In the last six weeks, lime prices have gone a little crazy: from around $0.30 a piece to more than $1.50 in some places
"I tell my staff, 'Lime is gold now,'" says KrystleLynn Kingcade, head bartender at Anejo, a Mexican restaurant and tequila bar in Manhattan. "If I see one on the floor, I see any bit that’s not used, I cry almost."
Anejo hasn’t raised the price of its margaritas, so it’s taking a big profit hit and it’s the worst possible time: Cinco de Mayo is one of Anejo’s busiest and booziest days. Kingcade has tried creating tasty alternatives for patrons: margaritas with watermelon and grapefruit and her latest investion: the lemonrita.
In spite of her efforts, Kingcade says patrons still prefer their margaritas with lime, which will mean a big financial hit for Anejo this Cinco de Mayo.
The U.S. gets pretty much all of its limes from Mexico. Political turmoil in the lime-producing region of Michoacán is the main push behind this price jump. "That region has been under the impact of drug cartels and then an offensive of the government to take control back," says Benito Berber, an economist at Nomura. Berber says drug cartels seized control of lucrative lime orchards in Michoacán and took over wholesale lime operations. Mexican authorities fought back and the conflict caused a big disruption in lime exports.
In addition to that, nature has thrown a couple curveballs of its own. "There has been some heavy flooding that region as well as citrus greening, which is this bacterial disease which has been slowly encroaching on a lot of the citrus crops in Mexico," explains Antal Neville, an agricultural analyst at IBISworld. Neville says the greening disease makes lime trees less productive and the limes a lot smaller. That adds up less supply, which is also pushing prices up.
Lime prices are expected to start normalizing over the next few weeks. Mexican authorities seem to have successfully pushed the cartels out of the lime business for now. Still, limes will likely get more expensive in the long run as farmers continue to battle the greening disease. So it could be a good time to develop a taste for alternatives…
You know, take lemons and make some lemonritas.
2 oz. Suerte Blanco tequila
0.5 oz. agave syrup
0.25 oz. Combier Orange
1 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Shake all ingredients together with ice and then double strain and pour over ice. Garnish with a citrus, mint salt.
Lucero Noyola's high school GPA - a flat 2.0 - reflects a life in two halves. When she started high school, Noyola was a troubled kid who cut class, experimented with drugs, and had been hauled to court for assaulting a classmate.
When she finished high school, life was far from perfect, but she was earnings straight As and was on a path toward the University of Southern California.
Noyola's parents, immigrants from Mexico, worked full-time. They were often out of the house and in their absence, there was chaos. When her older brother entered high school, he started bringing home friends - boys and young men who used the family's house as a place to hang out.
"I guess our home was attractive because there were no parents around, and they would hang out there and do what they didn't want to do around their own parents," Noyola said.
That included drugs. By the time she was 16, Noyola had experimented with pot, methamphetamines and cocaine. She and her twin sister, following in the footsteps of the young men around them, solved their problems by fighting.
"We were not dramatic girls, like the rest of the girls," Noyola said. "All that relational aggression - it was just different for us. It was physical."
Her early teen years were a blur of juvenile halls, house arrests, and, once, a camp for troubled youths, where Noyola remembers with horror, that even clothing was communal.
"The articles of clothing were so disgusting," Noyola said. "They were re-used. People would fight over new underwear and pretty jackets. It was gross and dirty there."
At sixteen, Lucero was removed from her parents care and sent to a group home. Her time in foster care would prove life-changing. At the Crittenton home in Fullerton, California, Lucero says she was, for the first time, treated like an individual who needed guidance, rather than a criminal. She was given her own room, and space for her belongings.
Joyce Capelle, CEO of Crittenton Services, says the organization understands there is sometimes a disconnect between the front that a troubled young person puts on, and what's actually going on inside.
"It's not unusual to have a really tough-talking sixteen-year-old who trash talks and wants to be all of that and makes it sound like they're forty, but at Christmas the thing they want is Cinderalla sheets," said Capelle.
At Crittenton, the young residents were taken on field trips. Noyola remembers one, in particular, to the campus of California State University, Fullerton. "The campus was gorgeous," Noyola said. "I had never been anywhere big, pretty, fancy. I had never realized people had lives like that."
Noyola began applying herself in school and took a job as a campus aide at the group home. When she returned to her parents' house, life was far from perfect, but she had a new goal: to improve her image.
"People see you by who you are on paper," Noyola said. "A lot of the adults I was around would have a paper in front of them, and judge me by that. I was motivated, at that point, to turn it around."
At eighteen, after she gave birth to her daugther, Lucero's father took her to apply for aid. There, she had something like an ephiphany.
"I was sitting there and I realized there were a lot of homeless people," she said. "And I was like, no. I don't want to be like this. I don't want to live like this. They're just going to be giving me two hundred dollars a month and some bus tokens and food stamps. See what life you can live with this. I didn't want it."
She asked her father to pick her up and take her instead to East Los Angeles college, a two-year school.
Her grades in community college were high enough to ensure her entry into the University of Southern California. Once there, she found that no one at the private university was familiar with the paperwork needed to ensure she could continue recieving TANF support while in school. That support was critical in helping her to afford daycare. So, she turned to Trojan Guardian Scholars, an on-campus support group at USC that helps former foster youth transition to life in college. Advisors with the Trojan Guardian Scholars helped her get the necessary paperwork.
Today, Noyola has a 3.5 GPA, a double major in pyschology and sociology, and a summer research internship in Dubai, studying migrant domestic workers. If she can continue to juggle motherhood, work, and her finances, she'd like to enter a PhD program. As for her future plans, she says, "Professor Noyola" sounds pretty good to her.
Every electronic device you've ever loved began its life as a semiconductor wafer, a disc of silicon, upon which are sketched the tiny patterns that make microchips work.
Chips are born in rather bizarre maternity wards: giant, multi-billion dollar so-called "cleanrooms," where humans and robots work side by side.
These cleanrooms have a culture all their own, starting with the creepy white suits that workers wear so they won’t contaminate the product.
Take a tour with Marketplace's Mark Garrison as he zipped himself into a bunny suit to acquire rare access inside one of the world's newest semiconductor cleanrooms, the GlobalFoundries facility in upstate New York.
Mark Garrison: You and I are disgusting compared to the GlobalFoundries cleanroom. My gear gets especially dirty looks.
In the microscopic world of chips, a speck of dust is like an oil spill. So cleanliness here makes Howard Hughes look like a Garbage Pail Kid.
Edward Cody: A small particle could contaminate months’ worth of production at one time.
Before I can go in, logistics manager Edward Cody makes sure every millimeter of me is covered with layers of suit, hood, gloves, glasses, boots and mask.
The door opens and we’re inside a sci-fi landscape the size of six football fields. It’s mostly giant robots and machines. The humans working here call them tools, as if they’re sold at Home Depot.
Cody: That scanner down there, which is about a $60 million wrench.
And there are rows of them. Just the machines we’re standing around cost more than Iron Man 3. This is an $8 billion dollar facility, and counting. It’s full of people in white bunny suits, looking all the same to me.
Technician Shawn Bukowski says he knows his cleanroom coworkers by their eyes.
Shawn Bukowski: Even the little bit that they show, their eyeballs. You know right away who’s who.
Cody shows off a semiconductor wafer in progress, a thin, shiny disc the size of a personal pizza.
Cody: There’s thousands and thousands of little patterns in there.
It’ll be chopped up and put into your smartphones, appliances and more. To workers, the destination is a mystery, by design.
Cody: We really don’t want anybody to know what that’s being used for. We don’t label things because of that.
A strange land of secrecy, spotlessness and crazy outfits, where all your tech is born. In Malta, New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.
"Get smarter in just 90 minutes a week!"
That sounds like the subject line of a piece of spam email pushing dubious pills. That said, I am offering (completely free of charge) a regimen that is guaranteed to leave you smarter about the economy we live in.
It's about the queue, people.
Next time you can do it when no one else is looking, take a peek at your queue. Your Netflix queue. Your list of Amazon Prime bookmarks. The videos on your wish list on iTunes. Look, I don't care if you are fixing to put the bag of popcorn in the microwave and settle down for an hour and twenty-five minutes of "The Nut Job," that's your right.
What I am saying is that I have figured out a way to make sure that my media consumption isn't a complete waste of brain cells by making one small alteration to my queue.
At least once a week, whether I am in the mood or not, I watch a feature-length documentary film. The documentary that first got me hooked on the form was Errol Morris' "The Thin Blue Line," (1998) about a miscarriage of justice in Texas. A good doc can teach so much about how the world works. Given my work, I often gravitate toward docs about the failures and promise of economics and business.
Take Alex Gibney's Oscar-nominated documentary from 2006, "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room." That film rocked, both in its approachable analysis of a complex subject and it rocked, literally. The ironic soundtrack included Tom Waits' "God's Away on Business" and a Marilyn Manson version of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)."
So what was in my personal queue for a recent weekend? Well, only two of the greatest documentaries of all time. I call it my Mongolian double-feature: "Genghis Blues," about a visually-impaired blues man from San Francisco who learns the Tuvan language before he travels to Mongolia to compete a throat singing contest. And then there's "The Story of the Weeping Camel," about a weeping camel. Really, it's fabulous.
And what does this have to do with the marketplace of jobs, business and economics?
That is covered by the third doc for the weekend viewing: "Detropia," the story of how parts of Detroit have become a wasteland and the heroes trying to bring the city back to life.
Check back in later, and I'll let you know whether you may want to consider sticking it in your queue.
Tom Jenkinson, aka Squarepusher, is known for pushing the limits of electronic music.
His latest EP goes beyond electronic sounds and into the territory of electronic musicians: robots that play instruments.
He first encountered the musical machinery last year when Japanese researchers introduced him to the Z-Machine robots: a 78-fingered guitarist, a percussionist utilizing 22 drums, and a lightning speed keyboardist. Jenkinson was immediately impressed by the robots' capabilities.
He also discovered that in spite of their incredible abilities, they are not limitless. In fact, Jenkinson even had fun playing with pushing the guitar robot too far:
"There are elements in the recording where I’ve actually deliberately pushed it too far, because you can then start to get these very strange, random, idiosyncratic...barrage of noise that I find really fascinating and quite interesting."
Ultimately, though, Jenkinson wanted to find out if robot musicians could make emotional music. While he is reluctant to say whether or not he succeeded, he's fairly certain that the album went a long way in providing an answer:
"I find technology fascinating in it’s own right, but my criteria for releasing a piece of music is that it has something above and beyond that. It has an element which can’t be written down, it can’t be quantified."
When you ask someone about their favorite piece of music, the conversation gets personal. Everyone feels music differently -- that's what makes it human.
It's why music and technology, at least to some people, seem like a mismatch. Machines are cold. Music is not.
Here's the thing: We use technology to make music all the time. No, I do not count the auto-tuned antics of Glee tracks released on iTunes. I'm talking about musicians using technology to compose, create, and record music. It's a relationship that gets deeper and more complex all the time. The place where music and technology cross paths is a fascinating intersection.
All this week, we'll talk to musicians for whom tech is an integral part of their process. From Squarepusher, who wrote an entire EP of music played by robot musicians, to Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, who turns herself into a one-woman percussion instrument using loops and drum machines. We'll also talk to prolific film composer John Powell about his recording process for film, and electronic musician/composer Dan Deacon about why the computer is the biggest diva he's ever worked with (and why it has a right to be). DJ Rekha, credited with bringing Bhangra music to America, talks about the technology involved in being a DJ, and how it has evolved over time.
These are musicians and performers at the top of their game who constantly ask themselves how technology can help them be better at what they do, but also wonder how far is too far when it comes to letting machines take over. Each of these guests have funny and insightful comments to offer.
So plug in your keytar, boot up your computer, and let's get to playing with machines.