Thursday, November 26, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
So what do you do when you can't afford to employ a full contingent of police officers? You buy cardboard cutouts, of course. That, it seems, is what the county of Essex in the UK has done.
"So far, the fake policemen in Essex do not seem to be having the desired effect," Underhill writes, "or at least I infer that from the fact that one was recently stolen."
The whole article was good for a morning laugh. Enjoy.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Recounting the story of how a California man lost a fortune of $200 million, the article concludes:
"Aren’t you glad you never could have bought jets, wineries and a yacht?"
Here a mean man and a man of means are one and the same thing Here a penny has a use and a value of its own besides that of serving as the part of a dollar and an abstract unit of the monetary table The members agree with the rest of the world that poverty is no disgrace and unlike the rest of the world they honestly mean it The most worthless is welcomed here for his intrinsic worth and not for the extrinsic qualities of his pocket book...
Individually (beggars) gain the sympathy of the public, collectively they have no public sympathy whatsoever. He may not know it himself but your true beggar is a paradox...
I can offer you no other inducements but if these prove sufficiently enticing I stand ready to secure you an entree into THE BEGGARS CLUB."
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
At The Tiny Life I discovered this idea for an unconventional living space: the billboard. The Tiny Life, in turn, got it from Dornob, a design web site which explains:
There are nearly 500,000 freestanding billboards in the United States alone. What if any number of these could be converted en mass into functional, modular prefab homes that could be shipped and installed in rural and urban areas around the country – eco-friendly, cheap new housing from recycled old billboards.
The New York Times reports:
In the last two decades, nuclear disarmament has become an integral part of the electricity industry, little known to most Americans.
Salvaged bomb material now generates about 10 percent of electricity in the United States — by comparison, hydropower generates about 6 percent and solar, biomass, wind and geothermal together account for 3 percent.
Utilities have been loath to publicize the Russian bomb supply line for fear of spooking consumers: the fuel from missiles that may have once been aimed at your home may now be lighting it.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
HERE’S a consolation prize to the millions who recoil in bafflement from cellphone companies’ labyrinthine price plans, with their ever more intricate arrays of minutes, messages and megabytes: Economists don’t understand them, either.
In many parts of the world, the pricing of cellphone calling is simple. But in the United States, carriers offer multitiered plans.
“The whole pricing thing is weird,” said Barry Nalebuff, an economics professor at the Yale School of Management. “You pay $60 to make your first phone call. Your next 1,000 minutes are free. Then the minute after that costs 35 cents.”
To economists, it simply doesn’t make sense to make chatterboxes pay that penalty. After all, most businesses tend to give discounts to customers who buy more.
Read the rest at The New York Times.
Bob Sullivan, author of Gotcha Capitalism, argues that hidden fees on everything from your cable and cell phone bill to your Internet purchases may be messing up the national inflation rate. Companies often don’t supply surcharges and fee data to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so when it computes inflation rates, fees aren’t reflected. The result is that our national inflation rate is held artificially low.
Now Congress is taking a look at airline pricing. Hidden costs on airline tickets can sometimes exceed the “price” of the ticket, as I discovered last year. I tried to book a “$426” international flight and found that the additional “taxes and fees” were $528. That was not even including baggage handling fees and charges for in flight blankets, booking on line, booking in person, booking ahead, booking at the last minute, choosing an exit row seat, or trying to fly around the holidays and so on that the domestic carriers now charge. A la carte pricing doesn’t really make your flight cheaper, it just makes it seem cheaper, which is the airline’s goal.
The New York Times quoted John Tague, president of United Airlines saying, "We have been aggressive and creative." United collects about $13 in fees per passenger, or 30 percent more than the industry average.
The reason Congress is getting concerned is that calling a charge a "fee" results in lower "fares," which means the airlines pay lower taxes. The Consumerist reports that so far this year, U.S. airlines have taken in more than $3 billion in fees. If all those fees were subject to the same 7.5 percent excise taxes as fares, then the government would have at least $225 million more to distribute to airports for improvements and expansions.
The catch? Figuring in the value of your time and the cost of water filters, it may not be much cheaper to filter it at home than to spend and extra $5 or 10 to begin with.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Apparently back in the 1500s, as translated in the 1600s and reprinted in 1899, people were already harkening back to the simpler times when people were not as gluttunous and wasteful as they are today. (Today in this case being 1534 and 1899).
The Happiness Project’s Gretchen Rubin, writing for Slate, argues organization isn’t your problem; it’s a problem of excess attachment.
For a theme song to this post I recommend Who's Whose by John Flynn. ("Do you own the stuff you own/or does the stuff you own own you?")
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Read about it at triplepundit.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
"And to speak freely it would seem to me very uncouth that any man that makes a profession of more understanding than a beast should open his mouth to the contrary or make any scruple at all of readily subscribing to the truth and evidence of this position that a frugal and simple diet is much better than a full and dainty. Tell me you that seem to demur on the business whether a sober and austere diet serves not without further help to chase away that racking humour of the gout which by all other helps that can be used scarce receives any mitigation at all but do what can be done lies tormenting the body till it have spent itself. Tell me whether this holy medicine serve not to the driving away of headache to the cure of dizziness to the stopping of rheums to the stay of flukes to the getting away of loathsome diseases to the freedom from dishonest belchings to the prevention of agues and in a word to the clearing and draining of all ill humours whatsoever in the body Nor do the benefits thereof stay only in the body but ascend likewise to the perfecting of the soul itself for how manifest is it that through a sober and strict diet the mind and all the faculties thereof become waking quick and cheerful how is the wit sharpened the understanding solidated the affections tempered and in a word the whole soul and spirit of a man freed from encumbrances and made apt and expedite for the apprehension of wisdom and the embracement of virtue?"
You can read the entire book at Google Books.
Growing consumption of increasingly less expensive food, and especially “fast food”, has been cited as a potential cause of increasing rate of obesity in the United States over the past several decades. Because the real minimum wage in the United States has declined by as much as half over 1968-2007 and because minimum wage labor is a major contributor to the cost of food away from home we hypothesized that changes in the minimum wage would be associated with changes in bodyweight over this period.
To examine this, we use data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from 1984-2006 to test whether variation in the real minimum wage was associated with changes in body mass index (BMI). We also examine whether this association varied by gender, education and income, and used quantile regression to test whether the association varied over the BMI distribution. We also estimate the fraction of the increase in BMI since 1970 attributable to minimum wage declines.
We find that a $1 decrease in the real minimum wage was associated with a 0.06 increase in BMI. This relationship was significant across gender and income groups and largest among the highest percentiles of the BMI distribution. Real minimum wage decreases can explain 10% of the change in BMI since 1970. We conclude that the declining real minimum wage rates has contributed to the increasing rate of overweight and obesity in the United States. Studies to clarify the mechanism by which minimum wages may affect obesity might help determine appropriate policy responses.
Photo by Christian Cable, creative commons license
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Mother Jones today that a minority group is consistently overrepresented in Congress. That group? Millionaires. While only one percent of Americans are millionaires, Congress is more than 44% millionaire.
The Center for Responsive Politics released its latest survey of congressional financial disclosure forms and found that of the 535 voting members of Congress, 237 are millionaires. Fifty members have net worths of at least $10 million, and seven are worth more than $100 million. California Rebpulican Rep. Darrell Issa is the wealthiest of the lot.
There is no other minority group that is as overrepresented in Congress as millionaires are. For black people to be similarly overrepresented compared to their percentage of the population, the entire Congress would have to be black. (Actually, even that wouldn't be enough.) If Mormons were similarly overrepresented, there would be 75 of them in Congress (there are 16 right now).
...It flowered in 2004 under new Medellín Mayor Sergio Fajardo’s simple philosophy: Immediately supplement every reduction in violence with a concrete community improvement. The son of an architect, mathematician-turned-politician Fajardo “grasped how important good design can be in creating a more optimistic, sustainable, socially just city,” the publication, produced by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, reports. “In keeping with the mantra ‘to the poorest people, the most beautiful buildings,’ some of the city’s most impoverished and brutalized neighborhoods became homes to top-notch new schools and housing (as well as new police stations).”
The city also built “library parks,” hybrid spaces complete with public computer stations. Biblioteca Parque España sits atop a hillside in Santo Domingo Savio, formerly one of the region’s most dangerous neighborhoods. It serves as both a beacon of civic pride and a functional space for community activities.
Read the full article here.
Monday, November 9, 2009
The resurrection represents the living presence of Jesus, an ongoing and unsealed revelation of God’s compelling love. He is risen indeed, not to a sedentary throne in heaven, but into my life and alive everywhere that evil is persistently resisted and everywhere that a revolution for goodness is thoughtfully engaged. According to biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan, Jesus was a peasant, a revolutionary whose message was one of radical inclusiveness....
The explicit sense of accepting Jesus as my personal Lord and savior does not apply to me. But I am compelled by his paradoxical power. Paradoxical because that power is revealed, now as in the first century, in people the world despises, in people the world deems weak. It is revealed to confound the wise. It is revealed in the possibility of loving people the world has taught us to fear. In that power exclusiveness is revealed as impoverishment. As a Unitarian Universalist I respond wholeheartedly to Jesus’ stated mission:
The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to preach release to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free. (Luke 4:18)
Sunday, November 8, 2009
From November 9th, 2007 to November 13th, 2008 - Christoph Rehage walked 4646 kilometers on foot through China. Here's the timelapse version of that journey.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Some participants in last summer's health care town meetings talked of “secession,” and used words like “fascist” to describe their opponents.
“We fought a Civil War that cost 600,000 lives over the issue of secession, and fought a world war to defeat fascism,” Leach said. “History teaches us that those issues are settled.”
Leach also cited history in his call for increased financial support for the NEH.
He noted that during the country's darkest strategic hour during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln invested in education, signing the land-grant colleges act.
And during the nation's darkest economic crisis of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt spent money on the arts and humanities through various public works projects.
“That was all an investment in democracy,” Leach said.
The NEH's current budget, appropriated by Congress, is $155 million, up from $110 million a decade ago. Still, Leach noted that when adjusted for inflation, NEH funding is down a third from 1979.
Leach would like to see more support for the humanities to promote, among other things, more study of comparative religions, cultures and histories.
“We live in perilous times,” Leach said. “But nothing can be more costly than shortchanging the humanities.”
So let us begin anew -- remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.
Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.-John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address
Friday, November 6, 2009
Following the news that Wal Mart is getting into the casket business, comes the story that 7-Eleven is going to start selling its own brand of wine.
Yosemite Road is quite the bargain: Says the press release, both the Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon will sell for $3.99 a bottle. 7-Eleven is hoping, some how, some way, you will not come to the conclusion that the convenience store is peddling "cheap wine."
"We prefer to think of it as value," 7-Eleven spokesperson Carole Davidson, told the Dallas Observer.
The web site English Russia today is featuring clips of visions of the year 2010 published in the Soviet press 50 years ago. I'm sure it is funniest if you can read Russian, but each clip is followed by a little explanation in English.
According to the recently released Shriver Report, women comprise 50% of today's workforce. Is it time to strike up a chorus of "Sisters are Doin' it For Themselves?"
Well, maybe not. Women are making up more of the workforce because three-quarters of those laid off in the economic crisis have been men. Women continue to earn less for the same work as men. So perhaps companies are retaining their women instead of their men as a cost-saving measure, the way a corporation might move its operations to Mexico where wages are lower.
Canadian journalist Leah McLaren at the Globe and Mail writes:
Despite working harder and in greater numbers than ever before, women are still earning less than men in the same jobs over all and taking most of the responsibility for housework and child care.
In essence, the plight of women is like that old morale-boosting management trick: the no-compensation promotion (also known as the non-raise raise). It's all very flattering until you realize that you have just taken on twice as much work and responsibility for no extra pay or respect...
I'm not saying that men don't work hard – just that, when they do, they are much better at reaping the benefits of success. While men work toward outward status – the double brass ring of power and success – women tend to be driven by intrinsic reasons: duty, loyalty, the need to be “good.”
Joanne Lipman, the former deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and editor-in-chief of Portfolio magazine, recently wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times responding to the Shriver Report. In it, she revealed that, during her years as an editor, “many, many men have come through my door asking for a raise or demanding a promotion. Guess how many women have ever asked me for a promotion? I'll tell you. Exactly… zero.”
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Yes, I am writing about sports. What do you know?
On The Commons has an article about tax incentives that move sports franchises away from their home towns, and their fans. It suggests that public ownership would be a better solution all around:
Over the long term, it’s not the stadiums that have economic value. It’s the team. Most cities that enter into bidding wars to lure franchises are not getting the best deal. It’s the owners who profit handsomely from these enticements.
Now that I’ve convinced you that private ownership of sports teams has its downside, you should know that public ownership of a sports franchise is illegal under the bylaws and franchise agreements in all of the major professional sports leagues. The restrictions are in effect because of the spectacular success of the Green Bay Packers, who are located in a small market and are hardly failing. The idea that the Packers would move elsewhere is unthinkable because a non-profit municipal corporation run by a board of directors owns the team. The same is true in Europe, where most of the soccer teams are publicly owned.
If public ownership were allowed, owners would be barred from moving teams from small markets where they were profitable – like Green Bay – into larger markets. The value of the franchises would be affected to the detriment of the owners, but it would be a good thing for everyone else...
I want to be clear that I am not suggesting that any major league sports franchise be involuntarily turned over to public ownership via eminent domain or otherwise. What I am suggesting is that the home team we live and die for should be seen as part of the local commons, something that belongs to all of us – in much the same way we view parks, schools, sidewalks, city plazas, and libraries. We should recognize it as the quasi-public institution it is.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The proposition was unique in that it would have changed the city constitution to give neighborhoods the ability to make legally binding decisions about development.
...despite intense opposition from business interests, a coalition of residents succeeded in bringing an innovative “Community Bill of Rights” to the ballot. Proposition 4 would have amended the city’s Home Rule Charter (akin to a local constitution) to recognize nine basic rights, ranging from the right of the environment to exist and flourish to the rights of residents to have a locally based economy and to determine the future of their neighborhoods.
You can read the entire article at Yes! Magazine.
Chang's broth recipe requires pounds of meat and takes hours to prepare- the recipe, which appears in his new cookbook runs about 20 pages.
You can listen to both segments, even download them if you're so inclined, by following the links above.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Well, Recycle My Dress has come to the rescue. Pennsylvania designer Nicole Kulp has found a great niche for herself recrafting and reinventing those wedding dresses.
“Every one of my recycled dresses is original, sustainable and has a story behind it," she writes on her web page. This page has before and after photos.
Monday, November 2, 2009
This former newspaper box has been painted with instructions. If you have something you don't want, put it in the box. If you look in and find something you would like, take it. It is a way to dispose of your extra stuff, or find a treasure with a little bit of extra intrigue.
These are a few of the suggestions for items to leave, as posted on the box’s front window.
Books, movies, old pictures, new pictures, report cards, post cards, love letters, rumors, business cards, questions, answers, origami, keys to nowhere, coupons, dirty looks, self-portraits, surprises, etc.
What will be in the box? What kind of life story can you imagine for the person who left the item there?
This one was from 1915.
On every side we see signs of a great awakening Editors in their newspapers are pointing out the necessity for conservation and clergymen in their pulpits are preaching the folly and criminality of waste The idea that greater thrift is essential in private life in business life in the home the school and the workshop is slowly but surely taking root In order to foster and encourage this great work the American Bankers Association has invited GY Clement originator of the idea of observing February 3 of each year as National Thrift Day and Chief of Staff of the Collins Publicity Service of Philadelphia to cooperate in the Nation Wide Thrift Movement With this end in view Mr Clement has recently perfected a textbook for use in the inauguration and operation of a community thrift campaign This text book or Plan A as it is called is at once a most unique and original plan As far as a thrift campaign is concerned it can have no serious rival inevitably it must make and maintain a position of its own.
The article goes on to describe a coordinated marketing campaign designed to promote thrift.
Plan A provides a scientific publicity movement initiated by bankers and then permanently continued by public spirited citizens in every walk of life It points the way by which may be secured the necessary co operation of the local newspapers the clergy employers of labor principals of schools, scoutmasters of boy scouts etc. These co operating in turn with the local business association board of trade the YMCA and women's club represent a force that cannot fail to exert a mighty influence for good on behalf of any community.
It included posters:
And even sermon topic ideas to pass along to local preachers:
It has been recommended by the American Bankers Association and will commend itself to every banker who gives it his consideration The text book demonstrates how easily a group of public spirited citizens may be banded together in a productive thrift campaign and how with a little effort and a small expenditure of money the seed of a bountiful harvest for the community at large may be sown Plan A puts the banker shoulder to shoulder with the people and bridges the gulf that too often exists between him and them As a result of its campaign of education it creates greater confidence in both the bank and the banker and clears the track for great results.
Most cooking sites will point out that cooking pumpkins (sugar pumpkins) are different from carving pumpkins, but I made this with the kind of giant pumpkin sold to make into a jack-o-lantern (one pumpkin made several batches), and it tasted great. The hardest part is breaking down the pumpkin. It's a bit of work, but worth it. Yum.
Jack O Lantern image by Mansour de Toth, Creative Commons license.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
...According to a new study to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, consumers who touch products in the aisles will pay more money for them than those who keep their hands off the merchandise. So in the 21 years Procter & Gamble ran the iconic television advertisements for its Charmin toilet-paper brand, Mr. Whipple, the uptight grocer with a secret squeezing fetish, should have encouraged his bubbly shoppers to fondle away.
Read the rest:
Want to Save Some Money? Shop Without Touching - TIME
We rarely even notice much the idea of "more" permeates our thinking. When we think about our lives, and whether or not we are successful, we do not look at what we have. We look at what we have compared to what we had ten years ago. We try to determine if we've made "progress."
"So immersed are we in the assumptions of growth, so inured to what we actually have and preoccupied only with whether it is more than we had before, that...not having more has become equivalent to having less... Much of what we spend our money on doesn't really get us ahead; it merely keeps us from falling behind."
If that strikes a chord with you and you're looking for inspiration to embrace the concept of "enough" I recommend Less is More Balanced, a stylish web site dedicated to living a less consumer driven, more sustainable lifestyle. It features book reviews, ideas for recycling and repurposing the stuff you've got and information on green products and creative crafts.