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Archive for November Tuesday, 2009

Classic Job Interview Questions

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

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U.S. Economy: Unemployment Rate Jumps to 26-Year High

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

The unemployment rate in the U.S. jumped to 10.2 percent in October, the highest level since 1983, casting a pall over the prospects for a sustained recovery and risking further erosion of President Barack Obama’s popularity.

Payrolls fell by 190,000 last month, more than forecast by economists, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. The jobless rate rose from 9.8 percent in September. Factory payrolls dropped by the most in four months, and the average workweek held at a record low.

Treasury two-year notes rose on bets the Federal Reserve is more likely to maintain its pledge to keep interest rates near zero. The figures prompted Obama, who signed a bill today extending jobless benefits, to promise fresh measures to help put some of the 15.7 million unemployed Americans back to work.

Payrolls were forecast to drop 175,000 after an initially reported 263,000 decline for September, according to the median estimate of 84 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The jobless rate was projected to rise to 9.9 percent.

Obama signed into law a measure extending a tax credit of up to $8,000 for homebuyers and benefits for unemployed workers, and he promised to pursue further measures to create jobs.

“My economic team is looking at ideas such as additional investments in our aging roads and bridges, incentives to encourage families and business to make buildings more energy efficient,” additional tax cuts, and more steps to ease the flow of credit to small business and promote exports, he said today at the White House.

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More mixed couples tying the knot

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

A by-product of the end of the Troubles in Northern Ireland has been a rise in the number of mixed marriages between Catholics and Protestants.

It is estimated that about one in 10 of all marriages in Northern Ireland are now mixed.

This followed a sharp decrease during the Troubles, when the fear of violence and intimidation and the resulting polarisation of communities, prevented many cross-community relationships.

In the last 10 years, when social life has returned to a certain normality, more and more young people are meeting who probably wouldn’t have met before.

In the past, mixed marriages had been easier for couples who could afford to buy a new home and so to live in a more integrated, “safer” area.

Research has shown that in Northern Ireland 95% of all social housing estates are lived in mainly by people of one religion.

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Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Are you a Farmville fan ?

Do you know farmville ? Farmville is an online game in which people must tend their virtual farms carefully.

AT high schools and colleges across the country, students are hard at work, tilling their land and harvesting their vegetables.

FarmVille has quickly become the most popular application in the history of Facebook. More than 62 million people have signed up to play the game since it made its debut in June, with 22 million logging on at least once a day, according to Zynga, the company that brought FarmVille into the world.

Devotion to FarmVille has moved beyond the social network. Players gather online to share homemade spreadsheets showing which crops will provide the greatest return on investment.

The game starts off simply: You are given land and seeds that can be planted, harvested and sold for online coins. As you accrue currency, you can buy things, from basics like rice and seeds to the truly superfluous, like elephants and hot-air balloons.

Crops must be harvested in a timely fashion, cows must be milked, and social obligations — like exchanging gifts and fertilizing your neighbor’s pumpkins — must be met.

With FarmVille there is a real sense that you’re actually doing something that has a cause and effect.

FarmVille isn’t the only popular farm-theme game on Facebook. MyFarm and FarmTown, which are made by different companies, also have huge followings. Some academics have gone so far as to suggest that their collective popularity points to a widespread yearning for the pastoral life.

“The whole concept of ‘I’m sick of this modern, urban lifestyle, I wish I could just grow plants and vegetables and watch them grow,’ there is something very therapeutic about that,” said Philip Tan, director of a joint venture between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the government of Singapore to develop digital games.

Of course, real-life farming is quite a bit messier and more dangerous than FarmVille (perhaps just one reason that FarmVille players outnumber actual farmers in the United States by more than 60 to 1). Yet some of the game’s biggest fans are farmers.

Zynga, which is based in San Francisco, specializes in games that are easy to learn but hard to walk away from. It also makes Mafia Wars (25 million players) and Café World (24 million), the second and third most popular games on Facebook, respectively.

Mark Pincus, the founder and chief executive, said that Zynga earns money from advertising, sponsorships and players who buy in-game cash. Zynga has been profitable since 2007, he said.

“It’s really the same formula that makes Facebook successful,” Mr. Pincus said, “the ability to connect with your friends, to express yourself, and to invest in the game.”

FarmVille takes advantage of Facebook by allowing — nay, nagging — players to become “neighbors” with their friends, even those who have not joined the game. Players can earn points by helping with their neighbors’ work. They can also irritate friends who don’t want to play FarmVille with endless notifications and invitations to join, which has led to a vocal backlash.

Refining the Twitter Explosion

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

There is way too much information on Twitter — lately, it defies navigation. In January, there were 2.4 million tweets a day, according to Alessio S. ignorini, a researcher.

 

Why should we care about information overload at Twitter? Isn’t Twitter about the individual experiences — a Tweeter and her followers — not the totality of millions of Tweeters around the world?

Twitter says it could unveil in the next few weeks — “geolocation” — holds such potential to make the Twitter rapids navigable.

The idea is to take advantage of global positioning systems on cellphones to allow Twitter users to include a precise location with each tweet. Users would be able, right off the bat, to limit their searches to tweets from a particular location.

“Proximity can be this proxy for relevance,” said Ryan Sarver, the director of the Twitter platform, who led a “fairly small team” of programmers who after a few months are close to completing the geolocation project. “We are about delivering the right information to the right people.”

Improvements like geolocation have the potential to make the Internet suddenly relevant to society as it is lived, not just relevant to what happens online. Mr. Sarver imagines features like “local trending topics,” a list of subjects popular in a particular area; or searches for happy hour in a neighborhood of Dallas that will intelligently link tweets about happy hours to the place they were sent from.

Because GPS will provide the ability to become very “granular” with locations, you could mimic through Twitter the banter at the local diner or a barbershop, by limiting a search of tweets to a two-block radius.

There is also the fear of loss of privacy and loss of security as once-local chats become globally public. That is why Mr. Sarver said Twitter would require two “opt in” decisions — at the profile level and again through the application.

For the technological optimists, the cures for information overload, in essence, are better filters and greater context. The more you know about a message — who sent it and

 

 why — the better you understand it.

Creating navigation tools for digital information is the next big challenge, said Erik Hersman, a co-founder of Ushahidi who has been in contact with Mr. Sarver’s team at Twitter.

Walls remain in divided Belfast

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

In Berlin they have been marking 20 years without their wall, in Belfast the division of the city remains set in concrete, wire and fencing.

But that does not mean people are happy with the status quo.

On Monday, a group of youths gathered at the peaceline on Lanark Way, which separates the Protestant Shankill Road from the Catholic Falls Road.

Andrea Maskey, from Falls Road said that the walls should be removed.

“I don’t really think there is a need for them any more, they should be taken down. Everybody else in the world has taken theirs down, so why can’t we?”

Matthew McMullen from Springmartin said that only when people came together would the walls fade into the past.

“They’re protective but I don’t like the sight of them, I would prefer them to come down,” he said.

The walls were a symptom of the “division and fear” that remained between the two traditions that dominate the city.

PeaceWallGates.jpg image by coolershaka