It seems I had an apostrolapse Monday, as dozens of you pointed out. Thanks! One of you went on to note that – in the very same item – I had managed to transmute the movie “Role Models” into “Roll Models.” Not to take anything away from that soft-core buns classic, but, yes, I did mean Role Models, the buddy flick, and all I can say is that my brain was filled with bakers’ dozens of brioche, scones, and pumpernickel, so it was a natural, if regrettable, mistake to make.


Aaron Long: “The dozen has a big advantage over the deca that would come into play in commerce: it’s easily divisible – 2, 3, 4, 6 – so making deals that involve fractions of a dozen is simple. People like to work with halves, thirds, and quarters. Ten is difficult: you can cut it in half, but that’s about it. Working with fifths doesn’t seem to come naturally –you don’t ask for a fifth of a pound of roast beef at the deli counter. Sixty, another strong number, divisible by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, 30, was used as a base by the Sumerians and Babylonians, but is probably too large to be popular for retail commerce.”

Bob Fyfe: “Twelve is also more convenient when packing cases of product. For example, a case of wine is packed as 4 by 3 bottles. If a case had ten bottles, it would be packed 5 by 2 which is a less convenient shape. [Unless you are a mule or a horse, and have two packages on either side of the saddle. If I were a beast of burden, I’d prefer the longer, narrower shape. – A.T.] I have also heard that a possible historical reason for base-12 is finger counting using the thumb and the three sections of each of the remaining four fingers on that hand. You start counting one by touching the thumb to the tip of your index finger. Then two is the middle section of the index finger and three is the section closest to your hand. Four continues with the tip of the middle finger, etc. This gives you a total count of twelve on one hand. [An impressive point.] You also mentioned the moon. It’s true, the moon does take less than 28 days to orbit the earth . . . with respect to the stars. However, because the earth is also moving around the sun, it takes over 29.5 days for the moon to orbit the earth with respect to the sun. Therefore, the visible phases of the moon complete their cycle in just over 29.5 days, making 12, not 13, the closest integer number of months (based on the phases of the moon) in a year. [Except in February, when it speeds up.]”

Kevin Devine: “If you really want to learn about the history of number systems, check out The Universal History of Numbers by Georges Ifrah. This dense, scholarly work takes us from the most ancient forms of finger-counting to today’s computer systems. Not a quick read by any means, but remarkably thorough. Long answer short: there were a variety number systems developed over the centuries, based on a variety of numbers, including 5, 10, 12, 20 and even 60. All have their advantages and disadvantages. You can still see the vestiges of the 12-based system not only in the dozen, but in the way we name the numbers. For example, since we say thirteen (three + ten) through nineteen (nine + ten), why do we say eleven and twelve instead of oneteen and twoteen? Because our names for 11 and 12 are from an older, 12-based counting system. Please forgive me if I’ve forgotten the details. It is a very long book.”


Jackie Greenberg: “I’m sure you’ve seen and used this FUN hand dryer from the inimitable Mr. Dyson – they have their own equations for cost savings and CO2 footprint issues.”

☞ No – this is terrific! Not only does it cut drying time and clean the air, but “22 people can dry their hands using a Dyson Airblade™ hand dryer for the price of a single paper towel.”

Of course, when a website includes everything but the price, that’s a hint it ain’t cheap – and this baby is in the $1,200 range compared with perhaps $200 for a regular one.

The payback in saving versus paper towels is pretty quick, but versus another hand dryer? Using their own example, maybe 25 years. (Though I’ll bet if you needed 1,000 of them for your hotel chain, you’d get a lot better price.)

Or you could buy something less space age, like this, which also boasts fast drying time and 80% electricity savings, for about a third the price.

I’m still shaking out my hands and using my pants.


From last Friday, in small part:

Office of the Press Secretary
June 11, 2010


Rose Garden

11:02 A.M. EDT

. . . [H]istorically, small businesses have created roughly two out of every three new jobs in our country. And to replace the millions of jobs lost in the recession, we’re going to need to make sure that small companies are able to open up and expand and add names to their payroll. Small businesses will help lead this economic recovery. And that’s why we will continue to stand by them.

. . . Last year, we enacted seven tax cuts for America’s small business — seven tax cuts. So far, the Recovery Act has supported over 68,000 loans to small businesses, which translates into nearly $29 billion in new lending. More than 1,300 banks and credit unions that had not made SBA loans since before the financial crisis are now lending again. More than $8 billion in federal Recovery Act contracts are now going to small businesses. . . .

In addition, as a result of a bill I signed into law a few months ago, businesses are now eligible for tax cuts when they hire — when they hire unemployed workers, they’re eligible for tax cuts. Companies are also able to write off more of their investments in new equipment. And as part of the health reform package, 4 million small business owners recently received a postcard in their mailboxes from the IRS, and it was actually good news: It told them that they could be eligible for a health care tax credit this year that could be worth perhaps tens of thousands of dollars to these small businesses.

So these and other steps are making a difference. Little more than a year ago, the economy was in freefall. Today, it’s growing again. Little more than a year ago, the economy was losing an average of 750,000 jobs per month. It’s now been adding jobs for five months in a row. But even though we are in the process of digging ourselves out of this recession, we’re still in a pretty deep hole. Millions of our family members, our friends, our neighbors are still looking for work — they’re still faced with the prospects of long-term unemployment. Credit is still less available than it should be, particularly to small businesses.

As small business owners like Prachee and Bobby and Steve will tell you, we may be recovering but we’re not yet recovered. We have to keep moving forward. . . .


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