Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, April 03, 2021

Yes, I know you want to see your beautiful likeness, crumpled up and stained by the residual grease from a Big Mac and fries. Who wouldn’t?

That’s the idea behind McDonald’s Global Casting Call, an online-based search for McFans who exemplify the “I’m Lovin’ It” spirit and want to be featured on the burger chains’ instore packaging.

I’m thinking Morgan Spurlock is going to be sitting this one out.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 04/03/2021 11:04:22 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Food
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Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) sounded like a great idea five years ago, when there was no end in sight for the booming residential real-estate market. But now, the “adjustable” part of those rates are hitting home — literally:

America’s five-year real estate boom was fueled partly by a tempting array of cut-rate mortgages that helped millions of Americans qualify for home or refinance loans. To afford soaring home prices, many turned to adjustable-rate and other, riskier loans with low initial payments. The homeownership rate hit a record 70%.

Now, the real estate market is cooling, interest rates are rising and tens of thousands more Americans are starting to have trouble paying their mortgages. Nearly 25% of mortgages — 10 million — carry adjustable interest rates. And most of them went to people with subpar credit ratings who accepted higher interest rates, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

“Within the last year, I would say 60% to 70% of calls to our hotlines are issues related to ARM (adjustable-rate mortgage) loans,” says Chris Krehmeyer, executive director of Beyond Housing, a non-profit group that offers homeownership support services in St. Louis. “That’s significantly higher than in years past, because the ARMs are coming home to roost.”

I guess this isn’t triggering proclamations of bubble-bursting because ARMs weren’t widespread (only 25 percent of the mortgage market — big, but not decisive), and they were concentrated only in the hottest real estate markets in California, Florida, etc. As it is, the continuing foreclosures will cause plenty of churn; as long as there are enough qualified buyers to buy up the new inventory, the economy should be able to absorb it.

This trend does hit home, a bit. I know a couple who just had to take drastic measure to avoid foreclosure. I’m not sure if the ARM refinance route contributed to their problem, but I’m guessing it did, just based on how they managed to hold out this long. It’s a constant balancing act, it seems.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 04/03/2021 10:43:18 PM
Category: Business, Society
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Determining that the Web circa 1998 design principle has finally had it, the New York Times unveiled its new-look website today.

It’s a welcomed overhaul. The Times’ previous online look (which, for now, is still on display in the archives, even from yesterday) was competent, but suffered from too much top-down layout. I found it to be something of a chore to scroll through it all. And, perhaps because it sported essentially the same look since at least the turn of this century, I always got the feeling it didn’t even utilize CSS (I’m sure it did, but it wasn’t particularly elegant about it).

The remake of nytimes.com isn’t wholly cosmetic. Along with a printed-edition mirror and a topics-oriented content sort, a notable addition is the most-blogged index. It follows in the footsteps of the Washington Post’s Technorati-tracked blog buzz, except that it seems like the Times is doing its own tracking.

This makes me wonder if a substantial amount of this redesign isn’t driven by blog-like architecture, which would automatically pick up offsite pings. In that case, it could portend much about a major convergence between online news and the blog format (if not style).

In fact, some Times articles include a sampling of blogger linkbacks to referencing posts. I’m wondering: Do links to the (more) permanent RSS URLs, which I prefer to use (often sniffed out from the NYTimes Link Generator) count in such instances? If not, I may have to reconsider how I link to Times content. Maybe I should initially link to the straight URL, to ensure a chance of a linkback on the Times’ site; then, after a couple of weeks (the usual time for Times’ links to convert to restricted archives), replace them with the RSS permalinks. It’s be something of a hassle, but anything to boost traffic.

I’m sure the new look is still a work in progress. I’m looking forward to seeing it play out.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 04/03/2021 10:19:48 PM
Category: Internet, Publishing
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I can’t imagine a reason to ever visit Kentucky. But if I should need to, I’d have to stay at Louisville’s 21C, where the valets ride Segways and each room comes with an iPod preloaded with personalized music. You even have the option of buying said iPod upon check-out.

Heck, sounds like you’d never want to leave the hotel room. Louisville’s loss, I suppose.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 04/03/2021 09:17:39 AM
Category: Society, Tech, iPod
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Egyptian pharohs customarily would be buried with a treasure trove of items, with the belief that all those tools would be put to practical use in a very active afterlife.

I suppose there’s something close to that thinking going on in the increasing modern trend behind people requesting that they be laid to rest with their cherished cellphones in hand.

Hopefully, somebody’s turning those phone ringers off. I can’t imagine being at a funeral, having the priest reciting the eulogy… and then hearing a melodious chirping eminating from the coffin. Even worse, it’s not a wrong number, but from someone who hadn’t heard…

That would be better than the dangerous cremation surprise:

“We came across this in places like South Carolina in the US - people were being burned but unknown to the crematorium, they had left the phones in their jackets,” [think tank director Martin] Raymond said.

“If you heat a mobile phone battery, it tends to explode, and the first reports were about explosions, and that’s how they started noticing this trend.”

Some funeral parlours will now arrange for the phone put into the box with the ashes following the cremation.

I can see these personal artifacts being used in many a seance session in the coming years.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 04/03/2021 08:17:05 AM
Category: Society, Tech
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