California Today: Will a Desert Town Test Marijuana’s Saturation Point?

So this story about Needles, a struggling desert town that was name-checked in “The Grapes of Wrath,” caught my eye. The community is now looking at the marijuana industry as a kind of economic savior — but the town already faces plenty of competition. I asked our reporter Nathaniel Popper about the possibilities of pot.

At some point in the distant future, we will probably test the limits of how many towns and counties can cash in on the marijuana boom, but it is safe to say for now that point is a long way off.

One factor that has been limiting the growth of the industry so far is that federal laws make it illegal to transport the plant across state lines, even to other places where it’s legal. If it becomes legal to transport joints and vape pens across state lines, it’s easy to imagine California becoming the pot basket of the country, with all the jobs that entails. On the other hand, as commercial operations spring up, the price of pot is falling fast, challenging a lot of the early players.

I figured this would make it hard to compete with places like Santa Barbara County, where pot producers are allowed to grow outside. But even though growing marijuana indoors is more expensive on a day-to-day basis, it can be much more efficient because the lights can stay on all night, with growing continuing through the year. Indoor facilities can also make it easier to turn out a uniform product.

All that means that there is room in the industry for towns that have cheap land and electricity, alongside the areas that have plentiful farmland.

Needles is in the desert, which has become a kind of Instagrammer’s paradise. Is it trying to attract tourists, too?


2019 Grammy Nominations: Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Women Lead the Way

The rap stars Kendrick Lamar and Drake lead the list of nominees for the 2019 Grammy Awards announced Friday, but right behind them is a crop of young and less heralded artists, notably women, after years of friction about diversity, including a major dust-up over gender representation after the last ceremony.

The Instagram star turned rapper Cardi B, the folk singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, the left-of-center country singer Kacey Musgraves, and the R&B artists H.E.R. and Janelle Monáe are among the women who will compete for album of the year against some of hip-hop’s biggest names. Lamar received eight nominations — including his fourth for album of the year — for his role as executive producer of the soundtrack to Marvel’s “Black Panther,” and Drake was nominated seven times in connection with his blockbuster double album “Scorpion” and guest appearances. Rounding out the category is “Beerbongs & Bentleys” by the 23-year-old rapper and singer Post Malone.

But each of the big four general field categories — record of the year, song of the year, album of the year and best new artist — is dominated by women, including six out of eight acts up for best new artist: Chloe x Halle, H.E.R., Dua Lipa, Margo Price, Bebe Rexha and Jorja Smith. (The others are the country singer Luke Combs and the retro-rock band Greta Van Fleet.)

[Who got snubbed, and whose nomination was a big surprise? See the round table.]

Neil Portnow, the president and chief executive of the Recording Academy, the organization behind the Grammys, said in a statement that “reflection, re-evaluation and implementation” were the “driving forces” behind recent changes to the show’s processes, and therefore its nominations. Portnow, who will step down in 2019, drew ire from prominent women in music, some of whom called for his resignation, after the 60th annual Grammy ceremony in January, when he told reporters backstage that women in music needed to “step up” if they wanted recognition in the industry.
Amid the backdrop of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements against harassment and professional inequality, only one woman, Alessia Cara, won a major award in one of the televised categories this year and Lorde, the only female nominee for album of the year, was not offered a solo performance slot. A report published before the show found that of the 899 people nominated in the last six Grammy Awards, just 9 percent were women. (Portnow later said he regretted his wording, and that his comments had been taken out of context.)

READ MORE:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/07/arts/music/grammys-2019.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share

What to Do With Your Money in 2019 According to Financial Advisors

Money mistakes are a dime a dozen. Except, you know, they end up costing us a bit more than that.

Think More Critically About Your Resolutions

To prevent those costly financial blunders, we asked some financial advisors and professionals what clients tend to get wrong—and you should do differently going into 2019.

Don’t make News Year’s Resolutions. They don’t work.

Set your goals now, or in early January (after the holiday). The goals need to be realistic. This is key. If they are too hard or not remotely achievable, most folks give up before they even start. When setting goals, start small, then move up. For example, if you are contributing three percent to your 401(k) plan, increase it to four percent. Then plan six to nine months down the road to increase it to five percent.

Similarly, if your cash reserve fund is only one month’s living expenses, give yourself a period of time, say six months, to [get to] two months’ living expenses.

Small steps that are actually implemented have a much higher chance of staying implemented. Then you can go from there and again, slightly raise the goal.

The other thing people need to do is check in with their goals. This doesn’t mean following every movement in the stock market. This means reviewing your progress. This should be quarterly.

Pay Yourself First

The tumultuous markets sometimes cause people to quit contributing to their retirement plans, when we should do the opposite and continue to defer into our 401(k) or other retirement plans. If you are worried about volatility, you should still contribute, especially if you are many years away from retirement. Markets have historically gone through periods of decline and subsequently recovered.

READ MORE: https://twocents.lifehacker.com/what-to-do-with-your-money-in-2019-according-to-financi-1830992314?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits


The Physical and Spiritual Art of Capoeira


Mestre Lua Santana playing at Permangolinha, the three-day retreat run
by Mestre Cobra Mansa.

VALENÇA, Brazil — The white-bearded, dreadlocked master and his bushy-haired student face off in an open-sided compound set amid cacao trees and coffee bushes.

The two are in constant motion, swinging back and forth in what is called the ginga — the fundamental movement of the Brazilian combat game capoeira. At times, the way they feint and kick, and roll under and over and around each other, looks like choreographed dance.

But then one side does something the other is not expecting, and it becomes clear that this is a game of strategy, not a planned dance. Mestre Cobra Mansa’s ginga transforms into the movement of a staggering drunk, then a marionette whose puppeteer has suddenly let the string go slack. Then he’s in a handstand. From there, a leg strikes out like a lightning bolt, stopping just short of hitting his opponent’s face.

The circle of men and women surrounding the combatants are engaged in a hypnotic call-and-response song about an encounter with a dangerous snake. It’s intoned to the beat of Afro-Brazilian drums and the twang of single-stringed gourd instruments called berimbaus.

“Valha-me deus, Senhor São Bento,” the circle intones in Portuguese, beseeching Saint Benedict for protection.

The participants — Brazilians mostly, but also Uruguayans, Russians, Ethiopians and Puerto Ricans — have come to the 80-acre property of Mestre Cobra Mansa (or, Master Tame Snake) on the outskirts of Valença, a small coastal city in Bahia, for a three-day retreat called Permangolinha. Its name (and its purpose) are a mash-up of the sustainable farming system known as permaculture and Capoeira Angola, the capoeira style that Mestre Cobra Mansa, 58, teaches.

The event also attracts masters friendly with Mestre Cobra Mansa, including Mestre Lua Santana, from the interior of the state; and Mestra Gegê, a rare female master who also teaches in Valença.


Roberio Silva, 34, from Bahia, Brazil, at a daily capoeira practice.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/arts/dance/capoeira-permangolinha-cobra-mansa.html?action=click&module=Features&pgtype=Homepage

Chase for Talent Pushes Tech Giants Far Beyond West Coast

SAN FRANCISCO — This generation’s biggest technology companies — including Apple, Amazon and Google — have long been tied to their hometowns. Now these giants are increasingly outgrowing their West Coast roots.

Driven by a limited pool of skilled workers and the ballooning cost of living in their home bases of Silicon Valley and Seattle, as well as President Trump’s shifting immigration policies, the companies are aggressively taking their talent hunt across the United States and elsewhere. And they are coalescing particularly around a handful of urban areas that are already winners in the new knowledge-based economy, including New York City, Washington, Boston and Austin, Tex.

This eastward expansion accelerated on Thursday when Apple said it would build a $1 billion campus in Austin, expanding its presence there to over 11,000 workers and becoming the area’s largest private employer. The decision followed Amazon’s highly publicized selection of Queens and Arlington, Va., last month for new offices that would house at least 50,000 employees. Google, too, is shopping for more real estate in New York that could enable it to more than double its work force of 7,000 in the city.

“They’re expanding out,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “Tech talent is in very short supply. So if these tech companies want to grow and flourish, they need to find talent in other parts of the country.”

READ MORE:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/technology/tech-talent-apple-tech-giants-west-coast.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

What’s Hot (and What’s Not) This Black Friday

By now, you have probably realized that the vast majority of Black Friday deals are duds. Many so-called bargains are undesirable products that have been marked down to help stores clear out inventory, or have discounts that aren’t any better than sales that happened earlier in the year.

It’s that time of the year again when retailers bombard you with ads promoting Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Yet there is a silver lining: This is the best time to buy a few items, like video game consoles, televisions and smart home accessories, which plummet to their lowest prices. If you know ahead of time what to focus on, you might score a few good deals.

[Read more about the best ways to spend your money (or keep it) on Black Friday.]

“Come into Black Friday with a list,” said Alex Roth, a commerce editor for Wirecutter, a New York Times product review site that tracks deals year round. “Don’t just buy things and figure you can return them later, because the holiday return lines are horrible.”

to help narrow your search for good buys on Black Friday, I teamed up with Wirecutter to round up the products that are worth following — and the ones you can skip.

If you’ve been planning to treat yourself or a loved one to a new video game console, this may be the best time of year to grab one. Some Black Friday ads for Best Buy and Walmart show that prices for some consoles will drop to their lowest all year, said Adam Burakowski, the deals editor for Wirecutter.

“This year in particular, the consoles are pretty much the best prices we’ve seen,” he said.

For example, both Walmart and Best Buy plan to sell Sony’s PlayStation 4 bundled with the new Spider-Man game for $200, down from the retail price of $300 for the console alone. In addition, Nintendo’s Switch console will cost about $300 together with a Super Mario Kart game — normally, the system costs that much without a game included.

For one, don’t be fooled by ads for so-called doorbusters — like jaw-droppingly cheap TVs — at retailers like Best Buy, Mr. Burakowski said. Those tend to be mediocre TV sets, or they sell out extremely quickly. For another, during Black Friday, manufacturers sometimes sell subpar televisions with model numbers that are nearly identical to popular, high-quality sets, he added.

The smartest way to buy a TV is to do research ahead of time and pick out a great set you want, then jot down the model number and periodically check retailers’ websites throughout the week to see if the price has dropped. (Price-tracking web tools like Camel Camel Camel can help automate this process.)

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/14/technology/personaltech/black-friday-deals.html

To help shoppers get started, here’s a cheat sheet of the products to track,
and the ones to ignore.

Favorites About Food, Family and Thanksgiving

There is a story passed along in my family that makes me smile. It centers on a nephew of mine. When he was 7 years old, his grandfather and another relative died in the same week, and he grew curious about death in the months that followed. At one point, a teacher tried to explain the concept of heaven to him. “When you go there, you’ll see everyone you love all in the same place,” she said.

Thanksgiving is upon us, and for me that means lots and lots of family. I have a gracious aunt who hosts 30 to 40 family members every year at her home in Pennsylvania, and I will be heading there again. When we are not eating, we’ll be cherishing the new babies, cracking jokes until they go too far and catching up on one anothers joys and struggles.

He thought about it, and then replied: “Oh, so it’s like Thanksgiving?”

Whatever form your holiday takes, don’t forget to thank all the people who create a little scrap of heaven here on earth, on this day and every day. Here’s some of our favorite articles about the holiday, both serious and fun, that you can dig into when you aren’t tucking into turkey or pie.