Via James Fallows, a perfect holiday shopping idea from writer and Wait Wait! panelist, Roy Blount, Jr.:
I've been talking to booksellers lately who report that times are hard. And local booksellers aren't known for vast reserves of capital, so a serious dip in sales can be devastating. Booksellers don't lose enough money, however, to receive congressional attention. A government bailout isn't in the cards.
We don't want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods. So let's mount a book-buying splurge. Get your friends together, go to your local bookstore and have a book-buying party. Buy the rest of your Christmas presents, but that's just for starters. Clear out the mysteries, wrap up the histories, beam up the science fiction! Round up the westerns, go crazy for self-help, say yes to the university press books! Get a load of those coffee-table books, fatten up on slim volumes of verse, and take a chance on romance!
I direct this specifically to readers I know I have in Durham, N.C. (Regulator Bookshop), San Francisco (Stacey's Bookstore), Chicago (Powell's and, though they're going out of business, Brent's), and New York (pick one). You know who you are. Shop.
This morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the economy lost 533,000 non-farm jobs last month, giving us a main-line unemployment rate of 6.7%. This is the highest since 1993, which, along with the usual credit-crisis indicators (like the 3-month Treasury now at zero), is quite sobering.
Appropriate, then, that today is the 75th anniversary of the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition.
I've just gotten from Amazon two of the best movies ever made, worth the extra few bucks for Blu-Ray:
That said, I'm under my dad's orders to finish Deadwood before watching anything else...
Because the ParkerCam just isn't enough for some people, I commend to you the Puppy Cam. Yes, they are adorable, I have to admit. And more technologically advanced: live, streaming video vs. a once-a-minute static JPEG. But I have no idea who these puppies are. They might even be Communists, or worse, the way they're all in one bed together like that.
Via James Fallows, a profile of Dogfish Head Brewery (and other extreme beers):
Dogfish makes some very fine beers, [Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett] Oliver says. But its reputation has been built on ales like its 120 Minute I.P.A., one of the strongest beers of its kind in the world. I.P.A. stands for India pale ale, an especially hoppy British style first made in the eighteenth century for the long sea voyage to the subcontinent. (Hops are a natural preservative as well as a flavoring.) A typical I.P.A. has six per cent alcohol and forty I.B.U.s—brewers’ parlance for international bittering units. [Dogfish brewmaster Sam] Calagione’s version has eighteen per cent alcohol and a hundred and twenty I.B.U.s. It’s brewed for two hours, with continuous infusions of hops, then fermented with still more hops. “I don’t find it pleasant to drink,” Oliver says. “I find it unbalanced and shrieking.”
Others find it thrilling. “When you’re trying to create new brewing techniques and beer styles, you have to have a certain recklessness,” Jim Koch, whose Boston Beer Company brews Samuel Adams, and who coined the term “extreme beer,” told me. “Sam has that. He’s fearless, but he’s also got a good palate. He doesn’t put stuff into beer that doesn’t deserve to be there.”
Long read from the New Yorker, with the magazine's usual wordiness, but interesting. And it's making me thirsty.
Beloit College professors Tom McBride and Ron Nief annually compile a list of assumptions that first-years bring with them based solely on the year of their birth. It's fascinating:
This month [August 2008], almost 2 million first-year students will head off to college campuses around the country. Most of them will be about 18 years old, born in 1990 when headlines sounded oddly familiar to those of today: Rising fuel costs were causing airlines to cut staff and flight schedules; Big Three car companies were facing declining sales and profits; and a president named Bush was increasing the number of troops in the Middle East in the hopes of securing peace. However, the mindset of this new generation of college students is quite different from that of the faculty about to prepare them to become the leaders of tomorrow.
The class of 2012 has grown up in an era where computers and rapid communication are the norm, and colleges no longer trumpet the fact that residence halls are “wired” and equipped with the latest hardware. These students will hardly recognize the availability of telephones in their rooms since they have seldom utilized landlines during their adolescence. They will continue to live on their cell phones and communicate via texting. Roommates, few of whom have ever shared a bedroom, have already checked out each other on Facebook where they have shared their most personal thoughts with the whole world.
For these students, Sammy Davis Jr., Jim Henson, Ryan White, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Freddy Krueger have always been dead.
- Harry Potter could be a classmate, playing on their Quidditch team.
- Since they were in diapers, karaoke machines have been annoying people at parties.
- They have always been looking for Carmen Sandiego.
- GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
- Coke and Pepsi have always used recycled plastic bottles.
...and 55 others that will make you say, "huh."
After tooling around other years' lists, I say: Xers unite! (As if...)
I must say, the new terminal at RDU looks great. I hardly believed I was in North Carolina. And the last time I was here, it was a red state. Now it's blue. Tempus fugit.
Actually, I'm kind of sad I'm not staying longer. My host couldn't stay tonight (the S.O. is unewell) so I'm on my own until a 9:00 meeting tomorrow morning, about which more later, and after which I'm back on a plane to do work related to the trip for, like, ten days. Everything from this trip is due on December 1st.
I could like Durham for a while, I think. But I won't leave Chicago until the revolution comes, absent a tremendous bribe.
Sorry I'm being cryptic. When things settle down, I'll fill in the details.
Burlington, Vt., is America's healthiest city:
Vermont's largest city is tops among U.S. metropolitan areas by having the largest proportion of people — 92 percent — who say they are in good or great health.
It's also among the best in exercise and among the lowest in obesity, diabetes and other measures of ill health, according to a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Contrast with Huntington, W.Va.:
The obese mayor of America's fattest and unhealthiest city says health is not a big local issue.
"It doesn't come up," said David Felinton, 5-foot-9 and 233 pounds, as he walked toward City Hall one recent morning. "We've got a lot of economic challenges here in Huntington. That's usually the focus."
Nearly half the adults in Huntington's five-county metropolitan area are obese—an astounding percentage, far bigger than the national average in a country with a well-known weight problem.
In unrelated news, Obama won Vermont 68%-30%, and McCain won West Virginia 57%-43%.
My sister got her pilot certificate just to get me to shut up about jumping out of planes ("why jump from a perfectly-landable airplane?"). And if you think I love my dog, well, she outdoes me there, too. The combination means she has two dogs who each have their own airplane ear protectors. I can't imagine Parker in a Cessna, but I think he'd be at least as cute as this:
By the way, she named her dog Codey, after the final approach fix on the runway 15 IFR GPS approach at Lincoln, Calif. Seriously.
I just read a fascinating story in The Economist that would have probably gotten more attention in the U.S. but for our recent distractions. It seems Porsche made possibly €12 billion on the Deutsche Bourse by cornering the market in Volkswagen shares:
Porsche’s gambit was as old as finance itself. For about three years it had been steadily increasing its stake in VW, a much larger yet less profitable carmaker with which it shares a little production. Its buying had driven up the price of VW’s shares to above the level at which it would make any economic sense for Porsche to buy VW. Seeing this, hedge funds sold shares in VW that they did not own. One strategy was a bet that VW’s share price would fall. Some also bought shares in Porsche, in a wager that shares of both would converge.
[O]n October 26th it executed a handbrake turn, saying that it owned nearly 43% of VW’s shares outright and had derivative contracts on nearly 32% more. That meant it had tied up almost all of the freely available shares (the rest are held by the state government and index funds). Hedge funds quickly did the maths, concluding that they could be caught in an “infinite squeeze” in which they were forced to buy shares at any price.
Huh. Sucks to own a hedge fund right now.