aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, March 31, 2007
The Holiday begins at sundown Monday.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Jobs’ Picasso quote, “great artists steal”
Ultimately it comes down to taste. It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then try to bring those things in to what you’re doing. I mean Picasso had a saying he said good artists copy great artists steal. And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas ehm and I think part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world.
That’s from the 1996 documentary Triumph of the Nerds. Written and hosted by Robert X. Cringely, he doesn’t hold the copyright. He tells the story of why that quote is no longer available on YouTube in this week’s I, Cringely column.
Hacking John McCain
John McCain’s campaign recently used Newsvine founder Mike Davidson’s template for a campaign MySpace page without giving credit - even though the template explicitly requested it. Bad enough but when Davidson discovered they were pulling images from his server, “I figured it was time to play a little prank on Johnny Mac.”
Those of you who read me regularly will know that I am a Google fan; I’ve even waxed on about the appeal of Google ruling the world. I hate to be fickle but yesterday I got this email from the AdSense Team and now I’m having second thoughts about a Google ruler:
While reviewing your account, we noticed that you are currently displaying Google ads in a manner that is not compliant with our policies. For instance, we found violations of AdSense policies on pages such as http://atypicaljoe.com/index.php? /site/comments/support_for_gays_in_the_nba/.
Publishers are not permitted to encourage users to click on Google ads or bring excessive attention to ad units. For example, your site cannot contain phrases such as “click the ads,” “support our sponsors,” “visit these recommended links,” or other similar language that could apply to the Google ads on your site. Publishers may not use arrows or other symbols to direct attention to the ads on their sites, and publishers may not label the Google ads with text other than “sponsored links” or “advertisements.”
Please make any necessary changes to your web pages in the next 3 business days. We also suggest that you take the time to review our program policies (https://www.google.com/adsense/policies) to ensure that all of your other pages are in compliance.
Once you update your site, we will automatically detect the changes and ad serving will not be affected. If you choose not to make the changes to your account within the next three days, your account will remain active but you will no longer be able to display ads on the site. Please note, however, that we may disable your account if further violations are found in the future.
Thank you for your cooperation.
The Google AdSense Team
I have to say I am taken aback. Click through to the offending post and you’ll find that it simply quotes another blog with very little commentary of my own. I have no idea what the Googlebot found but I have NOT edited the page and there’s certainly nothing that violates the Google policy.
I’m hardly going to bother urging my humble hundred-plus readers to click an ad. What am I stupid? Like I’d think that would make me some money?
Their ads run on this site but they sit there ignored by me. Google owes me one hundred thirty something dollars for a year’s worth of ads; I’ve never bothered doing the tax form necessary in order for them to send a check. I don’t care about their piddly few bucks (if I did I’d want to know something about their payout formula).
UPDATE: Two business days later, I heard back. Indeed I had violated the policy:
Thanks for following up with us. For clarification, the following language is found on your site in the “Joe’s AdBar” section of your pages that we feel may encourage users to click on the Google ads that you’re displaying on your site:
“Please support my sponsors”
We kindly ask that you remove either the ads from pages with the previously mentioned language or remove the language from your site.
The Google AdSense Team
I’ve removed the offending language. While I see now that it clearly was a violation, I thought of it as such benign boilerplate that I really didn’t remember it was there even after rereading their policies to see what I’d done wrong. The request couldn’t have been more polite. I am chastened and contrite.
Pass the ERA
Phyllis Schlafly at Bates College Wednesday:
For nearly two hours, she belittled the feminist movement as “teaching women to be victims,” decried intellectual men as “liberal slobs” and argued that feminism “is incompatible with marriage and motherhood.” [...]
Schlafly asserted women should not be permitted to do jobs traditionally held by men, such as firefighter, soldier or construction worker, because of their “inherent physical inferiority.”
“Women in combat are a hazard to other people around them,” she said. “They aren’t tall enough to see out of the trucks, they’re not strong enough to carry their buddy off the battlefield if he’s wounded, and they can’t bark out orders loudly enough for everyone to hear.”
At one point, Schlafly also contended that married women cannot be sexually assaulted by their husbands.
“By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don’t think you can call it rape,” she said.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Yahoo! Mail on the move
Time to revisit Yahoo! Mail - unlimited storage and an open API for developers. Richard MacManus talked to Chad Dickerson, Head of Yahoo! Developer Network, and John Kremer, VP Yahoo! Mail, to find out more:
The high level nutshell is that third party developers can, using the the API, build mail tools or applications on the same platform that Yahoo uses to serve 249 million Yahoo! Mail users. Which opens up the potential for a huge user base, if you manage to create a popular mashup using the mail API.
An early example is a mashup of Yahoo! Mail and Flickr. It won ‘Best Mail Hack’ at September’s Hack Day. Check out this screencast for an explanation of how this was put together using the API. The mashup lets you send a Flickr postcard, via Y! Mail.
In our discussion, Chad also mentioned a search app that allows more sophisticated search of your mail. You could also create an email backup application, as another example. There are more 3rd party apps in the Yahoo Gallery for Mail and Yahoo is of course hoping 3rd party developers will contribute others.
Here’s a screencast which explains more about the API, which is useful especially for developers wanting to try this out.
Note that Yahoo is also providing commissions for third party developers, so they can earn money off their creations. Specifically, Yahoo! Mail provides a commission of $10.00 for every new Yahoo! Mail Plus account referred by developers. They’ve also teamed up with Commission Junction to provide third-party tracking, real-time reporting and monthly commission checks.
All up, this is another great example of a big Internet company ‘opening up’ their platform and (to some extent) their data, to enable more creative mashups and new apps to be built on top of it. Yahoo is certainly doing more than both Google and Microsoft in this respect.
What we call the news
Via Lost Remote, “The annual Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner featured...an excellent new animation from the talented folks at JibJab… Very well done. In fact, maybe too well done for a TV news audience, but they could use the reality check.”
The new safe sex
Efforts in the Georgia legislature to review the case of Genarlow Wilson have failed for this year - so he sits in jail convicted of aggravated child molestation for consensual sex he had at age 17 with a 15 year old girl. His lawyer is out speaking to young people:
B.J. Bernstein is an attorney who is giving new meaning to the term “safe sex.”
“None of us really thinking about it,” said Bernstein. “It’s not something we think about—going to jail, especially if we agree to do it.” [...]
Bernstein said she believes most teenagers simply don’t know the law. Her campaign to inform includes the rap group D4L.
She also has a website—http://www.my5th.org/. It includes details of every Georgia law that involves young people and sex—including a warning about what could happen if, say, a high school senior was dating a freshman.
Elephants on 34th Street
Twenty-eight years in NYC and I never went to see the Ringling Brothers Circus elephants marched into Manhattan. Hear it on NPR’s All Things Considered. See it on YouTube. If you oppose it, protest it on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Madison Square Garden.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Colbert: For Your Editing Pleasure
In the latest ode to fan culture from Stephen, he learns that Rahm Emanuel has told freshmen Democratic congressmen not to appear on his show. His response? An interview with Gwen Ifill. An interview with Gwen Ifill made specifically for fans to remix.
Hey Nation! There may be ice cream all over my face, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have the Rahm Emanuel remix footage you just saw on Stephen’s show! Check it out.
Plus if you have the kind of computer that lets you take a file apart like a piece of crumbcake and put it back together like a double-decker Klondike bar, and then eat it, download the footage here and here! And send your remixes here! It’s just like a mini mall!
I’m always heartened by Colbert’s embrace of fan culture; all the more so now that, in the face of the Viacom YouTube suit, his guest was EFF’s John Perry Barlow to discuss MoveOn.org’s Fair Use claim against Viacom.
The gesture was a good one; here’s the Barlow interview.
Burger King shifts to “cage-free” animals
Say what you will about PETA, they’re effective. Burger King worked with PETA and the Humane Society on this:
In what animal welfare advocates are describing as a “historic advance,” Burger King, the world’s second-largest hamburger chain, said yesterday that it would begin buying eggs and pork from suppliers that did not confine their animals in cages and crates.
The company said that it would also favor suppliers of chickens that use gas, or “controlled-atmospheric stunning,” rather than electric shocks to knock birds unconscious before slaughter. It is considered a more humane method, though only a handful of slaughterhouses use it.
The goal for the next few months, Burger King said is for 2 percent of its eggs to be “cage free,” and for 10 percent of its pork to come from farms that allow sows to move around inside pens, rather than being confined to crates.
A reason for starting with such a small amount is lack of supply. Their commitment works to change that; they see the writing on the wall:
Burger King executives said the move was driven by their desire to stay ahead of consumer trends and to encourage farmers to move into more humane egg and meat production.
“We want to be doing things long before they become a concern for consumers,” Mr. Grover said. “Like a hockey player, we want to be there before the puck gets there.”
Genarlow Wilson sits in prison, Eric Johnson gloats
I missed this yesterday. Despicably wrong:
The issue before the Georgia General Assembly today is SB 37. It is not just about Genarlow Wilson; it is about excusing the predators and ignoring the victims.
The bill will allow defense attorneys to petition judges to re-open every case of a convicted sex offender who engaged in sodomy, child molestation, aggravated child molestation, or enticed a child for indecent purposes if the convicted sex offender and the minor victim are less than four years apart. The victims involved could be as young as 13.
I oppose any legislative effort to require the courts to revisit more than 1,100 cases like Wilson’s.
Let’s reiterate: * will * allow * defense * attorneys * to petition * judges. That is not “requiring” but if there are in fact “1,100 cases like Wilson’s” then lord please, yes, let’s revisit them!
Recently I quoted a documentary on racism and integration:
[T]he lesson, that racism fear and bigotry might be subdued by good leadership, rather than harnessed for political gain, is one we’re still waiting to learn.
Without commenting on the potentially racist implications of what’s going on in Wilson’s case, I lay blame squarely on the shoulders of
elected officials craven pols like Johnson for using the fear of sexual predators to turn our kids into criminals for political gain.
Leadership is sorely lacking.
Genarlow Wilson will stay in prison, where he may well be trained to become the criminal Eric Johnson believes him to be. Heaven help us.
RELATED: Johnson’s OpEd makes no new arguments. His same old arguments were effectively, and fairly, addressed by The Savannah Morning News.
Ben and Hell and the bloodthirsty God
[H]ell is a place where sinners burn in an everlasting fire.
God’s mercy and love are great, but those who reject him should know that hell “exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much any more,” the pontiff said, according to reports by the Catholic News Service and the London Times.
Thanks for the threatening reminder Ben; I feel the mercy. What it reminds me is that this brand of Christianity is not one I buy into. Much more reasonable and believable to me are the views explored by religion scholars Elaine Pagels and Karen King in their new book, Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity:
Many Christians think that, you know--what does it mean to be a Christian? It means you believe that Jesus died for your sins, that God loves the world and sacrificed Jesus to show how much he loves the world. [The Judas Gospel author] is a Christian who says, `Well, what kind of God are you talking about then? I mean, are you saying that God wants to--God will not forgive sins unless his own son is tortured and killed in a horrible way? I mean, is this a bloodthirsty God like those gods that wanted human sacrifice like the Inca gods or something like that? So this author says that’s a horrible picture of God.
Macon airport: everything’s relative
On the local news just now:
More passengers, more airlines, and more money. That’s what Macon city council members say they need, to turn the Middle Georgia Regional Airport around.
On Tuesday, a company called TBI Airport Management, Incorporated told council members it can do all those things, but its services won’t come cheap.
The offer on the table is a ten-year contract between the city of Macon and TBI. The company would manage the Middle Georgia Regional Airport and the Herbert Smart Airport for $135,000 a year, for the next ten years.
Doug and I look at each other. And laugh.
Won’t come cheap? Too much money? $135,000 isn’t even one executive salary!
And that’s for two airports! Someone please tell these people that you get what you pay for.
10 DAYS LATER - it looks like they have a long history of skimping:
Macon Mayor Jack Ellis said today that the city has asked the Federal Aviation Administration to waive a $99,000 fine for violations at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport, or to at least reduce the figure to a more reasonable amount.
In a December letter to city officials, the FAA outlined 23 violations of federal regulations at the airport that occurred between mid-2004 and late 2006. Most of those violations were uncovered in late 2005 and led to the replacement of airport management.
The problems have since been fixed, Ellis said at a City Hall news conference. But the FAA did not get around to formally notifying the city of fines until the letter arrived in December. After a few months of telephone and e-mail negotiations, he said city officials made a recent trip to Atlanta to meet with FAA officials in person and plead Macon’s case.
When parents go to prison
A letter in Salon from a woman whose father-in-law faces serious criminal charges. She asks, What do I tell my 5-year-old daughter?
March 28, 2007 | Dear Cary,
My upstanding, sweet husband just found out that my father-in-law is probably off to prison because a previously molested teen zeroed in on him, and he made some horrible decisions thereafter. Our daughter is 5, and knows this man as a doting grandpa she sees monthly (always in our presence, by the way) who has never harmed her.
Pending trial, he can’t have any contact with kids, and his future looks bleak. What the heck do I say to my 5-year-old? I don’t believe in huge, dark family secrets, but what version of the truth is appropriate to explain she probably will not see her grandpa again or even receive cards?
A Mom Recently Moved to Surreality
Dear Mom Moved to Surreality,
Your child, at the age of 5, is not capable of understanding sexual abuse in an adult way. As she matures, her capacity for understanding the facts will increase. But so will her ability to express preferences about how much she wants to hear. It is likely that even when she is intellectually capable of grasping the facts, she will wish to be spared some of the details. Those details do not have to become dark family secrets, however. Their nondisclosure can be a matter of privacy and choice.
One thing is clear: A significant emotional trauma has occurred in your family. It won’t just go away. But you can deal with it.
I can’t tell you exactly what to say to her. I can urge you to learn how others have dealt with similar situations and decide on an approach that is best for you. To that end I have included some links at the end of this piece that may help you begin this process..
Here’s the list of links:
From a 2004 article by M. Deborah Corley and Jennifer P. Schneider in the journal Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity. Although the article deals specifically with how sex-addicted parents disclose to their children, it may help you think about the issue. It is rich with personal accounts of how people told their children, and it includes a good general discussion of how repressed trauma affects family dynamics:
“The challenge for parents is to consider carefully the context of the disclosure, its contents, timing, who should be present, and how to deal with the emotional responses of the children.
“What kids do want to know depends on their age. It is not necessary or appropriate to disclose to very young children. Preschool children (ages 3-5) ... want to know: Are you going to die or leave me? Am I in trouble? Do you love me? They also need guidelines about their genital touching and curiosity about the bodies, a subject about which sex-addicted families often worry.”
Books for children with a parent in prison. Though you don’t want to confuse her, such age-appropriate books might help her to imagine where her grandfather is. Here, and also these Australian books for children 4 to 9 here.
See also this site for children of parents in prison.
Children of Incarcerated Parents, a study written by Claire A. Walker, Ph.D., executive director of the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation, March 2005.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Former AFA columnist speaks out against homophobia
When Pam Spaulding was tipped off to columnist and former AFA staff attorney Joe Murray’s change of heart on the issue of homosexuality, she wrote and asked for an interview. The author of “some of the most entertaining anti-gay columns for the AFA I’ve ever read” - including, for example, Have We Lost the Culture War? and Santorum’s Surrender? - enthusiastically agreed to answer some pretty frank questions:
Pam Spaulding: As a Christian (and a conservative), describe your own evolution in thinking about homosexuality, the LGBT community, and how it has informed your politics and beliefs.
Joe R. Murray: Well, first I am not sure if I am a “conservative” in the traditional sense. To me, the meaning of “conservativeÃ¢â‚¬Â� has changed over the past few decades and, in light of such a change, I doubt that label applies to me.
I am pro-life, but I am also in favor of gay marriage. I believe in a strong military, but I do not believe homosexuality is immoral. I believe that trade policy should protect the Main Street worker and not the Wall Street fat cat. I believe that America has a duty to protect her borders and preserve her cultural integrity. And I believe in a higher minimum wage. So, I am not sure exactly where I fit in political spectrum.
That being said, the issue of gay rights has been weighing heavy on my mind for quite some time. The gay issue is a human issue, and thus I strongly believe that it must be approached with concern and compassion. Furthermore, the individuals engaging in the debate must recognized that behind the theories there are real life human beings that are made in the image of the Creator. [...]
It was...hypocrisy that caused me to open my eyes. Those on the Christian right, for whatever reasons, have become fixated on homosexuality. They are obsessed by it and perverse form of vengeance appears to be fueling their inquisition. I may be wrong, but I think actions are speaking much louder than words here.
The whole gay issue is no longer about the quest for the Truth; it is about fear and loathing. It is about shame and sorrow. It is anything but Christian.
And if a person’s sexual disposition is determined by birth, how can it be that these folks were created merely to be cast into Hell? The fundamentalist explanation makes no sense, but the view that only some homosexual behavior (see the verbiage used in Corinthians, etc.), and not all gays, is immoral does make sense.
Thus was my evolution. I may not be right, but I think the Christian community must explore these issues openly and honestly if they are truly to remain Christian. We have an obligation to explore these issues and be open to the fact that the modern view on homosexuality may be wrong.
Read the entire interview. Hopeful stuff. And great work from Pam!
What we are witnessing is not so much the imminent death of CDs but the death of the old methods of selling CDs. It’s still possible to make money in the CD business-any business with more than $7 billion in retail sales should allow someone, somewhere, to make a profit. The incumbents are getting killed, but upstarts are thriving, using different methods.
Those “thriving” upstart stores are “more like art-house theaters.”
Ok. Maybe. For a while.
“Crossover Day” bad news for Genarlow
“The General Assembly shall meet in regular session on the second Monday in January of each year, or otherwise as provided by law, and may continue in session for a period of no longer than 40 days in the aggregate each year....”
- Article III, Georgia Constitution
Day 30 in the 2007 General Assembly passed Tuesday with hardly a whimper. Day 30, or “Crossover Day” in each legislative session, is important. If legislation hasn’t passed either the House or Senate, it’s dead until next year, and a lot of bills, some controversial, some not, will have to wait until Jan. 8, 2008 for further deliberation. [...]
A bill that should be passed in the Senate but is a long shot is SB 37. It would allow judges to revisit 1,100 teenage sex offenders, specifically Genarlow Wilson, who is serving a 10-year sentence for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old when he was 17. The Legislature made such crimes misdemeanors in 2006.
Juanessa Bennett, spent most of her day Tuesday at the state capitol pushing for a change in the law that might lead to the release of her son.
“I hope to accomplish something today so that everything is near an end, and Genarlow and a lot of other kids will have a shot at a bright future,” Bennett told 11Alive’s Jerry Carnes.
UPDATE, real bad news:
[T]he Senate adjourned before taking up Wilson’s bill.
His attorney, B.J. Bernstein, was furious.
“The entire country has been looking at Georgia, and what we’re doing, and how we approach our teens,” Berstein said. “And what do they do? They don’t even vote on it, they just drop it.”
Amero sentencing delayed again
Just in from Connecticut. Sentencing for Julie Amero has once again been postponed. Originally set for March 2nd, it was postponed until this Thursday, March 29th. It’s now been bumped to April 26th.
This is good news for just about everybody. But Julie Amero is still living in suspense as to what her fate will be. I just hope that she, being closer to the case than I, can see reasons for being more optimistic.
For all the others who have not gotten our attention, this is the plea I’ve appended to all of my Amero posts:
WE NEED A COMPUTER FORENSICS INNOCENCE PROJECT; a Barry Sheck and Peter Neufeld of the computer forensics world. We need experts who believe in the presumption of innocence and are willing to spend the time it takes to dig through logs, registry entries and hard drives to find exculpatory material when present. This is hardly the first case of its kind and, unfortunately, it’s not likely be the last. Prosecutors who look for - and presume - guilt do selective searches for data supporting guilt; those accused rarely have the resources to pay computer forensics experts to counter that selective evidence.
Scandal-plagued juvenile justice
Somehow I doubt that Texas is the only state with this problem:
The sentences of many of the 4,700 delinquent youths now being held in Texas’ juvenile prisons might have been arbitrarily and unfairly extended by prison authorities and thousands could be freed in a matter of weeks as part of a sweeping overhaul of the scandal-plagued juvenile system, state officials say.
Jay Kimbrough, a special master appointed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to investigate the system after allegations surfaced that some prison officials were coercing imprisoned youths for sex, said he would assemble a committee to review the sentence of every youth in the system.
The goal, Kimbrough said, is to release any youth whose sentence was improperly extended without justification or in retaliation for filing complaints. In his initial review of sentences, Kimbrough said, he had found many questionable extensions, adding that some experts estimate that more 60 percent of the state’s youthful inmates might be languishing under wrongful detention.
Such a mass emptying of a state’s juvenile jails would be unprecedented, experts said.
Among the leading candidates for early release is Shaquanda Cotton, a 14-year-old black girl from the small east Texas town of Paris, who was sent to prison for up to 7 years for shoving a hall monitor at her high school while other young white offenders convicted of more serious crimes received probation in the town’s courts. [...]
[O]fficials at the Ron Jackson Correctional Complex have repeatedly extended Shaquanda’s sentence because she refuses to admit her guilt and because she was found with contraband in her cell--an extra pair of socks.
Via Alas, a blog.
Stein’s not giving Stanford any money
In a December 2001 Stanford Magazine profile, Joel Stein said of his alma mater: “Stanford already got a whole wad of Stein money. Outside of organized crime, it’s not traditional to charge someone for a service and then ask for more later.”
On Marketplace last Friday, he played out that theme:
Stanford is always just asking for money - which I find odd, since I already paid them a lot. My latest letter says the school is trying to raise $4.3 billion by 2011 as part of the Stanford Challenge.
These are challenging people who aren’t afraid to ask for challenging donations from people who still haven’t paid off their student loans.
For those of you who have never been to the 8,000-acre Stanford campus, it’s very dissimilar to most places begging for charity. Darfur, for instance, doesn’t have its own new rubgy stadium. AIDS hospitals rarely have as many tennis courts.
Stanford, which raised nearly $1 billion in donations just last year - a record for a university - has an endowment of more than $14 billion. That’s more than the Gross Domestic Product of Belize or Sierra Leone - which has diamonds. [...]
Stanford could stop charging undergrads the $43,361 for tuition, room and board and call it an accounting error on its interest. It makes more sense for Rupert Murdoch to ask me for charity money. At least I still use his products.
I understand that rich people like to give money to organizations that make them look good. They want a powerful alma mater, a nice opera house, a buoyant Venice and a tidy stretch of road for Bette Midler to drive on. But they shouldn’t be able to write these donations off as tax-deductible charities… So save your stamps, Stanford. I’m not giving you any money.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Alexandra Van Horn was a passenger in a car that ran into a light pole at 45 mph. Lisa Torti, a passenger in a car following behind, stopped at the crash scene and tried to render assistance by lifting Van Horn out of the car. Van Horn emerged from the accident a paraplegic, although court testimony differed on whether the accident itself or Torti’s attempt to pull her out of the vehicle was responsible for this. Now a California appeals court has ruled that the state’s Good Samaritan liability shield does not protect Ms. Torti from Ms. Van Horn’s negligence suit because it “only protects people from liability if they are administering emergency medical care. The perceived danger of remaining in the wrecked car was not ‘medical,’ the court ruled.”
Making Hollywood sausage
Reports of the video’s existence first surfaced in a 2004 article in The New York Times about Mr. Russell and the movie’s filming, but last Monday marked the first time that either video was made available to the public. Almost as soon as they were posted, efforts were made to quash the leak...The videos were reposted and removed several times over the week, but by the weekend, they appeared to be firmly entrenched in the blogosphere.
Size matters: T.G.I. Friday’s to try “Right Size” portions
A good number of my neighbors here judge a restaurant by the size of its portions: the bigger the better. Many of these same neighbors are concerned about their weight. A disconnect of sorts I’d say.
We don’t have one here, so I won’t soon know how they’ll react to T.G.I. Friday’s decision to “Right Size” portions:
[Richard] Snead is breaking ranks. As chief executive of Carlson Restaurants Worldwide he has chopped portion sizes at T.G.I. Friday’s, Carlson’s chain known for calorie-rich items like deep-fried potato skins stuffed with Cheddar cheese, bacon and sour cream. In a closely watched experiment, Friday’s will see whether diners will order what it calls “Right Size” portions that, on average, are about two-thirds the size of the usual serving.
“I firmly believe that the consumer is demanding a change,” said Mr. Snead, who is 55 and has a runner’s trim build. Many consumers are tired of huge portions, especially on weeknights or at lunch when they do not want to indulge, he says. The time has come, he says, to think smaller. But, he added, “I’ll be honest with you, it’s scary.”
It works for me, but then portion-size plays absolutely no role in my evaluation of a restaurant. I may be alone in that. Ruby Tuesdays’ failed in a portion-size experiment back in 2004:
Shrinking portions puts restaurants in a bit of a pickle. Customers have come to associate huge quantities of food with value, a proposition that makes reducing portions difficult. Restaurants also point out that even when consumers say they want smaller portions or healthier choices, they often do not order those options. [...]
WHAT makes Friday’s portion-cutting different is its extensive advertising of ten menu items and its decision to offer them at significantly lower prices...Mr. Snead says he has accepted the fact that his average check on the reduced portions will be smaller too, but he is betting that they will be offset by more customers.
Friday’s is bucking a decades-long trend of ever-larger portions in packaged goods and at restaurants. Some portions at fast-food restaurants are now two to five times larger than those of the 1950s, researchers have found. [...]
Americans are eating about 12 percent more calories a day than they did in the mid-1980s, according to government statistics. The percentage of Americans who are overweight, meanwhile, increased to 66 percent in 2004 from 47 percent in the late 1970s. Hardly anyone believes it is a coincidence that Americans became fatter at the same time they began eating out more than ever and restaurants supersized their portions.
What would be good is if other restaurants would match Snead’s move; this is not about competitive advantage, it’s about addressing a significant national problem. Snead questions whether he’d have been able to try this if T.G.I. Friday’s weren’t privately held and points to research that finds 51% of adults - and 63% of women - believe portion sizes at fast food eateries are too big.
I use the occasion to quote again from Cass R. Sunstein & Richard H. Thaler’s review of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink in last week’s New Republic (behind a pay wall, I quote liberally here):
People tend to eat whatever is put in front of them. Wansink demonstrates this point through a series of somewhat mischievous experiments, some of which would have been great material for Candid Camera. A few years ago, moviegoers in Chicago found themselves with a free bucket of popcorn. Unfortunately, the popcorn was stale; it had been popped five days earlier and stored so as to ensure that it would actually squeak when eaten. People were not specifically informed of its staleness, but they didn’t love the popcorn. As one moviegoer said, “It was like eating Styrofoam packing peanuts.”
As the experiment was designed, about half of the moviegoers received a big bucket of popcorn and half received a medium-sized bucket. After the movie, Wansink asked the recipients of the big bucket whether they might have eaten more because of the size of their bucket. Most denied the possibility, saying, “Things like that don’t trick me.Ã¢â‚¬Â� But they were wrong. On average, recipients of the big bucket ate about 53 percent more popcorn--even though they didn’t really like it.
Another experiment required some special equipment. People sat down to a large bowl of Campbell’s tomato soup and were told to eat as much as they wanted. Unbeknown to them, the soup bowls were designed to refill themselves (with empty bottoms connected to machinery beneath the table). No matter how much soup the subjects ate, the bowl never emptied. Many people just kept eating until the experiment was (mercifully) ended.
Adobe CS pricing
If you’ve got a PowerPC-based Mac, it looks like there will be no CS3 for you. But it’s the pricing that will keep some others away. AppleInsider:
While the full price list borders on the intimidating, the cost for users varies from as little as $110 Canadian ($95 US) for a Contribute CS3 upgrade to $3,440 ($2,969 US) for the complete Master Collection that bundles Adobe’s deluxe artistic and video editing tools.
The CS3 Design and Production Premium suites for artists remain under wraps, though the Web Standard edition will sell for $1,375 ($1,186 US), suggesting a ballpark figure for its Design equal. European prices were revealed on Friday. [...]
Update: Amazon’s US website now lists Adobe Creative Suite CS3 Web Premium for $1599, Adobe Creative Suite CS3 Master Collection for $2499, Adobe Creative Suite CS3 Production Premium for $1199 and Adobe Creative Suite CS3 Design Premium for $1599.