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April, 2010:

MI Governor to sign texting ban on the Oprah Show

As if we needed any more proof that the push for cell phone bans is driven emotion and fear more than rational debate. But I guess since the main effect of this legislation is to appease stay-at-home moms and technophobic seniors, signing the bill on the Oparh show is probably a good stunt.

WNEM has the details:

LANSING, Mich. — A ban on the use of cell phones to send text messages or e-mail while driving in Michigan will be signed into law by Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Friday’s “TheOprah Winfrey Show.”

The Michigan House passed the third and final bill in a texting ban package by an 82-22 vote Wednesday. The Senate already has passed the bill.

The Legislature passed the main bills in the package earlier this month.

The ban is to take effect July 1. It makes texting a primary offense, meaning police could pull over motorists for texting alone.

A first offense would cost $100 and repeat offenses would cost $200.

I’ve said it before, but it is worth repeating. According to a comprehensive study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (who supports such laws), banning cell phones in cars does not save any lives. None.

Cracking eggs, made easy

Just the other day I was thinking that the drudgery of cracking eggs was really cramping my style. Fortunately, after thousands of years of hassle, American innovators have found a way to save us from the minor inconveniences that come from making breakfast.

Introducing: The EZ-Cracker, a tool that helps you crack eggs. It can even do the scrambling for you. If that is not progress, I don’t know what is.

God Bless America!

(Hat tip, Donn)


American sodaThe Philadelphia soda tax, which would have slapped a two cent per ounce tax on soda, juice and other sugary drinks, appears to be dead.

Needless to say, this is tremendous news as the soda tax as proposed would have almost certainly ended free refills in the city of brotherly love. It is time to drink a Super Big Gulp in celebration!


Signs of progress [photos]

I know a lot of Americans love their dogs, but I am not one of them. They smell bad. They are a lot of work. They are expensive and they tend to bark and bite. Plus, the small ones have always seemed a little Parisian to me. If I could ban all dogs I would do it in a heartbeat. Absent that, I cherish new regulations they keep neighborhoods and public spaces free of the four-legged menace.

Naturally, I was happy to see this sign at New York’s Hudson River Park.


Signs of demise [photos]

De-industrialization leaves a lot of scars: shuttered factories, broken communities and a general sense of hopelessness. But the one I hadn’t anticipated—and found particularly troubling—is when all-night diners are forced to scale back their hours because the plant closed and the customer based dried up. Apparently the spread of 24-hour technology is not irreversible after all.


It's not open 24-hours anymore, just blank hours....

Michigan did it [distracted driving]

From Gongwer:

The House has just approved a move to make texting while driving a primary offense.

The Republican-controlled Senate passed the primary offense measure after the House originally had approved making texting while driving a secondary offense, meaning a police officer would have to pull someone over for another traffic violation to cite a person for also texting while driving.

HB 4394, which passed 74-33, is tie-barred to a similar measure comprised in SB 468, which the House has not taken up for a vote yet. The Senate will have to concur in the House changes before all the bills become law (HB 4370).

The ban would take effect July 1.

Per Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates, I predict this will save zero lives.

(Hat tip: John)

Happy Patriots’ Day! [Massachusetts and Maine only]

235 years ago, Massachusetts militia members fired on British troops in the towns of Lexington and Concord setting off the Revolutionary War. Today the start of the American Revolution is only officially celebrated in Maine and Massachusetts, which is ironic because I’m pretty sure Massachusetts is part of the European Union—or at least that is what Fox News led me to believe.

Here is a nice Schoolhouse Rock video in case you need a quick refresher on your American Revolution history.

Is the Double Down the most delicious sandwich ever?

Nate Silver over at FiveThirtyEight ran the nutrition numbers on KFC’s new Double Down and found that it just may be the most unhealthy sandwich ever. It is not so much that the Double Down has a load of calories (it only has 540), but rather that it contains more sodium, fat and cholesterol per calorie than any other burger he looked at.

Of course when I hear about something with a lot of salt and fat I generally start licking my lips. After all, these are the flavors that make food so delicious and there is some evidence we are addicted to them.

So while the Double Down may be the most unhealthy sandwich ever from a ‘nutrition’ stand point. The flip side is that packs in more deliciousness in each bite than any other sandwich on the market today.

American food science at its finest!

Why does French espresso suck?

Coffee, Cup and BeansIt is no secret why French coffee sucks.  It is because instead of brewing it properly they use the instant variety. But if you ask a Frenchmen about this, he will most likely reply that real French don’t drink “weak American-style coffee,” they drink espresso. The Nescafe Instant Coffee in every store, he’ll say, is just there so tourists have something to drink.

This is a lie, Europeans are second only to Asians in consuming instant coffee. But even if it were true, it does not explain why France, the cafe capitol of the world, has such horrible Espresso.

The New York Times steps in to answer the question.

I want to put it in stronger terms, but I’ll leave it to Duane Sorensen of Stumptown Coffee Roasters, who once asked me: “Why does the coffee in Paris suck so bad?”

Why, indeed?

Maybe it’s because Paris cafes do all the little things wrong: old beans, over-roasted beans, second-rate machines. Coffee is ground in batches, not to order. Order a café crème or noisette and out comes a box of U.H.T. milk, a shelf-stable dairy product. Even the venerable Cafés Verlet (256 rue Saint-Honoré, 011-33-01-42-606-739) ignores a basic rule and keeps roasted beans in open barrels.

The composition of most espresso blends doesn’t help things. James Freeman of Blue Bottle Coffee often points out that the French have a taste for robusta, a low-cost, low-quality bean that gives good crema but can taste thin and harsh. Or, to paraphrase a conversation I had with Corby Kummer, drinking robusta is like putting balsa wood in your mouth.

So there you have it. Not only do the French drink loads of low-quality instant coffee, they also cut corners when brewing their espresso. If you want a quality cup of coffee next time you’re traveling in Paris, you best bet it to find the nearest McDonald’s or Starbucks.  Thankfully they’ve just opened up a new McDonald’s in the Louvre.

(Hat tip: Joey)

“Taxes will keep Democracy on the march!” [video]

A great video from 1943, when we were much better at making the argument that paying your taxes—particularly during a time of war—is patriotic. The end of the video is quite good.

(E-mail subscribers will need to click through for the video)

I also love this video for its sweeping statements about freedom and democracy. We need more of that.

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