But first . . .

TIME’S COVER STORY

Our planet has a fever. Small changes can lead to a tipping point. The prognosis is not great. Click here. And (if Earth is your home planet) plan to see An Inconvenient Truth when Paramount releases it May 26th.

And now . . .

GONE BANANAS

Frank: ‘A quote from chiquita.com (they should know!): ‘To slow the ripening process once bananas reach your preferred ripeness, put them in the refrigerator. Even though our original jingle warned consumers not to refrigerate bananas, it’s really OK. The skin may turn dark, but the fruit will be just right for several days. Back in 1944, when the Chiquita Banana jingle lyrics were written, consumers would typically bring home green bananas and put them in the refrigerator which kept them from ripening properly.”

Mike M: ‘You would be proud of me. I went to the store and saw the produce guy putting all new blemish-free bananas on display and pulling the bananas that had some brown spots off display and putting them into 3 very large boxes. I’m talking 3-foot-by-2-foot boxes. Chiquita Banana says a ripe banana has brown spots on the peel. Anyway, I asked what happens to those bananas. He said they were $3 a box. I bought a box. We’re talking hundreds of bananas. I wanted to buy all 3 boxes but my wife already thinks I am an idiot and I did not want to reinforce this impression. So I get home with the bananas, I eat several, give several to the dog, my wife comes in, looks at this case of bananas, gives me ‘the look’ and shakes her head . . . I give bananas to all the neighbors . . . I put bananas on the bird feeder . . . (neither birds nor squirrels eat bananas, for future reference) . . . I got to do something with these bananas so I can tell my bride ‘see what a great deal that was?’ I go to the Internet and . . . now to the point of my story . . . you can freeze bananas. The skin turns black but the fruit itself is fine. Take my word for it, I am eating one now and will continue to eat them for several months to come.’

Where on the web but here can you go to find out that squirrels don’t eat bananas? (And, I should say, my own experience freezing bananas has been somewhat mushier.)

JUGGLE THIS

C. Black: ‘Loved your ‘Juggler’ video link. Here’s an interview where he talks about it.’

Doug Simpkinson: ‘Some juggler took offense at the amount of adulation Chris Bliss got for that juggling routine and bumped it up from three to five balls.’

☞ Remind me to tell you the story of the Flying Karamazov Brothers. Oh, okay – if you insist.

MANAGING $500,000

John Perko:Friday’s advice-seeker should find a Certified Financial Planner in his area at garrettplanningnetwork.com (recommended to me by Less Antman). For a few hours fee, they could help him allocate his nest egg. Worked for me.’

Dale McConnell: ‘Vanguard will do a free and fairly complete asset allocation financial plan for him and his $500,000. I did one with them and thought it was done very professionally.’

On top of the free advice, they will guide you through the mechanics and paperwork of a retirement-plan rollover. Click here to see.

Ed:Vanguard Target Retirement Funds: 0.2% expense ratios . . . a one-decision retirement plan.’

WAL-MART

Michael Axelrod: ‘Wal-Mart is frequently accused of underpaying its employees. Yet its annual income (before taxes) per employee is about $10,000, or about $5.00 per hour. Not much wiggle room to raise pay. Even a $2 per hour raise would significantly impact their income. If states like Maryland continue to pass special laws to make Wal-Mart pay more, I see a problem.’

Jim Mellicant: ‘Wal-Mart has much bigger problems than that they run sweatshops overseas. You may want to visit wakeupwalmart.com and do a little research. At some point, each and every state (or at least the blue ones) will start requiring Wal-Mart to pony up for the subsidized health care and that just can’t be good for the bottom line. And have you ever been in a Wal-Mart? [No, actually.] The few times I visited, I found them dirty and unorganized. [No wonder they did only $305 billion in sales last year.] Invest in Wal-Mart? Investing in South Africa during Apartheid would have been more honorable.’

Jon R: ‘There’s an obvious moral dilemma there. I don’t claim to have the solution, but it does seem that at least that in the short term the practices which that documentary critiqued so well are part and parcel of what makes Wal-Mart money.’

☞ The impact on Wal-Mart management of my not buying their stock would be zero. So I’d rather buy it, make the profit (I hope), and use that to do things that might have an impact.

Wal-Mart does a lot of things well (no one is forced to shop or work there, yet many choose to); some things – based on Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price – badly.

But most of the things on that DVD are addressable in U.S. Courts and legislatures. And my guess is that if Wal-Mart faced somewhat higher costs as a result, it could still afford to offer competitive value, given its economies of scale and efficiency. I ain’t sellin’.

BILL MAHER

Peter Ludemann: ‘That wasn’t ‘last Friday night’ – it was September 9, 2005.’

☞ Oops.

AL GORE

John Ebert: ‘Who was the guy giving that speech on PoliticsTV.com? If the Democrats had nominated somebody like that in 2000, we’d be in much better shape today.’

☞ Yeah – who was that guy. Click politicstv.com – choose the ‘D Channel’ on the menu and then scroll down to the Gore speech if you missed it Friday.’

 

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