The awesome things @ Michigan State University

Sometime ago I read about going out and learning about your own surroundings. Sorry, I’m completely blank on the actual resource and whether I read from one of those motivational emails or tweets or websites or image meme. The point is, we should not stay inside our own bubble.

How much do we actually know the kind of awesome services or initiatives available in our own library or within other units on campus? I only know a little, to be honest. Many times I found out a cool set of collection in the library because somebody mentioned it, a local newspaper wrote about it, or from the newsletter sent to the library supporters. Kinda embarrassing, but, hey, better late than never. Same thing with many initiatives happening around campus. With so many units established on campus, I am sure I miss many of them. But I would like to highlight several of them:

First, MSU Libraries is gathering text and data aimed for digital humanities (DH) projects either through our own digital collection or collaborate with vendors. It’s all started with a request from a research faculty wanting to work on a topic that would require Congressional data. This collaboration with the faculty prompted our Digital Humanities librarians to pursue other text or data collections that we could offer to our users (and, in some cases, to the public).

MSU Libraries Digital Humanities text collections
MSU Libraries Digital Humanities text and data collections

Another one that I’d like to highlight is Enviro-weather, a weather-based tools for Michigan Agriculture’s pest, natural resources, and production management decisions. This is a collaborative project between the Michigan Climatological Resources Program and the MSU Integrated Pest Management Program. Each yellow dot on the map represents an Agriculture Station. If you highlight the dot with your cursor, you’ll see the latest weather data pulled from the weather station positioned around the state. Click on the dot and you’ll see a more complete information on the area. You could, of course, go further and get the raw data itself by going to their Enviro-Weather Automated Weather Station Network site.

Michigan State University Enviro-Weather tool
Michigan State University Enviro-Weather tool

The Geographic Information System (GIS) unit on campus created cool and useful GIS-based applications that they developed to showcase the MSU campus. My favorite applications are these two below:

The Historical Imagery provides aerial photography of the MSU campus from 1938 to 2010 (I hope they’d add more for the later years.) While interacting with application, I, of course, couldn’t resist checking the area where the current MSU Libraries is located. By moving the slider slowly, I could see the changes happened from an empty slot to its current structure. Not all images are available; sometimes you get an empty section due to image unavailability. Still, it’s really cool to see the changes happened during the last 60 years or so.

Michigan State University GIS Historical Imagery
Michigan State University GIS Historical Imagery. The round construction in middle is the Spartan Stadium.

The Environmental Stewardship (requires Adobe Flash Player 11 or higher, unfortunately) allows one to check the energy consumption and/or waste reduction effort around campus. You can pick a building and generate the report based on the data for current or past fiscal year. One can see that they made the information available for the public to see and download due to MSU’s status as a public and land grant university; the application allows the public to inspect and interact with the information themselves.

Michigan State University Environmental Stewardship map
Michigan State University Environmental Stewardship map

There are more great projects and initiatives around campus like the ones that I highlighted above. It would be nice if I could do a “cool stuff on campus” search on the university website instead of relying on the serendipity. But, hey, I probably should go around and ask instead. :-)

Suns out guns out: Springtime guide finessing your finances

Financial-planningAfter the exceptionally long winter this year, it’s finally safe to say that spring is here to stay – at least for now. Whether it’s getting dirt under your fingernails out in your backyard, playing a round of golf, or even just sitting outside a café, the warmer season just makes everything seem inviting.

But before you roll up your sleeves to acknowledge the pleasant warmth of the sun, you need to first reevaluate your financial priorities for the rest of the year. A lot may have changed over the past few months, and some seasonal touch-ups here and there will do you good.

Gather Everything in One Neat Pile

Are you aware of the statuses of each and every credit card you’ve ever owned? Do you know where your tax returns are from two years ago? You can’t manage anything you don’t have all the information for; it’s as simple as that. That’s why it’s important to manage your finances once you have a complete overview of all your assets and liabilities in one place.

Gather together pay stubs, bills, loans, credit cards all into one neat pile. I’m not talking about a literal stack of paper (although it can be). It can be an excel spreadsheet, a drawer in your desk, or even a color coded filing cabinet. Wherever you decide to store it, the point is to stay completely organized.

Write Everything Down

Make sure to keep a record of everything. Keep track of all your expenses; some may be deductible for tax purposes. It is also important to make sure you are keeping track of all your sources of income so you pay the IRS the right amount in income tax. Being tax code savvy is crucial, as long winded and convoluted as it may seem. Some sources of income are less conspicuous than others, and sometimes you are not required to report it to the IRS. For example, did you know that if you rent out your apartment/home for 14 days or less you do not have to report it? This type of supplemental income has become more popular with services such as Airbnb. These kinds of intricacies in the tax code necessitate thorough records. I don’t think I’m over-generalizing when I say that no one wants to deal with an IRS audit.


Evaluate your financial situation. Have you been straying from your budget goals? Are there costs you can reduce? Can you afford to spend more? If you are doing better financially you should look into refinancing any outstanding loans you may have. You could save substantial sums by shopping around with a loan aggregator and refinancing your loans for a lower interest rate. Using Achieve Lending’s loan search engine will help you find multiple offers for easy comparison with zero hassle in just a few clicks.

What we routinely promote at Achieve Lending is fiscal responsibility. In doing so, we believe in going the extra mile by offering the right knowledge and tools to individuals that need it.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to roll up those sleeves and finesse your finances with some good old spring cleaning. You’ll thank yourself come summer when your finances are neater than your kitchen counter.

About the Author

Allen Kors is the Founder and CEO of Achieve Lending, the first ever search engine for education loans. Designed to help both traditional and non-traditional students find the best student loans, Achieve Lending offers users a free online portal to search, find, and compare student loans, often in as little as 30 seconds.

Kors founded Achieve Lending at just 27 years old after six years of working in the finance industry. His resume boasts time spent at the world’s premier financial firms, with positions in investment banking, private equity, angel investing, and consulting. After leaving his job in angel investing to pursue entrepreneurship and form his own financial technology company, Kors now aims to build the ‘Kayak’ for education loans and empower Achieve Lending users by providing financial education on the loan process and terminology.

[Image source]


Billboard Japan adds YouTube views, Twitter mentions to chart formula

billboard-japan-logo-2015-650x430Billboard Japan has revamped its Hot 100 chart, expanding its data sources and launching chart analytics service, effective on June 3.

Launched in 2008, the Billboard JAPAN Hot 100 currently combines multiple data sets including predicted nationwide physical sales from nearly 4,000 music and e-commerce retailers tracked by SoundScan Japan; digital download sales from Nielsen Music; airplay from over 30 major AM/FM stations monitored by Plantech; volume of desktop look-ups on PCs tracked by Gracenote Media; and Twitter mentions of artist names and song titles provided by NTT data.

I think YouTube views inclusion into chart formula is a good idea. Not sure about Twitter mentions. What do you think?