Yum, those burgers looks good …

May 25, 2016

Adding visuals to menus (and reports) creates interest and boosts credibility.

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Studies have shown that adding  icons and photos to restaurant menus increase sales up to 30% for the featured items.

The visuals draw attention to the items … if done well, they stimulate diners’ senses.

OK, we’ve all be menu-enticed … that’s not news.

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But, did you know that simply adding a visual – a graph or chart  or formula — to a report can boost the credibility of a conclusion by 50% or more?

Read the rest of this entry »

Is financial stress making Americans dumber?

May 24, 2016

Connecting some research “dots” suggests that may be the case.

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A recent Bankrate.com survey says that 40% of respondents or their immediate family ran into a major unexpected expense last year.

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That’s a problem since most Americans (63%) don’t have enough budget-cushion or savings to cover an unexpected $1,000 expense (think, medical bill, house or car repair).

According to the poll, only 37% said they would be able to take the money directly from savings; the rest said they would try to cut expenses (24%), use their credit cards (15%) or borrow money from friends & family (15%). About 1 in 10 had no idea what they’d do.

Predictably, those with higher incomes were most likely to say they would be able to tap savings for emergencies or divert some discretionary spending.

75% of people in households making less than $50,000 a year and 2/3s of those making between $50,000 and $100,000 would have difficulty coming up with $1,000 to cover an unexpected bill.

Even for the wealthiest 20% — households making more than $100,000 a year — more than 1 in 3 say they would have  some difficulty coming up with $1,000. Source

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Obviously, the threat of a large, unexpected expense is emotionally daunting to most Americans.

“It definitely adds stress to everyday life. It hangs over you.”

To make matters worse, there is some evidence that the financial stress may impair “cognitive functioning” – that is, dent a person’s IQ.

Read the rest of this entry »

How physically fit are folks in your city?

May 23, 2016

Washington, D.C. rated as “most fit city” for 3rd year in a row.

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Every year, the American College of Sports Medicine and the Anthem Foundation rates the “fitness” of major metro areas based on a number of health behaviors and environmental factors such as access to parks, recreational facilities and walking trails.

According to this year’s  report, Washington, D.C. topped the list again.

 

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What makes D.C. so fit?

• Lower (than target) percent currently smoking
• Lower death rate for cardiovascular disease
• Higher percent of city land area as parkland
• Higher percent bicycling or walking to work
• More dog parks per capita
• More park units per capita
• More recreation centers per capita

And, my favorite:  More farmers’ markets per capita

Say, what?

D.C.’s score got a couple of dings including  a biggie: Fewer golf courses per capita

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Which of the 50 biggest metro areas scored the worst?

Read the rest of this entry »

Star gazing … how reliable are online user ratings?

May 20, 2016

When we’re buying something on Amazon, we all glance at the user ratings, right?

5-stars, it’s a keeper … 1 star it’s a bummer.

Real reviews from real users.

What could be more accurate?

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Some researchers tried to answer that question.

Since Consumer Reports has been in the quality testing business for decades with a reputation for rigor, objectivity and impartiality … So, to test the reliability of user ratings, the researchers took the Consumer Reports’ scores for 1,272 products and compared them to more than 300,000 Amazon ratings for the same items.

Their findings may surprise you …

Read the rest of this entry »

Trump : “Data analytics is overrated” … could he be right?

May 19, 2016

In an AP interview, Trump said that he “always thought that it (meaning data analytics) was overrated” and, accordingly, he’ll spend limited money on data operations to identify and track potential voters and to model various turnout scenarios that could give him the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency.

He’s moving away from the model Obama used successfully in his 2008 and 2012 wins, and the one that likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is trying to replicate, including hiring many of the staff that worked for Obama in his “Victory Lab”.

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A data-light strategy may sound very old-school in the era of big data … especially coming from Trump …. but it reminded me of an opinion piece that Peggy Noonan wrote in the WSJ soon after Obama’s 2012 election win.

Noonan had a riff about predictive analytics that caught my eye.

It pointed out one of the downsides of predictive analytics … the craft of crunching big data bases to ID people, their behaviors and their hot buttons.

Here’s what Noonan had to say …

Read the rest of this entry »

What do tenured profs & Federal judges have in common?

May 18, 2016

“A permanent job with good benefits is (now) beyond reach for most American workers … only federal judges and tenured professors are insulated from the forces of workforce transformation”

That’s according to the authors of the book Working Scared (Or Not at All): The Lost Decade, Great Recession, and Restoring the Shattered American Dream

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The book Working Scared is focused on the ways that the American workplace has changed in the past 50 or so years … and the implications on American workers (and non-workers).

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The central premise of the book is that globalization (out-sourcing & off-shoring); de-industrialization (towards more services and knowledge-based); technology-intensity (computers, internet, robots); and de-unionization have shattered the American Dream for tens of millions of working adults who are struggling or poor … “despite working hard and playing by the rules.”

More specifically …

Read the rest of this entry »

What has happened to workers who lost their jobs during the recession?

May 17, 2016

After last week’s employment numbers, Administration reps emphasized that over 12 million jobs have been added … recovering the number of jobs lost, plus a few to spare.

Predictably, conservative pundits countered that that the “mix” of jobs has deteriorated … well-paying full-time jobs have been replaced with lower paying full-time jobs and involuntary part-time jobs … with many of the added jobs going to immigrants – some legal, some not.

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Coincidentally, I started reading a book titled Working Scared (Or Not at All) … about the plight of the American worker … both old-timers who worked hard and played by the rules and newbies who are graduating with high college debt and disappointing career prospects.

The authors cut to the chase by researching the core issue: have the workers who lost their jobs bounced back?

Read the rest of this entry »

Dilbert asks: “Who wants a dangerous man in the White House?”

May 16, 2016

Well, not actually Dilbert … rather Dilbert’s author Scott Adams.

On his Dilbert blog, Adams took aim at the current Presidential campaign …

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First, Hillary’s constant refrain that we can’t have a loose cannon in the White House.

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Adam’s observation on “Dangerous Trump”:

Trump’s opponents have started making the case that he is “a loose cannon” … a “dangerous man”

You know who likes dangerous men?

Answer: Everyone.

Seal Team Six is dangerous. George Washington was dangerous. Abraham Lincoln was dangerous. Women like dangerous men. Men want to be dangerous men.

“Dangerous” borders on being a compliment. When you need to thwart some enemies – such as a useless Congress, or ISIS – you want to send in your most dangerous fighter.

 

From other commentators:

(1)  “Every other country with nukes has a wacko with his finger on the button.  Why shouldn’t the U.S. — just to keep things even”.

(2) “Girls like bad boys, right?  Maybe this will fix Trump’s polling with women.”

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Here are a couple more of Adam’s quips …

Read the rest of this entry »

John Miller for President !

May 15, 2016

Busted: WaPo sleuths drop Trump bombshell
… outs him for posing as “John Miller”

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Last week, the Jeff Bezos owned Washington Post announced that it was dedicating a team of 20 “journalists” to dig dirt on Donald Trump.

Already, the commitment to truth-and-justice has hit paydirt.

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What Bezos’ Ninja investigators found may – in the words of some mainstream media echoheads — “spell the end of the Trump Presidential run”.

Here’s the scoop …

Read the rest of this entry »

More rules for working smarter …

May 13, 2016

Over 200 ultra-successful people, including 7 billionaires, 13 Olympians, and a host of accomplished entrepreneurs were asked a simple open-ended question:

“What is your number one secret to productivity?”

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So, what were their answers?

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10 ‘towering’ rules for working smarter …

May 12, 2016

A loyal reader alerted me to an iconic mural that towers over the intersection of New York’s Houston and Mott Streets.

It’s a 50-foot-tall piece produced in tandem with the Guggenheim’s exhibition Peter Fischli and David Weiss: How to Work Better.

The simple, ten-point list is often prominent in artists’ studios and business offices “tacked up as a reminder of effective work patterns and collaboration.”

Even observed without the history of the mural, the piece speaks to the modern notion of always being busy, a reminder to slow down rather than rush through each subsequent task … and, oh yeah, to SMILE.

 

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Source: ThisIs Collosal.com via RM

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Tommorrow: “More Rules for Working Smarter”

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#HomaFiles

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

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“Don’t eat at Chick-fil-A” … say, what?

May 11, 2016

Chick-fil-A opened it’s first NYC outlet a couple of weeks ago.

It didn’t take long for uber-liberal Mayor Bill de Blasio to tell residents to boycott the restaurant.

 

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What’s his beef? (<= pun intended)

No, it’s not because of unsavory chicken or excessive customer service or Sunday closures (though the latter hints at the “problem”).

It’s because the company’s deeply religious President is a fan of traditional family values.

How are New Yorkers responding to the Mayor’s urging?

Read the rest of this entry »

Is “Make America Great Again” trademarked?

May 10, 2016

You bet “Make America Great Again”  is trademarked.

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And, no surprise, the trademark registration reads …

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OK, that’s to be expected.

But, here are a couple of wrinkles that may surprise you …

Read the rest of this entry »

“Multitasking makes me more productive” … oh, really?

May 9, 2016

Everybody multitasks. Some more than others.

You know, simultaneously several things (like talking on the phone when cooking) … or, switching back-and-forth among tasks.

Hard core multitaskers swear that their modus operandi makes them more productive … that it gives them a competitive advantage.

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But, research suggests that while multitasking may help us feel productive, it may actually be paring our productivity.

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According to the Washington Post, a group called Common Sense Media did a study that takes aim at multitasking.

Michael Robb, the group’s director of research, concludes that multitasking should no longer be seen as “some desirable trait that makes you the best 21st-century worker.”

He says that multitasking is a problem in a couple of ways:

Constant reorientation (i.e. bouncing back-and-forth among tasks) causes cognitive fatigue.

Cognitive fatigue can decrease your ability to get things done well, and can actually slow the rate of work.

When you’re multitasking, you’re not you’re not fully encoding memories.

If you’re browsing on Facebook while someone is talking, you’re not fully embedding memories that you may need to retrieve later.

Heavy multitaskers have a hard time filtering out irrelevant information.

In other words, they subconsciously treat all information they came across with equal weight instead of allotting more attention to the most credible and important.

Bottom line: Don’t confuse activity with results.

Sometimes, it makes more sense to “focus & complete” than to just keep a bunch of plates spinning.

As a former boss repeatedly told me “I pay you for finished goods, not work-in-process.”

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#HomaFiles

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

If you don’t understand Trump’s broad appeal, take the “bubble quiz” ….

May 6, 2016

Charles Murray, a political scientist and author observed – long before Campaign 2016 started – that there exists a new upper class that’s completely disconnected from the average American and American culture at large.

 

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In his 2012 book Coming Apart, Murray presented a 25 question self-diagnostic to determine how connected or disconnected you are from average Americans … that is, whether or not you live in a bubble.

Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s build a cabinet ….

May 5, 2016

Now that Trump is presumptive, pundits are imagining his cabinet …

As usual, the HomaFiles was months ahead of the paid pundits.

Timing seems right for a flashback.

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December 10, 2015
Let’s build a cabinet 

During this week’s GOP debate, the obvious became clear to me.

Like many (most?) people, I have trouble envisioning any of the candidates sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office (or standing at a podium in front of the desk).

But, there’s premium lemonade that can be squeezed from the cast of characters.

 

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Specifically, if these boys and girl can modify their behavior to swallow their egos and play nice-nice with one another, I think a powerful cabinet can be put together .

Here’s the team I’d put on the field …

Read the rest of this entry »

In praise of tough teachers …

May 4, 2016

My students are likely to cringe at this post which kinda legitimizes my teaching style.

Uh-oh …

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According to a recent WSJ article:

The latest findings in fields from music to math to medicine lead to a single, startling conclusion: It’s time to revive old-fashioned education.

Not just traditional but old-fashioned in the sense that so many of us knew as kids, with strict discipline and unyielding demands.

Why?

Because here’s the thing: It works.

 

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Of course, that conclusion flies in the face of the kinder, gentler philosophy that has dominated American education over the past few decades.

The conventional wisdom holds that teachers are supposed to tease knowledge out of students, rather than pound it into their heads.

Projects and collaborative learning are applauded; traditional methods like lecturing and memorization — derided as “drill and kill” — are frowned upon, dismissed as a surefire way to suck young minds dry of creativity and motivation.

But the conventional wisdom is wrong.

And the following eight principles explain why …

Read the rest of this entry »

When can you “trust your gut”?

May 3, 2016

I teach problem-solving in my courses and preach that intuition is a good thing – not flying by the seat of your pants — but rather, sub-consciously tapping into your cognitive storehouse of education, experiences and emotions.

The more you learn, the more you practice and the more you discipline yourself mentally … the better you get as a problem-solver.

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Digging deeper, I came across an interesting article in Inc., positing that intuition is evident in 4 distinct types of “thinking preferences” which are naturally intuitive in different ways…

Read the rest of this entry »

Dog Tales: Getting vetted to be an adopter …

May 2, 2016

Flashback to many years ago …

We drove around, spotted a “free puppies” sign … said “we’ll take that one” … guy hands us a puppy … dog & adopters lived happily ever after.

Fast forward to the process for our recent adoption of cute little Daisy…

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After 13 years, we had to say good-by to our family dog Skipper … though he’s irreplaceable, we decided to get a puppy.

Things have sure changed.  Here are some highlights of what to expect if you plan to adopt a dog …

Read the rest of this entry »

Nums: 94% of profs rate themselves above average … but, don’t we all?

April 29, 2016

According to LiveScience.com

Since psychological studies first began, people have given themselves top marks for most positive traits.

While most people do well at assessing others, they are wildly positive about their own abilities.

The phenomenon is known as illusory superiority.

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Illusory superiority is everywhere

  • In studies, most people overestimate their IQ. For instance, in a classic 1977 study, 94 percent of professors rated themselves above their peer group average.
  • In another study, 32 percent of the employees of a software company said they performed in the top 5%.
  • Drivers consistently rate themselves as better than average — even when a test of their hazard perception reveals them to be below par.

Ironically, the most incompetent are also the most likely to overestimate their skills, while the ace performers are more likely to underrate themselves.

Psychologists say the illusory superiority happens for several reasons:

Read the rest of this entry »

More Millennials than Baby Boomers … bad news for capitalism.

April 28, 2016

Let’s connect a couple of dots today.

Noticed the headline: “Millennials overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation.”

That’s right, Millennials (ages 18 to 34) have surpassed Baby Boomers (ages 51 to 69) as the nation’s largest living generation, according to population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Baby Boomer generation peaked at 78.8 million in 1999.

The Millennial generation – which now numbers 83.1 million — continues to grow as young immigrants expand its ranks.

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So, what’s that demographic shift have to do with capitalism?

Read the rest of this entry »

Gotcha: Geez, you can’t even trust used car salesmen …

April 27, 2016

Few things are more attractive than those that are unavailable or in scarce supply.

Tell someone that they can’t have something, and they will be much more likely to desire it.

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Here’s the way at least one used car salesman plays the scarcity game …

Read the rest of this entry »

Gotcha: “I paid more, so it must be better …”

April 26, 2016

One of my favorite sports’ movie scenes is from “Major League”

Newly hired manager Lou Brown is chatting with the Indians’ general manager.

One of the team’s players –Roger Dorn – pulls up in a fancy ride, hops out and unloads his golf clubs.

Brown says to the GM: “I thought you didn’t have any high-priced talent.”

The GM shoots back: “Forget about Dorn, he’s just high priced.”

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Lou Brown almost fell for a common trap …

Sometimes people do perceive that higher priced products are better – even when they’re not.

They’re subconsciously using price as a “quality cue”.

Here’s some research that supports the dynamic …

Read the rest of this entry »

Which is better: taking notes by hand or on a laptop?

April 25, 2016

The idea of taking class notes by hand just seems old-fashioned to many students today.

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But, according to NPR , it turns out there are still advantages to doing things the old-fashioned way …

Read the rest of this entry »

Quick Test: The “majority illusion” …

April 22, 2016

Adapted from the Washington Post WonkBlog:

The below chart represents a network of the entire population of a fictional and very small town.

Each circle represents a person. Two people who know each other are connected by a line. People who are not connected by a line have never met.

The day’s political issue: whether baseball caps are fashionable. Each circle is colored to indicate that person’s stance on the issue. Blue circles think caps are fashionable. Orange circles think that caps are not fashionable. (On this issue, everyone has an opinion.)

The town will be voting on whether to officially consider baseball caps fashionable.

A polling firm recently asked whether each person thought that the town would vote to deem baseball caps fashionable.

Assume each person polled based their prediction solely on how the majority of people they know felt about baseball caps (excluding his or her own view).

Did the polling firm find the measure was expected to pass or fail?

Read the rest of this entry »

Decision Making: Beware the villains …

April 21, 2016

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 »

All of the info I’ve collected says I’m right … so there!

April 20, 2016

Dan Lovallo, a professor and decision-making researcher says, “Confirmation bias is probably the single biggest problem in business, because even the most sophisticated people get it wrong. People go out and they’re collecting the data, and they don’t realize they’re cooking the books.”

What’s this “confirmation bias” that Lovello is talking about?

No surprise, people tend to seek out information that supports their existing beliefs.

You know, liberals watch MSNBC, read the NY Times listen to BBC podcasts; conservatives watch FOX, read the WSJ and listen to Rush.

Behavioral psychologists call the he dynamic “confirmation bias”.

 

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In socio-politics, the confirmation bias tends to harden polarized positions. People just gather debate fodder rather than probing both sides of issues.

In the realm of decision making, confirmation bias has a dysfunctional effect: it leads to bad decisions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why do students surf the internet (or doze off) in class?

April 19, 2016

In his book Brain Rules, author John Medina reports on empirical observations of student’s classroom attentiveness.

What did he find?

Student’s attention level “naturally” takes a dive approximately 10 minutes into a class session.

This is “natural occurrence” that is linked, in part to body chemistry … and to “mental habits” developed by the current generation of web and channel surfers.

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OK, that’s the problem … what’s the solution?

Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Tax Day … and, about the 47%.

April 18, 2016

Infographic from CNBC cuts to the chase re: the “money comes in, money goes out.”

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More interesting: What’s up with Mitt Romney’s infamous 47%?

Read the rest of this entry »

What percentage of Americans prepare their own taxes? How many of them like it?

April 15, 2016

Since we’re heading down the home stretch to Monday’s filing deadline …

According to Pew Research:

Overall, 33% of Americans say they do their own taxes while 56% say someone else prepares their taxes.

  • Note 1: 11% don’t know who does their taxes or were befuddled by the question
  • Note 2: The folks in the 11% get to vote in Presidential elections (ouch!)

A majority of Americans (56%) have a negative reaction to doing their income taxes 1 in 4  say they hate doing them.

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Among those who dislike or hate doing their taxes, most cite the hassles of the process or the amount of time it takes:

About a third (34%) say they either like (29%) or love (5%) doing their taxes.

Here are some details re: the “likers” and lovers … 

Read the rest of this entry »

Do better looking students get better grades?

April 14, 2016

You bet they do …

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Prof Robert Kaplan of San Diego State University conducted an experiment:

Faculty subjects were asked to grade an essay written by a student.

A photograph of the student was attached to the essay.

The grade given for the essay correlated strongly with a subjective attractiveness scale evaluated by other judges.

What is interesting is that all the subjects received the exact same essay, and the photograph attached to it was randomly assigned.

Bottom line: physical attractiveness causes graders to give essay writers better scores on their essays.

Here’s what’s going on …

Read the rest of this entry »

“Going to hell in a handbasket” … say, what?

April 13, 2016

In yesterday’s post, I again used the expression “going to hell in a handbasket” ….  and got a couple of emails re: its origin and meaning.

So, today we’re reprising a post from the archives …

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This week, a poll finally asked a question that really cuts to the chase:

Which better describes how you feel about the way things are going in the world these days?

  • a) Things are going to hell in a handbasket
  • b) Everything will be alright
  • c) Don’t know

 

 

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Started me wondering:

What’s up with a goofy idiom like “going to hell in a handbasket”?

Read the rest of this entry »

Survey: Over 2/3’s of employees are motivated and satisfied with their jobs …

April 12, 2016

Yesterday, we posted a survey that reported half of all employees would tell friends and family not to come work from their employer.

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I got curious and dug a little deeper …

Read the rest of this entry »

Study: “Don’t come here to work !”

April 11, 2016

A recently reported study of 1,015 LinkedIn users “sought insights into how organizations attract, engage, motivate as well as retain workers and build the kind of workplace that employees promote.”

The headline conclusion: “About half of workers wouldn’t recommend their organization to a friend or family member searching for a job.”

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What’s their beef?

Read the rest of this entry »

Buying your airplane seat “by the inch”…

April 8, 2016

Loyal readers know that I’ve been a long-standing fan of airlines charging by the pound rather than having a flat fare that is applied to all passengers – small, big and supersized.

Here are some ‘greatest hits’ posts on the topic.

Prices: Why don’t airlines charge more for these bags?

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

Air fares: Public weighs in …

Tipping the scales: Airline starts weighing all passengers …

Airlines weigh-in on cost-cutting ……

Let’s continue the dialogue.

According to The Economist ….

The average American man bulked up from from 166lb in 1960 to 190lb today, while the average woman jumped from 140lb to 166lb.

Note: That today’s average woman weighs about the same as an average man in the 1960s.  Whoa, Nellie!

While Americans were ballooning, airline seats’ widths were constricting —   from 18 inches in 1960 to 16.5 inches today.

To address the obvious issue, Congressman Steve Cohen proposed a law  mandating a minimum amount of seat space for air passengers.

The measure failed.

 

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Very clever cartoon from The Economist

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Not to worry, airlines are on the case.

We’ve previously reported on airline programs to charge passengers by-the-pound.

Now, there’s a new tactic being pursued …

Read the rest of this entry »

Warning: The gentleman’s C is dead … long live the gentleman’s A

April 7, 2016

Yep, grade inflation is alive and well.

The Washington Post reported findings from a 70-year retrospective analysis of college grades.

The central conclusion:

“Across the country, wherever and whatever they study, mediocre students are increasingly likely to receive supposedly superlative grades.”

In other words, these days, A is the new “average”.

Now, almost half of all grades given are A’s … triple the percentage from a few decades ago.

C’s – the old “average” – is dying a slow, steady death … and, there’s a higher likelihood of a student being struck by lightning than getting hit with an F.

 

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Here are some explanatory snippets and my take …

Read the rest of this entry »

Test your nuke-knowledge …

April 6, 2016

Last week President Obama hosted a nuclear containment summit and Candidate Trump expressed support for letting countries like Japan develop nuclear weapons.

In casual conversations, I opined that the nuclear gaffe (if it was one), would hurt Trump because the average American voter has no idea which countries do and do not have nuclear weapons now.

I think that I and my fellow discussants are usually “in the know” on current political topics.

Still, we traded comments and questions like:

  • “I was surprised that Japan didn’t have nukes”
  • “Do France or the UK have them?”
  • “What about Israel?”

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You get the point.

Now it’s your turn.

No Googling or peeking !

I’ll even state the question to give you a hint:

What 9 countries currently have nuclear weapons?

Read the rest of this entry »

Did Hillary throw Donald a life line?

April 5, 2016

Given that both Donald & Hillary are polling unfavorable among women, it didn’t surprise me that Chris Matthews introduced abortion into the 2016 election … by drilling Trump on the topic.

He probably expected Donald to give an idiotic answer (mission accomplished!) … and to elevate the issue so that Hillary would have reason to burnish her pro-abortion bona fides when she appeared on sister network NBC’s Meet the Press.

I wasn’t surprised to see Donald trip on his schlong (<= his word not mine), but was surprised that Hillary countered with a gaffe of her own.

 

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In case you missed Hillary on Meet the Press …

Read the rest of this entry »

Hasnas: Teachers with conservative views don’t make the cut.

April 4, 2016

GREAT article in the WSJ from our own John Hasnas – MSB Professor of Policy & Ethics: The One Kind of Diversity Colleges Avoid

His central point: When recruiting faculty, universities seek diversity by gender, race and nationality … but, not ideology.

In many instances, conservatives and libertarians need not apply.

 

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That conclusion probably doesn’t surprise many of you who already see the elephant in the middle of the room.

But, Prof. Hasnas provides some texture and “inside scoop”

Here are a couple of highlight snippets from the article … Read the rest of this entry »

The economics of oil … continued.

April 1, 2016

A couple of week’s ago, I posted The economics of oil …  suggesting that countries such as Saudi Arabia were operating below breakeven with oil @ $40 per barrel.

 

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While technically correct, several loyal readers schooled me on the difference between “economic breakeven” and “fiscal breakeven”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ebola contained … What if terrorism were treated like a disease?

March 31, 2016

The following headline caught my eye:

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More specifically, the WHO said:

“Ebola transmission … no longer constitutes an extraordinary event, the risk of international spread is now low, and countries currently have the capacity to respond rapidly to new emergences.”

Hmmm.

Now, re-read the WHO statement, substituting the words “radical Islamic terrorism” for “Ebola transmission”.

Let’s connect a couple of more dots …

Read the rest of this entry »

So, did Apple win or lose?

March 30, 2016

In case you haven’t been paying attention …

The FBI snagged the government-owned cell phone that was being used by one of the San Bernardino killer-terrorists … but, couldn’t get at the data because of Apple’s security and encryption technology … which vaporizes the data if you enter a wrong password 10 times.

So, the FBI asked Apple to to provide a custom-cobbled hack to get at the data.

Apple said “no”, ostensibly to protect the privacy and security of its users.

So, the FBI sued Apple, and the case was working its way through the courts.

That is, until yesterday when the FBI withdrew its law suit.

Victory to Apple, right?

 

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Not so fast.

Here’s why the FBI withdrew its law suit ….

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Hourly earnings up, but household income down … say, what?

March 29, 2016

Great analysis by Prof. Mark Perry (AEI Scholar) … entire analysis is worth reading … here’s the essence of the argument.

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Question: It’s oft-reported that household income has been falling … but, digging into the data, hourly earnings have been increasing.

How can that be?

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According to Prof. Perry’s analysis, the answer lies in “mix” – the composition of households ….

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If it hadn’t been such a tragic week, this stuff would be (damn) funny …

March 28, 2016

The Brussels terrorists’ attacks were were an immense tragedy … to be taken seriously.

You wouldn’t know it, given some of the past week’s noteworthy dumb & dumber happenings.

Let’s start with the UK’s response to the bombings.

Did the Brits make any notable raids to crack the terrorists’ network of killer cells.

Nope, instead of going for the jugular, UK authorities went for the capillaries and arrested some dude for for making an inappropriate, potentially anti-Islamic tweet:

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The charges were eventually dropped, but please tell me, how does law enforcement prioritize chasing insensitive tweeters over cold-blooded killers?

Maybe it has to do with the UK police patrolling with 1 bullet less than Barney Fife.

Tweeters are probably “safe stops” … cold-blooded killers, not so easy.

Or, maybe the world is just going completely wacky.  A couple of more examples …

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Pascal’s Wager … applied to the ISIS threat.

March 25, 2016

One of the few things I remember from Philosophy 101 is Pascal’s Wager.

In a nutshell, it says that God may or may not exist … and we all have the choice to live righteously or sinfully.

Naturally, that creates a 2 X 2 matrix …

If you choose to live on the wild side and God exists … uh oh.

If you choose to live a clean life, you score big if God exists … and don’t have much downside if she doesn’t.

I often find Pascal’s Wager to be a practical decision-making prop.

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Let’s apply Pascal’s Wager to the current ISIS mess?

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Why don’t Europeans want to protect themselves more?

March 24, 2016

Once the horror of Brussels sank in, some pundits observed how unprepared Belgium seemed to be … and some pointed to Europeans minimal spending on intelligence, defense, and homeland security (their homelands not our’s).

That prompted me to finally read the Atlantic article on the “Obama Doctrine”.

I thought the article would just make me chuckle …  turned out that I found myself agreeing with some of Obama’s basic tenets …. and it helped explain why Europeans don’t want to protect themselves more.

Obama complains privately to friends and advisers that America’s allies in the Middle East are frustrating, high-maintenance countries,  that seek to exploit American “muscle” for their own narrow and sectarian ends.

“Free riders aggravate me. Europeans and the Arab states want to hold our coats while we do all the fighting.”

Recently, Obama warned that Great Britain would no longer be able to claim a “special relationship” with the United States if it did not commit to spending at least 2 percent of its GDP on defense. “You have to pay your fair share,” Obama told David Cameron.

Given its proximity to Libya, Obama expected the UK to step-up and take a lead role there. But, in a stunning development, the British Parliament denied David Cameron its blessing for an attack. John Kerry’s reaction: “Oops.”

Let’s look at some numbers ….

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True, the UK is only spending about 2% on defense (after all, it has to support its universal healthcare system) … but, it’s looks downright militaristic when compared to its European cronies.  Look down the list to find Belgium.

Let’s cut the numbers a couple of more ways …

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Even if manufacturing may be coming back … manufacturing JOBS, not so much.

March 23, 2016

Interesting analysis from Nate Silver’s  535.com titled Manufacturing Jobs Are Never Coming Back

There’s no mystery why candidates love to focus on manufacturing and trade.

“It’s understandable that voters are angry about trade. The U.S. has lost more than 4.5 million manufacturing jobs since NAFTA took effect in 1994. And, there’s mounting evidence that U.S. trade policy, particularly with China, has caused lasting harm to many American workers.”

“Manufacturing in particular embodies something that seems to be disappearing in today’s economy: jobs with decent pay and benefits available to workers without a college degree. The average factory worker earns more than $25 an hour before overtime; the typical retail worker makes less than $18 an hour.”

“In 1994 there were 3.5 million more Americans working in manufacturing than in retail. Today, those numbers have almost exactly reversed, and the gap is widening. More than 80 percent of all private jobs are now in the service sector.”

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How can that be?  Aren’t we hearing a lot about “re-shoring” and foreign capital investing in U.S. based manufacturing plants?

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Michael Goodwin: It’s time for Trump …

March 22, 2016

Michael Goodwin is a NY Post writer … says that he’s a Democrat who voted for Obama in 2008.

Over the weekend, he wrote an editorial titled Why it’s time for a Trump revolution .

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I think that Goodwin does a poignant job cutting to the chase.

His basic tenet: “Contempt for Trump reflects contempt for his working-class white support.”

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Huff Post: How Paul Ryan Will Pick the Next President.

March 21, 2016

Over the weekend, the Huffington Post ran an article: How Paul Ryan Will Pick the Next President.

Writers Chris LaTondresse and Adam Phillips claim credit for conceiving a scenario that would place an establishment Republican into the White House even if Trump is the GOP nominee.

Sorry guys, you’re a bout a month late.

Loyal HomaFiles reader would recognize the plot from our Feb. 29 post:

The GOP can still get a “true” Republican elected … here’s how.

Since it’s timely (and getting jacked without attribution), I thought I’d reprise it today.

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Let’s start with some basic assumptions:

(1) Trump hijacks the GOP and wins the nomination … much to the dismay of the GOP “establishment”.

(2) Trump and Hillary fight a tightly contested toss-up race.

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So, how can the establishment get a “true” – or at least “truer” Republican elected.

It wouldn’t be easy, but it’s possible.

Let’s connect a couple of dots.

Dot #1: Politico is reporting that some big GOP donors are researching ballot-access requirements for independent candidates in case Trump wraps up the GOP nomination.

Dot #2: The electoral map and the quirks of the electoral college process.

There’s an out-of-the box way to make a “true” Republican president … really.

 

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Electoral Map

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You won’t hear this any place else, so let me explain …

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Trump’s appeal among the “precariat”…

March 18, 2016

From a very interesting election analysis in the Orange County Register by Joel Kotkin – Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University …

Disclaimer: I’m not a Trump fan because of his incivility (bad role model for kids), unpredictability (I have no idea where he really stands on any issue except “the wall” – and I’m betting the under on that one), and temperament (though I wonder why the U.S. should be the only country that doesn’t have a wild man with their finger on the nuclear button – why not round out the roster?).

That said, I’ll fill in his circle on the scantron ballot if it’s Trump vs. Hillary in Novemeber.

Why?

I have much sympathy for his constituency of victims: lower and middle class working class folks … with emphasis on “working”.

You know,  the folks that the press likes to brutally characterize as “brain dead, mindless zombies”.

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In his article, Mr. Kotkin more charitably coins them as the “precariat” — people who are working, many part time or on short-term gigs, but lacking long-term security.

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