September 28, 2016

Dogs Know More than We Knew



(p. A1) Dr. Andics, who studies language and behavior in dogs and humans, along with Adam Miklosi and several other colleagues, reported in a paper to be published in this week's issue of the journal Science that different parts of dogs' brains respond to the meaning of a word, and to how the word is said, much as human brains do.


. . .


A trainer spoke words in Hungarian -- common words of praise used by dog owners like "good boy," "super" and "well done." The trainer also tried neutral words like "however" and "nevertheless." Both the praise words and neutral words were offered in positive and neutral tones.

The positive words spoken in a positive tone prompted strong activity in the brain's reward centers. All the other conditions resulted in significantly less action, and all at the same level.


. . .


In terms of evolution of language, the results suggest that the capacity to process meaning and emotion in different parts of the brain and tie them together is not uniquely human. This ability had already evolved in non-primates long before humans began to talk.



For the full story, see:

JAMES GORMAN. "For Dogs, It's What You Say and Also How You Say It." The New York Times (Tues., AUG. 30, 2016): A14.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 29, 2016, and has the title "With Dogs, It's What You Say -- and How You Say It.")


The scientific article on canine cognition, mentioned above, is:

Andics, A., A. Gábor, M. Gácsi, T. Faragó, D. Szabó, and Á Miklósi. "Neural Mechanisms for Lexical Processing in Dogs." Science 353, no. 6303 (Sept. 2, 2016): 1030-32.




September 27, 2016

Startup Entry and Scaling Are Easier and Faster Due to Internet



(p. B1) The world might be a mess, but look on the bright side: Men's shaving products are much better than they used to be.


. . .


The same forces that drove Dollar Shave's rise are altering a wide variety of consumer product categories. Together, they add up to something huge -- a new slate of companies that are exploring novel ways of making and marketing some of the most lucrative (p. B7) products we buy today. These firms have become so common that they have acquired a jargony label: the digitally native vertical brand.

These kinds of online brands aren't new. Dollar Shave is five years old, and Warby Parker, the online eyewear company, began selling glasses over the web in 2010. But over the last few years there's been a proliferation of such companies -- into underwear, children's clothing, cosmetics and more -- and the Dollar Shave deal suggests their growing importance. These firms could become an emerging problem for consumer products conglomerates like Procter & Gamble, and they might also spell trouble for television, which relies heavily on brand advertising for its revenue.


. . .


"We think it's a unique moment in history where you can create brands that can be scaled quickly thanks to technology, but you can still maintain a one-to-one connection that delivers an elevated level of customer experience," said Philip Krim, chief executive of Casper, which sells mattresses online.

Mr. Krim and four friends started Casper two years ago after studying the traditional mattress industry. They discovered it was plagued by inefficiencies and annoying gimmicks. Customers had to trudge to a mattress store and awkwardly prostrate themselves on numerous surfaces before choosing one to use for a decade. There were too many choices and brands, and mattresses were expensive.

With Casper, you simply buy the mattress online and it's shipped to you in a comically small box (the compressed foam expands into a full-sized mattress, like a magic trick). You have three months to try it out, and if you don't like it, the company will come pick it up free.

Casper's business model offers a break from the annoyance of offline mattress shopping. It also works out for the company. Casper advertises on social networks, on Google, podcasts and a variety of other places online; the ads are creative, convincing, targeted and cheap. By selling directly rather than through retail middlemen, the company also creates a connection with customers that allows it to test and develop new products -- it now sells sheets and pillows, too.

After two years in business, Casper is on track to book $200 million in sales over the next year, but its success isn't ensured. Precisely because the internet has lowered barriers to entry, Casper is facing a surge of new mattress start-ups like Helix Sleep, Tuft & Needle and Leesa, among others.



For the full commentary, see:

Manjoo, Farhad. "STATE OF THE ART; How Companies Like Dollar Shave Club Are Reshaping the Retail." The New York Times (Thurs., JULY 28, 2016): B1 & B7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date JULY 27, 2016, and has the title "STATE OF THE ART; How Companies Like Dollar Shave Club Are Reshaping the Retail.")






September 26, 2016

Patent Holder of Piggly Wiggly Self-Service Method Sued Hoggly Woggly for Infringement



(p. A11) A typical U.S. supermarket carries 42,000 items: Grab a cart, stroll the aisles and help yourself to an extravagant assortment of goods. Today it's hard to imagine buying groceries any other way. But self-service was a game-changer when Clarence Saunders opened the first Piggly Wiggly in Memphis, Tenn., 100 years ago this month.

Before then a shopper would hand his grocery list to a clerk, who would fetch the merchandise while the customer lingered up front. That might sound appealing in this era of big-box stores with no help in sight, but at busy times the wait could stretch uncomfortably long.

Saunders, a school dropout who worked as a flour and grain salesman, had observed firsthand the inefficiencies of the rural grocers he supplied. Many of these stores, he became convinced, failed for two reasons: credit losses from customers' charge accounts (which were then customary), and labor costs from clerks and delivery boys.


. . .


Eager to protect his invention, Saunders applied for multiple patents. His first, for a "Self Serving Store," was granted in 1917. It wasn't long, though, before imitators like Handy Andy and Helpy Selfy made their debut. Saunders successfully sued an especially brash copycat, Hoggly Woggly, for infringement.


. . .


Saunders didn't integrate circuits or sequence the human genome. An observer once noted that coming up with a self-service grocery was "as simple as looking out the window or scratching your ear." Still, it was Saunders who gambled on the unconventional approach, doggedly spread self-service across the nation and shaped the grocery industry we know today.



For the full commentary, see:

JERRY CIANCIOLO. "The Man Who Invented the Grocery Store." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Sept. 8, 2016): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 7, 2016.)


The only book I could find about Clarence Saunders, is:

Freeman, Mike. Clarence Saunders and the Founding of Piggly Wiggly: The Rise & Fall of a Memphis Maverick. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2011.






September 25, 2016

Did Feds Try to Sully Sully's Reputation?



(p. B3) Even before this weekend's release of the Hollywood movie "Sully," about the pilot who safely landed a disabled US Airways airliner on the Hudson River on a frigid January day in 2009, a rebuttal campaign is already underway by some of the participants in the real-life story.

The federal investigators who conducted the inquiry into the flight contend that "Sully" tarnishes their reputation.


. . .


Allyn Stewart, a producer of the film, said it was not a case of taking creative license to ratchet up the drama. "The story is told through the experiences of Jeff and Sully, and so they felt under extreme scrutiny and they were," Ms. Stewart said.

Jeff is the co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, played in the film by Aaron Eckhart.

Captain Sullenberger, who retired from US Airways in 2010, said in an email that the tension in the film accurately reflected his state of mind at the time. "For those who are the focus of the investigation, the intensity of it is immense," he said, adding that the process was "inherently adversarial, with professional reputations absolutely in the balance."



For the full story, see:

CHRISTINE NEGRONI. "Safety Agency Challenges True' Story told in the Film 'Sully'." The New York Times (Sat., SEPT. 10, 2016): B3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date SEPT. 9, 2016, and has the title "'Sully' Is Latest Historical Film to Prompt Off-Screen Drama.")


Sully's book, on which the movie is loosely based, is:

Sullenberger, Chesley B., III, and Jeffrey Zaslow. Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009.






September 24, 2016

Executive Job-Hopping Increases



(p. B8) Corey Heller often finds himself ordering fresh business cards. The human resources executive has switched employers nine times since 1996--and spent less than three years at six of those workplaces.

In any other era, the 51-year-old Mr. Heller would be viewed as an unstable job hopper. But today, that stigma is starting to fade amid greater pressure for rapid results and decreased workplace loyalty, according to executive recruiters and coaches. The change suggests that companies increasingly believe high-level hires with multiple recent employers bring fresh insights and a mix of experience.


. . .


Brief stints will spread "because of the explosion of online recruiting and opportunistic offers to candidates with strong profiles,'' predicts Stefanie Smith, a New York executive coach.



For the full story, see:

JOANN S. LUBLIN. "Job-Hopping Is Losing Its Stigma." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., July 27, 2016): B8.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 26, 2016, and has the title "Job-Hopping Executives No Longer Pay Penalty.")






September 23, 2016

When Consumers Want More Trucks and SUVs, Feds Mandate More Hybrids and Electrics



(p. B1) DETROIT -- While American consumers were taking advantage of low gas prices to buy trucks and sport utility vehicles in large numbers, some automakers delayed investing in slower-selling electrified vehicles.

But with increases in federal fuel-economy standards looming in 2017, car companies are hustling to bring out hybrid and electric models to help them meet the new rules -- even though electrified vehicles make up only 2 percent of overall sales.

The federal government has mandated corporate average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. But companies need to meet an interim standard of about 37 m.p.g. by next year.

Now, despite declining gas prices, automakers are showing off a raft of electric and hybrid models this week at the annual North American International Auto Show in Detroit.



For the full story, see:

BILL VLASIC. "Going Electric, Even if Gas Is Cheap." The New York Times (Tues., JAN. 12, 2016): B1 & B3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JAN. 11, 2016, and has the title "Automakers Go Electric, Even if Gas Is Cheap.")






September 22, 2016

Sutter Headed BHAG Team that Created Boeing 747





Collins and Porras in Built to Last recommend the pursuit of Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAGs). A prime example is the Boeing 747.



(p. B9) Joe Sutter, whose team of 4,500 engineers took just 29 months to design and build the first jumbo Boeing 747 jetliner, creating a gleaming late-20th-century airborne answer to the luxury ocean liner, died on Tuesday [August 30, 2016] in Bremerton, Wash.


. . .


In less time than Magellan spent circumnavigating the globe, Boeing engineers transformed Mr. Sutter's napkin doodles into the humpbacked, wide-bodied behemoth passenger and cargo plane known as the 747. The plane would transform commercial aviation and shrink the world for millions of passengers by traveling faster and farther than other, conventional jetliners, without having to refuel.


. . .


"If ever a program seemed set up for failure, it was mine," Mr. Sutter said in his 2006 autobiography, "747: Creating the World's First Jumbo Jet and Other Adventures From a Life in Aviation," written with Jay Spenser.


. . .


Adam Bruckner of the University of Washington's department of aeronautics and astronautics later described the 747 as "one of the great engineering wonders of the world, like the pyramids of Egypt, the Eiffel Tower or the Panama Canal."


. . .


"Aviators were more than mere mortals to us," Mr. Sutter recalled in his autobiography. "They were a different breed, intrepid demigods in silk scarves, puttees and leather flying helmets with goggles."



For the full obituary, see:

SAM ROBERTS. "Joe Sutter, 95, Is Dead; Guided the Development of Boeing's 747 Jetliner." The New York Times (Fri., Sept. 2, 2016): B9.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Sept. 1, 2016, and has the title "Joe Sutter, Who Led an Army in Building Boeing's Jumbo 747, Dies at 95.")


Sutter's autobiography, is:

Sutter, Joe, and Jay Spencer. 747: Creating the World's First Jumbo Jet and Other Adventures from a Life in Aviation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006.






September 21, 2016

Maduro Counts on Marxist Professor to Be Miraculous "Jesus Christ of Economics"



(p. B1) CARACAS, Venezuela--President Nicolás Maduro, hoping for an economic miracle to salvage his country, has placed his trust in an obscure Marxist professor from Spain who holds so much sway the president calls him "the Jesus Christ of economics."

Alfredo Serrano--a 40-year-old economist whose long hair and beard have also elicited the president's comparison to Jesus--has become the central economic adviser to Mr. Maduro, according to a number of officials in the ruling United Socialist Party and other government consultants.


. . .


Most international and domestic economists blame Venezuela's food shortages, which have triggered riots, on price controls and expropriations. Mr. Serrano, though, attributes an "inefficient distribution system in the hands of speculative capitalism," which he says allows companies to hoard products. He also says foreign and local reactionary forces are waging an economic war against Venezuela.

The adviser has championed urban agriculture in a country where about 40% of fertile land is left fallow by price controls and seed shortages. Mr. Maduro created the Ministry of Urban Agriculture, headed by a 33-year-old member researcher at Mr. Serrano's think tank, Lorena Freitez. A senior adviser at the think tank, Ricardo Menéndez, heads the planning ministry.

"Serrano is a typical European leftist who came to Latin America to experiment with things no one wants at home: state domination, price controls and fixed exchange rates," said José Guerra, a Venezuelan opposition lawmaker and former chief economist at the central bank.



For the full story, see:

ANATOLY KURMANAEV and MAYELA ARMAS. "Maduro Turns to Spanish Marxist for a Miracle." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Aug. 9, 2016): A9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 8, 2016, and has the title "Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro Looks to a Marxist Spaniard for an Economic Miracle.")






September 20, 2016

Airline Startups Stall in Bureaucratic Regulatory Headwinds



(p. B4) Mr. Vallas owns California Pacific Airlines, known as CP Air, his latest venture in a peripatetic business career that has included stints in areas as varied as land development and other aviation-related ventures.

CP Air has sat on a metaphorical runway for years -- engines idling, ready for takeoff -- while awaiting certification by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Mr. Vallas's patience is wearing thin. After all, he is 95, and he regards the airline as a legacy, an exclamation point to a colorful life.


. . .


. . . then there was that matter with the F.A.A. The agency has repeatedly denied applications. A letter from 2013, one of several from the agency, advised him that the application's contents were "incomplete, inaccurate and do not appear to have been reviewed for quality."


. . .


The government shutdown in 2013 and the F.A.A.'s staff reduction did not help matters, the agency acknowledges.


. . .


The process of greenlighting a new airline has become more complicated since Mr. Vallas sold a previous venture, a charter service called Air Resorts, in 1997.

He acknowledges the vast increase in paperwork since that era but contends that the conditions for acceptance have been met.

Mr. Vallas's airline is not the only one that has encountered bureaucratic headwinds. Other proposed airlines are in limbo for various reasons, including Baltia Airlines, created in 1989 to fly between New York City and Russia, which still lacks the authorities' blessing.



For the full story, see:

MIKE TIERNEY. "ITINERARIES; A Start-Up Airline Idles on a California Runway." The New York Times (Tues., APRIL 26, 2016): B4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date APRIL 25, 2016, and has the title "ITINERARIES; Start-Up Airline Idles on a California Runway, Stymied by Bureaucracy.")






September 19, 2016

Innovations Make It Easier to Form and Run Smaller Firms



(p. B3) Unilever is paying $1 billion for Dollar Shave Club, a five-year-old start-up that sells razors and other personal products for men. Every other company should be afraid, very afraid.

The deal anecdotally shows that no company is safe from the creative destruction brought by technological change. The very nature of a company is fundamentally changing, becoming smaller and leaner with far fewer employees.


. . .


Now it is possible to leverage technology and transportation systems that never existed before. Dollar Shave Club used Amazon Web Services, a cloud computing service started by the online retailing giant in 2006 that encouraged a proliferation of e-commerce companies. Manufacturing now is just as much a line item as is a distribution apparatus. This is the business strategy of many other disruptive companies, including the home-sharing site Airbnb, which upends the idea of needing a hotel. The ride-hailing start-up Uber could never have been possible without a number of inventions including the internet, the smartphone and, most important, location tracking technology, enabling anyone to be a driver.



For the full commentary, see:

STEVEN DAVIDOFF SOLOMON. "Deal Professor; In Comfort of a Close Shave, a Distressing Disruption." The New York Times (Weds., JULY 27, 2016): B3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date JULY 26, 2016, and has the title "Deal Professor; $1 Billion for Dollar Shave Club: Why Every Company Should Worry.")









Eight Most Recent Comments:



Ed Rector said:

There are more than 2000 colleges in the USA offering tens of thousands of degrees/majors. Oh yes, there are also a few thousand JC's, trade schools and apprentice programs that train welders. Who should decide what any individual student wants to study?? Senator Rubio, the Mercatus Center or the individual student?? And you call yourselves 'freedom-loving Libertarians' !!



Aaron said:

You need a "like" button. Here's to enjoying bacon and eggs on an unusually warm fall day and doing so guilt free.



Aaron said:

I'd also suggest that work is just part of who some people are and a reason they got rich. A friend's dad comes to mind; he's a millionaire and in his 60s and a couple years ago I saw him cleaning one of his rental houses and wondered why he didn't pay someone to do it, but he's just one of those guys who'd rather work than golf or relax.



Jim Rose said:

It is often forgotten that the Minister for International trade and industry in the late 1960s up until 1971 was Tanaka – the most corrupt man in postwar Japanese politics. He had previously been Minister for Public Works, but to generate the necessary bribe income to pay an entire generation of Japanese politicians to step aside to allow him to become Prime Minister in the early 1970s at a young age, he thought the Ministry of International trade and industry was a better position to garner influence and donations. My professors in Japan worked in the Ministry of International trade and industry and the Ministry of Finance in the 1970s and 1960s. None of them seemed to carry over their picking winners skills into their private portfolios when they retired. see http://utopiayouarestandinginit.com/2014/03/14/if-you-are-so-smart-why-arent-you-rich/



Aaron said:

Interested to see how not only did Hamilton gain a vote, but also how Jefferson lost one.



Dave Megan said:

Merging of companies is always better when they have a better goal. It will give better service for the public.



Ed Rector said:

The 'quickened pace of production' of the early Reagan years was directly attributable to RR's massive deficit spending. The national debt almost tripled under the watch of St. Ronnie. BO will have to work overtime to even approach this record of accomplishment.



Aaron said:

The last two paragraphs comport perfectly with what Paul Tough describes in a book you posted on a few months ago, "How Children Succeed." Tough advocates that a stable, loving relationship between kids and their parents, especially in the first few years of life, produces self-assured and less anxious adults due to brain formation or chemical reactions that take place in a baby's brain (simplified summary). As always, appreciate the posts, especially the Paul Tough book.





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