Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's a cluster

So I am sitting here feeding CDs to iTunes, so I thought I would examine my prizm cluster. Don't be embarrassed; it's perfectly natural.

The PRIZM is your "Potential Rating Index for ZIP Markets." It is an acronym with an acronym in it, which can not get any more amerocratic. It is what the cads in marketing think about you, based on the aggregate behavior of people who live where you live, and the American tendency to segregate ourselves into zones of people who are "like us." Funny thing is, we define "like us" in a lot of ways, because we define ourselves in a lot of ways. So what comes out is a Rauschenberg combine of what you are "most likely" to buy. And so they market that to you, and you buy it because they market it to you, reinforcing your likelihood to buy that.

And, man, if you enjoyed looking up your birthday billboard hits, you are going to put your prizm cluster on your facebook page. In fact, someone, right now, go build a Facebook app that will do that for you.

Start Here
Enter your ZIP code. Be the last person in the world to spell that in all caps, as it was intended.
Solve the CAPTCHA puzzle (also a crazy acronym) underneath it. If the captcha presented is, in fact, your ZIP code, play that number and take the day off.

Delight in the hilarious names for your clusters.
It is like pulp fiction novels meets Fisher-Price meets L'il Debbie Snack Cakes.
Mine are pictured above (the screenshot is to prove I am not making this up):
Brite Lites, Li'l City
Country Casuals
Greenbelt Sports
Middleburg Managers

Your results will vary. Before you click for more detail, try to guess which one you are. Now, this is like trying to guess which March sister you are. We all think we are Jo, we want to be Jo, but you know we can not all be Jo. So I want to be an Up-and-Comer, but I believe by this chart, I am probably a Brite Lite. (and I'm gonna let it shine)

So let's click.

Can you read that? It actually calls me a DINK. (double-income, no kids)This entire company is having a huge laugh at our expense. So it says... under 55, college educated, homeowner, no kids, white. 5 for 5. Except for the double-income, so technically, I am a SINK.

I am in Midlife Success, says my cluster, defined as

"The eight segments in Midlife Success typically are filled with childless singles and couples in their thirties and forties. The wealthiest of the Younger Years class, this group is home to many white, college-educated residents who make six-figure incomes at executive and professional jobs but also extends to more middle class segments. Most of these segments are found in suburban and exurban communities, and consumers here are big fans of the latest technology, financial products, aerobic exercise and travel."

Are you laughing at "aerobics," or could you not get past "6-figure income"?

Now, here is where you face the music. What does marketing think you are "most likely" to do?
Be confident in who you are. Take a deep breath. and scroll.

1) Go to college sporting events. Not really. Maybe I would sport the mascot hat if my college had a mascot. But it doesn't.

2) Eat at Bennigan's. damn, Claritas, that hurts. why you gotta be like that? Cause I go to The Old Timer?

3) Macworld magazine. never.

4) Independent Film Channel. Ok. Yes.

5) Volkswagen Passet. Once again, I am revealed to be a gay man. Joke's on you, Claritas, because I drive the

Out of curiosity (and a general miff-ed-ness) I had to see what the Up and Comers were all about. Perhaps if I squint, I could see myself as one of them.

They are very much like me, with less money. They are me in the 90s, with a few major differences.
1) Go in-line skating - no, that's just my thighs
2) Blind Date TV - not even with irony
3) Maxim magazine - I am still a man, but now a lonely straight man on Memorial Drive
4) Travel to the South Pacific in the past 3 years (frighteningly random and can only be to obtain sex workers through some sort of Thai Blind Date TV).

I am no up and comer. My next step, as evidenced by my neighborhood, is Middleburg Managers, and golden years full of .......

I wonder if my Realtor is still up.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Benazir, done that.

The article contained the sentence:
"The World Economic Forum's ranking of sex equality puts South Korea 97th out of 128 countries."
What I thought after
1) why don't I ever get on projects like this? and
2) what could those criteria be?

was.... How do I get my hands on this ranking?

It took more than 5 clicks; therefore, I will walk you through it.

World Economic Forum was easy:
We forum, you again' 'em.
Our guest poster today is your great-grandpa.

The "sex equality ranking" is actually called the Global Gender Gap Report (2007). I've been considering how smug the Republican Convention has been about their opportunity to "put a woman in the White House " (not really sure who I am quoting here) until the Democratic Convention yawned and said, "Yes, we felt very good about it 20 years ago."
Then Shirley Chisolm called out, "helllooooo...."

I imagine this is like NASA calling the Kremlin and saying "We put a man in space! A MAN in SPACE!" and the USSR yawns and says, "Yes, and I think I left my watch up there. Could you bring it back, please?"

You know who has put a woman at their head of state?
Ok. They seem to get shot, a lot. I'm not saying it's not a dangerous job.

The World Economic Forum is trying to take a business governance approach to "improving the world." They are a Think Tank, though I never really know what that means, founded in 1971 (Chisholm, anyone?) as the European Management Forum. Eventually, of course, they did what all companies do and "went global" to stop Greece and Turkey from going to war. From what I can figure out from this website, they are some kind of UN with money. And they are fond of the word "catalyze."

But we were talking about gender gaps.

The Gender Gap Index assesses countries on how well they are dividing their resources and opportunities among their male and female populations, regardless of the overall levels of these resources and opportunities.

Now, this is interesting, because it is not measuring the flat value of the female life, only how far away it is from the male life. Which means that if women are powerless under the thumb of the dictator, but the men are too, the gap could actually be smaller than a country where a woman can own 50% shares in the family oil field, but not drive her own car. These are my predictions, anyway, because right now as I type this, I have not cracked the seal on this report.

I would like to catalyze my hypothesis.
The Report examines four critical areas of inequality between men and women:
1. Economic participation and opportunity – outcomes on salaries, participation levels and access to high-skilled employment
2. Educational attainment – outcomes on access to basic and higher level education
3. Political empowerment – outcomes on representation in decision-making structures
4. Health and survival – outcomes on life expectancy and sex ratio

So, first of all, who is worse off than South Korea? That's what started this thing. Once can hope North Korea, except see, life is miserable for everyone in North Korea except that one guy. In fact, North Korea isn't in the report, because they wouldn't answer the door.

There are 128 nations on the report. Saudi Arabia is 124. Nepal, Pakistan (woman head of state...once), Chad, and Yemen follow.

At the top: Sweden. well, of course, Sweden. They are better than you at everything. They even had their financial crisis before we did, and taught us the model for it. They have been in the top spot two years running. They will not brag about this, because they are Swedish.

All your Nordics are piled right up there, and as soon as Iceland's economy collapses, they can probably take the #2 spot. But watch this:
#3 - Finland
#5 - New Zealand
#6 - Philippines
#7 - Germany
#9 - Ireland
#21 - Moldova
#31 - United States
What do these 6 countries ahead of us have in common - women at the head of state, and I am not even mentioning the ones with Queens, which are 7, 11, and 12.
5 below, with same, and let me tell you, if people think Governor Palin is a pit bull, they have never met Cristina E. Fernández de Kirchner
#33 - Argentina
#49 - Mozambique
#57 - Ukraine
#86 - Chile
#114 - India
and not even listed, but 3 nations that might be harder to govern than ours- Liberia, Bosnia, Haiti

According to the Worldwide Guide to Women in Leadership, there are 23 UN member nations lead by women at this moment - 11%. Denmark elected its first in 1924. So maybe we shouldn't crow so much.

The 2007 reports says of the United States of America:

The United States’ performance was mixed over the last year and resulted in a small overall drop in its rank, from 23 in 2006 to 31 in 2007 (29 among the original 115 countries). The percentage of female legislators, senior officials and managers fell from 46% to 42% and the scores received on wage equality for similar work fell from 0.68 to 0.64. These two decreases were only partially offset by the increase in the ratio of women and men’s labour force participation rates (this grew from 0.82 to 0.86), resulting in an overall drop in the United States’ score on the economic participation and opportunity subindex, which in turn pulled down the United States’ overall score and rank on the Index. While the United States’ performance on political empowerment is suboptimal (it ranks 69 out of the 128 countries in the Index), there has been an increase in the percentage of women in parliamentary positions in the latest available data.

"That I am a national figure because I was the first person in 192 years to be at once a congressman, black and a woman proves, I think, that our society is not yet either just or free."
~~ Shirley Chisholm

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

No News

It is 7:30 and I am waiting for the factory whistle to blow. It is Saturday, but in the Mill Town where I live, the 8am whistle blows every morning, again at noon, and again at 6pm. I sometimes get to hear the first one. The Mill where I work does not have a whistle, but the firehouse blows a horn at noon . My Mill has a clock bell and a nearby church with a carillon. If I weren't walking across a parking lot as big as my college campus, I could almost believe...

It is a working Saturday for Carrie Bender and her mates. The weavers have been working through the night, and cots were provided. It is the end of decent civilization as we know it. Drawing In will being at 10:30, which is quite late for our room, and only means we can expect to fetch dinner pails, and take our turns on the cots.

I have only one pattern to draw in. And we have made it before. Just setting it onto a new loom today. But all over the world. That's usually where we send things hopelessly askew. Because, see, the UK never wears plaid because of cultural connotations, and the Benelux countries want a different shade of blue. In Germany and Austria, they disdain this pattern entirely, and will ask to have it left on the bolts we ship to them.

I overplay this metaphor to show how absurdly the high-tech mill approaches its manufacturing. A former workmate once tried to explain to a customer who wanted something customized beyond our capacity that he should think of us like a carpet factory who made rectangular rugs. "You are asking for a circular rug," he explained, " and our machinery isn't made for that." But the customer was not fooled. He replied, "but you are not making rugs."

Now take that story and turn the customer into another designer -- a designer in another country who thinks the design should work a different way. Put 2 of those designers in every country where you do business. Layover geopolitical rivalries and rule it all from a distant American Employee-at-Will state. Have this fight every month across 5 time zones.

Our European mates are protected by their labor laws, which include (get this) "a minimum rest period of 11 hours in each 24 hours." They will not be having cots delivered. In fact, they will be having a compensation package delivered, for violating their 48 hr work week (35 in France).

I suggested to The Boss I was surprised there hadn't been more protest about this, particularly from the weavers, who are the most put-upon group in this equation. She replied, "They are used to it. They have to do it all the time because of the weavers in [Dubrovnik]." I kid. They aren't in Dubrovnik.

I guess I am not really surprised. We don't complain ourselves. We mutter. We sigh. We don't get overtime. We rarely get out of the rotation. But even the month when we were asked to arrive at 5am (when there is no whistle, and even the guy who blows the whistle is asleep) I thought we would all vote No. We didn't. Well, I did, but I retracted, and that's a different story.

Enjoy your day. Go pick a pumpkin, or something. (They didn't grow there, by the way; they are trucked in. But enjoy it anyway.) I am off to buy cube-snacks and seltzer. Which should be the name of a pub.

more later.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Beating a metaphor to death

I am finished with the Main St/Wall St cliche. Today I heard Madame Speaker refer to it as "MLK Blvd or Cesar Chavez Way." And I couldn't tell if she was being ironic or what.

But I did think, while standing in line at the Strand (speaking of small town America) of

10 more inclusive extensions of the Main St metaphor

1. RFD 30

2. PO Box 1082

3. Faculty Row

4. The Castro

5. L St. NW

6. General Delivery, Appalachian Trail maildrop

7. c/o prisoner 9139190

8. Williamstown Commons, Rm 5

9. Ho-Chunk Indian Reservation

10. CMR 345, APO AE 09250

Thursday, October 2, 2008

DeBait - Yer darn right!

Bloggin' real time, for you the Readership.

Not since Oscar Night have my random observations of the big race been so captivating....
My first thought, on sitting down to the show (after someone should fix up this room) was that one should not eat hot dogs while watching political debates. It is far too easy to choke.

Here is an excellent fact I heard on NPR (speaking of seething pencil-necked eastern liberals like us): Joe Biden's first Congressional debate occured when Sarah Palin was in the 3rd grade. So was I, for that matter. You know who was hot as a pistol when I was in 3rd grade? Pat Schroeder. now that's hot.

Gwen Ifill - also hot (start counting the use of the word Also). Ifill reminds me of every school principal I had growing up. She could make me eat glass just by cocking an eyebrow and saying, "Think you got some glass to eat there." She's got it all over Jim Lay-rah, though I notice they had identical opening remarks.

"Can I call you Joe?" are the Governor's first words, and she sometimes does, but Uncle Joe is loath to call her Sarah. The one time he does, he sucks it back in like a spit-out rice grain, and he has clearly been advised against this familiarity. But sucks, she's jest a gal from the fronn-teer, she can't help but call a Joe a Joe.

You know what I do like is Biden's conversational tone of voice -- an interview more than a speech. Hillary Clinton won me over during her famous "cafe breakdown" moment, not because she almost cried, but because for the first time I was able to hear her normal speaking voice. Later this evening, we will see Biden nearly cry, but it doesn't win me over.
Pat Schroeder could tell you a few things about that.

What's remarkable about recordings of Bobby Kennedy speeches is how almost dull his speaking voice was. But because you are not distracted by it, you can listen to what he is saying. So I get it that people like the plain talkin' and all. The difference for me is I like to hear substantive things spoken as if you have really thought about and internalized them, rather than if they were forwarded in email from your Aunt Dottie.
When Palin opens with soccer parents on the sidelines, she may win over those soccer parents, but I don't want my leaders to be just like me. I'm not very good.

The one-time sports reporter knows how to work the camera, though, which most sideline parents will not. Biden seems to forget that he might sometimes be on screen, in spite of having seen the first C-Span cameras roll in in 1979 (Sarah Palin - 15).

Biden tells a good story about the guy who doesn't know what it costs to fill his tank because he never has enough money. That's a clever turn of phrase, but you played right into the hands of the Governor with more poor people than you. If she were quicker on her feet, she might have picked up on that, but it was not on the notecards.

Here are some petty points:
Joe - this lighting is not flattering you.
Sarah - how far back on your head are your ears?
Sarah - is peplum coming back? Because I am afraid I will not look as fierce in it as I once believed I did.
Joe - if I think about what your hair does when you lie down in the bathtub, I get pretty freaked out.
Joe - Sarah's flag is more patriotic than yours -- because it supports the troops, and it is sparkly.

Right about here Palin disses the current administration.

That's pretty awesome, whether she meant to do it or not. But the RNC just might call her into the office tomorrow.

It astounds me whenever anyone tries to explain the US Healthcare system. I just spent about an hour the other night trying to reconcile my claim statements against my actual doctor visits this year. There were 3 of them. Plus 2 mammograms. I was there for all of them. And I still can't match charges to "services" provided.

I have become distracted by trying to figure out what the backdrop is quoting.

What if Oprah moderated these discussions and made them sit on couches? Or better yet, Dr Phil on those wierd barstools. I knew Dick Cavett. Dick Cavett was a friend of mine. You, sir, are no Dick Cavett.

Palin: "Energy is my area of expertise."

Joe - stop raising your hand when you speak; it is veiny and clawlike. You might as well laugh like Walter Brennan.

Palin: "Alaska feels climate change more than every other state." Phone call for you, Governor. It's the Gulf Coast.
Biden: " nuclear." It takes a Pennsylvanian to add the word SAFE to nuclear.

Natural gas pipeline? Ok, that sounds serious and real. If Alaska's governor is the kind that has real power and input into projects like that, then I am interested. If this is, like...say... Texas' governor, then maybe it doesn't mean anything.

Alaska has 375 million acres. 60% of it is federal land, another 44 million (>10%) is tribal land. The state itself owns about 90 million.

Gwen goes for the lightning round, including a turn at "would you rather?" on Iran and Afghanistan. Palin admits that some of her best friends are gay-friendly.

During this segment Palin remains smooth and unstuttering on her "Main St" ideas. When George Bush talks, I think he is not even listening to himself. It is like he has learned the lines phonetically. I do believe that Sarah Palin believes what she says. It just makes me want to measure myself for a veil.

Biden: "We will end this war." If ever there were a soundbite in search of an ass...
And here I think Joe Biden might be the first to cry.

Nice exam essay questions, Gwen Ifill. If I didn't already know you are a Simmons woman, I'd wonder if you learned that at Hollins.

True Hollins Exam question from my freshman world religions class; "Who has the right to the Holy Land?" I think I skipped it. It I had only known of the 2-state solution. Darn it! That worked so well in Czechoslovakia. Albania. Iraq. Canada.

As the night wears on, Biden begins to weaken. I am reminded of A Little Night Music.

A weekend in the country
Is delightful
If it's planned.
Wear your hair down, and a flower,
Don't use makeup, dress in white.
She'll grow older by the hour
And be hopelessly shattered by Saturday night.

Palin's granddaughterly respect act is her white dress; her gushing recitation of Biden's primary conflicts with Obama are the flower in her hair. I am waiting for her to say "I have looked up to you my whole life! I wrote a report on you in civics class after you were charged with plagarism!"

Man, I am growing older by the hour myself. And this is one long hour.

Palin goes in for the kill, pulling her Columbo act. "You Washington lifers, I just don't understand. The one thing I can't figure, Senator, and just forgive me, I won't be a minute... but where were you when the appropriations went missing?" (you have to imagine my dead-on Peter Falk and it really kills). Joe starts to flail around like Frankenstein's monster, watching the clock, licking his lips. He digs into every one of his reported hometowns for a similar Joe Six-Pack experience.

Palin: "John McCain knows how to win a war."

Shoot again, barracuda. That one's a brick.

Palin: "Doggone it." Doggone it? Seriously?! Well H-E-double hockey mom sticks. Who wants Hot Dish?

When asked to describe their proposed VP roles, they are
Palin - intern
Biden - First Lady

Suddenly, in the "final throes," Biden tosses a glove at the feet of Dick Cheney, calling him the "most dangerous vice president this country has known." Aaron Burr snickers and says, "Pfft - His guy didn't even die." Biden's car may roll off the road on the way home.

As the Palins and Bidens meet on the stage, after the bell has rung, I hear myself think, "That is a lot of daughters in one place." And I don't know yet what I think about that, only that it was remarkable.

In the end, Geraldine Ferraro summed up most of what I was thinking in her after-chat with Brian Williams. It's not drawn in here - I can't find a clip of it posted yet, but you can look for it. I probably didn't need to write this essay at all.

Mondale/Ferraro was my first presidential election, as I have mentioned before, and tonight made me miss her a little bit.

Ferraro/Schroeder in 2012. If only such a thing were possible.