The Good Life in 1958 (or not)

What passed for worthless late-night infomercial products in 1958. We've come a long way, baby!

To quote Will Rogers, things ain't what they used to be and probably never was. According to the American Enterprise Institute's blog (AEIdeas) in the good old days of 1958, workers had to toil and slog for months to be able to afford spiffy consumer goods like toasters and TVs that today are available for a mere pittance. Hat tip to the Weakonomist for catching the post on AEI with Priced In Labor: The 1958 Sears Catalog Seems that the writers on the cornucopian writers at AEIdeas are as guilty of confirmation bias as that dastardly "mainstream media" that right-leaning pundits are fond of lambasting. Toasters and record players (or the iPods of today) make up a slice of our quality of life, not the sum total. Quoth the … [Read more...]

Monday Morning Fish Wrap: A Merry Jolly Christmas to All!

Adoration of the Magi, by Giotto - 1304-1306

Welcome to the sometimes weekly grab bag of news, commentary and post links from around... wherever, in no particular order. Podcasting... Arming The Donkey, by  Dan Ariely, professor of Behavioral Economics of Duke University.   On November 12th, Prof. Ariely interviewed Roy Baumeister, author of "Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength." It's a good five minute and forty seconds introduction to the subject of willpower depletion. In Baumeister's book, there are several experiments cited where subjects are put through a series of psychological experiments, designed to test and deplete their "reserve" of willpower through repeated decision-making. In the end, proferred bowls of M&M's prove to be no match for … [Read more...]

The One With The Most Data Wins

The meeting did not go well for Tyler the intern  (all photo credit to Luca Galuzzi)

Continuing on with a series on career and business tips and observations, gleaned from hanging around people with too much gray in their not-enough hair. You are invited to a meeting. Because you are quick and clever, you've remembered to bring pen and paper. The ostensible purpose of business meetings is to share information and make decisions. But because business is conducted by humans, and some humans eat their young, all too frequently the meeting's agenda will turn into a search for the guilty and punishment of the innocent.* That innocent would be you. Dare to walk unprepared into the lion's den at your own peril.  The meeting isn't a walk in the park, it's a buffet dinner in the Serengeti... and you're appetizer, … [Read more...]

Delta Airlines and the March of Folly

"Beauty, supported by Prudence, Scorns the Offering of Folly", by Angelica Kauffman - 1780 (an study in allegory, now on exhibition at the Kadriorg Palace, Art Museum of Estonia, Tallinn, Estonia)

  Corporations are not unknown for making dumb decisions and stupid moves. Some are patently obvious on their face, like the Netflix/Qwikster fiasco, some are revealed as idiotic only in retrospect (such as Decca Records deciding NOT to sign up the Beatles).  Still other boneheaded moves just leave some of the outside watchers shaking their head, softly muttering under their breath, "They'll be soooorry". I must have been living under a rock since last April 30th, when Delta Airlines broke the news that they had purchased from Philips 66  its currently idled refinery in Trainer, Pennsylvania, for the sum total of $180 million.  In the press, Delta executives droned on at length about synergies, saving of $300 million a … [Read more...]

Sunday Morning Fish Wrap: Cyprus To Adopt A Mediterranean Diet

St. Lazarus Church in Larnaka, Cyprus (photo by Vitaly Lischenko)

  Which is to say, less of everything: Price to Rise As More People Living Under Poverty Line.  As if committing  the whole country wasn't enough, Cypriots will have to either riot or resort to five-fingered discounts: FOOD PRODUCERS yesterday warned that the prices of staple items like milk, bread and meat will rise, adding to the woes of Cypriot households already contemplating shrinking incomes as a result of austerity measures and tax hikes on the way. In other street news, Larnaka gyro stands adopted US cereal producers' pricing tactics by reducing the size and fluffiness of the standard pita pocket by as much 25%, but raising the price by 2.7%.  Sneaky sneaky.     And things aren't bound to get … [Read more...]

Produce No Waste: Adventures in Vermicomposting

Worm composting bin, a pitcherful of food scraps, and ready bedding material

"By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste." This is one of the twelve permaculture design principles, and it fits quite readily with composting.  Take waste outputs, and with a minimum of effort, turn them into valuable inputs. A tote bin full of red wriggler worms is a cheap way to reuse most kitchen vegetable scraps and turn them into fertilizer gold. What follows is a few lessons learned from a couple years of vermicomposting. (non-gardeners may wish to skip and wait for the next post) Construction Take a couple of ten-dollar storage totes, drill a few holes, add supports for the bottom bin, get you a pound or so of Eisenia Foetida red wriggler worms, and you're in … [Read more...]

Getting Laid Off Sucks

You're Fired!  --- "Study for the Execution of Emperor Maximilian" - Edouard Manet, 1867

So you're getting laid off.  Shown the door, fired, canned, axed, sacked, or "termed", in cutesy HR-speak. Whatever the circumstances, the first thing to do is NOT to "consider" doing anything except gathering whatever shreds of self-esteem are left, and man UP!   That's right, sweep up the shards of that shattered ego, stand up straight, and put a smile on your face.  Be sure to shake the hand of your executioner(s), crack a few jokes, and walk out that door with head held high. Getting Laid Off Sucks More precisely, it *really* sucks.  Been there and done it, on both sides of the table.  Have fired and have been fired. Been there when there's gnashing of teeth (bearable) and gushing of tears (not so much). Getting canned … [Read more...]

Monday Morning Fish Wrap: Gold Mining is a Lousy Business

Because the preceding chart is ugly, here is something beautiful:  "And The Gold Of Their Bodies" - Paul Gauguin, 1901

Welcome to the sometimes-weekly news and link roundup round here.  Digging and scraping the noble metal out of the ground is indeed a lousy business. It sucks a$$. If it didn't, major pure-gold producers like Newmont Mining and GoldCorp (notwithstanding the "efficient market" fable) would be the darlings of the financial media, but they're not.   Even though gold as a commodity is holding steady in the $1,700 range, market analysts have been falling all over themselves downgrading the crap out of Newmont, Barrick, et al. As well they should: comparing the Market Vectors ETFs GDX (for senior mining companies) and GDXJ (for juniors) against GLD as a proxy for the gold price, and the Dow Jones average, we see that the gold miners … [Read more...]

“Quick, Help Me Find A Career!”

East bound and down, loaded up and truckin'...

  A "career?" How entitled. With nationwide unemployment bouncing, skipping and hopping all around the 8 to 9 percent mark --- if government reporting is taken with large grains of (kosher) salt and a tequila shot or two --- how can theater and anthropology majors still be wishing on a star for a career? How about help you find a job?  (bold and italicized) Regular work ennobles, makes you get up on time, and gives you enough to buy Ramen noodles *and* pay off massive student debts.  Eventually. Let Your Fingers Do The Googling Try typing "labor shortage" in Google, and then hit "News".   OK, you'll mostly get stories about a farm labor shortage, pero mira  aquí , twelve bucks an hour picking lemons and … [Read more...]

Mid-Week (Organic) Fish Wrap: Whole Foods and Pricey Dates

 Welcome to the Fish Wrap, a semi-frequent collection of commentary, link, topics, served on a platter of fresh green-leaf lettuce with a garnish of cilantro.  How humbling is it to be neatly pigeonholed into a consumer category by a large corporation?  You're just not that special a snowflake. Whole Foods has market resarched  its customers into Conscionables, Organics, Experientals, and Foodies.  Nice little cubbies. The extract in question from Whole Foods' 10-K filing: Unlike shoppers at conventional grocery stores, we believe many of our customers connect with us on a deeper level because of our shared values and, for this reason, continue to shop with us even in uncertain economic times. Based on our research, we … [Read more...]