Friday, November 19, 2010


The Laughing Boys of the NFL

Before settling in Sunday for your 10-hour NFL binge, there's a pretty good chance you'll watch the hour-long pregame shows. There's also a pretty good chance you'll notice something slightly odd about their hosts: They never stop laughing.

Well, that's not entirely true, but an analysis of the CBS and Fox pregame shows before Week 5 shows that the hosts do spend a lengthy amount of time laughing—sometimes at nothing, sometimes at their own jokes and, occasionally, at things that are funny.

The amount of time they laugh, though, is what sets them apart. The five hosts on Fox's show—Curt Menefee, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Michael Strahan and Jimmy Johnson—had a combined laughing time of two minutes, 22 seconds. That's about 11.6% of the 20 minutes, 27 seconds they were shown on set together. Mr. Bradshaw was easily the laughing leader, going for about 92.4 seconds—including 2.5 seconds at the start of the show before anyone said anything.

The CBS crew—Greg Gumbel, Dan Marino, Bill Cowher, Shannon Sharpe and Boomer Esiason—only laughed for 43 seconds. That's about one-third as much chuckling as the group at Fox. CBS declined to comment. Fox Sports spokesman Lou D'Ermilio says, "If we didn't tell the guys to stop they would laugh and crack jokes 100% of the time."
--David Biderman in The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 28, 2010

Do you have a digital executor?

The Chilean government wanted entrepreneurs. Jesse Davis and Nate Lustig wanted additional funding--and maybe some adventure.

Now the two Madison entrepreneurs are on their way to Santiago, Chile, where they will spend six months running their two-year-old digital estate planning services company, Entrustet, which

Entrustet offers a free online service that allows users to list their digital assets such as e-mail, Facebook, Flickr and other accounts and to designate heirs for them.

The company is among about 10 in the digital estate planning services space, said Evan Carroll, co-founder of The Digital Beyond, a blog that calls itself the "go-to source for the digital afterlife industry."

The fate of your online accounts when you die might not seem like a big issue, but it's getting more attention as people move more of themselves online.

"Every lawyer is going to have to worry about transferring assets like this, every insurance company, every mutual fund company," Boucher said.

Entrustet and others store passwords for customers, but Entrustet is unique because it offers the option of designating a digital executor who is charged with distributing passwords and other digital information upon someone's death, Carroll said.

"It gives a level of oversight more in line with the traditional estate planning process," he said.

Entrustet brings in revenue through a premium version of its product that will automatically delete certain accounts upon someone's death, Davis said. The company also makes money through a program that automatically tells corporate partners when users die, and by educating lawyers around the country about how to handle digital assets.

Whether in Chile or Madison, Davis and Lustig say they're aiming to get people organized for their digital afterlives. They estimate 1.5 million users of Facebook alone will die over the next 12 months.

"Three Facebook users die every minute, and Facebook has no idea who's dead," Davis said.
--Milwaukee JournalSentinel, Nov. 15, 2010

Invasion of the Grease Poachers!

Two men pulled up behind Five Guys Burgers and Fries in North Bergen, N.J., recently, hooked a hose to a tank outside the restaurant and began stealthily siphoning 700 gallons of used cooking oil into a container in their van.

The suspects worked for a grease recycling company but were “freelancing” on two occasions in which they were charged with slurping up 1,400 gallons of the slippery stuff, according to police.

In some parts of the country, the restaurant owner might thank them for taking the waste material off their hands without charging for the service. But in mostly urban areas where there’s more competition between companies  seeking to pick up and resell used cooking oil for use in biofuels, the companies pay the restaurants for the oil, says Tom Cook, president of the National Renderers Association.

The organization, which represents   legitimate companies that pick up and recycle spent grease, is in the process of an industry-wide survey to find out the extent of the loss, Cook says. He doesn’t have numbers yet, but he expects they will be large.

 “Virtually all of our members who are in the business of picking up used cooking oils are experiencing grease theft to some degree or another, in some cases, pretty significantly,” Cook says.

 About 3 billion pounds of “yellow grease,” as the used oil is called, is produced in the USA each year, and traditionally, most of it has been mixed with livestock feed, he says. The value of the stuff fluctuates, but it hovers around $1.90 a gallon, he says.  
David Miller, owner of the Kickin’ Chicken restaurants based in Mount Pleasant, S.C., doesn’t know who absconded with several thousand dollars worth of day-old vegetable oil from his seven stores.

He started noticing significant dropoffs in the monthly payment from the grease buyers and knew something was going on.

 “With all the different uses of grease and biodiesel, we’ve gotten some backyard grease chemists,” he says. “And it’s a commodity   that is not normally protected. It’s easily accessible, and therefore, people have been siphoning off grease.”

Restaurants such as the Kickin’ Chicken started putting locks on their grease containers, but in some cases, the bandits cut the locks and knocked down the containers, says Tom Sponseller

 “When there’s a market for something, there’s somebody willing to steal it,” he says.
--Ron Barnett of The Greenville (S.C.) News

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