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Will Americans Spend Again?

In the Harvard Business Review Grant McCracken writes about Why American Consumers Will Spend Lavishly Again.

The “new normal” — the idea that when income, credit and confidence return, Americans will not return to our free-spending ways — is an idea on the march, recruiting everyone from PIMCO CEO Mohamed El-Erian to Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke. It’s spreading so fast it threatens to become the new orthodoxy.

I believe the argument is flawed. When Mike Duke says, “[P]eople are saving more, consuming less, and being more frugal and thoughtful in their purchases,” he is right in the short term, but wrong in the long term. When income, credit, and confidence return, consumers will party like its 1999.

To me this is one of the most important arguments going on in western society today. Will we return to our spending ways or will we back away from the consumer precipice and make more considered purchases?

What evidence is there that the ‘new normal’ is real and not an aberration from 60 years of consumerism?

I’d love to believe it but it seems thin to me.

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Food

Hunting Is Chic in the NYTimes

The NYTimes reports on The Urban Deerslayer.

Best line:

“They eat my garden, so I thought maybe I should eat them,” he said.

And I’m of mixed emotions.

Great that people are getting in touch with where their food comes from, how it is killed and what it takes to eat meat.

But I think I preferred hunting before it was fashionable.

And it’s no coincidence that the two main species profiled in the article — white-tail deer and wild boars — mingle well with people, aren’t threatening and don’t require large tracks of land to survive.

The club may be called The Bull Moose Hunting Society but no one’s hunting moose. These are easy hunts, close to the city, not too spicy.

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Findings, Inside Voice, Nerdery

The great game of Moral High Ground

Ask Metafilter asks: What clever relationship “hacks” have you come up with?

Stuck on an island replies:

At last it is time to reveal to an unwitting world the great game of Moral High Ground. Moral High Ground is a long-playing game for two players. The following original rules are for one M and one F, but feel free to modify them to suit your player setup:

1. The object of Moral High Ground is to win.

2. Players proceed towards victory by scoring MHGPs (Moral High Ground Points). MHGPs are scored by taking the conspicuously and/or passive-aggressively virtuous course of action in any situation where culpability is in dispute.

(For example, if player M arrives late for a date with player F and player F sweetly accepts player M’s apology and says no more about it, player F receives the MHGPs. If player F gets angry and player M bears it humbly, player M receives the MHGPs.)

3. Point values are not fixed, vary from situation to situation and are usually set by the person claiming them. So, in the above example, forgiving player F might collect +20 MHGPs, whereas penitent player M might collect only +10.

4. Men’s MHG scores reset every night at midnight; women’s roll over every day for all time. Therefore, it is statistically highly improbable that a man can ever beat a woman at MHG, as the game ends only when the relationship does.

5. Having a baby gives a woman +10,000 MHG points over the man involved and both parents +5,000 MHG points over anyone without children.

My ex-bf and I developed Moral High Ground during our relationship, and it has given us years of hilarity. Straight coupledom involves so much petty point-scoring anyway that we both found we were already experts.

By making a private joke out of incredibly destructive gender programming, MHG releases a great deal of relationship stress and encourages good behavior in otherwise trying situations, as when he once cycled all the way home and back to retrieve some forgotten concert tickets “because I couldn’t let you have the Moral High Ground points”. We are still the best of friends.

Play and enjoy!

The great game of Moral High Ground

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Findings, Nerdery

Rumours, Belief and How Human Culture Trumps Technology

This Internet thing was supposed to help inform people — universal access to inexhaustive information.

But, that’s not quite what’s happened or happening.

So far, more than half a dozen lawsuits have been filed alleging that Obama is not a “natural born” citizen. One plaintiff, an Army reservist from Georgia, argued in court that he couldn’t be sent to fight in Afghanistan because the military lacked a Commander-in-Chief. In a poll released over the summer, twenty-eight per cent of the Republicans surveyed said that they did not think Obama was born in the U.S., and thirty per cent said that they were unsure, meaning that fully half took birther ideas seriously enough to doubt the legitimacy of their government. When a video of the woman in red was posted on YouTube, it quickly went viral; within a few weeks, it had received some eight hundred thousand hits.

That such a wacky idea should be so persistent is, to put it mildly, disquieting. Here we are, quadrillions of bytes deep into the Information Age. And yet information, it seems, has never mattered less.

According to Cass R. Sunstein, the situation was to be anticipated.

The Things People Say — Rumors in an age of unreason by Elizabeth Kolbert documents the built in biases we have for information gathering, belief development and social reinforcement.

“The acquisition of knowledge is, as Sunstein points out, a social process: it is shaped by language, by custom, and, since the Enlightenment, by certain widely accepted standards of evidence and rationality.”

Except the Internet makes it more possible than ever to filter the information we receive and compound “group polarization.”

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Findings, Nerdery

The Economics of Buying Local

Why buy local? Infographic information on where your money goes if you spend it with a local company.

Buying from local merchants means $.73 of every dollar stays in your community’s economy. Buying from an outlet of a non-local merchant means only $.43 of every dollar stays in your community’s economy.

Ever dollar spent therefore provides either $.30 contributed in bonus to your local economy, or $.30 that goes somewhere else.

Buying from non-local merchants may save you a small amount of money today. But it impoverishes you and your neighbours tomorrow.

And when you’re impoverished, price becomes the most important factor in purchase decisions. Then you’re way more likely to buy from a non-local merchant. The cycle continues and worsens.

It’s like the opposite of compounding interest: compounding deficit.

And once you get beyond the simple economic benefits of buying local, these additional 10 effects weigh in favour of supporting local businesses (in this case, in Grand Rapids, Michigan).

1. Significantly More Money Re-circulates In Greater Grand Rapids.

When you purchase at locally owned businesses rather than nationally owned, more money is kept in the community because locally-owned businesses often purchase from other local businesses, service providers and farms. Purchasing local helps grow other businesses as well as the Greater Grand Rapids tax base.

2. Non Profits Receive Greater Support.

Local business owners donate more to local charities than non-local owners.

3. Unique Businesses Create Character & Prosperity

The unique character of Grand Rapids is what brought us here and keeps us here. Our tourism businesses also benefit.

4. Environmental Impact Is Reduced.

Local businesses make more local purchases requiring less transportation and usually set up shop in town centers rather than on the fringe. This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution.

5. Most New Jobs Are Provided By Local Businesses.

Small local businesses are the largest employers nationally.

6. Customer Service Is Better.

Local businesses often hire people with more specific product expertise for better customer service.

7. Local Business Owners Invest In Community.

Local businesses are owned by people who live in this community, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in the community’s future.

8. Public Benefits Far Outweigh Public Costs.

Local businesses require comparatively little infrastructure and more efficiently utilize public services relative to chain stores.

9. Competition And Diversity Leads To More Consumer Choices.

A marketplace of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.

10. Investment In Greater Grand Rapids Is Encouraged.

A growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.

Originally found on PSFK, who found it on Local First.

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Findings, Nerdery, Stories

Placenames in Books Through History

Where a book is set is important. Settings can reinforce the centre of power or they can undermine it — the empire seeing itself or being seen from outside.

And places matter to how a story can be told too. Stories have an inheritance if they’re honest. They come from a place, a time and a culture.

The following maps, generated from Google Books, show the names of places in books over the years.

Placenames in books in 1800

Placenames in books in 1800


Names of geographic locations in books in 1830

Names of geographic locations in books in 1830


Names of geographic locations in books in 1860

Names of geographic locations in books in 1860


Names of geographic locations in books in 1890

Names of geographic locations in books in 1890


Names of geographic locations in books today.

Names of geographic locations in books today.

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Findings, Food, Travels, Vancouvering

Sexy Beast: the Giant Pacific Octopus

Loved this long story from Seattle’s The Stranger on the giant Pacific octopus:

Sexy Beast — The Mysteries of the Giant Pacific Octopus

Brendan Kiley captures the octopus in such a wonderful way it’s hard to not want to see one soon in my Pacific freedives.

When we snorkeled in the Mediterranean we often saw octopuses. I pointed one out to Monique one time and as soon as I pointed it saw us and turned a bright red colour. Zounds!

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