Sunday, December 28, 2008

I guess it's a common problem

My last name (Monnier) is rarely pronounced correctly (it's French, so it's pronounced "Moan-e-yay"). So I wasn't too surprised to see the name butchered by Brent Weisberg (the journalist covering the case) from KPTV in Oregon when discussing how a local man (Charles Monnier) saved someone who had been attacked by pitbulls by beating them off with a shovel. Instead of the elegant French pronunciation, Weisberg identified the hero as "Mont-e-air". Last time I checked there was no "t" in "Monnier."

Oh well.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Taste...influenced by more than just smell

This is relatively old news (August of 2008), but is nevertheless interesting. A study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that:
Participants who ate the vegetarian alternative did not rate the taste and aroma less favorably than those who ate the beef product. Instead, what influenced taste evaluation was what they thought they had eaten and whether that food symbolized values that they personally supported ... strategies that might persuade heavy meat eaters to change their diet include changing the cultural associations of fruits and vegetables to encompass values that meat eaters endorse (e.g., power and strength), or challenging heavy meat eaters' assumptions about what tastes good by using in-store (blind) taste tests or showing them results of studies such as this one."

This reinforces the idea that the product is not just the physical product (or its taste), but the entire experience of purchasing and consuming the product (the price, the product's story, its ingredients, its smell, etc.). And I think the authors of this study are on to something by suggesting a change in the marketing strategy of vegan alternatives to meat. While I think that rebranding tofu and seitan as manly products (buy a new Ford F150, bet a freezer full of Hungry-Man Tofu dinners!) is an uphill battle, I could imagine a line of frozen vegan dinners targeted toward health/fitness-conscious individuals that uses a brand strategy similar to those whey/protein supplement powders...maybe something like Kung pao tofu fortified with Omega-3 fatty acids and 1000mg of the latest nutrient du jour.

John has sent you an invitation to join his risk pool...

As Jay Parkinson mentions here, the social network E-Factor (for entrepreneurs and investors) is now offering health insurance to its premium members:

Fascinating concept…social networks becoming pools for health insurance. It sure is a whole new world of stickin’ it to the man...What if Facebook offered a whole slew of low cost insurance premiums to their members? Of course, premiums would be much lower because the average Facebook user is young and fairly healthy.

We (in the US) have employer-provided health insurance for a number of reasons, one being the fact that income from corporations in the form of subsidized health insurance isn't taxed (so it's cheaper for a corporation to buy health insurance for an individual than an individual for herself), and another being that a company's set of employees provides a rather convenient group of people from which to create a risk pool.

A change in the tax code to allow all expenditures on health insurance (whether by a corporation or an individual) to be tax-free would take care of the advantage of employer-provided insurance described in the first reason, and allowing risk pools to be created from online social networks would take care of the advantage described in the second reason.

Granted, a group of Facebook friends (or an extended network of friends' friends) may not provide a sufficient diversity of healthiness to allow for a practicable risk pool, but perhaps a network of LinkedIn connections would work. In any case, I'm sure there's some way that social networks (or meta networks) could be harnessed to generate risk pools. It's an intriguing idea, to be sure.

Image from here.

Unintended Consequences?

I think that the "iBreath" iPod breathalyzer attachment is a good idea...anything that gives people more information (which can in turn lead to more informed decisions) seems like a good thing, especially when it gives people more control over their own bodies.

I wonder, though, if having such information may lead to a perverse competition among revelers to see who can achieve the greatest Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) the fastest. The selling point of the product seems to be that it can help you know when it's safe (from a legal standpoint, at least) to drive. But I wonder if it also contains warnings for when ones BAC is nearing that of alcohol poisoning. And then I also wonder whether such warnings would be effective or might they merely be a sign of accomplishment ("Last night I was so wasted I got the alcohol poisoning warning!").

In any case, the potential for intentional misuse is probably pretty small, and is most likely outweighed by the benefits of the product, so it's obviously a net good thing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I've lived a sheltered life...

I knew Wisconsin was a nice place to live, but I hadn't realized that I'd grown up in a metropolitan area with one of the lowest crime rates in the nation (Wausau, WI). In fact, six of the top ten metropolitan areas with the lowest crime rates in the nations are mid-size Wisconsin cities very similar to Wausau. Wow.
  1. Fon du Lac, WI
  2. State College, PA
  3. Bangor, ME
  4. Eau Claire, WI
  5. Appleton, WI
  6. Sheboygan, WI
  7. Bismarck, ND
  8. La Crosse, WI
  9. Logan, UT-ID
  10. Wausau, WI

Via Marginal Revolution.