Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Spams, hook-up culture, expectant moms, stuff

EVER wondered why you suddenly have spam emails about dating or food recipes? Or whatever? It's because you are single and you are a foodie. You are being watched online or whatever you're clicking and typing on your smartphone, that's why... In fact, even retailers are watching your social media persona... Or even your inbox? For example, Nordstrom wanted to learn more about its customers — how many came through the doors, how many were repeat visitors — the kind of information that e-commerce sites like Amazon have in spades. So last fall the company started testing new technology that allowed it to track customers’ movements by following the Wi-Fi signals from their smartphones. Nordstrom’s “experiment” is part of a movement by retailers to gather data about in-store shoppers’ behavior and moods, using video surveillance and signals from their cellphones and apps to learn information as varied as their sex, how many minutes they spend in the candy aisle and how long they look at merchandise before buying it. All sorts of retailers — including national chains, like Family Dollar, Cabela’s and Mothercare, a British company, and specialty stores like Benetton and Warby Parker — are testing these technologies and using them to decide on matters like changing store layouts and offering customized coupons.

HOOK-UP culture, who's taking the lead? Some experts say, now it's ladies' choice. Hanna Rosin, in her book, “The End of Men,” writes that hooking up is a functional strategy for today’s hard-charging and ambitious young women, allowing them to have enjoyable sex lives while focusing most of their energy on academic and professional goals. Although others, like Susan Patton, the Princeton alumna and mother who in March wrote a letter to The Daily Princetonian urging female undergraduates not to squander the chance to hunt for a husband on campus, say that de-emphasizing relationships in college works against women. “For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you,” advised Ms. Patton, who has two sons, one a Princeton graduate and the other a current student. In many places, Ms. Patton was derided for wanting to return to the days of the “Mrs. degree,” though a few female writers, noting how hard it can be for women to find mates in their 30s, suggested that she might have a point. Majority of my current friends and Facebook readers are females, so what do you think?

WHEN people speak wistfully of the past, they typically become more optimistic and inspired about the future. I agree... “Nostalgia makes us a bit more human,” says a group of psychologists at University of Southampton. They consider the first great nostalgist to be Odysseus, an itinerant who used memories of his family and home to get through hard times, but the shrinks emphasize that nostalgia is not the same as homesickness. It’s not just for those away from home, and it’s not a sickness, despite its historical reputation. However, nostalgia does have its painful side — it’s a bittersweet emotion — but the net effect is to make life seem more meaningful and death less frightening. Nostalgia is common around the world, including in children as young as 7 (who look back fondly on birthdays and vacations). I guess, I do reminisce a lot about my childhood and memories of home...

ARE you an expectant mom? Stockpiling diapers and choosing car seats—or are you struggling with bigger purchases? Heard of birthing tub as epidural anesthesia? According to a NY Times research, cost of maternity care these days range from $4,000 to $45,000. An ultrasound for $935, and a $256 bill to a radiologist to read the scan? Plenty of other pregnant women are getting sticker shock in the United States, where charges for delivery have about tripled since 1996, according to an analysis done by Truven Health Analytics. Childbirth in the United States is uniquely expensive, and maternity and newborn care constitute the single biggest category of hospital payouts for most commercial insurers and state Medicaid programs. The cumulative costs of approximately four million annual births is well over $50 billion. And though maternity care costs far less in other developed countries than it does in the United States, studies show that their citizens do not have less access to care or to high-tech care during pregnancy than Americans. But then, do we really need those “high-tech care”?

RECENT studies suggest that Americans are buying fewer cars, driving less and getting fewer licenses as each year goes by. Okay. Has America passed peak driving? The United States, with its broad expanses and suburban ideals, had long been one of the world’s prime car cultures. America’s love affair with its vehicles seems to be cooling? When adjusted for population growth, the number of miles driven in the United States peaked in 2005 and dropped steadily thereafter, according to an analysis by Doug Short of Advisor Perspectives, an investment research company.  As of April 2013, the number of miles driven per person was nearly 9 percent below the peak and equal to where the country was in January 1995. Part of the explanation certainly lies in the recession, because cash-strapped Americans could not afford new cars, and the unemployed weren’t going to work anyway. But by many measures the decrease in driving preceded the downturn and appears to be persisting now that recovery is under way. The next few years will be telling. So let's wait and see... Meantime, I need to score a bag of sugar at a store a mile away. 

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