Bonnie Robinson Beck from Larchmont, New York, has always wondered why butter cubes are long and skinny in the east, and short and squat in the west. Where do the two sizes meet, and why did this come about?
Until we got this question I had no idea this was a thing. But then I moved to Los Angeles, and it's true: I grew up with long, skinny sticks of butter in the east… and out here they are short and fat…
As we've learned, there is an expert out there for absolutely everything. The University of California Davis used to have a Dairy Research and Information Center. I say "used to have" because it was basically one guy who's now retired. His name is John Bruhn, and I called him up.
He said that the West Coast used to be very far behind in terms of dairy production. In his words, "In the 1960s the West Coast was [deficient] in terms of milk production to make...dairy bi-products like cheeses – and butter in particular. All our milk went to fluid needs. Whole milks, low fat milks and non-fat milks, for example."
Basically there was enough milk to drink, and that was about it. But it changed quickly – in fact, California was on its way to becoming the number one dairy producing state.
However, because the butter industry started so much earlier in the east than it did in the West....
"...the size of the cube you see is a result of newer equipment purchased at the time to package the butter," Bruhn says.
Now, that kind of answers the question, but when you stumble upon the nation's foremost dairy research institution, you've got to go further. So I did some digging deep in the annals of UC Davis's archives, and I found this old research paper written in 1948 by a researcher named Milton E. Parker. Turns out, the reason so many items in the grocery store come in a sealed bag inside of a cardboard carton is because of a guy named Frank Peters. He created that design for a line of crackers called "Uneedas" back in 1889.
It was revolutionary. It kept the crackers fresh and stopped them from breaking.
Like everyone else, the butter industry thought the "Peter's package" idea was great. For a long time, butter had been shipped in wooden tubs and scooped out into cheese cloth dipped in ice water, then handed to customers in a ball – not the most appetizing sell. This new packaging made it clean and more appealing. Plus, customers could tell they were getting the right amount.
Butter was traditionally sold a pound at a time, so they made the box to fit a pound. A restauranteur in New Orleans wrote a letter to his butter supplier, Swift and Company in Hutchinson, Kansas, and asked if he could get ¼ pound sticks. He was a big buyer so they complied, the idea caught on, and that's when the stick as we know it was born.
A lot of people continue to be passionate about butter. In fact, since 2007, Land O' Lakes actually started making both sizes to sell in different parts of the country.
And finally, for the record: The long and skinny sticks of butter are called Elgin, because that's the company that made the machines. The other ones are called "Western Stubbies."
Eric Hesse is a fisherman based in Cape Cod. Here's how he describes his job:
When I started, there were hundreds of boats that would go out especially in the winter chasing codfish. But there aren’t really any codfish left.
They were severely depleted by overfishing and it’s made for kind of a bleak picture. There’s no telling when it’s going to come back. We’ve started to look for alternatives and the dogfish is one of those that’s really hard to ignore since the ocean is full of them.
Dogfish is a good tasting fish but a hard one for us to market. The name isn’t particularly attractive and right now the only market for dogfish is in Europe. In Italy, it’s spinarolo and in Britain and Spain and France, it’s fish and chips…or fish and chips.
It’s great that we have a market. It’s unfortunate that the market we have results in a very low price to the boats here on the order of 15 to 20 cents a pound to the boat. It’s hard to make a go with those prices.
My kids are about to go off to college. And from the time they were about 4 years old, they said 'we’re going to be the best fishermen ever!' They haven’t said that the last few years because they’ve seen that it’s been getting harder and harder and there’s not a lot of excitement or great moments anymore. I think the next generation probably enjoys fishing as much as I did or any other generation did. I think if the dogfish took off and we had domestic markets, there is room for younger people to get involved.
It’s one of the greatest jobs you can have. You can’t beat the view, nobody tells you what to do, and the harder you work, historically, the better you do. It’s a great way to go about making a living when there’s something to catch.
Hear more stories in our Disappearing Jobs series:
This week, we want to hear how things that could be considered vices have affected your financial life. Cigarettes, video games, pot...whatever your predilection, we want to know.
North Carolina forcibly sterilized thousands of people between 1929 and 1976. The state has begun compensating victims, but some who were sterilized may never receive restitution from the fund.
After a four-day visit to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, she reports progress — along with the need for continued support.
There's potentially some good news about Ebola: While cases are still rising in Sierra Leone, the outbreak shows signs of slowing in Liberia. Communities are banding together to get Ebola out.
A Florida jury found Dante Martin guilty of manslaughter for his role in the fatal hazing of drum major Robert Champion.
In a no-frills gym, on 16th street in Manhattan, a group of young athletes is getting down to lifting some serious weights. The guys here are strength training, and amidst the concentration, sweat and grunting, as legs and arms are clenched and unfurled, you can practically feel the tiny muscle fibers tearing. The teenagers here are part of Xavier High School's rugby team, and they are serious about their workout.
If they work hard enough, some of them could end up at the Olympics one day playing rugby.
Rob Spenser, dressed for Halloween outside his job at a café serving Australian food. Until recently, rugby has been seen as something of a novelty in the U.S.Sally Herships
For the first time since 1924 (when the USA beat France to take the gold) rugby is going to the Olympics. And in case you suffer from American-itis when it comes to the world of international sports, i.e, your knowledge of rugby does exist, but is abstract – then let us offer you a description from 16-year-old, Jack Palillo, a junior at Xavier High School:
“It’s a game played by gentlemen, but it’s a ruthless game,” he says. "The people that play the game, they’re pretty scary and mean. But after every single game, usually you have some kind of reception. And the people who are your enemies five minutes ago, you’re eating lunch with them."
Palillo plays 15-a-side rugby. The teams playing at the Olympics will use seven players. But either way, rugby is a cross between football and soccer. You can’t throw the ball forward, and the players don’t wear helmets. And for American Pro athletes there’s another difference, which even high-schooler Palillio is aware of:
“You’re definitely not getting paid as much,” he says.Sixteen-year-old Jack Palillo, sweating after his workout calls rugby players “animals.”Sally Herships
While it packs stadiums elsewhere, rugby simply isn't a big deal in the U.S. Since the announcement that the sport would be played in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, tiny bubbles of anticipation and excitement have started to percolate through the industry, but depending on whom you ask, it can be hard to tell what kind of difference the news has made. At the Times Square office of Michael Principe, CEO of The Legacy Agency, a sports marketing and management company, the decor is all-American. Football, basketball, and baseball memorabilia fill his office, but there's only one rugby item - a lone jersey, framed and hung on the wall.
"Candidly, we didn’t spend a ton of time thinking about rugby five years ago. We didn’t spend a ton of time thinking about it three years ago,” says Principe.
But now the Legacy Agency is thinking about rugby. When a sport goes to the Olympics, "it's a big deal."
Notes Principe, when the Olympics goes out to TV viewers around the world, NBC and other sponsors will spend ungodly amounts of money on broadcast rights and commercials – "billions of dollars."
And this is an extra-special case.
"It’s not often that the United States is considered a developing market," says Principe, "an emerging market, but with rugby, it is."
But ask the folks who run the national rugby team, and they say finding funding is a different story.
“There was a perception around the world that the minute the game went Olympic, suddenly everybody would be throwing tons and tons of dollars at all the big Olympic countries,” says Nigel Melville, CEO of USA Rugby, the national governing body for the sport.
Melville says the Russians and Chinese both threw government money at their rugby teams, but in the U.S., not so much.
"The biggest challenge over here is there is no government funding," says Melville of finding money to subsidize an Olympic team, "it’s reliant on sponsors and fundraising.”
Melville says the athletes training for the Olympics get a stipend – but it's only about $20,000 a year. As for the Eagles, there’s a donate button on the team's website.
There is a small payment for team members, but it's not enough to live on, says Mike Petri, who, when he's not working as a science teacher, or coaching Xavier High's rugby team, plays scrum-half. Petri says he considers himself a professional athlete in the way he approaches the game, but not in the financial sense, but he says, he's very hopeful for the future of the sport in the states. Being part of rugby now, he says, is like working for NASA.
"Realizing that we could send people to Mars," he says. "Personally, I’m probably not going to be the person that goes to Mars, but if I were in NASA I'd be really excited and really pumped for the guys who did get to go."
But there's another draw beyond salary for 16-year-old Xavier High School team member John Patterson to playing rugby.
“It’s kind of associated with [the] foreign, but yet manliness, so, that’s always good,” he says.
Rugby, while exotic to some Americans, still possesses a familiar allure.
"When we play," says Patterson, "we're right by the bus stop, and everyone stops and watches."
No matter how bad or good your financial situation is, what's one thing you will always spend money on? Do you feel guilty?
According to a poll released this week by Bankrate.com. Two-thirds of Americans are watching what they spend each month.
Last week we asked listener’s to tell us their stories of what they will not give up – even when their budgets are tight. Many listeners wrote in.
Nanette Karapetian, a Psychoanalyst in Los Angeles, spoke to Marketplace Weekend about your guilty pleasures.
Where do you live? Health specialists think that simple question could make a difference in how doctors prevent and treat diseases for individuals. That's expanding its storied role in public health.
Fear of the virus has prompted Pyongyang to ban tourism and quarantine all foreigners. It's a curious stance since the Hermit Kingdom has plenty of other, more pressing health woes.
Retailers, who were expected to hire more than 700,000 seasonal workers this holiday season, are increasingly relying on online outreach to reach potential workers.
FedEx, which combined with UPS planned to hire 150,000, says it’s relied heavily on social media this season.
“Word of mouth is always a popular way to get more people on board,” says FedEx spokesperson Bonny Harrison. “We also highly target on… various career websites, and you’ll see this year that we’re using social media very heavily to try to promote and advertise the fact that we have these jobs open.”
Companies looking for holiday seasonal workers are casting a wide net and getting creative with their recruiting efforts this year, says Ellen Davis with the National Retail Federation. That’s because unemployment is down, and there are fewer people looking for seasonal or temporary work.
“What we’ve seen on a national level is retailers really using their recruiting efforts by email and even leveraging their own social media channels,” Davis says.
Companies are also getting creative. Retailers, for instance, may approach potential candidates who might be looking for a second part-time job or who can be enticed by the potential of getting employee discounts during the holiday shopping season.
But once the applications start flowing in, much of the work heads to the local and regional levels, Davis says. “And what you then start to see happening is on the local level… managers will collect applications, go through them, interview and hire candidates.”
It’s a divide-and-conquer strategy. If you have to hire lots of people at once, empower local managers to hire a few each.
"Meeting the person who’s going to make the decision, in this case it’s often the store manager, is critical,” says John Challenger of the Chicago-based job placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
But for those big hiring drives, such as UPS which has held regional recruiting and interviewing events in Chicago in which it processed hundreds of applicants at a time, Challenger says it’s still mostly about matching up open positions with applicants' past experiences.
The government had proposed taxing Internet usage, but opponents claimed it the government was trying to impose a digital iron curtain on Hungary.
The Virgin Galactic Spaceship Two was undergoing a test flight when it crashed in the California desert. The spaceship is designed to take tourists to space.
The study ranks Internet service providers in a few ways, says Nick Russo, a policy analyst at the Foundation. But the most interesting for consumers is the speed you can get for $40 in the cities.
“Seoul, Hong Kong and Tokyo rank in the top three,” Russo says.
San Francisco is number six but LA, New York and Washington are at the bottom of the list. That means a lot of Americans are basically paying more money for slower service. Why is that?
Christopher Yoo, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Law School, says it’s simple.
“Seoul, Hong Kong and Tokyo are all the result of massive government subsidies,” he says.
Those countries have invested about $300 million for that fast, affordable service, Yoo says. But that’s not going to happen in the U.S., where Congress is looking to makes cuts in the budget for internet services
Al Hammond, a professor at Santa Clara University’s School of Law, says there’s another force at play.
“I think it’s the lack of competition,” he says.
Hammond says, unlike other countries, the big Internet service providers in the U.S. aren’t required to rent out their broadband pipes to smaller ISPs. That means people in some cities are limited to one or two choices for internet service. And Hammond says some smaller cities are trying to provide cheaper, faster service to their citizens but the big ISPs are fighting that effort.
If you're craving a pumpkin spice latte but are tired of waiting in line to get one, you're in luck.
Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, said world's biggest coffee company is going to roll out a delivery service. The service will be available through the Starbucks mobile app starting in the fall of 2015.
"Imagine the ability to create a standing order that Starbucks delivered hot or iced to your desk daily," Schultz said.
We are, Mr. Schultz. We are.
Leigh Gallagher, an Assistant Managing Editor at Fortune magazine, and Cardiff Garcia, from the blog FT Alphaville join Kai to talk about the week in review.
Listen to the full conversation using the audio player above.
Just days away from midterm elections, depending on where you live, you might be getting bombarded by political ads on TV and radio. Meet one of the people behind the curtain.
Jeff Trueman runs a company called High Gravity Sounds. He works with producers and post production houses to create custom sound design. This time of year, he's busy producing music for campaign ads.
Listen to the full story in the audio player above.
It used to be that if you really wanted to scare economists and the public, you need only mention one terrifying word: inflation. But really, inflation is a lot like candy. A little bit here and there makes your life so much better, and — as millions of kids are bound to find out this weekend — too much leads to ruin.
One of the goals of Quantitative Easings I through III was to stimulate inflation up to a point; 2 percent was the Federal Reserve's stated goal. And even though inflation never quite reached that target, QE is ending.
Now Japan is picking up the torch. For decades, the once booming economic powerhouse has been suffering from stagnation, or to put it another way, a lack of inflation.
“Japan wants inflation,” says economist Justin Wolfers. “Last night they announced that they were going to buy even more bonds because they aren’t getting as much inflation as they wanted.”
So why do Japan, the U.S. and Europe want to stimulate inflation? Because inflation, in the right amount, is a sign of economic growth. In a healthy economy, wages increase steadily. In turn, businesses raise prices and that leads to inflation.
At the moment, wages in the U.S. and Japan are down when adjusted for inflation and lots of people are still looking for work. “Those of us that have jobs probably don’t feel comfortable asking for a raise, and all those people looking for work are willing to accept work at fairly low wages,” says Wolfers. “So all of that puts downward pressure on wages.”
Typically the first thing a government can do to boost the economy, cut unemployment and raise inflation is lower interest rates. But, says economist Josh Bivens, “the short term interest rates that the Fed controls directly, have been stuck at zero since about 2008 and interest rates can’t go below zero.”
Which is why the Federal Reserve and now Japan have turned to the more unconventional tool, buying trillions of dollars in bonds.
But these tools don’t get used in a political vacuum. People disagree about how much stimulus to inject into the economy. That makes finding the right amount of stimulus harder than getting a kid to sit still after eating a bag of candy.
Rita Jeptoo, the accomplished marathoner who holds the course record at Boston, has reportedly tested positive for a banned substance. The Majors said it's awaiting a decision by the governing body.