Cheerios are good for your heart: The baby and the puppy

Less than nine months ago, Cheerios ran an ad in which a little girl asked her mother “Are Cheerios good for your heart.” Mom said yes, and the girl dumped a box of cereal on her sleeping father’s chest (see that ad here). Pretty innocuous, but Cheerios had to disable comments when the ad showed up on YouTube, because a bunch of people went apoplectic because the ad featured a mixed race family.

So that was it, right? Cheerios runs an ad, racists respond, but Cheerios kept running the ad. And now it’s got this one.

This one’s called “Cheerios 2014 Game Day Ad.” Sounds like it’s going to run during the Super Bowl, the biggest advertising day of the year. Right now, it has almost a million hits on YouTube, and the comments are on. Let’s see how long that lasts.

The ad, though is still pretty innocuous. I’m totally with mom’s “Are you nuts?!?!!” reaction to the puppy deal.

But given the time between the first ad and the presentation of this one, the underlying message is: “See! Cheerios were REALLY good for dad’s heart.”

Knowledge gaps: Superman and the Beatles

You think you know everything about one aspect of entertainment, and then something pops up that comes as a complete shock.

Like, I used to think that I’d seen every filmed live-action presentation of Superman, from the Kirk Alyn serials in the 1940s with the cartoon flying sequences, through the George Reeves television series, the Christopher Reeve movies (remember “The Quest for Peace”?), “Lois and Clark,” “Smallville,” the Brandon Routh revival of the Christopher Reeve persona and the most recent Henry Cavill city destruction. I’d even seen the “I Love Lucy” episode where Superman has to rescue Lucy from the ledge of a building, and I probably was one of the seven people who went to see the Ben Affleck biopic “Hollywoodland.”

But one day I bought a box set of the George Reeves series, and there was an episode I’d never seen where Lois (Noel Neill) is spraying a room with a machine gun, and I’m thinking, “Where the hell did this come from.” Not only that, there was a commercial I didn’t know existed:

But this isn’t about my Superman obsession. It’s about my Beatles obsession.

Last week, I saw this chart of the songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney:

authorship

It shows who was the main contributor to their famous songs. Only, what’s this song “There’s a Place”?

Where the hell did this come from? I’ve never heard this. When this came out in 1963, we bought 45s, not albums. Apparently, this was the B side of “Please Please Me.” Did I never listen to the B side? I thought I knew all the Beatles songs. Obviously, I don’t. Now I have to go through life obsessing about what other things I’ve missed.

This math argument just doesn’t add up

There’s a reason why this video pissed me off, but I’m not a math scholar and couldn’t explain it. Just the basic premise that if you add all positive numbers beginning with one, you’ll get a negative number is absurd.

The answer is infinity. Has to be. What bothered me is the guy pulled a trick by immediately going from 1+2+3+4+5+ …. = -1/12, and saying:

Rather than use these … let’s just think of this series.

No! Stop! That’s intentionally deceptive. If you’re making a case that 1+2+3+4+5+… = -1/12, use the numbers! Don’t use symbols. Using a different series is a red herring!

Well, that’s what I want to say. But as I said earlier, I’m not a math scholar, so I don’t have any defense for my argument because I don’t have the expertise.

Thank goodness for Mathbabe:

I’m not going to just vent about the cultural context, though, I’m going to mention what the actual mathematical object of study was in this video. Namely, it’s an argument that “prove” that we have the following identity:

“1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + … = -1/12.”

Wait, how can that be? Isn’t the left hand side positive and the right hand side negative?!

This mathematical argument is familiar to me – in fact it is very much along the lines of stuff we sometimes cover at the math summer program HCSSiM I teach at sometimes (see my notes from 2012 here). But in the case of HCSSiM, we do it quite differently. Specifically, we use it as a demonstration of flawed mathematical thinking. Then we take note and make sure we’re more careful in the future.

I feel better. Read Cathy O’Neal’s (Mathbabe’s) post here for the full counterargument. The headline: If it’s hocus pocus then it’s not math.

The pros and cons of working remotely

Dave Coplin, the chief envisioning officer at Microsoft (yeah, I don’t believe that title either), talks here about flexible working, which translates to not working in the office. He says it benefits workers. They don’t have to go into an oppressive office, they can do their jobs wherever the technology takes them, and they will be able to contribute more economically to their respective communities by spending their dollars where they live.

So why does that last part raise red flags for me?

Yes, with the today’s technology, we’re on call 24 hours a day. Coplin says in the “Star Trek” part of the illustration that people complain about getting e-mails from work on their days off, and dismisses the complaint by saying it’s the employee’s fault for looking at work e-mail on his or her day off. Okay, I don’t think the chief envisioning officer would necessarily be called at home on his day off if a server goes down, or if some huge business deal materializes, but there are plenty of other workers (and I’ve been one of them) who end up on the hot seat if the boss can’t get them in the event of an emergency.

But even that doesn’t really bother me that much.

My question is: Who exactly benefits if a corporation decides that the new work model will be “flexible work?” I mean, if it’s a corporate decision, doesn’t that tell you the company is doing what it’s decided is best for the company, not necessarily what’s best for the worker?

Maybe I’m overthinking this, but anyone who’s worked for a company that has an IT department knows that when your computer crashes, the IT people who used to be on the next floor aren’t there anymore. You have to call someone off site. And anyone who’s gotten a call from a telemarketer or calls a company for tech support knows that the accent on the other end of the phone isn’t always from the American Southwest but from Southwest Asia.

The day an American conglomerate decides that flexible work or remote work or working from home, or whatever you want to call it, is the official policy, somewhere in the company strategy, there’s going to be a proposal to move jobs offshore, because, as our chief envisioning officer says:

For the average knowledge worker, you don’t have to be in a specific location, a specific point in time, to access specific services. You have all the tools that you need … in your pocket or in your bag, and you can work from anywhere.

Anywhere means “ANYWHERE.” You don’t have to be in a specific city, or state, or region. You can be anywhere on the planet.

And if your saying you’re safe because you work for an American conglomerate, you probably should kiss your job goodbye. Because there is no such thing as an American conglomerate. Conglomerates are global. Microsoft has offices all over the world. So it could one day look at worker salaries at a global level, figure that it could pay a chief envisioning officer in India a modest salary by U.S. standards, which would be a fortune by South Asian standards, and get the same quality of work at a lower price. This video, in a way, proves how easy it is to work from anywhere in the world. Microsoft is on the West Coast. Coplin’s accent is found on the European west coast. And the illustration of the commute. That’s not Washington state. That’s the London Underground.

Your tax returns can be done in South America. (Because I worked abroad, some of my tax returns are still being done in Europe.) Your newspaper editing can be done in any part of the world that has a strong English speaking population. (A lot of news organizations have editing operations that aren’t in the cities, the states or the countries their subscribers are in.) The animation of a movie can be done in Japan or Korea (Next time you to a science fiction blockbuster, look at the names in the end credits of the people who worked on the CGI.).

Job competition is a global matter now. Blue collar manufacturing jobs that used to build the American middle class are now in the developing word. The jobs that Dave Coplin talks about are white collar jobs. Those are now just barely sustaining the American middle class, but they can just as well be done where labor is cheap.

I’m not saying that bad from a global perspective. Higher paying jobs throughout the world will bring a lot of countries out of poverty. Look at the economic growth in China and India. That means more people worldwide have more money to buy more stuff. But that also means that those jobs don’t have to be on our shores.

The only jobs that are safe for now are service-sector jobs, where people have to deal face to face with people. But, as I noted a couple of posts back, those jobs are going to be done by robots.

Oh, and for the record, I’m one of those people who can work from anywhere, and I wouldn’t mind having a flexible work setup. My family lives in one city and I work in another, hundreds of miles away. I can do my job from home in either city.

But, just on a gut level, I really need to be in the same room with the people I’m working with. But I’m from a generation that didn’t have chief envisioning officers.