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March 31, 2009

iPhone as the new Audrey

One of many ecstatic iPhone news stories, on the convenience of having recipies stored and immediately searchible. Some use cases such as seeing a sale on lamb when out shopping, and being able to search for alternative recipes, and amend the shopping list.
Not sure how to mount you pumpkin on a kabob ? Snap a picture and share it for instant feedback. The vision of Audrey, realised.

The iPhone's mobility makes for better eating.

Top Kitchen Toy? The Cellphone
Published: January 21, 2009
Mobile phones have become high-tech cooking tools, transforming the kitchen lives of many Americans.

March 30, 2009

Most educated towns (degrees) Top 25

As usual, Boston and Washington DC are well represented in the most educated towns list. [CNN]

Rank City % residents with graduate degrees

1 Arlington, VA 35.7%
6 Towson, MD 31.2%
8 Bethesda, MD 29.1%
9 Alexandria, VA 29.0%

3 Brookline, MA 32.5%
15 Newton, MA 26.9%
16 Cambridge, MA 26.3%

Rank City % residents with
graduate degrees

1 Arlington, VA 35.7%
2 Davis, CA 34.6%
3 Brookline, MA 32.5%
4 Evanston, IL 31.2%
5 Bloomington, IN 31.2%
6 Towson, MD 31.2%
7 Oak Park, IL 29.1%
8 Bethesda, MD 29.1%
9 Alexandria, VA 29.0%
10 West Hartford, CT 28.9%
11 College Station, TX 27.7%
12 Ames, IA 27.5%
13 Columbia, MO 27.5%
14 Iowa City, IA 27.4%
15 Newton, MA 26.9%
16 Cambridge, MA 26.3%
17 Corvallis, OR 25.7%
18 Palo Alto, CA 25.4%
19 Berkeley, CA 24.5%
20 Lawrence, KS 24.3%
21 Champaign, IL 24.1%
22 Irvine, CA 24.0%
23 Santa Monica, CA 23.8%
24 Catalina Foothills, AZ 23.7%

March 28, 2009

Charles M Blow / By The Numbers

Charles Blow at the NY Times is our latest worthy blogroll.

March 27, 2009

How to spend an hour on FaceBook

As an example of a 'free service' as it is now (temporarily) being used, please feel free to go to FaceBook, take a

"23 Random Things About My Toes" quiz and forward it to 230 friends, accidentally click on the picture of a hot chick and get taken to a different website, then find your way back and accept a cause invitation to get rid of wobbly shopping carts, an event for people with last names starting with J, a zombie invitation, and a 'click here to find out who has a mad crush on you!'

[Vis Madison McGraw.

March 26, 2009

Armies of the homeless as political props

"If George W. Bush becomes president, the armies of the homeless, hundreds of thousands strong, will once again be used to illustrate the opposition's arguments about welfare, the economy, and taxation."

-- Mark Helprin, Oct. 31, 2000

In Obama's 2009, Calculated Risk is nostalgic for Reagantowns of the 1980s.

March 25, 2009

Middle class is in the middle

Using consumption (Veblen goods, Giffen goods) to distinguish ones class leaves middle class citizens in the middle.

Individual demands are heavily shaped by the social environment. As the economist Richard Layard has written, for example, "In a poor society a man proves to his wife that he loves her by giving her a rose, but in a rich society he must give a dozen roses." For the last three decades, virtually all income gains in the United States have gone to top earners. Recipients have spent most of their extra income on positional goods, things whose value depends heavily on how they compare with similar things bought by others. Like mutually offsetting weapons in a military arms race, consumption of this sort is largely wasteful. Many of the most spectacular increases in high-end consumption in recent years appear to have been driven almost entirely by positional forces. If people acted in tandem, resources could be diverted from positional consumption at little sacrifice.

Although there is scant evidence that middle-income families in America resent the spending of top earners, they are nonetheless affected by it in tangible ways. Additional spending by the rich shifts the frame of reference that defines what the near rich consider necessary or desirable, so they too spend more. In turn, this shifts the frame of reference for those just below the near rich, and so on, all the way down the income ladder. Such expenditure cascades help explain why the median new house built in the U.S. is now about 50 percent larger than its counterpart from 30 years ago, even though the median real wage has risen little since then.

Higher spending by middle-income families is driven less by a desire to keep up with the Joneses than by the simple fact that the ability to achieve important goals often depends on relative spending. Because of the link between housing prices and neighborhood school quality, for example, the median family would have to send its children to below-average schools if it failed to match the spending of its peers on housing. Instead, middle-income families have opted to save less, borrow more, work longer hours, and commute longer distances than ever before, all in an effort to keep pace with escalating consumption standards.

Robert H. Frank

March 24, 2009

Crack Berry

Crackberry is one of many sources of BlackBerry news.
Example Mike Lazaridis Speaks On RIM's Future.

March 23, 2009

Worker housing includes $40,000 annual mortgage assistance

Property records show that the Edward R. Morrison, a law professor and economist at Columbia University, had some help financing the purchase. They obtained a $1 million first mortgage from Countrywide Bank, now a subsidiary of Bank of America, and a second mortgage directly from Columbia University for $1,039,000.

Elizabeth Schmalz, a spokeswoman for the law school, said the Columbia mortgage was provided by the law school as "one-time compensation assistance" to help Mr. Morrison complete the sale. The first mortgage was provided by Countrywide through another university program that provides mortgages at "favorable rates" to some faculty members. That program also provides a one-time $40,000 payment and an additional $40,000 a year in housing assistance.

"The greatest challenge to recruiting and retaining faculty in New York is housing," Ms. Schmalz said.

Mr. Morrison is a practitioner of empirical legal studies, analyzing the impact of the law on people and institutions. In 2007, another Columbia law professor specializing in empirical techniques, Catherine M. Sharkey, was recruited by the law school of New York University, whose foundation provided $4.2 million toward the purchase of an apartment for her use on Central Park West and West 106th.

An Academic Perk
Published: March 22, 2009
Many buyers say that jumbo mortgages are hard to come by these days. But don't tell that to Edward R. Morrison, a law professor and economist at Columbia University.

March 22, 2009

Goldman Sachs Managing Director Partners 2009

Goldman Sachs name new MD (Managing Director Partners) for 2009.

Included was Jan Hatzius, economist known for real estate commentary.

... partners as of November 29, 2008, the start of our next fiscal year. These appointments recognize the contributions and potential of some of the firm's most valued senior professionals

March 21, 2009

Debt to Income for Mortgages, Historically 28 % after tax ?

One weeks' wages on housing, three weeks' wages spent elsewhere
was the tradition before income tax.

Several financial advisers recommend reverting to an old standard known as the 28/36 rule. Using that rule, households should spend no more than 28 percent of their gross income on housing costs -- including mortgage payments, property taxes and insurance -- and less than 36 percent on all debt. The total includes obligations like car payments, student loans, credit cards and medical debt.

There is some debate about whether you should base your calculations on gross income or take-home pay. While some advisers said using gross income was reasonable enough, Mr. Birkofer said he told his clients to apply it to net pay.

"I want people to have more than a house, I want them to have a life, too," Mr. Birkofer said. "The application of the 28/36 rule can be an eye opener and a 'go slow' or 'reform now' sign." The original maxim of a week's pay for a month's rent was also based on take-home pay, given that it predates the federal income tax system, which formally started in 1913, said Danilo Pelletiere, research director at the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Many people are spending much more than that. According to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey in 2007, the latest available, 38 percent of homeowners with mortgages spend more than 30 percent of their monthly gross income on all housing costs.

And a swath of homeowners was even more thinly stretched. In 2007, nearly 9.17 million homeowners, or about 12 percent of all owners, spent more than half of their gross income on housing costs, according to tabulations of Census data by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

With Eyes Bigger Than Their Wallets, Homebuyers Are Forced to Revisit Old Rules
Published: March 21, 2009
Many borrowers have opted to spend far more than a third of their income on mortgage payments, a move that has led to an increase in foreclosures.

March 16, 2009

Kosmix web search, automated about page builder

Kosmix automatically builds web pages for a given search target.
A bigger threat to About.com than to Google. By default, does give a good what's hot zeitgeist of the Internet.

Just Don't Compare Kosmix to Google
Published: March 15, 2009
Kosmix, a well-financed Web start-up, is often described as a search engine that may someday rival Google.

March 14, 2009

Sprint Bold Niagara Tour 9630 BlackBerry

Sprint is anything but fear, uncertainty and doubt about the Blackberry Bold.


Haven't we seen this movie before? Sprint leaks their rumor about an upcoming device, knowing full well that VZW will get it before they do. But all they can beat Verizon on is the leak.

Updated: 2009 June 17: BlackBerry Tour coming to Sprint.
2009 June 7 BlackBerry Niagara 9630 specs preview look good.

March 10, 2009

Wolfram Alpha Search: computation over lookup

Wolfram Alpha searching will be very logical.

Update 2009 May 11:

In its current state, there are many queries that WolframAlpha cannot answer, either because it does not understand the question or because it does not have the requisite data. For instance, it is stumped by queries like "obesity rate," "housing prices New York" or "unemployment San Francisco" (but it will answer "unemployment San Francisco County").

New Search Tool Aims at Answering Tough Queries, but Not at Taking on Google
Published: May 11, 2009
WolframAlpha doesn't work like Web search engines, but instead mines vast pools of data collected by the company.

March 7, 2009

Stimulus 1.0 too small ?

Was the Obama stimulus plan built to solve a recession where unemployment peaked at 8.1 percent ? Now that unemployment has hit 8.1 %, should the $787 billion stimulus package be revised and embiggened ?


Fall in US household wealth likely to spur a long recession

By Martin Feldstein

Tuesday, Mar 03, 2009, Page 9
The massive downturn in the US economy will last longer and be more damaging than previous recessions because it is driven by an unprecedented loss of household wealth. Although the fiscal stimulus package that US President Barack Obama recently signed will give a temporary boost to activity sometime this summer, the common forecast that a sustained recovery will begin in the second half of the year will almost certainly prove to be overly optimistic.

Previous recessions were often characterized by excess inventory accumulation and over-investment in business equipment. The economy could bounce back as those excesses were absorbed over time, making room for new investment. Those recoveries were also helped by interest rate reductions by the central bank.

This time, however, the fall in share prices and in home values has destroyed more than US$12 trillion of household wealth in the US, an amount equal to more than 75 percent of GDP. Previous reactions to declines in household wealth indicate that such a fall will cut consumer spending by about US$500 billion every year until the wealth is restored. While a higher household saving rate will help to rebuild wealth, it would take more than a decade of relatively high saving rates to restore what was lost.

The decline in housing construction has added to the current shortfall in aggregate demand. The annual number of housing starts has fallen by 1.2 million units, cutting annual GDP by an additional US$250 billion. While this will eventually turn around as the inventory of unsold homes shrinks, the recovery will be slow.

So the US economy faces a US$750 billion shortfall of demand. Moreover, the usual automatic stabilizers of unemployment benefits and reduced income tax collections will do nothing to offset this fall in demand, because it is not caused by lower earnings or increased unemployment.

Although the recently enacted two-year stimulus package includes a total of US$800 billion of tax reductions and increased government spending, it would be wrong to think that this will add anything close to US$400 billion a year to GDP in each of the next two years. Most of the tax reductions will be saved by households, rather than used to finance additional spending.

Moreover, a substantial part of the spending will be spread over the following decade. And some of the government spending in the stimulus package will replace other outlays that would have occurred anyway. An optimistic estimate of the direct increase in annual demand from the stimulus package is about US$300 billion in each of the next two years.

The stimulus package would thus fill less than half of the hole in GDP caused by the decline in household wealth and housing construction, with the remaining demand shortfall of US$450 billion in each of the next two years causing serious second-round effects. As demand falls, businesses will reduce production, leading to lower employment and incomes, which in turn will lead to further cuts in consumer spending.

To be sure, an improvement in the currently dysfunctional financial system will allow banks and other financial institutions to start lending to borrowers who want to spend but cannot get credit today. This will help, but it is unlikely to be enough to achieve positive GDP growth.

A second fiscal stimulus package is therefore likely. However, it will need to be much better targeted at increasing demand in order to avoid adding more to the national debt than the rise in domestic spending. Similarly, the tax changes in such a stimulus package should provide incentives to increase spending by households and businesses.


Job Losses Hint at Vast Remaking of U.S. Economy
Published: March 7, 2009
With unemployment at 8.1 percent, some economists believe that a wrenching restructuring is under way.

March 4, 2009

Thailand overcomes migrants

In one case last month, the reports say, 410 Rohingya migrants were taken out to sea on a Thai Navy vessel and forced onto an open barge with just four barrels of water and two sacks of rice.

Four people were thrown overboard with their hands and feet tied as a way to encourage the others to board the barge, according to the reports.

After drifting for two weeks, about 100 of the migrants were rescued on the Andaman Islands, which are administered by India. About 300 remain missing after trying to swim to shore, according to several reports from the news media and human rights groups.

In a second case soon afterward, 580 people were reportedly seized off the Thai coast on three overcrowded fishing boats. These were towed back out to sea after their engines were removed, said Chris Lewa, an expert on Rohingya issues who runs a private human rights group called the Arakan Project.

Thailand Is Accused of Rejecting Migrants
Published: January 18, 2009
Human rights groups have accused Thai authorities of detaining as many as 1,000 boat people from Bangladesh and Myanmar and sending them back out to sea in boats without engines.

March 2, 2009

Roman Flugel & Delano & Crockett - Gehts Noch - Walking on the moon

Roman Flugel & Delano & Crockett - Gehts Noch - Walking on the moon (transition at 33 seconds).

Excellent sampling and mixing.