Thursday, February 25, 2010

Learn How Canceling Credit Cards Affects Your Credit Score [Credit]

via Lifehacker by Kevin Purdy on 2/25/10

Adam Baker, blogger at Man vs. Debt, canceled all his credit cards 15 months ago. His credit score dropped just 10 points, but he learned a lot about that score, and what financial reviewers are looking for, by taking the plunge.

Baker guest-blogs at the Get Rich Slowly blog about what living almost credit-free has done to his credit score. There have been great benefits, besides the obvious financial clarity, like a spotless payment history and no new-credit-lookup black marks. But he's honest about what living off the debt grid will likely do to his score, over time:

  • The length of our active accounts would obviously be affected. Several of our credit cards were 4-5 years old. Canceling them reset the length of our active revolving loans back to zero.
  • The type of credit used would be less diverse. We didn't have a mortgage and now didn't have any active revolving credit, either. I've read that FICO likes to see an installment loan that isn't a student loan (for example, an auto, jewelry, or personal loan). We're now lacking that, as well.
  • Our overall credit limits were all but eliminated. Previously, we had close to $15,000 in credit card limits. This was obviously reduced to $0 by closing the accounts.

It's a good read for anyone who's ever considered going credit-card-free, but still has a house purchase or other financial move to make that gets graded on a credit score.

Have you seen your own credit score drop because you stopped living with debt? Tell us how it affected you, and how you coped, in the comments.

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How Diverse is Facebook?

by cameron marlow

In order to make Facebook as open and connected as possible for everyone, one of our goals is to understand how different populations of users join and use the service. With that objective in mind, the Facebook Data team recently sought to answer the question, “How diverse are the ethnic backgrounds of the people using Facebook?” This is a tough question to answer because, unlike information such as gender or age, Facebook does not ask users to share their ethnicity or race on their profiles. In order to answer it, we focused on a single country with a large and diverse population—the United States. Comparing people’s surnames on Facebook with data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, we are able to estimate the racial breakdown of Facebook users over the history of the site.


We discovered that Facebook has always been diverse and that the diversity has increased significantly over the past year to the point where U.S. Facebook users nearly mirror the diversity of the overall population of the country. The graph above shows the proportion of the three largest minorities on Facebook over time as predicted by our model, while the dashed lines show the proportion of the Internet population for the same ethnicities.

In this report, we’ll discuss how we are able to measure diversity without user-supplied race or ethnicity. We’ll also explain how race and ethnicity have varied over the course of Facebook’s history and explore future research for understanding friendship diversity on the site.


The U.S. Census Bureau’s Genealogy Project publishes a data set containing the frequency of popular surnames along with a breakdown by race and ethnicity. These data are the key to our analysis, so we will spend some time describing them in some detail. An example of the raw data is shown below for the three most-frequent surnames in the census: SmithJohnson and Williams. These data provide the rank in the population, the total count of people with the name, their proportion per 100,000 Americans, and the percent for various races: White, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, American-Indian/Alaskan Native, two or more races and Hispanic respectively[1].

name rank count prop100k cum_100k white black api aian 2prace hisp
SMITH 1 2376206 880.85 880.85 73.35 22.22 0.4 0.85 1.63 1.56
JOHNSON 2 1857160 688.44 1569.3 61.55 33.8 0.42 0.91 1.82 1.5
WILLIAMS 3 1534042 568.66 2137.96 48.52 46.72 0.37 0.78 2.01 1.6

This data set allows us to predict what a person’s race is based solely on his or her surname. While these predictions will be often be wrong, in aggregate they will be correct. For example, suppose you select 10,000 people with the name Smith from the U.S. population at random. The data above s

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Infectious Rolls Out Skins For Current BlackBerry Models

via TechCrunch by Leena Rao on 2/24/10

We’re big fans of Infectious, a startup that makes high quality decals and skins that let you customize the look of your iPhone, car, laptop, skateboards, and more. Today, the startup has launched Infectious skins for all current Blackberry models. Infectious now has designs for the Bold, Bold 9700, Storm2, Curve 8520, Curve 8530, Curve 8900 and Tour.

Infectious launched nearly two years ago with large, vinyl decorative stickers for your car, and they released decorative iPhone covers just in time for the 2008 holiday season. The company has since expanded to include laptop skins, custom skateboard decks, and wall prints.

Users can also craft their own designs or branded skins to make the service appealing to a much broader customer base. It’s kind of like a Threadless for skins. Other players in this space include Gelaskins and SkinIt.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Convergence of Advertising and E-commerce

With hundreds of millions of users paying to download music, applications and ebooks on mobile phones, with reports of Zynga generating hundreds of millions of dollars from selling virtual goods in social games, with startups like Square making mobile payment systems the hot new startup category, it's clear that e-commerce is poised to supplant advertising as the business model of choice for new startups.

But that's only the beginning. A few weeks ago it occurred to me that there's a very real possibility that the next breakthrough in advertising itself is its convergence with e-commerce. Buying an app from the Android Market, I realized how those of us with smartphones have become accustomed to seamless purchases on our phone. That is, we search for an app, and then we buy it, directly from our search vendor.

Isn't that after all the goal of advertising? To cause a transaction. So why not do away with the intermediate step of sending someone to a website for more information? Especially with the limited screen real estate on the phone, there isn't really room for the contextual text advertising that made Google its billions. Interstitial or popup ads are intrusive and unwelcome. But how much search activity on the phone is tied to commerce already? Find a restaurant nearby and make a reservation? Why not pay as well? Point Google Goggles at a bottle of wine you enjoyed at that restaurant, and have a few bottles more show up on your doorstep?

This line of thought led me to the conclusion that Google, Apple, Microsoft, will soon be announcing e-commerce programs akin to Adsense, in which retailers will register with "app stores" to allow physical goods and services to be bought as easily as apps. We can also expect announcements of partnerships between phone providers and Amazon or Wal-Mart or other big retailers who can fulfill e-commerce requests from the phone. I have no inside information to support this contention, just the logic of the marketplace.

Interestingly enough, it was only a few days after I had this thought that I met with the folks at Siri, which bills itself as "Your virtual personal assistant." Siri does pretty much what I was imagining for Google or Apple: it searches, and then does something. In our conversation, one of the founders referred to it as a "do engine" rather than a search engine. Right now, Siri mainly interfaces with services that provide APIs for reservations, like OpenTable or TicketMaster. It isn't a general purpose e-commerce engine. But that is clearly in the future, if not from Siri, then from some other startup, and then, inevitably, from the big guys.

E-commerce is the killer app of the phone world. Anyone whose business is now based on advertising had better be prepared to link payment and fulfillment directly to search, making buying anything in the world into a one-click purchase. Real time payment from the phone is in your future.

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Pittsburgh International Airport After Hours

I stumbled upon this today.  Ashley Klinger got stranded at the Pittsburgh Airport during the blizzard and made good use of her time there. Not sure where she’s from but she was trying to get to New York.  She found places that I’ve never seen in the airport before and she was able to do things that I have always wanted to try...!  I think deserves a metal for her keeping a positive attitude while being stranded in Pittsburgh for 10 hours... I would have just pulled out my laptop and kept to myself... Maybe I should start traveling with a video camera!  

In her own words :

“My adventures in the Pittsburgh International Airport during the worst snow storm of the century. After arriving late for a flight at 7:40 PM to LGA I decided to stick around my gate until my flight at 5:40 and had a BLAST!”

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Most Creative Ads Series: Hands

Check out these and more... 

As chief organs for physically manipulating the environment, hands are vital for all of us. Because of hands, we can properly have our work, study and our life. Besides, hands are necessary for advertisers too. They use hands to express their idea and to talk with viewers. Here, the hands become the bridge between promoted products and audiences.


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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Five Ways to Turbo-Charge Your Lunch Hour

via Dumb Little Man - Tips for Life by Ali on 2/18/10

How do you normally spend your lunch hour? Wait, let’s back up a bit: do you even take a lunch hour? A lot of us end up grabbing a sandwich at our desks, checking emails or maybe surfing the net a bit during our lunch break. Often, the best-case scenario sees us in a staff canteen or at a local sandwich shop with friends.

It’s easy to treat the lunch hour as dead time in your day – or as an opportunity to catch up with an overflowing inbox or to-do list. But treating your lunch hour well means setting yourself up for success in the rest of the day – and potentially your life.

Here’s how:

  1. Make it a Full Hour
    When I was a teen, I had the occasional “free period” in school – an hour with no classes. I was always amazed at how much homework I could get through then, compared with at home. An hour is a great length of time to focus on something: long enough to get into it, not so long that your attention starts wandering.

    A great first step to making the most of your lunch hour is to actually take that full hour. This is easier in an office environment where others do too, but you can always start a new trend! If you really want people to respect your time and avoid interrupting you with work matters while you’re having your lunch break, then get as far from your desk as possible – head to the break room, the canteen or lobby, or right out of your building.

  • Think About Your Lunch
    Now, although you’re unlikely to spend a whole hour actually eating lunch, it’s called a “lunch” hour for a reason. The food you put into your body in the middle of the day is your fuel for the afternoon. If you find yourself feeling sleepy or lethargic mid-afternoon, there’s a good chance it’s to do with what you’re eating.

    You don’t need to be a nutritional expert to eat well at lunch. Focus on these key basics:

    • Eat a lighter lunch if you want to be more alert in the afternoon (and have a small snack two – three hours after lunch)

  • Avoid alcohol at lunch time – even a single beer or glass of wine is enough to make you less alert

  • Have some fiber and protein to keep you full for longer. Whole grains, fruit, veggies and lean meats are all great sources.

  • Avoid high-sugar foods which will give you a temporary energy boost, followed by a crash.
  • Get Some Exercise
    Sitting at a desk for eight hours straight isn’t good for anyone. Make a point of getting some exercise every lunch break – even if it’s just a fifteen minute brisk walk. If you’ve got a gym nearby, take advantage of it.

    I’m sure you’re well aware of the benefits of exercise, but so many of us struggle to fit it into our day. Getting some exercise at lunch time can:

    • Help you stay alert for the afternoon ahead

  • Be part of your exercise/weight-management program

  • Let you unwind and de-stress if you’ve had a hectic morning

  • Avoid back problems and other aches and pains from sitting at a desk all day
  • You may even find that a colleague is willing to be a gym buddy or walking partner – meaning you can socialize at the same time as getting some healthy exercise in.
  • Learn Something New
    A lunch hour can be a great chance for a change of pace, and it’s a good opportunity to learn something new. This might not necessarily be something directly related to your job: for example, you could use your lunch hour to learn vocabulary for a foreign language.

    Lunch time is also a great chance for some reading. Many of us feel we don’t have time to read – even though books are one of the cheapest ways to learn about almost any topic. If pouring over a non-fiction book isn’t your idea of a fun lunch break, how about picking up a novel instead? (If you need some convincing that fiction is worthwhile, here’s eight reasons to read fiction.)

  • Pursue a New Career...?
    Finally, if your lunch hours are the one bright spot in a job that you don’t especially like, how about using them to plan your escape? This one needs approaching with a good bit of caution: be clear about your workplace’s rules on what you can and can’t do with company computers, for instance. If you get outside the office to a local coffee shop or park, and you have a laptop you can work on, you’ll probably be OK.

    I spent the lunch hours in one student summer job writing a novel. When I worked in my last day job, I sometimes wrote blog posts during my lunch breaks. If you’ve got a side project or even a small business, can you spend your lunch hours on it?

    That could mean:

    • Writing your business plan.
    • Looking up sources of funding and other information online.
    • Sending emails or making phone calls to clients or potential clients.
    • Doing freelance work (such as writing or designing).
    • Reading relevant books and blogs to learn about that career.
    • Spending time planning or brainstorming.
    Do be careful with this one, though – and make sure you’re not breaking any of the terms in your current employment contract.
  • Are your lunch hours helping you get to where you want to be in life? If not, what changes can you make?

    Written on 2/18/2010 by Ali Hale. Ali is a professional writer and blogger, and a part-time postgraduate student of creative writing. If you need a hand with any sort of written project, drop her a line ( or check out her website at Aliventures.Photo Credit: Bernt Rostad

    Posted via email from Brian's posterous

    Kneber botnet breached almost 75000 computers

    Yahoo! News:

    A new type of computer virus is known to have breached almost 75,000 computers in 2,500 organizations around the world, including user accounts of popular social network websites, according Internet security firm NetWitness.

    Read the whole story: Yahoo! News

    Posted via email from Brian's posterous

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    Blaise Aguera y Arcas demos new augmented-reality mapping technology

    Microsoft Bing Maps and augmented-reality demo video by Blaise Aguera y Arcas architect at Microsoft Live Labs, architect of Seadragon, and the co-creator of Photosynth.

    TED Talks In a demo that drew gasps at TED2010, Blaise Aguera y Arcas demos new augmented-reality mapping technology from Microsoft.

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    Secret Caves of the Lizard People

    So I am not sure if I would be able to go through with exploring the tunnels of the lizard people by myself in the dark in 1934... But I guess the drive of GOLD would sure help me along. So does anyone want to follow the gold rush?

    This map is an essential ingredient of a story that has ‘Indiana Jones’ written all over it: secret caves, a lost civilisation and above all, a treasure trove of gold in unimaginable quantities. And all this in the ground below the present-day metropolis of Los Angeles.

    Below are two extracts from the LA Times of 29 January 1934, in the first of which reporter Jean Bosquet details the incredible story of G. Warren Shufelt, a mining engineer, who had been told of the underground city and its treasures by a wise old Indian, had consequently located it via ‘radio X-ray’ and was currently sinking shafts into the ground to reach it.

    The second extract explains the whereabouts of the putative underground city on the map, and provides the legends for a few photos showing Shufelt hard at work.

    Needless to say, no such city has ever been found. Whether fully intentional or not, the hoax did leave us with this strange map of the supposed underground city, its tunnels vaguely laid out in the shape of a lizard.

    Interestingly, this article on Skeptoid, a website providing critical analysis of pop phenomena, raises the possibility that Mr Bosquet’s story may be the original source for the later conspiracy theories about humanoid reptilians controlling the world. Indiana Jones has turned into David Icke…

    Many thanks to Manuel for sending in this map, found here on Flickr. 



    Engineer Sinks Shaft Under Fort Moore Hill to Find Maze of Tunnels and Priceless Treasures of Legendary Inhabitants

    (LA Times, 29 Jan 1934)

    By Jean Bosquet

    Busy Los Angeles, although little realizing it in the hustle and bustle of modern existence, stands above a lost city of catacombs filled with incalculable treasure and imperishable records of a race of humans further advanced intellectually and scientifically than even the highest type of present day peoples, in the belief of G. Warren Shufelt, geophysical engineer now engaged in an attempt to wrest from the lost city deep in the earth below Fort Moore Hill the secrets of the Lizard People of legendary fame in the medicine lodges of the American Indian.

    So firmly does Shufelt and a little staff of assistants believe that a maze of catacombs and priceless golden tablets are to be found beneath downtown Los Angeles that the engineer and his aides have already driven a shaft 250 feet into the ground, the mouth of the shaft being on the old Banning property on North Hill street overlooking Sunset Boulevard, Spring street and North Broadway.


    Shufelt learned of the legend of the Lizard People after his radio X-ray had led him hither and yon, over an area extending from the Public Library on West Fifth street to the Southwest Museum, on Museum Drive, at the foot of Mt. Washington.

    “I knew I was over a pattern of tunnels,” the engineer explained yesterday, “and I had mapped out the course of the tunnels, the position of large rooms scattered along the tunnel route, as well as the position of deposits of gold, but I couldn’t understand the meaning of it.”


    According to the legend as imparted to Shufelt by Macklin, the radio X-ray has revealed the location of one of three lost cities on the Pacific Coast, the local one having been dug by the Lizzard People after the “great catastrophe” which occurred about 5000 years ago. This legendary catastrophe was in the form of a huge tongue of fire which “came out of the Southwest, destroying all life in its path,” the path being “several hundred miles wide.” The city underground was dug as a means of escaping future fires.

    The lost city, dug with powerful chemicals by the Lizard People instead of pick and shovel, was drained into the ocean, where its tunnels began, according to the legend. The tide passing daily in and out of the lower tunnel portals and forcing air into the upper tunnels, provided ventilation and “cleansed and sanitized the lower tunnels,” the legend states.

    Large rooms in the domes of the hills above the city of labyrinths housed 1000 families “in the manner of tall buildings” and imperishable food supplies of the herb variety were stored in the catacombs to provide sustenance for the lizard folk for great lengths of time as the next fire swept over the earth.


    The Lizard People, the legend has it, regarded the lizard as the symbol of long life. Their city is laid out like a lizard, according to the legend, its tail to the southwest, far below Fifth and Hope streets, its head to the northeast, at Lookout and Marda streets. The city’s key room is situated directly under South Broadway, near Second street, according to Shufelt and the legend.

    This key room is the directory to all parts of the city and to all record tablets, the legend states. All records were kept on gold tablets, four feet long and fourteen inches wide. On these tablets of gold, gold having been the symbol of life to the legendary Lizard People, will be found the recorded history of the Mayans on on one particular tablet,the southwest corner of which will be missing, is to be found the “record of the origin of the human race.”


    Shufelt stated he has taken “X-ray pictures” of thirty-seven such tablets, three of which have their southwest corners cut off.

    “My radio X-ray pictures of tunnels and rooms, which are sub-surface voids, and of gold pictures with perfect corners, sides and ends, are scientific proof of their existence,” Shufelt said. “However, the legendary story must remain speculative until unearthed by excavation.”

    The Lizard Peoplem according to Macklin, were of a much higher type intellectually than modern human beings. The intellectual accomplishments of their 9-year-old children were the equal of those of present day college graduates, he said. So greatly advanced scientifically were these people that, in addition to perfecting a chemical solution by which they bored underground without removing earth and rock, they also developed a cement far stronger and better than any in use in modern times with which they lined their tunnels and rooms.


    Macklin said legendary advice to American Indians was to seek the lost city in an area within a chain of hills forming “the frog of a horse’s hoof.” The contour of hills surrounding this region forms such a design, substantiating Shufelt’s findings, he said.

    Shufelt’s radio device consists chiefly of a cylindrical glass case inside of which a plummet attached to a copper wire held by the engineer sways continually, pointing, he asserts, toward minerals or tunnels below the surface of the ground, and then revolves when over the mineral or swings in prolongation of the tunnel when above the excavation.

    He has used the instrument extensively in mining fields, he said.



    An amazing labyrinth of underground passages and caverns hundreds of feet below the surface of Fort Moore Hill is revealed in maps – all rights to which have been reserved – prepared by G. Warren Shufelt, local mining engineer, who explains his topographical endeavors as being based on results obtained from a radio X-ray perfected by him. In this elaborate system of tunnels and rooms, according to a legend furnished Shufelt by an Indian authority, a tribe of human beings called the Lizard People, lived, 5000 years ago. The network of tunnels formed what Indians call the lost Lizard City, according to Shufelt and the legend. Gold tablets on which are written the origin of the human race and other priceless documents are to be found in the tunnels, according to the legend. Shufelt declares his radio X-ray has located the gold. The engineer has dug a shaft 250 feet deep on North Hill street, overlooking North Broadway, Sunset and Spring streets, and intends to dig to 1000 feet in an effort to strike the lost city. Upper right-hand corner inset is Times Staff Artist Ewing’s conception of the Lizard People at work. Lower left, upper inset shows Shufelt and crew at top of shaft, baling water out of their deep excavation. Lower left inset shows Shufelt operating his radio X-ray device.

    How to split up the US

    I have been recently setting up some Google products, mainly Reader, Blogger and the brand new Buzz. In doing so it has not only connected everything that I was already using but it just tightened the belt a little bit further; allowing me to stumble upon this very interesting article illustrating the power of mapping and todays social networks.

    I have reached out to Pete to see if he'd be interested in sharing this data. I will have to keep you updated with any response.


    As I've been digging deeper into the data I've gathered on 210 million public Facebook profiles, I've been fascinated by some of the patterns that have emerged. My latest visualization shows the information by location, with connections drawn between places that share friends. For example, a lot of people in LA have friends in San Francisco, so there's a line between them.

    Looking at the network of US cities, it's been remarkable to see how groups of them form clusters, with strong connections locally but few contacts outside the cluster. For example Columbus, OH and Charleston WV are nearby as the crow flies, but share few connections, with Columbus clearly part of the North, and Charleston tied to the South:

    Columbus Charleston

    Some of these clusters are intuitive, like the old south, but there's some surprises too, like Missouri, Louisiana and Arkansas having closer ties to Texas than Georgia. To make sense of the patterns I'm seeing, I've marked and labeled the clusters, and added some notes about the properties they have in common.


    Stretching from New York to Minnesota, this belt's defining feature is how near most people are to their friends, implying they don't move far. In most cases outside the largest cities, the most common connections are with immediately neighboring cities, and even New York only has one really long-range link in its top 10. Apart from Los Angeles, all of its strong ties are comparatively local.

    In contrast to further south, God tends to be low down the top 10 fan pages if she shows up at all, with a lot more sports and beer-related pages instead.


    Probably the least surprising of the groupings, the Old South is known for its strong and shared culture, and the pattern of ties I see backs that up. Like Stayathomia, Dixie towns tend to have links mostly to other nearby cities rather than spanning the country. Atlanta is definitely the hub of the network, showing up in the top 5 list of almost every town in the region. Southern Florida is an exception to the cluster, with a lot of connections to the East Coast, presumably sun-seeking refugees.

    God is almost always in the top spot on the fan pages, and for some reasonAshley shows up as a popular name here, but almost nowhere else in the country.

    Greater Texas

    Orbiting around Dallas, the ties of the Gulf Coast towns and Oklahoma and Arkansas make them look more Texan than Southern. Unlike Stayathomia, there's a definite central city to this cluster, otherwise most towns just connect to their immediate neighbors.

    God shows up, but always comes in below the Dallas Cowboys for Texas proper, and other local sports teams outside the state. I've noticed a few interesting name hotspots, like Alexandria, LA boasting Ahmed and Mohamed as #2 and #3 on their top 10 names, and Laredo with Juan, Jose, Carlos and Luis as its four most popular.


    The only region that's completely surrounded by another cluster, Mormonia mostly consists of Utah towns that are highly connected to each other, with an offshoot in Eastern Idaho. It's worth separating from the rest of the West because of how interwoven the communities are, and how relatively unlikely they are to have friends outside the region.

    It won't be any surprise to see that LDS-related pages like Thomas S. Monson,Gordon B. Hinckley and The Book of Mormon are at the top of the charts. I didn't expect to see Twilight showing up quite so much though, I have no idea what to make of that! Glenn Beck makes it into the top spot for Eastern Idaho.

    Nomadic West

    The defining feature of this area is how likely even small towns are to be strongly connected to distant cities, it looks like the inhabitants have done a lot of moving around the county. For example, Boise, ID, Bend, OR and Phoenix, AZ all have much wider connections than you'd expect for towns their size:

    Boise Bend


    Starbucks is almost always the top fan page, maybe to help people stay awake on all those long car trips they must be making?


    Sorry Bay Area folks, but LA is definitely the center of gravity for this cluster. Almost everywhere in California and Nevada has links to both LA and SF, but LA is usually first. Part of that may be due to the way the cities are split up, but in tribute to the 8 years I spent there, I christened it Socalistan. Californians outside the super-cities tend to be most connected to other Californians, making almost as tight a cluster as Greater Texas.

    Keeping up with the stereotypes, God hardly makes an appearance on the fan pages, but sports aren't that popular either. Michael Jackson is a particular favorite, and San Francisco puts Barack Obama in the top spot.


    The most boring of the clusters, the area around Seattle is disappointingly average. Tightly connected to each other, it doesn't look like Washingtonians are big travelers compared to the rest of the West, even though a lot of them claim to need a vacation!

    So that's my tour through the patterns that leapt out at me from the Facebook data. This is all qualitative, not quantitive, so I'm looking forward to gathering some numbers to back them up. I'd love to work out the average distance of friends for each city, and then use that as a measure of insularity for instance. If you're a researcher interested in this data set too, do get in touch, I'll be happy to share.

    Find more here: