Monday, April 21, 2008

Spring Intensive #1: Survived


So, I am back from my 5000 mile commute to BGI (at least they buy carbon indulgences for us students...I suppose I am paying for them); nestled in the 'burbs of Boston and just feeling somewhat normal after the red eye and staying up way too late on Saturday night (image from Aviation Explorer).

What did we do this time? We met our newest Economics professor and dove into some of the basics of the macroeconomy, GDP and the overall equation that helps us calculate GDP, Gov't spending, Investment, Imports & Exports, etc. It was an interesting few hours, and there will be much more to do in this area I am sure. Day two included discussions among our class about our alternative economy projects; my team is working on the topic of overwork in the US economy, reading Juliet Schor's The Overworked American. It is an interesting topic, and one that I believe has a place in the current political debates involving the pressure on the middle class (wages have stagnated since the early 80's for the majority of Americans). We also discussed the politics of Media control, PR and advertising, overspending, and management bloat. Almost too much to process.

We then jumped into Quantitative Methods. I remember some of the topics from statistics, that I must have taken in college. Standard Deviation, measured of spread, Normal Curves, etc. We went into some Human Regression, graphing two measurable variables from the class population and analyzing them for correlation. We did hair length and age....VERY weakly correlated with an R-squared value of 0.005. We noted a gender division (which I suppose makes sense) and wondered what would have happened if we took a much larger sample size that our ~20 people.

The Linear Programming session of the class was interesting as well, taking us through the capabilities of MS Excel to solve questions involving multiple constraints to maximize or minimize a function. Thank god we are not doing this by hand...I think it involves matrices and some linear algebra that I can not remember from WPI.

Class three for the weekend was Systems Thinking. I believe some brains were frying on this. Extension Diagrams, Bulls eye Diagrams, Causal Loop Diagrams, etc. What are the "things" we are measuring (the Stocks) and what are the actions we can take (Flows) to influence their state? Exogenous, Endogenous, Excluded...take your pick.

I glossed through the material this time, and I am TIRED.

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