Monday, January 31, 2005

interesting metric - Me Time

Good column with some novel metrics for TV- The New Republic Online: Me Time

"only in NY"-type moments

RDK sends in a quote from NYT's Metropolitan Diary

Kitty Burns Florey was walking down Broadway near Lincoln Center one
evening behind two teenage girls, obviously tourists. One of them said,
looking around, "But where are the supermarkets?"

The other replied, "Oh, they don't have any."

The first girl stopped dead. "You mean - they eat out every day? Three

Her friend raised her eyebrows, shrugged, and said, "I guess they must."

They stood there open-mouthed, shaking their heads in amazement. Then one
of them said, softly, "Wow," and they moved on.

RDK says, "have i said this before? well, i will say it again, i love tourists!!!"

: ))

Friday, January 28, 2005

Interesting viewpoint - My IPod, My Self

From Wired News: My IPod, My Self:

"IPod and user form a cybernetic unit," said Giesler. "We're always talking about cyborgs in the context of cultural theory and sci-fi literature, but this is an excellent example that they're out there in the marketplace.... I have seen the future, and it is called the cyborg consumer."

The cyborg consumer, Giesler said, is one that uses several different technologies -- from cell phones to Viagra -- and is highly connected, technically and socially.
Giesler argues that technological products like the iPod allow consumers to become "technotranscendent." Consumers transcend the here and now through the use of technology, like kids playing video games.

"They're not sitting in front of the TV, they're inside the game," said Giesler. "They're technotranscendent. They have transcended their existence in front of the TV through the technology of the game."

I do not think this is anything really new, except a vocabulary designed to tittilate a cultural studies professor. People also name cars, airplanes, streets, trees, and computers. The book of Genesis is pretty clear on just how much man needs and likes to name things. Call it fear of abandonment or "technotranscendence"....

Still, read the thing, it is worth 5 minutes.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

interesting snippet - BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Turin shroud 'older than thought'

"The fact that vanillin cannot be detected in the lignin on shroud fibres, Dead Sea scrolls linen and other very old linens indicates that the shroud is quite old," Mr Rogers writes.

"A determination of the kinetics of vanillin loss suggests the shroud is between 1,300 and 3,000 years old."

I wonder if they are going to allow a whole new testing iteration now.

On missing someone

I miss my grandmother whenever I have time for a telephone call and noone in particular to call.

The routine of going to her apartment whenever I came back from a trip and waiting for her to say, "Tell me from the beginning. So, you got to the airport..."

Long arguments regarding some important or irrelevant front-page subject where I would try dispel the notions she has held since Stalin was alive - often out of pure contrarily feeling on my part. I would argue and rant; prove unambiguously the righteousness of whatever side I chose; and after she finally capitulated with her trademarked, "maybe you are right and I am just old and do not quite understand these modern things" be sure that tomorrow she will forget the agreement and return to her old opinions.

But now there is no tomorrow, or trips to her apartment. And so I cannot tell her of my trip to Vienna, or St.Petersburg. Of going to see a play, or what A. said today.

I'm all verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves.

Lexus a nexus between cars and phone viruses?

CNET writes about a possible case of a virus infection of a car on-board computer - Lexus a nexus between cars and phone viruses? | CNET

Now, there is a vast difference between the navigation or on-board comfort setting system and the few dozen chips and microprocessors that control fuel-injection, all-wheel drive and other critical driving ans safety functions. Still, this is an interesting and inevitable development. If we are worried about zombie machines bombarding us with spam and scam - we should certainly worry about adding 225,882,103 (2003 numbers) cars/trucks in the USA alone to the total potential pool.

Friday, January 21, 2005

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: The Free Lunch Bunch

I think Paul Krugman is getting better as he gets back to his economics roots, and away from political speculation. As far as I can see, the whole point of him writing a column for NYT is to cover economics issues for the paper, not foray into politics. He has been lucky lately, as the Administration makes Social Security moves that are right up his alley to counter, debunk, and deride.

A lucid column from him today [free registration required]: The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: The Free Lunch Bunch. One thing that lept out to me was:

Fifty years ago most people, remembering 1929, were afraid of the stock market. As a result, those who did buy stocks got to buy them cheap: on average, the value of a company's stock was only about 13 times that company's profits. Because stocks were cheap, they yielded high returns in dividends and capital gains.

But high returns always get competed away, once people know about them: stocks are no longer cheap. Today, the value of a typical company's stock is more than 20 times its profits. The more you pay for an asset, the lower the rate of return you can expect to earn. That's why even Jeremy Siegel, whose "Stocks for the Long Run" is often cited by those who favor stocks over bonds, has conceded that "returns on stocks over bonds won't be as large as in the past."

I do not recall Prof. Siegel's book perfectly, but I seem to recall that he covered stock performance periods from well before 1929 as well. In fact, it seems that Krugman is being really disingenious with his quoting Prof. Siegel.

Krugman wrote,

Jeremy Siegel... has conceded that "returns on stocks over bonds won't be as large as in the past."

But this is the actual full quote from the Forbes article Siegel is being quoted from:

SIEGEL: I agree that returns on stocks over bonds won't be as large as in the past. But I'm more optimistic than Rob. Looking over the next quarter-century, I see a 5%-to-6% return on stocks, adjusted for inflation. I'm pessimistic about real bond returns. I think they're likely to be in the 0%-to-1% range over the next five years, and closer to 3% after that.

As far as Siegel is concerned stocks are still the place to be, which he basically reiterates towards the end of the discussion.

FORBES: How is your own money invested right now?

SIEGEL: Pretty much where I've been recommending. Mostly in stocks, with a tilt away from technology and toward dividends. I'm also moving more into international stocks. I also hold REITs, junk bonds and a small amount of TIPS.

It is fair to disagree with Jeremy Siegel (at your peril financially perhaps), but I do not think it is honest to excise quotes that way.

Perhaps I am just biased. I nthe interest of full disclosure I took his Finance 101 class nearly 10 years ago, and if that is not the best introduction to finance you can find in college - I do not know what is.

The iPod economy

CNET has an interesting essay/slideshow with examples of some of accessories that work with the iPod. It is an interesting section of the economy, and perhaps one area were creative juices are at their most free at the moment.

link: Photos: The iPod economy | CNET

Thursday, January 20, 2005

"follow us into the future..."

An ad on the side of an MTA bus in New York said:
"Follow us into the future of Medicare"

I did not quite understand the point. There are always at least two dimensions to any social program - as it related to money and to people. Medicare's future does not relate well to money. Or at least to having money. Medicare is expected to have a multi-trillion dollar shortfall within the lifespan of the Generation X. What one would gain by following someone, anyone, into the fture of Medicare in financial sene is beyond me.

Personal interpretation of the statement is even more morbid. People who get Medicare are retirees. People who use Medicare - since not all doctors accept it - are the less wealthy, or plain poor, of the retirees. Their future might hold many wonderful moments with their great-grandchildren, but does not exactly promise an infinite number of tomorrows. Where one would follow people 65 years and older into the future escapes me.

Just a strange ad I am sure I misunderstand completely.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

no surprise there

Senate committee OKs Rice as secretary of state by 16-2 vote -
Democrats John Kerry and Barbara Boxer are only "no" votes.

well, this seems to score points for everyone involved. John Kerry could not very well vote for Rice, could he?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Interesting eBay competitor

Friend forwarded information about this company - a hybrid of and
PrizeWise is a coupon retailer that allows its users to participate in an online trading platform similar to eBay. The difference is that prizeWise users attempt to win the items posted on the site in sweepstakes-style auctions instead of bidding on them. See "The Buying and Selling Process" below for specific details. If you are someone who enjoys buying and selling on eBay, prizeWise is for you. If you are someone who enjoys winning valuable items and saving hundreds with countless merchants, prizeWise is for you. PrizeWise is for everyone (see Official Rules for eligibility restrictions).

The rest of the writing is even more dense, but it seems to boil down to the fact the users will get coupons/lottery tickets by buying merchandize at participating sites, and sellers would get paid by those merchants. I cannot imagine this is going to do well, but I am still impressed with the enterprising imagination of people who came up with this idea...

Monday, January 10, 2005

caskets wholesale

Q: Why is Costco Wholesale selling caskets?
As a service to our members.

I do not know if these are a good deal or not, but as a mostly satisfied Costco customer, I am still finding it a little freaky.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

conversations: bus driver

Background: There are a few bus routes I can take home from work. Almost all of them stop on the bus stop right in front of my office, but one is about a hundred yeards farther down the street. I have bad eyesight, so I only see which bus it is when it reaches the first stop. If I need to - I sprint. I am a bad runner, but usually make it in time to catch the bus on the farther bus stop. So far so good. For atmosphere, imagine a cold and rainy evening during New York winter. December 31st.

Me: huffing and puffing after sprinting for the bus in dress shoes with 3 bags hanging from my shoulders, wrists, and neck. Triumphantly swiping my MetroCard under bus driver's disapproving gaze.

Driver: We do not like when people run to catch the bus.

Me: Sorry. It is a weekend schedule today. I would have to wait another 30 minutes for the other bus.

Driver: Still, we do not like it.

[Here I assumed the problem is that it might be dangerous for a person to run, slip, and fall. Or something humane like that]

Me: Sorry. Should I wait in the cold on Dec. 31st instead of running a few yards?

Driver: Well, it is just that you are waiting for the other bus, not this bus, so it is not nice...

Me: Ok. Sorry.

I really did not know what else to say. Pointless, yet unsatisfying.

sounds of silence

Quiet out here lately. Was away on a trip, then the holidays, and finally, just out of ideas. Appropriately, this song works as a metaphor:

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence