Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Looking Towards Wednesday

No foretelling what the Globe will bring:

"Remember Google Glass? It’s back and ready for work" by Hayley Tsukayama Washington Post  July 19, 2017

WASHINGTON — The much-ridiculed augmented-reality goggles from Google, once known as Google Glass, are back after two years of relative silence.

On Tuesday, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, reintroduced the device to the world, calling it simply ‘‘Glass’’ and announcing that it is under the company’s experimental ‘‘X’’ department.

Google stopped a retail test of Google Glass in 2015, effectively ending its early ambitions to make it a consumer device. Google Glass faced major criticisms, including concerns about the device’s camera making it easy to encroach on others’ privacy, as well as the simple fact that the glasses looked unfashionable. The device’s high price tag — $1,500 for the retail edition — was also a major impediment.

But even then, analysts said that the device had potential for use in businesses as a tool for training, or to make information more accessible away from one’s desk. Promising trials in hospitals and with emergency-response teams drew the most lasting excitement from potential customers — far more than, for example, the headset’s turn on the catwalk at Fashion Week.

Now Glass seems to be embracing those less glamorous but arguably more practical uses.

The Glass team highlighted several companies in its blog post reintroducing the product to the world: the agricultural manufacturing company AGCO, the shipping giant DHL, and the California health system Dignity Health.

Alphabet boasted that Glass had made factory workers at AGCO more efficient.

‘‘By reducing the amount of back-and-forth workers have to do accessing checklists, viewing instruction manuals, or sending photos from tablets or laptops as they assemble machines, Glass has reduced machinery production time by 25 percent and inspection times by 30 percent,’’ wrote Jay Kothari, Glass’s project leader.

There are still some lingering questions about how well the Glass makeover will work.

You tell me this now, three-quarters of the way through the piece?

Thes more-focused Glass strategy also hits at a time when many Google competitors have jumped into the world of augmented reality, a major growth area for technology. Virtual and augmented-reality devices are expected to generate $162 billion in revenue by 2020, according to the market research firm International Data Corp.....

So what do they look like?


"Facebook has plans to expand New Mexico data center" by Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press  July 18, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE. — Facebook’s plans for New Mexico now call for a half-billion-dollar investment and a data center that will span an area equal to 17 football fields.

The data collection center is how huge?

Governor Susana Martinez’s office announced early Tuesday that the social media giant will be doubling its investment in the state with the planned expansion of its data center currently under construction near Los Lunas, a rural area outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest metropolitan area.

The governor praised the announcement, saying Facebook is among the state’s key partners as it works to diversify its economy.

‘‘New Mexico’s powerful incentives are bringing more opportunities to our state — once again ahead of schedule with more jobs and investment than initially anticipated,’’ the governor said in a statement.

The news comes as New Mexico looks to turn the corner after a crippling budget crisis that stemmed from a downturn in the oil and natural gas sectors and an overall weak economy. The state also has struggled with high unemployment numbers, only recently ending its stretch at the top of the nation’s jobless rankings. 

It's a Democratic state, too.

Had it not been for the oil and gas downturn, Martinez has said New Mexico’s over-the-year job growth in 2016 would have been the strongest it’s been in a decade.

State officials and business owners have been scrambling in recent months to take advantage of the windfall expected to come from the data center during construction and once it’s online in 2018. They’re pushing for more high-tech industries in hopes of guarding against the volatility of the energy industry.

Facebook broke ground on the first building in October. It’s expected to go live in late 2018.

The second building will likely keep construction crews busy through 2020.

Tom Furlong, Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure, thanked the Martinez administration and the village of Los Lunas for their support and said the company continues to find a strong pool of talent to build the data center.

More than 280,000 hours of work on the project have already been logged, more than 3 million cubic yards of dirt have been moved and more than 30,000 cubic yards of concrete have been poured, according to the company.

In August 2015, the two-term Republican governor led an economic development team to California to meet with company executives to promote New Mexico. Facebook selected the state over Utah for the data center after a mini bidding war.

Los Lunas agreed to give up property taxes for 30 years in exchange for annual payments starting at $50,000 and topping out at under $500,000. State utility regulators also cleared the way for Facebook and Public Service Co. of New Mexico to create a renewable energy tariff, which allows the company to secure solar- and wind-generated electricity to power the data center.

Facebook says the Los Lunas facility will be one of the most advanced, energy-efficient centers in the world. It will have an evaporative cooling system capable of protecting the servers inside from New Mexico’s frequent dust storms.

State economic development officials have estimated that New Mexico could gain about $65 million in gross-receipts tax revenue over the next decade from construction and infrastructure costs related to the project.


They will be able to match your retirement contribution:

"The 401(k) match is back, and it’s getting bigger" by Thomas Heath Washington Post  July 18, 2017

WASHINGTON — A common axiom among investors is to save early and often. Let time do the rest.

If you save enough, the thinking goes, the stock market’s inexorable path upward will make you rich. And if you save in a tax-sheltered retirement savings account, you may get there faster.

One of the best tools to get there over the past three decades has been the 401(k) — and the corporate match — free money — that came with it. In many places, one of the first casualties of the financial crisis was the company match.

Now it seems, the match is roaring back. Many companies are boosting their matches in employee 401(k) plans, according to a report by Vanguard Group, the investment firm with $4.4 trillion under management.

The study’s results, titled ‘‘How America Saves,’’ were reported in the The Wall Street Journal.

Many firms are using the automatic matches as an inducement for people to save more, creating more peace of mind and loyalty among employees.

Now that labor participation rates are at historic lows.

‘‘Increasing contributions into your retirement plan, especially when you are younger, is a no-brainer,’’ said Christopher Poch, an adviser with Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management. ‘‘The more you can save for retirement, and the earlier you start, the better off you will be.’’

Give your money to Wall Street is the mantra.

Many companies reduced their 401(k) matches in recent years as a way to save money when earnings dropped in the wake of the financial crisis or due to outside forces like the digital economy, which has wreaked havoc on business models from media to retail.

But as finances stabilized, some firms are increasing their matches. The motives behind the increase in matches vary, but they mostly break down into two groups.

‘‘One is competitive sectors and one is employers with a high degree of paternalism,’’ said Jean Young, a research analyst at the Vanguard Center for Investor Research. She views paternalism here as a sign of a benevolent employer who is nurturing good financial habits of its workers.

Not only is the elitism sickening, but it is coming from a woman.

Employers use matches as a carrot to woo new employees, especially in the highly competitive technology sector.

Then what is with all the visa requests for foreign workers?

‘‘We are seeing a higher proportion of tech industry firms providing a match than the broader all-industry average, particularly within the mid-to-larger size firms,’’ said Aimee DeCamillo, head of T. Rowe Price Retirement Plan Services. ‘‘In 2016, we saw almost 81 percent of tech firms offering a match, compared to slightly less than 75 percent across all industries.’’

A generous 401(k) match — or any match — including of up to 6 percent of a salary is free money. That goes a long way to luring employees and keeping the ones you have.

Microsoft last year boosted the match. Lower-earning employees, those making $80,000 a year, saw their maximum potential match go from $2,400 to $9,000. An employee under 50 who saves the federally allowed limit of $18,000 can now get a Microsoft match of $9,000, boosting their annual tax sheltered retirement savings to $27,000.

‘‘The principal reason was to enhance competitiveness in order to attract, retain and motivate the best talent available,’’ said Fred Thiele, Microsoft’s general manager of global benefits.

‘‘We wanted to encourage greater retirement savings at the lower income tiers of the company,’’ Thiele said. ‘‘The goal is to get early-in-career, lower-income savings. When you add the power of compounding and average weighted investment fees of 0.21 percent, these people are in a much better position later in life.’’

What if dead before then?

Some companies use it as a way for current employees to beef up their retirement savings and smooth the path toward an exit. The 401(k) matches also boost morale.

‘‘We increased our 401(k) match in honor of our people and their accomplishments,’’ said Scott Scherr, founder and chief executive of Ultimate Software, a human resources software maker in Weston, Fla.



"Boston-based corporate network security company Rapid7 Inc., has purchased another Boston company, Komand, which builds security automation systems. Rapid7 analyzes activities on corporate networks, to identify security vulnerabilities and hacking attacks. Komand makes a system that automates responses to security threats, enabling users to respond more quickly. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but it’s not expected to have a material impact on Rapid7’s 2017 revenue and earnings. As part of the deal, Rapid7 has awarded 270,000 shares of common stock to 12 Komand employees as an inducement to stay with the company."

No pension?

"When Bank of America Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. posted earnings Tuesday, one had record income from lending while the other had better-than-expected trading. The surprise is which was which. Goldman Sachs, the vaunted trading house, pointed to growth in its effort to lend to wealthy people as a bright spot. Bank of America, with 4,500 branches across the United States, relied on a smaller drop from its trading unit to help beat revenue estimates. Weakness at each bank’s bread-and-butter business sent shares of the firms falling despite both topping profit expectations. Goldman Sachs trailed rivals for a second straight quarter in fixed-income trading, while Bank of America posted a surprise decline in net interest income, which is a fundamental part of banks’ revenue."

Several major banks reported strong second-quarter results, but that wasn’t enough to get investors excited.

Look who is the victim of more corporate sabotage:

"Chipotle’s efforts to move past its food scares have been complicated by fresh reports of illnesses, which prompted it to temporarily close a restaurant this week. The company said Tuesday that it closed the restaurant in Sterling, Va., after it became aware of a ‘‘small number’’ of reported illnesses consistent with norovirus. The news sent its shares down more than 4 percent as skittish investors worried about the chain’s past food scares. The company said it planned to reopen the restaurant, which is in a suburb of Washington, D.C., on Tuesday after a ‘‘complete sanitization,’’ but did not provide a specific time. Chipotle has been working to bounce back from food scares that included an E. coli outbreak in the fall of 2015 and a norovirus case in Boston later that year. It subsequently said that it made tweaks to cooking methods and added training for employees to tighten its safety measures."

What are the odds that it would happen again? 

That anti-GMO stand really cost them.

You and I would be better off ordering pizzas:

"Pizza Hut will hire 14,000 drivers this year as the restaurant chain plays catch-up with rivals in delivery, an area that’s fueled much of the industry’s growth in recent years. The company will add about 3,000 drivers a month through the end of this year, Pizza Hut said in a statement Tuesday. The pizza chain also is using a new algorithm to better predict delivery times, as well as relying on Google Maps to improve its accuracy. Pizza Hut, a chain that built its reputation on sit-down pizza service, is adapting to an industry where delivery rules. Domino’s Pizza Inc. and Papa John’s International Inc. have spent years making it easier to order — via mobile apps and loyalty programs — and have the food dispatched quickly to customers’ front doors."

Can you track it (answer: yes)?

The delivery guy rode a motorcycle?

"Shares in Harley-Davidson tumbled more than 5 percent after the company reported lagging retail sales and shipments as new riders opted for used motorcycles over newer, more expensive ones. The company lowered its guidance for motorcycle shipments in 2017 by about 6 to 8 percent as retail sales of Harley-Davidson motorcycles fell 9.3 percent in the United States and 6.7 percent globally from the same quarter last year. Motorcycle shipments for the second quarter fell 7.2 percent from last year’s second quarter. The company said it is strategizing how to better balance sales of new and used motorcycles as the industry tries to attract millennials and other young adult riders."

(Blog editor revs motor)

At least it didn't come by train:

"A railroad owner plans to appeal a jury’s decision that it must pay $3.9 million to the family of a movie worker killed on a Georgia railroad trestle in 2014, a spokesman for the company said. The jury in Savannah decided in a civil verdict Monday that CSX Transportation shared in the blame for the deadly freight train collision even though the film crew was trespassing. The parents of Sarah Jones sued CSX in Chatham County State Court, saying the railroad shared blame for their daughter’s death. The 27-year-old camera assistant died in the crash Feb. 20, 2014, during the first day of shooting ‘‘Midnight Rider,’’ an ill-fated movie about Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band."

Time for me to ramble on. The time is now.

"Clarus has shifted its strategy from investing in startups to making “risk-sharing partnerships” with big pharmaceutical companies. Clarus identifies promising drugs that are in phase 3 clinical trials, the final stage necessary to gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Clarus then pledges to fund, and in many cases, oversee the final testing of these drugs for safety and effectiveness in order to win FDA approval. If the medicine reaches certain benchmarks or wins approval, the pharmaceutical company will pay Clarus a pre-negotiated amount of cash or royalties, or both....."

Vertex reports strong findings from cystic fibrosis drug trials

Errors delay US News & World Report’s annual hospital ranking

Meaning the AmeriKan health $y$tem is so bad they can't report it!

Substance abusers to move out of sex offender facility

Daimler to modify 3 million Mercedes cars over diesel concerns

They all lied, and yet they all agree on carbon taxes and the climate change agenda.

Uber discriminates against riders with disabilities, lawsuit says

Sexist grill still par for the course at Charles River Country Club

How are the greens over there?


Investors want more women, minorities on corporate boards