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act April 23, 2008

Posted by KG in design, econ, environment, food, health, news, science, tech.
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“act” – from the nytimes magazine green issue:

WALK THE WALK: In many parts of the country, walking has become as quaint a pastime as spinning yarn or playing the bagpipes. Between 1977 and 1995, the number of daily walking trips taken by adults declined by 40 percent — while more than a quarter of all car trips are now shorter than a mile. Those under-a-mile journeys fall into the zone that new urbanists call “walkshed”: the area a person can reasonably cover on foot. People whose walksheds teem with shops and restaurants have more reason to walk than those whose don’t, so it was only a matter of time before someone tried to quantify a neighborhood’s pedestrian-friendliness. Last summer, a trio of Seattle software developers started walkscore.com, which calculates the number of potential destinations within walking distance of any given address and then produces a rating. If your neighborhood scores 90 or above, you can easily live there without a car; if it scores under 25, you’ll be driving to the backyard. More than a million addresses were searched in the site’s first month. Matt Lerner, one of the site’s developers, knew the concept had arrived when a condo in Seattle hung out a gigantic banner that said “Walk Score 100.” “People react really negatively to phrases like ‘density,’ ” he says, “but they react really positively to phrases like ‘walkability.’ ”Walk Score’s popularity may be a sign that walking is making a comeback, fueled by both rising gas prices and widening waistlines.

BEYOND WASTE: Zero waste, a state of eco-utopia far beyond ordinary sustainability, raises the notion of planetary stewardship to a sweeping level: instead of using, we should reuse; instead of dumping, we should compost. A number of municipalities, including Seattle and Boulder, Colo., have made zero waste a guiding ambition. The daunting challenge is that so many consumer products are neither recyclable nor compostable. Worse, they’re made with highly toxic chemicals. Reducing the impact of these products may depend less on finding better ways to dispose of them and more on discovering how to remake them — or on no longer making them at all. A number of green certifications exist for “healthier” consumer products, but for the past three years, a small firm in Virginia known as MBDC has been awarding a “Cradle to Cradle” certification, or “C2C,” to certain items that satisfy a rigorous philosophy espoused by its founders, the green architect William McDonough and the environmental chemist Michael Braungart. The duo have long held that, as McDonough recently put it, “waste is basically stupid.” Theirs is a business-friendly credo. Corporate growth isn’t in itself problematic; nor should sustainability mean getting by with less. Rather, the firm endorses rethinking the way products are designed and manufactured. To get a C2C seal of approval, a product needs to be made from components that are either “technical nutrients” (which can be recycled or repurposed) or biological nutrients (which can degrade naturally, like compost). “Instead of saying zero waste, we say let’s just eliminate the concept of waste,” says Jay Bolus, an environmental engineer who is in charge of the MBDC certification process. C2C has mainly been a business-to-business endeavor, and only a few of the 100 products that have won MBDC certification — Herman Miller chairs, United States Postal Service envelopes — are familiar to consumers. But C2C is expanding, and next year, according to Bolus, there should be 400 or 500 products with the logo. To McDonough, his certification is a point of entry into the world that he’s imagining. “It honors intention,” he says. “And I think that’s really important, given that we have to redesign nearly everything.”

(more…)

neuroscience and price February 29, 2008

Posted by AP in econ, food, neuroscience, psychology.
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the boston globe discusses a caltech/stanford study where researchers:

provided people with cabernet sauvignons at various price points, with bottles ranging from $5 to $90. Although the tasters were told that all the wines were different, the scientists were in fact presenting the same wines at different prices.

The subjects consistently reported that the more expensive wines tasted better, even when they were actually identical to cheaper wines.

The experiment was even more unusual because it was conducted inside a scanner – the drinks were sipped via a network of plastic tubes – that allowed the scientists to see how the subjects’ brains responded to each wine. When subjects were told they were getting a more expensive wine, they observed more activity in a part of the brain known to be involved in our experience of pleasure.

link roundup January 27, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, arts/culture, books, comedy, econ, food, health, international, interviews, media, news, politics, science, speeches, talks, television.
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1. what don’t we know about the pharmaceutical industry? a freakonomics quorom

2. video: stewart slams media for provoking campaign drama

3. malcolm gladwell @ TED in 2004, exhibiting his superior storytelling abilities and making the horizontal segmentation of pasta fascinating – 18 min 15 sec youtube video

4. booksthatmakeyoudumb

5. nabokov wanted his final, unfinished work destroyed. should his son get out the matches?

6. nicholas kristof in india (“china and india: the race is on” & “power of a mother’s love” – nytimes video)

starbucks adds dollar menu January 24, 2008

Posted by AP in food.
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ok, not menu really, but $1 coffee, according to business week:

Today it was reported that the chain is selling small (or in Starbucks lingo, “short”) cups of coffee for $1 apiece, as well as offering free refills. Yes, it’s just a test so far and the deal is currently only available in Seattle. …

But for a chain known for its $5 cappuccinos, a $1 price promotion cuts to the quick. It smacks of McDonald’s and Wendy’s neon-bright dollar menus. It’s probably the most off-brand move so far.

alternate title for this post: “demand curves do exist”.

obama, bloomberg, and bacon: a new york love story December 4, 2007

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, comedy, food, misc, politics.
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The Associated Press reported that the bill for breakfast – eggs, toast and bacon – came out to $17.34. Mr. Obama, the non-billionaire of the bunch, picked up the tab and left a generous $10 tip, according to their waitress, Judith Perez. (Photo: Diane Bondareff/Associated Press)

obama and bloomberg meet to discuss policy in a nice little “hey we still eat at normal-people-places” photo-op. the caption says that obama bought bacon, but as you will see below, we do not know who ate said bacon. perhaps they shared the bacon? i also wonder who picked this coffee shop and if they had any awkward footsie moments, as that looks like quite a small table they’re sitting at. (check the embedded video for some funny chit chat between the photogs hovering outside the window).

nytimes:

At the New York Luncheonette on East 50th Street, Mr. Obama ate eggs over easy and wheat toast, while the mayor had scrambled eggs and white toast.

adbusters #74 nov/dec 07 November 5, 2007

Posted by KG in arts/culture, econ, environment, food, health, international, iraq, media, news, photography, politics, terrorism.
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some scans from latest issue of adbusters

chris hedges examines the u.s.-israel alliance:

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what a family eats in a week in the u.k compared to ecuador:

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the real threat to americans:

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food politics August 30, 2007

Posted by KG in books, food, health, misc, politics.
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marion nestle, public health professor at nyu, speaks at google about the consumer confusion about nutrition and the politics of the food industry.

starting at about 14:30 she discusses the research that goes into supermarket product placement and at 29:00 she talks about marketing food to children.

here’s the link for the “atgoogletalks.”  some recommendations: robert frank, james randi, george lakoff, and christopher hitchens.