Archive | March, 2011

Come join Slate (and me!)

31 Mar

Slate’s coming to Cleveland!

I know it hasn’t yet been discussed here, but I’m a big fan of Slate’s Political Gabfest.  (I even tried to concoct a plan to meet Emily Bazelon as a surprise for a friend’s birthday.  It didn’t end up happening, but I did have a lovely e-mail correspondence with Ms. Bazelon.)  I listen to it every Friday morning and look forward to engaging in my own internal dialogue with the gabfest participants.  (That way, I always win the arguement!)

Slate’s been going out on the road recently, having live events around the country.  I’d been hoping for one to come here, but thought that there was no chance of that happening.  (Unfortunately, Northeast Ohio is not known as a happening area…)  So, color me surprised when I find this yesterday: An Invitation from Slate.

David Plotz, host of my very favorite podcast (the previously mentioned Gabfest) and Slate editor, will be moderating a panel on ending childhood obesity.  Unfortunately, this event seems to have the worst name ever:  “The Slate Hive Event: Fighting Childhood Obesity, Sponsored by Cleveland Clinic”.  Maybe they couldn’t pick a name and just decided to include every relevant word?

Anyway, Slate’s bringing together thought leaders on the topic (everyone from doctors, to authors, and even the architect of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign) and we’re all invited to come, too!  I’ve already published my thoughts on the subject here and on Slate, so we’ll see how they stack up with what the experts have to say.

I’m signed up to go.  Want to come?  (Oh, it’s free!)

 

Highland Square is a Food Desert No More!

30 Mar

You know how I posted about food deserts a few days ago and wrote that my neighborhood lacks a local grocery store?  Well, Highland Square is a food desert no more!  (Well, soon anyway.)

Today, The Akron Beacon Journal announced that we’re going to be getting a Mustard Seed (fancy locally owned health and organic food type grocery store).  It seems that I wasn’t the only one concerned about the lack fresh food.  The City of Akron owns some of the retail space in the area and put out a request for bids from grocery stores a while back.

I guess this has been in the works for a while and I’ve been completely oblivious.

Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic made the announcement this afternoon. The city picked Mustard Seed, which already has stores in Montrose and Solon, from four grocers who submitted proposals.

Plusquellic made his decision after meeting with Highland Square business leaders, neighborhood residents and leaders of the Highland Square Neighborhood Association.

Also, apparently we have a neighborhood association

The location of the new store is only about 1/4 mile from my house.  Yea for being able to walk to the store when I realize that I’ve forgotten some vital ingredient.  (This happens pretty much every time I cook.)

And, the best part, according to one of the commenters “the store will be designed to be affordable and teach people how to cook healthy”.  Does this mean free cooking classes?  Because if so, I am there!

Of course, not all the commenters were happy.  (Have you ever seen all the commenters be happy?  I think that’s statistically impossible.)  Generally, the complaints were that low-income people in the neighborhood (as I said previously, I live in a mixed-income community) don’t eat organic food or cook anyway (Way to stereotype!) or that the store would be too expensive for many residents to afford.

It’s true that Mustard Seed is expensive (there’s no way that I could afford to do all of my shopping there), but it’s going to be fantastic to be able to walk to a grocery store.  I can already walk to a library, a coffee shop (locally owned, thank you!), and a Chipotle.  This neighborhood is getting better and better!

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, Social Media is…?

28 Mar

I recently came across this post about “Hipster Crayolas“, including colors such as “Been Done Black” and “Jaded Green”.  This got me thinking, what would be the color for social media?

“Forget-Me-Not Blue”, Obviously!

Is Social Media making us less social? Or, say “Hi” in coffee shops.

27 Mar

Convince and Convert has a post titled “Is Wi-Fi Making You Anti-Social?”  It poses the question “Will wireless Internet use facilitate greater engagement with co-located others or encourage a form of “public privatism?”

Unfortunately, right now we seem to be veering toward “public privatism”.  Constant access to our social networks and the people that we already know is turning us off from chance meetings and pleasant interactions with strangers.  Generally, they focus on interactions at coffee shops, and the fact that everyone is so busy chatting on Facebook that they don’t take the time to meet the people sitting across the table from them.

As someone who often takes my laptop to Starbucks, I know that I’m guilty of this.  Usually, I politely smile at the people near me as I sit down.  We all put in our head phones and stare into our laptops and then do the polite nod as we get up to leave.  Although I admit that I’m part of the problem, I do miss the community of the local coffee shop at college.  It was a place that encouraged conversations; I met so many wonderful people there.  (Seriously, if you’re in Athens, go to Donkey.)

But, back to wi-fi making us less social.  I think the problem’s actually bigger than this.  When I walk around my neighborhood (I’m trying to learn my way around – it’s embarrassing to get lost ½ mile from where you live.) I keep my headphones in, and most of my neighbors do the same.  We do the polite nod when we pass.  (Apparently I do a lot of polite nodding.)  The only people who break this lack of real communication are small children, who love to yell “Hi” and then “I saw you there” (with an emphatic point) when you pass them again.  And, I have to say, it’s nice to be interrupted.  So, if you see me in a coffee shop, even if I have my headphones on, feel free to say hi.

Food Deserts, On the lack of healthy food in urban spaces

26 Mar

One of my regular readers asked me to do a post about Food Deserts.

Market Makeovers, which seeks to ameliorate food deserts, defines them as such:

“Food desert” is a term that describes geographic areas where mainstream grocery stores are either totally absent or inaccessible to low-income shoppers. Though these may be located in the vicinity, they remain unavailable to low-income residents because of high prices and inadequate public transit.

Food deserts don’t mean that there’s no food available, just a lack of access to healthy food – namely fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, and dairy.  By their very nature, these products are prone to spoiling and don’t do well on convenience store shelves.  So, in communities where convenience stores and fast food restaurants are the main sources of food, there’s often a lack of access to these healthy foods (at least at an affordable price at an accessible distance).

I live in an area (downtown Akron, OH), that some people may consider a food desert.  The local grocery store went out a few years ago and has not been replaced.  My neighborhood is mixed, racially and socioeconomically.  For people like me, the drive to a grocery store isn’t a problem.  But, I suspect that a lot of my neighbors, especially the poorer ones, don’t have cars.  And, for them, the lack of access to a local grocery store is probably a real problem.

People in food deserts are often obese and malnourished at the same time.  As Newsweek explains: “the food insecure often eat what they can: highly caloric, mass-produced foods like pizza and packaged cakes that fill them up quickly… Lower-income families choose sugary, fat, and processed foods because they’re cheaper—and because they taste good.”  (From Newsweek’s wonderful piece What Food Says About Class In America.)  And, even if we put a grocery store on every corner, people would still buy processed food – because it’s cheap, and convenient, and fast.

Talking about (and solving) food deserts is complicated.  It involves so many other problems like urban decay and agricultural subsidies.  And, the solutions are complicated, too.  Things like farmers markets and food co-ops can help, but there are bigger, societal problems to.  Many of the winning proposals in Slate’s “Time to Trim Childhood Obesity” idea contest address some of the underlying issues.  Personally, I like the one about incentivizing people on food stamps to buy healthier food by making their food stamp “dollars” stretch farther on fresh foods than processed ones.

You’re One in 400 Million (Viewers of Wills and Kate’s Wedding)

24 Mar

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Wills and Kate’s wedding is expected to be the most viewed event in television history.  (And presumably in human history, since there was no mass viewership before TV.)

They’re predicting the numbers like this:

An estimated two billion TV viewers will see all or part of the coverage of Prince William and his longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton exchanging vows at Westminster Abbey. Add an expected 400 million for online streaming and radio and the number swells to nearly 35% of the world’s population. An additional 800,000 observers likely will crowd outside Buckingham Palace the day of the event, many of them tweeting and Facebook posting and shooting video with their phones.

And to think that most people are nervous at their weddings in front of a few hundred people.  Let’s hope no one trips!

Jezebel picked up on the story and tried to put the numbers in context.

But just to give you an idea of how epic this will be, “only” 715 million folks watched the 2006 World Cup final game (Italy vs. France) and “only” one billion people watched the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing.

This inspired me to look up some other top TV events to see how high other things rank.  Thankfully, Wikipedia obliged with the article “List of most-watched television broadcasts.”  (God, I love Wikipedia.)  Unfortunately, they broke theirs down by country rather than the world as a whole, so it wasn’t comparative.  But, I was happy to learn that the #6 most watched Special Event in America was “XVII Winter Olympics: Women’s figure skating – short program featuring Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding“.  I remember watching this as a kid.  It was so exciting.  My brother and I would pretend that we were Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, not in a “let’s pretend to be ice skaters way”, but in an “arch enemies battle to the death” sort of way.  (Maybe we didn’t quite get the main point of the program — but we loved it!)

I also learned that the “Law and Order” series finale had almost the same level of viewership as the “Drake and Josh” series finale.  Now that’s just disappointing!

An AppStore a Day Keeps the Lawyers… Involved?

23 Mar

Amazon and Apple are at again, hashing out trademarks and usage of terms that one considers generic and the other proprietary.  Amazon has launched an “AppStore”, which Apple seems to close to its “Apple App Store”.  According to Social Times, Apple has filed a lawsuit and is seeking damages from Amazon.

Towards the end of their article, Social Times asks:

Can the history of the term “app” be traced and attributed? How common is the term? Is “App” the new Kleenex- a brand which has become synonymous with an item? For all the users – who have no stake hold in the term – does anyone really care?

I’ve always been interested in what happens when a brand becomes synonymous with an entire product category, known as a colloquial brand.

I also found this list of The Top 100 Brands Synonymous with Their Product Category.  (Should that be “Their Product Categories”?)  I was surprised by a lot of them, including these:  Zipper, Popsicle, Ping Pong, Heroin, Dumpster, Dry Ice.  More can be found here.

Here’s what I always wonder: is this a good thing or a bad thing for a company?  It’s good because it means that their product is successful, the most successful and well known in its category.  But, it’s bad in that they lose (at least some) control of their brand.  Is this something that brand mangers strive for or fear?

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