"5 COOL THINGS" - weekly emails

5 Cool Things  😎
5 Cool Things:
Hi, this is Greg Powell. I hope you'll enjoy one or more of these interesting topics from the world of business and beyond. Dan Powell, my son and collaborator, has researched the articles and written the summaries, so this is not a boilerplate message. We'd like to give you a weekly break to learn about something cool or, better yet, 5 Cool Things.


Millions of People Face Stimulus Check Delays for a Strange Reason: They Are Poor (ProPublica)

For millions of Americans, the stimulus money provided in the recent CARES Act may mean the difference between remaining solvent or sliding into delinquency. But distribution of that money has been impeded for a large portion of the 80 million Americans that pay for tax preparation fees by way of deductions from their annual refund. As a result, the payments are going to third-party banks, where they are delayed or returned to the IRS. That the tax preparation industry exists at all is mostly an American phenomenon, where corporate lobbying preserves an inefficient middleman between taxpayer and government. “‘Because we have an entire industry that survives on — and is a huge force in maintaining — this system in which they are third-party intermediaries, you end up with these delays and complications,’ said Chi Chi Wu, an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center.” Read more…


Why Bats Are One of Evolution’s Greatest Puzzles (Smithsonian Magazine)

Bats, the only mammals capable of sustained flight, haven’t enjoyed much favor among humanity, with associations of vampirism, danger, and diseases potentially including COVID-19 (please ask for your bat to be served well done!) Still, they are a fascinating branch of the animal kingdom, with fossil records dating back 50 million years. Though we’ve found these fossils in multiple continents, paleontologists are still searching for bats’ “missing link” — the ancestor that ties them back to land-based mammals. Multiple hypothesis for this missing fossil record include forest habitats that might impede fossilization, as well as an incomplete sense of what early bats might have looked like. In the end, we might find that bats emerged not long after dinosaurs departed, some 66 million years ago. Read more…


The Worst Rebrand in the History of Orange Juice (Medium)

When you think about Tropicana orange juice, do any images come to mind? For many people, the iconic straw-in-an-orange logo is an enduring association with the brand. When Tropicana hired ad agency Arnell in 2008, they removed the image — and lost $20 million after a $35 million investment. The new design was sleek, modern, and ultimately confusing for a lot of customers, as it required more effort to scan in order to get information about the product inside. When millions of dollars are on the line, it’s important to get the design right. Here’s why Arnell missed the mark. “Don’t let beautiful design distract from what’s important: Communicating the right information to your customer at the right time.” Read more…


The Titanic Wreck is a Landmark Almost No One Can See (Atlas Obscura)

Shipwrecks have a way of capturing our imaginations, and perhaps no shipwreck is more iconic than that of the RMS Titanic, thousands of feet below the surface of the North Atlantic. Despite its remote location, the wreck has had numerous visitors since its 1985 discovery. For $36,000 you, too, can pay a visit. Incredibly, In 2001 a couple even said their wedding vows in a submersible on the bow of the ship. That kind of tourism, as well as more malicious plundering of artifacts from the site, has fueled a decades-long debate about how to treat historical sites beneath the sea. But in the end, it might be a moot question as the deep ocean continues to digest the wreck. “The Titanic is becoming something that belongs to biology.” Read more…


Chicago Was Raised Over Four Feet in the 19th Century to Build Its Sewer (Gizmodo)

In 1855, the city of Chicago was raised. Not razed, raised by 4 to 14 feet, in order to lift the city streets above the level of Lake Michigan and reduce potential flooding. Accomplished mainly with jackscrews and workers laying new foundation fractions of an inch at a time, work went on mostly unnoticed while city life went on as usual. This technique worked for well, even for some massive buildings like the prominent Tremont House hotel. Other structures, however, were simply relocated -- placed on logs and rolled away. “A Scotsman visiting Chicago in 1868 observed, ‘Never a day passed during my stay in the city that I did not meet one or more houses shifting their quarters. One day I met nine.’” Read more…

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See you next week!
            - Greg
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