Thursday, December 31, 2015

Fingers crossed for Alzheimer’s breakthrough in 2016

As someone from a family impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, I’m hopeful that 2016 will bring a breakthrough in the treatment of the illness.
Fortune magazine writer Erica Fry predicted that a new drug from Eli Lilly will show promise in the fight against Alzheimer’s.
“Few diseases have been as difficult for drug companies to conquer as Alzheimer’s,” she wrote. “The five existing therapies treat symptoms of the memory-robbing condition, not the disease itself. And between 2002 and 2012, a staggering 99.6% of drugs in development failed.”
Eli Lilly’s solanezumab, a drug 15 years in development, will pass muster in clinical tests and be well on its way to FDA approval as a therapy for mild Alzheimer’s by year’s end, she predicted. The medicine could actually slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, she said.
Jim Cramer, former hedge fund manager, co-founder of TheStreet and host of CNBC’s Mad Money, also is bullish on the drug and its prospects for Eli Lilly.
“Eli Lilly (LLY) could go to $100 a share as investors start seeing some results from its Alzheimer's drug,” he predicted. Shares closed Thursday at 84.26.

Photo: Eli Lilly scientists. (Company photo)

A year from now Hillary Clinton could be president-elect or in jail

Just over 10 months before the Nov. 8, 2016, presidential election and Democrat Hillary Clinton looks like a lock for the job.
But conservative pundits are holding out hope that scandal will force Clinton from the race and give the Republicans a shot at the Oval Office.
Fortune magazine writer Tory Newmyer predicts that Clinton “will enjoy a near-unimpeded march to her party’s nomination” and will select U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia as her pick for vice president.
She will face U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in the general election, Newmyer predicts. He also believes Rubio will tap South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as his running mate.
But Newmyer doesn’t forecast the ultimate winner of the 2016 presidential election.
Conservative talk-show host Steve Deace also predicts that Clinton will select Kaine as her running mate.
But he predicts the Democrats will lose the election to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and his v.p. pick Nikki Haley (again!).
Deace predicts that nothing will come from the investigation into Hillary’s emails.
“Anybody thinking the Obama injustice department is going to seriously pursue legal action against the only viable Democrat presidential candidate hasn’t been paying attention since, like, forever,” he said.
Andrew Napolitano, senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel, disagrees.
Napolitano predicts that Clinton will not be the Democratic presidential nominee “because she will be indicted by a federal grand jury for various crimes,” he wrote in Reason magazine.
He also predicted that “one year from today Hillary Clinton will be in prison.”
Napolitano did not forecast who the GOP presidential nominee will be or who would win the presidency.
He also predicted that President Barack Obama will announce in 2016 “that he and Michelle Obama will soon divorce.”
Conservative blog Ricochet posted predictions from member Lensman, who said Clinton will drop out of the presidential race “for health reasons.”

Photo: The Hillary Nutcracker.

Ballsy tech industry predictions for 2016

Most 2016 predictions about the tech industry by media and bloggers are pretty dull. They extrapolate from current trends or look to expected product launches in the upcoming year to make their forecasts.
Predicting an Apple Watch 2 or iPhone 7 and their expected features isn’t going out on a limb. (See “Apple 2016 predictions: Acquisitions, accessories.”)
The same goes for virtual reality with the upcoming launches of three major systems, including goggles from Facebook and Sony. (See “Cloud, Virtual Reality Among Top Tech Trends For 2016.”)
It takes a writer or analyst with some cojones to make predictions about mergers and acquisitions, CEO departures, and companies entering new product and service categories. That’s because they have a much greater likelihood of being wrong.
Check out the bold and sometimes wacky predictions for tech company M&A in 2016 in the story “The wildest tech M&A predictions for 2016.”
Here are some other ballsy tech industry predictions for 2016:

Netflix launches movie download service in U.S.

U.K.-based research firm CCS Insight predicts that on-demand streaming video service Netflix will launch a movie download service in the U.S. in 2016.
“In an effort to differentiate its offerings as competitors move into its space, Netflix allows consumers to pay for and download individual titles, in addition to its regular streaming service,” the firm said in a report. “The move provides a new revenue source for the company as competition intensifies.”

Google buys Java from Oracle for $8 billion

Google will end its legal fight with Oracle over the Java programming language by buying Java from Oracle for $8 billion, predicts Thomas Claburn, editor at large for enterprise mobility at InformationWeek.
“Oracle paid $7.4 billion for Sun and Java. The only way for both Oracle and Google to exit the arena as winners will be the sale of Java,” Claburn wrote. “Oracle could use the money to accelerate its transition to the cloud, perhaps with a major acquisition of its own. And Google could become the steward of Java while retaining control of Android’s destiny.”

Google introduces voice-controlled appliance similar to Amazon Echo

Google will take its voice user interface, Google Now, and put it in a room appliance like Amazon’s Echo, Claburn said.
“It may have already done so, with OnHub, its recently introduced Internet router,” Claburn said. “A future version could include a microphone, or the current version could be updated to respond audibly to queries entered using a phone. You can bet that Google will connect its voice technology to IoT (Internet of things) devices sooner or later.”

Meg Whitman will declare victory and exit HP

Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and chairman of HP Inc., will initiate a search for a replacement (if she hasn’t already), find one, and take a victory lap before departing, predicts Fortune reporter Barb Darrow.
“Stepping in after Leo Apotheker’s discredited 11-month stint as Hewlett Packard CEO; cleaning up after his $7.4 billion purchase of Autonomy; and negotiating HP’s breakup were jobs not for the faint of heart,” Darrow said. “And trying to keep the company relevant in an era where Amazon Web Services dominated the cloud computing discussion has not been easy. In 2016, we will see Whitman’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment.”

Yahoo will oust CEO Marissa Mayer

Seeking Alpha writer Bill Maurer thinks Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer will be shown the door in 2016.
“With revenues on the decline and earnings plunging, Marissa Mayer has not proven she can get the business headed in the right direction,” Maurer wrote. “She also lost a key ally on the board recently, which could prove to be costly if her position is up for debate. While a new leader may not be chosen during 2016, especially if she is axed late in the year, I do think it is time for the company to move on.”

Twitter puts up for-sale sign

The writers and editors of Variety predict that Twitter will put itself up for sale by the end of 2016. They see Google as a potential buyer.
“Approximately one year after naming Jack Dorsey its CEO, Twitter will run out of patience with a lack of meaningful results from his turnaround efforts,” Variety said. “The board will put the company on the block, attracting the biggest firms in the tech sector. But the winner will be Google, which has a gaping hole to fill in its social-media strategy given the failure of Google+.”

Jay Z will sell Tidal for more than he paid for it

Rapper and entrepreneur Jay Z will unload streaming music service Tidal for more than he paid for it, Forbes magazine writer Zack O’Malley Greenburg predicted.
“If the streaming service is hemorrhaging cash as fast as it’s been losing executives, that may sound like a preposterous idea,” he admitted. “Jay Z paid $56 million for the Swedish company nearly a year ago, and that’s looking pricey given the $75 million Pandora just paid to buy Rdio’s core assets out of bankruptcy. But Tidal does have 1 million subscribers – and many of music’s superheroes – in its fold. With streaming services scrambling to differentiate themselves through exclusive offerings, it’s quite possible that Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora or even a company like Samsung could essentially acqui-hire Jay Z and his crew”

Hoverboards will wobble into the mainstream

Fortune magazine writer Anne VanderMey predicts that so-called hoverboards will move from fad to mainstream success in 2016.
But first the makers of two-wheeled self-balancing boards will need to improve the quality of their devices, which have been known to overheat and catch fire.
“Expect to ride a hoverboard – or at least dodge one – in the coming months,” she said.

Anti-drone technology will rise

The growing popularity of personal drones, which people use as flying cameras, will lead to the rise of anti-drone technology, Yahoo Tech editor Dan Tynan predicts.
“The only thing people love more than reading about drones is hating them – witness all the cheering when a Kentucky man blasted one out of the sky with his shotgun last July. (Not to mention all the animals that love to attack drones.) Look for companies to come up with anti-drone technology that use nonballistic methods of ridding the flight zones of these pests,” he wrote. “Let the games begin, and let the odds be ever in the anti-drones’ favor.”
For instance, Battelle has developed an anti-drone gun that uses radio waves to knock drones out of the air. Its invention is called the DroneDefender.
And Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department is using “interceptor drones” carrying nets to catch suspicious looking private drones spotted flying above important government buildings.

Photo: DJI drone.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Christmas music playlists change at a glacial pace

When it comes to holiday music, people like familiar tunes. New music has a tough time breaking into the Christmas playlists at radio stations and elsewhere, unless they’re remakes.
This year, there was a change at the top of the holiday playlists used by many retail stores during the season, the Daily Mail reported.
After a 20-year run as the No. 1 song, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey was bumped to second place by “Wonderful Christmastime” by the Shins, according to PlayNetwork. The Shins track from 2012 is a remake of Paul McCarthy’s hit song from 1979.
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) has yet to release its annual list of the most-played holiday songs of the year. (Update: Here is ASCAP’s 2015 holiday song list.)
Last year, it skipped the annual list in favor of a list of the top 30 holiday songs of the past 100 years. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” was No. 1 holiday song of the century, ASCAP said.
The last time ASCAP issued a top 10 most-played holiday songs of the year was in 2013. That year, “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” was No. 1. Its ranking considers all versions of a song in aggregate.
The best new holiday song I’ve heard this year is “Dear Santa” (2014) by Mr Little Jeans, aka singer-songwriter Monica Birkenes. Check it out on SoundCloud.
Another notable recent holiday song is “Santa Tell Me” (2014) by Ariana Grande.
The most buzzed-about Christmas album this year is “It’s a Holiday Soul Party” by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. Some of those tracks deserve radio airplay.
Unfortunately, that could take a while.

Photos: Mr Little Jeans, aka singer-songwriter Monica Birkenes; and the cover of “It’s a Holiday Soul Party” by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Why the fixation with birds in the ‘12 Days of Christmas’?

Half of the days in the traditional holiday song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” are devoted to birds. That strikes me as interesting.
In fact, the first four items are birds. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is an English Christmas carol that recounts a series of increasingly grand gifts given on each of the 12 days of Christmas. The carol dates back to 1780, a Wikipedia article states.
According to the song, the recipient of the gifts would have received one partridge, two turtle doves, three French hens, four calling birds (originally it was “colly birds,” with “colly” being a regional English expression for “black”), six geese and seven swans. That’s 23 birds.
I can only assume that these birds are gifts of food, since they all were commonly eaten back then.

Art: “The Twelve Days of Christmas” song poster by Xavier Romero-Frias.

Friday, December 11, 2015

‘A Holly Jolly Christmas’ is one pervy Christmas song

The Burl Ives song “A Holly Jolly Christmas” is a holiday classic. But there’s one line in it that really bugs me.
The narrator of the tune says someone is waiting for you under the mistletoe and then adds: “Kiss her once for me.”
What the hell does that mean?
I imagine some lecherous old man telling me to kiss my wife or girlfriend once for myself and then once more with feeling for him.
“Hey, honey, this next smooch for a creepy old man I just met.”

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Golden Globes no better than Oscars at picking memorable best movie songs

I’ve written before about how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences overlooks a lot of great original songs when picking the Oscar for Best Original Song.
The same can be said of the Golden Globes given out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
The Golden Globe nominations came out Thursday and the contenders for Best Original Song in a motion picture are pretty mundane. The front-runner has to be “See You Again” from “Furious 7.” Variety lists the song as a front-runner for the Oscar as well.
That’s fine. It’s a very popular song, having reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s also nominated for a Grammy Award for Song of the Year.
But I wish the other nominees were as memorable. Of the remaining four nominees, only “Love Me Like You Do” from “Fifty Shades of Grey” is memorable. And it reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
I was disappointed to see songs from the excellent soundtrack to the animated movie “Home” snubbed by the Golden Globe nominations this year.
In Variety’s list of Oscar contenders, only “Dancing in the Dark” from “Home” merits a mention. Pop star Rihanna co-wrote and sang several great songs for the underrated animated movie, including “Dancing in the Dark” and “Towards the Sun.”
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has awarded Golden Globes for Best Original Song since 1962. To date, it has agreed with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 55% of the time on the award for best original movie song of the year.
So maybe Rihanna will have a shot at an Oscar nomination this time.

Related reading:

Oscar snubs for Best Original Song in 2014 include Lorde and Fall Out Boy (Jan. 26, 2015)

Pop music stars who have won Oscars for Best Original Song (Jan. 27, 2015)

Memorable movie songs passed over for Oscars (Jan. 28, 2015)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

‘Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show’ viewers down 29% from last year

The 2015 “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show,” which aired Tuesday night on CBS, took a big tumble in the ratings.
The special attracted 6.6 million viewers compared with 9.3 million for last year’s broadcast. It also posted a 2.3 rating in the adults 18-49 category, vs. 3.4 last year, according to Headline Planet.
Despite the steep decline, the lingerie-themed event was No. 1 in its timeslot for adults 18-49, the demographic advertisers crave.
So, what’s behind the ratings decline?
For starters, CBS aired reruns leading into this year’s “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.”
Second, the show lost its superstar musical headline act when Rihanna backed out one week before the show’s taping in New York City. The producers had to scramble to replace RiRi with Ellie Goulding. (Depending on the media reports, Rihanna either canceled because she needed to work on her new album or was miffed that producers cut her model friend Jourdan Dunn from the show.)

Attending the show live

The 2015 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was the lingerie brand’s 20th anniversary show. It was taped Nov. 10 at the 69th Regiment Armory in Manhattan. It was the third VSFS I was able to attend in person.
I was there for the afternoon run of the show, which is performed in front of L Brands executives, Victoria’s Secret retail employees, news media and invited guests. The evening show is the one where celebrities attend and is used for the broadcast.
The show itself lasted only 39 minutes live including short breaks between sets. The hour-long broadcast was padded with interviews with models and other behind-the-scenes footage.
Ellie Goulding performed two songs: “Army” and “Love Me Like You Do.” Unlike the other two musical acts, Selena Gomez and The Weeknd, Goulding had a teleprompter with her song lyrics. But she didn’t appear to use it. Perhaps it was there because of her short prep time for the show.
Selena Gomez performed “Hands to Myself” and “Me & My Girls.” The Weeknd performed “In the Night” and “Can’t Feel My Face.”
In the warm-up to the show, a DJ played club remixes of mashed-up songs. For instance, one track merged “What a Fool Believes” by the Doobie Brothers with “Finally” by CeCe Peniston. Another mixed “Give It to Me Baby” by Rick James with “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones.

United Nations of beautiful women

The Victoria’s Secret Angels are like a United Nations of beautiful women because they come from so many different countries worldwide.
“Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon cracked a joke about that fact on Wednesday.
“Hey last night was the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show over on CBS, and it featured models from Brazil, Sweden, and Portugal. Or as Donald Trump put it, (TRUMP) ‘I’ve changed my mind on immigrants,’” he said.
Check out this graphic from Graphiq that visualizes the VSFS 2015 models by country.

Photos: Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2015 models Candice Swanepoel (top) and Behati Prinsloo.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

‘Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show’: The most Christian Christmas special

While conservative pundits complain about the removal of Christ from Christmas, the “reason for the season” was on display during this year’s “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show,” which aired Tuesday on CBS.
Yes, the show is mostly a celebration of beautiful sexy women, lingerie, fun fashion and pop music. But during this year’s broadcast, three presumably Catholic supermodels were shown making the sign of cross before they walked out on stage in lacy underwear. (Maybe they were asking God for forgiveness for being a little sinful.)
For the record, the demonstrably Christian supermodels were Adriana Lima, Daniela Braga and Izabel Goulart, all Brazilians.
Also, during one behind-the-scenes segment on the show, supermodel Behati Prinsloo recounted a story about playing Mary in a Christmas play.
So take that, non-denominational, winter holiday specials.

Photos: “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2015” models Adriana Lima, Daniela Braga and Izabel Goulart (top to bottom). 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Ad avoidance trend threatens news media, TV industries

When advertising becomes intrusive, consumers will find ways to avoid it.
The more ads are packed into a television broadcast, the more people will opt to skip them with DVRs and by subscribing to commercial-free services like Netflix.
The cramming of ads and Web trackers on news and information websites has led to the rise of ad-blocking technology.
Consumers today are pushing back against advertising because ads have gone from benign to annoying. And the TV and online news industries are worried.
The television industry has responded with more product placements in shows (Pepsi on “Empire”) and live events where viewers are more likely to watch live and sit through the commercials (“The Wiz Live” on NBC).
Advertiser-supported websites are responding to the rise in ad-blocking software with more native advertising (ads disguised as articles) and blocking access to their sites when people are using ad blockers.
I can understand the appeal of ad-blocking software. I’ve tried out Ghostery on my Firefox and Chrome browsers and was shocked by how many applications websites run in the background. These programs slow down page load times and track your activities online.
Most news websites run about 30 to 50 web trackers. The worst offender I’ve seen so far is, which used 101 tracking apps. (See screenshot below.)
Ghostery is not a perfect solution to ad blocking because it often blocks web functionality that I want to use, such as social media share buttons.
News websites and other ad-supported web services are understandably concerned.
Advertising pays for their web services and keeps them free for consumers. So consumers using ad-blocking software are breaking an implied contract to allow ads in return for free services like online news and email.
Publishers need to respond to the ad-blocking threat by making advertising less intrusive. They need to eliminate the pain points associated with pervasive advertising and web tracking that drove people to block ads in the first place.

Related reading:

The ethics of modern web ad-blocking (; Aug. 11, 2015)

Ad Blocking’s Unintended Consequences (Harvard Business Review; Aug. 12, 2015)

It’s the End of the Line for the Ad-Supported Web (Dylan Tweney; Sept. 18, 2015)

Ad Blockers and the Nuisance at the Heart of the Modern Web (New York Times: Aug. 19, 2015)

The Ad Industry Is Finally Promising To Make Online Ads Less Terrible (The Huffington Post; Oct. 16, 2015)

Ad-block surge challenges digital publishers (Reflections of a Newsosaur; Nov. 12, 2015)

Photos: Joy of Tech comic on ad blockers; screenshot of and Ghostery app.