Saturday, December 5, 2009
I defended my dissertation proposal in August and am about half-way through data collection (no thanks to the shameless nappers who mock me)
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Difficult To Tell If T.J. Maxx Hit Hard By Recession
CHICAGO—While a majority of the nation's top retailers have reported a decided slump in 2008, economists studying the declining consumer markets are still unable to determine if discount clothing store T.J. Maxx has been affected by widespread recession.
Financial analysts, observing more than 100 locations nationwide, cited large quantities of off-brand and wildly scattered merchandise as evidence that T.J. Maxx has either been devastated by the economic downturn, or is carrying on as usual in spite of it.
"The state of this store does not in any way correspond to our standard criteria for judging long-term viability," said economist Graham Stinson, referring to Chicago's Fullerton Avenue branch, where more than half of the fluorescent lights are burnt out. "For instance, the canvas bins heaped with broken stemware in aisle six may be a sign that T.J. Maxx is on the verge of complete bankruptcy. Either that, or it's doing perfectly fine. It's impossible to say which."
Further evidence of T.J. Maxx's imminent foreclosure or, possibly, its wholly unaffected condition, included reports of shoppers rummaging through barrels of lamps up to their shoulders, multiple sightings of bras stuffed into children's shoes, the impromptu sale of in-store display cases for cash, and an excess of golf-based giftware.
Although economists were able to make firsthand observations of customers rifling through overturned clothing racks, their requests to analyze the company's financial records were met with confusion. Stinson and his team were eventually provided with a water-stained folder of handwritten receipts, but failed to make use of most of the data due to its ripped, soiled, and often indecipherable state.
Compiled interviews with customers also provided little insight. Many reported seeing "Cash Only, No Refunds" signs posted in every store and recalled having to climb over sacks of winter coats to reach clearance bins of mix-and-match earrings, leading economists to believe that the discount chain may be suffering after all.
"They must be doing really badly if they're selling this crap really cheap," said Lake Forest, IL resident Brian Crowe, carrying an armful of L.A. Gear sneakers to his car. "You've got to take advantage before this place shuts its doors for good."
Others, however, see T.J. Maxx poised to have a very lucrative year in 2009.
"That place must be doing pretty well," frequent customer Mark Rankin said. "I just saw some guy walking around with an armful of L.A. Gear sneakers."
With only one checkout lane remaining in most stores, some financial experts speculate that the retailer can no longer afford to employ workers. A two-week study of a Cleveland-area location did, however, turn up some minor evidence of a workforce, including the sighting of three folded shirts and a number of individuals smoking and playing Uno in the break room.
"Our analysis of T.J. Maxx's workforce was inconclusive, as we were never totally sure anyone was actually employed there," economist Libby Archer said. "Although, I suppose the lack of a distinct uniform could be a sign that they're doing well enough to move to a more upscale, boutique-type image for the store. That woman I saw drop a load of 20 sweaters onto a table of hats might have been the lead salesgirl."
"She did tell me to get the fuck out of her way," Archer added.
Economists were, however, able to locate a single store manager after months of searching. James Boucher, who runs the domestic department of the Smyrna, GA location, was found weeping in the middle of a sock aisle and was unable to comment on the store's current financial status—a sign that may suggest the overall mood at T.J. Maxx is more dire than previously thought.
"Oh, Jim is crying all the time," said possible coworker Anita Rouse. "He's been breaking down in tears once a day since he started here nine years ago."
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
I consider myself to be something of a water bottle connoisseur - I always have one on me and have at one time owned most of the greats including the classic and updated Nalgenes, Klean Kanteen, Kor, and the good old plastic Evians. Although I have made good use of the aforementioned bottles, I'd yet to find the bottle. As such, my ears perked up when, while on the cruise, Maggie claimed to have found the "perfect" water bottle - the Nissan thermos ( http://www.amazon.com/Therrmos-Nissan-Stainless-Backpack-Bottle/dp/B000K604P0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1248100604&sr=8-1 ). Though I was intrigued, I'd been down that road before: someone takes a casual sip from their newest sporty accessory then casually mentions how their life has been revolutionized by the bottle that is getting cooler and cooler the longer you look at it. Skip to two months later after you've invested in the bottle for yourself only to find that the lid doesn't stay on and the bottle doesn't stay upright. Suffice it to say I had my doubts. But Maggie made drinking out of that thing look like so much fun - I had to try it. I've had mine now for about a week. After much contemplation and experimentation, I feel I am in a decent position to review it. Here are my thoughts:
This past week we twice had the opportunity to play Colosseum - once when Mat's friend Mike was in town and then again over the weekend with Maslow and Katrina. Colosseum is a Days of Wonder game that has been well reviewed (according to the sites I viewed when trying to find a good board game to get Mat for his birthday). In general, I like this game - the aim is to put on the best "performance" over five rounds. Each round has five phases in which players either 1. invest, 2. bid on necessary performance components, 3. trade components, 4. put on a show, and 5. tally points. My critique is that 5 rounds each with 5 phases is a bit cumbersome. I have found it difficult to plan far enough in advance to make the most of the later rounds, which are ultimately the most important. I think the game would be much improved with one less round, although Mat pointed out that doing so would require some tweaking to the overall design. In general, this is a game I'd recommend! B
Mat's friend Jason was in town last weekend. He and I are remarkably similar with the exception of one glaring distinction - he requires very little sleep. I decided to take the Jason challenge when he was staying with us, which entails going to bed after him, waking up before him, and drinking... well, there's no point in trying to keep up with him on that front, so the challenge in this domain is really just to function on very little sleep while also sipping on something during the evening. I was sure I'd beaten him on Saturday morning. I of course ended up totally disappointed when I learned that he wasn't still in bed when I came down stairs that morning, rather, he was making small talk outside with the neighbors while finishing up a book he'd started that morning while waiting for me and Mat to wake up. At the end of the weekend all I had to show for myself was a broken finger thanks to some hardcore Wallyballing. Suffice it to say I lost the Jason challenge... AGAIN!
Monday, July 13, 2009
Legendary pop music parodist Weird Al Yankovic has written a touching remembrance for Rolling Stone about the passing of Michael Jackson.
Yankovic, who parodied both Beat It (Eat It) and Bad (Fat), reveals on the magazine's website that Michael was a gracious man who didn't mind being poked fun of and was an avid fan of Weird Al's movie UHF.
The first time around I pursued Michael Jackson about a song parody, it was a shot in the dark. We're talking about the most popular and famous person in the known universe, and here I was, this goofy comedy songwriter. He not only returned our phone calls, but he approved it. He thought it was a funny idea. Then when we did the second parody, "Fat," he was nice enough to let us use his subway set for the video, so he's always been very supportive.
The first time I met him in person was long after I had gotten permission to do "Eat It" back in 1984. There's a contract somewhere that has his signature next to mine, proving that we are the co-writers of "Eat It," which is surrealistic in and of itself. The first time I actually ran into him was backstage at one of his concerts, this was maybe four years later, when Even Worse came out with my second parody, "Fat." I went backstage, and he was seeing a lot of people, but I brought along a gold record of Even Worse to present to him, and he was very gracious and thanked me for it and said some nice things. After the fact, I thought, "That's probably the last thing Michael Jackson needs, another gold record for his storage locker." Seeing him in person was amazing, it was otherworldly. He was and continues to be so iconic, it's hard to even conceive of him as a human being. He always was bigger than life.
Our second meeting was a TV show taping. He was performing "Black or White," and I remember Slash was onstage and I talked to [Michael] briefly afterwards. He told me he would play my movie, UHF, for his friends at Neverland Ranch, and he was very soft-spoken, very quiet, but always very friendly to me.
I considered parodying "Black or White" around that time. Michael wasn't quite so into it, because he thought "Black or White" was more of a message song, and he didn't feel as comfortable with a parody of that one, which I completely understood, and in a way, he did me a huge favor, because I was already getting pegged as the guy who did Michael
Jacksonparodies, and because he wasn't so into it, I decided to go with Nirvana, which wound up revitalizing my career. I don?t know what kind of career I would have today if it hadn't been for Michael Jackson. In a very real sense, he jump-started my career. "Eat It" basically changed me from an unknown into a guy that got recognized at Burger King.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
The Washington Post is reporting that Michelle Obama has released a statement saying she does not wear fur after Carla Bruni released a similar statement to PETA. This is a huge step forward, although it is important to note that in her statement Carla Bruni made the erroneous, albeit far too common assumption, that animal skin used to produce leather is always a biproduct of the meat industry. For more information regarding how your leather is actually procured, please see the video following the article. The video is disturbing, but not nearly as disturbing as the fact that millions of people will refrain from educating themselves about the realities of this industry because the truth is too upsetting, yet will continue to buy leather as if what they're buying is some how exempt from the truth they consider too horrific to even acknowledge.
Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni: Down with Fur!
One day after French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy told PETA that she no longer wears real fur, made her own animal-friendly announcement.
"Mrs. Obama does not wear fur," deputy press secretary Semonti Mustaphi said.
Obama and Bruni-Sarkozy - who have met twice in recent months - are both widely known as celebrity fashion icons as well as prominent political wives.
PETA pushed Carla Bruni-Sarkozy - who was photographed wearing what appeared to be real fur - in particular to donate her coats to the homeless.
"I do not wear, buy or own fur or animal skin other than leather or skin of animals raised for feeding purposes," she wrote to PETA, adding, "I am not a vegetarian, and I don't find it illogical to wear skins of animals whose meat is eaten."
Could a Carla Bruni nude PETA campaign be in the works? Here's hoping!
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FUR REAL: Don't expect Michelle or Carla to don mink coats anytime soon.
Unlike Carla, Michelle wasn't targeted by PETA, which says the wife of is "known to be fur-free," according to PETA's media coordinator, Amanda Schinke.
Still, the mother of Malia and Sasha followed suit with the former supermodel, releasing a statement that fur will never be part of the First Lady's famous wardrobe.
"For Michelle Obama, respecting animals is part of the social progress that she and her husband are working so hard to promote," PETA Senior V.P. Dan Mathews said.
"By officially rejecting fur, these two style icons will make people around the world see fur for what it is: old-fashioned and cruel."
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Perez Hilton's site, which boasts an average of between 2 and 4 million unique visitors a day, came out in support of PETA's faux initiative. Way to go Perez (a phrase that Duke psychology students the world over recognize as the highest complement)!
Not to mention that it can take three to four crocodiles to make one bag, which can sell for almost $50,000!
So we figured it was only a matter of time before PETA spoke out about the craziness of breeding crocodiles for fashion.
And, indeed, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has released a statement. The animal lovers say:
The thought of purposely breeding and killing crocodiles for an outdated, overpriced handbag should make any fashionista's skin crawl. If Hermes really wants to be a leader in the fashion industry, it should stop killing animals for cold-blooded vanity and use cruelty-free mock croc and fake snake instead.
As Pink—who recently provided the voice of a computer-generated crocodile in PETA's "Stolen for Fashion" commercial—says, "Killing animals for their skins is so disgusting that it doesn't make me want to befriend designers who use them."
Faux is in!
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
I recently finished Wally Lamb's "I know this much is true". I have been avoiding it for years having been less than impressed with his first book, "She's come undone". I'm happy to report that Lamb's latest is brilliant. The first chapter introduces you to the narrator's schizophrenic twin brother. As a student of clinical psychology I cringed to think of how the author would dramatize, exaggerate, underestimate, and unrealistically portray the reality of schizophrenia. To my surprise, Lamb did his research and provided a clinically accurate portrayal of the disease and the deleterious effects it has on those coping with it. Therapy, as it was explored in the context of the novel, appeared true to form and the detail Lamb uses to depict the mental health system is startling on point. In short, although Lamb failed to create a believable female protagonist in his first book, he was triumphant in his attempt to characterize an equally as complicated narrator in this latest text. Although Lamb's work resembles Hugo's in length, his story telling is more akin to Lahiri's and, as such, I think most would find the length tolerable. My only qualm with Lamb's latest is the ending. I won't spoil it for those who've yet to enjoy it, but suffice it to say that the "happily ever after" conclusion was jarringly discordant with the rest of the story. I'd give this one an A-