Monthly Archives: March 2010

Media Coverage as an economic indicator

Can the U.S. economy be predicted by reading the newspaper – or 15 newspapers?  The Dow Jones folks think so. The Dow Jones Economic Sentiment Indicator “aims to predict the health of the U.S. economy by analyzing the coverage of 15 major daily newspapers in the U.S. using a proprietary algorithm to look for positive and negative sentiment about the economy in every article. ”

According to Dow Jones, the indicator has been back-tested to 1980 and is good at predicting trends about seven months out.  I’m going to start following it and see how it does.  Right now, it’s trending downward a bit in spite of constant news reports that the economy is recovering.  Maybe I’m just reading the wrong newspapers.  For example, yesterday I saw a report that auto sales are now predicted to reach around 13 million in 2010 instead of the previously predicted 12 million.  Of course, that’s just one little stat.  At any rate, for this news junkie with an MBA this is my cup of tea.

Focus on Jobs subject of MPB’s Quorum on 3-24-2010

The March 24th edition of QUORUM on MPB focused on the state’s economic and employment prospects.  The programs are now archived on YouTube.  This one is well worth watching if you want to understand current economic conditions in Mississippi.  Click here to view the program.

The panel consisted of Gray Swoope, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority; Mississippi Economic Council president Blake Wilson; and Maury Granger, chairman of the Department of Economics at Jackson State University.

To view archived editions of Quorum go to and search for quorum mpb.

My new job: Backyard Weather Observer

A few weeks ago I responded to the call from the Community Collaborative Rain, Snow and Hail Network (CoCoRaHS) and became measurer of precipitation.  I purchased a special rain gauge, installed it in my backyard and now send a report to every morning to CoCoRaHS.  In case you’re wondering, yesterday’s front that came through Jackson, Mississippi deposited .48 inches of rain in my backyard between 7:00 a.m. and late morning when the sun came out.  I reported this online and it is now posted on my little weather station spot on a national map. If you go to the map today, March 26, 2010, I’m that .48 speck in northeast Hinds County.

This is a useful and interesting activity, especially for those remotely interested in the subject of weather.  It is also important because precipitation can vary greatly from neighborhood to neighborhood. CoCoRaHS is an acronym for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network.  CoCoRaHS is a unique, non-profit, community-based network of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow).   By using low-cost measurement tools, stressing training and education, and utilizing an interactive Web-site, its aim is to provide the highest quality data for natural resource, education and research applications.

If you are interested in becoming a precipitation measurer like me just click here to check out the FAQ section of the CoCoRaHS Web site.  It’s easy to join online.  There is even local contact information if needed.  Best of all, you will be doing something important that will not take much of your time.

Unemployment rate for one group – 15.7%; for other group – 4.7%. What’s going on?

The Southern Education Foundation just released a new brief, Miles to Go – Mississippi, Pre-Kindergarten: Time to Begin, which documents the impact of education on poverty and which makes the case for Mississippi to establish a Pre-K program.  The brief gives the adult unemployment rates in Mississippi by educational level, as follows:

high school dropout:  15.7%

high school/GED graduate:  10.6%

some college:  8.5%

bachelor’s degree and higher:  4.7%

Those figures were as of December 2009.  Education makes a huge difference even in distressed economic times.

Read H.R. 4872 for yourself

The “Reconciliation Act of 2010” is now online and available for anyone with Internet access to read.   Click here to read the bill.  Please note that searching for things one hears in the news media, such as “Louisiana Purchase,” is difficult because the language in the bill is often phrased in much different terms.

Now when someone asks, “Have you read the bill?” you can answer in the affirmative.  Happy reading.

Partners in Education Conference & Governor’s Awards

REGISTRATION NOW OPEN for the 2010 State Conference and Governor’s Awards.   This year’s theme is “Weathering Tough Times Through Strong Partnerships.” Keynote speaker is Beto Gonzalez, Superintendent of Schools, Mercedes Public School District in Texas.   Click here for more information about the conference and the Mississippi Association of Partners in Education.

“Beto Gonzalez is a breath of fresh air in a field consumed by bureaucracy. He speaks passionately about his experiences growing up in a migrant family and how his teachers became his inspiration and made a profound difference in his life. I guarantee that those who attend the state conference will be inspired and motivated to be the difference in young peoples’ lives across Mississippi.” – Wayne Rodolfich, Superintendent, Pascagoula School District

Can St. Joseph help you sell your house?

Does planting an upside down statuette in your front yard increase the odds that your house will sell sooner than later? If it is a statuette of St. Joseph the answer is “yes,” according to quite a few people.

The dream of just about every seller of real estate is to sell the property for the listed price within twenty-four hours of it being listed. Every seller wants to get top dollar for their real estate. After that desire comes the wish to sell the property fast. Some markets are so hot that listing agents have prospective buyers already signed up before the agents even get certain listings. Then there are markets where properties are on the market for months at a time. Sellers in such situations may want to investigate the possibility of turning to St. Joseph, patron saint of home life.

What is a patron saint? And anyway, who is St. Joseph?

This inquiring mind went straight to the Patron Saints page of the web site to learn more. According the web site, patron saints are chosen as special protectors or guardians over areas of life. These areas can include occupations, illnesses, churches, countries, causes — anything that is important to people. Although, popes have named patron saints, patrons can be chosen by other individuals or groups as well. Usually, patron saints are chosen by individuals because an interest, talent, or event in their lives aligns with the special area. For example, many people who travel often wear a St. Christopher medal because he is the patron saint of travelers. For those really interested in the subject of patron saints, there is a web site that lists patron saints by topic and by name.

Is your job algorithmic or heuristic?

An algorithmic task is one in which you follow a set of established instructions down a single pathway to one conclusion.  A heuristic task involves trial and error and discovering the solution by yourself.  Algorithmic jobs therefore are ones where the same task is done over and over.  Heuristic jobs involve creativity and doing something new often.

Algorithmic jobs are becoming easier to replace with technology.  For example, consider the last time time you called an airline or a travel agent to make a reservation.  Or perhaps you used the self-checkout at the grocery store.  If you have an algorithmic job, you may want to consider switching careers while you still have time.

Heuristic jobs, especially those that involve personal contact, are more difficult to replace with technology.  Consider such jobs as lobbyists, public relations professionals, athletes and beauticians.

What people remember about you

People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

A neat tool for organizing your community

A community is more than a place.  It is a collection of people with a common interest.  That interest might be anything from sports to religion to politics.  It often amazes me how people who have the same interest have a way of finding each other in a crowd.  But what about people who move to a new town and want to find others who share their same interests?  It can be tome-consuming and difficult.  Or what about people who want to start a community if people with a certain interest?

Fortunately, there is an excellent online tool to assist in creating communities.  It’s called Meetup, and it describes itself as follows:

Meetup is the world’s largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face. More than 2,000 groups get together in local communities each day, each one with the goal of improving themselves or their communities.

Meetup‘s mission is to revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.

Wow!  That sounds rather ambitious and profound.  But you know what?  It is working.  I entered my zip code on the Web site and was pleasantly surprised to find that in my neck of the woods there is a lot going on, to wit: a women’s book lovers group, a real estate study hall, a gamers group, an Internet marketing club, an actors and filmmakers discussion group, and the list goes on.

I’ve been toying with the idea of forming a discussion group in the manner of Benjamin Franklin’s Junto group to discuss philosophy, current events, business affairs and politics, with the idea of implementing some of the discussed outcomes in the broader community. may just motivate me to put the idea out there to find out if there is anyone else who wants to engage in such an activity.

Check it out.  It might be just the thing for you and your community.