Thursday, January 31, 2002

Yes, everything you need to know in life is in the D section of USA Today.
This morning’s USAT reviews an essay collection, Celebrating the Third Place, that praises hangouts like coffe shops, cafés, and pubs. The review also mentions an intriguing policy innovation from (of all places) Spain: providing tax breaks to restaurants with patios. As one American tavern owner explains, "The [Spanish] officials understand that outdoor dining increases tax revenue but more important, it reduces crime. In our country, patios are heavily taxed and discouraged."

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Number 1 in my heart, number 68 in the Neilsens.
USA Today reports that television's best prime time program, 24, is struggling with "tepid" ratings--and is therefore contemplating scrapping its innovative "real time" narrative. Feh.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Great book.
Lately I've been reading The Bus Driver Who Thought He Was God--a weird, hilarious, and oddly compelling collection of short (often very short) stories by a young Israeli writer named Etgar Keret. This guy's gonna be big in the U.S. You heard it here first.

Monday, January 28, 2002

That's what my life is worth, according to, a web site that used my physical, mental, and personal attributes to calculate the figure. The average value for a male life was $1,881,463. Ouch.

Friday, January 25, 2002

Hello, this is progress calling.
The new Statistical Abstract is out, happy news for factoid freaks everywhere. Here's one interesting morsel: in 1990, 5 million Americans used a cell phone; in 2000, 110 million used one. In 1990, the average monthly bill was $81; in 2000, the average bill (for monumentally better service) was $45. Not exactly a cure for cancer--but if that's not progress, my last name isn't a pastel color.

Thursday, January 24, 2002

From obscurity to Oprah.
Forgive this self-referential post, but here’s a story I wrote in the current issue of Fast Company about an cool but obscure documentary film titled “The Journey.” Tomorrow the filmmakers will be on Oprah, which means this great flick will soon be much more cool and much less obscure.

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

(Kevin) Bacon bits.
Are all of us connected by only “six degrees of separation?” Or is that idea just a widely-held misconception that’s boosted Kevin Bacon’s career? Sociologists at Columbia University are trying to find out through this fascinating online experiment.

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Cool tool.
Want to know how fast your internet connection really is? Click here and find out.

Monday, January 21, 2002

Take a hike!
"If everyone in the U.S. were to walk briskly 30 minutes a day, we could cut the incidence of many chronic diseases 30% to 40%," says Dr. Joann Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in last week’s Time.

Friday, January 18, 2002

Why Americans hate politics.
Every member of Congress has a web site. Every member of Congress has a voting record. So shouldn't every member of Congress include said voting record on said web site? Of course. But they don't, as one former Congressional intern relates in this excellent Washington Post op-ed.

Thursday, January 17, 2002

Enron: More riches in Mauritius.
Some bracing info from today's New York Times: "Enron paid no income taxes in four of the last five years, using almost 900 subsidiaries in tax-haven countries and other techniques . . . It was also eligible for $382 million in tax refunds. The company used strategies common among businesses to avoid taxes. It also used some unusual methods, among them the creation of 881 subsidiaries abroad, including 692 in the Cayman Islands, 119 in the Turks and Caicos, 43 in Mauritius and 8 in Bermuda."

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

What the foie gras?
If you thought the recession had wrung out the soggy excesses of fin de siecle America, read this USA Today story about $250 an hour "food trainers" -- i.e, tabletop dictators for-hire who accompany you to restaurants and tell you not to eat the bread.

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

That's what I like about Goo(gle).
Proving that the web is a giant throbbing focus group, Google offers this summary of the most popular searches of 2001. Good news: the most-searched music group was the Beatles. Bad news: the most-searched sports (sic) subject was Anna Kournikova.

Monday, January 14, 2002

Easy to digest.
Carol Coletta’s BusinessThinkers Trends Digest is one of the smartest e-newsletters I receive--and one of the very few I actually look forward to reading.

Friday, January 11, 2002

The perfect stench.
Shredded files. Secret meetings. Non-denial denials. The rot beneath the Enron collapse is getting smellier and smellier, prompting big newspapers to begin sniffing the detritus. Check out this piece from today’s LA Times. While you’re at it, underline this sentence from today’s Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Lay is Mr. Bush’s biggest individual financial backer.”

Thursday, January 10, 2002

Living web is the best revenge.
Ex-Enron employees swipe back at the company that screwed them with this cheeky web site.

Wednesday, January 09, 2002

Just a good idea.
David Allen’s (free) Travel Checklist is a remarkably simple tool. But, man, is it ever useful. Paste it into your word processor and keep it on your hard drive.

Tuesday, January 08, 2002

War stinks.
Scientists in Philadelphia are developing the latest advance in high-tech weaponry: an odor bomb.

Monday, January 07, 2002

Freedom to arm?
Donald Rumsfeld proposes spending an additional $20 billion of taxpayer money on the military next year. Where to find that staggering sum in a deficit-strapped federal budget? Here's a possibility: from Congress's favorite corporate welfare program -- unnecessary farm subsidies, which each year cost taxpayers about . . . $20 billion.

Friday, January 04, 2002

Show me the Mamet!
"Everybody needs money. That's why they call it money."
--Mickey Bergman (Danny DeVito) in David Mamet's new film, Heist

Thursday, January 03, 2002

Teleport in a storm.
The Herman Group’s weekly Trend Alert newsletter has this intriguing piece about a company that hopes to make Star Trek-style teleportation a reality.

Wednesday, January 02, 2002

E-commerce, thy name is woman.
Some interesting findings emerge from the Pew Internet and America Life Project. Among them: During the just-ended holiday season, 58% of online buyers were women. And while nearly 29 million Americans purchased gifts online, spending an average of nearly $400 each, “more Internet users made holiday plans via email, downloaded craft ideas and recipes from the Web, and searched for spiritual information online than did anything connected to gift buying.”

Tuesday, January 01, 2002

Shecky New Year!
After months of study, the UK's Laugh Lab has identified the funniest joke of 2001.