Cashews and Rubber Bands
I'm Cashew Rich!
Guinea-Bissau has a problem. Guinea-Bissau is an African
country, so I suppose "has a problem" doesn't need to be stated,
but I repeat the name and mention Africa because, most likely,
you've never heard of the country. And even if you have,
you probably didn't know that there's a good chance that
Guinea-Bissau is where your cashews come from.
Well, used to come from.
military revolt in the tiny African nation of Guinea-Bissau is
unsettling the market for prized cashew nuts.
Some of the world's
tastiest cashews are rotting in roadside piles on rural byways leading
to and from the capital of the wetland nation, where a recent military
uprising has left farmers stranded with no way to ship their nuts to the
Indian factories that steam the cashew out of its poisonous shell.
On April 13, soldiers
kidnapped Prime Minister Carlos Gomes, Jr.—for the second time in two
years—weeks before he was set to be elected president of Africa's
fifth-biggest cashew grower... The yearly April to June cashew
harvest accounts for 98% of the country's export revenue and employs,
according to the World Bank, nearly nine out of every 10 people,
This article, the full version of which appeared in the Wall Street
Journal on 24 May, goes on to quote an EcobankPLC official to say "There
is no constitution, there is no government, and there is no president."
And, it would seem, no cashews. They can't leave the country by
road as the military has decreed that they must use the port, or by sea,
since the port hasn't been dredged since 1974, "and the mud is
thickening to a viscosity that could beach container vessels."
Articles about the stunning breadth of African government/military
dysfunction have become so routine that they've almost lost their
capacity to surprise. Oh? The prime minister was
kidnapped? What else is new? And yet... Look at the
photo above. Three containers of cashews, providentially acquired
before the impending shortage became newspaper fodder. Mine, all
mine! I hope they give the prime minister back before they're all
Congratulations, Elon Musk
I mentioned almost six years
ago that he has his own space program. His space ship just
docked with the International Space Station. Good work, Elon &
SpaceX! My original blogitem was an exhortation to all the other
billionaires to think like an Elon. Perhaps a few more will take
heed given such a spectacular example.
The Lure of Loyalty
I am a loyal customer of Staples, the office supply vendor. My
loyalty is occasioned largely by the ubiquity of their palaces of
purveyance. As does almost every large retail vendor nowadays,
they have a rebate program, "Staples Rewards." While I
occasionally long for the distant past, whenin one could go into a
store, buy something (often for a nickel), pay for it, and walk out,
times have changed. If one spends significant sums, he gets
significant sums back after providing personal information.
Staples, for example, often gives away packages of batteries by offering
their full price as a rebate in their rewards program. Bypassing
the process by offering to just take the batteries without the
inconvenience to all parties of paying for them never seems to work, so
I've played the game.
After a number of transactions, I was granted a sum of "money" from
Staples. But this money wasn't quite like currency, which slowly
loses its value to inflation. Rather, it was like concert tickets,
which lose all their value after the concert is over. If I didn't
use them by a date certain, my loyalty reward would become worthless.
So, I stopped into a Staples store. I looked around. I asked
the clerk "Do you have anything I need for $15"? While the clerk
was trying to read my mind, I had an inspiration. I asked to be
directed to the rubber band aisle. (I never have enough rubber
bands. I suspect that you don't, either.) After rooting
around a bit, I emerged triumphantly with two bags, for a total price of
$14.98. I was willing to leave the $.02 on the table, but it got
consumed in sales tax. I felt fulfilled, my duty as a consumer
lured by loyalty fully acquitted.
As the days passed, I slowly forgot about this transaction. My
dreams of reveling in my rubber bands much as Scrooge McDuck does in his
money bin faded, and I progressed with what we used to call "life."
But Staples added a fillip.
Does Staples somehow know about my RIKL Reviews? Are they
petitioning me to perform a battery of scientific tests on individual
rubber bands? Temperature sensitivity? Elasticity?
Durability? Lot uniformity? Energy recovery? Flight
duration in an ensemble? Albedo? Aroma? I had a full
pound of size 16 economy rubber bands, according to the heading of their
email. (I don't recall if there were also deluxe rubber bands
that I might have chosen. Were they trying to subtly remind me of
my lost opportunity for a tenuous sort of luxury?) On reading
further, where it was suggested that I might "help others just like" me,
I decided it was none of the above. Others "just like me" are as
capable as I of selecting their own rubber bands. They neither
need my advice, nor would they seek out my review for a pre-purchase
briefing. In fact, if they were truly just like me, they would
have already bought two pounds of rubber bands and have no further
interest in the subject. They would also have no more interest in
being reminded of their purchase a month or two later than I had when
Staples sent their email.
Staples, I decided, has a computer attached to their rewards program.
It is merciless yet imbecilic, attentive yet uncomprehending. That
is my RIKL Review of the "please write a review" portion of the Staples
Rewards program. As for the rubber bands, I think I have quant.
The Beau Brummels
The Grateful Dead "Steal Your Face" album
cover T-shirt. If you have a copy of the actual album,
check out the credits.