Archive for February, 2012

Iraqi Universities

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Iraq once had the best university system in the Middle East. What happened?

(SPOILER ALERT: It was mostly the looting, bombing, and removal of administrators from positions of influence.)

Targeted Marketing

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

I’m a bit late posting this, but there is a great article from last week’s NYT about the sort of statistical analysis that goes into marketing for department stores like Target. Apparently, shopping for staples like shower curtains or garbage bags is a matter of habit for most people; they don’t really think about different brands or stores. It’s a purchase made entirely on autopilot.

However, during large life changes — marriage, divorce, pregnancy, that sort of thing — these habits become a lot more mutable. That is, marketing efforts that hit a person during these changes are far, far more effective than at more stable points in the victim’s life. The Holy Grail, then, is a statistical model to predict when shoppers are pregnant and thus more pliable.

As Pole’s computers crawled through the data, he was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score. More important, he could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.

One Target employee I spoke to provided a hypothetical example. Take a fictional Target shopper named Jenny Ward, who is 23, lives in Atlanta and in March bought cocoa-butter lotion, a purse large enough to double as a diaper bag, zinc and magnesium supplements and a bright blue rug. There’s, say, an 87 percent chance that she’s pregnant and that her delivery date is sometime in late August. What’s more, because of the data attached to her Guest ID number, Target knows how to trigger Jenny’s habits. They know that if she receives a coupon via e-mail, it will most likely cue her to buy online. They know that if she receives an ad in the mail on Friday, she frequently uses it on a weekend trip to the store. And they know that if they reward her with a printed receipt that entitles her to a free cup of Starbucks coffee, she’ll use it when she comes back again.

Bus vs. Bike

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

For future reference: in a physical confrontation between a cyclist and a bus, the bus is gonna win. Yikes.

Broadway Auditorium

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Apparently, the public works facility known as the Broadway Garage — where, every autumn, we see the giant piles of salt that never seem to make it to the street — might actually be the single oldest surviving hockey venue in the country. Pretty neat little piece of local sports history.


Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Driving in to work the other morning, I caught the shadow of an immense, ancient vehicle for sale near a gas station. It seemed surreal how huge this thing was. I had to check it out. So, yesterday afternoon, I stopped and took some pictures.

Holy crap. This thing has to be 20 feet long and 7 feet wide. It’s massive.


Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

For those of you who haven’t checked the Tuna blog lately, there’s been a flurry of activity surrounding the Tunachucker Ford LTD Landau. For starters, we’ve decided to yank the low compression, low power, smogtastic 70’s era 400 cubic inch V8 and replace it with something a little more…potent…

We race in a little over 3 weeks.

Secretive Subterranean Shadow Seeker

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

So I wake up this morning to the radio station that my clock radio is set for playing this.