Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Changing Landscape of Papaya in NYC

I was downtown yesterday and saw that the Papaya King has become the latest of our competitors to raise its prices. They apologize profusely for it, attibuting it to the rising cost of ingredients, but the fact is it now costs 95 cents for a hot dog, as it does at many of the Papaya establishments around town. The question is why they would not raise prices to a dollar. The net efficiency lost in having to deal with nickels is substantial. It is hard to imagine the customer with an elasticity of demand that would lead them to make the purchase at 95 cents and not at a dollar. If equal or greater concern is that the King does not see fit to toast its buns. They warm them for a moment, but this approach cannot compare with the fully toasted bun that one finds at the true royalty of hot dog establishments, the Papaya Queen, where no attention to detail is spared and a frankfurter still costs only 75 cents.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

African Elephants, Humans, and Mourning of the Dead

As anyone who knows me knows, I have been heavily influenced by the teachings of the great Fillmore Skinny, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the esteemed Columbia University. Professor Skinny's primary thesis is that all of the behavior that we believe makes us distinctively human has direct analogs in other animals. Add another kind of beahvior to the list: mourning of the dead. The New York Times Sunday magazine reports, in connection with a cover story about the collective breakdown of elephant society, that African elephants conduct weeklong vigils over the bodies of fallen colleagues. The cover their friends' bodys with dirt and brush and will return to the site of the grave for years. Remarkably, when one member of an elephant group is harmed, all of the members of the group are aware of it (not unlike the Star Trek episode where Spock says that he is aware that an entire ship of Vulcans have died, eben though they are light years apart). To my mind, this all suggests that elephants have an even more developed sense of empathy than humans and is another chink in the armor of human-centric claims of the uniquesness of mankind. Onward, Skinny!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Happy Birthday, Gwen

Today is Gwen's 37th birthday. As her #1 fan, I can't let the occasion pass without without a very special birthday wish and a moment of speculation about what may come next. I hope as she passes through motherhood and the next stages of adult life that she continues to share her experiences with the same honesty and candor that she has in the past. I for one will be listening closely. Happy birthday, Gwen.