Everyday Things Money SOI Blog Statistics

Gift Cards = 0% Loan to Business

On a recent episode of NPR’s Planet Money they discussed ways to help local businesses during the current Coronapocalypse. One way is to buy gift cards which act as a 0% loan from you to them.

The statistic that was mind bending is that Starbucks reported in a current financial report that they have $1.6 Billion in “stored value card liability.” In other words, customers have loaned Starbucks over a billion and a half dollars by buying gift cards, some of which may never be redeemed (some estimates as much as 7%).

Everyday Things Food History SOI Blog

Pepperoni is not from Italy

pepperoni pizza

According to Planet Money, pepperoni was actually developed in America.

Basically, pepperoni first starts to emerge in the early 20th century around the nineteen-teens, 1920s. And it was essentially Italian American immigrants who were trying to replicate the sausage that they had in Calabria and Apulia, which was known for its distinctive red color, with what they could get on the Lower East Side of New York. So it is this distinctly American thing. And the funny thing that Anthony told me is that now we actually export pepperoni back to Italy. So it is something that has become an American thing that is now going to Italy.


One reason pepperoni is popular as a pizza topping: it’s long shelf life.


Architecture Everyday Things SOI Blog Technology

Concrete is the 2nd most consumed substance in the world-behind water.

concrete blocks
Photo by 3093594 on Pixabay

Sometimes you hear statistics and they just don’t compute. I was recently struck by a couple after listening to a conversation with the author of The World in a Grain on the podcast 99% Invisible. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my brain around these.

The World in a Grain by Vince Beiser

We’re adding the equivalent of eight New York Cities to the world every single year.

Here’s another way to think about it. The amount of concrete that we use every single year is enough to build a wall 88 feet high, 88 feet wide right around the equator every year.

The World in a Grain, author Vince Beiser

99% Invisible website:

The title on this post came from here:

Architecture Everyday Things Government History SOI Blog

Air for Sale

I visited New York City for the first time this year. And yes, there are a lot of tall buildings, but if real estate is so precious, why are there not tall buildings on every block? Well, it seems you have to buy the air to put them in too. Planet Money explains:

Everyday Things History Industry SOI Blog

LA was once covered in oil derricks

Surprisingly, Los Angeles, CA’s skyline was covered in oil derricks in the early days of the 20th Century. Another interesting fact: California accounted for a quarter of the world’s oil production in 1930. The full article at 99PI shows how some of these are still in plain sight today, only camouflaged.
Los Angeles Oil Derricks

Everyday Things Science SOI Blog Technology

Lawn Mowers Suck

I’ve mowed many a lawn in my day and never really gave much thought to how a mower really works. I just thought that blade was spinning around so fast that it just whacked the grass off. Turns out, there’s much more to it than that as Destin illuminates in his Smarter Everyday Video. If you’ve ever replaced a mower blade, the first thing you notice is how dull they appear.

TLDW: Mower blades create a vortex to suck up the blades of grass and hold them in position for the mower blade to cut them. If it did not do this, the blade would simply push the flexible grass blades down as it impacted them. (Hmmm, too many “blades” in this could be confusing. Maybe that’s a good riddle about a blade cutting a blade.)

Everyday Things Government SOI Blog

Find a lost wallet? Drop it in a mailbox.

I’ve seen the “Honesty Test” in the past, but Mark Rober runs a pretty good one in his video below. Chock one up for “I didn’t know that,” Mark says if you find a wallet with an address in it, just drop it in any USPS mailbox and it will be delivered back to the owner for free. I could not find a definitive statement toward this on the USPS website, but found a few other discussions of it on the web. One, on the Art of Manliness blog, says that a better response would be to call the person right away if possible. That would save them the trouble of canceling all those credit cards and other IDs. At least you could give them a call and then drop it in a mailbox.

Everyday Things Technology Vehicles

Don’t Top Off Your Gas Tank!

My new go to Youtube mechanic is Scotty Kilmer! Here Scotty gives some advice on filling up. He recommends you NOT fill your gas tank until it can take no more, and why.

In the old days before paying for gas with a credit card became common, you would try to make the dollar amount come to the nearest dollar or fifty cents to save on loose change. But these days, I rarely pay for gas with cash, so following Scotty’s advice is much easier.

Everyday Things Government Media SOI Blog

Highway Sign Font

As I was working on a video project showing highway signs, I discovered the font used on highway and interstate signage is called “Highway Gothic.” You can download it for your own use here.

I also discovered the use of an new font called “Clearview.” It was thought to be a replacement for the tried an true Highway Gothic. After some promising research results on better readability it looked like it would be the new default. Interestingly, after reviewing the research, it appears that the better results on readability seemed to be caused by the fact that the signs using the Clearview font were newer compared to the older faded signs using Highway Gothic. In other words, they were not comparing apples to apples. So according to the Wikipedia article, Highway Gothic will remain the standard for the time being.

Everyday Things History Technology

Inventor of the Keurig Coffee Maker Sold His Interest for only $50k

John Sylvan invented the single serve Keurig coffee maker in early 1990s. Before the end of the decade, he sold out to investors for a mere $50,000. The company now has annual revenues in the billions of dollars.

Interestingly, the original concept and first machines were intended for offices where employees could create a fresh cup of coffee instead of relying on a full pot coffee maker which often got stale. When they finally developed a less expensive home version, sales really took off.