Woman Makes Shocking Find At Goodwill

MILWAUKEE — “Red Nose” just meant a reindeer named Rudolph to Karen Mallet until she bought a print by that name for $12.34 at a Goodwill store in Milwaukee. It turned out to be a lithograph by American artist Alexander Calder worth $9,000.

Mallet’s good fortune is at least the fourth time in six months that valuable art has turned up at Goodwill, where bargain-hunters search for hidden treasure among the coffee cups, jewelry, lamps and other household cast-offs.

Last month, a Salvador Dali sketch found at a Goodwill shop in Tacoma, Wash., sold for $21,000. Last summer, a North Carolina woman pocketed more than $27,000 for a painting she bought for $9.99 at Goodwill. And last spring, a dusty jug donated in Buffalo, N.Y., was discovered to be a thousands-of-years-old American Indian artifact – it was returned to its tribe instead of being offered for sale.

When told of the Milwaukee woman’s find, a Goodwill spokeswoman said workers at its 2,700 stores try to spot valuables and auction them on the organization’s online auction site to net more money for the charitable group. But things slip through the cracks and the workers aren’t art experts.

“That’s kind of part of shopping at Goodwill – the thrill of the hunt,” said Cheryl Lightholder, communications manager for Goodwill in southeastern Wisconsin. “You never know what you’re going to find.”

Mallet, a media relations specialist for Georgetown University and others, didn’t even like “Red Nose” when she first spotted it during one of her frequent Goodwill shopping trips in May.

“The big find that day was this great set of steel knives, in a block, for $18.99” by Wolfgang Puck, she said.

But the graphic black-and-white picture was striking. In low-browed terms, it might be described as an abstract image of an ape with a hangover, with spiral swirls for eyes like the ones in cartoons when someone gets punched. A large red nose is the only color.

Then she saw the Calder signature.

“I thought, I don’t know if it’s real or not but it’s $12.99. I’ve wasted more on worse things,” she said. A discount for using her Goodwill loyalty card brought the price down to $12.34.

Once home, she searched the Internet and found similar lithographs by Calder, who died in 1976 and is widely known for his mobiles and abstract sculptures at airports, office towers and other public places. Mallet’s piece was No. 55 of 75 lithographs and was made in 1969.

Jacob Fine Art Inc., in suburban Chicago, recently set its replacement value at $9,000.

“This happens very frequently – you can’t imagine,” the company’s owner, Jane Jacob, said of treasures found at thrift stores. “They don’t know what they have. They’re just not set up to understand art history.”

Lauren Lawson-Zilai, a spokeswoman for Goodwill Industries International Inc. in Rockville, Md., gave these examples of art that Goodwill staff spotted and sold through the auction site:

_ In 2009, a painting by Utah artist Maynard Dixon donated in Santa Rosa, Calif., sold for $70,001.

_ In 2008, a Baltimore-area Goodwill store netted $40,600 from a Parisian street scene painted by Impressionist Edouard-Leon Cortes.

_ In 2006, a Frank Weston Benson oil painting donated anonymously in Portland, Ore., brought in $165,002 – Goodwill’s top haul so far.

Mallet has no immediate plans to sell her “Red Nose.”

“It grew on me,” she said. “Now I love it.”

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Five things to watch for in the Bank of Canada’s rate decision

When the Bank of Canada announces its interest rate decision Tuesday, it will do so with the Canadian economy at its most sluggish level this year.

Last week’s GDP data from Statistics Canada showed the Canadian economy expanded at an annual rate of 0.6% in the third quarter, far lower than the second quarter’s 1.7% and well below the Bank of Canada’s 1% forecast.

That economic weakness raises questions about the bank’s hawkish tone that has prevailed for most of 2013. Governor Mark Carney and his team originally introduced the language back in April, when the bank announced that “some modest withdrawal of the present considerable monetary policy stimulus may become appropriate.”

The surprise move toward a tightening bias made the Bank of Canada an outlier in the developed world, where most central banks appear no where close to raising rates.

Could a weak economy, however, cause the bank to retreat from some of its hawkish language? Below, we outline five things to watch for in the Bank of Canada’s Tuesday announcement that could signal a shift in attitude.

 Domestic economy

The GDP numbers show an economy experiencing anemic growth, and the Bank of Canada will have to acknowledge as much on Tuesday.

“We expect that the Bank of Canada … will note disappointment with the subpar pace of Canadian growth in the third quarter, and continue to expect paltry readings near term,” said Dana Peterson, economist and director at Citi Investment Research. “These factors will underpin the need for keeping rates fixed at low levels for some time.”

Also important will be the bank’s comments on Canada’s housing market and consumer debt. Low interest rates have exacerbated Canada’s high debt loads and red hot housing market, and the bank has said that household debt levels will now be an important factor in determining when rates will be hiked.

 Fiscal cliff

Michael Gregory, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, notes the Bank of Canada may decide to comment on the U.S. fiscal cliff this time around — something it did not do in its October announcement.

The fiscal cliff refers to a series of tax increases and spending cuts that will come into effect in the United States in the new year. Global markets have been volatile recently in response to the fiscal cliff negotiations currently under way in Congress.

A resolution will be critical, because economists agree that the massive level of government spending cuts, combined with tax hikes on consumers, will conspire to seriously harm the U.S. economy.

Global outlook

It will be interesting to see how the Bank of Canada interprets the mixed signals coming from the global economy.

The latest manufacturing data has shown that China’s economy appears to be stabilizing, helping to alleviate fears about a hard landing. On the flip side, similar data from the eurozone show that economies there continue to weaken, while U.S. manufacturing data appear stagnant.

 Loonie

In its Oct. 23 announcement, the Bank of Canada noted the loonie was being influenced by “safe haven flows and spillovers from global monetary policy.”

Of course, since then, the Canadian dollar has essentially remained flat. While the bank has made it clear that it views any efforts to intervene and influence the value of the loonie as futile, it’s nevertheless important to pay attention to the bank’s view on Canada’s currency.

 Output gap

The Bank of Canada currently expects the output gap, or the level of “slack” in the economy, to be closed at the end of 2013.

But Krishen Rangasamy, senior economist at National Bank Financial, notes the recent spate of weak economic data means that, realistically, the output gap does not look like it will close until the end of 2014 at the earliest — and potentially could drag on longer.

“Given the now lower starting point, even assuming the economy grows exactly as the Bank of Canada estimated in its October Monetary Policy Report … the output gap won’t close until end-2014,” he said.

Mr. Rangasamy said the bank’s fourth quarter GDP target of 2.5% is looking optimistic, however, given September’s weak handoff into the current quarter. He expects growth will actually be closer to 1.2% — meaning the output gap wouldn’t close until 2015.

New Climate Change Study Contains More Bad News

WASHINGTON — The amount of heat-trapping pollution the world spewed rose again last year by 3 percent. So scientists say it’s now unlikely that global warming can be limited to a couple of degrees, which is an international goal.

The overwhelming majority of the increase was from China, the world’s biggest carbon dioxide polluter. Of the planet’s top 10 polluters, the United States and Germany were the only countries that reduced their carbon dioxide emissions.

Last year, all the world’s nations combined pumped nearly 38.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, according to new international calculations on global emissions published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change. That’s about a billion tons more than the previous year.

The total amounts to more than 2.4 million pounds (1.1 million kilograms) of carbon dioxide released into the air every second.

Because emissions of the key greenhouse gas have been rising steadily and most carbon stays in the air for a century, it is not just unlikely but “rather optimistic” to think that the world can limit future temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), said the study’s lead author, Glen Peters at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, Norway.

Three years ago, nearly 200 nations set the 2-degree C temperature goal in a nonbinding agreement. Negotiators now at a conference under way in Doha, Qatar, are trying to find ways to reach that target.

The only way, Peters said, is to start reducing world emissions now and “throw everything we have at the problem.”

Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria in Canada who was not part of the study, said: “We are losing control of our ability to get a handle on the global warming problem.”

In 1997, most of the world agreed to an international treaty, known as the Kyoto Protocol, that required developed countries such as the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 5 percent when compared with the baseline year of 1990. But countries that are still developing, including China and India, were not limited by how much carbon dioxide they expelled. The United States never ratified the treaty.

The latest pollution numbers, calculated by the Global Carbon Project, a joint venture of the Energy Department and the Norwegian Research Council, show that worldwide carbon dioxide levels are 54 percent higher than the 1990 baseline.

The 2011 figures for the biggest polluters:

1. China, up 10 percent to 10 billion tons.

2. United States, down 2 percent to 5.9 billion tons

3. India, up 7 percent to 2.5 billion tons.

4. Russia, up 3 percent to 1.8 billion tons.

5. Japan, up 0.4 percent to 1.3 billion tons.

6. Germany, down 4 percent to 0.8 billion tons.

7. Iran, up 2 percent to 0.7 billion tons.

8. South Korea, up 4 percent to 0.6 billion tons.

9. Canada, up 2 percent to 0.6 billion tons.

10. South Africa, up 2 percent to 0.6 billion tons.

The Death Of Paper

newspaper

I entered a movie a few weeks ago by flashing a Passbook receipt. It was my first time doing so, and the process went about as seamlessly as one would hope. I just opened up the Passbook entry, showed it to the ticket checker and voila! Access was approved!

That movie theater experience is just one example where digital tools have overtaken the need for paper or printed receipts: I’ve taken to using mobile boarding passes when possible, rather than printing them out at the airport. I pay with Square Wallet whenever available, rather than having vendors print out receipts for me to endorse. I pay my rent, cable, phone, and all other utilities online. In the past two years since moving into my apartment, I’ve written a total of 24 checks. Just one per month, maybe less.

All small things, it seems, and things that I’m thinking less and less about. The behavior is becoming automatic, but it highlights a shift in the foundational layer of commerce and information exchange that we’ve undergone.

Most of the examples above are about how spending or commerce habits have changed with the help of Internet- and mobile-powered money exchange, but it’s not the only aspect of my life that’s gone digital. I haven’t bought a physical book for myself in I don’t know how long, instead purchasing and reading books on my iPad. And lest we forget, I write for a publication that appears only online. But I also only really access any other publications over the Internet — I can’t remember the last time I had newsprint smudging my fingers.

There are those who would argue that this is not necessarily a good thing, that there are real advantages to having and owning physical things, like books, for instance. Or actual analog photos, for instance. In a world filled with Instagrams, where the only place one ever sees photos of his friends is online, one of my favorite startups is Sincerely, which makes it easier for people to print out and distribute their digital photos to others.

And then there’s the environmental argument against — that we’re routinely destroying millions of square miles in printing out all sorts of goods, whether they be newspapers or receipts or airline boarding passes, all of which have pretty limited value after a certain amount of time, and most of which end up in the trash. (Or hopefully recycled.)

But there’s a bigger question about what happens to all this information as it’s digitized. And it’s not just books and information put on paper that fall into this category, but all matter of information as it goes from some physical, semi-permanent medium to online. I’m talking about films, which existed on projected reels and tape and then discs, to music, which at some point used to be etched into records, and then cassettes and CDs.

So much of what we know about the past has come from documents passed down to us, whether they be on stone tablets or cuneiform or, well, paper. What does it say about us as a culture that is slowly killing off this method of information transferral. In 20 years, if there are no physical books, what will future cultures know about us in 220 years, when digital memories are likely wiped away?

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about over the last few years, but the death of paper is only beginning to seem like a reality now. When the nuclear apocalypse hits, will all our bits and bytes survive, or will evidence of our thoughts and culture just disappear into the ether?

[Images courtesy of Flickr users Salim Fadhley, Procsilas Moscas, and Annie Mole.]

Dating sites help you find love by browsing reddit, watching lolcats

Online dating profiles can sometimes be so frustratingly thorough: annoying to fill out, annoying to read, annoying to attempt to achieve the ultimate combination of accessible and mysterious. But if you can’t be bothered to list your favorite books, movies, and the six things you can never live without, alternative sources will match you for dates using the things you do anyway—browsing reddit and watching funny Internet videos.

Reddit itself is a treasure trove of redditor-created dating sites (full disclosure: reddit is a cousin site of Ars). Take for instance LaughMatch by Haon, a site posted to r/dating a few weeks ago. When users register with the site, they watch a series of funny Internet videos, like an episode of My Drunk Kitchen, a parody review of a 2000 Toyota Corolla, or a bad lip read of Twilight. The site then matches the users with dates based on where they place the rating slider between a happy and sad face.

Enlarge / LaughMatch. Seriously, My Drunk Kitchen is a work of art, and not only would I not date you for thinking otherwise, I would challenge you to a duel in the name of Hannah Hart’s honor.

Another even more simplistic site, 4.everalone by firehazard99, purports to match users based on their favorite subreddits. Users must validate with a reddit login, provide an e-mail address, and a list of your five favorite subreddits. The site’s creator then e-mails users when he finds another redditor with the same subreddit priorities.

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China’s dot-com darlings tap cheap global credit

HONG KONG/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese search engine company Baidu Inc paid a lower interest rate than Google Inc when it sold $750 million in 10-year bonds last month.

China’s dot-com darlings tap cheap global credit

HONG KONG/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese search engine company Baidu Inc paid a lower interest rate than Google Inc when it sold $750 million in 10-year bonds last month.

Gift Guide: Philips Hue

Hue Gift Guide Feature

Short Version

Philips Hue are wireless LED lightbulbs that are controlled via an iOS app — allowing you to change the shade and intensity of light they beam out, turn the bulbs on and off remotely, and set them to come on at scheduled times. Let there be micro-managed light!

Long Version

Features:

  • LED lightbulbs rated at 600 lumens
  • Controlled via an iOS app — using iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch
  • App features include ‘light recipes,’ timer, dimmer
  • Lightbulbs can be switched on/off remotely to give your house a lived-in look when away
  • One wireless bridge supports up to 50 Hue lightbulbs
  • Bulbs are up to 80 percent more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs

Info:

  • MSRP: $199.95 for the starter pack containing wireless bridge plus three bulbs; $59.95 for single bulb add-on packs
  • Available: Now (however online orders currently aren’t shipping for 3-4 months)
  • Retailers: The Apple Store/Apple’s website

The Philips Hue is…

… a wireless LED lightbulb system that lets you turn iOS devices into a remote control for your lampshades. To kick things off, you need to buy the starter pack, which includes three bulbs plus the wireless bridge that hooks up to your Internet router so the bulbs can speak to the app and vice versa. The bridge apparently supports up to 50 bulbs — albeit, your wallet may not stretch so far. Set up is straightforward: after screwing the bulbs into the sockets of your choice, you plug the wireless bridge into your Internet router and download the Hue app to your iOS device (iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch). When you fire up the app for the first time it will ask you to connect it to the bulbs by pushing a button on top of the bridge. Once the app and bulbs are linked you can start playing around with the lights, which is where the fun starts.

Now the app itself is not the finest piece of work under the sun. The interface is rather clumsy and convoluted, but once you get your head around how it works, it at least does the job. From inside the app you can turn all the bulbs on and off when in wireless range of the router. You can also do this remotely (useful for security reasons if you want to make your house look lived in while you’re away) but you need to set up an online account to enable that feature. The app also has a timer menu to schedule lights to come on at set times, with fade-in or instant-on options, so you can program a timed light show.

The main fun within the app is ‘light recipes’ — aka a visual mixology interface that lets you choose the light shade and intensity for each bulb. Configurations of shades can then be saved, and an icon is created for each recipe so you can easily revisit ‘purple rain’ or ‘blue moon’ or whatever you’ve chosen to call your favourite hues. Shades can be picked from photos in your camera library, or from stock Philips photos, or via a colour spectrum. The app also includes some pre-mixed light recipes — with names like ‘Energize’ and ‘Relax.’ A word of warning about the shades the bulbs kick out: Don’t expect colours to be super subtle/nuanced. The bulbs reproduce a range of shades but blues tend toward purple, reds toward pink, and greens look more eerie than leafy (and so on). So if you were hoping to be able to faithfully reproduce the flecks in your loved one’s irises then you’re going to be out of luck.

Buy the Philips Hue for…

… house-proud, iOS-owning gadget fans who love nothing more than being able to remotely control the world around them.

Because…

…smart bulbs are more fun, and lightbulbs have been dumb for too long. The Philips Hue is not exactly a life-changing gadget — it’s not going to teach you Spanish or increase the breadth of your vocabulary — but it has soft power: the power to change the atmosphere in your rooms at the tap of an icon, which is pretty cool regardless.

If your intended recipient is house proud and loves nothing more than having people over to admire their latest stick of fancy furniture, they’re going to love customising the ideal Hue light show to set off new designer wares. They’ll also be stoked that they’re sitting at the cutting edge of lightbulb tech. Other smart lightbulbs do exist — such as LIFX and Spark (albeit those Kickstarter projects still need to ship product) or GreenWave Reality Connected Lighting Solution — but this is an emerging tech, so availability is not widespread. Indeed, it may be tricky to get hold of Hue this side of Christmas (Apple’s website currently lists it with a three-to-four-month shipping time). So, if you manage to track down a box at an Apple store, make sure your recipient knows how hard you sweated to bring a little smart light into their life.