Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The three leading "voices" weigh in on a basic (dumb) question

There's a well-known saying that "there's no such thing as a dumb question" but I beg to differ. One of those truly dumb questions has to be, "Is a dolphin a fish?", but that did not keep one my grandsons and I from having fun teasing each other with the answer a few weeks back. It was one of those quasi-arguments that bonds the generations!

Of course, during our current times (2018), it doesn't take too long to pose any open question to one of our "smart assistants" and their varied answers were revealing. The Amazon Echo Alexa gave a nice, short, definitive answer. Apple's Siri found some reading on the web we might like to do. And the Google Home Assistant went even deeper than Alexa. I have to admit I prefer the "just give me the answer" approach rather than the homework assignment.

And now back to that dumb question... The Miami Dolphins football fans often root on "the fish", and there is a popular gamefish called the "dolphin" - in fact I caught a few in the Atlantic some years back. But beyond that, what of this smart-speaker connection with dolphins? Weirdly, in the scandal about these assistants being able to "hear" and respond to high-frequency voices beyond human hearing range, reference is made to "dolphin attacks"!

Probably mostly random observations, but I find them interesting!

Friday, March 09, 2018

Two of my famous economics professors - Thaler and Navarro

Through my years involving higher education, both student and teacher, I have encountered a number of memorable educators. Two of my economics professors have come to prominence in the past six months or so, and their similarities and differences are worthy of a few "compare and contrast" notes.
In the Fall, it was announced that the year's (only) Nobel Prize winner in Economics was the behavioral economist Richard Thaler. He was my Microeconomics professor during my first semester of my MBA program, at Cornell's Johnson School of Business. I had followed his career, which found him ending up at the Economic mecca University of Chicago, and in my teaching the past dozen years, I have used a range of Thaler's examples going all the way back to Cornell and his "sunk cost fallacy" - lessons which never left me - as well as his more recent work, which includes the well-known book Nudge, co-authored with Cass Sunstein, who served in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2012.

Fast-forwarding a few decades, but back to me on the student side, Peter Navarro was my instructor for several courses, including refreshers in Micro- and Macroeconomics, just in the last several years. The educational forum where I studied under Navarro was, appropriate in keeping with the times, Coursera, the Palo Alto-based start-up that has helped pioneer Massive Open Online Courses, i.e. MOOCs. Navarro's courses were fast-paced, to the point, and among the earliest offered. I was only marginally aware of Navarro's reputation as a China-phobic trade protectionist, something that has become newsworthy in the past few weeks, and as he is considered for the nation's top Economic Advisor job.

Was my experience different, with the live, in-class encounters with Thaler, versus the online video experience with Navarro. Of course, in many ways, but the economists are different enough, and memorable enough by themselves to make the learning format only one of the variables. I enjoyed my time with both, learned a lot, and while I may not always agree, at least I have had the opportunity to hear and ponder their views. 

Thursday, February 01, 2018

What's in a trending topic? After the Era That Made It a Verb

For those who follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me acknowledge trending topics, at least on occasion. I find them fascinating, and often the mysterious ones (mysterious at least at first) are the most enlightening in the end. 

February starts with some interesting Trending on Twitter topics - some need an explanation
Today's "After the Era That Made It a Verb" had me at bit puzzled. it became all too obvious with a single click, relating to a quite large industry story I had become aware of yesterday morning. The trending topic matches a New York Times headline, which of course refers to "Xerox" and its being absorbed by its joint venture with Fujifilm. (See "So Long Xerox...")  While the two companies have been aligned for as long as I have seriously following the printing and imaging industry, this is in many ways the end.

The Times piece has a very short but still enlightening quote, which I will share here.
“'Xerox is the poster child for monopoly technology businesses that cannot make the transition to a new generation of technology,'” said David B. Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School." 
-via "After the Era That Made It a Verb, Xerox, in a Sale, is Past Tense", NYTimes Dealbook, by Steve Lohr and Carlos Tejada, January 31, 2018.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Post - Just hit "Print"!

I just saw the Oscar-nominated "The Post", using MoviePass of course! (See "MoviePass - Fulfilling those 2018 resolutions".)

The movie does a great job of bringing back the look and feel of the Vietnam-War era, but I did notice one concession to modern times. Early on, where scenes show the illicitly gathered "Pentagon Papers" being photo-copied. While the nearly room-sized, single-page input machine seemed to correspond to what I remember of photocopiers in those days, the "button" shown being pushed to initiate the copy process was labeled "Print" - something I find implausible in those days. It was "copying" not "printing" after all!

Only a few decades later, when the Multi-Function Peripheral era was beginning, that the idea of reproducing a printed page was just another way of printing!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

My 12th Anniversary on Blogspot

Being someone who is tuned in to timelines and history, I like LinkedIn for its emphasis on anniversaries. While they seem to come along more frequently these days (!), it's nice to hear from friends and contacts who are prompted to "like" or send a note when one of my anniversaries comes up. (It's also a good way to get a reminder that perhaps the old LinkedIn profile is, yes, a little old - anniversaries don't count when they're for jobs or other endeavors that are no longer active, in my opinion anyway.)

This month (January 2018) it happens to be my 12th anniversary of beginning to blog on "Blogspot", i.e. right here! While I have experimented with Medium and other platforms I keep coming back to "old reliable", so the anniversary is valid and any and all likes and comments are appreciated!

Friday, January 12, 2018

MoviePass - Fulfilling those 2018 resolutions!

A deal between MoviePass and Costco was quite popular, and extended beyond the holidays.

Unlike many, I am a pretty big believer in New Year's resolutions. I give them thought in the weeks leading up to the beginning of the year, and don't feel the need to finalize them until sometime after the year has started. I like to spread them around between categories including the more typical health and fitness, professional, hobbies, and to me, the most important, fun!

Like many other to-do-list advocates know, there is great value in making sure at least a couple of my New Year's resolutions are very achievable, if not already in the bag. For 2018, one of those has been obtaining and using MoviePass, which I had become aware of during 2017 but had not acted on. In what seemed like a deal too good to be true, MoviePass requires a modest monthly fee (around the price of seeing one first-run movie), but then lets the holder attend theatrical-release movies (2D only) at the clip of up to one per day for no extra charge. This seemed like something I had to get going on for 2018!

So with the resolution of "get a MoviePass and use it a lot in 2018" I took advantage of an even somewhat better deal (available in December and early January but expired as of the 10th) and ordered a pre-paid annual MoviePass for $89.99 to Costco members. (See graphic and link above.)

So I now have hands-on experience with MoviePass, and can relate a mostly positive outcome but can also offer some advice. First, the good news - as you wait several weeks for the fulfillment cycle to get your MoviePass card (essentially an "ATM" MasterCard debit card) you will no doubt have questions and one will be, "What theaters accept the pass?" From my experience, and in my community, the simple answer is "all". That includes a favorite "indy" (aka "art house") venue and the multiple second-run theaters around town.

The bad news, though readers may not foolishly make this mistake, is the MoviePass is for one person, only. Maybe as the result of being part of a "couple" all these years, somehow I managed to figure the MoviePass I was buying through Costco was going to be good for two people, i.e. two simultaneous admissions. It's not!

When the one-card/one-person rule dawned on me, it was time to order another one for my partner. Not ready to make a commitment to a second annual pass, I ordered a three-month pass directly from the company, for $30. That was several weeks ago, and I expect the card in the mail any day now. However, that's where a final piece of advice comes in - be patient (or more accurately, forgiving.) I found their web site to be pretty glitchy and incomplete, and was faced with an inexplicable error message the first time I tried registering card number two - thankfully, it went through the following day, triggering a confirmation email and initiating the two-week (hopefully) wait for the physical card to arrive in the mail.

(BTW the patience/forgiveness thing was not applied universally. A recent Marketwatch story chronicled frustrations on the part of other would-be users. See "Thousands of MoviePass customers have been charged for cards they never received.")

Four movies in the first 11 days of the year - as captured in this iPhone screenshot. "Check" on this one for 2018!
I promised that "forgiving" advice was my last, but let me add another tidbit or two. Since using your MoviePass is a two-step process, first comes confirming the movie on your smartphone (I forgot, smartphone-less individuals need not apply). Then, interacting with a person in the box office who will swipe your card comes next. Don't worry, all the theater personnel know what a MoviePass is, so don't be afraid to ask for their help!

As they used to say closing my favorite movie-reviews show, "We'll see you at the movies!".