Friday, September 26, 2008

New Idea to Solve Our Financial Mess

The Republicans in Congress show the creative problem-solving we've come to expect from them: tax cuts!

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bye-Bye 99 Cents Only Stores
(99 Cent by Andreas Gursky. Chromagenic Color Print. 1999)

They are apparently giving up on Texas. Why should I care? Well, my first big paper at B-school was written about them. That paper pushed me down the path that got me the job I have now by exposing me to the power of statistical analysis.

Our team's goal was to recommend ways to promote new stores. Now before we could get there, I wanted to see what it was that brought people into a 99 Cents Only store. We couldn't easily poll people, so we thought about using demographic information from American Fact Finder. We had some crude data from the company about which were the best performing stores in Houston, the worst, and the middle. I got demographic information for every zip code in which a store was located and every adjacent zipcode. At the time we did this analysis, I only vaguely knew what a regression was, and certainly did not know what a logistic regression was, which would have been quite useful. Instead, I just looked at the correlation of various demographic features with store success.

This is where the magic came in. Of all the demographic pieces of info we looked at--race, income, family size, marital status, unemployment level, etc.--by far the most highly correlated one was percentage of renters versus home owners. This fit right into what we had learned in marketing--that behavior is a better predictor of preference than demography. It also gave us a perfect way to target promotions--circulars sent to apartments near 99 Cent Only stores.

(And for the record, 99 Cents Only stores were pretty decent stores for what they were.)

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Stupidest Thing Heard Today

"The government doesn't actually own A.I.G.--they just have a 79% equity stake..."
(Purely from memory, this is how an NPR newscaster described the nationalization of A.I.G. in a conversation with a business reporter.)

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ike Can Eat My Shorts!

Power came on this afternoon. Fridge kind of smelly. Reading In Spite of the Gods a good way to pass the time waiting for life to return to normal-ish. Ike loses. I win.


Monday, September 08, 2008

Wasted Talent
No, this isn't a post about my "art" "career"--but about the apparent rebirth of a local Houston record label that had disappeared for decades. Wasted Talent Records was the home of the Judy's, Houston's greatest new wave band. I realize this sounds a little like "Houston's highest mountain," but the Judy's were an amazing band. I was a big fan back in my early college days--they played Rice parties fairly often, and I saw them open for the B-52s in Austin. That show featured apparently fearless lead singer David Bean starting the show by singing an angelic a capella version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," wearing a cheap kid's cowboy hat. The crowd, which only wanted to party to "Rock Lobster", you know, were uncomfortable. Was this gay or what? Hell if I know--I just know it was awesome.

Anyway, for a long time they were completely off the map. I had their albums on vinyl (long gone, alas, along with my record player). But I still remembered them well and really wanted to listen to my favorite Judy's songs--"Dogs", "TV", "Rerun", "Magazine Man","Wilma a Go-Go" and many more--on my CD player or my iPod. Well, after all those years, I can.

So I ordered their three CDs (which include several of their EPs as welll as their LPs) and am digging them mightily even as I type this. If you like snotty, angular, minimalistic, topical (circa 1981) new wave music, check out the Judy's!
(This came with my order...)