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On the stand

By TIMES WIRES
Published May 17, 2007


Biz tidbits from and about magazines

Workers let vacation time get away

Futurists in the 1970s predicted that, by now, technology would have so shrunk our workloads that we'd all be paddling about in a leisure-and-vacation playland. How wrong they were. "Vacation season is upon us, and a new survey by employment firm Hudson says more than half of American workers fail to take all their vacation days, " BusinessWeek (reports. "Thirty percent say they use less than half their allotted time. And 20 percent take only a few days instead of a week or two." Among so-called extreme jobholders - what author Sylvia Ann Hewlett calls the professional class uppercrust - 42 percent claim they have to cancel vacation plans "regularly." Americans take even less vacation than the Japanese, the people who gave rise to karoshi, the phenomenon of being worked to death.

Um, here a few not-so-good patents

Not every idea is a good one, as Eric Steuer proves in Wired. Drawing on work done by Scott Seegert, who has written a book on the subject, Steuer writes about truly bad ideas that have received a patent. There is, for example, the Pogo-copter: a standard pogo stick with a propeller on top. "As you bounce, the copter's blades send you high into the air. It's like floating on a cloud - for about a second. Then you crash." And there are "airbag underpants, " which send compressed air "into balloon pockets through the knickers, " when they sense you are about to fall.

Overseas demand is spurring profits

Strong demand overseas is helping boost corporate profits, despite U.S. domestic weakness, Barron's reports. "This should give larger, export-driven stocks an advantage over small, U.S.-dependent ones, " the financial weekly adds. Among companies that generate most of their sales outside the United States are Caterpillar, 3M, McDonald's, IBM, Nike and Colgate-Palmolive. According to Barron's, the worldwide spread of capitalism has had an effect on which industry groups outperform the markets in this global scene. Where big manufacturers once topped the performance lists, now it's investment banks, asset managers and commodities producers, reflected in the publication's latest survey of 500 U.S. and Canadian companies. This year's top five: Goldman Sachs, Franklin Resources, Apple, Terex and Paccar.