Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category
The findings are in.
Over 2,600 people responded to Business Insider’s survey on financial TV, and question after question Bloomberg TV beat out CNBC and Fox Business News as the preferred channel among those polled.
It’s a fierce debate in financial circles. CNBC has consistently claimed the top spot, but Bloomberg TV isn’t tracked by Nielsen, the ratings pollster, so the true favorite among financial professionals and business news consumers has been unclear.
Respondents answered questions about everything from their favorite anchors, to Maria Bartiromo’s recent move to Fox Business News. They gave their opinion on which network has the best tech coverage and their favorite morning show…
But there was one crucial question that sums up the entire network battle. Bloomberg TV and CNBC are in a dead heat over who has the best guests.
If Bloomberg TV edged ahead in that department, who knows what would happen.
Even when the same guests appear on both Bloomberg TV and CNBC there’s no question where I would be watching. The politics, sociology, economics understanding and just plain old-fashioned humanity that manages to thread through the market blather puts Bloomberg lightyears ahead of the let’s-pretend-to-tolerate-working-people ethos of the competition.
I got stuck into watching Bloomberg TV behind the dearth of real news reporting from the news-as-entertainment crowd that dominates American television. There’s a bit more than that involved; but, only a sidebar to the point of this Business Insider article. You have to understand that economics grounds everything.
CNBC is dominated by ethically shriveled reactionaries like Kudlow – who provided the acronym RINO to denigrate traditional Republicans with the rise of neocon schmucks like Cheney, Bush and Wolfowitz. Fox isn’t worth recognizing as anything more than a precursor to fascism. I removed both from my DirecTV Guide.
I’ve now added AlJazeera America and the new CCTVN. We have real global news sources back again. But, the article and discussion is about financial news channels – and the fact that Bloomberg does a decent job at the broader task is simply an added benefit.
Thanks to my favorite Recovering Republican for pointing out this article.
I presume these Canadian troops are marching away from a memorial to those who fell during the liberation of Belgium during World War 2. Yes, I remember all of those days.
My best friend died a few years back. He was the most decorated soldier from our home state in WW2. He had 16 months in hospital to reflect upon how he got there – not just the German soldier who threw a hand grenade at him at the liberation of a death camp; but, the corporate and political creeps who helped scum like Hitler into power.
We learned a lot together over the years. Both of our families came to the US from Canada, btw. His family from Montreal and mine from PEI.
I salute you, too, Clyde.
Thanks, Mister Justin
[NOT Professor Hills]
Professor Thomas Hills looks at his own mid-life understanding
As a teenager I remember asking my parents if it was possible to have a mid-life crisis before you left high school. This was followed by hearty chuckles. Nonetheless, it forces one to ask the question: what exactly is a mid-life crisis and how would you know if you were having one? And is there evidence that such a thing even exists? And if so, what are the symptoms? Does mid-life put you at risk of divorce, dying in a motorcycle accident, or failing to open your parachute?
There are many ways to answer these questions. And there are a number of dominant factors (and preconceptions) that appear in our middle years. There is a wealth of studies out there, including data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the US, recorded between 1999 and 2010.
Divorce: Divorce does not increase in middle age…
…Crash rates and fatal car accidents are at their lowest among people in their 40s and 50s…
Homicide: Does middle age increase the chances that people will become homicidal killers? No…
Depression: Mid-life can indeed be truly depressing…
Suicide: You might be more likely to kill yourself in middle age…
In sum, there does appear to be a mid-life signal among the noise, though it doesn’t stand out as a hotbed of risk taking. It might leave some people a little more down than up. But these people should feel some solace in knowing that things do indeed get better.
For middle-age men feeling the call of youth, my recommendation is to wear a helmet and a life-vest at all times.
I’d add: Get more exercise. Sort out your nutrition if you haven’t already. Don’t stop reading and learning. If you’re busy living you ain’t about to waste time worrying about dying.
I make the point regularly that the average human stops learning and seeking knowledge by age 26. In my book that’s a crime against humanity, an intellectual form of suicide by ennui. We have more avenues and access to information than ever before in the history of humanity.
Use it or lose it.
Ursa – you know how to make an old man cry.
If you’ve been a news junkie long enough the easiest comparison for you to understand about Al Jazeera America is to remember the old CNN. Dedicated to news sourced by solid journalists on the spot, absolutely the opposite of TV talking heads dedicated to news-as-entertainment.
My best example of the loss of CNN happened the night Aaron Brown said goodbye – and he was replaced by some 5th Avenue fluff, Anderson Cooper.
My best example of the strength of AJAM – most folks’ shorthand for Al Jazeera America – is Tony Harris. One of my favorite news anchors at CNN till he finally left – as did so many others like Ali Velshi, now running their own shows at AJAM. This past week I got a pleasant surprise when someone showed up I haven’t seen since he was part of the Freedom Train down to MLK’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – Randall Pinkston. That was BITD when he worked for the CBS Local in Hartford, Connecticut.
Many more quality journalists than you will find remaining at any of the networks or cable stations now staff AJAM. It’s started in standard definition only – a bummer for TV geeks like me; but, I’m hopeful that will be remedied once the owners see what kind of reception good solid journalism is getting in the USA.
You needn’t take my word for it, though. Watch it yourself. It’s on channel 358 on DirecTV and they have a local finder at their website. News can be so much more than the sawdust imitation we’re limited to on the networks. I think you’ll find it a pleasant surprise. I can’t wait till Joie Chen gets to anchor her evening show in HD.
The Postal Service takes pictures of every piece of mail processed in the United States – 160 billion last year – and keeps them on hand for up to a month.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said the photos of the exterior of mail pieces are used primarily for the sorting process, but they are available for law enforcement, if requested.
The photos have been used “a couple of times” by to trace letters in criminal cases, Donahoe told the AP on Thursday, most recently involving ricin-laced letters sent to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“We don’t snoop on customers,” said Donahoe, adding that there’s no big database of the images because they are kept on nearly 200 machines at processing facilities across the country. Each machine retains only the images of the mail it processes.
“It’s done by machine, so there’s no central area where any of this information would be,” he said. “It’s extremely expensive to keep pictures of billions of pieces of mail. So there’s no need for us to do that…”
The automated mail tracking program was created after the deadly anthrax attacks in 2001 so the Postal Service could more easily track hazardous substances and keep people safe, Donahoe said…
Processing machines take photographs so software can read the images to create a barcode that is stamped on the mail to show where and when it was processed, and where it will be delivered, Donahoe said.
Don’t you feel safer, now?
The next question is less obvious. Is there any branch of government that isn’t tracking us?
A helicopter hovers over Monastery Lake as it takes on a load of water, Saturday, June 1, 2013 near Pecos, N.M. Fire crews in New Mexico on Saturday fought two growing wild blazes that have scorched thousands of acres, spurred evacuation calls for dozens of homes and poured smoke into the touristy state capital.
This is next to the Tres Lagunas fire about 20 miles east of where I live. The other major fire being worked at the same time is Thompson Ridge about 20 miles northwest of where I live. Often, the smoke collects in our valley overnight and I don’t even feel like going for a morning walk. The smoke is murder.
Eddie Moore’s photo is great. I see these choppers throughout the day as they come over to the Santa Fe Municipal Airport to refuel. Ain’t anyone complaining about the noise or frequency of their visits. They’re saving our buns. Each fire is up over 10,000 acres in size.
Anticipatory robot holding open a fridge door
What’s better than as robot bartender that can pour you a beer? How about a robot waiter that can see you need a refill and comes over to pour you another one. Hema S. Koppula, a Cornell graduate student in computer science, and Ashutosh Saxena, an assistant professor of computer science are working at Cornell’s Personal Robotics Lab on just such a robot. Using a PR-2 robot, they’ve programmed it to not only carry out everyday tasks, but to anticipate human behavior and adjust its actions.
Robots are the neat freaks of the technology world. They like things to be tidy, orderly and predictable, meaning they work best in places like laboratories and factories where everything can be controlled and where it’s easy to predict what’s going to happen next. When a robot moves out of its comfort zone into our imperfect world, it can run into difficulties. Even something as seemingly simple as noticing that someone’s glass is empty and topping it up requires a lot of observation and planning on the robot’s part.
The Cornell anticipatory robot avoids embarrassing spills and other accidents by using its Microsoft Kinect scanner to build up a 3D map of the objects present and then calculating how they might be used based on the action currently being performed by the person…
The robot is also able to put various subactivities together in different combinations to form models of larger activities that it can use to anticipate the movements of people in different situations. The models it builds are general enough to take into account the fact that different people will perform the same activity slightly differently.
Truly useful example of technology serving the core needs of human culture.
Why are Wal-Mart stores speckled with Green Dots – and a special note at the end of the post? UPDATED
No green dots – no inventory
Wal-Mart…is turning up the pressure to keep its shelves adequately stocked by proposing to tie executive compensation to the issue — and has asked an outside auditor to alert workers which items to focus on by plastering U.S. stores with neon green dots.
Earlier this year, Bloomberg News reported that Wal-Mart had trouble keeping its stores stocked as it cut back on workers per store. That has cost sales and driven away frustrated shoppers. In April, Acosta, a Jacksonville, Florida-based consulting firm, began the green-dot program in Wal-Mart’s U.S. stores after previously conducting shelf audits without telling workers what items would be monitored…
“It’s like Tiffany’s falling down on quality,” said Wallace Hopp, associate dean of faculty and research at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. “It’s the core of their essence. If you can’t manage inventory in retail, then you can’t manage retail…”
While Wal-Mart regularly cites OSA figures [on-shelf availability] to investors, the company has declined to say how it has calculated those rates in the past — although Acosta figures are at least part of them — or how it would do so in the future. The Acosta audits focus on about 700 important items, which makes it easier to achieve a higher percentage of in-stock merchandise than if the whole store were counted. Wal-Mart supercenters carry about 142,000 items, according to the company’s website, so a typical Acosta audit represents about one half of 1 percent of a store…
When Acosta began its Wal-Mart audits in 2011, it conducted them secretly, without telling store managers which items were being monitored or when. Each week, Acosta field auditors searched for a random list of 300 items out of 700 being monitored, according to a copy of Acosta’s rules at the time. They compiled data collected from most of the more than 4,000 Wal-Mart stores in the U.S…
Acosta’s standard secret audit was almost under way when plans changed suddenly. Tovar, the company spokesman, said Wal-Mart decided that, in this case, it would be better to have Acosta mark the items to be monitored with neon green stickers next to the prices on shelves.
“We thought by not letting the stores know, that we would get a clearer picture, but that wasn’t the case,” Tovar said. “What we learned is it’s actually better to have transparency with stores so they know the key items that particular time of year.”
What they ended up with, of course, is the green-dotted items being kept up-to-stock levels and more. And Acosta – apparently – functions like so many data mining companies by assuming absolute uniformity throughout the United States instead of allowing for regional trends and differences.
Here’s my little special note. A Wal-Mart superstore opened here about a year ago and they’ve had stocking problems from the gitgo. The silliest example being cheese. In our neck of the prairie the number #1 seller is always Monterey Jack. Cultural reasons rule. But, most stores usually carry decent provolone – which is my favorite all-round though mozzarella is a close #2.
Management thinks they should be selling lots of what Americans call “Swiss” Cheese. So, provolone would always disappear while stacks of Swiss ruled the cheese roost. I finally found someone high enough up the food chain inside the store who understood the regional and ethnic differences and he made a flying change in inventory min/max numbers that sorted out the cheese department for months. Until Acosta came back in the door.
Doing a little of our once-a-month Wal-Mart shopping today I found provolone had been allowed to run out, again – and the green dots had appeared at Swiss Cheese. So, I did what any traditional counter-culture foodie would and should do. Got one of the staff to check inventory for provolone. He found the stock and I put what I needed for the next 3 or 4 weeks into the shopping cart.
After he left, I pulled the green dot off the Swiss rack and stuck it onto the provolone hanger. Next visit should be interesting.
Aside from my counter-culture chuckles? Wal-Mart management knows damned well why their inventory fulfillment at the retail level sucks. It’s the inevitable result of laying off 20% of their employees to keep profits at a level acceptable to investors. There are not sufficient human-being-hours on the clock to do all the work required.
UPDATE: It’s been two months since I shifted that green dot from Swiss to Provolone. So, we’ve been back to the store twice. The first return visit I noticed a new green dot had been returned to prominence at the Swiss cheese – but, no one had disturbed the green dot I’d moved to Provolone. The latter was right up to stock and I bought four packages to carry me through the next month.
Today, our monthly visit found the green dot still in place where originally placed; but, since stocking Provolone also became a green dot priority, purchases had risen sufficiently that the store has doubled the quantity on display. I bought four packages for the next month.