March 23, 2007
Trashballs — At 25¢ apiece they won't last long
Christopher Goodwin (above) is a 37-year-old Washington, D.C. dump truck driver in his day job.
When he's not working, he's a painter and creator/grand panjundrum of the quasi-art project Trashball.
Long story short: He's filled two former gumball machines in Washington, D.C. with one-inch plastic balls (top) containing bits of garbage that he comes across in his travels.
Each sells for a quarter, and with 3,000 sold so far he's up $750.
Here's Rachel Beckman's front page story from yesterday's Washington Post Style section about a man and his dream.
- Simply Garbage? Rubbish! It's Found Treasure
Christopher Goodwin spends his days driving a dump truck but continues to pick up trash even when he's off the clock. On V Street NW last week, he collects a losing lottery ticket, a cigarette butt and a packet of parmesan cheese. He stoops over for a clear candy wrapper and holds it up for inspection.
"Obviously, this is a very banal piece of trash," Goodwin says. "But I kind of think everything deserves a second look.... Someone designed this, manufactured it, used it and tossed it away."
Goodwin, a 37-year-old Northeast Washington resident, is the founder of a project called Trashball. He collects garbage and puts it in one-inch plastic balls that dispense from gumball machines. Special or oversize pieces of trash get posted on the Trashball blog, www.guyclinch.blogspot.com.
Washington's two Trashball machines sit at the Warehouse Theater on Seventh Street NW and the restaurant Busboys and Poets on 14th Street NW. Goodwin plans to install two more, perhaps on H Street NE.
It's more of an artistic pursuit than a financial one: So far, he has sold about 3,000 Trashballs at a quarter a pop. That's $750.
Goodwin is a "proud dropout" of the Corcoran College of Art and Design and boasts that he has dropped out of every school he has ever enrolled in, except for his junior high. Trashball grew out of an idea to use garbage as a medium for fine art, but then Goodwin says he got lazy and thought the gumball machines would be easier. He says he considers Trashball "quasi-art."
He still paints — mostly abstracts, portraits and cityscapes of abandoned buildings.
"He sees beauty and value in all things, which is interesting to me," says his wife, Phung Vong, a fashion designer.
The love affair with trash started when Goodwin was 10 years old and growing up in Dayton, Ohio. His neighborhood garbage collectors occasionally let him ride along in their truck. They had their own collection of souvenirs, and Goodwin saw them as cool, 20-something roughneck-types. He also credits his mother, an environmental nonprofit executive, with instilling him with "a deep-seated urge to recycle," he says.
Goodwin works for a Chevy Chase-based junk-removal company called Junk in the Trunk, though Trashball existed before he started working there last summer. Owner Frank Coyne says he found out about Trashball when he noticed Goodwin was taking trash home and he "started asking questions."
To protect his clients' privacy, Coyne insists that Goodwin not root through financial, medical or otherwise private records. Goodwin says he tears off any identifying information, such as names and Social Security numbers.
"We really try to promote reuse and recycling, so he's a perfect example of that," Coyne says. "And also the other benefit of having someone like Chris is, he... actually enjoys hauling away trash because he knows he might get some cool stuff."
Goodwin enjoys hauling away trash so much that he quit his part-time corporate job earlier this month.
"I wanted to focus more on driving a dump truck," he says. "Office work corrodes my soul."
Trashball contents can get dicey. Goodwin has been known to toss dead bugs, drug baggies and broken glass into the plastic capsules. A sign atop each machine asks that no one under 18 buy a Trashball.
A handful of Warehouse regulars are Trashball devotees who plunk down a quarter every time they come, Warehouse manager Molly Ruppert says.
"When we first heard it was going [to Busboys and Poets], we thought, 'Oh no, this is so terrible,' " Ruppert says. "We felt some proprietary interest."
On the blog, trash becomes social commentary. A Trashball blog post of two receipts attracted a wave of Web traffic last September, Goodwin says. One is from a Yes! Organic Market and includes purchases of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, organic spinach and Tuscan risotto. The other is a 99-cent buy from 7-Eleven that says "FOOD STAMP PURCHASE" across the top. He says he found the receipts within two feet of each other in a Capitol Hill park.
A few days later, Goodwin posted this diary entry he found, written in juvenile cursive:
"I am sad mom hit me a lot. I am sore all over. Dad is in California. I miss him. He will not be home in time to get mom a preseant. I love mom."
He gets some of his best Trashball material from eBay auctions of ephemera, or people's collections of vintage junk. But he hasn't abandoned Washington's litter, especially the Trashball gold mine of Columbia Heights, he says.
"Another way to look at it is I'm cleaning up the city in a very slow, inefficient way," he says.
Things a little slow where you are?
Here's a video interview with Goodwin.
Flash/No Flash Comparison Digital Camera
From the website:
- Flash/No-Flash Comparison Digital Camera
This 6.3 megapixel digital camera takes two pictures milliseconds apart — one without flash and one with — and places them side-by-side on the camera's screen so you can instantly compare them for clarity and proper lighting, eliminating the need to remember to enable or disable your flash.
Once a picture is taken, the camera's 2-1/2" thin-film transistor LCD provides clear, 230,000-pixel pictures of both images together so you can easily see details in your subject.
Its high-resolution image sensor gives it a 2000 ISO rating that provides faster shutter speeds for action shots and sharper pictures, especially in low light conditions.
The camera has a picture stabilization button that corrects camera shake, resulting in blur-free shots every time.
In addition to 3X optical zoom and a USB port for downloading pictures to a computer, the camera can also capture video at 640x480 resolution at 30 frames-per-second.
It has 10 MB of internal memory, and accepts SD-Picture Card memory cards that allow you to easily take your pictures to a developer for large prints or portraits, and the internal rechargeable lithium battery can power the camera for up to 300 shots before recharge.
3-1/2"L x 2-1/4"W x 1"D.
'Pink and Tan' — by Noah Sheldon
Look at the photos above and below.
What do you see?
Well, if you happen to be in New York City today or tomorrow you can enter.
Roberta Smith's rave review of the piece appeared in yesterday's New York Times under the heading "Last Chance," since it closes for the final time at 5 p.m tomorrow (Saturday, March 24, 2007).
Gentle Textures in an Outpost of Color and Quiet Ecstasy
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has some wonderful, carefully orchestrated chill-out spots — permanent little oases where you can sit, rest and muse without breaking the spell of art. The museum might consider adding another: “Pink and Tan,” Noah Sheldon’s solo exhibition at the D’Amelio Terras Gallery in Chelsea.
It’s simple. The Met acquires “Pink and Tan” lock, stock and barrel — or rather, player piano, wind chime and lighted pegboard — and makes it the heart of its 20th-century galleries. There it would function like a modern, slightly Dada version of the Ming Scholar’s Court in the Chinese galleries or the George Nakashima wood-paneled reading room in the Japanese galleries: something specific but meditative, about art but also atmosphere. As with the Ming court there is even a fountain.
Mr. Sheldon, who first studied to be a composer, is skilled at separating beauty from the material world while reminding us that it is just about everywhere. He makes his quietly ecstatic art out of almost nothing, or, more accurately, several almost-nothings, carefully juxtaposed.
Here he starts by putting pink gels on the gallery’s fluorescent lights, unsettling your sense of intrinsic color. The side walls are lined with wan black-and-white photographs. On the left seven of these trace the path of a hazy sun over different nondescript landscapes. Rugged hills and a barbed-wire fence give the soft images a harsh Western mien. They conclude with one large, grainy color image of a blazing yellow-and-red sunset that is nonetheless made of several superimposed scans.
On the right six similarly pale images zero in on dry grass tangled in abstract, calligraphic patterns. Three are close-ups, and three are closer still, as if to emphasize that there is always more to see. These images are flanked by relative brazenness: two large color images show the tips of peacock feathers, which combine gorgeous “eyes” with wafting grasslike strands.
Nearby, the metal hemispheric fencepost caps of a wind chime tinkle incessantly, thanks to little mechanical tugs. Its falsetto counters the resonant bass of the old but complexly amplified player piano. It picks out a round of nine notes all timed to different intervals that form a wayward, time-lapse almost-melody. These sounds have a visual counterpart in a large sheet of pegboard bisecting the gallery; it is riddled with tiny Christmas-tree lights that glow and fade at different intervals. On one side you see mostly lights; on the other, green wires form a climbing vine.
The fountain adds gentle, burbling sounds to the mix. It is the most solid, overtly worked piece in the show, and it centers on a modeled cement cone, painted swimming-pool white, that might be a scholar’s rock reinterpreted in plaster by Giacometti. This sits in a plain plywood box whose stainless-steel interior and tinted fluorescents create near-rainbow effects. After a while, you may notice that the wind chime casts a chandelierlike shadow of pink orbs on the wall, while in the corner the light coming from the gallery’s offices is pale green.
As an ensemble Mr. Sheldon’s work sharpens the senses without seeming to demand much of them. It makes us aware of the way the world reverberates into art and art reverberates back, bouncing off everything in the immediate vicinity. One could imagine people at the Met leaving this oasis to explore the rest of the museum with stars in their eyes.
D'Amelio Terras is at 525 West 22nd Street (Chelsea); 212-352-9400; the show is open until 6 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow.
Better late than never.
A while back Justin Keenen sent me information about an "Air Mouse," à la Nintendo's Wii controller that's taken the gaming world by storm.
I was all excited until I read the fine print which said PC only.
This morning he sent news of one that works with both PC and Mac.
From the website:
USB Wireless Space Mouse EZ
"USB Wireless Space Mouse EZ" is an revolutionary mouse that can be use in the air! It is quite simple to use. Reverse the mouse and hold it. Position your finger on the red light part and move the finger. Then you will see the cursor moves on the screen as you move your finger. Since the red light part functions as a button for clicking, any operation of mouse including single/double click is possible. You are completely free to take any position off the computer to use it! Excellent tool for presentation etc.! Use with our "Easy Desk" for more freedom!
Needless to say, it can also be used as a normal optical mouse, on your desk or mouse pad. There is no tangling cable thanks to wireless system. No installation of driver is necessary!
New compact dongle type USB transceiver makes it simple and easy to connect to PC/Mac, in smaller setting space. Also battery can be charged even while in use.
• Easy Use in the Air!
Aerial operation of the mouse is easy ! Hold the mouse in reverse, and move your finger on the red light part. If you move your finger up then the cursor moves up. You can locate the cursor anywhere as it follows according to your finger movement.
Clicking the red light part functions as normal mouse click. Normal mouse operation, such as wheel operation, single-click, double click is possible in the air. Also regular click button also work while using in the air !
• High Performance! Rechargeable!
It works as a normal mouse on the table or on the mouse pad.
The mouse has high performance of 800 dpi resolution and has wide wireless operation range of 7 to 8 meters from the dongle, and uses rechargeable battery system.
The "USB Wireless Space Mouse EZ" has enough features as high performance mouse.
The rechargeable battery that can be charged by USB power is incorporated in the mouse!
• Auto Position sensor!
When used in the air, the mouse should work reversely. The mouse detects the status automatically, and makes it work correctly without any setting.
It designed to be used for either right-handed or left-handed persons in both on the desk or in the air modes.....................
Above, the good news.
The bad news (at least for TechnoDolts™ like me)?
The site only accepts PayPal — no credit cards.
Long, frustrating and annoying story short: After about 30 minutes of fruitless effort to
1) Use my PayPal account, which took forever to get into and required endless answering of online security verification questions, emails and password resetting
2) Add a new credit card since the one listed currently was cancelled [by me] due to fraudulent activity last year
I was unable to buy the device and simply abandoned the purchase effort.
As I will — before I even start — any future attempt to acquire something using PayPal.
Hard to believe eBay paid $1.5 billion for something that's useless.
Turns out I'm not the only one to have PayPal issues.
But hey, what do I know?
Tell you one thing: If Google can figure out the micropayment thing they're gonna eat PayPal's breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snack.
Charmaine Eggberry — Winner of the [first ever] Best Named Blackberry Employee Award
Ms. Eggberry (above) is managing director and VP Europe at BlackBerry maker Research in Motion.
I'm delighted to present this coveted prize to her.
French UFO Files Opened — Are they among us?
One is forced to ask this question following the decision by the French government to open 1,600 UFO case files spanning the last half century.
Molly Moore's story in today's Washington Post examines what's now out there about what might be out there, and follows.
- French Get a Look at Nation's UFO Files
PARIS, March 22 -- On an August day in 1967, two children tending a herd of cows outside a village in central France reported seeing "four small black beings" fly from the ground and slip headfirst into a sphere that shot skyward in a flash of light and trail of sulfuric odors.
The alleged extraterrestrial sighting, described by the French government as "one of the most astonishing observed in France," is among 1,600 UFO case files spanning the last half-century that the country's space agency opened to the public for the first time Thursday.
The voluntary decision by France's National Center for Space Studies to dump more than 100,000 pages of witness testimony, photographs, film footage and audiotapes from its secret UFO archives onto its Internet site, http://www.cnes.fr, for worldwide viewing is an unprecedented move among Western countries. Most of them, the United States included, consider such records classified matters of national security.
Within three hours of posting the first cases Thursday morning, the French space agency's Web server crashed, overwhelmed by the flood of viewers seeking the first glimpses of official government evidence on a subject long a target of both fascination and ridicule.
The material dates as far back as 1954. Over the next several months, the space agency will post it to enhance scientific research seeking to explain what the French government calls "unexplained aerospace phenomena."
"The data that we are releasing doesn't demonstrate the presence of extraterrestrial beings," said Jacques Patenet, who heads the Group for the Study and Information on Unidentified Aerospace Phenomena, the space agency's UFO investigative team. "But it doesn't demonstrate the impossibility of such presence either. The questions remain open."
Patenet said that among the 1,600 cases to be opened to the public, "a few dozen are very intriguing and can be called UFOs."
Most of the cases were determined to be caused by atmospheric anomalies or mistaken perception of such things as airplane lights, or to be hoaxes. One case file described how investigators proved a man was lying about being abducted by aliens when blood tests failed to show he had recently experienced the weightlessness of space travel.
In one of the cases investigators consider most credible, a 13-year-old boy and his 9-year-old sister were watching over their family's cows near the village of Cussac on Aug. 29, 1967, when the boy spotted "four small black beings" about 47 inches tall, according to documents released Thursday. Thinking they were other youngsters, he shouted to his sister, "Oh, there are black children!"
But as they watched, the four beings became agitated and rose into the air, entering the top of what appeared to be a round spaceship, about 15 feet in diameter, which hovered over the field. Just as the sphere rose up, one of the passengers emerged from the top, returned to the ground to grab something, then flew back to the sphere.
The sphere rose silently in a spiral pattern, then "became increasingly brilliant" before disappearing with a loud whistling sound. It left "a strong sulfur odor after departure," the report said.
The children raced home in tears and their father summoned the local police, who "noted the sulfur odor and the dried grass at the reported place where the sphere took off," the report continued. Investigators said they were impressed by the uniformity of detail provided by the children and other witnesses.
"No rational explanation has been given to date of this exceptional meeting," the investigation concluded.
One of the most detailed inquiries involved the report of an Air France crew flying near Paris on Jan. 28, 1994. Three crew members spotted a large reddish brown disk "whose form is constantly changing and which seems very big in size." As the passenger plane crossed its trajectory, the object "disappeared on the spot," the report said.
Radar signatures confirmed an object of the same size and location described by the crew and led investigators to conclude that "the phenomenon is not explained to date and leaves the door open to all the assumptions."
Patenet, the leader of the space agency's investigative team, said his group receives about 100 new cases a year and usually opens investigations on about 10 percent of them. "In 99 percent of the cases, the witnesses are perfectly sincere," he said. "They saw something. Most of the time what they saw is a perfectly natural phenomenon that has been perceived in an erroneous way."
Patenet said he has never seen a UFO. "I would personally find it abnormal to think that we're the only civilization in the universe, but the probability of various civilizations coming across each other is also very slim."
The image leading this post is of an alleged extraterrestrial event, and is among the 1,600 files posted on the French space agency's website, www.cnes.fr.
Yeah, right, you say, just a couple of kids who freaked out and thought they saw little black men.
But what about a close encounter that took place on March 5, 2004 over Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico, witnessed — and photographed (below) — by the experienced three-man crew of a Mexican Air Force surveillance plane?
Tempest in a French fryer: 'Take your McJob — and shove it'
McDonald's (English division) is mad as hell and they're not going to take it any more.
That's the long and short of the news in the March 20,2007 Financial Times about the company's request to British dictionary publishers that they revise their definitions of the word "McJob."
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a McJob as "an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, especially one created by the expansion of the service sector."
Stefan Stern and Jenny Wiggins reported the story, which follows.
- McDonald's seeks to redefine 'McJob'
McDonald's, home to the McMuffin and the McNugget, is fed up with being home to the McJob.
The UK arm of the fast food chain is starting a campaign to get British dictionary publishers to revise their definitions of the word "McJob", a term the Oxford English Dictionary describes as "an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector".
The word first emerged in the US in the 1980s to describe low-skilled jobs in the fast food industry but was popularised by the Canadian writer Douglas Coupland, in his 1991 novel Generation X. It appeared in the online version of the OED in March 2001. McDonald's plans a "high-profile public petition" this year to get it changed.
"We believe that it is out of date, out of touch with reality and most importantly it is insulting to those talented, committed, hard-working people who serve the public every day," wrote David Fairhurst, chief people officer in northern Europe for McDonald's, in a letter seen by the Financial Times seeking support for the petition. "It's time the dictionary definition of "McJob" changed to reflect a job that is stimulating, rewarding and offers genuine opportunities for career progression and skills that last a lifetime."
McDonald's says it has an excellent record of promoting female workers and entry level staff to senior executive positions. In the UK, half the executive team started on the shop floor and 25 per cent are women.
Its employment record was praised recently when Caterer and Hotelkeeper magazine named it the "best place to work in hospitality". It was also the first large employer to be accredited under the UK government's revamped Investors in People scheme. Yet outsiders still think it is a poor employer.
The OED may be amenable to McDonald's pleas: "We monitor changes in the language and reflect these in our definitions, according to the evidence we find," a spokeswoman said yesterday.
In 2003 Jim Cantalupo, then McDonald"s chief executive, called the unflattering definition "a slap in the face" for anyone who worked in the restaurant and catering business.
There was talk of legal action against dictionary publishers but the company later backed down.
A McDonald's recruitment campaign in the UK last year featured slogans such as "McProspects — over half of our executive team started in our restaurants. Not bad for a McJob."
Tell you what: it's hard to find a whole lot of sympathy for the company's point of view when it uses the word as part of its advertising.
Stern wasn't done with the subject: he also devoted his "Business Life" column in the same issue of the paper to it.
The piece follows.
- McJob: n., slang, a fulfilling role with great prospects
A letter has fallen into my hands. (I've always wanted to write that.) It was sent by David Fairhurst, senior vice-president and chief people officer in northern Europe for McDonald's, the global fast-food chain, and it invites its recipients to sign a petition as part of a new campaign to get publishers to change the current dictionary definition of the word "McJob". Really.
Open your dictionary today and you will find a McJob defined as "an unstimulating, low-wage job with few benefits, esp. in a service industry". A McJob "requires little skill", is "often temporary", and "offers minimal or no benefits or opportunity for promotion". Flipping hell.
You can understand Mr Fairhurst's objections. In the UK at least, McDonald's has established a pretty solid reputation as a decent employer. It has featured regularly in most of the main "good employer" league tables, and recently won Caterer and Hotelkeeper magazine's "Best place to work in hospitality" award.
Let's go large. Eighty per cent of McDonald's UK branch managers joined the company as hourly paid "crew members", as did half the company's executive team. Compared with some other companies in the service sector, McDonald's is serious about training and development. It is also more "female-friendly" than most: 40 per cent of managers and 25 per cent of the company's executives are women.
So here's the paradox: you can get a hamburger and milkshake at your local McDonald's, but you will look in vain for a McJob. Readers based in the US may think that this curious semantic battle, about to be joined in Europe, sounds a bit familiar. And you would be right. In 2003 Jim Cantalupo, McDonald's then-chief executive, lambasted the 11th edition of America's distinguished Merriam-Webster's Collegiate dictionary for publishing another of those oh-so-downbeat definitions of the McJob.
There were threats of legal action, which came to nothing. (Given the company's record in litigation, symbolised by the long-running McLibel case in London, that could not have been taken for granted.) One aspect of McDonald's complaint was that they did already have a scheme called "McJobs" — training programme for disabled people. But the word and its popular definition remain in English-language dictionaries to this day.
Attempting to turn back a linguistic tide is futile. This struggle casts Ronald McDonald in the role of King Canute. Dictionaries reflect contemporary usage — they describe rather than prescribe. And as Dennis Baron, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said back in 2003: "If lexicographers allowed individuals or pressure groups to dictate definitions, then our language would be reduced to mere McWords."
The American psychologist Frederick Herzberg said: "If you want someone to do a good job, give them a good job to do." That is not always so easy in an era of automation and efficiency, when employers deliberately seek — often unwisely — to simplify and de-skill certain jobs.
But what should managers do about their "customer-facing" staff if they want to avoid the disgruntlement and disillusion of those condemned to carry out repetitive tasks? Lyn Etherington, a director of Cape Consulting, which advises businesses on their customer service, says that some companies go wrong at the recruitment stage.
"You should 'recruit for attitude, train for skills', as Archie Norman [former chairman of the UK supermarket group Asda] put it," she says. "There are some people who will never be suited to that customer-facing role."
But if you want to beat the competition by offering superior customer service, Ms Etherington adds, it is no use management over-designing people's jobs, minimising the opportunity for staff to respond to the individual customer's needs.
To achieve good customer service there are five key conditions to fulfil, Ms Etherington says.
First, there has to be clarity within the business as to what the "customer experience" is supposed to be. Do senior managers, middle-managers and front-line staff all share the same clarity of purpose?
Second, is that purpose regularly reinforced by managers, at daily briefings and team meetings? Third, is good customer service measured and rewarded? "People notice who gets promoted and 'who gets on around here'," Ms Etherington says.
Fourth, does the idea of customer service fit in with other organisational priorities? If all the talk is of cutting costs, don't expect "customer delight". And fifth, does your business present itself to your customers in a seamless way — hard to achieve when technological advances (and cost savings) tend to fragment the organisation.
McDonald's must be getting something right. In January it reported its best results in 30 years, with its fourth quarter net profits more than double what it had achieved 12 months earlier. The company has managed 44 consecutive months of sales growth, and is pulling in 4m more customers a day than it was four years ago.
But McDonald's is doomed to be controversial. And questions will always be asked about its management style and working conditions. Jerry Newman, a professor at the University of Buffalo, has just published "My Secret Life on the McJob", his account of 14 months spent undercover as a fast-food industry employee. His conclusion? "The McJob isn't McEasy," he says. There are good managers in this sector, but also a lot of toxic and destructive ones.
We knowledge workers cannot afford to be superior or complacent. Who hasn't succumbed to the lure of the late-night cheeseburger, a welcome friend in need? And these days, job security is not what it was. Have you heard that new joke yet?
Q: What do to you say to a recently fired management columnist?
A: Big Mac and fries, please.
Mini Push Wastecan
Perfect for that idiot in the Burger King commercial who's eating that Lilliputian-sized burger, fries and shake.
From the website:
- Mini Push Wastecan
Our mini modern wastecan is a perfectly discreet size for small spaces at home or the office.
It’s a sleek, modern look in contemporary stainless steel.
Traditional push-open operation.
The top lifts to empty.
5.5" dia. x 7" high.