April 24, 2008
Rice Rationing — at Costco?
And also at Sam's Club, though — for now — Wal-Mart will let you buy as much as you want.
Turns out the world is indeed flat, as the skyrocketing price of rice — up 70% so far this year — and other staples consumed by almost half the world's population now turns out to have effects way beyond the Third World, where recent violent food riots in such countries as Haiti (above), Senegal and Pakistan threaten to destabilize already shaky political structures.
Here's Marcus Kabel's Associated Press story, from the front page of today's Washington Post Business section.
- Citing Supply, Sam's Club and Costco Limit Sales of Rice
The two biggest U.S. warehouse retail chains are limiting how much rice customers can buy because of what Sam's Club, a division of Wal-Mart Stores, called yesterday "recent supply and demand trends."
The broader chain of Wal-Mart stores has no plans to limit food purchases, however.
The moves come as U.S. rice futures hit a record high on global food inflation, although one rice expert said the warehouse chains may be reacting more to stockpiling by restaurants and small stores than to shortages.
Sam's Club followed moves by Costco Wholesale, based in Seattle, which in some stores limited bulk rice purchases.
Sam's Club declined to say whether this was first time it had restricted sales of bulk foods. The limits affect 20-pound bags, not retail-sized ones. Costco chief executive Jim Sinegal declined to comment yesterday.
Sam's Club said it would limit customers to four bags at a time of imported jasmine, basmati and long-grain white rice.
The warehouse chain caters heavily to small businesses, including restaurants. Sam's Club spokeswoman Kristy Reed said she could not comment on whether the problem was caused by short supplies or by customers stocking up in anticipation of higher prices.
David Coia, USA Rice Federation spokesman, said there is no rice shortage in the United States.
"It's possible that small restaurants and bodega-type neighborhood stores may be purchasing rice in larger quantities than they do typically to avoid higher prices," Coia said about the warehouse chain restrictions.
BJ's Wholesale Club, a smaller chain based in Natick, Mass., said it is not imposing limits.
The Sam's Club restriction is effective immediately at all locations where quantity restrictions are allowed by law. It does not apply to other staples such as flour or oil.
"We are working with our suppliers to address this matter to ensure we are in stock, and we are asking for our members' cooperation and patience," Reed said in a statement.
Sam's Club has 593 stores compared with 2,523 Wal-Mart Supercenters that combine a grocery section with general merchandise.
Costco has 534 warehouses worldwide, most of them in the United States.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Deisha Galberth said Wal-Mart stores have no plans for restrictions similar to those at Sam's Club.
"We are not seeing any signs of concern in the supply chain that would cause us to limit the sales of any items," Galberth said.
U.S. rice futures soared to an all-time high Wednesday as investors bet that surging world demand will continue to pressure already dwindling stockpiles. Rice for the most actively traded July contract jumped 62 cents, to $24.82 per 100 pounds on the Chicago Board of Trade, after earlier rising to a record $24.85.
Relentless demand from developing countries and poor crop yields have pushed rice prices up 70 percent this year, raising concerns of severe shortages of the staple consumed by almost half the world's population.
Brazil announced yesterday that it temporarily halted rice exports to ensure domestic supply as global prices rise.
The steep increases have followed similar jumps in the price of wheat, corn and soybeans that have added to Americans' rising grocery bills and led to violent food riots in poor countries including Haiti, Senegal and Pakistan.
The April 9, 2008 CNN video up top is captioned, "Rise in rice price fuels riots in Haiti."
"... there is no rice shortage in the United States."
Could've sworn I just finished reading about one.
Think outside — way outside — the tomato space.
This could be the opening salvo in a whole new approach to kitchen storage, wherein the container signifies what's inside.
From the website:
- Tomato Keeper
Airtight, palm-sized container keeps moisture and flavor in, air and mold out.
Its unique tomato shape is easy to find in a crowded refrigerator.
Keep cut tomatoes garden-fresh and tasty longer.
Don’t let partially-used tomatoes spoil.
4" diam. x 3-1/4"H.
$4.98 (tomato included? Of course!).
The End of LoJack
If you own stock in this company now would be a good time to dump it — regardless of its price.
Because as the following article by Richard S. Chang, which appeared in the New York Times on April 13, 2008, demonstrates quite nicely, even without employing GPS technology the Internet has transformed the process of locating things like stolen cars.
Put a tiny GPS chip in each car (why this isn't already happening I haven't the faintest idea) and anyone in the world, anywhere, instantly can pinpoint the vehicle's location.
While you're dumping your LoJack might as well toss Garmin, TomTom and their ilk in as well — who's gonna pay $300 and up for something (a portable GPS receiver) you can get free via your cellphone and Google Maps?
- It Takes a Cyber Village to Catch an Auto Thief
Early on the afternoon of March 26, two young men visited Heritage Auto Sales, a specialty dealership in Calgary, Alberta. They asked to test-drive a dark gray 1991 Nissan Skyline GT-R, a performance model made primarily for the Japanese market and rarely seen in North America.
The car had been imported from Japan by Shaun Ironside for his dealership. Despite its reserved appearance, the Skyline GT-R is something of a performance icon to car enthusiasts and video gamers; it fit well among the Porsches and Mercedes-Benzes in Mr. Ironside’s inventory.
One of the men had been to the dealership a week earlier for a ride, but he and Mr. Ironside didn’t get far. The car, with an engine modified for extra horsepower, began to act up. When the man returned with a friend for another try, Mr. Ironside was juggling two customers, so he just handed them the keys, explaining that there was only enough gas in the tank for a drive around the block.
But 15 minutes later Mr. Ironside noticed that the Skyline still hadn’t returned — and that the car that the two men had arrived in was gone. A bad feeling swelled in his gut; still, he reasoned, sometimes a buyer will take a car to have it inspected.
“It’s kind of hard to report a vehicle stolen 15 minutes after it’s not come back from a test drive,” he said in a telephone interview last Sunday.
The car never returned. That night, after reporting its disappearance to the police, Mr. Ironside posted a message on Beyond.ca, a Web site for Canadian auto enthusiasts, to spread the word.
10:28 p.m., March 26 Unfortunately I have to post this as one of my first posts my 1991 Skyline GT-R is officially STOLEN.
The forum posting went on to describe the afternoon’s events, repeating information that was included in the police report. He described the driver as a white male in his early 20s, heavy-set, around 5-foot-6, with a distinguishing feature: missing ring and middle fingers on his left hand.
The post included several photos of the missing car and offered a cash reward, though as he typed, Mr. Ironside had little expectation of getting the car back, he said later. But his post set off a cyberworld dragnet — a process definitely not recommended by the police — in a case the arresting officer called “a bizarre file.”
Results came quickly. The next day, James Lynch, a forum moderator, was leaving the Chinook Center mall in Calgary in his BMW M3 when he noticed a Nissan Skyline close behind him.
Having seen the photos of the missing Skyline online earlier in the day, Mr. Lynch immediately recognized the black wheels. He pulled alongside the Skyline at the next light, he said, and gave the driver a “rock out” sign, holding up a hand with pinkie and index finger extended and his other fingers clenched.
“He was dumb enough to do it back to me — and I got a picture right when he did it,” Mr. Lynch said.
When Mr. Ironside checked the Skyline message thread that afternoon, he scrolled through messages from dozens of members. At the bottom of the first page, he reached a surprising post by Mr. Lynch, whom he knew only by his forum handle, JAYMEZ.
4:19 p.m., MARCH 27 I FOUUUNNNDDDDD THEM =) And I have pictures Called the police and chased them, also talked to them.
Five minutes later, the photo, with the driver looking straight into the camera, appeared on the thread. He fit the description in Mr. Ironside’s police report, down to the white and black New York Yankees baseball cap. The photo wasn’t entirely clear, but the driver appeared to be missing two fingers.
Mr. Ironside forwarded the photo to the police, who told him, “The picture is as solid evidence as you’d ever find.”
Online auto forums have helped unravel crimes before. Two years ago, a detective in Los Angeles used the forum on FreshAlloy.com, a Nissan enthusiast site, to track down victims of an elaborate fraud scheme. (That case, too, involved Nissan Skylines.)
The Beyond.ca site had also played a role in earlier cases of what might be called open-source crime solving. A year ago one of its members saw a hit-and-run accident a block in front of him, said Shelton Kwan, who co-founded the site with his cousin Ken Chan in 2002. “He took pictures. And the guy who got hit was another member of ours.”
The victim posted a message about the incident an hour later. The witness with the camera followed up with clear shots of the suspect’s face and license plate — and it made the local news.
“We sent all of that to the cops,” Mr. Kwan said. “And that one was handled basically by the end of the day.”
Two hours after the photo taken by Mr. Lynch was posted, Allan Thomson, known on the forum as Numi, reported a Skyline sighting the previous night and gave directions to the area. The forum exploded with vigilante fervor; members living close by proposed a search.
Four hours later, Mr. Thomson posted again, this time to say that he had sent out a personal message pinpointing the car’s position.
10:23 PM, March 27 FOUND!!! PMED with exact location. Guy drives it like he owns it. Idiot parks outside his house backed in so you cant see his plate.
Exactly 15 minutes later, a forum member added a link to a Google map with directions to the house. Other members scrambled to narrow their Facebook searches for the suspect to the closest high school. At about 11 p.m., a link to the Facebook profile appeared online. The photos seemed to show the same person in the picture taken by Mr. Lynch.
In a little more than 24 hours from the time of Mr. Ironside’s first post on the stolen Skyline, members of the forum had spotted the car and assembled a name, photo, home address and Facebook profile for the person seen behind the wheel of the Skyline.
That night, Mr. Ironside joined a handful of forum members at the address where the car had been parked earlier. After midnight, he posted again.
12:30 a.m, March 28 There was a older body style 94-01 Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup Red in color acting suspicious in the area. If it wasn’t anybody here I would be willing to bet that this guy got a little spooked from all the activity and is just riding around in another vehicle. Anyways, I had to book out and switch up vehicles to a less obvious ride.
Mr. Ironside returned home at 2:30 a.m. and went to sleep.
Punit Patel, known as Dj-Stylz on Beyond.ca, followed the busy thread through the night. He saw that other forum members had searched the area to no avail and decided to leave for work early the next day to swing by the house. He didn’t think about what he would do if the Skyline was there.
When Mr. Patel found the Skyline parked between two pickups, he blocked the driveway with his Acura and asked a friend to post his discovery. Then he called the police and waited.
Mr. Ironside was surprised by the latest development when he checked the forum in the morning. He jumped into his car and arrived at the house at 8:45 a.m. Then he called 911 with his case number. The police arrived in minutes.
Mr. Patel’s next post detailed the events.
11:26 A.M., MARCH 28 The owner arrived and he called the cops because no one came for more then 2 hours. Cops came within 5 minutes after the owner called. I got pictures just give me a little time to upload. Also got a video of the guy getting arrested.
For Mr. Ironside, it was the best possible outcome. His car was dirty but in good shape. He would need to replace the tires and fix a few rock chips.
“Basically this guy thought the car was his, from what I could tell,” he said. “There were receipts in the car for premium car washes. He had all his music collection in there.”
Less than 48 hours after Mr. Ironside’s initial post, photos of the house and videos of the arrest appeared on the thread. The shaky video showed a single police officer escorting the suspect, confirmed by the Calgary police as 18-year-old Jamie Glen Jacobson, to an unmarked police car. He was charged with theft over $5,000. He is free on bail pending a court appearance on April 16.
“This guy has worldwide recognition for being a car thief for the rest of his life,” Mr. Ironside said. “The Internet is not going away.”
"But his post set off a cyberworld dragnet — a process definitely not recommended by the police...."
So what would the police have you do, simply sit there and mourn the loss of your car while they throw the report into a file along with hundreds of others they'll never look at again and eventually toss into the trash?
I don't think so.
As Stalin remarked, "quantity has its own quality."
One neuron sitting there by itself isn't gonna do a whole lot — but put one hundred billion of them inside a human skull and see what happens.
7-Day Pill Organizer
Think outside — way outside — the medicine chest space.
This inexpensive, low-tech device could be the first step toward organizing your chaotic life.
From the website:
- 7-Day Pill Organizer — Helps You Stick To Your Medication Schedule All Week Long
Slotted plastic tray holds 7 colorful containers, each marked with the day of the week and AM/PM in large, easy-to-read print.
Pocket-size, translucent cases let you see if you've taken a dose.
Dual compartments separate morning/evening dosages.
Snap-tight lids provide easy opening.
Ideal for vitamins, too.
7-1/4"L x 3"W x 2"H.
$5.98 (you want pills with that? How about fries and a Coke?).
tifprabap.org — 'The Institute for Potential Religious Artifacts, Beliefs and Procedures'
Claudia La Rocco, in an April 19, 2008 New York Times review, called it "... Michelle Ellsworth's completely, winningly ridiculous new solo," which she performed last week at Dance Theater Workshop in New York City.
Fortunately for you and me, it lives still at the tifprabap.org website.
There are about 140 short videos on the site, enough to keep you amused and distracted from what you're supposed to be doing for the rest of the day.
Here's the Times review.
- Establishing Her Religion, Both Onstage and Online
It was a great pleasure to return home from Dance Theater Workshop on Wednesday and discover that Tifprabap.org exists online and not just as the title of Michelle Ellsworth’s completely, winningly ridiculous new solo. Naturally, the Web site immediately crashed my computer’s browser.
Tifprabap stands for the Institute for Potential Religious Artifacts, Beliefs and Procedures. The solo served as an introduction to Ms. Ellsworth’s religion for one, which is largely a vehicle for her many neuroses and a way of ordering and keeping at bay a world that has, it seems, inflicted much pain on her delicate psyche. Other religions solicit new members and encourage service to others. Tifprabap is a closed world, in which good deeds are done not to people, but to objects that have witnessed too much human dysfunction.
When not straddling a contraption resembling a stationary bike that served as a pew for one and a place to set her laptop, Ms. Ellsworth [top] occupied small, oval mats at center stage. Aided by video from her site, she (sometimes unsuccessfully) demonstrated rituals like dry baptism (salt is used in lieu of water); performed small, inscrutable dances; and sang sad little hymns. Her fierce yet vulnerable devotion to these tasks elevated the piece beyond manic antics. Of course Tifprabap.org exists; you say “religion,” she says “art.”
Guitar Hero Handheld
- Guitar Hero® Handheld
Guitar Hero handheld game packs all the action of the monster video game into a pocket-sized version you can play anywhere!
Has 5-way tone “note” buttons, whammy bar, LCD screen, carabiner clip, on/off, volume and reset controls.
Offers 3 levels of play with a song selection based on the best track versions from GH and GH II.
Master each song, score points and move on to more difficult riffs.
Uses 3 AAA batteries (not included).
8"H unit folds down to a compact 4".
[nice price via ageekymom]
'White Holes' — Black holes are suddenly so last century
In the March 7, 2008 issue of Science magazine physicists reported that "... blue-shifting is a feature of the event horizon of a white hole — an inside-out black hole," according to JR Minkel writing in the latest issue (May, 2008) of Scientific American.
Here's the abstract of the Science article.
- Fiber-Optical Analog of the Event Horizon
The physics at the event horizon resembles the behavior of waves in moving media. Horizons are formed where the local speed of the medium exceeds the wave velocity. We used ultrashort pulses in microstructured optical fibers to demonstrate the formation of an artificial event horizon in optics. We observed a classical optical effect: the blue-shifting of light at a white-hole horizon. We also showed by theoretical calculations that such a system is capable of probing the quantum effects of horizons, in particular Hawking radiation.
In the same issue of Science, Adrian Cho summarized the work, writing, "Using an optical fiber and laser light, physicists have simulated a "white hole" — essentially a black hole working in reverse. The model might soon mimic the "Hawking radiation" predicted to emanate from black holes."
Eye Shadow Stickers
From a website:
Eye Shadow for Beginners
Life has become easier for ladies who
are not expert at putting on eye shadow.
You can apply these eye shadow stickers with ease.
The outcome seems fabulous and superb.
And they're easy to use.
$18–$30 for 10–20 applications.