Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My "Don't Tell OJ Simpson" Moment From 1989

20 years ago.  Wow.  I wrote HERE five years ago about my tangential personal connection to the OJ case. A lot has been made over the last week, because of the 20th anniversary today of the white Bronco freeway chase, about how the verdict in his celebrated criminal case split the nation along racial lines at the time.  And I suppose that's my memory, too.

But I wonder whether, if the wildly popular CBS television show C.S.I. had aired just a few years earlier than its premier in the year 2000, that verdict might not've been different.  I also haven't seen any poll taken today about OJ's guilt or innocence.  I suspect strongly that there wouldn't be such a distinct racial divide on this issue now.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Swift-Walker? Boneshaker?

Today is apparently the anniversary of something bicycle-related, I read just now. I was surprised to learn HERE that, for the first 50 years after it was invented in 1817, it came to be known by many other names before the term "bicycle" was coined in 1869, including "velocipede" and "boneshaker" and "hobby horse" and "swift-walker."

I was also intrigued by the notation that in 1898, the popularity of the bicycle in America went into historic decline.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Unlikely World of "Sweepers"

"They spend hours a day entering sweepstakes..."

(While the applicable taxes on any winnings are mentioned in this NBC Nightly News segment from last night, the fact that they would total hundreds of thousands of dollars on the nearly $1 million in total winnings claimed by the 'master sweeper' interviewed went unremarked upon.)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Frugal Life Of A Chinese Spy In America

"Sitting around the house—secret audio recordings would later show—the two often talked about Chinese politics, remarking that Mao, like Stalin, was misunderstood by history. The influence of Maoist ideology was, perhaps, evident in the Maks’ extreme frugality: they ate their meals off of newspapers, which they would roll up and toss in the garbage. Every Saturday morning, after a game of tennis, they drove to a gas station and washed their car using the mops and towels there. From the gas station, the Maks drove to a hardware store and disappeared into the lumber section for ten minutes, never buying anything. For weeks, the agents following them wondered if the Maks were making a dead drop, but it turned out that the lumber section offered free coffee at that hour."

You can read more in The New Yorker HERE.

Friday, May 16, 2014

"Would You Kill The Fat Man?"

"When moral dilemmas are posed in a foreign language, people become more coolly utilitarian." So begins THIS Economist article that goes on to explain, "Specifically, when people are asked the fat-man question in a foreign language, they are more likely to kill him for the others’ sake. Dr Costa and his colleagues interviewed 317 people, all of whom spoke two languages—mostly English plus one of Spanish, Korean or French. Half of each group were randomly assigned the dilemma in their native tongue. The other half answered the problem in their second language. When asked in their native language, only 20% of subjects said they would push the fat man. When asked in the foreign language, the proportion jumped to 33%."

Chinese 'Seed Corn' Espionage

"As farmers work to plant the fields of Iowa this week, the FBI still lists five Chinese nationals as ‘wanted’ for stealing seed corn over the past three years... Mo is accused of being the ringleader for an elaborate network of men trying to steal inbred corn seed from DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto farm fields in Iowa and Illinois in 2011."

"September 2012: Another man, Li Shaoming, is alleged to smuggle corn seed from Monee, Illinois to China. The DOJ claims Li concealed 374 small manila envelopes each containing small quantities of corn seed within two boxed of Pop Weaver brand microwave popcorn boxes."

You can read more HERE.

Sale of Red Lobster Will Pay Dividends. Literally.

The purchaser, Golden Gate Capital, also owns Payless Shoe Source and Zales. So when this sale closes in a few months, Red Lobster will be right where it belongs. Among friends.

"After tax and transaction costs Darden — which also includes Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Capital Grille and Seasons 52 – expects to receive about $1.6 billion in cash from the deal... The move will also allow Darden to maintain its 55 cent quarterly dividend."  You can read more in Forbes HERE. "Disappointing earnings from Red Lobster have long dragged down the 46 year old Darden and the most recent quarter was no exception. In March, Darden reported that sales for the seafood chain came in at $611 million, down 8.7% from a year earlier. Nevertheless Golden Gate Capital is optimistic, Managing Director Josh Olshansky said in a statement, 'Red Lobster is an exceptionally strong brand with an unparalleled market position in seafood casual dining.'"

But if that really is true, it's only because the rest of the segment is sinking even faster than Red Lobster. It sounds like a proverbial 'race to the bottom,' according to THIS article in QSR magazine.  "The seafood quick-service category has performed poorly in recent years... Long John Silver’s total U.S. sales dropped from $700 million in 2010 to $635 million in 2011."