Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cheap Tricks

There's a science to pricing. And within it, a specialty that deals with deals... Or more precisely determining the discounts it takes to make things sell well regardless of whether the products are actually good buys.

More than the initial cost, savvy consumers must consider cost of use and whether any resale value is retained.

Ellen Ruppel Shell writes about science and public policy, teaches science journalism at Boston University and is the author of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture.

Audio: BBC, PRI & WBUR's Here & Now, November 27. Host: Robin Young.

Think Sink

OK... But can you create something inspired by a Fairfax single-control lavatory faucet in polished nickel?

Customer-imposed constraints are often the hardest part of a career in commercialized creatvity.

Can't say what the rest of the house looks like, but click for some inspirations from the Swiss bathroom products manufacturer Laufen.

Via the Contemporist design blog.

Countdown to Controversy

When Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced an amendment that would require the U.S. Census Bureau to ask residents whether or not they are citizens, the Senate voted it down along party lines.

As former Washington Post reporter D’Vera Cohn says, controversy often follows the count.

Audio: WNYC's On The Media Host: Brooke Gladstone.

High Flight

California vs. Nevada

It's not new at all. For years Nevada has gone after out of state businesses. The Lt. Governor's office has it as part of their job description. But in this economy, all states are trying to attract and retain businesses and the taxes they generate. Ben Tracy reports on the increasingly nasty border battle between California and Nevada.

Before moving, both business and individuals should consider that the existing tax structure in Nevada has also resulted in massive deficits and is not stable and inadequate to provide public services above the levels offered in the worst of the Deep South.

I Got A Feeling

from The E.N.D. (The Energy Never Dies) (2009)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Plane Stupid - Polar Bear

A British environmental group has produced a video that shows falling polar bears slamming into the sides of buildings, onto the sidewalk or into the top of a parked car. The group, Plane Stupid, equates the weight of each bear, 400 kilograms, to the amount of greenhouse gases produced by an average European flight for each passenger it carries. Andrew Revkin, a New York Times reporter who covers the environment, has checked the facts.

Audio: NPR's All Things Considered, Host: Melissa Block.

Exploding Myth

Balloon Boy to Jiffy Pop in three easy steps.

Steve Oatney on Tumblr, via contributor Ken Morgan.


60 Minutes' Morley Safer reports on Jim Cameron's latest budget-busting work-in-progress, the upcoming 3D movie "Avatar." He wrote the movie years ago, but had to wait for the technology to catch up.

The full piece appeared on 60 Minutes, November 22.

Give Me One Reason

Tracy Chapman
Give Me One Reason
New Beginning (1995)

Designer Genes

Dreams of creating new forms of life are moving from scientists' labs to artist and designers' studios.

A competition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, encourages the students to build novel forms of life from biological parts... Including one group of design students who got their hands wet in the world of synthetic biology by trying to create a bacteria that smells like the first rain of a monsoon.

Audio: PRI's Living On Earth, Host: Jeff Young. Reporter: Ike Sriskandarajah.

Black Friday

It's not about the 1929 stock market crash, which happened on a Tuesday. It's not about the annual year end gold rush for retailers, either... But it's that time again.

Steely Dan
Black Friday
Katy Lied (1975)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wild Turkey

This time of year, all eyes are on the turkey. But as Salt Marsh Diary writer Mark Lender warns, in their natural habitat these birds don't mess around. (Coincidentally, neither do serious bourbon drinkers.)

Audio: PRI's Living On Earth, Host: Jeff Young.

Blame It On Evolution

The Calorie Control Council, a trade group representing companies that sell low-calorie foods, estimates the average American eats around 4,500 calories and more than 200 grams of fat at Thanksgiving dinner.

Susan Roberts, Professor of Nutrition at the USDA Nutrition Center at Tufts University, says there’s a physiological reason we can’t say “no” when we see and smell food.

Audio: BBC, PRI & WBUR's Here & Now, November 20. Host: Meghna Chakrabarti.

Happy Thanksgiving!

OMG, Charlie!

The Low Anthem - Charlie Darwin - Official Video from End of the Road Films on Vimeo.

Darwin: A Life In Poems

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of On The Origin of Species.

Charles Darwin's great-great-granddaughter, Ruth Padel, tells her famous ancestor's life story all in verse. One poem describes Darwin's awe at the sealife that washed up on the deck of the Beagle. Another tackles how Charles' scientific ideas did not square with his wife Emma's deep religious faith.

Audio: PRI & WNYC's program Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen.

Where Do Babies Come From?

You can tell by their cries. Well maybe not YOU... But within days, scientists are able to distinguish differences related to nation of birth.

It takes parents a bit longer to distinguish which need the crying represents.

Audio: CBC Radio's Quirks & Quarks. Host: Bob McDonald.

Where Did We Come From?

Evolutionary biologist Spencer Wells is pretty close to the answer. He's the National Geographic "Explorer-in-Residence" and heads an initiative called the Genographic Project.

By collecting DNA samples from people around the world, he's tracing the paths of human migration, and he's uncovered some startling facts about homo sapiens' early history: we almost didn't make it.

Audio: PRI & WNYC's program Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Eat It

Playing politics, plate by plate.

Meat returns to the menu in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

Not So Funny Money

Card Game

This week’s FRONTLINE on PBS, “The Card Game”, takes an in-depth look at the consumer loan industry, in particular the enticements that cost Americans thousands of dollars in penalties, and land many in significant debt. New York Times and FRONTLINE correspondent Lowell Bergman offers a glimpse.

Audio: BBC, PRI & WBUR's Here & Now. Host: Robin Young.

Billionaire Bust

The biggest insider trading scheme involving a hedge fund has so far found twenty people from across corporate America have now been charged or arrested in connection with the case. Joanna Chung, U.S. financial correspondent for the Financial Times, says the scandal now involves some of the country's best-known companies.

Audio: NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, November 22. Host: Liane Hansen.

Augmented Reality

Futuristic films like "The Terminator" and "Minority Report" imagine a time in which the virtual world can be projected onto the every day physical world.

This technology, known as augmented reality, will be commercially available in the form of glasses sooner than we think, says Jamais Cascio, of the Institute for the Future.

But, he warns, don’t necessarily believe they’ll be rose colored.

Audio: WNYC's On The Media Host: Brooke Gladstone.

Urban Bee-Keeping

A Washington DC Hotel has become another outpost of 'Urban Bee-Keeping'. As the bee population declines, keeping urban bees is growing worldwide. Wyatt Andrews reports.

Watch CBS News Videos Online.

Previously we've featured a similar trend in France: Le Miel de Paris.

Rooms by the Hour

Trends that start in Japan do have a habit of spreading to the rest of the world... Think Walkman, karaoke, anime, digital watches and Pokemon. And now, what are euphemistically known as leisure hotels.

These ae hotel rooms, often with amazing themes, that you can rent for very short periods. There is, for example, a Christmas hotel in Osaka. And if you only want the hotel room for a few hours - why pay for a whole night?

BBC World Business News' Alex Ritson asked how it works.

It's not news at all in Vegas.

No Thanks

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Things Not to Be Thankful For 11/19/09
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

"The Sexy Pilgrim" advertises "Muscle Milk," a protein drink, implied via the buff versions of Miles Standish and Squanto.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Getting to know a few Palin supporters lined up in Columbus...

Oh, oh... Way to go Ohio.

Doc In The Box

A recent report from the WHO found that in 2007, 9 million children died before their fifth birthday in the world’s poorest countries, and many of those deaths — usually from TB or diarrhea — were preventable.

Elizabeth Sheehan is trying to prevent some of those deaths by turning used shipping containers into health clinics in developing countries. She says “shipping Containers litter the world. They’re often used once and they sit there.” Her group is called Containers to Clinics.

Audio: BBC, PRI & WBUR's Here & Now, November 23. Host: Robin Young.

Obama In China

Photo: Getty Images
The President returned from his first trip to China on Thursday.

The Atlantic’s James Fallows talks about the trip, and the mostly negative U.S. press coverage it received.

Audio: WNYC's On The Media Hosts: Brooke Gladstone & Bob Garfield.

How Not To Downsize

Vampire Spiders

Bugged by all the hoopla about brooding teenaged vampire movies?

Scientists have found a type of African spider also obsessed with blood. Their taste runs toward insects that feed on blood, and blood feeding leads to bloodlust in breeding.

Audio: CBC Radio's Quirks & Quarks. Host: Bob McDonald.

Sing-a-long with Stephen

What do you do when a guest singer shows up with a sore throat?

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Elvis Costello 11/19/09
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating

Monday, November 23, 2009

Barnes & Noblesville, IN

On Thursday, Sarah quit a book-signing early, too... Leaving an angry line at the Borders bookstore both high & dry and cold & wet at the same time. Alienated, and Palineated, they tell their stories...

Teaching Hope

Southern California teacher Erin Gruwell drew national recognition when she turned the journals of her inner city students into a best-selling book called “The Freedom Writers Diary,” which eventually become a Hollywood movie. Gruwell's new book of essays called “Teaching Hope,” is from the perspective of teachers.

Erin and her original Freedom Writers Foundation students trained 150 teachers, including Cathy Capy Cantu, how to reach students.

Audio: BBC, PRI & WBUR's Here & Now. Host: Robin Young.

Finding ET

Alien life discovered in Minnesota...

Another Army Murder Spree

As a Senate Committee began an investigation into whether authorities missed red flags before the Fort Hood shootings, L.Christopher Smith, who has written “The Fort Carson Murder Spree” in Rolling Stone Magazine, offers a look at another shooting spree on an Army base — this one in Fort Carson, Colorado where authorities may have missed some signals, too.

Audio: BBC, PRI & WBUR's Here & Now, November 19. Host: Robin Young.

Army Strong -- Mentally, Too

The Army has always trained its soldiers to be physically strong.

With its Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program, it's aiming to make soldiers and their families psychologically strong as well. Host Scott Simon speaks to the program's director, Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum.

Audio: NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, November 21. Host: Scott Simon.

The Goats Stared Back

It wasn't a great showing for a George Clooney movie:

In many ways the real life story is better.

No less an authority than former NATO commander/retired 4 star Wesley Clark said that learning new skills at every rank was essential to his advancement in the Army. After Vietnam, mid-level staff officer Jim Channon thought maybe those skills should be radically different. So he proposed a personal volunteer recon mission into the very un-Armylike ranks of the Human Potential Movement.

Channon himself was really curious about what the combination of modern science and ancient wisdom might mean to a New Age Army, the nature of command and the well being of individual soldiers.

The Pentagon, chock full of Cold Warriors, was more concerned about rumors of Soviet psychic spies, telekinesis and remote viewing.

I met the already retired Lt. Col, Jim Channon in 1983, in the company of Marilyn Ferguson, author of "The Aquarian Conspiracy."

A more conspiratorial co-worker said: "He isn't retired. He's CIA!"

Perhaps... But he appeared to have totally gone native, and if not, I only hope that all CIA covers were as convincing during the Cold War.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

November 22nd

I was in gym when we first heard news... Shots in the plaza.
I burst through the doors and ran to the nearby bus garage.
The TV was always on.

A tear formed in Walter Cronkite's eye as he removed his glasses.
JFK was gone.
America would have to make other plans.

That's what I said on the air at KZOK-FM Seattle (a classic rock station), 11:38 am PT on November 22, 1993. Thirty years to the minute after the "flash"... News bulletin, not muzzle.

Then I played something McGuinn had revised from what Dylan sang about civil rights martyrs a few years before:

The Byrds
He Was A Friend of Mine
Turn, Turn, Turn (1965)

While the song played, a listener asked where she could get a copy of the "poem" I'd just read.

I sent her the original page off my yellow legal pad.

Another November 22nd

The rainbow smiled.

Circumzenithal arc photo by Charlie Harvey, Oxford UK.
There's a scientific explanation. And then, there's a story...

We'd lost the heart of our family a few days before. Her funeral had been earler that morning. And we'd gathered together afterward.

Over her last few months of life she'd left a few personal touches around her house. I found one them just as I found myself alone in the bathroom asking, "What are we supposed to do without you?"

She had left an answer ahead of time in the form of a plaque:
So that your joy may be complete,
love one another as I have loved you.
-- John 15:11
That's when someone called, "Come outside. You've gotta see this!"

And as we looked toward the heavens, the rainbow smiled.

There were other witnesses, and other interpretations... But that sense of "you've got your answer, and your mission," is the one I took away five years ago today, and the one which helped me past Chapter 11 of John and the Bible's shortest sentence: "Jesus wept."

CZA photo by Charlie Harvey, Oxford, UK

Just Visiting

After the Pope invited Anglicans to become Catholics (again), their religious leader -- the Archbishop of Cantebury -- visited Rome. As Sheila MacVicar reports, the rift between them isn't narrowing.

Diplomacy masks hostility, as does the language of Church politics. Put the two together and it's a wonder they lasted 20 minutes.

Bridging the Gap

Ira Glass on the creative gap between taste and talent...

In "Outliers", Malcolm Gladwell posed a 10,000 hour threshold to attain expertise. Ira confirms: To do anything well takes practice.

The New 9/11

Oprah says it's over as of 9/9/11.


I watched a movie called "The Firm" on TV and wondered if the traveling pants were really genes, not a pair of blue jeans.

Apparently I wasn't the first!