseless against them.

Friday, January 04, 2008


It's kinda rare to find an auto mechanic with real integrity. Daddy found one, and it's a treasure. Ballard's, in south Fort Worth, Texas.

They almost always get things right the first time. They're not the cheapest, but in my experience, they're the best. And this week reinforced my opinion.

A friend has been borrowing Daddy's '93 Caprice temporarily. It's had some problems, mostly due to my letting it sit. Latest problem was a fuel pump, which I had Ballard's replace. Two days later, the car died again, and in one of the worst neighborhoods of south Dallas.

I had Ballard's tow the car back to their shop to find out what was wrong... turns out the fuel pump they had installed was defective from the factory, but didn't fail until it had run for several hours.

This morning, Kevin Ballard called me to say the car was ready, and that I didn't owe them anything, INCLUDING the 30+ mile tow.

Defective parts do happen, occasionally, but the way Ballard's handled this (we will make it RIGHT) is why Daddy did, and I do, continue to use them anytime it's something too complicated for me, or something I need done faster than I can do it myself. Kevin and Sue Ballard will stand behind their work. Period.

My greatest cost today, and it's one that I can live with *grin* was that I had to let Sue play with Alex for about 30 minutes :)

THAT, my friends, is a mechanic shop to trust.

Ballard's almost always gets it right the first time. And if something still comes up wrong, THEY MAKE IT RIGHT.