Saturday, January 31, 2009

Queuing Previewed Movies: Use Case for Movies on Demand

I love previews. When renting a good movie, Beth and I often see previews for 3-4 movies we would like to see. Depending on our levels of motivation and energy, we will respond in one of the following ways: 1) Grab the laptop, and put them on the Blockbuster online queue; 2) Grap a scrap of paper, jot them down, and hope we remember to put them in the queue; 3) Look at each other and say "we've got to remember that" and go on to the next preview.

So it is not hard to imagine that a well-designed, movies-on-demand system could make this work much more seamlessly. See the preview, decide you like it, click a button or two, and it is on your queue.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Unintended Consequence Possiblity: Flex-Time

Flex-time is a very nice improvement in the work life of the busy professional. I'm not talking about any type of shift work, just the practice, more often than not informal, of knowledge-worker employees generally having leeway to adjust their work hours plus/minus 1 hour or so from the norm. There are many reasons for flexing ones schedule, avoiding peak rush hour being chief among them. Most people love flex-time.

I find myself idly wondering, though, if anyone has looked into the unintended consequences of flex-time on reducing commuter mileage. If flex time were not an option, mass transit, carpooling and living closer to work all would be incrementally more desirable.

Lifespan of an Exercise Bike

My exercise bike broke down for the second time in as many months. Last time involved replacing an idler pulley--the hardest part about that was tracking down the replacement part on the internet. This time involves a broken-off bolt. To make matters much worse, I broke off a drill bit trying to drill it out. So I'm not sure what my next move will be.

The bike is six years old. My son was suggesting that maybe it was time to replace it. My first reaction was "you've got to be kidding, Seth, we need to have a talk about the consumer disposable culture!" But then I got to thinking...first of all, it was cheap, an incredible bargain. Surprisingly good, but certainly not club-quality.

Then I thought about how much use it has gotten, and what the expected usage is for a consumer exercise bike. In my cynical opinion, the expected usage is "hardly at all". Bike purchased, used a few hours for the first few weeks, intermittently for the next year, collects dust, sold very cheap at garage sale.

I, on the other hand, have ridden it regularly, and quite hard (8-9 on its max scale of 10), for the past 6 years. So you might say that I have ridden it 50% harder than expected, and 3X as frequently as expected. So you could argue that my 6 years of ownership is like 25 years of the average owner. A lifetime and then some, in other words.

All that being said, I am not ready to give up on it.

Facebook Feature: Professional vs Social

As noted, I am a newbie to Facebook. In general, it seems to me like a dangerous time waster. But I let it harvest my Gmail account for addresses, and then proceeded to invite the people it found. As I think about it, though, it seems to me that mixing professional and personal is just not such a desirable thing. I wonder if Facebook should have some built-in notion of professional contact vs personal contact.

Otherwise, I might just stick to LinkedIn for professional social networking. (That is what a contact of mine suggested when I friended him, which is what got me thinking about it.)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Coffee Linked to Lower Dementia Risk

Yet another health benefit for coffee drinkers.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Review ALL Roughing the Kicker Calls

In the AFC championship game tonight, at the end of Q2 there was a roughing the kicker call against Baltimore. The instant replay showed that it was pure acting by the Pittsburgh punter. The roughing kicker penalty--15 yards and change of possession--is HUGE. It doesn't happen that often, but it seems like when it does, close to half the time it is acting on the part of the kicker.

I think that they should be an instant-replay review from the booth every time there is a roughing the kicker call.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Facebook Feature: Friend Filtering

I don't spend a lot of time on Facebook, so maybe this feature exists and I have missed it. But when I look at someone's wall, 99% of what is on it means nothing to me. It would be much better if I could restrict what is displayed to posts from mutual friends.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Usage of "Props"

"Props" is apparently slang for "accord proper respect". Based on my own personal observations, it is gaining currency in middle-age, middle-class circles. I do not like it.

Be Your Own Advisor

Per the below article on the distorted behavior created by commissioned salespeople...--I'm not sure up-selling and mis-representing does backfire enough. That is why, especially with ultra-high-ticket products, like insurance, cars, your retirement--you just can't trust the seller. Just like you don't go into the grocery store and ask the meat department supervisor for their advice on how much meat and what kind you need, you should not rely on the insurance salesman to figure that out for you.

It is crazy to use anything but a fee-only Financial Planner.

Financial Bubbles Explained

Good Virginia Postrel article on financial bubbles, and experimental economics on the subject.
For the price to track the fundamental value, “everybody has to know that everybody knows that everybody is rational.” That’s rarely the case. Rather, “if you put people in asset markets, the first thing they do is not try to figure out the fundamental value. They try to buy low and sell high.” That speculation creates a bubble.

Why Are Online Surveys So Bad?

Normally I would never take an online survey. But I got one from Vanguard on the subject of "Help Us Understand Your Cash Needs". I am very favorably disposed towards Vanguard, and I was interested to see what they were after. So I said yes.

This launched the usual one-question-at-a-time "wizard". First question: your country. Boring. Click next. Second question: Sex. Click next. Third: Date of Birth. At that point, I bailed.

Why can't they give me all the questions (or a big chunk of them) on a single page? It would be SOOO much faster, and give me a better sense of how long the dang thing will take.