Happy Friday! Here's our web roundup for the week.
Stop SOPA Success. Today, members of Congress shelved SOPA and PIPA indefinitely in response to major protests this week on the web. Let's sit back and celebrate with some mindless Wikipedia surfing (I'll never take you for granted again!).
Tebow and Brady work the camera...sort of. Last weekend's Pats/Broncos showdown didn't quite meet the predicted ratings hype that surfaced before the game. Even still, Tebowmania helped make it the most-watched AFC championship game in 18 years.
Who are you calling a commodity? A new study on dating and money highlights the basic concept of supply and demand--at least where old-fashioned dating norms are concerned. Researchers found that men anticipate spending more when there's a scarcity of women, and women expect pricier gifts and dates when they're outnumbered by men in a community.
Not just smart. Google smart. Interview questions have gone from "Tell me about yourself" to "Can you swim faster in water or syrup?" over the years. According to the author of Are You Smart Enough To Work At Google?, even retailers like Walmart have recently adopted brain-twister questions to weed out applicants. Looks like we'd better start adding physics riddles to our interview practice. (FYI: Syrup's just as good as water. Researchers even filled a pool with the sticky stuff to test it out.)
Calling all Thomas Edisons. Speaking of Walmart: the Snuggie and Shake Weight are old news by now, so the mega retailer is looking for fresh products to sell at slashed prices. In the spirit of innovation, it's giving budding inventors a shot to get their idea on the shelves with a new contest. Read the official rules and get crackin' before the February 22 deadline.
I came across some recent links that I thought I'd share. They discuss the psychological aspects behind the interview process. The first, from mashable.com, gets you "Inside the Recruiter's Head" by listing a series of possible interview questions, the motives behind the interviewer asking them, and what you can do to make a better impression or ruin your chances.
• "What qualities of your last boss did you admire, and what qualities did you dislike?"
• "Can you convince me you are the most qualified person for this role based on what we have discussed?"
• "As you look at your previous companies, can you describe in detail which company culture did you excel in the most and why?"
The second, from Lifehacker.com, is quite possibly the best description of why people don't get hired after an interview that I've ever seen, and what you can do to change that during your next interview.
It's Friday the 13th! Watch out for black cats and open ladders. Here's the latest money stuff from this week.
What do you mean you don't need store elves year-round? As it turns out, the encouraging unemployment numbers last month were part holiday sham: jobless claims are rising as seasonal workers get laid off. I guess it's time I retract my earlier high-five statement.
Does money buy elections? With 2012 election season in our midst, the field is ripe for gawking at campaign expenditures. But the latest Freakonomics podcast argues that money may not buy elections as much as we think.
Major downgrade. Standard & Poor's downgraded nine European countries' credit ratings today--including France, Italy, Portugal and Spain--and put fourteen on negative future outlooks. Ouch. S&P cited insufficient policy decisions in the eurozone as a factor in the downgrade.
Love to hate Wall Street? Wall Street's been the center of public outrage as of late, but it remains a significant part of our economy. Here, a take on why things wouldn't be rosy without the functions it provides.
Techy terrors. Humorous highlights of this week's Consumer Electronics Show include a live baby kangaroo, a gospel choir singing Tweets, and a $30,000 stereo. As for new technology to get excited about, CNET has the best picks covered.
So I walked into my wife's office the other day and I noticed one of her coworkers doing something a little out of the ordinary: he was standing at an elevated desk at work. As an editor at brass, the majority of my day is spent sitting in front of my computer. It's comfortable, but it turns out it's not very healthy for me. NPR and Lifehacker turned me on to the concept; recent research even suggests that sitting more than 23 hours per day increases the risk of death from heart disease.
According to the infograph below from Medical Billing & Coding, sitting expends virtually no energy, and using energy burns calories. It's a no brainer. So while I sit all day, and then go home to rest by sitting some more, I'm actually making myself fatter for 24 hours straight. Heck, even chewing gum burns more calories than sitting.
It was easy to convert my work desk to a standing station because the legs on it are telescoping. For those that don't have telescoping desks, here is excellent direction from opensoul.org on buying and installing a standup desk, all for under $40.
If you must sit at work--who knows, I may have to switch back soon before my knees give out--then for the love of Pete, stop sitting up so straight. Good posture is great, but sitting at 90 degrees is overkill on your back. Instead, tilt your chair back while sitting, to about a 135 degree angle. I did this before standing at work, and every time it relieved the tension in my back instantly.
So the other day I sat down at home, after a long day's work at brass, to spend some time in Skyrim, the fictional land in the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim video game. I was off doing some random adventure--a little exploring here, a little swashbuckling there--when finally I decided to craft some new armor. With the materials in hand, I set off to work at the nearest smithing mill. My blacksmith skills are solid because I've spent countless hours crafting weapons and armor, as are my wood chopping and cooking…wait what?
I'm supposed to be defending the realm, solving crimes, battling foes. Not working! That's precisely the reason why I started Skyrim in the first place: to escape from work. Then it got me thinking, "Heck, I have to 'work' in all kinds of video games!" Woodcutting and pie making in Fable III. Courier work in Grand Theft Auto 4. Routine vehicle maintenance in Gran Tourismo 4. Even in virtual worlds we can't escape the pressures of everyday work.
A recent Wells Fargo survey states that we may have to wait even longer to be rid of the 9-to-5er. Sixty-five is generally accepted as standard retirement age, but due to the 75% of middle class Americans surveyed that stated the importance of having a specific amount saved before retirement, many anticipate "[needing] to work until at least age 80."
Does anyone see the problem here? Life expectancy in the United States is 78.2 years. That means you'll have to work till the day you die, and then 1.8 years after!
All jokes aside, we really do overwork ourselves. It's understandable, since we're all a part of this hectic rat race called "Life in the U.S. Economy." But for Pete's sake, take the time to slow down, wind down, do whatever you have to do to relieve stress. If we're truly in it for the long haul--that is, the never-ending professional life--we have to learn proper pacing. Doing so may help you actually see retirement and not clock out your final timecard before the new retirement age.
Check out this WebMD guide to stress management. There are tips for breathing, exercising, and general relaxation. Furthermore, the video below has some great information to improve your health, which in turn will balance your stress levels.
And for Paul's sake, stop working in video games. If we can't help from working when we sit down to play, then I just don't know what.
Happy New Year! We're back with another Catch Up. Here's the latest from this week.
Unemployment's down. For real this time? New reports say the country's unemployment rate has dropped to 8.5%. As usual, economists say it's too soon to proclaim our troubles behind us, but as the lowest rate we've seen in two years, a celebratory high five is in order.
Beyonce's baby bump, Rebecca Black, and Charlie Sheen: Measured in Google searches, Tweets, and Facebook fans, these were three of the biggest news stories in 2011. This infographic breaks down the year's hot topics and what they say about us.
How'd you like a 0.5% pay raise? The White House has a proposal in the works that would raise incomes for federal workers in 2013 by a miniscule 0.5% (coming in at about $7 per week for the average worker). Reactions to the proposal are mixed.
Holiday shopping wealth gap: This holiday shopping season, luxury retailers came out on top, while retailers catering to the less affluent suffered. It may be a sign of the times as far as the income gap is concerned.
Social Network Business Cards: Facebook teamed up with moo.com to launch Facebook Cards, a new product claiming to help users connect with their friends off the web. Don't get too excited: they're pretty much a business card...with your Facebook contact information on it. Do you think Facebook Cards will catch on, or are they just another gateway drug to inflated friend lists?
Have you ever had one of those awkward moments when someone asks for your address and you don't know how to answer the question?
It's a common situation. Nothing ties us down, we move every year (or sometimes even more frequently), going from school to home to job to job. However, this does make it difficult to get regular, and sometimes very important, snail mail.
Do you remember getting your tax refund this year? You don't? You might be one of the nearly 100,000 taxpayers the IRS is looking for. Due to mailing address errors, these unlucky folk haven't received their refund checks yet. If you think you might be one of these people, visit the IRS website and use their online tool to check the status of your refund.
Tax refunds aren't the only thing we lose when we move around. There are also left behind or forgotten assets. When the owner can't be found, they're turned over to the state. These might include savings accounts, dividends, refunds, money orders, utility deposits or safe deposit boxes. Want to see if you've left something behind? Go to unclaimed.org. They seem to be the best resource for property searches. Missingmoney.com is also endorsed, but they don’t have data from every state yet.
I finally signed up for renter's insurance. It's long overdue. I've been renting for years without the basic protection. But lately whenever I left the house I started having horrific daydreams of flames burning all of my belongings (the pic is an apartment building that went up not far from brass HQ). Not that stuff matters all that much to me, but clothes, books, and some other basics are very valuable when you think about it. It was time to quit procrastinating and finally do it.
The process was pretty simple: I made a call to my car insurance company. Why, you ask? Because I know that by doubling up my insurance, I get a "multi-line discount." And, I've been pretty pleased with my car insurance company so far.
I don't have any specific needs, just basic coverage in case of break-ins, fire, that sort of thing. The man on the phone, however, hooked me up with special computer coverage. It means that if I spill my coffee on my laptop (knock on wood), I can submit a claim to my provider and they'll replace it (minus my deductible, of course). While it's been some time since I've encountered that particular disaster, I'm glad that I'm covered if an accident does happen. There's also a small addition for identity theft coverage. After some of the horror stories I've heard, paying just a little more in case of serious ID theft didn't seem like such a bad idea.
All this coverage is great, but the price was even better. I'm only paying about $20 per month for my peace of mind. And don't forget my multi-line discount. I receive a $24 discount on my car insurance. Are you seeing the math here? I'm paying less for more coverage. Win!
The money side of life, one of our taglines, basically means that money isn't our primary purpose for living, but it seeps into every nook and cranny. I was reminded of this once again when I read this absolutely fascinating piece in The Economist about social media's role in the Reformation 500 years ago. Martin Luther used pamphlets written and printed in common language to face off against the Vicar of Christ Pope Leo X and other members of the Roman Catholic religious establishment, who communicated primarily in Latin--the language of the clergy and the rich.
Here’s where money comes into it. Martin Luther was righteously pissed that friar Johann Tetzell was raising cash for Il Papa's reconstruction of St. Peter's Basilica by selling church members get-out-of-Purgatory-free cards, known as indulgences. For a certain amount, you could ensure that souls of you and your loved ones wouldn't be stuck in limbo in the afterlife.
Martin Luther's writings, songs, sermons, and lectures calling out this corruption, among other rottenness permeating the church, launched the Protestant Reformation. It was Christianity's second big split--the first being the split of the Orthodox church from Roman Catholicism in 1054 a.d. Today 2-billion-plus Christians are split four ways: 50.1% Catholic, 36.7% Protestant, 11.9% Orthodox, and 1.3% other, according to The Pew Forum On Religion & Public Life.
Money played a starring role in reshaping the world's largest religion.
It's not just religion that money has impacted. In the 1700s, the smoldering of the Colonies' revolutionary fervor ignited because of a tea tax. The desire and ideology for a country free from England’s mothering had long been there, and the widespread dissemination of printed literature from the likes of Thomas Paine and Ben Franklin provided talking points for public debate, but that last hit to colonist’s pocketbooks provided the final impetus to open rebellion.
This year much of the Arab world rose up and overthrew, or attempted to overthrow, governments--it's still going on in countries like Syria . They organized with social media and rallied around the desire for better government. One of the main underlying issues was the lack of jobs and and career opportunities for an increasingly educated populace. Again, it comes down to money.
Here in the States, Occupy Wall Street protests first called for by anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters and taken viral through Facebook and Twitter are still going strong. It’s a loosely organized movement with many targets, but the recurring theme is money: from economic inequality to money's supposed misuse in both the political and corporate arenas and the ensuing effects on the lives of individuals and broader society.
Money is the filament that strings together movements as varied as a religious reformation and a secular protest of corporate greed. It’s what takes us from Martin Luther’s 95 handwritten Theses nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517 to a group of activists filing dispatches on Mac laptops in Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, New York in 2011. That’s why it’s so fascinating. That’s why we try to explain the money side of life.
That stereotype in movies when parents tell their spoiled children how hard they had it growing up ("When I was your age, I had to walk three miles to school in the snow wearing dilapidated hand-me-down shoes that gave me bunions!") may soon be reversed by our generation. A recent study, The State of Young America, from nonprofit Young Invincibles and think tank Demos found that barriers to economic success may be worse for our generation than they were for our parents.
See the complete data here.