Friday, October 22, 2010

Objective Journalism - NYTimes on the Juan Williams case

The NYTimes tries to take a holier-than-thou high moral ground in this brouhaha by defending the purity of true and objective journalism (high on the mountain) versus opinion journalism (languishing in the depths of underground caves).

But this very article makes the point that strictly 'objective' reporting takes a definitive slant continually by its choice of words and the juxtaposition of ideas that are cherry-picked to not-so-subtly make this an opinion piece.

I've added highlights to show where the use of wording turns soft objectivity into strong subjectivity.

By the way, what about shows like PBS's 'Washington Week in Review' with Gwen Ifill ? A panel of 'objective' , 'real' journalists give their opinions (interpretations?) on the week's stories.

When an NPR journalist like Tom Gjelten speaks on this show 'interpreting' news stories of the week, how is it ANY different than when NPR journalist Juan Williams speaks on Fox?

And isn't Mara Laisson, senior correspondent for NPR, also a panelist on the Fox Sunday News program hosted by Chris Wallace? A program that is explicitly defined to interpret and analyze news stories, not report them.

No breach ' impartiality, a core tenet of modern American journalism ...' with her or Gjelten?

October 21, 2010

Two Takes at NPR and Fox on Juan Williams

NPR’s decision on Wednesday to fire Juan Williams and Fox News Channel’s decision on Thursday to give him a new contract put into sharp relief the two forms of journalism that compete every day for Americans’ attention.

Mr. Williams’s NPR contract was terminated two days after he said on an opinionated segment on Fox News that he worried when he saw people in “Muslim garb” on an airplane. He later said that he was reflecting his fears after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks nine years ago.

NPR said on Wednesday night that Mr. Williams’s comments were “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices.” According to a report in The Los Angeles Times, Roger Ailes, the Fox News chairman, offered Mr. Williams, who was already a paid contributor to Fox, a new three-year contract worth nearly $2 million in total.

After dismissing Mr. Williams, who was one of its senior news analysts, NPR argued that he had violated the organization’s belief in impartiality, a core tenet of modern American journalism.(the reporter feels the need to define 'impartiality' as 'core' to a 'real' News organization, thus setting up for his argument that NPR is 'true' journalism and Fox News is not.) By renewing Mr. Williams’s contract, Fox News showed its preference for point-of-view — rather than the view-from-nowhere — polemics. (He is tarring ALL of Fox News as being 'point of view' journalism even though in the 2nd paragraph the reporter specified that Williams spoke on an 'opinionated segment' program of the channel). And it gave Fox news anchors and commentators an opportunity to jab NPR, the public radio organization that had long been a target of conservatives for what they perceived to be a liberal bias.( He reinforces the 'all of Fox News is opinionated and conservative' point by lumping anchors and commentators together)

Those competing views of journalism have been highlighted by the success of Fox and MSNBC and the popularity of opinion media that beckons some traditional journalists. (here we have a lament that money is corrupting the purity of real journalists That Mr. Williams was employed by both Fox and NPR had been a source of consternation in the past.

Last year, NPR made it known that it did not want Mr. Williams identified as an NPR employee in appearances on “The O’Reilly Factor,” the Fox News program hosted by the conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly.

“This isn’t the first time we have had serious concerns about some of Juan’s public comments,” Vivian Schiller, NPR’s chief executive, wrote in an e-mail to affiliates.

She said that his most recent comments “violated our standards as well as our values and offended many in doing so.” (it is one thing to violate standards and guidelines of an organization, but here she admits that NPR has shared ('our') values, which is an explicit admittance that the organization has a singular point of view and tolerates no diversity from it)Ms. Schiller, the general manager of before she moved to NPR in 2009, declined an interview request.

Like many other news organizations, NPR expects its journalists to avoid situations that might call its impartiality into question — an expectation written into the organization’s ethics code.(hello Mara Liasson!)

That expectation can erode under television lights and on Twitter. At outlets like NPR, some journalists have found it difficult to not share their opinions, especially when they are speaking in forums that lend themselves to commentary, like “The O’Reilly Factor.”

Kelly McBride, the ethics group leader for the Poynter Institute, a school for journalists, called the Williams case an “object lesson in how different news organizations have different values.” She said the ethics guidelines at many news organizations matched those at NPR.( 'many news organizations' ... implies that 'real' news organizations do this , coming from a Journalism School 'ethics group leader' ... does MANY mean MOST? SOME?)

“If you make some outlandish statement on your Facebook page or at a public event somewhere, you are still representing your newsroom,” she said. “So there are consequences to that.”

The consequences can differ widely, though, depending on the news organization. Mr. Williams is one of just a few prominent liberal contributors at Fox News (hello Mara!), a channel with a bigger bench of conservative contributors.(this is stated - bigger bench of conservative contributors - as a statement of fact, acknowledged as such. Based upon some objective report of these contributors, showing their number and the method used to define them as conservative?) A Fox News spokeswoman declined to comment on Mr. Williams’s new contract. But The Los Angeles Times published a statement from Mr. Ailes, who said: “Juan has been a staunch defender of liberal viewpoints since his tenure began at Fox News in 1997. He’s an honest man whose freedom of speech is protected by Fox News on a daily basis.”

Many prominent conservatives pounced on Mr. Williams’s firing. John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, told National Review Online that “I think it’s reasonable to ask why Congress is spending taxpayers’ money to support a left-wing radio network — and in the wake of Juan Williams’s firing, it’s clearer than ever that’s what NPR is.”

On the “O’Reilly Factor” broadcast that contained his remarks, Mr. Williams had been set up as the liberal foil. ('set up' ? Williams was duped and didn't understand his role bringing a different perspective in debating issues? And he doesn't have the intellectual strength and capital to respond strongly to O'Reilly? ) After Mr. O’Reilly conveyed to viewers that there was a “Muslim dilemma” in the United States, he asked Mr. Williams to explain, “Where am I going wrong?”

Mr. Williams answered, “I hate to say this to you because I don’t want to get your ego going. But I think you’re right.” He proceeded to talk about being nervous on an airplane that had passengers in “Muslim garb.”

Mr. Williams tempered his remarks, though, by reminding Mr. O’Reilly that all Muslims should not be branded as extremists. “We don’t want, in America, people to have their rights violated, to be attacked because they hear rhetoric from Bill O’Reilly and they act crazy,” Mr. Williams said, and Mr. O’Reilly agreed.

Still, his comments quickly came under fire online. On Wednesday, CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called on NPR to “address the fact that one of its news analysts seems to believe that all airline passengers who are perceived to be Muslim can legitimately be viewed as security threats.”

Mr. Williams said in an essay published Thursday on that he was fired “for telling the truth.”

He continued in the essay: “Now that I no longer work for NPR let me give you my opinion. This is an outrageous violation of journalistic standards and ethics by management that has no use for a diversity of opinion, ideas or a diversity of staff (I was the only black male on the air). This is evidence of one-party rule and one-sided thinking at NPR that leads to enforced ideology, speech and writing. It leads to people, especially journalists, being sent to the gulag for raising the wrong questions and displaying independence of thought.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

'For a thousand years ...'

This article is about old fashioned paper-based college textbooks but a quote from a student at Hamilton College caught my attention .

“The screen won’t go blank,” said Faton Begolli, a sophomore from Boston. “There can’t be a virus. It wouldn’t be the same without books. They’ve defined ‘academia’ for a thousand years.

'Defined Academia for a thousand years' ??

When was the Gutenberg printing press invented?

Where there any 'colleges' 1000 years ago? If so, how many ?

How long has any kind of formal education been required and commonplace in the West, elementary thru High Scool type education?

The worst part is that the reporter doesn't mention that this statement is either wrong or meant as strong hyperbole. Probably because the reporter didn't pick up on it or it sounded correct to her.

October 19, 2010

In a Digital Age, Students Still Cling to Paper Textbooks

CLINTON, N.Y. — They text their friends all day long. At night, they do research for their term papers on laptops and commune with their parents on Skype. But as they walk the paths of Hamilton College, a poster-perfect liberal arts school in this upstate village, students are still hauling around bulky, old-fashioned textbooks — and loving it.

“The screen won’t go blank,” said Faton Begolli, a sophomore from Boston. “There can’t be a virus. It wouldn’t be the same without books. They’ve defined ‘academia’ for a thousand years.”

Though the world of print is receding before a tide of digital books, blogs and other Web sites, a generation of college students weaned on technology appears to be holding fast to traditional textbooks. That loyalty comes at a price. Textbooks are expensive — a year’s worth can cost $700 to $900 — and students’ frustrations with the expense, as well as the emergence of new technology, have produced a confounding array of options for obtaining them.

Internet retailers like Amazon and are selling new and used books. They have been joined by several Web services that rent textbooks to students by the semester. Some 1,500 college bookstores are also offering rentals this fall, up from 300 last year. Here at Hamilton, students this year have a new way to avoid the middleman: a nonprofit Web site, created by the college’s Entrepreneur Club, that lets them sell used books directly to one another.

The explosion of outlets and formats — including digital books, which are rapidly becoming more sophisticated — has left some students bewildered. After completing the heavy lifting of course selection, they are forced to weigh cost versus convenience, analyze their own study habits and guess which texts they will want for years to come and which they will not miss.

“It depends on the course,” said Victoria Adesoba, a pre-med student at New York University who was standing outside that school’s bookstore, a powder-blue book bag slung over her shoulder. “Last semester, I rented for psychology, and it was cheaper. But for something like organic chemistry, I need to keep the book. E-textbooks are good, but it’s tempting to go on Facebook, and it can strain your eyes.”

For all the talk that her generation is the most technologically adept in history, paper-and-ink textbooks do not seem destined for oblivion anytime soon.

According to the National Association of College Stores, digital books make up just under 3 percent of textbook sales, although the association expects that share to grow to 10 percent to 15 percent by 2012 as more titles are made available as e-books.

In two recent studies — one by the association and another by the Student Public Interest Research Groups, a national advocacy network — three-quarters of the students surveyed said they still preferred a bound book to a digital version.

Many students are reluctant to give up the ability to flip quickly between chapters, write in the margins and highlight passages, although new software applications are beginning to allow students to use e-textbooks that way.

“Students grew up learning from print books,” said Nicole Allen, the textbooks campaign director for the research groups, “so as they transition to higher education, it’s not surprising that they carry a preference for a format that they are most accustomed to.”

Indeed, many Hamilton students waxed passionate about the weighty tomes they still lug from dorm room to lecture hall to library, even as they compulsively check their smartphones for text messages and e-mails.

“I believe that the codex is one of mankind’s best inventions,” said Jonathan Piskor, a sophomore from North Carolina, using the Latin term for book.

That passion may be one reason that Barnes & Noble College Booksellers is working so hard to market its new software application, NOOKstudy, which allows students to navigate e-textbooks on Macs and PCs. The company, which operates 636 campus bookstores nationwide, including Hamilton’s, introduced the free application last summer in hopes of luring more students to buy its electronic textbooks.

“The real hurdle is getting them to try it,” said Tracey Weber, the company’s executive vice president for textbooks and digital education.

The company is giving away “College Kick-Start Kits” to students who download NOOKstudy in the fall semester, with ramen noodle recipes and a dozen classic e-books like “The Canterbury Tales” and “The Scarlet Letter.” CourseSmart, a consortium of major textbook publishers, is letting students try any e-textbook free for two weeks.

But not every textbook is available in digital or rental format. At Hamilton, for instance, only about one-fifth of the titles are sold as e-textbooks this fall. A stroll through the campus store revealed the price difference. A book on constitutional law, for instance, was $189.85 new, $142.40 used and $85.45 for rent. (Typically, an e-textbook is cheaper than a used book, though more expensive than a rental.)

The expense of college textbooks, which is estimated to have risen four times the inflation rate in recent years, has become such a concern that some politicians are taking up the cause. Last month, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York urged more college stores to rent books, after a survey of 38 campus bookstores in New York City and on Long Island by his office found that 16 did not offer the option.

On Thursday, students at more than 40 colleges nationwide are planning an Affordable Textbooks Day of Action, organized by the Student Public Interest Research Groups, to encourage faculty members to assign texts that are less expensive, or offered free online.

For now, buying books the old-fashioned way — new or used — prevails. Charles Schmidt, the spokesman for the National Association of College Stores, said that if a campus store sold a new book for $100, it would typically buy the book back for $50 at semester’s end and sell it to the next student for $75.

The buy-back price plummets, however, if the professor drops the book (or edition) from the syllabus or if the bookstore has bought enough books to meet demand. When Louis Boguchwal, a junior at Hamilton who is majoring in economics and math, tried to sell a $100 linear algebra textbook back to the college bookstore, he was offered $15.

“It was insulting,” he said. “They give you next to nothing.”

Thus, the creation of Hamilton’s new nonprofit Web site, So far, traffic has been light: only about 70 books have been sold this fall. But Jason Mariasis, president of the Entrepreneur Club, said he expected sales to pick up as word spread. The site also lists hundreds of other colleges.

Mr. Begolli, a member of the club, recently sold three German novels for $17 on the site. “If I had sold them back to the bookstore, I would have gotten $7 or $8,” he said. “The bookstore is king when it comes to textbook sales. We felt there should be something for students, by students.”

Yet some students have to go it alone. Rosemary Rocha, 26, an N.Y.U. student pursuing a degree in hospitality and tourism management, tallied up her required reading for the semester: $600. “It’s harsh,” she said. “I’m currently collecting unemployment, so that’s not going to happen.”

Instead, she waits to borrow the few copies her professors leave on reserve at the library, or relies on the kindness of classmates. “My friends will let me borrow their books in exchange for coffee or a slice of pizza,” she said. “I very seldom buy the textbooks, but I’m always like a chicken without a head.”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Jerry Manuel's firing from Mets - A liberal view

Jerry Manuel was fired 2 weeks back as the manager of the NY Mets baseball team after 2 years of high hopes for the team but resulting with poor results.

A liberal's view of Manuel's management record after 2 years might echo Obama's term as president, except of course that fans are much more demanding for results from sports people than from politicians:
  • He only had 2 years under his belt
  • He inherited a mess from the previous manager (i.e. administration)
  • He is not being given enough time due to racism
  • While there was a vast increase in spending on players and infrastructure (new stadium) in the two years, there was no corresponding increase in wins or attendance.
  • Results (a pennant) were promised immediately.
  • The fans (i.e. taxpayers) were promised no increases in tickets (taxes) because of the spending, but everything from tickets to hot dogs and beer increased (taxes and fees).
These management techniques did not seem to help the outcome:
  • They hired the best players (Ivy Leaguers) .
  • Diversity in the management team and the players.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Exception-al Liberal thoughts


Believe in quotas everywhere EXCEPT at the border.

Are against killing anything, anywhere EXCEPT in the uterus.

Believe in spending on everything EXCEPT Defense.

Are against anyone bearing arms EXCEPT criminals.

Believe women and minorities should have equal representation everywhere EXCEPT death row.

Are for affirmative action in every field EXCEPT the athletic field.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cause of the forclosure processing mess

The biggest banks were bailed out by American taxpayers. And when they need to hire people to process their immense backlog of foreclosures where do they go?

Well it seems that banking is more work that Americans won't do . Or can't do. So they are 'forced' to look for these 'special skills' overseas.

Well, that doesn't seem to be working out too well either.

You have to go to the VERY last paragraphs to learn about one of the major causes of the problems currently plaguing the banks foreclosure operations.

They never wanted to hire people to process and manage mortgages or any resultant foreclosures. Now that they had tons of foreclosures and no experienced personnel, what should they do?

Hire the cheapest workers, provide them with minimal training and overwhelm them with work.

A perfect scenario for massive outsourcing, which is what they did:

And even when banks did begin hiring to deal with the avalanche of defaults, they often turned to workers with minimal qualifications or work experience, employees a former JPMorgan executive characterized as the “Burger King kids.” In many cases, the banks outsourced their foreclosure operations to law firms like that of David J. Stern, of Florida, which served clients like Citigroup, GMAC and others. Mr. Stern hired outsourcing firms in Guam and the Philippines to help.

The result was chaos ....

Globalization !

October 13, 2010

Bankers Ignored Signs of Trouble on Foreclosures

At JPMorgan Chase & Company, they were derided as “Burger King kids” — walk-in hires who were so inexperienced they barely knew what a mortgage was.

At Citigroup and GMAC, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on home foreclosures was outsourced to frazzled workers who sometimes tossed the paperwork into the garbage.

And at Litton Loan Servicing, an arm of Goldman Sachs, employees processed foreclosure documents so quickly that they barely had time to see what they were signing.

“I don’t know the ins and outs of the loan,” a Litton employee said in a deposition last year. “I’m not a loan officer.”

As the furor grows over lenders’ efforts to sidestep legal rules in their zeal to reclaim homes from delinquent borrowers, these and other banks insist that they have been overwhelmed by the housing collapse.

But interviews with bank employees, executives and federal regulators suggest that this mess was years in the making and came as little surprise to industry insiders and government officials. The issue gained new urgency on Wednesday, when all 50 state attorneys general announced that they would investigate foreclosure practices. That news came on the same day that JPMorgan Chase acknowledged that it had not used the nation’s largest electronic mortgage tracking system, MERS, since 2008.

That system has been faulted for losing documents and other sloppy practices.

The root of today’s problems goes back to the boom years, when home prices were soaring and banks pursued profit while paying less attention to the business of mortgage servicing, or collecting and processing monthly payments from homeowners.

Banks spent billions of dollars in the good times to build vast mortgage machines that made new loans, bundled them into securities and sold those investments worldwide. Lowly servicing became an afterthought. Even after the housing bubble began to burst, many of these operations languished with inadequate staffing and outmoded technology, despite warnings from regulators.

When borrowers began to default in droves, banks found themselves in a never-ending game of catch-up, unable to devote enough manpower to modify, or ease the terms of, loans to millions of customers on the verge of losing their homes. Now banks are ill-equipped to deal the foreclosure process.

“We waited and waited and waited for wide-scale loan modifications,” said Sheila C. Bair, the chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, one of the first government officials to call on the industry to take action. “They never owned up to all the problems leading to the mortgage crisis. They have always downplayed it.”

In recent weeks, revelations that mortgage servicers failed to accurately document the seizure and sale of tens of thousands of homes have caused a public uproar and prompted lenders like Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Ally Bank, which is owned by GMAC, to halt foreclosures in many states.

Even before the political outcry, many of the banks shifted employees into their mortgage servicing units and beefed up hiring. Wells Fargo, for instance, has nearly doubled the number of workers in its mortgage modification unit over the last year, to about 17,000, while Citigroup added some 2,000 employees since 2007, bringing the total to 5,000.

“We believe we responded appropriately to staff up to meet the increased volume,” said Mark Rodgers, a spokesman for Citigroup.

Some industry executives add that they’re committed to helping homeowners but concede they were slow to ramp up. “In hindsight, we were all slow to jump on the issue,” said Michael J. Heid, co-president of at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. “When you think about what it costs to add 10,000 people, that is a substantial investment in time and money along with the computers, training and system changes involved.”

Other officials say as foreclosures were beginning to spike as early as 2007, no one could have imagined how rapidly they would reach their current level. About 11.5 percent of borrowers are in default today, up from 5.7 percent from two years earlier.

“The systems were not ever that great to begin with, but you didn’t have that much strain on them,” said Jim Miller, who previously oversaw the mortgage servicing units for troubled borrowers at Citigroup, Chase and Capitol One. “I don’t think anybody anticipated this thing getting as bad as it did.”

Almost overnight, what had been a factorylike business that relied on workers with high school educations to process monthly payments needed to come up with a custom-made operation that could solve the problems of individual homeowners. Gregory Hebner, the president of the MOS Group, a California loan modification company that works closely with service companies, likened it to transforming McDonald’s into a gourmet eatery. “You are already in chase mode, and you never catch up,” he said.

To make matters worse, the banks had few financial incentives to invest in their servicing operations, several former executives said. A mortgage generates an annual fee equal to only about 0.25 percent of the loan’s total value, or about $500 a year on a typical $200,000 mortgage. That revenue evaporates once a loan becomes delinquent, while the cost of a foreclosure can easily reach $2,500 and devour the meager profits generated from handling healthy loans.

“Investment in people, training, and technology — all that costs them a lot of money, and they have no incentive to staff up,” said Taj Bindra, who oversaw Washington Mutual’s large mortgage servicing unit from 2004 to 2006.

And even when banks did begin hiring to deal with the avalanche of defaults, they often turned to workers with minimal qualifications or work experience, employees a former JPMorgan executive characterized as the “Burger King kids.” In many cases, the banks outsourced their foreclosure operations to law firms like that of David J. Stern, of Florida, which served clients like Citigroup, GMAC and others. Mr. Stern hired outsourcing firms in Guam and the Philippines to help.

The result was chaos, said Tammie Lou Kapusta, a former employee of Mr. Stern’s who was deposed by the Florida attorney general’s office last month. “The girls would come out on the floor not knowing what they were doing,” she said. “Mortgages would get placed in different files. They would get thrown out. There was just no real organization when it came to the original documents.”

Citigroup and GMAC say they are no longer giving any new work to Mr. Stern’s firm.

In some cases, even steps that were supposed to ease the situation, like the federal program aimed at helping homeowners modify their mortgages to reduce what they owed, had actually contributed to the mess. Loan servicing companies complain that bureaucratic requirements are constantly changed by Washington, forcing them to overhaul an already byzantine process that involves nearly 250 steps.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ig Nobel suggestions

These are all legit research projects, not made up.

I'm including this here because I like the winner for 'management' :

MANAGEMENT PRIZE: for demonstrating mathematically that organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random.
Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo of the University of Catania, Italy

Seems to me that this is probably true for management in large organizations but the idea of random selection can be applied to many other 'competitive' areas.

First, just parse out those without the minimum requirements ( I'm not sure there are ANY for management). Then randomly choose from the remaining pool of 'qualified' candidates.

Should work very well for college admissions whether undergrad or later professional schools (Medical, Law, etc.) and make the process fairer, cheaper and much more simple.

Professional sports drafts? Why not? Just because you didn't attend a big sports school doesn't mean you don't have the skills necessary to be competitive and shouldn't leave you out of consideration.

Should work well for politics, i.e. running for public office. The minimum requirements vary but basically proof of citizenship and sometimes a minimum age. It would
  1. make the process much cheaper
  2. take away the power of incumbency
  3. reduce politics as a lifetime career choice
  4. take away 'inherited, family name' dynasties
  5. make it a true citizen run enterprise
Given the gov't as it is today, could this process possibly create a worse outcome?

Genius or Goofball? It's Both at the 2010 Ig Nobel Awards
By Alec Liu
Published September 30, 2010 |

Having trouble breathing? Try riding a roller-coaster.

A pair of Dutch researchers who discovered that the symptoms of asthma can be treated with a roller-coaster ride are among this year’s winner of the Ig Nobel awards, the annual tribute to scientific research that seems wacky -- but also has real world applications.

"The awards are for science that makes people laugh, then think," Gareth Jones, professor of biology at the University of Bristol told Jones' team took the biology prize for documenting fellatio in fruit bats.

"It is the first documented case of fellatio by adult animals other than humans to my knowledge, and opens questions about whether female animals can manipulate males via sexual activity," he said.

Other winners honored Thursday at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater included scientists who perfected a method to collect whale snot using a remote-control helicopter; researchers who demonstrated mathematically that organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random; and in homage to the global financial crisis, the executives of various financial institutions including Goldman Sachs, AIG, and Merrill Lynch.

The 19th annual event centered on the theme of “bacteria,” and was produced by the scientific humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, featured actual Nobel Laureates handing out prizes -- one of which was the prize in the Win-a-Date-With-a-Nobel-Laureate Contest.
Most winners, despite the silliness, were enthusiastic about their award and saw the value in the light-hearted event.

“A bit jet-lagged but I’m very excited,” beamed Ilja van Beest of Tilburg University, who had just flown into Boston from the Netherlands. Along with his colleague Simon Rietyeld of the University of Amsterdam, the pair were honored for their work researching unusual cures for asthma.

“Of course, it’s important to spread news of your research," van Beest told "One of the parts I like of being a scientist is to learn -- but it’s also to make people laugh. Make them laugh first and then make them think,” van Beest continued, quoting the Ig Nobel motto.
Still, this is more than simply a laughing matter, their's is real science with real implications. “We've been doing research for 10-15 years now,” van Beest pointed out. Nor is it a gimmick. The beauty of the roller-coaster is that it provides a controlled setting where the entire spectrum of emotional stress is experienced, negative immediately before the ride, and positive after.

“The lungs are difficult because you can’t just look down and see if your tubes are constricted,” van Beest said. “You have to rely on how you feel so a lot of our research has been looking at various ways people try to understand their symptoms.”

Other researchers were equally excited by the event.

Mark Fricker received an award for using slime mold to determine the optimal routes for railroad tracks -- and was delighted to be included in the event.

“It’s a great way of getting some public interest in science in a very accessible format," Fricker told "That’s quite a challenge nowadays because lots of areas are very complex, so to present it in an entertaining fashion while be grounded in very real science is quite an achievement.”

"Our work showed that even simple organisms like slime molds have things to teach us," he said.

From the world of physics, Lianne Parkin, Sheila Williams, and Patricia Priest of the University of Otago, New Zealand, were feted for demonstrating that, on icy footpaths in wintertime, people slip and fall less often if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes. Parkin explained to the genesis for the unusual bit of research.

"We live in the south of New Zealand in a very hilly city (we have the steepest street in the world!), and intermittent icy conditions in winter can create major havoc," she said. "As for the award, we're delighted that something we did for fun has been recognized in this way.”
The complete list of 2010 Ig Nobel award winners:

ENGINEERING PRIZE: for perfecting a method to collect whale snot, using a remote-control helicopter.
Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse and Agnes Rocha-Gosselin of the Zoological Society of London, UK, and Diane Gendron of Instituto Politecnico Nacional, Baja California Sur, Mexico

MEDICINE PRIZE: for discovering that symptoms of asthma can be treated with a roller-coaster ride.
Simon Rietveld of the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Ilja van Beest of Tilburg University, The Netherlands

TRANSPORTATION PLANNING PRIZE: for using slime mold to determine the optimal routes for railroad tracks.
Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Atsushi Tero, Seiji Takagi, Tetsu Saigusa, Kentaro Ito, Kenji Yumiki, Ryo Kobayashi of Japan, and Dan Bebber, Mark Fricker of the UK

PHYSICS PRIZE: for demonstrating that, on icy footpaths in wintertime, people slip and fall less often if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes.
Lianne Parkin, Sheila Williams, and Patricia Priest of the University of Otago, New Zealand

PEACE PRIZE: for confirming the widely held belief that swearing relieves pain.
Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston of Keele University, UK

PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE: for determining by experiment that microbes cling to bearded scientists.
Manuel Barbeito, Charles Mathews, and Larry Taylor of the Industrial Health and Safety Office, Fort Detrick, Maryland

ECONOMICS PRIZE: for finding ways to maximize financial gain and minimize financial risk for the world economy -- or for a portion thereof.
The executives and directors of Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, and Magnetar

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: for disproving the old belief that oil and water don't mix.
Eric Adams of MIT, Scott Socolofsky of Texas A&M University, Stephen Masutani of the University of Hawaii, and BP

MANAGEMENT PRIZE: for demonstrating mathematically that organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random.
Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo of the University of Catania, Italy

BIOLOGY PRIZE: for scientifically documenting fellatio in fruit bats.
Libiao Zhang, Min Tan, Guangjian Zhu, Jianping Ye, Tiyu Hong, Shanyi Zhou, and Shuyi Zhang of China, and Gareth Jones of the University of Bristol, UK

Friday, September 24, 2010

Where's Waldo

.... can you spot anything of particular interest in this short article?

There is a hidden 'Waldo' in plain sight. See my answer below ....

September 24, 2010

Netflix Signs Expanded License Agreement With NBC

Filed at 7:54 a.m. ET

BANGALORE (Reuters) - Netflix Inc said it signed an expanded license agreement with NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution that will allow its subscribers to watch content from some of NBC Universal's popular cable channels.

The multi-year deal, which kicks off next week, allows the streaming of prior season cable and broadcast TV series new to Netflix members.

Netflix subscribers will be able to watch content like "Saturday Night Live," "Friday Night Lights," "Monk" and "Battlestar Galactica," the company said.

General Electric, which owns NBC Universal media business, is in the process of selling a majority stake to cable operator Comcast Corp.

(Reporting by Jennifer Robin Raj in Bangalore)

Answer: This article was filed from Bangalore India, also the home of most of the high-tech industry in India.

So what, you say? Well it would make sense if the companies involved with this announce were Indian ones, but NetFlix and NBC are US-based (although they almost certainly have parts of their business done from India).

So what else would explain a Bangalore byline for this ? Obviously Reuters has created a major 'journalism hub' in Bangalore, most probably for the major cost-savings (i.e. people costs). So not only are the 'old media' journalism outlets in the West dying but any journalism that will remain in the future will be all be done overseas.

Any job which strictly deals with 'information' can and will be done overseas.

They came first for the factory jobs,
and I didn't speak up because I didn't have a factory job.

Then they came for the help desk jobs,
and I didn't speak up because I didn't have a help desk job.

Then they came for the information technology jobs,
and I didn't speak up because I didn't have an information technology job.

Then they came for my job
and by that time there were no other alternative jobs available.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The cost of connectedness

... is even greater in Connecticut!

An offhand statement toward the end of the article (written by a woman reporter) exhibits a strong whiff of male condescension ... she writes :

' ...Her husband, Mike Hughes, 37, a project manager, has both an Xbox and a Wii game console, but, in an effort to keep their bills down, she would not let him sign up for any gaming subscription services....'

Now imagine a male reporter stating:

'.... he would not let her sign up for any gaming subscription services.... '

That would never sneak by an editor , particularly at the NYTimes.

A (not so) subtle feminist slant in an otherwise 'objective' (??) article.

It could've been written something like '... they decided not to sign up ....' without the need to imply who wields the power in the household.

February 9, 2010

As Data Flows In, the Dollars Flow Out

John Anderson and Sharon Rapoport estimate they spend $400 a month, or close to $5,000 a year, keeping their family of four entertained at home.

There are the $30-a-month data plans on their BlackBerry Tour cellphones. The Roanoke, Va., couple’s teenage sons, Seth and Isaac, each have $50 subscriptions for Xbox Live and send thousands of texts each month on their cellphones, requiring their own data plans.

DirecTV satellite service, high-speed Internet access and Netflix for movie nights add more.

“We try to be aware of it so it doesn’t get out of control,” said Mr. Anderson, who with his wife founded an advertising agency. “But, yeah, I would say we’re pretty wired.”

It used to be that a basic $25-a-month phone bill was your main telecommunications expense. But by 2004, the average American spent $770.95 annually on services like cable television, Internet connectivity and video games, according to data from the Census Bureau. By 2008, that number rose to $903, outstripping inflation. By the end of this year, it is expected to have grown to $997.07. Add another $1,000 or more for cellphone service and the average family is spending as much on entertainment over devices as they are on dining out or buying gasoline.

And those government figures do not take into account movies, music and television shows bought through iTunes, or the data plans that are increasingly mandatory for more sophisticated smartphones.

For many people, the subscriptions and services for entertainment and communications, which are more often now one and the same, have become indispensable necessities of life, on par with electricity, water and groceries. And for every new device, there seems to be yet another fee. Buyers of the more advanced Apple iPad, to cite the latest example, can buy unlimited data access for $30 a month from AT&T even if they already have a data plan from the carrier.

“You don’t really lump these expenses into a discretionary category,” said Robert H. Frank, an economics professor at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. “As the expectation of connectedness increases, it’s what is expected for people to be functional in society.”

Americans are transforming their homes into entertainment hubs, which is driving up the amount of money they spend, said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

“More people are creating experiences in their homes that are very similar to the kinds of public experiences they enjoy in movie theaters and concert halls,” he said. “Our homes are bristling with technology.”

Most people think home entertainment is cheaper. “Every time I want to go to Fenway Park or see the Killers in concert, I’m paying $50 to $100 each time. But once you build and install that home system, its basically pennies per minute of enjoyment,” said James McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester Research.

But they do not take into consideration the long-term economic effect — both in the maintenance and operational costs — of the devices they purchase. “A subscription model is the perfect drug,” Mr. McQuivey said. “People see $15 per month as a very low amount of money but it quickly adds up.”

Kate Goodall, for example, a 32-year-old director of fund-raising for museums, in Alexandria, Va., said the high costs of home cable and other subscriptions began to eat into her budget. “We saw the writing on the wall in terms of the cost,” she said. “It was getting ridiculous.”

She and her husband disconnected their cable and home phone line so they could more easily afford frequent dinners out and swimming, ballet and art lessons for their two small sons. Instead, they catch shows like “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” free at and rely on their cellphones as their primary phone lines.

Her husband, Mike Hughes, 37, a project manager, has both an Xbox and a Wii game console, but, in an effort to keep their bills down, she would not let him sign up for any gaming subscription services.

Consumers will have to make tough choices like Ms. Goodall and her husband as the next generation of connected devices — TVs and various mobile devices — that have their own data plan or subscription service come to market. The cable TV companies battle the phone companies by bundling cable, landline phone and Internet services, but most wireless carriers do not yet have any programs to bundle the data plans and offer discounts for myriad mobile devices.

Ms. Goodall says she dreads the day when her sons, 1 and 4, get bitten by the texting craze, as her 12-year-old nephew has.

“We’ll probably have to sign our sons up for cellphones even sooner than we’d like because we don’t have a home phone,” she said. “I’m not looking forward to dealing with that set of issues.”

Sunday, February 7, 2010

You can't fool Mother Nature

If politicians are not subject to the rule of law and taxes, then why shouldn't they think that they are above the rules of nature?


- February 06, 2010

Daschle Gets Stuck in D.C. Snowstorm

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was caught on video Friday pushing his stranded car in the monster snowstorm pummeling the Mid-Atlantic

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, whose nomination to President Obama's Cabinet was derailed by tax problems last year, was caught on video Friday pushing his stranded car in the monster snowstorm pummeling the Mid-Atlantic.

Washington, D.C., affiliate Fox 5 was covering the likely record-setting blizzard when it spotted Daschle, whose car was stuck along the roadway in northwest Washington. One of the station's photographers helped Daschle push the car.

D.C. officials have begged residents to stay indoors, but Daschle apparently didn't get the memo. Most people couldn't drive anywhere by Saturday because their cars and the roads were buried.