Wednesday, November 21, 2007

American holiday

Topiary will be silent for probably four days celebrating the revered holiday of Thanksgiving, where the pilgrims were rescued from starvation by native Americans providing food. For which act of kindness their land was stolen and they were slaughtered.

On that cheerful note, Topiary will see you all again after the short siesta.
Have a great one!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Topiary watched"The Bachelor" episode last night, (yaa, snarky comments) where the final two contestants invite the Bach to their apartments for dinner.

Clean and soulless, these apartments were. Not a book to be seen. No piles of paperwork projects, no cd's waiting to be filed, no strange items picked up on travels, just decorator items on the walls....

When Topiary walks into a home, if there are no books, no writing, no computers, no projects, nothing to indicate any mental activity, she has a sinking feeling.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Elbow room

With gas prices wending skyward, Cow reflects on the history of social change. In Paris at the Place de Concord, and in other European capitals, large squares easily accommodate urban protests. In America, large cities have no central gathering places.

To what extent does architecture influence crowd behavior? In America, anti-globalization riots in Seattle were limited to streets.

Whereas, the Place de Concord afforded space for the guillotine to be erected and thousands of spectators.

Does modern American design intentionally limit protest? If urban design is a form of behavior modification, could it also be used to deter crime, promote recycling, or advance the cause of Topiary world domination?

Price of Admission

The humble toothbrush. Used to be cheap, now is elaborate and expensive. No plain-vanilla toothbrushes exist anymore: they only come with special strips that show when they need replacement, ergonomic handles, specially-contoured brushes. And the entry cost into the new cool toothbrush zone is over three bucks each.

Reflecting the inverse relationship between cost and number sold (the more expensive the item, the fewer units sold, but usually at a higher profit) there may be fewer toothbrushes sold.

Wal-Mart has embraced this strategy while trumpeting that they are the "low-price leader." Ha.

WM only carries name brands---sure, they may have good prices on that name-brand item, but you are still paying for advertising budgets, etc. Your name-brand bagels at $2.78 in Wal-Mart as opposed to Kroger brand bagels for $1.83.

And, it doesn't get you out of the toothbrush conundrum: why is something that is cheap all of a sudden expensive? Cow solved the problem by finding, one shelf down, a nifty electric toothbrush with two swirling heads, batteries included, for $5.99, less than the cost of two regular toothbrushes.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Read all about it!

Cow had some thoughts on newspapers competing in an online world, in response to Michael's Blog. She is reproducing them here.

The entertainment industry has always been curiously behind the times in providing ancillary content that the customer wants: ie the Star Trek conventions of the 1970's put on not by the content originator but by entepreneurs. The same reluctance of the entertainment industry to provide products led to a black market of photos, scripts, items from movies/tv, with all profits accruing to third parties.

Just as high-quality movies and television shows can't be produced by the general public though, neither can newspaper stories be produced by people sitting in front of their computers. SOMEBODY must actually go out and GET the news, photos, interviews, etc. This is the actuality the bottom line that cannot be substituted by someone creating a site in front of their computer.

With the cost of admission covering costs of movies, and the cost of advertising covering costs of television, the obvious model for newspapers is to either raise admission prices (price of printed or on-line newspaper) to emulate the entertainment industry and thus cover the cost of production, or develop other streams of revenue.

Newspapers could integrate to be web communities with messages, posting boards for every story, etc. But there isn't an easy way to make money off this except in the same way newspapers always have: sell advertising around the edges of the content, whether printed or online.

Developing ancillary products (analogous to the photos, conventions, dvds of the entertainment industry) and selling them successfully to its online community would open an entire new horizon for newspapers. Think, for instance, of the millions of dollars action figure licensing brings: all that is needed to translate this to the newspaper model is the cult of personality...develop the good-looking, charming or otherwise attractive reporters, then market their looks instead of just their written output.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Unseen society. They move among us, the homeless. If you don't happen to be looking at a drainage ditch, deserted parking lot, wooded area, you don't know they're there.

Cow wants anyone who drops off animals to a parking lot thinking that someone will adopt them, to be rebuked, as the Bible says.

In The Year of Living Biblically A. J. Jacobs spent a year trying to follow ALL 700-some Biblical commandments. Laws prohibiting the wearing of wool mixed with linen were followed, as well as certain prohibitions regarding chairs.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Perfect Christmas Gift

Dragon Topiary for Christmas!

Finally, someone has recognized it's importance, the class a stylish Topiary can bring to a lawn.

Although Cow is somewhat dubious that Topiary can be created so quickly on a lawn (most take years to grow) she is behind this gift idea all the way.

Surely $35,000 and up is reasonable for one's own dragon? Just take that out of the gasoline budget for the year, cut back on a few non-essential trips.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Buddy, can you spare a gallon?

According to historical sources, scarcity of bread, not the cost of a loaf, spurred on the French Revolution (along with conspiracy theories of hoarding, export schemes, etc.)

However, in Venezuela, the riots of 1989 which caused the death of thousands were set off by an increase in gasoline prices.Now they are considering decreasing the subsidy which has kept gasoline to 7 cents a gallon or about $1.50 per Hummer tank.

The costs to Americans are hidden yet real.

What this Cow wonders is: will gradual increases in costs, forestall a sudden revolt? Is it only scarcity that leads to social revolution? Gas lines, not gas prices?

And, Cow wonders why, if so many families are absorbing higher fuel, heating, and food costs, why isn't there a general economic depression from consumers cutting back other purchases?

Is everybody just charging it?


Cow heard a veteran reminiscing on a radio show this weekend.

When he returned from Vietnam, he was shouted at doused with paint, and called a baby-killer by protesters.

And yet, he'd been drafted.

While the Iraq veterans, every one of whom enlisted, are greeted as heroes. Cow hopes this means that the country learned from Vietnam, don't blame the soldiers for the war, if you oppose it. Wonder if it does, or it just means that there is more empathy in general for the working man or woman, soldier in Iraq or paper-pusher in cubicle.

Where the emphasis in the Vietnam era was finding yourself, being true to beliefs, standing for something, now, everyone is just trying to make a living.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Give me an "A"

A study of 15 years of grade point averages for business school grads found that students whose names began with C or D earned lower GPAs than those whose names began with A or B.

Scrutinizing data on 170 law schools and 392,458 lawyers, the researchers found that the higher the school’s ranking the higher the proportion of lawyers with the initials A or B.

Cow, being a "C" now has a solid scientific explanation for her "C" average.

Douglas Galbi has done some fascinating research on the frequency of given names. If Cow understands it, his study was more along the lines of how information spreads. This study finds the effect of names on outcomes. Were Cow only a teensy bit smarter, she would find a way to associate such patterns of information communication with the bias towards higher academic achievement of those with initials in the beginning of the alphabet.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Hierarchy of Needs

Ripped DVD collection.
Cell Phone.
Cable internet and tv.
Breezy day, good for walking.
Snappy comebacks to "helpful" personal comments.
Comfy Chair for Topiary Toes.


Friday, November 02, 2007

And in this corner...

Didelphimorphs, or opossums, are North American marsupials, semi-arboreal and nocturnal.

So, how come this little guy was searching for food in my newly-painted garage at 10:00 in the morning?

Don't know, but when I opened the door he went and hid behind the shovel in the corner. So I put some dog food out for him. He stayed there all day. Was still there when I got home from work. Checked at 10 pm and still there, apparently sleeping.

Was afraid he was sick and put some more food out. This morning he was gone. Strangely, he didn't eat the persimmon I placed by his face. Thought for sure he'd want to eat that.

So they live about 2-4 years unless they're squashed by traffic. They eat just about everything and have nice, simple systems which are resistant to viruses including rabies. Good to know.

Cow will still stay away from their teeth, though.