Archive for ‘Money’

August 13, 2012

Strength Through Joy

Strength through Joy‘ (‘Kraft durch Freude,’ KdF) was a large state-controlled leisure organization in Nazi Germany. It was a part of the German Labor Front (‘Deutsche Arbeitsfront,’ DAF), the national German labor organization at that time. Set up as a tool to promote the advantages of National Socialism to the people, it soon became the world’s largest tourism operator of the 1930s. KdF was supposed to bridge the class divide by making middle-class leisure activities available to the masses. This was underscored by having cruises with passengers of mixed classes and having them, regardless of social status, draw lots for allocation of cabins. Another less ideological goal was to boost the German economy by stimulating the tourist industry out of its slump from the 1920s. It was quite successful up until the outbreak of World War II. By 1934, over two million Germans had participated on a KdF trip; by 1939 the reported numbers lay around 25 million people. The organization essentially collapsed in 1939, and several projects, such as the massive Prora holiday resort, were never completed.

KdF set up production of an affordable car, the Kdf-Wagen, which later became the Volkswagen Beetle. Buyers of the car made payments and posted stamps in a stamp-savings book, which when full, would be redeemed for the car. Due to the shift to wartime production, no consumer ever received a Kdf-Wagen (although after the war, Volkswagen did give some customers a 200DM discount for their stamp-books). The Beetle factory was primarily converted to produce the Kübelwagen (the German equivalent of the jeep). What few Beetles were produced went primarily to the diplomatic corps and military officials.

August 13, 2012

Growler

A growler [grou-ler] is a glass or ceramic jug with a capacity of 64 oz (1,900 ml) used to transport draught beer in Australia, the United States, and Canada. They are commonly sold at breweries and brewpubs as a means to sell take-out beer. The exploding growth of craft breweries and the growing popularity of home brewing has also led to an emerging market for the sale of collectible growlers. Growlers are generally made of glass and have either a screw-on cap or a hinged porcelain gasket cap, which can provide freshness for a week or more. A properly sealed growler will hold carbonation indefinitely and will store beer like any other sanitized bottle. Some growler caps are equipped with valves to allow replacement of CO2 lost while racking. The modern glass growler was first introduced by Charlie and Ernie Otto of Otto Brother’s Brewing Company in 1989.

While 64 oz (0.5 gallons) is the most popular growler size, growlers are commonly found in 32 oz, 128 oz, 1 L and 2 L sizes as well. The two most popular colors for growlers are amber (dark glass greatly reduces UV light from spoiling the beer) or clear (often referred to as ‘flint’). Clear growlers are often 25% – 35% cheaper per unit than their amber counterparts. Glass handles are the most common type of handle for growlers, although metal handles (with more ornate designs) can also be found. Some growlers do not have handles – this is especially common with growlers smaller than 64 oz. that have Grolsch-style flip-tops. The term likely dates back to the late 19th century when fresh beer was carried from the local pub to one’s home by means of a small galvanized, rust-resistant pail. It is claimed the sound that the CO2 made when it escaped from the lid as the beer sloshed around sounded like a growl.

August 10, 2012

Yoyodyne

Yoyodyne is a fictitious defense contractor introduced in Thomas Pynchon’s ‘V.’ (1963) and featured prominently in his novel ‘The Crying of Lot 49′ (1966). Described in the latter book as ‘a giant of the aerospace industry,’ Yoyodyne was founded by World War II veteran Clayton ‘Bloody’ Chiclitz. The company has a large manufacturing plant in the fictional town of San Narciso, California. The name is reminiscent of several real high-tech companies, including Teledyne, Teradyne, which was founded a few years before Pynchon wrote ‘The Crying of Lot 49,’ and Rocketdyne, an aerospace company that manufactured, among other things, propulsion systems. The ‘dyne’ is the standard unit of force in the centimeter-gram-second system of units (largely obsolete but still widely recognized), derived from the Greek word dynamis meaning ‘power’ or ‘force.’

The 1984 film ‘The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension’ used the name, as Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems, for a defense contractor whose corporate offices feature the sign, ‘Where the future begins tomorrow.’ Yoyodyne is a front for a group of red Lectroid aliens, all with the first name John, that landed in New Jersey in 1938, using the panic created by Orson Welles’ ‘War of the Worlds’ radio play as cover. Numerous references in the ‘Star Trek series,’ such as control panels and dedication plaques, indicate that parts of Federation starships were manufactured by Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems or YPS. Often, these notices are too small to be visible on a television screen, or can only be observed by freeze-framing. The creators of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ were noted fans of Buckaroo Banzai and featured many references to the film in the series.

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August 9, 2012

Irrational Exuberance

Irrational exuberance‘ is a phrase used by the then-Federal Reserve Board Chairman, Alan Greenspan, in a speech given at the American Enterprise Institute during the Dot-com bubble of the 1990s. The phrase was interpreted as a warning that the market might be somewhat overvalued. Greenspan’s comment was made in late 1996: ‘[…] Clearly, sustained low inflation implies less uncertainty about the future, and lower risk premiums imply higher prices of stocks and other earning assets. We can see that in the inverse relationship exhibited by price/earnings ratios and the rate of inflation in the past. But how do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values, which then become subject to unexpected and prolonged contractions as they have in Japan over the past decade?’

The prescience of the short comment within a rather dry and complex speech would not normally have been so memorable; however, it was followed by immediate slumps in stock markets worldwide, particularly the Nasdaq Composite, provoking a strong reaction in financial circles and making its way into colloquial speech. Greenspan’s comment was well remembered, although few heeded the ‘warning.’ The phrase was picked up by Yale professor Robert Shiller, who used it as the title of a book on the topic in 2000. By the mid-to-late 2000s the losses were recouped and eclipsed by a combination of events, including the 2000s commodities boom and the United States housing bubble. However, the late-2000s recession of 2007 onwards wiped out these gains. The second market slump brought the phrase back into the public eye, where it was much used in hindsight, to characterize the excesses of the bygone era.

August 9, 2012

K Tape

Elastic therapeutic tape, commonly referred to as ‘kinesiology tape,’ is an elastic cotton strip with an acrylic adhesive that is used with the intention of treating athletic injuries and a variety of physical disorders.

Numerous studies have failed to show that elastic therapeutic taping produces clinically significant benefits. A 2012 systematic review found that the efficacy of Kinesio Tape in pain relief was trivial.

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August 6, 2012

Girls’ Toys

Girls’ games and toys are a large yet difficult market for the children’s toy industry. Nancy Zwiers, an industry consultant and former head of worldwide marketing for Mattel’s Barbie doll line, has pointed out the male-centred bias that makes development of girls’ toys difficult: ‘When I tour different company showrooms and look at what they’re doing, many times it’s a bunch of guys making decisions about what girls would like, and they miss the mark.’

‘Age compression’ is a toy industry term that describes the modern trend of children moving through play stages faster than they did in the past. Children have a desire to progress to more complex toys at a faster pace, girls in particular. Barbie dolls, for example, were once marketed to girls around 8 years old, but have been found to be more popular in recent years with girls around 3 years old. The packaging for the dolls labels them appropriate for ages 3 and up.

August 3, 2012

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things refers to uniquely identifiable objects (things) and their virtual representations in an Internet-like structure. The term ‘Internet of Things’ was first used by British technology pioneer Kevin Ashton in 1999. The concept first became popular through his Auto-ID Center at MIT, which created a global standard system for RFID (radio-frequency identification) and other sensors. RFID is often seen as a prerequisite for the Internet of Things. If all objects and people in daily life were equipped with radio tags, they could be identified and inventoried by computers. However, unique identification of things may be achieved through other means such as barcodes, QR codes, and advanced computer object recognition. Equipping all objects in the world with minuscule identifying devices could be transformative of daily life. For instance, business may no longer run out of stock or generate waste products, as involved parties would know which products are required and consumed. One’s ability to interact with objects could be altered remotely based on immediate or present needs, in accordance with existing end-user agreements.

Ashton’s original definition was: ‘Today computers—and, therefore, the Internet—are almost wholly dependent on human beings for information. Nearly all of the roughly 50 petabytes (a petabyte is 1,024 terabytes) of data available on the Internet were first captured and created by human beings—by typing, pressing a record button, taking a digital picture or scanning a bar code. Conventional diagrams of the Internet … leave out the most numerous and important routers of all – people. The problem is, people have limited time, attention and accuracy—all of which means they are not very good at capturing data about things in the real world. And that’s a big deal. We’re physical, and so is our environment … You can’t eat bits, burn them to stay warm or put them in your gas tank. Ideas and information are important, but things matter much more. Yet today’s information technology is so dependent on data originated by people that our computers know more about ideas than things. If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best. The Internet of Things has the potential to change the world, just as the Internet did. Maybe even more so.’

August 1, 2012

Project Glass

Project Glass is a research and development program by Google to develop an augmented reality head-mounted display (HMD). The intended purpose of Project Glass products would be the hands free displaying of information currently available to most smartphone users, and allowing for interaction with the Internet via natural language voice commands, in a manner which has been compared to the iPhone feature Siri. The functionality and physical appearance (minimalist design of the aluminium strip with 2 nose pads) has been compared to the EyeTap (developed by Steve Mann at the University of Toronto), which was also referred to as ‘Glass’ (‘EyeTap Digital Eye Glass’). Though head-worn displays for augmented reality are not a new idea, the project has drawn media attention primarily due to its backing by Google, as well as the prototype, which is smaller and slimmer than previous designs for head-mounted displays. The first Project Glass demo resembles a pair of normal eyeglasses where the lens is replaced by a heads-up display. In the future, new designs may allow integration of the display into people’s normal eyewear. The product (Google Glass Explorer Edition) will be available to developers for $1,500, shipping early in 2013, while a consumer version is slated to be ready within a year of that.

Project Glass is part of the Google X Lab (a secret facility thought to be located in Northern California) which has worked on other futuristic technologies, such as a self-driving car, a space elevator, a neural network that uses semi-supervised learning to recognize pictures of cats, and the Web of Things (objects that contain an embedded device or computer, integrating them into the Web). Project Glass was announced on Google+ by Babak Parviz, an electrical engineer who has also worked on putting displays into contact lenses; Steve Lee, a project manager and ‘geolocation specialist'; and Sebastian Thrun, who developed Udacity (a private educational organization with the stated goal of democratizing education) as well as worked on the self-driving car project. The product began testing in 2012. Sergey Brin wore a prototype set of glasses to a Foundation Fighting Blindness event in San Francisco. He demoed the glasses at a Google conference where skydivers and mountain bikers wore the glasses and live streamed their point of view to a Google+ Hangout, which was also shown live at the presentation. Despite the generally positive reception for the prototype, there have been numerous parodies and criticisms aimed at the general notion of augmented reality glasses, ranging from the potential for Google to insert advertising (its main source of revenue) to more dystopian outcomes.

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July 31, 2012

Kinect

Kinect is a motion sensing input device released by Microsoft in 2010 for the Xbox 360 game console, and in 2012 for Windows PC. Based around a webcam-style add-on peripheral, it enables users to control and interact with software without the need to touch a game controller (through a natural user interface using gestures and spoken commands). The project is aimed at broadening the Xbox 360’s audience beyond its typical gamer base. Kinect competes with the Wii Remote Plus and PlayStation Move with PlayStation Eye motion controllers for the Wii and PlayStation 3 home consoles, respectively. After selling a total of 8 million units in its first 60 days, the Kinect holds the Guinness World Record of being the ‘fastest selling consumer electronics device.’

Kinect builds on software technology developed internally by Rare, a subsidiary of Microsoft Game Studios owned by Microsoft, and on range camera technology by Israeli developer PrimeSense, which developed a system that can interpret specific gestures, making completely hands-free control of electronic devices possible by using an infrared projector and camera and a special microchip to track the movement of objects and individuals in three dimension. This 3D scanner system called ‘Light Coding’ employs a variant of image-based 3D reconstruction. The Kinect sensor is a horizontal bar connected to a small base with a motorized pivot and is designed to be positioned lengthwise above or below the video display. The device features an ‘RGB camera, depth sensor, and multi-array microphone running proprietary software,’ which provide full-body 3D motion capture, facial recognition, and voice recognition capabilities. The Kinect sensor’s microphone array enables the Xbox 360 to conduct acoustic source localization and ambient noise suppression, allowing for things such as headset-free party chat over Xbox Live.

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July 30, 2012

Tough Mudder

Tough Mudder is an adventure sports company that hosts 10-12 mile endurance event obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie that are billed as ‘probably the toughest event on the planet’ and regularly attract 15-20,000 participants over a two day weekend. Tough Mudder events are a new type of team endurance challenge. According to ‘The New York Times,’ the events are ‘more convivial than marathons and triathlons, but more grueling than shorter runs or novelty events (for example, ‘Warrior Dash’ courses are 3-4 miles).’ Contestants are not timed and organizers encourage ‘mudders’ to demonstrate teamwork by helping fellow participants over difficult obstacles to complete the course. The prize for completing a Tough Mudder challenge is an official orange sweatband and a free beer. It is estimated that 15-20% of participants do not finish. Each event is designed to be unique and incorporates challenges and obstacles that utilize the local terrain.

Tough Mudder was founded by Will Dean and Guy Livingstone. Dean developed the concept while studying at Harvard Business School, where Tough Mudder was a finalist in the annual business plan contest. Tough Mudder is headquartered in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Tough Mudder’s first event was held in 2010 at Bear Creek Ski Resort near Allentown, PA. The capacity of 4,500 tickets sold out in just 35 days and the event raised more than $200,000 for ‘The Wounded Warrior Project.’ Tough Mudder plans to host 30-40 events in 2012 while expanding internationally to the UK and Australia. Tough Mudder strives to shift the focus of endurance sports away from personal performance and repetitive exercise to varied challenges, teamwork, camaraderie, and fun. At the end of each year, the top 5% of previous Tough Mudder participants are eligible to compete in the ‘World’s Toughest Mudder’ competition, a timed 24-hour championship competition designed to ‘find the toughest man and woman on the planet.’

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July 30, 2012

Po Bronson

Po Bronson (b. 1964) is an American journalist and author who lives in San Francisco. After attending Lakeside School in Seattle, he graduated from Stanford University in 1986 and briefly worked as an assistant bond salesman in San Francisco. He abandoned finance to pursue writing, publishing short stories and eventually a comedic novel based upon his bond trading experiences. ‘Bombardiers’ was an international best seller in 1995. Bronson went on to write articles for ‘The New York Times Magazine’ and other periodicals, but perhaps became best known for his work in ‘Wired’ magazine and other technology-related publications. In the late 1990s, Bronson became a leading chronicler of Silicon Valley in its heyday, writing two more best sellers. The first, ‘The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest,’ was a novel sending up technology start-ups. The second, ‘The Nudist on the Late Shift,’ was a nonfiction portrayal of those who had followed the modern day gold rush to Silicon Valley.

With the collapse of the internet bubble in 2000, and after creating ‘The $treet,’ a short-lived television drama for Fox (again drawing upon his bond trading days), Bronson began searching for a new direction for his career. Realizing he was not alone in this quest, he began to focus on others in similar quandaries. He spent the next two years working on a new nonfiction book, ‘What Should I Do With My Life?’ which profiles about 50 people, exploring how each had confronted the question. Bronson’s followed-up with ‘Why Do I Love These People?’ The book tells the stories of about 20 people who have had extraordinary experiences with their families. Partly as a result of the research Bronson did for those two books, he became a columnist for ‘TIME’ online. His columns frequently draw on his research data to challenge arguments that American society is on a moral decline. For example, he argues against the idea that the institution of marriage has disintegrated from an ideal past filled with stable nuclear families. He also argues that most young adults who live with their parents are not slackers, but are working, attending school, and volunteering full time. With co-author Ashley Merryman, he released a book in September 2009 entitled ‘NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children.’ The book discusses theories and scientific aspects of parenting.

July 30, 2012

Machine-to-Machine

Machine-to-machine (M2M) refers to technologies that allow both wireless and wired systems to communicate with other devices of the same ability. M2M uses a device (such as a sensor or meter) to capture an event (such as temperature, inventory level, etc.), which is relayed through a network (wireless, wired, or hybrid) to an application (software program), that translates the captured event into meaningful information (for example, ‘items need to be restocked’). Such communication was originally accomplished by having a remote network of machines relay information back to a central hub for analysis, which would then be rerouted into a system like a personal computer. However, modern M2M communication has expanded beyond a one-to-one connection and changed into a system of networks that transmits data to personal appliances. The expansion of IP networks across the world has made it far easier for M2M communication to take place and has lessened the amount of power and time necessary for information to be communicated between machines. These networks also allow an array of new business opportunities and connections between consumers and producers in terms of the products being sold.

M2M predates Cellular communication. It has been around and referred to as Telemetry (measurements from a distance), Industrial Automation, and Scada (supervisory control and data acquisition), among other terms. Cellular M2M emerged around 2000 (an early example is GM’s OnStar system). In Norway, Telenor concluded ten years of M2M research by setting up two entities serving the upper (services) and lower (connectivity) parts of the value-chain. Drawing on that experience, they became a market leader in Europe for logistics, fleet management, car safety, healthcare, and smart metering of electricity consumption. Another application of M2M technology is the use of wireless networks to update digital billboards. This allows advertisers to display different messages based on time of day or day-of-week, and allows quick global changes for messages, such as pricing changes for gasoline. Telematics and in-vehicle entertainment is another area of focus for M2M developers. Recent examples include Ford Motor Company, which has teamed with AT&T to wirelessly connect the Ford Focus Electric to a dedicated app that includes the ability for the owner to monitor and control vehicle charge settings, plan single- or multiple-stop journeys, locate charging stations, pre-heat or cool the car.

July 27, 2012

Participatory Culture

Participatory culture is a neologism in reference of, but opposite to a Consumer culture — in other words a culture in which private persons (the public) do not act as consumers only, but also as contributors or producers (‘prosumers’). The term is most often applied to the production or creation of some type of published media.

This new culture as it relates to the Internet has been described as ‘Web 2.0.’ In participatory culture ‘young people creatively respond to a plethora of electronic signals and cultural commodities in ways that surprise their makers, finding meanings and identities never meant to be there and defying simple nostrums that bewail the manipulation or passivity of ‘consumers.”

July 27, 2012

Counter-economics

Counter-economics is a term originally used by libertarian activists Samuel Edward Konkin III and J. Neil Schulman, defined as ‘the study and/or practice of all peaceful human action which is forbidden by the State.’ The term is short for ‘counter-establishment economics.’ Counter-economics was integrated by Schulman into Konkin’s doctrine of agorism (a philosophy that advocates the goal of the bringing about of a society in which all relations between people are voluntary exchanges). The first presentation of the theory at a conference in 1974 in Massachusetts. The first book to portray counter-economics as a strategy for achieving a libertarian society was Schulman’s novel ‘Alongside Night’ (1979). Konkin’s agorism, as exposited in his ‘New Libertarian Manifesto,’ postulates that the correct method of achieving a voluntary society is through advocacy and growth of the underground economy or ‘black market’ – the ‘counter-economy’ as Konkin put it – until such a point that the State’s perceived moral authority and outright power have been so thoroughly undermined that revolutionary market anarchist legal and security enterprises are able to arise from underground and ultimately suppress government as a criminal activity (with taxation being treated as theft, war being treated as mass murder, et cetera).

According to Konkin’s pamphlet ‘Counter-Economics': ‘The Counter-Economy is the sum of all non-aggressive Human Action which is forbidden by the State. Counter-economics is the study of the Counter-Economy and its practices. The Counter-Economy includes the free market, the Black Market, the ‘underground economy,’ all acts of civil and social disobedience, all acts of forbidden association (sexual, racial, cross-religious), and anything else the State, at any place or time, chooses to prohibit, control, regulate, tax, or tariff. The Counter-Economy excludes all State-approved action (the ‘White Market’) and the Red Market (violence and theft not approved by the State). According to Konkin, counter-economics also allows for immediate self-liberation from statist controls, to whatever degree practical, by applying entrepreneurial logic to rationally decide which laws to discreetly break and when. The fundamental principle is to trade risk for profit, although profit can refer to any gain in perceived value rather than strictly monetary gains (as a consequence of the subjective theory of value). Various practices of counter-economics include these voluntary practices: arms trafficking; bartering and alternative currency use; being or hiring illegal immigrants; drug trafficking; smuggling; subsistence farming; and tax evasion.

July 26, 2012

The Hidden Wiki

The Hidden Wiki is a website that uses hidden services available through the Tor network. The use of Tor to provide anonymity allows the site to advertise links to a range of other sites, including ones offering illegal drugs and child pornography. The site provides a range of links in a wiki format to other hidden services and sites on the clearnet (sites that can be accessed in a standard browser). These include links to child pornography sites, sites selling drugs and other contraband such as the Silk Road. Scot Terban, an independent security researcher, commented: ‘It’s kind of like any black market operation except this one was in cyberspace and pretty much completely anonymous. Because it was anonymous, people felt free to trade openly in illegal things, mess around by putting up ads for services like hired assassins, and in the end, became a haven for pedophiles and their content.’

In 2011, the hacktivist collective Anonymous launched ‘Operation Darknet,’ in an attempt to disrupt the activities of child porn sites accessed through hidden services. Anonymous published a link that it claimed were the user names of 1,589 members of ‘Lolita City,’ a child porn site accessed via the Tor network. Anonymous said that it had found the site via ‘The Hidden Wiki,’ and that it contained over 100 gigabytes of child pornography. ‘Lolita City’ was taken offline in a denial-of-service attack by Anonymous. Graham Cluley, a security expert, argued that attacks on hidden child porn websites could be counterproductive, commenting: ‘Their intentions may have been good, but take-downs of illegal websites and sharing networks should be done by the authorities, not internet vigilantes.’

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