Digital amnesia: Is Google dulling your memory?

July 7, 2015

First, some background …

The tests I give my students always include some questions that can reasonably be tagged “memorization”.

Some students are repulsed by them them and shout the cultural refrain: “Don’t memorize anything that you can look up.”

The apparent thinking: You’ve only got a limited amount of space in your brain, so don’t clog it with an overload of information … only store the stuff you can’t look-up.


What’s wrong with that argument?

Read the rest of this entry »

Which states do people view most (and least) favorably?

July 6, 2015

YouGov ran a poll asking a national sample which states were viewed favorably … and which were viewed unfavorably.

Then, they ranked states based on the net difference between favorable and unfavorable views.

The winner: sunny paradise Hawaii.



Interestingly, the rest of the top 10 is dominated by northern and mountain states.

Guess which state has the lowest favorability rating …

Read the rest of this entry »

Decision Making: Beware the villains …

July 3, 2015

According to Chip & Dan Heath in Rotman Management article “The 4 Villains of Decision Making” …

“Research in Psychology over the last 40 years has identified a broad set of biases in our thinking that doom our decision making. If we aspire to make better choices, we must learn how these biases work and how to fight them.”


Confused man


According to the Heath Brothers – academics & popular authors – there are 4 decision making villains that have to be confronted

Read the rest of this entry »

Dilemma: The case of the lost concert tickets …

July 2, 2015


A classic “framing” question from Kahneman’s Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow

Here’s the situation:

A woman has bought two $80 tickets to the theater.

When she arrives at the theater, she opens her wallet and discovers that the tickets are missing.

$80 tickets are still available at the box office.

Will she buy two more tickets to see the play?




Most (but, not all) survey respondents answer that the woman will go home without seeing the show.

Let’s try another situation …

Read the rest of this entry »

Amazon and the “power of free” …

July 1, 2015

Everybody knows that Amazon’s free shipping program has been a resounding success.

So much so. that the company has announced that it will be moving the minimum qualifying order up from $25 to $35 … inducing shoppers to fill  their carts fuller or switch to the highly profitable Amazon Prime program.

The free shipping program’s success was highly predictable based an an apparently inadvertent “matched market test” that Amazon did.



Here’s the skinny on the Amazon’s inadvertent market test …

Read the rest of this entry »

FTC makes it official: Size matters !

June 30, 2015

Have you ever shelled good money for “free” air.

Bet you have.

It’s called “slack fill”.

Say, what?


Let’s start with a confession …

Read the rest of this entry »

Why we make mistakes: Winging it, too few constraints, greener grass

June 29, 2015

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books

Grass look s greener

Today, we finish the list … ending with an old standby: The Grass Looks Greener …

Read the rest of this entry »

Why we make mistakes: We’re all above average (or at least think we are)

June 26, 2015

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books

Im above average

Today, we add reason #10 to the list. we all think we’re above average

Read the rest of this entry »

Why we make mistakes: Men shoot first, then …

June 25, 2015

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books

Man shooting gun

Today, we add reason #9 to the list. Men shoot first, then …

Read the rest of this entry »

Why we make mistakes: frame of mind, skimming, tidiness

June 24, 2015

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, I’m  excerpting  the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books

Man making mistake

Today, we add reasons 6, 7 and 8 to the list.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why we make mistakes: The myth of multi-tasking

June 23, 2015

In this and a couple of preceding and subsequent posts, I’m excerpting the 13 reasons from:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books

Mukti-tasking woman

Today, we add reason #5 to the list: the myth of multi-tasking…

Read the rest of this entry »

Why we make mistakes …

June 22, 2015

In this and a couple of subsequent posts, i’ll be excerpting  the 13 reasons from a summer read:

Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph T. Hallinanm, Broadway Books

Confused man

Today, the first 4 reasons on the list …

Read the rest of this entry »

TPA & TPP for Dummies (like me)

June 19, 2015

As an economist by training and a political junkie by avocation, you’d think that the current hubbub re: TPA & TPP would be immediately clear to me.


I’ve listened closely to the politicos (Paul Ryan included) talk about TPA and TPP …  all they’ve done is muddle things.



After chatting with a pol-in-the-know, I think that I at least understand the questions … and the reasons for the dust-up.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hacked: Cards expose Moneyball’s strategic vulnerabilities …

June 18, 2015

Moneyball – the Oakland As use of data  and metrics to ID undervalued players —  was one of the  major catalysts for the current rage around big data and data analytics.

The Houston Astro’s  were one of the teams to adopt the Moneyball philosophy in a big way.

This week, the NY Times broke the story that the St. Louis Cardinals had hacked into Astro’s proprietary database.

Big news.

In fact, this hack seemed to get more media time than  the Chinese jacking the personal info of all government employees.



Baseball competition aside, here’s why I think there’s a big teaching point in the story

Read the rest of this entry »

Want to be rich?

June 17, 2015

The most recent Census Bureau data … sorts households by income quintile … the highest quintile are “rich” households and the lowest quintile are “poor” households.

A fundamental conclusion drawn from the data: if you want to be rich, it helps to have a job and be married to someone who has one, too.

image .

Let’s dive into some of the details …

Read the rest of this entry »

Do the top hedge fund managers really make more than all kindergarten teachers combined?

June 16, 2015

During her campaign  re-launch rally on Saturday, Hillary Clinton decided to take a swat at fat cats (with the present company excluded, of course).

Her applause line:

“The top-25 hedge fund managers making more than all of America’s kindergarten teachers combined.”




Since I didn’t hear the media do much fact-checking, I took a shallow dive into the numbers.

The answer may surprise you …

Read the rest of this entry »

Sparkling water … but, no brown M&Ms !

June 15, 2015

This came up in conversation over the weekend, so I thought a reprise was in order …

Awhile ago,, I was invited to do a radio interview on NPR.

When I told my daughter-in-law, she suggested that I request sparkling water and green M&Ms.



I thought that was pretty funny, but didn’t know the story behind it Read the rest of this entry »

Problem Solving: A matter of perspective …

June 12, 2015

According to, most Hong Kong elementary school applicants are able to answer this admissions test question in the allotted 20 seconds.

Can you?

Psst: It’s ok to use scratch paper and a pen or pencil.




Stumped?  Here’s the answer and the teaching point …

Read the rest of this entry »

How soon can I get some of those ‘next day‘ blinds?

June 11, 2015

Of course, it’s a trick question.

I started thinking about this a couple of weeks ago.

Heard a commercial for ‘3-Day Blinds’.

My thought: not a very compelling selling proposition when you’re up against NextDay Blinds


Then, we had a  set of mini-blinds break.

Of course, being instant gratification folks, we called NextDay Blinds.

What an eye-opener …

Read the rest of this entry »

Hacked: The purloined smart card …

June 10, 2015

A friend reported an interesting – and very ironic – breach of credit card security.

She had one of the fancy new cards with an embedded chip intended to confound cyber-thieves.

In “normal” operations, no problems.


But, she encountered a truck-sized hole in the program .

Here’s what happened …

Read the rest of this entry »

Baltimore prosecutor moves to keep Freddie’s autopsy secret … hmmm.

June 9, 2015

OK, I love conspiracy theories … and, here’s one for you.

According to the Baltimore Sun, “Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby plans to seek a protective order that would block the release of Freddie Gray’s autopsy report and other “sensitive” documents as she prosecutes the six police officers involved in his arrest.”

Not surprisingly, “an attorney for one of the officers said the effort shows that “there is something in that autopsy report that they are trying to hide.””


What’s going on?

Read the rest of this entry »

Unsettled Science: AP wins … pulling away.

June 8, 2015

There’s a trite sports adage:

“When these teams get together, you can throw out the record book.”

Same holds for American Pharoah … the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 44 years.


The betting odds were in AP’s favor … part wishful excitement, part herd mentality, part “uniqueness bias” that stipulated that this horse is really different from past Triple Crown contenders.

Let’s look back at the pre-race punditry …

Read the rest of this entry »

American Pharoah: Odds-on favorite, but scientific long-shot …

June 5, 2015

In prior posts we reported how history is against American Pharoah  — How often do Derby & Preakness winners nail the Triple Crown? — and how bettors like long-shots — Biases: The favorite-long shot bias … ».

Today we’ll wrap up Triple Crown Week, excerpting an interesting piece in Wired titled “Science says that American Pharoah won’t win the triple crown”



Here’s the essence of the scientific argument …

Read the rest of this entry »

Biases: The favorite-long shot bias …

June 5, 2015

In gambling and economics, there’s an observed phenomenon favorite-long shot bias.


Here’s how it works …


Read the rest of this entry »

How often do Derby & Preakness winners nail the Triple Crown?

June 4, 2015

On Saturday, American Pharoah will try to win the Belmont — capping off his Derby & Preakness wins to capture the oft-elusive Triple Crown.

Based on Triple Crown history, what are his chances?

The simple – but very deceiving answer is 35%.

31 horses have won both the Kentucky Derby & the Preakness …

11 of them have won the Belmont and the Triple Crown.

35% … about 1 out of 3.

That’s not bad, right?


Let’s slice the numbers a little finer …

Read the rest of this entry »

95% failure rate gets TSA Director reassigned … not fired?

June 3, 2015

This is a truly amazing story of our tax dollars at work …

In case you missed the headlines, the TSA’s Inspector General dispatched an audit team to try to sneak simulated bombs and guns past the crack TSA teams at several high traffic airports.

The good news: the TSA agents sniffed out 3 of the fake weapons.

The bad news: they missed 67.

That’s a failure rate of 95.7%.

Not exactly 6-sigma performance.


Here are a couple of story snippets that got my attention …

Read the rest of this entry »

“Slow-boating”: What’s up with Amazon?

June 3, 2015

I used to heap high praise on Amazon. Not so much any more.


First, some background …

Free shipment time from Amazon used to be one of my primary economic indicators.

If a free shipping order arrived in 2 or 3 days, I concluded that the economy wasn’t  doing so well.


Free shipments essentially fly stand-by,

If there’s space on planes & trucks then they get loaded.

If there isn’t, then the orders sit on the docks.

So, in a slow economy, orders come fast.

In a hot economy, orders take longer.

At least, that’s the way things seemed to work.

Not so predictable these days.

What’s up?

Read the rest of this entry »

What has 8 legs and 6 wings?

June 2, 2015

Answer: Definitely not a Kentucky Fried Chicken.


When I heard a news blurb talking about KFC genetically raising chickens with 8 legs and 6 wings, I bought in.

I figured: smart move.

Kids devour drumsticks and wings are still one of the hottest bar foods around.

My thought: good operations move … improve the “yield” from each chicken.

Turns out that my read wasn’t the story at all …

Read the rest of this entry »

Carpal tunnel is so yesterday … thumb tendonitis and AHS are maladies du jour …

June 1, 2015

From the “had to see this one coming department” …

In the old days, folks who who banged computer keyboards day in and day out suffered nerve damage in their hands & wrists called carpal tunnel syndrome.

More time on tablets and phones may have abated that problem a bit … but, of course, new problems have cropped up.


Here are the son and daughter of carpal tunnel …

Read the rest of this entry »

Politics: “Anti-Hillary stunt backfires on Carly Fiorina” … oh, really?

May 29, 2015

The above is from the  Daily Kos (except the “oh, really?” part).

I beg to differ with the reliably lib rag.

I think Carly landed some punches and precursored what the summer might look like …




Here’s what caught my eye … why I think it’s important … and, a prediction.

Read the rest of this entry »

Air fares: Public weighs in …

May 28, 2015

According to a survey reported by  NBC News  …

Survey says: 4 in 10 Americans  wouldn’t mind being publicly weighed at the airport.


The results suggest that a once-unthinkable concept of differential fares based on size could become a fact of life for fliers.

Here are some verbatims:

Read the rest of this entry »

Norwegian economics professor jumps on the scale … endorses “pay what you weigh”

May 27, 2015

Over the weekend, a  friend got squeezed on a flight from BWI to LAX.

Not “bumped” … “squeezed” … by a plump plus-sizer overflowing the adjacent seat.

My trim, yoga-inclined friend suggested that I reprise my posts about airlines’ pricing … hoping that the airlines would get the message this time around.


It started awhile back when I posted  Why don’t airlines charge more for these bags?

Specifically, I suggested that airlines charge passengers by weight: a base ticket price for the first 175 pounds and then $75 for each 50 pounds (or portion thereof) over the limit.

I  thought I was on safe ground since a  survey done for the travel website Skyscanner reported that 76% of travelers said airlines should charge overweight passengers more if they didn’t fit in a seat.

But, the idea went over like a lead-butted balloon.

Turns out that, as usual,  we were just a bit ahead of the times.

Later, we reported that Samoa Air became the first airline to start charging by the pound.

For details, see Samoa Air: Pricing by weight is the ‘concept of the future’


Now, even politically correcct academicians are hopping on the scale.  A Norwegian economist has suggested — in a prestigious academic journal —  a “pay what you weigh” pricing plan that “would bring health, financial and environmental dividends.”

Here’s the skinny on his program …

Read the rest of this entry »

What are your chances of dying from ___ ?

May 26, 2015

OK, here’s a test for you  …


Rank the the following by the odds that somebody who is in the group or who is exposed to the risk is likely to die.

Make #1 the highest risk of dying in the next year; make #7 the lowest risk circumstance

  • For women giving birth
  • For anyone thirty-five to forty-four years old
  • From asbestos in schools
  • For anyone for any reason
  • From lightning
  • For police on the job
  • From airplane crashes

And the answer is …

Read the rest of this entry »

Cellphones: “Biggest threat to your cybersecurity”

May 22, 2015

We’re not talking NSA tracking, we’re talking ordinary old cyber-criminals intercepting messages, seizing account numbers and passwords, and taking remote control of cell phones.


According to Knowledge @ Wharton

Nowadays, more Americans are expected to access the Internet through a mobile device than a PC.

And,  45% of surveyed users do not see cybersecurity on their mobile devices as a threat in the same way as they see it on their computers.

The 55% couldn’t be more wrong.

Here’s why …

Read the rest of this entry »

Shocker: Murder rate spikes up in Baltimore.

May 21, 2015

As Gomer Pyle would say: “Surprise, surprise, surprise”.


The Baltimore Sun reports that Baltimore has logged 96 homicides so far this year … a 30% increase over last year.

To put that number in perspective:

Last year, Baltimore’s murder rate was 5th in the country … a rate higher than Chicago’s; trailing only Detroit, New Orleans, Newark and St. Louis.

During the same period, New York City logged 54 murders.


Here’s a rhetorical question: What’s behind the surge?

Read the rest of this entry »

WP: Conservatives give better commencement speeches …

May 20, 2015

According to the Washington Post: Conservatives give better commencement addresses than liberals.


Drawing on a sample of 48 speeches — 30 by conservatives, 18 by liberals — the Post concludes that the right-leaning speakers stand out for five reasons …

Read the rest of this entry »

Hack Alert: That Grande Latte may cost you even more than you thought …

May 19, 2015

Hackers have figured out that anybody who is willing to shell out 5 bucks for a cup of coffee have money to burn.

So, shouldn’t be a big surprise that hackers are going right after Starbucks frequenters.



Here’s the scoop on the hack  …

Read the rest of this entry »

MH370: Remember my favorite conspiracy theories?

May 18, 2015

At least one of them —  which I tagged “hack & Done” — probably doesn’t sound as far-fetched today as they did a year ago. (The original post is reprised below)


Because sources have reported that:

Hacker controls plane

Here’s the scoop …

Read the rest of this entry »

Amazing infographic: Life inside Baltimore’s jails …

May 15, 2015

Since Baltimore has been in the news, here’s a flashback from the you can’t make this stuff up file …

There’s a notorious gang – the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) —  that is, one could say, well represented in the Baltimore prison population.

Well, court documents have been filed in a massive racketeering case accusing 13 female corrections officers of colluding with the BGF — seven male inmates and several outside gang members.

Colluding may be a gross understatement.

Corrections officers allegedly smuggled  contraband such as cellphones, drugs, and weapons to BGFers, and turned a blind eye on the BGF leaders running the outside gang from prison.

You know, garden variety collusion between guards and prisoners.

But, it turns out that several of the guards are also accused of being literally “in bed” with the BGF inmates.

Four of the officers became pregnant with prison gang leader Tavon White’s baby.

One of them got pregnant twice.

Say, what?

The web of relationships got sufficiently complicated that the Baltimore Sun developed an extraordinary infographic.

Don’t squint, below I’ll walk you through it and give you the link.


OK, here’s a key to the info graphic …

Read the rest of this entry »

NFL schemes to take some ‘foot’ out of football … say what?

May 14, 2015

Back in the very old days, the Cleveland Browns had a placekicker named Lou “The Toe” Groza.

He didn’t kick soccer-style.  He  was an overweight “toe kicker” who played tackle when he wasn’t kicking.

Despite all of that, he earned another nickname: “Mr. Automatic” by rarely missing an extra point.

You see, kicking an extra point wasn’t a gimme in those days.


These days, every NFL kicker is Mr. Automatic.

In 2014, NFL kickers converted 99.3% of all extra point attempts.

NFL owners are looking to change that … to put some excitement back into the extra point.

Read the rest of this entry »

Question: Why the NFL rule that allows teams to BYOB?

May 13, 2015

Of course, in this case, BYOB means Bring Your Own Balls

Yesterday, I posed the question: Why didn’t the NFL take the deflategate opportunity to ditch its wacky rule that allows each team to bring & use it’s own balls.


My argument, simply stated: The rule is nuts.

MLB pitchers don’t bring their own balls.

NBA shooters don’t call for their favorite balls when they step to the line.

The NFL rule is what nuns call an occasion to sin.

Put mere mortals in those situations, and guess what they’re gonna do.

You got it: SIN.

So, eliminate the temptation, right?

I got curious and searched for some background on the BYOB rule …

Read the rest of this entry »

Brady: “Maybe those guys gotta study the rule book and figure it out”

May 12, 2015

In the words of Yahoo Sports:


The NFL took deflate-gate very seriously, hammering the New England Patriots with unheard of punishment in the matter of deflated footballs.

The league announced Monday that quarterback Tom Brady was suspended four games, the team was fined $1 million and will lose its 2016 first-round draft pick and a fourth-round pick in 2017.

That’s a huge punishment considering there was no evidence Brady was directly involved and the Patriots’ ownership and coach Bill Belichick weren’t involved.

Say, what?


Here’s why I think the punishment fits the crime (or, is maybe a tad on the light side) …

Read the rest of this entry »

What do companies look for in new hires?

May 11, 2015

Her are the top %, according to the National Center for Education Studies


Since my courses center on problem solving, I’m glad to see that it tops the list.



Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts


More educated women having babies, but …

May 8, 2015

Pew just published an interesting study on birth rates and family size.

Here’s one of Pew’s spotlight charts.

The data seems to support the headline …



But, there’s a more compelling takeaway …

Read the rest of this entry »

Fix: How do you feel about public boarding schools?

May 7, 2015

I’ve long opined that disadvantaged kids from tough homes and neighborhoods would benefit from boarding schools that dislocate them from their challenging environments and provide them with a constructive, comprehensive learning and social experience.

What I didn’t know was that this education model is already in place in a few locales and is slowly being spread to others.

Click to view photo essay

One of the pioneering public boarding schools is DC’s SEED Foundation Charter School …

Read the rest of this entry »

Baltimore Fix: How about more Jesuit high schools?

May 6, 2015

Yesterday, we looked at the numbers re: Baltimore City school’s spending …

Summary: Over $16,000 per student …  top 4 (or higher, depending on the study) in the country … with a  student to teacher ratio of about 15 to 1 … and a student to “adult” ratio of about 8 to 1.

Not bad.

While researching the post, I stumbled on an article in Business Insider:

How a Baltimore school that only accepts poor students has a 100% college acceptance rate.

The article profiles Baltimore’s Cristo Rey High School  which has achieved a 100% college acceptance rate among graduates despite taking only students from disadvantaged neighborhoods



How does Cristo Rey do it?

Read the rest of this entry »

Baltimore Fix: More spending on education … say, what?

May 5, 2015

A largely unchallenged claim in the past week is that the way to fix many of Baltimore’s inner city problems is to spend more on education.

Makes sense until you look at the numbers.

Based on 2010 Census numbers, Baltimore City spent almost $16, 000 per student … more recent analyses peg the number even higher.

That spending level ranks Baltimore City 4th among school districts with at least 40,000 students …  more recent data reflecting an infusion of additional Fed funds pushes the ranking up to #2, trailing only NYC.


Let’s put those numbers into context …

Read the rest of this entry »

Big Question Will the Apple Watch blend?

May 4, 2015

All the hoopla surrounding the Apple Watch launch reminded me of an ad campaign run by a company called  Blendtec.

According to George Parker of  AdScam ….

At a conference a couple of years ago. GE and their agency, BBDO, made a presentation of their new “Imagination” campaign.

After showing some nice TV spots and explaining that they’d spent $300 million on media over the last year, they proudly declared that brand awareness had increased substantially.

This generated polite applause.


Next up was the Marketing Director of blender manufacturer Blendtec who proceeded to blend:

  • a brick
  • some ball bearings
  • an 8 ft garden rake
  • an iPhone

He then put up a single slide showing that every time they posted a self-produced, ten dollar video on YouTube in their long-running “Will It Blend” campaign (which to-date has had more than 220 million views,) sales went up by an accurately measurable percentage.

Understandably, the crowd went nuts.  

The point being, GE spent hundreds of millions and couldn’t quantify with any certainty what they had achieved for all that money.

Blendtec spent pennies and achieved consistently significant and measurable results.

Below is the links to the Blendtec iPhone videos…  worth watching.

Read the rest of this entry »

Baltimore chaos reminded me of Michelle’s commencement speech …

May 1, 2015

A couple of year’s ago, I wrote a post that probably stunned loyal readers.

The post praised Obama — Michelle that is.

She gave the kick ass speech that I was hoping the Obamas would deliver everywhere, all the time.

Ironically, the speech was given at Bowie State University … a few miles from Baltimore.

Unfortunately, Mrs. O decided a war on Twinlies was more important than cultural leadership.

Still the speech is worth a listen.

Here’s a flashback…


I haven’t been a big Michelle Obama fan.

Never recovered from her “first time I’m proud to be an American” snit … and totally turned off by her hypocritical  lifestyle of the rich & famous routine.

Biggest deal: I’ve oft said that she and her husband have squandered an opportunity to talk frankly to black kids in a way that only they can.

They’ve got the cred to push family values, individual responsibility and the importance of education.

Except for a few lines in a few speeches, they’ve come up prtetty empty.

That is, until last week when the First Lady gave a great commencement address at Bowie State University.


She  encouraged the graduates  to promote the importance of education in the black community.

According to the Washington Post, she layered a tough-love cultural commentary with statistics …  one in three African American students drop out of high school  … only one in five African Americans between the ages of 25 and 29 have a college degree.

Here are a couple of the high impact sound bites from her speech:

Read the rest of this entry »

How much does IQ influence business success?

April 30, 2015

According to the latest research, IQ accounts for what portion of career success?

a. 50 to 60 percent

b. 35 to 45 percent

c. 23 to 29 percent

d. 15 to 20 percent




The answer …

Read the rest of this entry »


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