Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Parmesan Bailout

What do you do with 100,000 wheels of cheese? If you’re Italy, according to Morning Edition today, you buy them from cheese-makers and donate them to charity to help the struggling parmagiano industry. According to Malcolm Gladwell in his latest book Outliers (which I just read since I sneakily gave it to C for her birthday and she kindly loaned it back to me when she was done), one of the ways to measure intelligence that’s not captured in IQ tests is to see how many creative uses people can come up with for everyday objects. So I will try to suggest a few of my own:

  • Build a bigger mousetrap
  • Create a human maze (ala the Wooz), and if people can’t figure out how to get out, they can eat the walls for sustenance
  • Use them as renewable-source tabletops
  • Roll them down highways and track the patterns made by the gravel to see if you need to re-pave the road
  • Stick them over very large bonfires and dip large pieces of toast into them after they melt into a creamy “fondue”
  • Dye some of them red, green, and blue and then place them end to end for a giant game of twister

Feel free to help me out by adding some more!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

NPR Fan Bailout

Okay, I’ve changed my mind. For the past couple weeks, I’ve been on the fence about whether we should bail out the Big Three car manufacturers, and I’d pretty much decided that we shouldn’t. Yes, they employ many people, and those people in turn keep many others in business. Yes, they’re a core American industry, etc etc. But really, I couldn’t imagine that lending them billions of dollars would actually accomplish anything. They need the money to “restructure” which really just means lay people off – that doesn’t seem like it will do much for the economy. And they don’t really seem to have a viable plan to get back to profitability. All that, and I didn’t appreciate (other than for its humor) the fact that they CEOs of Ford, GM, and Chrysler each flew their own private jet to go begging in Washington last week, and seemed shocked that they weren’t going to just get whatever they asked for.

But that’s all changed, because now I know that the CEOs of Ford and GM, at least, listen to NPR. Last week on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, they joked about the CEOs and their corporate jets, and Roxanne Roberts suggested that they should have just driven to Washington. Although Peter Sagel thought that would be a horrible idea because of they’d break down in Pittsburg, apparently the CEOs were listening! Last night on All Things Considered, in what I struck me as a very funny piece, Brian Naylor and Michele Norris reported not only that the CEOs of Ford and GM were driving to the new set of hearings in Washington this week, but also what type of cars they would be using – a Chevrolet Malibu hybrid sedan and some kind of Ford hybrid. The CEO of Chrysler may be driving to Washington, but Chrysler won’t say for sure, citing “security reasons”.

So there you go – if the car companies are run by NPR listeners, they must be in good shape. Bailout approved!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Belt Tightening

In regards to belts, there are some obvious things you’d think of when it comes to pregnancy, like needing to buy a bigger one, but one of the results they don’t warn you about is that you can’t actually see your belt when you’re putting it on. This makes belt tightening quite challenging and requires a mirror and some skill. Which is why I was especially entertained by a story on Marketplace last Wednesday about belt tightening – not the economic kind, but the actual belt type. Sean Cole did a hilarious job of interviewing people who make belts about what’s happening in the economy, and apparently belt tightening, specifically punching extra holes in existing belts, making shorter belts to use less material, and appreciating the new trend for skinny belts, is quite prevalent. In fact, given how many people talked about making their belts actually tighter since they’d lost weight you’d think we didn’t have an obesity crisis in this country. My favorite part was when he did his “man on the street” interview that went as follows:

Strangely, some people thought I was talking about money.
WOMAN 3: It's important to not completely retract. Confidence in the market has a lot to do with people's spending.
COLE: I think that's very wise and cogent. I am actually talking about your belt, your belt.
WOMAN 3: I think you need to expand your definition of belt tightening.
COLE: Really?
WOMAN 3: Yeah.

Pieces like this make me remember why, even in these depressing economic times, Marketplace is one of the most informative but also entertaining shows around.