Marketplace Scratch Pad

Airplane Reading

Scott Jagow Feb 26, 2009

I read some interesting stuff on my flight to Kansas City, which I’ll get to in a moment. But first, my flight. I don’t fly Southwest often, but I love their boarding policy now. I know some people hate it, but since I’m a militant disciple of the 24-hour online check-in, I win. I sit at my computer with the airline’s web page open two or three minutes before the 24-hour deadline. And then I pounce.

I think it’s vastly superior to getting seats assigned based on when you buy the ticket. In theory, the cheapest tickets get the best seats in that scenario. Of course, the airlines are charging extra now for certain desired spots. Anyway, I was number two in line so I got an aisle seat, front row, baby.

This is probably a cliche at this point, but Southwest employees still love their jobs beyond all reason. Our flight attendant was the happiest person I’ve ever met. She sang to us, and it wasn’t annoying at all until I fell asleep, and she started singing again. She also sang the praises of her employer to a woman sitting next to me who wanted to become a flight attendant. It made me do a quick search when I got to the hotel, and I found out that Southwest has 1,165 married couples. Not only are they in love with their company, they’re in love with each other.

So, I read a column in new Portfolio magazine that looks at all the money the Fed has pumped into the money supply — 1.35 trillion just in the last four months of 2008. If $1 bills were stretched end to end, that amount would almost reach the sun and back.

The article concludes that in a normal situation, this staggering amount would crush the value of the dollar and cause horrendous inflation. It still might. But since banks are hoarding so much of the money, writer John Cassidy says that isn’t likely to happen. In fact, he says, the bigger risk is deflation from a lack of spending in the economy.

I also flipped through “Fast Company,” which features the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies. Number one – Team Obama for their texting, blogging, Twittering and very successful campaign. The rest of the top 5 is boring and predictable, with the exception of Hulu. That’s a pretty good story. Google, Apple and Cisco are the others.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal has a front-page story about sheep burping. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought I was reading The Onion. The story is about how scientists are spending lots of time and money to reduce the amount of methane that sheep and similar animals emit. Most of it comes from belching.

These researchers are worried about the impact on climate change. In New Zealand, 48% of greenhouse gases come from agriculture. A few years ago, the country’s lawmakers tried to pass an “emissions” tax on livestock. Farmers scoffed and dubbed it the “fart tax.”

I don’t blame them for making fun. It makes you wonder if all the sound and fury about global warming is starting to warp some scientific minds.

The article ends with this quote from scientist Peter Janssen:

“It could be two years, or it could be 20” before a solution to animal burps is found, he says. But someday, “it will suddenly show up. And then you will have it.”

Like I said, The Onion.

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