Saturday, March 31, 2012

Your Education for the Weekend: The History of April Fools Day

The Top 20 Franchises For the Buck

According to Forbes Magazine.

1. Snap-on

#1.  Snap-onAverage initial investment: $135,390

#2.  7-Eleven; Average initial investment: $393,800
#3.  Aarons (Sells/leases furniture &appliances); Average initial investment: $420,725

4. Panera

#4.  PaneraAverage initial investment: $1,447,770

#5.  Servpro (Disaster cleaning service); Average initial investment: $156,250
#6.  McDonald's; Average initial investment: $1,480,625
#7.  Liberty Tax Service; Average initial investment: $63,350

8. Merry Maids

#8.  Merry MaidsAverage initial investment: $66,600

#9.   The Maids International; Average initial investment: $106,420
#10.  Jimmy John's; Average initial investment: $395,500
#11.  Papa Murphy's; Average initial investment: $303,020

12. Jack in the Box

#12.  Jack in the Box; Average initial investment: $1,859,900

#13.  Dunkin' Donuts; Average initial investment: $980,735
#14.  Burger King; Average initial investment: $1,474,250
#15.  Supercuts; Average initial investment: $152,525

16. Edible Arrangements

#16.  Edible ArrangementsAverage initial investment: $216,713

#17.  Great Clips; Average initial investment: $155,925
#18.  Anytime Fitness; Average initial investment: $190,949
#19.  Pronto Insurance; Average initial investment: $63,129

20. Massage Envy

#20.  Message EnvyAverage initial investment: $455,505

Something about your look makes me think of hamburgers

Burger King Advertisement (Via @

This is an advertisement for Burger King, running in the Netherlands but who knows, maybe this eye makeup treatment will become the next big fad.

Perhaps a Whopper-inspired fragrance would be the next logical step?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Workplace Ethics - There's Room for Improvement

According to INC Magazine, there's a significant amount of unethical behavior occurring in American workplaces.  Here's some of the statistics reported in their April 2012 edition, p. 30.

  • Portion of employees who say they witnessed ethical misconduct at work in 2011:   45% (This is down from the record high of 55% in 2007.)

  • Share of those employees who reported the misconduct to a manager:   65%

  • Portion of employees who say their managers behave unethically:   34%  (A record high.)

  • Portion of whistleblowers who say they experienced retaliation from managers or co-workers:   22%

  • Share of employees who felt pressure to compromise their ethical standards in order to do their jobs:  13%

Portion of Employees Who Witnessed the Following Behavior at Work

  • Misuse of company time:  33%
  • Discrimination:  15%
  • Health or safety violations: 13%
  • Lying to outside shareholders:  12%
  • Stealing:  12%
  • Falsifying the time cards:  12%
  • Sexual harassment:  11%
  • Accepting or offering kickbacks or bribes:  5%

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Pizza from Hell

Hell Pizza, in New Zealand, is offering to include "the hottest chili known to mankind" on a single slice of the pizza.  They suggest that you invite some friends over, and see which one dies.

April 1st is coming, folks. If you order now, it should arrive by this Sunday.


Paraplegic Girl goes Bungee Jumping - Whistler, BC

If this video doesn't make you gasp, I have to question your level of aliveness.


Working Remotely Gains in Popularity Among Employers

According to studies recounted by Dan Schawbel, blogger for, 45% of the US workforce are working in a job that is suitable for full-time or part-time telecommuting.

Working from somewhere other than the office is accomplished by more than 34 million employees. 83% of employees work remotely at least part of the day (this includes reading and answering emails at places and times outside the normal office work day.)

The trend is likely to continue. In a study by Cisco, 70% of college students and young professionals believe that commuting to an office is unnecessary for most jobs. Many employers are adopting the practice of telecommuting because of the resulting gains in efficiency and productivity.


Chinese Artist Liu Bolin Hides in Plain Sight

Look carefully and you'll see Lin Bolin painted into the city landscape.  Spurred by the eviction from his studio in 2005, the artist started to use the city as his backdrop, painting himself to blend into the view, hoping to challenge the viewer into thinking about "what is on and beneath the surface."


For the complete slideshow, click here.  Expand to full-screen. It's worth the view!
Source:  Alana Celii, Time, March 20, 2010, p. 48
Photos Liu Bolin, courtesy of the artist and Eli Klein Fine Art

This study will be cited by kids for the next 100 years: "More than 2 hours of homework is useless."

In an educational study conducted by Dr. Richard Walker from Sydney University, it is concluded that extensive levels of homework for primary school children offers no real benefit.  Kids in junior high receive little benefit. "Only senior students in years 11 and 12 benefit from after-school work," according to Walker.

In countries where kids spend more time on homework, the achievement results are lower, even though parents seem to want it, Walker reports.

This will be big news to the Chinese. Nearly 60% of the Chinese students spend two or more hours per night working on homework. By comparison, only about 25% of U.S. students, 20.5% of Japanese students, and 15% of Korean students had more than two hours of homework each night.  Source

In 2011, children in Shanghai scored the highest and significantly better on a set of international tests, compared to kids in the U.S., which ranked 17th.  Source   If it's not the completion of homework that significantly contributes to these results, I wonder what is.


So now you can shake hands during a global video conference - what's the next logical step?

The Japanese robotics engineers have introduced another impractical item - a robotic handshake with your video conference partner who is somewhere else in the world.

I can't imagine that this will gain a significant foothold in the business world, but the porn industry is probably giddy over this type of technology.


Vegetarians at Odds with Starbucks' Use of Crushed Bugs

The decision by the execs at Starbucks to use a food coloring made from crushed bugs is drawing fire from their vegetarian clientele.

The red coloring, used in its Strawberries and Creme Frappuccino and red velvet whoopee pies (above), is made from cochineal extract, a natural dye made from crushed insects.

Apparently the use of this dye is quite common, according to a Starbucks representative.  It's an all-natural alternative to synthetic red dyes.

If you have a problem with this, you might want to sign the petition against the bug dye's use.  Click here to join almost 2,000 others.

If you don't have a problem with this, purchase the red velvet whoopee pie at your local Starbucks.


Monday, March 26, 2012

What makes Sony Smartphones so Smart? Kids know.

Sony Inc, asked children what they thought made their Xperia phones so smart, and then animated their responses.  Here's one of the advertisements, produced by filmmaker Wes Anderson.

I don't personally know anything about their phones, but this ad campaign is very smart.


Minnesota's college graduates have 4th-largest student loan debt

Ouch. Here's one top ten list on which we don't want to be included.

The average outstanding student loan amount carried by the Minnesota students graduating in 2010 was $29,058.

This figure is for students graduating from public institutions. For-profit schools do not have an obligation to report their numbers.

Students in Minnesota carry a debt that is about $4,000 higher than the national average of $25,250.

The Minneapolis College of Art and Design and the College of Saint Scholastica were singled out as high-debt institutions where the student's average debt load is between $40,400 and $55,250.


Ten Things that You Think Will Make You Happy - But Won't

According to Matthiew Ricard, author of "Why Meditate: Working with Thoughts and Emotions", if we can control our impulse to satisfy these common desires, we'll enjoy our life even more than we do now.

1. Becoming rich, powerful and famous.

2. Treating the universe as if it were a mail-order catalog by expecting it to gratify our every desire.

3. Yearning for the "freedom" to achieve every last wish. This is not freedom, but being the slave of your own thoughts.

4. Seeking too much pleasure. Pleasurable sensations soon become dull, and often become unpleasant.

5. Maliciously taking revenge on someone who has hurt you. By doing so, you become like them and poison your own mind.

6. Assuming that any one thing will make you happy. Such predictions usually don't turn out to be true.

7. Expecting all praise and no criticism. Without criticism, you won't progress.

8. To vanquish all your enemies. Animosity never brings happiness.

9. To never face adversity. Refraining from doing so will make you weak and vulnerable.

10. Expending all your effort on taking care of yourself alone. Altruism and compassion are the roots of genuine happiness.


McDonald's Focuses on Asia

In an effort to bolster their tepid sales in Asia, McDonald's is testing some new ideas and focusing on expansion.

In Japan, customers are provided the opportunity to place orders and pay with a pass of their mobile phone over a special reader device.  The process takes 30 seconds to complete.

How it works is customers sit down at tables, where they can plug a customized RFID device into their cell phones, they can then scan the menu with the phones, and push a cell phone button to order items. When the food is ready, customers are notified with an SMS message.

Japanese customers are also able to place an order and pay, from their car navigation systems - before they get to the pick-up window.

In China, McDonald's plans to open 250 more stores this year, increasing their footprint by 17%.  They currently have 1,400 stores in that country.


Why you shouldn't toss your pizza box into the recycle bin

Have you ever wondered, like I, why pizza boxes are banned from the recycle bin?

It's because of the grease and cheese that soil the cardboard, not the cardboard itself. Dirty pizza boxes as well as any other paper product that is stained with grease or food, are not recyclable.

If you take the time to remove the soiled portions, then the remaining paper can be recycled.

"Grease from pizza boxes causes oil to form at the top of the slurry, and paper fibers cannot separate from oils during the pulping process. Essentially, this contaminant causes the entire batch to be ruined. This is the reason that other food related items are non-recyclable (used paper plates, used napkins, used paper towels, etc)."

Terry Gellenbeck, a solid waste administrator explains "the oil causes great problems for the quality of the paper, especially the binding of the fibers. It puts in contaminants, so when they do squeeze the water out, it has spots and holes."  People who throw their pizza boxes into the recycle bin can ruin the entire recycling batch, costing the recycler millions of dollars over a year's time.

The Most Common Mistakes Made During a Job Interview

Do you want to land a new job?  Don't make the same mistakes made by many others. Here are the six most common mistakes, recently published by Kaitlin Madden from
  • Answering cell phone or texting: 77 percent
  • Appearing disinterested: 75 percent
  • Dressing inappropriately: 72 percent
  • Appearing arrogant: 72 percent
  • Talking negatively about current or previous employers: 67 percent
  • Chewing gum: 63 percent

Considering this video evidence, I'm surprised these things are still legal

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Something I Didn't Know I Needed

Kebo, a one-handed bottle opener. 

It keeps the bottle cap flat so that it can be reused if desired. And just in case you think that the designers didn't think of everything, the opener is magnetized so that the cap won't drop to the floor upon popping.

I'm not the only person who thinks this gadget is special - this product won the Innovation Award at the International Home & Housewares Show.

Buy it here for only $24.95.

Former President Clinton Follows-up on Fifteen Year Project in Grand Forks

Bill Clinton in Grand Forks
Former President Bill Clinton signs autographs for a crowd in Grand Forks, N.D., on Saturday, March 17, 2012.  (AP Photo/Shawna Noel Widdel)

In 1997 the Red River flooded the Red River Valley and hit hardest, the cities of Grand Forks, ND and it's twin city, East Grand Forks, MN.  President Clinton responded to the disaster with almost $500 million in relief funds and an additional $171 million in community development grants.

This past week he toured the rebuilt areas of the cities to see the results of his funding.  He declared the result as "beautiful."

Clinton was in Grand Forks to speak at North Dakota's Democratic-NPL Party convention.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Long Haul

A farmer carries cucumbers from his field to sell in the markets in the northern Indian city of Allahabad.
Jitendra Prakash / Reuters

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Is this one of the funniest ads of the year? You decide.

Clark Collis, Entertainment Weekly, gives this ad a call-out in its March 23 edition.  Could Mike Dubin, company cofounder of the Dollar Share Club, be the next Old Spice Guy?


You don't know. Really?

Retailers to Friend on Facebook

According to Matt Brownell, MSN Mainstreet columnist, these retailers offer excellent added value to consumers who friend their company Facebook sites.

1.  Banana Republic and Old Navy
2.  Wal-Mart
3.  Aeropostale
4.  Walgreens
5.  CVS
6.  Quiznos
8.  Kohl's
9.  Abercrombie & Fitch
10.   Bath & Body Works


Movies in a Flash!

The Minneapolis-St. Paul airport is the launch site for a new method of delivering movies to an airline traveler: movies on a flash drive.

The service, named Digiboo, enables a traveler to rent a USB flash drive loaded with a specific movie to watch it on his or her laptop - no Internet connection is needed.  A dozen rental kiosks are available throughout the airport terminals.

The consumer must use the kiosk station to download the movie to his or her flash drive.  It takes about 30 seconds using a USB 3.0 flash drive and from 2-5 minutes for a USB 2.0 drive.

While the company's target market for this service is logical, the company lags behind the efforts of companies such as Delta Airlines, American Airlines and Sun Country Airlines, who offer passengers downloadable movies and TV shows via an aircraft computer system or handheld tablet.

Savvy consumers also enjoy the option of downloading entertainment programming to their personal mobile devices before the start of a trip.

It will come down to the level of convenience offered to the the busy traveler. Blake Thomas from Digiboo explains, "A customer doesn't have to plan ahead, or have ever downloaded one of our movies before. He or she can make the decision at the airport, just like buying M&Ms or magazines."

At this point, the Digiboo service is exclusive to Windows PC computer owners.

The service is priced at $3.99 per movie rental or $14.99 per movie purchase.  Consumers must provide their own flash drives and go online the first time the service is used, so that the computer used for viewing can be registered.

Source: Alexander, Steve, A movie in your pocket, Star Tribune, March 12, 2012, D1

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

When Good Causes are Poorly Advertised

While the cause and message should not be dismissed, this advertisement misses the mark by presenting an unrelatable image suggesting a life form from a distant galaxy, rather than a woman dealing with breast cancer.

I wonder what the people responsible for this advertisement (M&C Saatchi, London) were thinking when they picked this image?  It has the power to attract attention, but does it compel people to react in a beneficial way?

Gadgets/Items 2000 versus Gadgets/Items in 2012

funny graphs - Gadgets 2000 vs. Gadgets 2012

Your Graphjam Fix

funny graphs - Oh No, Did I just Finish My Work Email With "I Love You,"?

Venn diagrams from another perspective...

Tax Deductions You Shouldn't Even Try

1.  The cost or expenses for your car if your company's name is on it.

Putting the name of your business on your car doesn't allow you to deduct all of your vehicle-related expenses.  You may deduct business, charitable and medical miles of the percentage of total expenses used for business, based on total miles.

2.  Life insurance premiums

These aren't deductible because the proceeds of a policy come back to a beneficiary, tax-free.

3. Stock broker commissions

Commissions aren't deductible because if you're a buyer, the commission is added to the cost of your purchase, if you're the seller, it is removed from the amount received for the sale.

4.  Tax and insurance reserves

When you buy a house, you may be required to pay your taxes or insurance in advance of the actual bill in something called an escrow account. These reserves are not deductible.

5.  Homeowners association fees

Homeowner fees for maintaining common areas are not deductible.

6.  Credit card interest

Any personal interest such are credit card interest is not deductible. There is an exception: If you use your credit card for business, pay interest on business purchases and can document it, then that interest is allowable.

7.  Moving expenses

You can deduct the cost of moving your goods and personal effects, and the cost of your travel to the new home, including lodging. But you can't deduct the cost of the meals in traveling. If you receive temporary housing from your employer before moving into your new home, its value must be reported as income.  Expenses for job-related house-hunting and temporary living expenses cannot be deducted.

8.  Losses inside an Individual Retirement Account

This can't be deducted because you've deferred the tax on the dollars in that account.

9.  Sewer, trash and garbage-collection fees that are billed


Cartier Runs Epic Three Minute Ad this Past Sunday

Cartier, a French jeweler, ran a 3.5 minute advertisement this past Sunday evening, March 18, on CBS, ABC and NBC television networks.  The advertisement featured a panther who breaks free of the Cartier diamond encrusted statue and then journeys through the an epic landscape.

It's estimated that Cartier spent over $3 million to run the ad on the three networks.  In 2010 and 2011 the company spent nothing on U.S. television advertising.

The extra-long advertisement  was designed to get viewers to stop and watch the commercial, something that happens with less frequency due to DVR recorders. 

It worked for me. As I was watching my recording of "The Good Wife," I stopped the fast forward to view the commercial, in part, because of its length and in part, because of it's fantasy setting.

Take a look for yourself.  If the video doesn't load on this page, click here.


And if you're wondering about the history and philosophy behind this advertisement, check this out.


Does the frequency of hair salon visits reflect the health of our economy?

A recent article by Tiffany Hsu in the LA Times suggests that recent increases in hair salon visits signals an economic recovery.  Homespun logic produces the equation of "better hair equals a better economy."

Beauty salon sales grew at a nearly 5.4% rate the last two years, compared with a 2.3% increase in 2009.  The consumer's return to salons is supposed to reflect the consumer's increased ability to pay for this service from their discretionary income but in reality there may be other factors such as price discounting causing the increase.

"A Professional Beauty Assn. index tracking the industry’s health and outlook reached record highs last year, with 57% of salon owners saying they saw a same-store sales increase between the first quarters of 2010 and 2011."

Was it machine rage or uncontrollable hunger that prompted this situation?

File photo (© Stephen Mallon/Getty Images) 

This is what happens when the company cafeteria is closed.

Bolingbrook Police Department Lt. Mike Rompa said 17 bags of chips, six Kit-Kats, eight Snickers bars, four packs of Reese’s peanut butter cups, two packs of Starburst, and $62 worth of change were produced by evening shift workers who shook a vending machine (while apparently on camera.)
The workers involved in the incident were charged with theft.  There's no news about whether or not they retained their jobs.


Wendy's Now the Number Two Biggest Burger Chain

In 2011, Wendy's outsold Burger King, unseating them from their long-held number two position. The revenue for the top three chains is shown below. McDonald's doesn't have much to worry about - their number one position is secured by a huge $25 billion sales lead between them and their major competitors.

1.  McDonald's  $34.2 billion

2.  Wendy's     $8.5 billion

3.  Burger King     $8.4 billion


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Can WE Get this On-Campus?

Your Weekly Graphjam Fix

funny graphs - Write Funny Title Here Later

Ten Simple Rules for Becoming a Millionaire

Eike Batista's new book: tips to become just as rich as he is.

He was a multimillionaire by the age of 23 and he's currently thought to be the 8th richest person in the world.

Eike Bastia, uber-entrepreneur, tells us wage earners how to become a millionaire in his new book,  “Eike Batista’s X Factor — The Path of Brazil’s Biggest Entrepreneur.”

I can't find the book on (apparently the English version isn't available), so we'll have to make do with his ten tips to accomplish said goal.

1. “Nobody is happy alone. To share experiences is always a good thing.”
2. “You grown as a person when you face your own challenges, or stressful moments, as I like to say. A good entrepreneur must be prepared to evolve in adversity.”
3. “The good seller is the one who is also a good listener.”
4.“Believe in yourself. If you doubt in yourself, you won’t be able to face your co-workers. Or the market, for that matter.”
5. “Don’t quit on the first adversity. Believe in your intuition, but try to be down to earth as well, paying attention to research and polls.”
6. “Don’t think you are unstoppable or foolproof. Don’t think that the only way your business will work is through perfection. Don’t aim for perfection. Aim for success.”
7. “To have a dream is one step closer to achieving something in life. The difference between the dreamer and the maker, though, is that the latter actually makes it happen.”
8. “Look forward; focus on what people don’t see at first sight.”
9. “Look at a business in all its depth and think of every detail with maximum accuracy and minimum risk.”
10. “Luck is important, as it is part of any project. But luck will only be present when the project is well designed.”


A Rivalry That Really Burns

 Managers of a Domino's Pizza restaurant in Florida torched their arch-rival, a nearby Papa John's Pizza.

Apparently Our Tastes are Not As Pure as the Brits'

Nestle is removing all artificial ingredients from the candy it sells in the United Kingdom.  Starting this year, all the flavors and dyes in its candy products will be derived from natural sources.

The company has no plans to do the same for their candy sold in the United States - proving once again that the British have do have a taste for the finer things.


Reflect This!

Questionable Marketing Campaign of the Day

Do you suppose this works? This transit ad for Panorama Hair, self-professed hair loss specialists, does a great job of reflecting their service on potential customers.  

One thing is certain, this situation is sure to produce some laughs - but will it be at the expense of the very guys it is trying to attract?

Why does this make me think of a juiced up Arnold Palmer drink?

 - Canned Cocktail of the Day

If our northern neighbors in Canada acquire a taste for this new iced tea-flavored beer (caffeine-free!) during its test-marketing stage, then this new product will be rolled out in the U.S. by the Molson Coors Brewing Company. 

Does the thought of this product make you thirsty?  Maybe it will a couple of months from now.