Reduce, Re-use, Recycle

This post represents something of a milestone for the Stubborn Mule. A few months ago I passed the one year anniversary of the Mule (the first post was published on 18 May 2008). Now I have reached the 100th post. To celebrate, and in recognition of the fact that older blog posts tend to disappear under the pile of newer ones, I will take this opportunity to revisit some of these older posts.

Drivers of Australian Inflation

Back when the global financial crisis was little more than a sparkle in a sub-prime lender’s eye, outside the bond markets anyway, we were still worried about inflation. In Australia, the rate of inflation for the 12 months to March 2008  hit 4.3%, which was outside the Reserve Bank’s target range of 2-3%. Setting a pattern that was to continue, I attempted to illustrate the drivers of inflation graphically. In this case, I produced a “heatmap” (a form of “treemap”) showing the sub-categories of the Australian Consumer Price Index.

Australia and the Global Financial Crisis

A lot of the posts on the Stubborn Mule have touched on aspects of the global financial crisis, including Moody’s Colossal Bug, How Big Are Australian Banks?, AIG and DZ Bank: Dumb and Dumber and Shoots Are Greener in Australia?. But the single most popular post on the blog is Australia and the Global Financial Crisis. Written back in October 2008, not long after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, this piece aimed to explain what caused the financial crisis and why, even then, Australia seemed to be faring better than much of the rest of the world. Over the coming years there will doubtless be many millions of words written about the causes of the crisis, but in the meantime, on most days, this post still gets more hits than any other on the blog.

Olympic Medals per Capita

Another popular post, this was actually a follow up to another post which looked at the Beijing 2008 medal tally on a per capita basis and by the size of each country’s economy. The Olympics were still underway and I decided to improve the first post by having the ranking charts update live as medals were awarded. I did this with the help of the data sharing site Swivel: I wrote a little script to regularly poll the official Olympics site for medal awards, post the results to Swivel and Swivel would then update the charts embedded in the blog. A little later, I did the same thing for the Paralympics.

Sydney Petrol Prices

Back in the middle of 2008, with petrol prices soaring, there were many complaints that petrol retailers were gouging motorists with their petrol pricing. In this environment, which led to the misguided and short-lived “FuelWatch” scheme, I decided to test the relationship between crude oil prices and prices at the petrol pump. Needless to say, there was a very close relationship between the two. As oil prices fell, the sting went out of this issue, but for old time’s sake, here is an updated version of chart showing the results of my simple regression model.

Petrol Model (Sep 2009)

Regression Model of Sydney Petrol Prices (unleaded)*

I Hate Personality Tests

Written after attending a training course at work, this post was a bit of a rant about HBDI and other similar personality tests such as Myers-Briggs, which I consider to be simplistic tools designed primarily to generate revenue for the companies that produce the tests and are closer to astrology than science. I can feel my blood pressure rising again now…

The Future of Microblogging

I was something of an early adopter of the internet phenomenon that is Twitter. When I wrote this post, I had been using Twitter for a little over a year and the total number of twitter users had just passed 2 million and looked like it might be levelling out. Now Ashton Kutcher alone has more than 3.6 million followers and overall Twitter has more than 5 million users. Although many people have become more familiar with Twitter, this post still draws in readers looking to find out more about microblogging. In the post I also look at the open microblogging platform Laconica and at, the original example of a microblog built on Laconica. While I do still use my account, it’s hard to escape the lure of Twitter.

Why I Always Buy the Same Sandwich

Another early post, this was inspired by my reading of Dan Ariely’s excellent book “Predictably Irrational”, which is all about the fascinating field of behavioural economics. One of the subjects Ariely discusses is the phenomenon of  “self-herding”, which basically means people tend to get stuck in a rut doing the same things over and over again. In my case, I used this concept to explain why I kept buying the same sandwich. More than a year later, I still buy the same sandwich. I still plan to revisit the subject of behavioural economics at some point in the future.

So, having recycled all those electrons, I am off to start planning the next 100 posts.

* Data Sources: Sydney Petrol Prices from the Australian Automobile Association, Brent crude oil prices and A$/US$ exchange rates from Bloomberg.

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