Friday, June 3, 2011

Eliminating Inflation Through Creative Econometrics

The other evening my wife asked me if tulips are poisonous to cats. I didn't know the answer off hand. The question was prompted by the fact that our furry beast was attempting to graze in the remaining tulips on our patio. (Technically, it was attempting to browse, but that's O.K..) The same tulips I've been staring at for about 7 weeks now!

Here on the We(s)t Coast Spring has been longer, cooler, and more damp this year than any of us would care for. After a while it gets you down, and you feel as if the fog has actually penetrated your brain. Strange thoughts begin to surface, just when you least expect them.

The question about the cat and the tulips interrupted my own contemplation of a notice that I'd seen on campus earlier in the day. It concerned a summer course being offered by our Department of Linguistics here at UVic. namely LING 388: "An Introduction to Grammar of English Usage". I had been thinking that this was something I should recommend to some of our students - until I observed that it said at the bottom of the notice: "No Prerequisites Required." Isn't that third word redundant?

I warned you - this weather does bad things to your mind!


Zanran is to data, what Google is to text.

Now in its Beta-testing phase, the new search engine, Zanran, seems certain to appeal to all of us who use data on a regular basis. Founders Jon Goldhill and Yves Dassas describe Zanran in the following way:
"Zanran helps you to find ‘semi-structured’ data on the web. This is the numerical data that people have presented as graphs and tables and charts. For example, the data could be a graph in a PDF report, or a table in an Excel spreadsheet, or a barchart shown as an image in an HTML page. This huge amount of information can be difficult to find using conventional search engines, which are focused primarily on finding text rather than graphs, tables and bar charts."

On 31 May I used Zanran to search "zero inflated Poisson" (see above), and returned 4,394 results, each linking to data in graphs and/or tables. Here are the first 5 items in the list:

When you "hover over" the pdf icons for each of the first three items above, here are the previews that you see:

Then, of course, if you like what you see, you just click your way to the linked document, be it a pdf file, an Excel worksheet, an HTML page, or whatever.

No, I'm not an investor, but this is one cool search engine. Try it - you'll love it!

(HT to Andrew Gelman.)

© 2011, David E. Giles