Retail in a Word – Yikes!

Retail has always been a high-risk business sector. It is hard to get people into stores, and it is hard to get them to buy with regularity.   And this is getting harder as (1) tastes change, and (2) more nad more people buy online.

The story of “Finnish Line”, an American sports shoe chain tells you what you need to know And it is not an isolated case.

Analysts have warned of a retail apocalypse in the US, where stores per capita are much higher than that of any other country. In January, The Limited, another apparel brand primarily based in malls, shut down all 250 of its stores and laid off 4,000 workers. Mall staples Sears and Macy’s have also announced mass closures this year, with Sears planning to close 150 namesake stores and Kmart stores in 2017.

There is no “magic bullet” here. And stores cannot just “discount their way” back into profitability. We might just say that this is a slow moving train wreck. That about sums it up.

Ah, the Chinese and their Thorium Dreams!

From MIT Tech Review

Over the next two decades China hopes to build the world’s largest nuclear power industry. Plans include as many as 30 new conventional nuclear plants (in addition to the 34 reactors operating today) as well as a variety of next-generation reactors, including thorium molten-salt reactors, high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (which, like molten-salt reactors, are both highly efficient and inherently safe), and sodium-cooled fast reactors (which can consume spent fuel from conventional reactors to make electricity). Chinese planners want not only to dramatically expand the country’s domestic nuclear capacity but also to become the world’s leading supplier of nuclear reactors and components, a prospect that many Western observers find alarming.

The reality is, however, that the American scientists who first developed thorium reactor technology lost their funding back in the 1970’s. Unless someone else picks up the ideas, they would be lost.

The Ultimate Quest: Making Booze in Space

Let’s face it. We will not be able to commercialize space until we can drink there. That is the bottom line. And it will be expensive to ship up bottles of pre-made stuff. Imagine, $500 for a glass of pinot grigio?

So how to remedy this?`In fact, the question is under investigation. That shows one that humanity is indeed serious about leaving the planet.

But think it is easy? Consider

“The whole liquor-making process is about reduction in volume,” says Kris Berglund, chemical engineer at Michigan State University who is obsessed with liquor-making, and also owns his own corn farm that he uses to make his own whiskey. “If I wanted to make a gallon of alcohol, it’s going to take me something like 13 pounds of starch. Corn is 60 percent starch, and there’s 56 pounds in a bushel of corn….” Moral of that back of the napkin exercise: Berglund says it would probably take about 1/300th of an acre of corn to make a gallon of whiskey. That’s about the surface area of a mid-sized American car, a big ask aboard a space ship or Martian colony. “Rice might be better, in terms of both the amount of carbohydrates you make per unit of area, and the fact that you can sustain it in an aquaculture rather than trying to maintain soil,” Berglund says. Soju it is. Or maybe the crew has less discerning tastes. In that case, they can make their mash from any starchy, veggie, or fruity food scraps.

Hitting the Food Stands at the Salon de L’Agriculture

I just added this event to my annual calendar. Late February, early March to Paris for this display of the various regional foods of France. Of course, it is more than that. You get to see lots of animals as well.

This might get you in the mood

Hit the food stands first, unless you enjoy eating with the scent of manure clinging stuck to your clothes. The food pavilion is organized by region so you can stroll & eat your way through each départment of France. Seek out Brittany and its oyster bars to start off light. Head to the Southwest for something more substantial. Duck sausage with onions? Duck rillettes? Follow this with at least two kinds of cheesy potatoes cooked in an enormous pan, preferably aligot from Auvergne and tartiflette from Alsace. They are lowbrow delights, but delicious ones.

Hey! Who is that guy making nice with a cow?

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Lisbon’s Funky side

Julia Cooke writes

High up one of Lisbon’s interlocking hills in the neighborhood of Mouraria, where many of the city’s immigrants reside and the homes lean perilously into one another, I’m eating cracked crab on the jammed cobblestone patio of Cantinho do Aziz. It swims in a delicately scented coconut broth seasoned with piri-piri, a bright red chile common among Portugal’s Mozambican community. All around me, diners sit at tables festooned with brightly colored African cloth. Twinkle lights zigzag overhead.

Check it out! And some pretty amazing street art

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Deconstructing New York’ Solar Boom

In case you didn’t know

As it turns out, New York City—the region’s densest metropolis—is in the midst of a solar boom, with installations in the residential sector leading the way. In 2016, the number of residential projects across the five boroughs rose to more than 5,300 from 186 in 2011—the majority being located in Staten Island and Queens. Currently, there are 3,215 solar installation projects—both residential and non-residential—throughout the city. Since the beginning of 2014, the amount of solar power installed across the city has tripled.

What happened? Back in 2006, a study done at CUNY found out

“We found that the different agencies charged with permitting solar—including the Department of Buildings, the FDNY, and Con Edison—were not necessarily communicating with each other.”

Once the dialogue started, project possibilities became more apparent.