SPOILS OF THE SEA
Folks visiting Queen Charlotte Islands, south of Alaska, shouldn't be surprised if they see Micron PC computer monitors bobbing in the surf. In January 2000, a ship carrying the monitors from Thailand to Seattle ran into a typhoon, which swept about 2,000 units overboard. They're now showing up on Pacific Coast beaches, along with flotsam from other recent spills: an estimated 10,000 Tweety & Sylvester bath mats, 34,000 hockey gloves and 18,000 Nike Cross Trainers. Seattle oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, who tracks cargo spills with a worldwide network of beachcombers, says, "The North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans are 25% rougher than they were 25 years ago," possibly as a result of global warming. Mix that with quickening trade, and each year up to 10,000 cargo containers are swept away.
Get 'Em While They're Hot
What American export is hot in Japan these days? Cinnamon buns--big, gooey pastries with an aroma that could send you into insulin shock. In 1999, when Atlanta-based Cinnabon opened its first outlet there, 300 people lined up to buy its buns, says Gregg Kaplan, president of the chain. Rather than try to sell cinnamon buns in Japan on its own, the company partnered with Sugakico, a successful operator of a chain of ramen-noodle restaurants. Two years later, sales are five times as high at Japanese outlets as at those in the U.S. of comparable size and location, requiring crowd-control techniques the company picked up from Disneyland. "That was the smartest move," says Kaplan. Why cinnamon buns? "The chewy and glutinous texture of the dough is a little bit like Japanese sticky rice cakes," says Minako Fujiwara, creator of a Cinnabon fan website.
If misery loves company, investors hammered by the current slump in tech stocks can take solace in the tale of one of the original financial bubbles. The "Tulip Mania" exhibition at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Calif. (through July 23), displays a collection of watercolor paintings of tulips from the 1630s, along with intriguing information about the frenzy over them. During that decade, the price of a rare tulip bulb escalated to as much as 5,200 guilders. (By comparison, Rembrandt's fee for The Night Watch was 1,600 guilders.) Bulbs were used as dowries and exchanged for shiploads of goods. People of all classes speculated in the bulbs in hopes of quick riches. The bubble eventually burst, of course, and authorities described it as a case of "misguided enthusiasm."
Unsafe at Any Income
Any well-paid American who gets ticketed for speeding in Finland faces a moral dilemma. Fines there are levied according to your income, net worth and number of dependents. The record so far: $71,400, charged to a Finnish Internet mogul clocked doing 43 m.p.h. in a 25 m.p.h. zone last October. Lowballing the officer is a serious crime, and if you're a Finn, that doesn't work very well: cops can check your income and assets by calling a national database with their Nokia cell phone. They cannot, however, check the finances of foreigners, who are left to wrestle with their consciences--and to calculate how low an income is believable for someone driving a rented Mercedes.
Upside of the Slowdown
When the economy goes soft, there's bargain hunting beyond Wall Street. For example: