Made a beautiful potato salad with Greek Yogurt and Dill.
Made a beautiful potato salad with Greek Yogurt and Dill.
Also, I don’t know how to say this with a straight face, but the web banner on their front page is advertising halloween costumes… which are looks pulled together from their main line. Ha ha ha ha.
Heidi Klum looked beautiful last night at the Emmy Awards. No one is surprised. But by what was this beautiful Marchesa piece inspired? Clearly Ursula the Sea Witch. The neckline, the belly, the tentacles…
I recently took a little three-day getaway trip from Minneapolis to Chicago. Since driving through Chicago is a major pain, I figured this would be a good time to test the two big Midwestern bus companies – the oh-so-trendy Megabus, and the eternally derided Greyhound. So how do the two stack up?
Despite the scuzzy reputation, Greyhound’s stations are actually pretty nice. Security guards, remarkably clean restrooms, and a solid selection of vended goods. Megabus, on the other hand, picks you up and drops you off on an unstaffed, poorly-marked street corner. This one isn’t even close.
Megabus’ fleet is newer than Greyhound’s, which means the buses come with fresher upholstery, cleaner aisles, and free Wi-Fi, although the latter is frequently broken. The buses on the Minneapolis-Chicago run are double-deckers, which has a certain UK touristy appeal to it – but it also means that they don’t have overhead storage space for luggage. Greyhound had more legroom and significantly more storage space for baggage. When you’re 6’3” that last piece means a lot.
Bboth the Megabus and the Greyhound I rode were quiet. Megabus seemed to have a few overchatty students and a driver intercom that must have been turned to 11, while Greyhound had a crying baby and a very smelly guy. Nothing too traumatic in either case.
On Megabus, if you buy 2-3 weeks in advance, you can get a Minneapolis to Chicago ticket for $5-10, especially if you take the overnight bus. Greyhound doesn’t go below $25. But if you’re buying even a week out, it’s pretty much a wash – Megabus’ fares quickly rise to match Greyhound’s.
WINNER: Megabus, if you’re the plan-ahead type. Otherwise, draw.
Megabus covered the trip in eight hours – ahead of schedule, and including a generous half hour rest stop. Greyhound’s overnight trip took eight and a half hours, but their day trips take up to nine and a half. More stops means more time on the bus, and although Greyhound has cut down on the number of dull Wisconsin cities where buses stop, Megabus clearly takes the “Express” mantra more to heart.
If you’re planning well in advance of your trip, and it’s a quick getaway, Megabus is probably the smarter ticket. You can get a lower fare (although probably not that much lower), it’s a bit quicker, and you might get Wi-Fi if the gods are smiling on you. That being said, although Greyhound is a bit less efficient and probably an hour slower, there’s more legroom, a much more generous luggage allowance, a wider range of destinations, and legitimate stations. All in all, either is a cheap and reasonably pleasant way to get away.
WINNER: On points, Megabus. But it’s close.
I don’t know the definite answer to this question. One answer is, however, clear from this photograph – not professional models.
So from whence did this appalling fashion idea emerge? Harem pants must be some sort of fashion industry joke.
The industry obviously tries this periodically. Put out a ridiculous ugly ugly ugly fashion (hot pants, skorts) and see who bites.
This post is about indices (plural of index). It might be dry. However, bad indices are a blight on humanity which I must combat. Onward!
An index can be extremely useful. A good index will compile a combination of numbers (data points) that when combined tell a story.
An example of good index is the consumer price index. The CPI collects data about a basket of goods which reflect the overall prices of consumer products. As a representative index it has data that’s inherently connected. Even better, it outlines which questions it has been designed to answer:
The CPI affects nearly all Americans because of the many ways it is used. Following are major uses:
As an economic indicator. More.
As a deflator of other economic series. More.
As a means of adjusting dollar values. More.
The reason I wrote this post is because I came across an example of a bad index: the mediaite power ranking index. Mediaite (mediaite) is a news centric website created by media consultant Dan Abrams for media aficionados. A key “attraction” of the website is their power rankings. In these power rankings, they ranking people in a variety of different media fields from journalists to anchors to owners. Unfortunately these rankings make absolutely no sense.
In order to try and understand these rankings, I asked two questions: 1) What is it trying to measure? 2) What does it measure?
The answer to the first question is “answered” in the FAQ:
What is the Power Grid?
It is an objective ranking of roughly 1,500 known and important players in the media today, divided into categories including Media Moguls, TV Anchors and Hosts, Magazine Editors, Print and Online Editors, and Top TV Executives.
Mmhm…an objective ranking of players in the media today. Notice what’s missing, objective ranking based on what? Given the name, I guess we’re to assume that it’s a ranking of media power? Except that elsewhere on the same site the rankings are referenced an “influence” index. Influence over whom or what? Influence over other world affairs? Influence over public opinion? Influence over other media? Influence over Dan Abrams and his staff? I’m not sure we’re going to get an answer to that question. Let’s move on to analyzing what the “influence rankings” actually do measure.
What does this index measure? Well, for each different category it uses different metrics which are then put into a secret algorithm. The definitions of each metric are available on the FAQ page. Let’s look at some specific examples, first the anchors/hosts categories.
First of all this category makes no sense. Why would you compare Oprah/Katie Couric/ Bill O’Reilly? They are competing for very different audiences and have very different “power”. This is close to the definition of apples and oranges. Ranking them hierarchically makes no sense.
Having established the very absurdity of the category we’ll analyze the validity of the metrics and the importance of the assigned weights for each category.
First, are the metrics valid. In this case there are three primary metrics (and apparently a fourth less prominent category). The three prominent metrics are total viewers, google buzz, and blog buzz and if you dig deeper you’ll also find that the number of twitter followers is also included in the calculation. How are these measured?
Well, there is no “metric” in mediaite’s FAQ called “total viewers” the closest relevant metric is time-slot ratings which is described as follows:
Time slot Ratings - This metric is the total viewership of the program, as extrapolated from Nielsen-reported television ratings.Note: in some cases television ratings have been adjusted for individuals who appear on programs that only air once per week, or are part of a larger ensemble cast.
This is a long standing professional measure of media figures because we suppose that the more successful one is the more viewers they will attain (more viewers also is connected with more revenue for the media company). The next two categories, google buzz and blog buzz are more problematic:
Google Buzz of Name - This metric is the number of relevant hits yielded by a Google search of an individual’s name. Irrelevant hits, such as those for similarly-named individuals, are filtered out. For instance, the Google Buzz metric for James B. Stewart, the writer and reporter, filters out hits for Jimmy Stewart, the actor, and for James Stewart, Jr., the motocross racer.
Google Blog Buzz of Name – This metric is the number of relevant hits yielded by a Google blog search of an individual’s name. Irrelevant hits, such as those for similarly-named individuals, are filtered out. For instance, the Google Blog Buzz metric for James B. Stewart, the writer and editor, filters out hits for Jimmy Stewart, the actor, and for James Stewart, Jr., the motocross racer.
These metrics assume that any mention of a person on the internet adds to their power/influence. It’s because of these metrics that Katie Couric is ranked above her competitors Charlie Gibson and Brian Williams (they both have much higher viewership totals). Yet, if you do your own google search of the name Katie Couric you’ll learn that the high number of google hits has to do more from Sarah Palin and less with Katie Couric. Katie Couric happened to have an interview with Sarah Palin, which became famous because Palin appeared buffoonish. This interview is credited with doing significant damage to the Palin brand, and to the McCain campaign as a whole. Additionally, if you do a google blog search of Katie Couric you’ll find posts titled “TV Anchor Babes”, “Should Katie Couric Quit”, and “Katie Couric – The Face of Media Bias.” Mediaite claims that each of these posts increases Katie Couric’s power/influence. In my experience, blogs are more likely to cite a journalist or post their work if they disagree with the journalist. A search of prominent posts from the last two weeks at the website Daily Kos found 31 articles regarding Fox News, and fewer than 10 articles each regarding CBS, NBC, or ABC. Mediaite would claim that each of those pieces about Fox News shows it has more power/influence than any of the broadcast networks. Mediaite would also claim that this very post is increasing Couric’s power/influence.
These rankings do not measure anything. Each metric on its own tells a story which can then be deciphered in different ways, but when combined they make nonsensical noise—especially given that we don’t know what proportions of each metric were used for the final product. If these rankings were to remain Dan Abrams little parlor game, then there wouldn’t be much problem with his silly rankings. Unfortunately, Abrams is pushing these rankings as legitimate “objective” measures of professional success. The last thing the media needs right now is to enter a competition to get cited by the blogosphere.
In short, Mediaite fail.
If after reading this you care for more critiques of the rankings or a response from the people at mediatite check out this article (while it was written a while ago, I only found it after writing the above).
I think Wolfram Alpha sucks. It could be very useful if I spent lots of time fiddling around and learning how it works. But why would I do that when I can pour the drivel directly from my brain into Google’s search engine and it will give me what I want 90% of the time?
The defense of Wolfram Alpha is that it is good with data. Okay. But so is Google. Perhaps I will ask Google to quantify how much Wolfram Alpha sucks.
So I googled, “Wolfram Alpha sucks”. 651,000 hits. Good, good. I would like to hit Wolfram Alpha about that many times.
But wait. I googled, “Wolfram Alpha rocks”. 1,141,000 hits. Now, this isn’t a perfect science, obviously, but in this informal poll of Google, Wolfram Alpha is doing pretty well.
It can’t be so.
I try again. Perhaps ‘sucks’ and ‘rocks’ aren’t very good antonyms. I try, “Wolfram Alpha terrible”, 496,000 hits. “Wolfram Alpha awesome”, 825,000 hits. Now maybe the sort of person who is inclined to write an internet piece about this site is the sort of person who is predisposed to like data and just eats up the Wolfram Alpha gig. Or maybe Wolfram Alpha is actually pretty good, and I am wrong.
But, a redeeming final thought: If I enter any of those search terms into Wolfram Alpha, you know what happens?
It says, “Wolfram Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your input.”
Great quantitative analysis of your own self-worth, Wolfram Alpha.