Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring Cleaning

Some news and notes for your personal and professional spring cleaning.

BOSTON STRONGER: MARATHON MONDAY -- Marathon looks to shake shadow of 2013 bombing, with some 36,000 people, the second-largest field in the race's 118-year history, will set out [tomorrow in waves, beginning at 8:50 a.m. for mobility impaired] from Hopkinton, a town west of Boston, for the 26.2-mile race that finishes on Boston's Boylston Street ... Hundreds of thousands of whom are expected to line the course ... A heavy police presence is planned and racers and supporters will face new restrictions including a ban on backpacks ... Race organizers, the Boston Athletic Association, admitted an additional 9,000 runners this year, in part to ensure that the roughly 5,000 people on the course when the blasts occurred get a chance to cross this finish line.

CALIFORNIA DROUGHT - This summer, Todd Allen’s only crop will be Pima cotton. He and his brother, Joel, usually also grow cantaloupes and, later in the season, winter wheat on about 600 acres or so. But this year, they and hundreds of others will get no water from the reservoirs that sustain farming in the Central Valley, where much of the nation’s fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown. Mr. Allen says he will give his cotton crop just “one shot of water when it gets to a certain height.” So they will forgo melons. And a question mark hangs over winter wheat.

Heading into the third year of a prolonged drought, the Allen's are among the many California farmers forced to make dire choices that could leave as much as 800,000 acres, or about 7 percent of the state’s cropland, fallow. While some think that estimate may be inflated so early in the planting season, the consensus is that drier and drier seasons are on the horizon.

THE RENTS ARE TOO DAMN HIGH - For rent and utilities to be considered affordable, they are supposed to take up no more than 30 percent of a household's income. But that goal is increasingly unattainable for middle-income families as a tightening market pushes up rents ever faster ... The strain is not limited to the usual high-cost cities like New York and San Francisco.

An analysis for The New York Times by Zillow, the real estate website, found 90 cities where the median rent - not including utilities - was more than 30 percent of the median gross income. In Chicago, rent as a percentage of income has risen to 31 percent, from a historical average of 21 percent. In New Orleans, it has more than doubled, to 35 percent from 14 percent ... Nationally, half of all renters are now spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

MUSTANG, FIFTY YEARS - Ford to offer 50th anniversary Mustang. Ford is building a limited-edition Mustang GT to honor the pony car's 50th anniversary. The company will only build 1,964 special cars, honoring the year the Mustang first went on sale. The 50 Year Limited Edition will come in one of the two colors of Ford's logo: white or blue ... manual or automatic transmission. There are special chrome highlights around the grille, windows and tail lights. The Limited Edition will also be the only 2015 Mustang with a faux gas cap badge on the rear, where the original cap sat. ... Ford is showing the Limited Edition at the New York auto show ... Pricing wasn't announced.


All across America, in offices and airports, I see men in restrooms talking on their cellphones while standing at urinals or sitting in toilet stalls. This seems demeaning to the people on the other end of the line and unsanitary. Is it O.K. to talk on mobile phones in public bathrooms? Related question: Do women do this, too?

Nature Calls,
Potsdam, New York

Dear Nature Calls -

If you think talking is bad, consider a sign I spotted in a restroom in Denver: “No washing animals in the sink.” (Say, what?) I’m not concerned about demeaning people on the other end of the line. Some of my best phone chats have been conducted while soaking in hot tubs or deveining that vile goop from the spines of shrimp. (No one was the wiser.) Same with hygiene: Half the men I see in restrooms don’t wash their hands. Their filthy cellphones pose no greater health risks than their filthy hands do.

No, the hideous part about speaking on cellphones in cramped public spaces is subjecting everyone else to the banality of our daily lives. We should stop at once, but we won’t. And good luck asking others to disconnect. That ship has sailed. And I have it on excellent authority that women are chatty sailors, too.


MOVIE BLAST: CAPTAIN AMERICA CRUSHES JOHNNY DEPP - Team U.S.A. dominated Easter weekend as Disney's 'Captain America: Winter Soldier' fended off its competition at the box office, holding onto the No. 1 spot for the third week in a row by drawing in $26.6 million. ... The only story of disappointment came from Warner Bros.' sci-fi thriller 'Transcendence,' which stars Johnny Depp and took in a meager $11.2 million. The film cost $100 million to make and is yet another box-office stinker for Depp, whose last big-budget failure, 'The Lone Ranger,' famously tanked in 2013.

ECON 101 - The current economic expansion is proving to be one of the most lackluster in modern times. The U.S. jobless rate is the highest on record at this stage of recent cycles and gross domestic product has grown at half the pace of the previous three expansions. But while it won't go down in history for its strength, at least the recovery is still going. The current stretch of growth, we note, is poised to last longer than the average for post-World War II cycles. And the very weakness of the growth means there are few immediate risks of the kind of imbalances that usually produce a recession. "It's fair to say that we're not in a situation where people begin to worry" about the onset of a new recession, noted one economist. "There are pretty clear skies, but it's remarkable how quickly the skies can cloud over."

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Jim Douthit ...famous tennis player and cat lover, Herm Edwards (60), Queen Elizabeth II (88), Gene Hasse ....famous father and Detroit Tiger fan, Andie MacDowell (56), Shirley MacLaine (80), Jack Nicholson (77), Renee Zellweger (45).

COLLEGE CHRONICLES Summer Survival Strategies for Adjuncts: I’ve lived through enough adjunct summers to know that things get pretty difficult financially around late July. What little money you managed to scrape together during the school year is long gone, and you’re at least two rent cycles away from the next paycheck.

For adjuncts who aren’t lucky enough to score classes, the end of the summer can become a deeply stressful period of doing whatever it takes—borrowing, penny-pinching, scouring Craigslist for odd jobs—to keep the eviction notices at bay until the first paycheck of the new school year arrives.

My adjunct summer survival strategy consists mainly of selling my possessions—furniture, music, clothes. By the end of July, my apartment is significantly more roomy than it was at the beginning of the summer. Once the school year starts and the income returns, I restock what I’ve purged. It’s kind of like going to one of those payday lenders: a never ending cycle of borrowing and repaying, never earning enough to escape the pattern.

I’m also no stranger to the odd job. I’ve taken many a part-time gig to bridge the income gap between adjunct paychecks. I delivered pizzas for a few years during and after grad school, though I could never bring myself to deliver in the same town where I taught. The thought of ringing the doorbell of a current student was too much to bear.

I’ve also discovered the insalubrious world of Craigslist gigs. There’s money to be earned for doing all sorts of random tasks, from moving furniture to painting houses to, uh, posing for “tasteful” photographs. With the help of Craigslist, I’ve been a mover, a landscaper, a wedding photographer, and a ditchdigger. I was also invited to meet a potential employer at a remote location in the country, but I turned that gig down.

In fact, Craigslist is a lifesaver for poor adjuncts, and my secrets to surviving the adjunct summer mostly revolve around it. Each week during the summer break, I’m either selling my possessions or my labor in order to scrounge up enough cash to make it until September.

But I knew there had to be some other options for summer income. Tens of thousands of other teachers struggle through the dog days every year, and I was curious to hear more survival secrets. So I asked Twitter.

Based on the responses I received, it looks like the summer is pretty tough for most adjuncts. Some respondents reported trying to bridge the gap with part-time and odd jobs similar to mine.

- Josh Boldt, The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 25, 2014.


Rink Rats is traveling this week, so we took a break from our Swami picks. See you next week.
2014 Season to date (25-27), ouch!

Market Week - Wall Street is betting that Apple will offer investors tens of billions of dollars in new share buybacks this week, as long-awaited product launches remain locked inside its Cupertino labs.

Apple will also reveal the impact of iPhone sales through China Mobile when it reports second-quarter earnings on Wednesday, with an overall dip in revenues forecast in what is often a fallow period for the mobile phone market.

DRIVING THE WEEK -  It's make or break time for corporate profits, with dozens of companies—from Facebook to Ford— reporting in the week ahead.

The pressure is on for those earnings to support the market's current valuations, after weeks of choppy trading. It's also crunch time to see whether it really was the harsh winter weather that slowed profit growth—and the economy—or something else.

"Does spring make a difference? And in what industries does it make a difference? If that doesn't come across, it may raise some confusion about what the economic data is telling us," said Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS.

About 150 S&P 500 companies are scheduled to release quarterly results through Friday, in an earnings season that has been so far mediocre, though nearly two-thirds of companies are beating Wall Street estimates. On the economic front, there is housing data with existing home sales Tuesday and new home sales Wednesday, and durable goods are reported Thursday.

Congress still out on Easter recess ... President Obama leaves Tuesday for his Asia trip after traveling to Oso, Washington to view the devastation from the recent mudslide and meet with families ... Vice President Biden heads to Kyiv, Ukraine today ... Patriot's Day in Boston today features the first marathon since last year's bombing ... Index of leading indicators today at 10:00 a.m. expected to rise 0.7 percent ... FHFA house price index at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday expected to rise 0.5 percent ... Existing home sales at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday expected to dip 1.1 percent to 4.55M ...

New homes sales at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday expected to rise to 450K from 440K ... Durable goods orders Thursday at 8:30 a.m. expected to rise 2.0 percent, 0.6 percent ex-transportation ... Univ. of Michigan consumer sentiment at 9:55 a.m. Friday expected to rise to 83.0 from preliminary 82.6 ... Facebook reports earnings Wednesday

Next week: Jack Ass of the Month and Spring Gardening.

Until Next Monday, Adios.

Littleton, CO

April 21, 2014

#V-1, 210

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