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February 12, 2007

Mad, Sad, Glad Meets The Sunday Times

Thanks to a kitchen remodel, our family dinner last night was Zone Bars served on paper plates. I told the girls it was like being an astronaut. Presumably to elevate the pitiful experience, my 3 year-old suggested a round of Mad, Sad, Glad, a variation on Daily Highs and Lows, which is itself a variation on “How was your day?” which is a proven conversational dead end with all people under 25. Turns out my girls are glad about ice cream, sad about taking Motrin and mad about Time Outs.

This morning, I spent a few precious minutes with an old New York Times from Sunday, January 28. Still seeing through Mad, Sad, Glad paradigm, here’s where I came out on current events:

1. Congress has an idea to rein in executive pay, which is good. Executive compensation is the number one contributor to the portentous gap between the super rich and the gigantic middle class. But the bill has been tinkered with, as bills always are, and now it looks like the real pinch will be for people making under $100,000 and although the big guys will also pay, their companies will “top them off” so they won’t actually have to contribute to the expenses of the very country that has made them so rich.

2. Worldwide volume of spamming has doubled over the past year, and anti-spam programmers are having a hard time innovating at a greater rate than their nemesis’s (don’t you wish it were spelled nemesi?). So you’ll still be given many opportunities every day to grow your penis, whether you have one or not.

1. Costco’s business is booming, close to $60 billion last year, making unnecessary consumption as easy as 1-2-3. Environmentally and morally, trash matters, and at least in my house, Costco generates waste, from the massive amount of packaging to the leftovers that eventually get tossed. (Thinking that I had finally found a set of markers big enough to match my daughters’ capacity for creation, I saw firsthand the inverse relationship between volume and value. It shames me to think about what it took to manufacture, package, ship and shelve those 75 pens, a dozen of which were dried up, lost or tossed by the end of the first week. )

2. Many of Iraq’s moderate families, businesses and political leaders have fled or been killed; these were the very people we were counting on to stabilize and rebuild the country.

1. Bill Gates is becoming a full time philanthropist. What if every great mind from the Fortune 500 spent their retirement doing non-profit work? Can you even imagine?

2. Speaking of Microsoft, CEO Steve Ballmer lives with his wife and 3 kids in the same 2-bedroom house he bought before he was married. I don’t know precisely why this makes me glad but it’s related to the Costco entry about over-consumption and is right up there with another “Glad,” namely: Warren Buffett has opted to leave his children “a couple hundred thousand dollars” each. So instead of making a handful of Buffetts super-rich, he is giving his outrageous fortune to non-profits working to decrease disease, hunger and poverty.

3. Ben Stein, who writes a column called SOAP BOX, is a lawyer, writer, actor and economist. Doesn’t that make you so happy? That one person can do so many things?

Not sure
1. Consumer Reports released a report in early January that said 8 of 10 car seats tested were unsafe. This made me feel hopeless, like even my best efforts weren’t going to matter in an accident, which led me to think about all the studies we internalize only to have them debunked later—about which position babies should sleep in, whether toddlers should have binkies, if kids should or should not participate in after-school activities. Cynicism was afoot. But it turns out the car seats in question were mistakenly tested at 70 mph, not 38 mph, and so they were safe after all. Great news, but boy, I hate to think we can’t trust Consumer Reports.

2. A German company is now selling a duvet cover that you can tie around your neck. This is for those occasions when you’ve been brought breakfast in bed and are loathe to eat your buttered toast for fear of crumbs. It costs $169 and comes with a matching pillowcase.

And finally, for a subsection about coincidences that I’ll call “Well I’ll Be Damned” Ford Motors lost $12.7 billion last year, which is exactly the current value of Steve Ballmer’s stake in Microsoft.