Mary K. Hogan currently holds a Certified Business Analysis Professional certification from the International Institute of Business Analysis and has held the designation of certified trust and financial analyst. Hogan has been a contributing writer online since 2009 and is currently working on her third children's book.
Electronic business, more commonly known as "e-business," is the new age of business. A business analyst studying trends and measuring data to boost operational sales assumes the role of e-business analyst for measurements, web designs and analyses pertaining to business on the Internet. Interview questions for an e-business analyst position are similar to a business analyst in terms of analyzing data, except that e-business data relates to business over the Internet.
An interviewer may ask you to describe a major e-business project that you have worked on and the benefit of that project to an organization. By asking this question, the interviewer probes your experience with a particular project, your role in the project and details of the project's success. You may speak about customized web applications and how the applications improved an organization's online interactivity.
Your expectations of an e-business analyst position may be important to an interviewer. She may ask about personal growth expectations. To answer the question in a positive light you may want to discuss expectations to be challenged in the position both for motivation and for personal growth. An example you could provide is the challenge of developing e-business strategies to transform a business's functions online for greater efficiency.
To assess whether your personality is a good fit in the organization, an interviewer may ask if your work on any e-business projects was ever criticized and how you handled it. With this type of question, the interviewer may be looking for reasons behind the criticism and your reaction to it. You could respond by stating that you stand behind the quality of your designs and the accuracy of your measurements and analysis. While you are open to new concepts, you are comfortable speaking in support of your developments across all layers of an organization.
If an interviewer asks how you will adapt to the new position as an e-business analyst, she is looking to see why you believe you are a good fit. If you are an older person, she may be discreetly questioning your knowledge and abilities with modern technology. Expressing your experience on current systems is important. The position of an e-business analyst is generally behind a screen, analyzing data. You may want to show your flexibility to interact by stating that you can help the organization by providing training.
So which is it?
Both ads feature elements of truth, but the devil is in the details.
It’s true that some small-business owners will get hit with an additional 4 percent surcharge if they earn an annual income over $1 million. Typically, this happens when they sell their businesses. In fact, about half of the households in Massachusetts that make over $1 million are so-called one-time millionaires. They earn that kind of money just once because of profits they’ve made from selling a business, a home, or long-term investment.
So let me put a finer point on this: Not every small business or homeowner will pay the extra tax. Some will, but they represent a tiny fraction of all taxpayers.
Will that distinction be enough to help you decide how to vote?
But wait, there’s much more to deliberate. I’ve heard from many readers who have asked excellent questions about who is and isn’t affected by Question 1, how the money will be spent, and why we need extra revenue when the state budget is enjoying a surplus.
Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the so-called millionaires tax proposal:
Q. Can a good accountant or financial planner help “one-time millionaires” minimize the impact of the surcharge?
A. Yes, it’s possible. But there is only so much you can do, according to financial experts. When selling a business, home, or property, you can spread the profits over more than one tax year in what is known as an installment sale.
But you’ll need approval from the state Department of Revenue, and the strategy comes with risks. For example, if you do an installment sale of a small business and the business goes bankrupt soon after, there might not be any profits left to receive in future years. Most people selling their businesses opt for a lump-sum payout from the buyer.
Charitable deductions to offset income is also another strategy, such as setting up a Donor Advised Fund the year you expect a significant windfall.
“Even the most creative accountants still have to follow the tax law,” said Shannon Ouellette, a financial planner with Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, which has several branches in the Boston market. “There are some flexibilities, but it’s not like, ‘Here’s the magic wand and everyone’s problems are solved.’”
Q. Will more wealthy people move out of Massachusetts to states like Florida and New Hampshire that do not tax regular income?
A. “I hate advising people to do it,” said Jeffrey Levine, a partner at Newton accounting firm Alkon & Levine. “I just feel badly that they feel forced to lose some of the Boston culture ... but more important, I feel terrible that the state loses their revenue.”
Many accountants would advise someone to pack and move to reduce tax liability. A September poll by the Massachusetts Society of CPAs of its members indicated that 47 percent would be more likely to recommend that clients move out of the state if Question 1 passes.
A study by Tufts University’s Center for State Policy Analysis estimates that the amount of revenue collected from Question 1 could be reduced by as much as 35 percent between tax avoidance strategies and millionaires moving.
That’s worrisome to Levine. “When people leave, that puts more pressure on those who are staying to pay what’s needed,” he said.
Q. Massachusetts has one of the most expensive housing markets in the country, and it’s not uncommon to have a substantial gain when selling a home. Should I be worried?
A. If Question 1 passes, the first $1 million continues to be taxed at the five percent income tax rate that everyone pays. It’s the next $1 million or more, that is taxed at nine percent.
Let’s say you bought your primary residence in 1992 for $550,000. You and your spouse sell the house today for $3.5 million. As a couple, you get a $500,000 tax exemption, and after paying brokerage and other fees, your net profit on the sale is $2.6 million.
This same household also draws another $100,000 in income, perhaps through a salary or investments. That brings its total income to $2.7 million. The state tax bill today would be $135,000 compared with $203,000, if Question 1 passes.
In 2021, only two percent of Massachusetts home sales resulted in a gain of more than $1 million, according to analysis by the Massachusetts Budget Policy & Center.
Still, some voters might get spooked because real estate — whether it’s your primary residence, vacation home, or rental property — can be a significant source of wealth that would now be subject to a new tax.
Q. Why can’t there be a carve-out for one-time millionaires?
A. Senator Jason Lewis, who co-sponsored the legislation that put Question 1 on the ballot, said it’s unclear whether lawmakers can tweak the measure like they have with other ballot initiatives. That’s because it would mean amending the state constitution.
“It would probably go to the courts,” said the Winchester Democrat.
But if you’re asking this question, Lewis thinks you’re missing the point. He believes the public sector is woefully underfunded, especially in education and transportation, and the new tax would allow the state to pay for programs and services citizens deserve such as a world-class transit system.
Even one-time millionaires, he added, can afford to pay a little more.
“It’s not asking them to pay higher taxes every year,” Lewis said.
Q. Isn’t this ballot measure a back door to the state implementing a graduated income tax?
A. Most states have what is known as a graduated or progressive income tax: The more you earn, the more you pay in taxes. Massachusetts has a flat tax rate, which means everyone pays the same rate.
“I wish we could have a graduated income tax in Mass. That would be better tax policy,” said Lewis. “This is not a back door. This is not a cracked door. The door is still dead-bolted shut on a graduated tax.”
That’s because changing the income tax structure would require an amendment to the state constitution, which would require a lengthy and complicated process. Question 1 represents such a change, and it has been nearly a decade in the making.
Q. The state budget has a record surplus, as well as billions of dollars in federal relief money it has yet to spend. Why does it need more money?
A. Surpluses come and go, and the federal pandemic money is a one-time allocation. Question 1 allows for an annual stream of money to boost spending in education and transportation, such as expanding early education and helping to pay for the rebuilding of the two Cape Cod bridges.
”To have high-quality schools and world-class infrastructure, we need to be able to invest every year, year in and year out, not just have one year’s windfall,” said Phineas Baxandall, senior policy analyst and advocacy director at the Massachusetts Budget & Policy Center, which supports Question 1.
My colleague Matt Stout reported last week that while the ballot measure designates the revenue to go towards education and transportation, there’s no ensure that lawmakers will actually increase spending in those areas.
Lewis, however, told the Globe that he will advocate for the new tax money to “be additional dollars over and above funding that is already provided.”
Shirley Leung is a Business columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Q. My son purchased a used 2020 Kia Soul Model S with 13,600 miles on it from a local Kia dealer in May of this year. After a couple of days, the engine light on the dashboard came on. He brought the car back to the dealership and they attached a diagnostic meter to it. They said there was a problem with the cooling system. They serviced it and said the problem was corrected. A few days later the engine light went on again. We brought it back and they replaced a faulty thermostat. It stayed off until he started out for a trip down south, the light came on again. We looked under the hood, no leaks and the car wasn’t running hot. A neighbor attached a diagnostic meter, and the code came up cooling system. He was able to reset the light and it stayed off till two days ago. What is the problem that causes the engine light to go on and why can’t it be corrected by Kia?
A. Certainly Kia can fix the problem. At this point I would go back to any Kia dealer when the engine light is on and have them check for codes. As the second owner the car is covered by a 60,000 mile 5-year warranty. The limited basic warranty offers bumper-to-bumper coverage for most vehicle components not covered by any powertrain warranty.
Q. I have what I think is a simple question. I got a flat tire, called AAA came to help and put my spare tire on. I think I need to get my tire replaced, do I go to the car dealer, or can I go to a garage and see if they can replace and repair the tire? Or is it mandatory to go to the dealership for it since it’s the original tire?
A. The dealership or a tire store should be able to match the tire exactly with the original tires on the car. Depending on the car and mileage you may need to replace two tires. At this point I would go to what ever is most convenient and quickest to have the flat tire inspected. You may find once the tire is carefully examined it can be repaired to as good as new.
Q. Did I miss something in the news? I have a car registered in Massachusetts and I had my vehicle inspected today. During the inspection the technician removed my clear plate cover and did not place it back on. They noted that in Massachusetts since there are no toll booths any longer, that plate covers are not allowed, due to possible glare from taking photos of the plate. Is this valid? Should I not place the cover back on myself? This was the first time I had the car inspected at the dealer. The local garage last year didn’t remove the clear cover. I am confused.
A. Massachusetts has a law in place that requires vehicle license plate numbers to be legible and unobscured by a glass or plastic cover or another device. A violation is $35 for the first offense, $75 for second offense and $150 for third offense. Generally, a clear plate cover that doesn’t distort the plate and allows for normal reflectivity is allowed. I also checked with the Motorist Assistance Center (the contractor that handles vehicle inspection) that confirmed this. It may just be one inspector’s interpretation of the law.
Q. My 1997 Toyota Camry runs well with 203,000 miles on it. I’ve been extending the life of this vehicle with major repairs lately, and now the power steering rack is leaking. It was suggested to use a sealant rather than an expensive repair. Do you think it will work?
A. If the seals are leaking a product such as Lucas Power Steering Sealer may help or at least slow the leak. These product swell the seals slightly and slow down the leaks. In some cases, the leak can stop completely. Will it last forever, probably not, but it may buy you more time. You also might want to have your shop check around remanufactured steering racks are now in some cases under $200 and it is only two hours labor to replace the steering rack on that model Camry.
Q. I have a creaking noise in my right rear suspension of my 2016 Mazda Miata. I hear it on sudden turns or on the first movement forward from a standstill. Just one low creaking noise per turn or start up. Other than that, the car runs beautifully. The local dealer could not find the noise and said the brake calipers were loose, that didn’t work. Several mechanics have not been able to find anything loose in the suspension. Is it true that coil springs “creep” at the ends as they compress and release? Could this be the mystery creaking?
A. if I was looking for a creaking noise, I would start with looking at anything with a rubber bushing. Also, if the creak isn’t present in the rain, then more likely a rubber bushing. Could a spring insulator be a problem, perhaps but usually it is more consistent. The most common issue with these cars is the hub support bushings wear and rust forms and it makes a noise. Usually with a very close inspection you can see rusty dust at the upper bushings. This is not a cheap repair about two hours labor and the part is nearly $600. I would want to completely confirm the issue before spending almost $1000
Got a car question, email the Car Doctor for a personal reply. firstname.lastname@example.org
There's no denying that data is the new gold. With the rise in technology, collection of useful data has become possible. But what's the best way to collect this data? How do organisations make sense of it? This is where a Data Analyst steps in. A Data Analyst doesn't only collect the data but also analyse it by using advanced statistical tools.
Due to the pandemic, most businesses have started online activities and the demand for data analysis has skyrocketed. Data Analysts help organisations understand how raw data can be used to find solutions for some of the most challenging questions.
If you are looking to build a career in the field of data professionals, now is the time. A study conducted by IBM and Burning Glass Insights showed that in 2020 alone there were 2.7 million job openings for data professionals.
This goes to say that a career in the field of the data profession has grown and is only growing.
Let's look at the Indian job market. According to a study by AIMResearch, close to about 93,500 new job openings were available by the end of August 2020.
This sharp rise in the job openings is testament to what an important role a data Analyst plays in any organisation. Needless to say, the role of a data Analyst cuts across all divisions of an organisation. For example, in the field of marketing, a data Analyst may help brands tap into new audiences. Likewise, in the case of the manufacturing department, a data analyst will be able to find out the reason for delays or spillage, so the right management decisions should be made.
By now you know the crucial role that a Data Analyst plays in any organisation, which makes it a dream job for many. Next, you must know all the responsibilities and challenges that may come your way in the job.
One of the main responsibilities of a Data Analyst is to maintain timely reports. These reports essentially provide the major business insights to the top management on which they can make necessary decisions. Now these reports need to weave a story, they need to be crisp and they must answer all the questions that the decision-making team may have.
While it may appear as an independent department, this isn't the case. It is important for a Data Analyst to collaborate with teams. Good collaboration ensures proper data collection, one may collaborate with campaign managers, sales people, operations executives etc. Another level of collaboration occurs within the data professional teams, to ensure smooth functioning.
The duties of a Data Analyst are vast. It starts from collecting the data and ends by drawing conclusions. One must be able to set up seamless processes to understand this complex world of data. The complexity doesn't just end in the vastness of data collection, but also remains in the fact that there are multiple teams with multiple requirements.
If you are just starting out your career as a Data Analyst, you need to gather knowledge. This job requires analytical skills and the use of some advanced tools. If you have decided to learn on your own, start by making a list of tools that you must learn. Now, understand that there isn't a 'must know' tool for every data analyst. Some tools that are useful include - Microsoft Excel, SQL, SAS software, Google Analytics. Start by reading up on how to use them, followed by testing them with a hypothetical set of data.
Another way to learn on your own is by reading books written on the subject. Some of the best in the field are; Data Analytics Made Accessible by Dr Anil Maheshwari, Python for Everybody: Exploring Data in Python 3 by Dr Charles Russell Severance.
Once you have garnered the required skills and knowledge, take up small projects to build your portfolio and test what you learnt. This will help you come closer to what actual work as a Data Analyst would be like.
Another great way of gaining all the knowledge is by doing a specialised online course. There are many crash courses perfectly designed for some starting fresh and making a quick shift to Data Career. Here's a list of advantages of taking an online course:
A career in the field of Data Analysis can be very beneficial. Especially in the times where data plays the most important role in every business decision. Taking this leap may be scary, but the fruits of your labour will indeed be sweet. So take the leap and we will be here to help you.
Read: 5 job portals to help you find the right job in 2022
Read: Career opportunities in blockchain that you can consider in digital world
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Well, mostly everyone. A famous author once dismissed the timeless book as having "no heart," calling it "nothing but glittering frostwork." Who would ever say such a thing about a tale so legendary it's been made into Christmas movies and stage plays?
We'd love to tell you, but what fun would that be? After all, the best thing about a rousing game of trivia is the challenge of coming up with the answer.
Don't worry, we won't leave you in suspense over the answer to this juicy morsel of Christmas trivia. But you’ll need to read on to find out — and lucky for you, there's a whole lot more where that came from.
Show up to your Christmas party with a bunch of fun facts about everything from the link between Santa Claus and Coca-Cola to the bestselling Christmas song of all time. Hint: It's not "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Even so, if you've ever wondered how Rudolph came to be one of Santa's unofficial reindeer, we've got that one for you too.
So, put on your Santa cap (we'd say "thinking cap" but it's Christmas, so we're staying on-theme here) and get ready because with all these Christmas trivia questions and answers, you're about to become a full-fledged holiday pro.
Question: What is thought to be the first observation of the December 25 holiday? Answer: The Christian church in Rome commemorated the Feast of the Nativity in 336.
Question: When did Christmas become a national holiday?Answer: On June 24, 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a proclamation declaring December 25 a national holiday.
Question: What was the original name of Clement Clarke Moore’s "The Night Before Christmas"? Answer: “A Visit from St. Nicholas”
Question: What controversy is associated with "The Night Before Christmas"? Answer: Some scholars suggest it was actually written by poet and farmer Henry Livingston Jr.
Question: Where did "Old Saint Nick" come from? Answer: During the Middle Ages, St. Nicholas was a patron saint of children, sailors and thieves (among others), and is known for giving out gifts to the faithful.
Question: Where did the first modern-day image of Santa Claus come from? Answer: An 1881 issue of "Harper's Weekly" featured a drawing by Thomas Nast that portrayed Santa as a jolly, robust man wearing a suit and carrying a bag of toys.
Question: Which soda manufacturer is thought to have cemented the rosy-cheeked, bearded Santa Claus that is associated with Christmas today? Answer: In 1931, Coca-Cola commissioned illustrator Haddon Sundblom to paint an image of Santa for their ads and it has since been the basis for the Santa Claus we know today.
Question: What did Haddon Sundblom base his rendering of Santa Claus on? Answer: Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicolas,” otherwise known as “The Night Before Christmas.”
Question: How many reindeer does Santa have? Answer: Eight: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.
Question: When did Rudolph become Santa’s unofficial ninth reindeer? Answer: In 1939, when the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was released.
Question: When did Santa first become associated with reindeer? Answer: Santa’s reindeer are thought to have originated in an 1821 booklet written by an anonymous author who pens: “Old Santeclaus with much delight / His reindeer drives this frosty night.”
Question: Are Santa’s reindeer male or female? Answer: Female. Male reindeer lose their antlers in November, while female reindeer keep their antlers through the winter. Most depictions of Santa’s reindeer show antlers, which means they must be female to guide his sleigh in December.
Question: Why do reindeer have hairy hooves? Answer: The hair on their hooves provide reindeer a good grip when walking on ice and snow, per the FDA.
Question: What’s the origin of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?” Answer: In 1939, a copywriter named Robert May created the character for a Montgomery Ward Christmas coloring book based on his daughter’s love of deer.
Question: How did “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” become a song? Answer: Inspired by coloring book character's success, Robert May's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, penned the song in 1939.
Question: True or false: Gene Autry didn’t want to record “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Answer: True. Autry thought the song was bad for his image and his wife ultimately convinced him to record the song as a B-side, according to the New York Times.
Question: What’s the best-selling Christmas single of all time? Answer: “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby has sold over 100 million records around the world, according to the Guinness World Records.
Question: Which song tops Billboard's list of the 100 greatest holiday songs of all time? Answer: “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey
Question: Which album tops Billboard's list of the top 100 holiday albums of all time? Answer: “A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio
Question: After “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” what are Billboard's five greatest holiday songs of all time (in order)?Answer: “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms, “The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)" by Nat King Cole, “A Holly Jolly Christmas” by Burl Ives, “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano and “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” by Andy Williams
Question: Where is the real North Pole located? Answer: The geographic North Pole is at 90 degrees north latitude, making it the northernmost point on the planet.
Question: True or false: The North Pole has no time zone. Answer: True. All longitudinal lines start at the North Pole, which means there’s no time zone.
Question: When was the first mass-produced Christmas card printed and sent? Answer: The first Christmas card was printed in the United Kingdom in 1843 and depicts a family celebrating Christmas.
Question: Who invented Christmas lights? Answer: Three individuals are responsible for the lights we hang today. Thomas Edison created the first strand of electric lights in 1880. Edward H. Johnson put the first string of Christmas lights together in 1882. And, in 1917, Albert Sadacca proposed that his family’s lighting company sell colored strands of inexpensive Christmas lights to the public.
Question: When was the first Rockefeller Center Christmas tree erected? Answer: In December of 1931, workers at Rockefeller Center pooled their money to buy a Christmas tree. It was a 20-foot balsam fir.
Question: When did lighting the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree become an annual tradition? Answer: December 1933
Question: When did the Rockefeller Center skating rink open? Answer: 1936
Question: What’s the largest tree in Rockefeller Center’s history? Answer: In 1999, The tallest tree, which was imported from Killingworth, Connecticut, stood 100 feet tall.
Question: Which actor won an Oscar for their portrayal of Santa Claus? Answer: Edmund Gwenn won best supporting actor for his role as Santa Claus in “Miracle on 34th Street.”
Question: What’s unique about the McCallister's house in “Home Alone”? Answer: Nearly all the rooms are decorated in red, green and gold.
Question: Where was the movie “Home Alone” filmed? Answer: The bulk of the film was shot on sets built inside a Chicago high school.
Question: True or false: The gangster movie that Kevin McCallister watches in “Home Alone” is a real film. Answer: False. “Angels With Filthy Souls” was created especially for “Home Alone,” but is based on the 1938 James Cagney movie, “Angels With Dirty Faces.”
Question: Which actor broke their finger while filming “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation"? Answer: While filming the scene where Clark Griswold punches the outside Christmas decorations after he can’t get the lights to work, actor Chevy Chase broke his pinky finger but continued filming the scene that appears in the final movie.
Question: What's the significance of the moose glasses that Clark Griswold and Cousin Eddie drink eggnog out of during “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?” Answer: The moose glasses are from Walley World, the Griswold vacation destination from the original “National Lampoon's Vacation."
Question: Which classic Christmas movie inspired “The Wonder Years?” Answer: “A Christmas Story”
Question: Why do we leave milk and cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve? Answer: According to NPR, one of the first literary references to leaving out milk and cookies on Christmas is in a short story from the 1870s, a time when good manners dictated hosts put out food for visiting guests to eat.
Question: How much does the average consumer spend on holiday gifts and other related purchases? Answer: In 2021, the National Retail Federation estimated that consumers would spend roughly $997.73 on holiday gifts, decorations and other items.
Question: What percentage of people return at least one of their holiday gifts? Answer: At least 66% of consumers surveyed by Optoro returned at least one holiday gift in 2020.
Question: In 2021, what percentage of U.S. adults intended to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa? Answer: According to the National Retail Federation, 90% of adults planned to celebrate the holidays.
Question: True or false: Early holiday shopping (defined as prior to November) is on the decline. Answer: False. Half of holiday shoppers plan to start buying before November, the highest number in the National Retail Federation's survey’s history.
Question: True or false: The Puritans canceled Christmas. Answer: True. The English Puritans banned the holiday in 1647 because they viewed it as a pagan celebration. In Massachusetts, the U.S. Puritans followed suit. From 1659 to 1681, anyone caught celebrating the holiday was fined.
Question: Where’s the biggest Christmas light display in North America? Answer: Christmas Town at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. The display boasts more than ten million Christmas lights.
Question: Which state produces the most Christmas trees in the U.S.? Answer: According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Oregon is the top tree-producing state, followed by North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Question: What’s the most popular type of Christmas tree?Answer: Fraser fir, followed by noble fir, Douglas fir, balsam fir and Scotch pine.
Question: How many Christmas tree seedlings are planted each year? Answer: 60 to 70 million
Question: True or false: You should add bleach, aspirin or fertilizer to Christmas trees to make them last longer. Answer: False. The National Christmas Tree Association says some commercial additives and other hacks can increase needle loss. Just use plain tap water instead.
Question: How much should you cut off before putting a tree in a stand? Answer: Half an inch, per the National Christmas Tree Association.
Question: How many real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. each year? Answer: Approximately 25-30 million
Question: What is the most popular Christmas cookie in the U.S.? Answer: A YouGov poll found that chocolate chip cookies are the most popular Christmas cookie, followed by sugar, fudge and brownie cookies.
Question: What’s the least popular Christmas cookie?Answer: The same YouGov poll found that anise cookies are the least popular come Christmas, followed by chai sugar, spritz and Pfeffernüsse.
Question: When was “A Christmas Carol” published?Answer: "A Christmas Carol" was published by Charles Dickens on December 19, 1843.
Question: How long did it take Charles Dickens to write "A Christmas Carol"? Answer: Six weeks
Question: How many ghosts visit Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol"? Answer: Technically four. The first is Scrooge's former business partner, Jacob Marley, who tells him about the three spirits that will follow.
Question: After Jacob Marley, who are the spirits that visit Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve? Answer: The spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future
Question: Which famous author and peer of Charles Dickens wasn't a fan of "A Christmas Carol"? Answer: Mark Twain famously critiqued Dickens' work, saying "there is no heart. No feeling – is nothing but glittering frostwork."
Just under a year ago, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company he founded as a Harvard undergrad would change its name to Meta. "From now on, we're going to be metaverse-first, not Facebook-first," he said during a virtual keynote at the company’s Connect event.
Zuckerberg has spent the year since hyping all things metaverse. He’s shown off dystopian VR offices, looked at pictures of space in VR with Neil deGrasse Tyson and persuaded more than one professional athlete to play VR games with him. He went on Joe Rogan’s podcast to extol the virtues of mixed martial arts and virtual reality. Rogan even got an early demo of Meta’s new high-end VR headset, which is expected to launch during Connect.
But the metaverse has also proved to be a massive money pit. In the last year alone, the company has lost billions of dollars on its metaverse ambitions, and the trend is unlikely to reverse any time soon. The company, which last year announced plans to hire 10,000 workers in Europe solely to build its metaverse, is now cutting staff and reorganizing teams.
So at this year’s Connect, which kicks off at 10 AM PT tomorrow with a keynote from Zuckerberg, the stakes feel even higher. And we still have a lot of questions about what it really means to be a “metaverse company.”
It’s perhaps the most obvious issue, but in the nearly a year since Zuckerberg first attempted to articulate what a metaverse is, it’s still not very clear. Last year, Zuckerberg described it as “an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it.” The company’s website currently says the metaverse is “the next evolution in social connection and the successor to the mobile internet.”
But what those words mean to most people is fuzzy at best. “Outside of early adopters and tech-savvy people, there's still confusion as to what is the metaverse and what we're going to be doing with it,” says Carolina Milanesi, a consumer analyst with Creative Strategies.
That means Zuckerberg will not only need to offer an understandable definition, but an idea of what it will mean for the billions of people already on his platform. Which brings us to…
This may not seem like the most important problem facing Zuckerberg’s vision for a mobile internet-replacing metaverse, but it’s one that could go a long way toward building the hype he so desperately craves. Because, right now, Meta’s metaverse looks… kind of crappy.
This was never more apparent than when Zuckerberg very earnestly shared a capture from Horizon Worlds of his avatar in front of a VR Eiffel Tower and Sagrada Familia that could generously be described as flat and amateurish. He quickly followed up with a new avatar, and promised better graphics for Horizon Worlds would be coming at Connect.
But Meta will need to show more than just graphics that look like they were created this millennium. Ideally, it would show a metaverse experience that actually looks cool. Or at least one that could appeal to people already spending time in Roblox or Fortnite or other metaverse-adjacent spaces.
Milanesi adds that it would help to show off metaverse experiences that go beyond just having meetings or hanging out with strangers in VR. “I think there are other use cases either on the education side or on the entertainment side, that might be a bit more interesting,” she says.
However, early signs suggest we shouldn’t expect drastic improvements to Horizon Worlds. According to a accurate report from The Verge, the app is so buggy that the company is struggling to get its own employees to use it consistently.
But that brings up another issue: for all of Zuckerberg’s talk about interoperability and making the metaverse an open ecosystem, Meta has so far shown little progress when it comes to bringing outside developers or other companies into its vision in a meaningful way.
They’ve also already alienated many creators and would-be early adopters with a 48-percent commission on sales of virtual items in Horizon Worlds. For a company that has made Apple’s “App Store Tax” a central talking point, and has made investing in creators one of its top priorities, it’s no surprise that a high take feels like a slap in the face to creators.
Considering Meta’s track record on unintended harms, the company has said surprisingly little about how it plans to address these issues in the metaverse. The company has given cursory nods to trust and safety in the Metaverse — Meta policy chief Nick Clegg has talked about defining standards for the metaverse — but so far the company seems to be borrowing from the same playbook it’s always used.
Already, this is more than a theoretical problem. Meta added a “Personal Boundary” feature in February, billing it as a way for people to protect their personal space while in VR. But that update only came after reports of groping in the metaverse had already gone viral. While that update may address one form of harassment, others have noted it could also encourage other disturbing behaviors, like encircling users in an effort to virtually “gang up” on them.
It also shows that Meta is still largely reactive when it comes to safety issues: spinning up new features and quick fixes in response to a bad news cycle rather than launching with them already in place.
We’re expecting Zuckerberg to talk a lot about virtual reality — the company is launching its latest headseat at Connect — but it’s a lot less clear how augmented reality fits into the company’s current plans. Meta has teased AR glasses, but those are likely at least two years away.
And without glasses, much of Meta’s work on AR is limited to in-app effects for Instagram and Facebook, which are popular but definitely not part of any kind of metaverse. And it’s still not at all clear that Meta has a plan for integrating its existing social platforms into the metaverse. In a accurate interview with Protocol, Zuckerberg suggested the company was thinking about it, but stopped short of giving any kind of idea as to how this may work.
“For Horizon, making it so that you can create a world and share it on Facebook or Instagram, and people can just jump into it from there — that's going to be pretty valuable,” he said. But, he added, “we need to be careful about not making it primarily a mobile experience.” The reason, he said, is because he wants the metaverse to be about new platforms and technologies, not simply an extension of the mobile products that already exist. But the fact is the market for VR headsets is still tiny compared with the number of people who use Facebook and Instagram.
And if he wants more of them onboard, they should be able to experience the metaverse in some form with the devices they already own.
Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 24, 2022
September is the best time for fescue lawn renovation. Turf-type fescue renovation should be initiated in the fall and early winter in order to become established and survive the summer heat. Below are a few questions posed from local homeowners about fall lawn renovation practices
Question: Should I core-aerate my yard now?
Answer: Yes. Now is the perfect time to core-aerate your fescue lawn. Using this tool is probably the best method of getting fertilizer into the root zone. It also gives tight clay soils pore space necessary for root growth and expansion. Coring allows fertilizer and seed to penetrate without plowing. Don’t forget to add straw mulch to conserve moisture.
Question: How long do I have to wait after I core aerate to apply seed and fertilizer?
Answer: You need to apply fertilizer and seed right after you core aerate. You can apply seed, lime and fertilizer all in the same day.
Question: What is the best type of fescue to use for my lawn?
Answer: Seed with a blend of turf-type fescues. Fescue blends are available at most retail outlets. Blends of three or more turf-type fescues adapt better to our differing soil types and have more resistance to brown patch and other diseases. Single cultivars plantings allow the fungus to spread freely, whereas a mixture limits its spread.
Question: Our lawn is covered in broadleaf weeds growing in the newly seeded areas. When should I spray to kill these weeds?
Answer: The newly planted fescue needs to be well established before spraying with a broadleaf herbicide. Make sure you’ve mowed the newly planted lawn at least two times before spraying broadleaf herbicides.
Question: Do I really need to apply straw mulch if I have plenty of water?
Answer: Yes, research has proven that cool-season fescue germinates quicker and stronger with some type of mulch to hold moisture. Apply clean, wheat straw as a mulch to cover bare ground areas. Wheat straw mulch holds moisture, allowing seed to germinate quickly. Gently shake one to two bales of straw per 1,000 square feet. Be careful not to apply too much straw. After application you should be able to see the bare ground through the mulch. Over-mulching produces thin, weak stands of turf.
Question: How much water does my newly seeded lawn need?
Answer: Keep the soil moist for adequate germination. Irrigate deeply to prevent sparse, inadequate root development; about one-two inches of water per week. Irrigation maybe needed two or three times per week if we have dry weather. Water less frequently as turf becomes established.
Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at email@example.com.
Q. Do new tires loose a little air every month? I bought a new Honda Pilot in May of this year, every two months a light comes telling me my car has low tire pressure. It happened a few times so far, all four tires were low by five pounds and had to be inflated by the dealer. When I asked about this the service manager said this is normal, is it?
A. All tires will lose air over time, it is normal that most tires can lose a couple of pounds of pressure every month or so. In cooler weather tires can lose one pound of pressure for every 10 degree drop in temperature. This is why it is important to check your car’s tire pressure at least once per month, using a quality tire gauge. Maintaining the correct pressure will maximize both fuel economy and tire life.
Q. The oil light came on in my car while driving, shortly after that the car shut off. It is a 20-year-old Mercedes Benz, what do you think is wrong.
A. When the oil light or any other red light comes on you need to stop driving immediately. The oil light indicates there is/was dangerously low oil pressure. Driving with the oil light on could have seized and destroyed the engine. At this point take the car to a mechanic and have it checked out. Although considering its age (the average car on the road is a little over 12 years old) it may be near the end of its useful life.
Q. I have a 15-year-old Saab which I like driving better than my BMW and Audi. My question is, what is the life expectancy of the airbag system? I want to provide the car to my daughter after winter and just was wondering if the airbags wear out?
A. Most car manufacturers consider the airbag system to last the life of the car. Now of course if the airbag light is on, this would indicate one of the systems that support the airbag has failed and will needs to be repaired.
Q. I was recently at a dinner party and was telling someone I found a low mileage 2019 Chevrolet Sonic for my daughter for a college car. Someone called it a rolling coffin, are these cars as unsafe as this person was making them out to be?
A. The Chevrolet Sonic is a safe car that utilizes advanced seat belts, air bags and traction and stability control. In the design of the car it utilizes a safety cage to protest the occupants. In fact it got a five-star rating from NHTSA and a good rating from IIHS. Now all of this doesn’t change the law of physics when it comes to vehicle crashes and doesn’t remove the responsibility of the driver to drive safely.
Q. Now that the cool Fall weather is here, every time I get out of my car I get a shock. Is there something I can do?
A. Static electricity is the imbalance of positive and negative changes. During the summer when the weather is more humid these charges tend to roll off of us more quickly. With winter, comes cold dry air and the imbalance of charges tends to build until you touch your car and the charge goes to ground. Using a fabric spray such a Static Guard once or twice a month will usually help eliminate static shocks.
Q. I have a work van (former Grumman bread truck) and it is always cold inside. I remember years ago I had a friend with a Volkswagen with a gasoline heater. The heater would drive you out of the car and only used a little bit of gas. Is there a modern equivalent for trucks?
A. The only item that I’m familiar with is the Blueheat unit by Webasto. These units heat the air or the coolant depending on the model, using vehicle fuel. They work almost like a little household furnace. My only experience was years back with one installed in a Dodge Sprinter. This was a great system, provided plenty of heat, used a minimal amount of fuel and had a timer that could be programmed so the interior was warm when you needed the truck. Best of all there was no excessive idling, wasting fuel and adding to air pollution worries of an engine running unnecessarily.
Q. I have a 2008 Toyota Prius Touring model and one of my front headlights is intermittently going out. I thought this would be a simple fix, but it turns out Toyota wants $300-$500 to install the new bulb? I’m wondering if there are other options out there (quicker, cheaper fixes) or if that’s actually the price I’ll have to pay for a new bulb. Is the dealer the only option?
A. This has been a fairly common failure on certain year Prius vehicles with HID headlights and I’m surprised that they lasted this long. Unlike halogen bulbs that dim and then burn out HID bulbs flicker or just turn off. The repair generally involves changing both headlights. There are non-Toyota parts including the ballast which are generally cheaper than the factory parts. Any competent garage should be able to repair the headlights.
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