What We’re Reading: Feb 21-27

Social data in rankings, never miss a free ice cream again, and how about a box of snow?

First sign of Spring in Seattle, WA

Spring Camellias in Seattle, WA

We know what you’re thinking “another top 10 city list?” However, what is most interesting about this 10 most creative cities list is the use of social data. Movoto combined social data (such as number of bands and artists that people in cities like or follow on social media) with data about the number of art schools and art galleries. What kinds of data can you gather about your city or town to glean insights into interests, trends and market niches?

The Federal Communications Commission approved the policy known as net neutrality by a 3-2 vote at its Thursday meeting, with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler saying the policy will ensure “that no one — whether government or corporate — should control free open access to the Internet.” With so much of the real estate business being conducted online, NAR has been a long-time supporter of this.

Starbucks is abandoning the CD business at the end of this month. Pundits snarked that this means the end of Nora Jones. While the move is no surprise, only a few years ago Starbuck’s music business was seen as a ray of hope for the battered industry. They signed some pretty big (if not too exciting) names – Paul McCartney, Ray Charles, Carly Simon. Maybe the should just sell vinyl…?

Apparently waiting for help at the Apple Genius Bar (i.e. in-store tech support) is a nightmare. I’ve always just reserved online and can’t say that it’s been much of a problem. Anyway, Apple stores across the nation will soon be streamlining the way the help desk works, according to a report on 9to5mac.com. The program, called “the new concierge,” should make it easier to get help with your Apple products.

Did you know National Pancake Day is less than a week away?! It seems these days there’s a “National Fill-in-the-blank Day” for pretty much everything. How does one keep track in order to score the treats? Wisebread to the rescue with their handy infographic of year-long surprises. Nice to see that Tax Day brings lots of  rewards.

KFC is testing edible coffee cups. Cause, you know, there was a real need for this…Luckily it’s only in the UK for now.

By now, you’ve probably heard all about the white and gold dress, which some purport to be black and blue. Wired gets to the bottom of it. While on the topic of visual perception and optical illusions: is the dancer spinning to the left or the right?

Making money off of Boston snow? Why not, especially if you are sick of shoveling it off your driveway.

What We’re Reading: Feb 14-20

iCar, SAD leads to a dibs fight, and Big Birdman

Apple is hoping to begin production on a car project  as early as 2020, reports Bloomberg. According to the site’s sources, Apple is pushing employees working on the car to have it ready to go in five years, a timeline that will eventually allow it to compete with similar electric vehicles coming out from Tesla and GM in 2017.

For much of the country, this is the time of year when seasonal grumpiness turns into seasonal despair. When your mood is falling as fast as the thermometer, these small lifestyle changes may help boost your spirits. Get some exercise, try a sunlamp, and eat chocolate. Yay! Getting outside is a suggestion that might be a bit harder to embrace, but you’ll feel better supposedly.

dibs bot

dibs bot

Tell that to the people in Boston. A Bostonian shoveled out a parking spot in front of his house, and put a bookshelf there to save his space. When he came back from work, someone else parked in his space. So he piled all the snow back on the rogue car. When is all the snow going to finally melt in Boston?

Dr. Seuss died 20 years ago, but a recently discovered manuscript means there will be a new Dr. Seuss book this summer.

The Oscars are this weekend. I have to say I’ve only managed to catch one of the Best Picture nominees this year. Sesame Street finds a natural target for its spoof – Big Birdman.

They are unlikely Internet celebrities: two bald eagles tending their young on the campus of Berry College in North Georgia.

What We’re Reading: Feb 7-Feb 13

Drawing of a penguin by K. Stockert

Drawing of a penguin

Online Privacy, Fitness in 1964, and Penguins in Sweaters

Technology exists in our lives in many forms. It offers convenience, entertainment, and often a sense of security. However, for every convenience technology offers, there is a trade off. This trade off often entails giving up some of your privacy and anonymity. The Guardian reports on these trade-offs. On the topic of online privacy: do you enjoy online quizzes? Be wary: data providers use these quizzes to amass information unique to you, which is then sold to online marketers.

What happens to your Facebook page after you pass on? Previously Facebook froze your account and left it as a memorial. Now the company is rolling out a feature allowing you to designate a ‘legacy contact’ who can have limited access to your page. Legacies can write a post to display at the top of the memorialized profile page, change your profile picture, and even respond to new friend requests. If they’re granted prior permission, legacy contacts can also download an archive of your posts and photos, but not the contents of private messages. All this is optional. If you don’t set up a legacy, Facebook will simply freeze your account as before.

Since we oversee the NAR Library & Archives, we appreciate historical documents. Check out this article from Time Magazine 1964, on how to get fit while sitting in a chair: perhaps this inspired Sit and Be Fit? While we’re on the topic of fitness, New York Times reporter Molly Wood scrutinizes fitness apps to find the best options (of course, apps are yet another way companies collect personal data about you. Technology!).

Sriracha ketchup anyone?  Now Heinz is bringing out a Sriracha version.  There’s Sriracha flavored beer, vodka, potato chips, chocolate bars, so now you can top your French fries, hotdogs, hamburgers and anything else with a yummy Sriracha taste.

To end this week on a happy note: who can resist penguins in sweaters? (Note: those in the image are toys, but a Google image search of penguins in sweaters returns the real deal).

What We’re Reading: Jan 31-Feb 6

Youthification, the impact of falling oil on housing, Amazon Prime, and a different kind of Monopoly money


Markus Moos

Much has been made of the wave of millennials moving to cities. In intriguing new work, geographer and urban planner Markus Moos of the University of Waterloo gives the phenomenon a name: “youthification.” Moos defines youthfication as the “influx of young adults into higher density” cities and neighborhoods. And in some ways these neighborhoods are “forever young,” where new cohorts of young people continue to move in as families and children cycle out in search of more space. The paper itself has some great maps of major metros showing where the young live.

In other millennials news, the Washington Post reports that all signs point to this generation finally entering the home buying market as a result of low mortgage rates, an improving economy, and a desire to start building equity.

Are falling oil prices good or bad for housing construction? It depends upon which economists you ask. Most contend that if oil prices stay low it will at most negatively impact only a handful of regional economies, including North Dakota some cities in Texas that are heavily dependent on the oil industry. But the rest of the nation will benefit. Some experts point out that since Texas is such a large part of the overall building market, it could have an out-sized impact.

The northern third of the U.S. is locked in a straitjacket of snow, ice and bleak weather better suited to staying at home than going out and hunting for a new one. I can almost hear it now: Remember how awful last year’s polar vortex was for the fledgling housing-market recovery? Looks like we’re in for more of the same this year.

Amazon’s Prime membership program was a high-cost, high-risk gamble – but with an estimated 50 million members, it’s proven a remarkable customer loyalty tool. The program’s ever-expanding offerings bring in loyal customers who on average spend more, but as Fortune reports, Prime remains an expensive loss leader for the company even as it grows.

In France, the makers of Monopoly celebrated the board game’s 80th anniversary be replacing some of the money with real euros. One lucky winner will find all the cash as real bank notes, worth 20,580 euros (or US$23,268).

Do you know the mortgage rate on your house? 35% of homeowners don’t.