How the Wii is creaming the competition

Friday, April 27th, 2007

It’s interesting to see a story like How the Wii is creaming the competition in a fairly mainstream business magazine (Business 2.0):

In addition to its standard TV campaigns targeting schoolkids, the company pumped 70 percent of its U.S. TV budget into programs aimed at 25-to 49-year-olds, says George Harrison, senior vice president for marketing at Nintendo of America.

He even put Wii ads into gray-haired publications like AARP and Reader’s Digest. For Nintendo’s core users, he took a novel, Web-based approach: “To reach the under-25 audience,” he says, “we pushed our message through online and social-networking channels” including MySpace.

But Nintendo’s most effective marketing trick was to give away its killer app, Wii Sports, with every $250 console. It was a calculated attempt to speed up the process that brought success to the DS. And because Nintendo makes about $50 in profit on every Wii sold, it can afford to give away a game.

Tim Ferriss

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

I’m trying to decide whether Tim Ferriss is my new hero or a shameless self-promoter — or both:

Serial entrepreneur and ultravagabond Timothy Ferriss has been featured by dozens of media, including The New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, NBC, and MAXIM. He speaks six languages, runs a multinational firm from wireless locations worldwide, and has been a popular guest lecturer at Princeton University since 2003, where he presents entrepreneurship as a tool for ideal lifestyle design and world change.
[...]
As a professional polymath, he has amassed a diverse roster of credentials and experience:
  • Princeton University guest lecturer in High-Tech Entrepreneurship and Electrical Engineering
  • Cage fighter in Japan, vanquisher of four world champions (MMA)
  • First American in history to hold a Guinness World Record in tango (video)
  • Advisor to more than 30 world record holders in professional and Olympic sports
  • National Chinese kickboxing champion (video)
  • Glycemic Index (GI) researcher
  • Political asylum researcher and activist
  • MTV breakdancer in Taiwan
  • Hurling competitor in Ireland
  • Actor on hit TV series in mainland China and Hong Kong

Tim received his BA from Princeton University in 2000, where he studied in the Neuroscience and East Asian Studies departments. He developed his nonfiction writing with Pulitzer Prize winner John McPhee and formed his life philosophies under Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Oe.

His new book — pardon, magnum opusThe Four-Hour Work Week, argues that you can “outsource your life to overseas virtual assistants” and travel the world without quitting your job.

Shattering the Bell Curve

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

In Shattering the Bell Curve, David Shaywitz reviews Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan and notes that “the power law rules”:

Mr. Taleb is fascinated by the rare but pivotal events that characterize life in the power-law world. He calls them Black Swans, after the philosopher Karl Popper’s observation that only a single black swan is required to falsify the theory that “all swans are white” even when there are thousands of white swans in evidence. Provocatively, Mr. Taleb defines Black Swans as events (such as the rise of the Internet or the fall of LTCM) that are not only rare and consequential but also predictable only in retrospect. We never see them coming, but we have no trouble concocting post hoc explanations for why they should have been obvious. Surely, Mr. Taleb taunts, we won’t get fooled again. But of course we will.

Writing in a style that owes as much to Stephen Colbert as it does to Michel de Montaigne, Mr. Taleb divides the world into those who “get it” and everyone else, a world partitioned into heroes (Popper, Hayek, Yogi Berra), those on notice (Harold Bloom, necktie wearers, personal-finance advisers) and entities that are dead to him (the bell curve, newspapers, the Nobel Prize in Economics).

A humanist at heart, Mr. Taleb ponders not only the effect of Black Swans but also the reason we have so much trouble acknowledging their existence. And this is where he hits his stride. We eagerly romp with him through the follies of confirmation bias (our tendency to reaffirm our beliefs rather than contradict them), narrative fallacy (our weakness for compelling stories), silent evidence (our failure to account for what we don’t see), ludic fallacy (our willingness to oversimplify and take games or models too seriously), and epistemic arrogance (our habit of overestimating our knowledge and underestimating our ignorance).

Mac or Bonds: Who Roided It Up Better?

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Mac or Bonds: Who Roided It Up Better? That’s hard to say. Neither one resembles his rookie card — but I can’t say I’d look like my rookie card either, if I had one.

Satire busts a hump

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

In Satire busts a hump, Patrick Goldstein praises Morissette’s recent video:

Dressing herself Fergie-style, with baubles and bling, surrounded by black-clad male dancers, Morissette retained the original’s visual sluttiness but replaced the Peas’ thumping rhythm track with a pensive solo piano. By removing the intoxicating bass line and clearly enunciating the crass lyrics, she gave the song’s sexpot swagger a new tone of sadness and desperation while simultaneously parodying her own artistic tendencies toward self-absorbed angst.

(I’ve blogged on the video before.)

Mac or Bonds: Who Roided It Up Better?

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Mac or Bonds: Who Roided It Up Better? That’s hard to say. Neither one resembles his rookie card — but I can’t say I’d look like my rookie card either, if I had one.

Satire busts a hump

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

In Satire busts a hump, Patrick Goldstein praises Morissette’s recent video:

Dressing herself Fergie-style, with baubles and bling, surrounded by black-clad male dancers, Morissette retained the original’s visual sluttiness but replaced the Peas’ thumping rhythm track with a pensive solo piano. By removing the intoxicating bass line and clearly enunciating the crass lyrics, she gave the song’s sexpot swagger a new tone of sadness and desperation while simultaneously parodying her own artistic tendencies toward self-absorbed angst.

(I’ve blogged on the video before.)

Even CEO Can’t Figure Out How RadioShack Still In Business

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

I haven’t been keeping up with The Onion, but this got a chuckle out of me — Even CEO Can’t Figure Out How RadioShack Still In Business.

National Survey Reveals More than 70% of Americans Don’t Know Plastic is Made from Oil

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

National Survey Reveals More than 70% of Americans Don’t Know Plastic is Made from Oil:

  • 72% of respondents do not know that plastic is made out of oil/petroleum

  • On average, respondents estimated 38% of plastic is recycled (the reality is less than 6%, according to the EPA)
  • Nearly 40% (38.1%) of respondents said plastic will biodegrade underground, in home compost, in landfills, or in the ocean (plastic will not biodegrade in any of these environments).

Senators Discuss Preventing College Attacks

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

Senators Discuss Preventing College Attacks — and psychologists present some hard-to-believe statistics:

Some of the most disturbing testimony came from Russ Federman, director of counseling and psychological services at the University of Virginia.

Dr. Federman ticked off statistics from a recent survey about the extent of mental health problems on campuses. He said that 94 percent of students reported feeling overwhelmed by all they have to do, and that nearly 50 percent reported having felt so depressed that it was difficult to function.

In the same survey, 9 percent of students reported seriously considering suicide and 1.3 percent actually attempted suicide. Colleges’ counseling centers are struggling to keep up, Dr. Federman said.

How Wal-Mart’s TV Prices Crushed Rivals

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

How Wal-Mart’s TV Prices Crushed Rivals:

Last “Black Friday,” for its annual post-Thanksgiving sales blitz, Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) decided to slash the price of one of the hottest electronics items for the holidays — the 42-inch flat-panel TV — to $988. The world’s largest retailer had staked similarly audacious positions before, in numerous product categories, as part of its quest to remain U.S. retailing’s “low-price leader.” In turn, Wal-Mart’s move caused a freefall in prices of flat-panel televisions at hundreds of retailers — to the glee of many people who were then able to afford their first big-screen plasma or liquid-crystal-display model.
[...]
The fallout is evident: After closing 70 stores in February, Circuit City Stores (CC) on Mar. 28 laid off 3,400 employees and put its 800 Canadian stores on the block. Tweeter Home Entertainment Group (TWTR), the high-end home entertainment store, is shuttering 49 of its 153 stores and dismissed 650 workers. Dallas-based CompUSA is closing 126 of its 229 stores, and regional retailer Rex Stores (RSC) is boarding up dozens of outlets, as well as selling 94 of its 211 stores. “The tube business and big-screen business just dropped off a cliff,” says Stuart Rose, chief executive officer of Dayton-based Rex Stores. “We expected a dropoff, but nowhere near the decline that we had.” Clearly, these retailers are taking such drastic measures because they don’t see any respite in sight.

Interestingly, it wss Wal-Mart’s small position in the flat-panel TV market that let it do so much damage without suffering much itself:

Despite its bold move last year, Wal-Mart currently is not the largest seller of flat-panel TVs. In fact, even though Wal-Mart set in motion the price drops, it has actually been a bit player in the high-definition TV segment. By most accounts, Wal-Mart had little to lose by dropping the price on the Panasonic TVs because it sold out its inventory nearly instantly.

When a firm has a near-monopoly on a market, it actually suffers disproportionately from lowering prices.

Even CEO Can’t Figure Out How RadioShack Still In Business

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

I haven’t been keeping up with The Onion, but this got a chuckle out of me — Even CEO Can’t Figure Out How RadioShack Still In Business.

National Survey Reveals More than 70% of Americans Don’t Know Plastic is Made from Oil

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

National Survey Reveals More than 70% of Americans Don’t Know Plastic is Made from Oil:

  • 72% of respondents do not know that plastic is made out of oil/petroleum

  • On average, respondents estimated 38% of plastic is recycled (the reality is less than 6%, according to the EPA)
  • Nearly 40% (38.1%) of respondents said plastic will biodegrade underground, in home compost, in landfills, or in the ocean (plastic will not biodegrade in any of these environments).

Senators Discuss Preventing College Attacks

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

Senators Discuss Preventing College Attacks — and psychologists present some hard-to-believe statistics:

Some of the most disturbing testimony came from Russ Federman, director of counseling and psychological services at the University of Virginia.

Dr. Federman ticked off statistics from a recent survey about the extent of mental health problems on campuses. He said that 94 percent of students reported feeling overwhelmed by all they have to do, and that nearly 50 percent reported having felt so depressed that it was difficult to function.

In the same survey, 9 percent of students reported seriously considering suicide and 1.3 percent actually attempted suicide. Colleges’ counseling centers are struggling to keep up, Dr. Federman said.

What Time is Dinner?

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

What Time is Dinner? Well, that has changed over the years:

The names of meals and their general times were once quite standard. Everyone in medieval England knew that you ate breakfast first thing in the morning, dinner in the middle of the day, and supper not long before you went to bed, around sundown. The modern confusion arose from changing social customs and classes, political and economic developments, and even from technological innovations.

Despite our stereotypes of big English breakfasts of sausages, kippers (sardines), toast, tomatoes, etc., big breakfasts weren’t really common until the Victorian age. Breakfast before the 1800s was usually just toast or some variation of gruel or porridge, except when a lavish spread was offered to impress guests. The main meal of the day was dinner.

In the Middle Ages, great nobles ate the most formal dinner, around noon or one p.m. Their dinner was more than a meal; it was an ostentatious display, a statement of wealth and power, with dozens of servants attending in a ritualized performance. Cooking for this grand, daily show began hours in advance, and the preparations for presentation began at 10 or 11 a.m. The meal might take hours, and be eaten in the most formal and elaborately decorated chambers. Lesser nobles, knights and manor holders ate a far less formal dinner, but at the same time of day.

Middle-class tradesmen and merchants, however, had to eat a little later. Their day was bounded by work, not by feudal rituals. They couldn’t leave their shops to see to their own dinners until clients and customers had gone off to their own. So merchants and traders would eat at one or two in the afternoon, and then hurry back to meet the afternoon customers. The middle-class dinner might be served by one or two servants and consisted of bread, soups, pies, and perhaps meats and fish. The dishes varied with the season, and from country to country.

Peasants broke off after six or seven hours of work in the morning to have dinner around noon. This was their main meal too, consisting of bread or porridge, peas or beans, perhaps with some cabbage, turnip or onions thrown in. Sometimes they had meat, fish, cheese or whey (a byproduct of cheese-making). Their meal was much like that of the middle class except there was usually less to eat, and little variety. They ate far more at dinner than at breakfast or supper.