No Hablo Spanish

My first language was Spanish but over the course of my life I have come to adopt English as my primary language of communication; it’s not like I had a choice, I was born in the United States. My Parents, not so, they’re from Puerto Rico and are as close to bilingual as you get. I on the other hand am less-so, not that I can’t understand Spanish its just that my upbringing involved having many more conversations in English than my “native” tongue. Therefore, while I can follow a conversation spoken in Spanish and understand it in near entirety, i simply cannot intelligently write Spanish, and many times, speak it. Unsurprisingly, i am not alone. A recent study concluded that less, relative to say 25-50 years ago, of the Hispanic population are results of first generation family members and more so are of second or third generation members who learned English as their first language and speak Spanish less than fluently. Univision has caught on: It has two Twitter feeds, one for its viewers that understand the programming, and another in English for those that need pointers. This applies to the information cascade on a very applicable sense because each prospective generation is tasked with the decision of whether or not to learn Spanish. In most parts of the United States where people predominantly speak English most immigrants will chose to teach their kids English because that’s what everyone speaks so the direct benefit of speaking English is that you can converse with everyone. Even yet, a recent Pew poll concluded that 95% of Hispanics believe that it is “important for future Hispanics to speak Spanish”, a surprisingly high number for a group of people who are seemingly doing less to pass on a language from generation to generation. I was also thinking about the Ultimatum game and how the person being offered the dollar at unfair splits has a tendency to reject the offer all together because from his perspective: To have you and your opponent walk away with nothing trumps having you walk out with little and your opponent with plenty. I would be interested to see how Spanish Fluency corresponds to Socioeconomic position in Hispanic-Americans. I would venture to guess that as Hispanics get poorer there Spanish becomes better. Semi-stereotypical but nonetheless I’d take my hypothesis to be both an indicator of one’s closeness to being first generation, or a decision to not adopt the English language in the first place. Sonia Sotomayor is mentioned in the article. It says she doesn’t speak Spanish Fluently.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/04/29/179816884/as-americas-latino-population-grows-will-spanish-thrive-in-the-u-s

MOS

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Not-So-United States of America

I posted a couple weeks back about  currency tracking, specifically doing so through the Website “WheresGeorge.com” to upload the bill’s serial number and your current location to help track the dissemination of dollar bills from any two points in the country. A German physicist by the name of Dirk Brockman has recently used Where’sGeorge.com to conduct 1 million reports from 500,000 freely circulating dollar bills, tracking their mobility to construct a map of the United States  upon which the map attempts convey strong monetary connections between regions of the USA.  The map is drawn into sections, distinguished by varying degrees of blue lining. So thick blue lines are essentially conveying to the viewer: “This is as far as most of the money goes”. Therefore, the map is trying to accurately depict economic pockets between regions of the US, places where people exchange dollars for goods quite frequently in relation to how much they exchange with outsiders. The idea itself is intuitive but the results are surprising as clear cut divisions exist between regions of the United States. For example, The region consisting of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas is outlined by a thick blue line but within it there are also thin blue lines within this section suggesting that, on a macro and micro level,  people tend to exchange with those that are closer to them. The map itself has other practical applications as well, as, not always, but most frequently, a person must move to have their dollar bill move as well, (Obviously this is excluding online banking), thus, the map can also serve as an indicator of physical mobility across the united States. As seen in class, People have begun using anonymous information from companies like At&t to create connections between calling locations. It would be interesting to see an evolution of this map as I would venture to guess that sites like Amazon and eBay reduce the amount of blue lining throughout the whole country as they help connect buyers and sellers from all parts of the globe.

 

MOS

http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2013/04/16/177512687/a-whom-do-you-hang-with-map-of-america

 

Playing Poker with Philly

Philadelphia is in the process of auctioning off it’s second casino license. The city is already home to Sugar House Casino but a half dozen or so individuals are now lining up for the chance to develop another casino within the heart of Philadelphia, with projects being proposed at sights such as The Philadelphia Inquirer’s old headquarters on Broad Street, spearheaded by none other than Temple University Alum Bart Blatstein . Not long ago natives of Philadelphia would have to travel to Atlantic city for the prospect of winning some money on the black jack tables but before long a Harrahs popped up in Chester and then in 2010 Philadelphia opened its first casino. Now, Developers such as Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn are eyeing the situation carefully as this opportunity is the first of its kind in Philadelphia and holds the potential to better Philadelphia as a center of attraction. One needs to look no further than Las Vegas to understand the economic activity created by gambling. Year after year tourists from all parts of the globe travel to Nevada  to drown themselves in a vat full of vices. By legalizing Gambling in Las Vegas, the city opens its doors to new visitors everyday and in turn businesses which have nothing to do with Gambling thrive. Restaurants feed new customers everyday, hotels stay booked, venues have less trouble selling tickets, taxes are collected from slots machines etc. That’s the good side, as for the bad, well, the cons are all too obvious. Gambling addiction is no different than any other addiction in the sense that it holds the potential to ruin people’s lives by enticing users with the prospect of winning money. The question then is this? Do the Benefits of opening a casino outweigh the negative effects, such as an increase in degenerate gamblers living in Philadelphia? All i can say for certain is that the house always wins.

MOS

 

http://articles.philly.com/2013-02-14/news/37081581_1_wynn-philadelphia-slot-machine-casino

 

http://www.salon.com/2012/03/09/casino_capitalism_as_gambling_spreads_metaphor_becomes_reality/

The Market For Malware

At a time when our country’s major news outlets have reignited the debate about topics ranging from gun control to same sex marriage another similarly controversial subject has ominously taken a back seat. Cyber-warfare is by no means new, its existence has been well documented for some time but recently an influx of programmers have expanded the market for niche computer software whose general use is malevolent. These applications have come to be known as “exploits” and are intended to find vulnerabilities within a computer system ultimately to apply their namesake. These functions could range from retrieving someone’s credit card pin-code to a government purchasing a computer virus to create a technological antibiotic. The good news is that the industry is more regulated than ever with one half exploits being bought legally through legitimate vendors, as for the bad news, the other half of exploits are bought through the black market which is catering to customers whose computing needs become more menacing by the minute. Even more worrying is the difficulty involved in tracing malware as programmers diligently cover their tracks to conceal the identity of their exploits up until, of course, they are released. The reasoning goes: It’s much harder to contain a “new” virus as opposed to one that has been frequently used and outdated. All this adds up to a vulnerable economy with programmers constantly inventing new applications for whatever reasons, whether they be for personal gain or for a demonstration of political affiliation; governments and their citizens are nevertheless placed in precarious positions. In fact, the Czech Republic was recently hit with a wave of cyber-attacks that culminated in a DOS( Denial of Service) for customers at its largest bank, UniCredit. The attack was conducted by overloading the Banking Systems digital operations and preventing their customers from accessing banking information via online. I believe a similar attack was lodged upon American Banks a couple months ago. Naturally, when these exploits are conducted via a large-scale operation, their functions become more and more detrimental to society, in this case preventing the quick distributions of cash. Given their extreme effectiveness in disrupting integral components of societies, it will be exploits, not bombs that will serve as the future weapons of mass destruction for our warring nations, and furthermore, between groups of peoples within nations. Given the increasing presence of these applications, i would venture to guess that these attacks will only become more problematic for society as a whole .

MOS

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21574478-market-software-helps-hackers-penetrate-computer-systems-digital-arms-trade

http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2013/03/cyber-attack-czech-republic

Where’s George?

In the age of Electronic Money transferring it has become increasingly difficult to track our money offline. 15 years ago a group of hobbyists came up with the website Wheresgeorge.com to make sense of where our dollar bills are going. The idea works like this: Dollar bills are stamped with the URL of the website (Where’sGeorge.com) and then disseminated with the intention of having the next owner of the dollar bill upload the serial number of said dollar bill. By doing so you can construct a  graph of the dollar bill’s travel which indicates when and where the dollar bill was received after it has been dispersed, in turn creating a directed graph of the bill’s travel. So when a dollar’s serial number is uploaded more than once the data base registers  a “hit” indicating that the same dollar has migrated from one user/location to another. A directed edge could thus be drawn from the dollar’s original owner/location to the dollar’s new owner/ location. Unsurprisingly the activity has gathered a following and as a result a rich amount of data exists which can help us to understand how currency circulation unfolds at both a macro and micro level. “Georgeing” as it has come to be known represents a possibility in data extraction, not only for tracking currency, but for other practical matters like studying the spread of disease through human mobility. Obviously, this requires a certain level of invasion of  privacy as to construct a graph of this sort you would have to obtain the geographical location of every human at every instant to isolate infected nodes, but, doesn’t this seem like a small price to pay in return for the ability to track the spread of the disease and construct prevention methods accordingly? or to have monetary policy operate more efficiently through currency tracking?

http://www.npr.org/2013/03/24/174966382/wheres-george-the-trail-of-1-bills-across-the-u-s

MOS

Tickets for Sale! Prices Declining?

Sports fanatics will be pleased to hear that professional teams are now finding new ways to sell surplus tickets at reduced prices. The change is a result of fans not purchasing tickets as frequently as they once did with the new sales models reflecting that of the airline and hotel industry; when demand is high, so are prices, and visa versa. The main problem confronting these teams is that fans are buying less and less tickets, especially for games with little to no significance. The problem isn’t selling tickets for playoff matches between two high-caliber opponents, rather, the problem arises when two teams with little appeal face off (Wizards vs. Bobcats). The proper term for the process of ever-changing valuations would be”price-gauging” and it helps to steady supply and demand by creating  prices that take into account both variables. In instances where it’s not deployed, for example at grocery stores during Hurricane Sandy, people rush to Grocery store and clear- it- out because of the high demand and low prices. If the prices don’t reflect the actual demand, as happened during hurricane Sandy, the grocery store is left with a lot of empty shelves. The problem with the ticketing industry is that prices are too high and demand too low at current levels,  so some professional teams are stuck with a myriad of unsold tickets and empty stadiums. Services have been created to connect buyers and sellers, like Stubhub, but unless the seller is willing to take a loss on his purchase, the prices never truly reflect the price someone is willing to pay for them especially for games with little attractability. A couple of Northwestern Professors may have cooked up the recipe using a dutch style auction which may help to fill up those seats. Instead of having a set-price with no volatility, the dutch style auction would start with a price significantly higher than the retail price and decline it incrementally so as to get a sense of a buyer’s true valuation of these tickets by the amount of sales that occur at each interval. After all the tickets have been sold the service then determines a “final price”, thus compensating those who purchased their tickets earlier with a fairer price reflective of the prices paid on the whole. Recently sites have created bid style auctions in where the buyer makes an offer to the seller, and then depending on the offer the seller can either accept it or deny it. The problem with these is that they make the process of buying a ticket much more complicated than it actually is. This dutch style auction would seem to alleviate this problem as well as create an efficient system of getting the right tickets into the hands of the right buyers.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/02/12/171800681/hey-sportsfans-get-fired-up-for-a-uniform-price-multi-unit-dutch-auction

MOS

ETA Uncornfirmed

We recently covered Braess’ paradox in class which involved a game in which drivers choose between two lanes, one which becomes increasingly slower as more and more people decide to use it, and the other which remains constant. After a certain limit the lane which was originally faster than the constant becomes slower and slower as more people decided to drive their cars using this lane, partially, if not theoretically, explaining the factors which cause traffic, namely here being an abundance of drivers making a similar decision which affects their travel time, for the worst. In real life this model doesn’t work as neatly as the smallest of decisions can have drastic effects on the traffic network at-large. For example, all it takes is one driver having an accident to increase the travel time for all the other drivers using the same road. In fact, a recent study would suggest that traffic doesn’t result from a macro-wide cause of too many drivers using the same road, it’s actually a micro-level problem with a couple individuals being responsible for the jam. Up until now recording traffic data was extremely tedious with data extraction taking months to years, but with the recent standardization of mobile smartphones, researchers are using cellphones to track commuters routes as well as travel times. What researchers found was that the majority of roads in the Boston Area were usually under-used during peak rush hours and the 2% that were overused were probably so because of their “betweeness” as they connect drivers to other popular roads. Therefore, they concluded, that traffic arose because of the tendencies of only a small sample of drivers who’s frequent use of a problematic lanes during peak hours caused congestion not only within the vicinity but far from it as well. Thus, to reduce the amount of time one spends in traffic you would have to make decisions based not on the level of traffic near you but rather far away as traffic generally functions as a ripple effect affecting those farthest from it as much as those closest to it. It seems that even given the breakthrough in the methods of studying this problematic phenomena it will continue to be a headache for those of us who drive.

 

MOS

 

http://bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/02/17/traffic-which-boston-area-neighborhoods-are-blame/h5qqR3CrHDM3xCNsTqdYxH/story.html