Today’s lunchtime news chum brings together a collection of articles all loosely related by being about things you normally don’t think about:
- Why Do Hotels Not Provide Toothpaste. Here’s an interesting question: Why do hotels provide the toiletries they do provide? Specifically, why do hotels provide soap and shampoo, but not toothpaste? Arguably, toothpaste is more useful than lotion. The ultimate answer may surprise you.
- Are We Running Out of Copper. The answer, is “no”, but have you really thought about where copper comes from? It turns out that copper mining is decidedly not green–in fact, it is quite dirty due to environmental effects and tailings. Further, the demand for copper is growing and growing — all of our electronics, electric vehicles, and such demand more and more of one of nature’s best conductors (only silver is better). Further, there are no good substitutes, unlike oil. PS: However, we are looking at a shortage of Helium.
- How Important is Trash Collection. For most of us, we’ve grown up in a society where our trash is picked up regularly. We throw it away… and its gone. We don’t think about where it goes, and what would happen if it didn’t go. The linked article is a history of the New York Sanitation Department, and talks about the days before there was regular trash pickup in New York. It gives you a new appreciation of the sanitation engineer. [H/T to Andrew Ducker for this item]
- Who Died in Los Gatos Canyon. If you like folk music, you are probably familiar with Woody Guthrie’s song Deportee. It talks about an immigration flight from the US to Mexico, returning temporary workers, that crashed in 1948 killing 28 workers and the crew. The names of the Americans were released; the names of the Mexicans were never disclosed. For the song, Guthrie made up typical Mexican names, and the song has been an example of the plight of the deportee. The linked article is an LA Times report of the effort to discover and memorialize those who lost their lives in the crash.
- What Is It Like to Be in an Airplane Crash. If you are like me, you’ve been following the news on Asiana 214 closely. The linked article from Buzzfeed is a first-person account from one of the passengers on the back of the plane on what happened, from the passenger point of view. Two additional Asiana related items: (1) LA Weekly looked into the life and friendship of the girls that died; (2) the NTSB has released some video of their exploration of the crash site. It is looking more and more like this tragedy has a large human error aspect, including an overdependence on technology.
- How Does Barnes and Nobel Survive. We’ve all read about the CEO of Barnes & Nobel resigning, and how the company is having trouble with the Nook. So how does B&N stay alive? Well, first, their physical bookstores are actually making money, due to downsizing to profitable locations. Secondly, and more importantly, they are a major manager of university bookstores, and make profit on the markup from textbooks. Combine these two facts with the thought that the book publishers don’t want Amazon to have a monopoly, and it looks like B&N may be around for a while.
- Why Are There So Many Rules and Regulations. Many people I know bemoan the fact that government loves to place obstacles in the way of businesses. Licenses. Regulations. Rules. What most people don’t realize is that many of these come from other businesses attempting to make life a living hell for their competition. They present the issue to politicians in terms of health or safety, but the real goal is to keep those in the game in the game, and raise the barrier for those not already playing. We’re seeing this play out in Los Angeles, where services such as Lyft and Uber have come to town… and the Taxi and Limo companies are fighting back with enforcement of the rules and regulations. The city has given a cease and desist, and the new services are citing their state authority to operate. I hope the little-guy wins on this one. I’ve never been impressed with the taxis in LA.
Music: Tumbleweed Connection (Elton John): “Madman Across the Water (Original Version)”