Afternoon Coffee: Maersk vs. Clipper Ship, Vinyl Sales Increase, UK Government Creative Sourcing

Slow, slow shipping...
Maersk Container Vessels Sailing Slower Than 1870s Clipper Ships -- There are many commodities and firms that are used as bellwethers of national or global health, but one that is often consistently accurate as a measure of international trade is the container shipping industry. How ironic, then, that faced with dire economic challenges, many lines, including A.P. Moeller-Maersk, are operating their vessels in "slow steaming" mode to conserve fuel (and hence costs) to such an extent that they are sailing more slowly on the Asia-to-Europe route than the great sailing clippers of the 1870s, such as the Cutty Sark.

UK government's creative (noun not adjective) sourcing.
Government procurement is myopic, inefficient and at times unethical -- The Department who have asked us to create two fully-formed strategies, with creative – for e-DM and social media respectively, and told us we will be competing against ten (yes TEN agencies). The cherry on this particular cake is that they're open about the fact that they'll be using the lowest bidder. The euphemism-du-jour is 'most economically advantageous' – which at least has the advantage that it doesn't send me into blind, unreasoning, 24-hour, non-specific rage like the words 'low-cost/no-cost solution' used to. Aside from the fact that there aren't ten different kinds of integrated agency – and that they won't get a spectrum of ten wildly differing quotes, or ten wildly differing approaches – it's simply unethical to ask for so much free work – especially in these economic circumstances.

Flood protection with giant balloon!
Holding Back Floodwaters With a Balloon -- The three-minute procedure, conducted on a chilly morning this month in an airport hangar not far from West Virginia University, was the latest test of a device that may someday help guard real tunnels during disasters -- whether a terrorist strike or a storm like Hurricane Sandy, whose wind-driven surge of water overwhelmed New York City's subway system, shutting it down for days. "The goal is to provide flooding protection for transportation tunnels," said John Fortune, who is managing the project for the federal Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate.

Vinyl record sales settle into good groove -- "I thought (vinyl sales) would peak out, but they haven't," said Terry Hackbarth, store manager at The Exclusive Company, an independent record store with locations throughout Wisconsin. The Exclusive Company in Milwaukee, located at 1669 N. Farwell Ave., has "made the switch," Hackbarth said, meaning less CDs for sale and more vinyl records. So what accounts for the switch to vinyl records? "There is a certain warmth to vinyl," said Phillip Naylor, professor of history at Marquette. "The timbre of the sound is richer -- it's not as clean, but there is a depth to it."

- Sheena Moore

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