Starting today, the sun sets a minute later than it did yesterday. However, "daytime" is still 31 seconds shorter today than yesterday because the sun is still coming up later each morning. Try to work that into a conversation today.
1) Is frugality out of fashion already? Or has the economic meltdown led to a transforming attitude about consumption and spending by Americans? We're tired of frugality, suggests an expert in Marty Moylan's story this morning about how Target's ads are tapping into our concern about spending money. In it, Akshay Rao, director of the Institute for Research in Marketing at the University of Minnesota, says some people are getting tired of not spending. Frugality fatigue, she calls it.
It's hard to keep up with this topic. Why, it was just three days ago we were told that "frugality is back in fashion." Some personal finance experts in Canada, on the other hand, have acknowledged they were wrong when they suggested frugal would be an acceptable way of life. We want to spend; we just want to. Is that so bad?
So maybe the new frugality was a media creation, but it was a prescriptive one. Because the problem of consumer debt hasn't gone away, and in the final analysis, it's not only a drag on the world economy, it's like blocked arteries: If you ignore it, it may seem to go away. But then, just when you're not thinking about it any more, it'll kill you dead.
A year ago a Target TV add featured a breezy jingle touting a "brand new day" and smiling people riding their bike to work because they couldn't afford the gas, and giving themselves haircuts, because they couldn't afford a barber.
If what the "frugal fatigue" experts say, however, is true, then we're ready to start running up debt again. And "fat cats" are ready to start lavishing each other with big bonuses again. Perhaps the economic meltdown provided us with a few lessons, but what is it we learned? Discuss.
2) Robert Harrison, a professor of Italian literature at Stanford University, laments that when students pass through the school's visually stimulating campus, iPhones, BlackBerrys and all the evolving devices and apps draw them into their blinkered personal realms, the Washington Post reports today. It's claimed that people spend an average of 8 1/2 hours a day interacting with a monitor of some sort. It's suggested that Northwest Flight 188 is a symptom of the problem.
Speaking of Flight 188, The Atlantic's James Fallows dissects the FAA's use of the term "frolic," to describe what the pilots were doing when they should have been landing their Northwest Airlines flight in Minneapolis.
3) A teachable moment for law students? In Oregon, law school students found a professor had -- perhaps mistakenly, perhaps not -- emailed the entire final exam on his Web site, days before students were supposed to take it. At his request, Above the Law reports, every student deleted it rather than use it to ace the test a week later.
The issue? If you come across something on the Web or in your e-mail, is it yours? The law blog says "yes."
If you accidentally come across opposing counsel's work-product, that is one thing. If a law professor accidentally publishes his exam to the entire class, that seems to me to be a different case entirely. Analogous? Sure. Similar? I guess there's an argument there. But "the exact same thing and therefore subject to all the rules and regulations of professional ethics?" I think not.
4) Psst! The climate talks in Copenhagen have a big carbon footprint.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|12/14/09 in :60 Seconds|
Writing in Slate today, Anne Applebaum says the climate change movement does itself no favors by predicting doom:
For while it's true that human beings are often greedy, stupid, and destructive, it's also true that we got to where we are at least partly thanks to human creativity, ingenuity, and talent. Electricity is a miracle, an invention that has literally brought light and life to millions. Modern communication and transportation systems are no less extraordinary, helping create economic growth in places where poverty and misery were the norm for centuries.
Tangent time: In Duluth, a couple was concerned about all the energy being used to power the city's Christmas lights. So they purchased energy credits.
5) Identity theft via Facebook is easy.
This week, Facebook was updated to include new privacy options. It opens up new opportunities to lose your personal information.
Bonus: The weathercaster just mentioned that wind chills today will be between -15 and -20. Question: Are there actually people who can tell the difference between -15 and -20?
It keeps the riff-raff out, of course.
The effort in Copenhagen to reach an agreement limiting carbon dioxide and other emissions may spark renewed interest in nuclear power. In the United States, a bipartisan group of Senate negotiators has embraced more nuclear plants as one part of a pending climate-change bill. Has climate change affected your view of nuclear power?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Is there any role for nuclear power in a climate-changed world?
Second hour: The new president of the National Council of Churches and the evangelical senior pastor of a fast-growing megachurch talk about the public role of religion. And how they plan to keep faith relevant to a public that increasingly shuns religious labels.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Long-time war correspondent Joseph Galloway, discussing the war in Afghanistan and the president's speech at West Point.
Second hour: A new documentary from the America Abroad series about U.S. foreign aid. It's titled "Arrested Development: Shortchanging Foreign Aid."
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: The five Muslim-Americans arrested in Pakistan -- young men allegedly interested in training for jihad -- may be just the latest of the so-called homegrown terrorists -- now at the highest level since September 11th. Often young, they're bored, angry, and susceptible to violent messages on the internet.
Second hour: After a sub-prime crisis put the housing market on life support, many
people wonder if the American dream is better leased than bought.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Dan Gunderson will have the second part in his series on North Dakota's attempt to become the unmanned aircraft capital of the world. Here's part one.
Patti Neighmond will have the latest on a story that's got people concerned about CT scans. A new study says overuse of CT scans will lead to new cancer deaths.(3 Comments)
The Census Bureau today is out with its 2010 abstracts, snapshots of the country in just about every imaginable category.
For example, population (Click for larger image):
Minnesota has gained population in this decade, but is it enough to prevent losing one member of Congress to the Southwest? Perhaps. Michigan might lose representation. North Dakota is one of only two states losing population. Louisiana has Hurricane Katrina to blame. What's North Dakota's excuse?
Other factoids from today's release:
-- The percentage of Minnesotans with a high school degree or more has increased by 2.1% this decade, to 91%. Only Wyoming (91.2%) is better. Texas is the worst state in the nation in this category (79.1%)
Minneapolis is far and away the safest city when it comes to the prevalence of rape. One for every 121.8 per 100,000 people. Would you believe that Cleveland is the safest city when it comes to robberies? (This is wrong. See comments.)
-- For 2006, 2007 and 2008, federal aid to cities and states dropped. It's projected to jump 23.9% this year (presumably because of the stimulus). The previous record increases were during the first three years of the Bush administration.
-- In the first six years of the decade, Minnesota revenue increased almost 26%. Over the same period, state spending increased 26.5%. In Minneapolis, a family of three making $25,000 paid 10.7 percent of their income in state and local taxes. That ranks 26th among the nation's big cities. A family of three making $150,000 paid 9.7%. That ranks 13th in the nation.
-- Minneapolis ranks 34th in the nation in property taxes, in a category of the largest city in each state. Bridgeport, Connecticut is the most expensive in this category.
-- Minnesota state workforce has increased by 6.8% this decade. Local government employment has dropped by 1 percent. State worker earnings have increased 23.5%. City and county workers earnings have increased about 24% (through 2007).
-- In current dollars, Minnesotans personal income has risen 41% this decade. Adjusted for inflation, it's increased 16%. Minnesota ranks 10th in the nation in personal income. That rank hasn't changed in this decade. By contrast, Wisconsin has dropped from #19 to #27. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington's personal income jumped 6.7 percent from '06 to '07. That ranks 14th among 60 metro areas.
-- 11.9% of Minnesota's bridges are "deficient and obsolete." Sounds bad, right? It's second-best in the nation. 60.5% of the District of Columbia's bridges fall into the same category.
-- Traffic congestion in the Twin Cities cost each person 15 gallons of fuel per year, and wastes 22 hours. That's exactly average for the nation as a whole. The average travel time to work in Minnesota is 22 minutes.
-- Thirty-one percent of Minnesota's highway fatalities involved drunk driving. That's 31st in the nation.
-- The highest percentage of "participation" in classical music activities in the U.S. is the 18-to-24 year age group. But the highest percentage of people who go to a classical music concert are between 65 and 74 and make more than $150,000 a year. The highest percentage (by education level) of people who go to sporting events are college graduates.5 Comments)
Former 3M boss James McNerney has a lot riding on today's planned test flight of the Boeing 787. McNerney left the Maplewood-based company in 2005 to head Boeing, just in time to preside over the troubled airplane project. Some analysts bet against the plane ever flying.
It's due to make its first flight today at 12 p.m. (Minnesota time). Boeing is providing a live Web stream. The feed also provides live communication from the cockpit to tower.
Update 1:33 p.m. - The takeoff captured via a Droid phone.
How big a deal is this in industry circles? Listen to the cameras clicking during a high-speed taxi test the other day:
This is Boeing's attempt to compete with the Airbus A380, which I filmed flying around Oshkosh earlier this year (ignore the title; it has been to Chicago once before).
Northwest Airlines was going to be one of the first customers for the new Boeing jet. But Delta is reportedly considering dropping its business.(3 Comments)
The report was commissioned by Denmark:
Deloitte included in their calculations emissions caused by accommodation, local transport, electricity and heating of the conference center, paper, security, transport of goods and services as well as energy used by computers, kitchens, photocopiers and printers inside the conference center.
Accommodation accounted for 23 percent of the summit's greenhouse gas emissions in Copenhagen, while transport caused 7 percent. Seventy percent came from activities inside the conference center, she said.
Dozens of people from Minnesota have flocked to Copenhagen. Terrapass' carbon footprint calculator estimates that a non-stop roundtrip airline flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Copenhagen created 3,777 pounds of CO2.
How much would it take to offset that?
-- You'd have to install 35 lightbulbs in place of incandescent bulbs.
-- Someone with a 15 mpg car would have to drive a 30 mpg car for six months.
-- Someone would have to replace an old water heater with a newer, more energy efficient model. You could also reduce your water temperature by 10 degrees for the next four years.
-- You'd have to drop your home by 5 degrees for the next year.
-- If you normally drive 75, you'd have to drive 65 for the next two years.
-- Nine people who are not now car-pooling, would have to do so for the next year.
Meanwhile, a Brown University professor is trying to figure out where all the money goes that's given to poor countries by rich countries to help them adapt to climate change.
He's developing a database to track it all, the Boston Globe reports:
Perhaps you would think, with the billions of dollars in aid flowing back and forth between nations for generations, that there would be a highly evolved system to make sure the money gets where it's supposed to go. No. Roberts says there are many reasons, including the reality that funding can be expensive to track and that some governments do not want it to be tracked. Regardless of why, he said, the result is enormous sums of money are swallowed up by consultants, middlemen, and corruption long before the money gets even part of the distance it needs to go.
This being the season of little sunlight in Minnesota, I find myself thinking deep thoughts like, "What will it be like when the sun burns out?".
Apparently, it will be like this:
It's a sun about 550 light years from here and it's burning out. It's growing larger and pulsating -- it could swallow everything from here to Mars, according to Science Daily -- and it's flickering like a light bulb about to burn out.
So we'll apparently have plenty of warning that the end is near.
But not to worry! The odds of it happening anytime soon are almost as staggering as ABBA being enshrined in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.
Among the important questions facing mankind is this one: Do men become better dancers as they get older, or do they just think they do?
A British researcher has the answer, according to Discovery:
Men 16 and under don't take much pride in their dance moves, but as men grow older, their confidence steadily rises. In fact, men over the age of 65 think they are veritable Saturday Night Fever John Travolta's, with their confidence even surpassing that of 55 to 60-year-olds.
Interestingly, women are just the opposite. They display immense confidence in their dancing up to age 16. There's a drop in boogie boldness from 16 to age 20, then a small rise, before a steady drop in groove pride hits from ages 55 to 65.
(h/t: Nancy Lebens)(2 Comments)