Saturday, January 9, 2010

Orange You Glad I Didn't Say Banana

image via alicianoel's photostream

A revealing piece from NPR's This American Life about those who work the night shift at the Huntspoint Terminal Market in the South Bronx. If you've ever wondered how your food gets to your local green grocer then you should hear this. I've been on a tour of the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto and I'll always remember it as a window to another world.

Listen to This American Life, No. 395. Huntspoint Terminal Market


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Big Mac Attack

via The Economist

Now I'm curious about some kind of Fish 'n Chips index or Champagne Index or Bespoke Suit Index. Or even cross reference the Big Mac Index with a Doctor Visitation Cost Index?

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Monday, April 20, 2009

See You on the Moon

Oracle acquires Sun for $7.4 Billion. I think I like the headline "Oracle acquires Sun" more than the actual story. It just sounds like something from antiquity, like "Soothsayer acquires Moon to better read bird entrails". For all I know the deal will be signed with chicken blood.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sunny Florida

I used to drink the Richard Florida Kool-aid. After all, I'm part of that "Creative Class" he talks about. It serves me well to re-sell his Kool-aid. As someone who acts as a design advocate, I see creative professionals as the innovators and entrepreneurs who will drive our future economy. Then I watched Mr. Florida (if that is his real name) on The Hour, and listened to him describe how the emerging musicians out of blue collar towns like Detroit and Montreal are replacing the traditional manufacturing sector.

"Hmm" I said to myself, "How can a handful of musicians generate the kind of economic activity of say, a single auto plant?" They can't. In just the last weeks some 2400 Canadians found out they are going to be out of work. Some are out of luck because a GM plant is closing, others because a steel plant that supplies the auto sector is closing.

What Florida avoids is that the Creative Class succeeds or fails along with traditional industries not independent of them. If a large portion of the population isn't working then that's a lot of people downloading music rather than paying for it or not going out to see theatre or going to restaurants. Restaurants are closing, fewer films are being made, more musicians are working day jobs and as advertising dollars shrink fewer designers are designing. To a degree, Florida is right. There is growth for all those he refers to as the "Creative Class" but not without some base of people growing food and making stuff. It might be old-fashioned thinking but in general, "Knowledge Workers" can only make up a certain percentage of any economy. At some point that number tops out. Am I wrong?

Jim Stanford, economist for the CAW and columnist for the Globe and Mail seems to agree. Not everybody can be an engineer, designer or artist. My brothers who teach high school, try to recognize which of their students would do well with some kind of further education, be it a degree or a certificate. Some kids would do well to get any kind of trade. Even if everyone was an artist, it wouldn't be that helpful. In Canada, visual artists make an average of $20,000 and weirdly the more education an artist has, the less they are likely to make. Not exactly a "Grey Poupon" class.

While I appreciate the support Richard Florida brings to considering the importance of innovation and design to our future, maybe we should give his kind of Kool-aid some sort of electric acid test.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Solid as a Rock (that has been crushed)

Blinded by the light(weight truck sales)
via The New York Times

I don't think I can remember a time when an American President or administration told two of the previously most prestigious of American companies what to do and how to do it. In the Trudeau era, Canadian governments seemed to always be throwing conditional monies at companies like Dome Petroleum, Bombardier or De Havilland and twenty years later it would be hard to say any of that money did any good.

What am I suggesting? Maybe that in twenty years time Chrysler will be a small niche player and General Motors will have been broken into parts and consumed by others to disappear into History's dustbin. No matter what happens, the photo above will be seen as endemic to GM's problems. Their ousted chairman seen surrounded by a variety of trucks. In other words, a severely wrong product line. A product line that was essentially different skins on one platform and that platform was pegged to a weak financing and credit model, faddishly oversold, and dependent on a strong construction industry. All the while they destroyed plans and prototypes for progressive designs and ignored all of the people in the world not buying trucks or SUVs. Let's not even mentioned that GM has been crippled by pension and health care costs that would have been significantly offset if the American government had provided that most evil of services to it's citizens, "socialized" medicine. National healthcare wouldn't have helped GM's sales of course, or made them more innovative or efficient. Then again, in the end, neither innovation nor efficiency could save Beth Steel and that pretty much looks to be the case of GM.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The New Equality

This plus this equals this.

As Mr. James Brown once said, "It's a man's world but it would be nothing without a woman or a girl."

I think we need to think "more" different (sic).

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