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Daily Office:


14 May 2010


Matins: The plight of Cynthia Norton, 52, sometime star secretary, currently unable to find anything better than Wal-Mart, is ably captured in Catherine Rampell's Times story, "In Job Market Shift, Some Workers Are Left Behind."

But since she was laid off from an insurance company two years ago, no one seems to need her well-honed office know-how.

Ms. Norton is one of 1.7 million Americans who were employed in clerical and administrative positions when the recession began, but were no longer working in that occupation by the end of last year. There have also been outsize job losses in other occupation categories that seem unlikely to be revived during the economic recovery. The number of printing machine operators, for example, was nearly halved from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2009. The number of people employed as travel agents fell by 40 percent.

This “creative destruction” in the job market can benefit the economy.

Pruning relatively less-efficient employees like clerks and travel agents, whose work can be done more cheaply by computers or workers abroad, makes American businesses more efficient. Year over year, productivity growth was at its highest level in over 50 years last quarter, pushing corporate profits to record highs and helping the economy grow.

But a huge group of people are being left out of the party.

Lauds: At WSJ, Marc Myers writes about the model jazz widow, Laurie Pepper. She's not alone; you can read about Dexter Gordon's widow, Maxine, not to mention Sue Mingus. (via Arts Journal)

Mrs. Pepper may have a solution. Years ago, rather than take name-exploiters to court, she decided to befriend them. "You can spend your life suing people or you can get them to help you for free or for a percentage of the profits," she said.

Many of Art Pepper's European performances in the late '70s and early '80s were secretly recorded. His widow discovered these bootleg recordings online by engaging global fans who swap discs of unreleased live performances. "When I reached out to some of these collectors by email, they were so passionate about Art that they wanted me to have perfect copies of the recordings, as a gift."

What did Mrs. Pepper do with the recordings? "They became the basis of my Widow's Taste CD releases," she says, laughing. "In this business, your best friends often turn out to be the people you thought you wanted to strangle."

In another Journal item with a posthumous bent, philanthropist David Koch is putting a term on the association of his name with his gifts. "Mr. Koch has imposed a legally binding expiration date on the naming rights attached to one of his biggest gifts, so that the rights eventually can be resold, he said. He is encouraging fellow philanthropists to take the same approach."

Prime: Hilarious: Five "new action items" for Lloyd Blankfein to keep in mind, courtesy of "trader" Michael Lewis. (Bloomberg; via Zero Hedge)

No. 5: Be careful not to say or do anything now that will constrain our ability, after this crisis has passed, to do whatever we want.

The other day, on your emergency conference call with our customers, you said that you wanted Goldman to be seen as a “leader in things like ethics.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself. If in the future we fail to be a leader in ethics we can point to your statement as evidence that we never intended to be a leader in ethics, merely in “things like ethics.”

To that end, I intend to compile a list of things like ethics, in which we might strive to be a leader, without risk to our profitability.

Tierce: Philips has unveiled the "World's First LED Replacement for Most Common Bulb." With luck, it will be in stores toward the end of this year. (Inhabitat; via Felix Salmon)

There are over 425 million 60 watt incandescent bulbs sold every year, which makes the energy-sucking globes the most commonly used bulbs in the United States. Lighting the way to a more energy-efficient tomorrow, Philips has just unveiled the 12-watt EnduraLED – the world’s first replacement for the commonly used 60 watt incandescent. The EnduraLED is capable of lasting 25 times longer than a standard incandescent and only consumes 20% of the energy. If all the bulbs in the states were switched to these LEDs it would save 32.6 terawatt-hours of electricity each year — enough energy to power 17 million homes....

The new bulbs work with standard dimmers and produce a soft white glow that is similar the light emitted by incandescent bulbs.

Sext: A partial account of the production of "Issue Zero" of 48 Hour Magazine — partial because the author, Lois Beckett, one of the magazine's editors, took time off to sleep, have a life. (SF Weekly; via Snarkmarket)

7:11 PM Transparency and magazine editing do not usually go together. As we're reading submissions, everything we say is streamed live on the Web, and anyone can watch and listen to what's happening. That means, conceivably, that a contributor could be listening to what the editors say as his or her piece is being read.

At one point, Honan looks up from his computer and notes that some commentors who are watching the livestream don't like the negative response to some of the entries. It's a tricky moment. As Rich points out, criticism and rejection are part of all editorial processes; what people are seeing is the way real magazines work. (A kinder version, even; magazine editors are not a gentle breed.)  At the same time, what's taken 48 Hour Magazine this far is the goodwill of the Internet. Everyone who submits won't be included in the print magazine, but part of the appeal of the project is that anyone could be. It's an experiment built on populism and inclusion. Now those principles are bumping up against editorial judgment.

It's a balance that you can watch playing out on the magazine's Twitter feed: first, "Submissions written in I Can Haz Cheezburger language will be disqualified" and then, the very next tweet, "Thanks to everyone who is having fun with this project. It's tremendously flattering and wonderful."

It's a reminder that the project's built on new attitudes as much as new technology, and both are a work in progress.

Nones: Robert Parry's exposé of the shell game that Rev Sun Myung Moon played so well for decades, but that's falling apart now that he's too old to play, is certifiably cranky, but fascinating withal. A very long read — perfect for your iPad. (; via MetaFilter, The Morning News) Here's a random snippet:

After the event, Menem told reporters from La Nacion that Bush had claimed privately to be only a mercenary who did not really know Moon. “Bush told me he came and charged money to do it,” Menem said. [La Nacion, Nov. 26, 1996]

But Bush was not telling Menem the whole story. By fall 1996, Bush and Moon had been working in political tandem for at least a decade and a half. The ex-President also had been earning huge speaking fees as a front man for Moon for more than a year.

Throughout these public appearances for Moon, Bush’s office refused to divulge how much Moon-affiliated organizations have paid the ex-President. But estimates of Bush’s fee for the Buenos Aires appearance alone ran between $100,000 and $500,000.

Sources close to the Unification Church told me that the total spending on Bush ran into the millions, with one source telling me that Bush stood to make as much as $10 million from Moon’s organization.

Vespers: We missed Kisty Logan's Millions droll piece on reasons for not reading books in her own library, so we're grateful to Michael Berger, at The Rumpus, for tipping us off

I know that I will love them and want to learn from them, and so I don’t read them: firstly because it is tiring to read that way, with your eyes and ears and brain constantly absorbing; and secondly because once I read them they will be over, the mystery will be revealed. Sometimes I hold these books in my hands and imagine what I will learn from them. These books have affected my writing, and I haven’t even read them. Maybe we can learn as much from our expectations of a story as we can from the actual words on the page.

Go to your bookshelves and pick a book you have not read. Hold it in your hands. Look at the cover and read the description on the back. Think about what the story might be about, what themes and motifs might be in it, what it might say about the world you inhabit, whether it can make you imagine an entirely different world. I suggest that the literary universe you just created might be more exciting and enlightening than the one contained within those covers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that book. It might prove to be a great book; the best book you have ever read. But your imagination contains every possible story, every possible understanding, and any book can only be one tiny portion of that potential world.

Compline: The super thing, in our view, about Frederic Filloux's sketch of "Profitable Long Form Journalism" — inspired by his experience so far with the iPad — is that it doesn't involve advertising. He has the idea of aggregating news stories into e-books. (Monday Note)

Now, let’s consider a large national daily selling 400,000 copies per day and assume that 2% of its buyers will purchase this riveting narration of the euro crisis; that translates into 8000 sales. Since the newspaper is already paying the writers and the editor, we’ll cap these two cost items at €10,000 for the month of work required by the project. Altogether, the e-book will make €44,000 before tax. This translates into a €20,800 margin for the newspaper acting as the publisher, a 47% gross profit margin — not bad in the news business!  And the risk is minimal: taking into account the €10,000 of pure editorial costs (writer + editor, which are due no mater what), the break-even point is around 2500 e-books, an easily achievable sales volume considering the promotional firepower wielded by a good newspaper. In addition, you get a fairly up-to-date journalistic product, one that can be versioned to reflect the subject’s fluidity.

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