Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The best US states for women

“As you can still see with the results now, when you look at policy and basic socio-economic indicators, trends are different for women and men and the differences haven’t really diminished very much.” — Ariane Hegewisch, Institute for Women’s Policy Research

TODAY'S POST is courtesy of Paul's cousin-in-law, Roxy, who came across this Washington Post article. Roxy and Chuck live in Minnesota and I'm guessing, feeling pretty proud of their state right about now. 

The article shines a spotlight on the inequity women still face. It's a pervasive environment women encounter all our lives at every turn.

Here's a micro-example: I've served on a scholarship committee for a venerable organization for four years. Another member who's been on the committee many years longer than I have, has taken the trouble to keep statistics on the scholarship winners, including their gender. 

Although I'm very interested in the stats on college completion, because the six subcommittees that interview individual applicants are diligent in their efforts to select the best applicant based criteria of need, ability and probability of successfully making it to graduation, I haven't been interested in what the gender distribution has been. The best applicants are chosen; the end.

This particular male committee member, however, has been in a state of perpetual alarm for at least three years because the number of young women recipients has exceeded the number of young male recipients. This year the ratio was five girls to one boy; last year it was the same, or perhaps all the might have been young ladies. I've been so focused on (and celebratory about) the quality of the winners, I hadn't noticed the gender.

When I say that he's been alarmed by this preponderance of young women, I mean that he's been almost apoplectic. 

Here's how I feel about that: get over it. Talk to me in several centuries. What distress and consternation was there across the years and years of severest inequity  — when opportunities for education and career were so heavily in favor of men that having a young woman go to law school or medical school or elected to the legislature or chosen for a judgeship was such uncommon occurrence as to be remarkable? Believe me, it hasn't been that long.

Sexism remains rampant. The study below by Institute for Women’s Policy Research as written about by The Washington Post confirms it.

The best states for women in America, in 11 maps and charts
By Niraj Chokshi 
May 20, 2015

Minnesota is the best state for women in America.

That’s according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a nonprofit that on Wednesday published the final two reports in a sprawling seven-part series exploring how women are faring in the states. The “Status of Women in the States” series, an update on a set of reports from 2004, represents an ambitious attempt to quantify gender inequality in the states—and provide fodder for the national discussion.

“The way politics are structured in the U.S., if you want to make an impact it helps if you have the data,” says Ariane Hegewisch, study director at IWPR. “So the purpose was to pull the data down to the state level at least to help people concerned about addressing gender issues to make their case.”

Each state and the District of Columbia received grades on seven broad topics, derived from dozens of metrics and touching on virtually all aspects of the public and private lives of women, from employment and earnings to economic opportunity to violence and safety to reproductive rights to health to political participation.

In the end, Hegewisch says, the report found inequities remain.

“As you can still see with the results now, when you look at policy and basic socio-economic indicators, trends are different for women and men and the differences haven’t really diminished very much,” she said. Even among women, racial inequality persists, she added.

In the end, Minnesota rose to the top, along with a handful of states in New England and the West Coast. The states that scored lowest were in the South, with Mississippi and Alabama tying for the title of worst state for women.
The dozen best states were chosen because each appeared in the top 10 in at least one of the seven IWPR reports and none appeared below the midpoint of all states on any of the reports. The six “worst” states were chosen because each qualified in the bottom 10 of at least one report and fell below the midpoint of all states in each report.

Here’s a look at how the states stack up, in each report:

1. The best state for political participation: New Hampshire

Though one of the last, IWPR’s report on political participation is perhaps the most important: a more engaged female electorate means better representation of women’s interests across the spectrum.

After analyzing how women fared in four areas — voter registration and turnout, representation in elected office and institutional resources — IWPR concluded that women in New Hampshire are most politically engaged, earning the state a top score of a B+. New England, the Midwest and the West Coast dominate the rankings, with three states in each region placing among the top 10 overall. Seven of the worst states for women’s political participation are in the South.

There’s good and bad news in the report: political representation has generally improved for women, but they have a long way to go before achieving equality.

A decade ago, women accounted for fewer than 1 in 7 members of Congress. Today, they account for nearly 1 in 5. But, at the rate of progress women have seen since 1960, IWPR estimates that women won’t achieve equal representation in Congress for another 102 years.

Women have yet to achieve 50 percent representation in any state legislature and while six states have female governors, only 36 of the 2,300 governors have ever been women.

2. New York: the best state for women’s work-family balance

The other report released on Wednesday is new to the series: this one tracks how well states allow for a healthy split between work and family life, largely by looking at policies that facilitate such a balance.

“There has been really increased awareness of these issues, of the need to explicitly address the barriers,” Hegewisch says.

In their analysis, New York rose to the top. While it had the highest score, it, California and the District of Columbia each earned Bs. Indiana, Montana and Utah scored lowest, each earning an F. That conclusion is based on four indicators: policies on paid leave, dependent and elder care and child care, as well as the share of parents in the workforce with young children at home.

The report also identified big differences by race. Just 51 percent of working Hispanic women have access to paid sick days, for example, compared to 65 percent of working white or Asian women.

3. Oregon, the best state for reproductive rights

Oregon scored higher than any other in terms of reproductive rights, though it, six other states and the District of Columbia earned A-minuses. Ten states earned Bs, 20 earned Cs, 9 received Ds and four — South Dakota, which ranked last, Nebraska, Kansas and Idaho — flunked on IWPR’s scorecard.

The grades were based on a number of variables, including: access to, funding for and political support for abortion; sex education; and whether a state imposed any of a variety of abortion restrictions.

Reproductive rights advanced since 2004 in some ways and retreated in others. Generally, access to infertility treatments has broadened, as has access to abortion providers. (Just barely, though: the share of women living in a county with at least one abortion provider grew in 24 states, but shrank in 22.)

Meanwhile, more states added abortion waiting periods—including Tennessee this week—while the share of pro-choice public officials shrank in more states than it grew.

4. The best state for women to rise above poverty? Maryland

Women fighting to move out of poverty are better off in Maryland than their their peers in any other state, according to IWPR’s analysis of poverty and economic opportunity. The report looked at the share of women who: live above the poverty line; own a business; have health insurance; and earned a bachelor’s degree, we noted when that report was released:

Those four factors were chosen years ago in an effort to “pinpoint how well women are doing in this area,” says Cynthia Hess, the study’s lead author. When combined, the four factors in the report paint a composite picture of social and economic autonomy for women across the states, with women in Maryland beating Massachusetts by a nose.

The variables were chosen years ago by a committee of mostly academic experts assembled by IWPR to identify representative and consistent indicators. Since 2004, the situation for women in the states has improved on two counts and backtracked on two others, we reported:

The share of women with a bachelor’s degree rose 6.9 points to 29.7 percent and the share owning a business grew from 26 to 28.8 percent. At the same time, the share of women living above poverty shrank from 87.9 percent to 85.4 percent and the share of those with health insurance shrank from 82.3 percent to 81.5 percent, though the latest 2013 data omits the impact of Obamacare.

5. Violence and safety

The report on violence and safety is the only one in the series for which IWPR did not calculate a composite score, because state-level data on the relevant issues is limited.

The report focuses on a slew of topics, however, including prevalence of intimate partner violence, rape and sexual assault, stalking, harassment, teen dating violence, gun violence and human trafficking.

As in the other reports, the analysis of violence and safety identified large variation by ethnicity and race. More than half of Native American and multiracial women report experiencing intimate partner violence at some point in their lifetime, compared to just 15 percent of Asian women, for example. Similar trends hold for psychological aggression.

The continued prevalence of such violence, along with a number of other factors, underscores the need for further research, the authors of the IWPR report argue:

At a basic level, this requires improving data collection in the area of violence and abuse by ensuring that survey data are available with sufficiently large samples to allow for analysis at the state level and by race and ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, and other contextual factors. Having improved data will allow researchers to pinpoint the needs of various populations and will help advocates, policymakers, and others to strengthen effective institutional, political, and community responses.

6. On health and well-being, women in Minnesota are best off

After looking at a number of variables related to physical and mental health, Minnesota emerged as the top state for women’s health and well-being. The report sheds light on a number of troubling health trends, including a 50-state rise in chlamydia, declining mental health, increased suicide and dramatic racial disparities, as The Post’s Danielle Paquette reported earlier this month:

While certain indicators have generally improved in recent years — national mortality rates from heart disease and breast cancer have dipped, for example — several others show a need for prompt attention, said Cynthia Hess, study director at IWPR.

“Health isn’t something that exists in a vacuum,” said Hess, who used data from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey. “It’s connected to economic security, access to affordable health care, housing quality, access to healthy food and racism.”

The South once again hosted the poorest-performing states, while the best were in the Western, Northeastern or Midwestern U.S.

Only 10 states and D.C. improved their scores from 2004 to 2015, while Alabama and Tennessee saw the biggest losses. Generally, rates of heart disease, lung cancer mortality, female breast cancer mortality and incidence of AIDS improved. But, at the same time, the diabetes rate, incidence of chalmydia, number of poor mental health days per month and suicide mortality rates worsened.

7. Maryland, the best state for employment and earnings

The first report in the series examined how women fared in each state’s labor force, relying on a series of data to arrive at its conclusion: that women in Maryland are best off when it comes to employment and earnings.

Maryland and Massachusetts each earned a B+ on IWPR’s scorecard (The District of Columbia earned an A), though women are far from equal in either state. In Maryland, women earn 87.4 cents for every dollar earned by men, who are also 1.9 times more likely to work in high-paying Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) jobs.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Here's what would have happened

“There were so many rounds fired from bad-guy weapons here, it is amazing that innocent civilians were not injured.” — Sergeant Patrick Swanton, Waco Police Department spokesman

UNLESS you've been in a cave or on a 10-day, no-cell-service vacation, you've watched or read about the biker gang shootout in Waco, TX that took place May 17. Nine people were killed, 18 were injured, and 170 gang members were arrested.

Paul pointed out a conspicuous, racist reality: take exactly the same circumstance with the same statistics, but change one detail: make the participants black or Mexican or Muslim. Imagine the pandemonium that would have erupted. Police contingents would have been called in replete with body armor and militarized vehicles, civilians would have taken up arms or at least checked their ammo supply as continuous-news-feed fear mongering escalated the hysteria.

But hey, these were white guys!!!

And because they are, what took place is seen as a localized incident created by individual law-breaking people, not some wave of terror sweeping the country.

Friend Karl Schilling passed on this video which perfectly makes Paul's point.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Another one bites the dust

 “If you feed them, if you feed the children, three square meals a day during the school year, how can you expect them to feed themselves in the summer? Wanton little waifs and serfs dependent on the State. Pure and simple.” – Rush Limbaugh, 2011

IF YOU read Hey Look on even a semi-regular basis, you know I can't stand that hateful, bigoted bloviator — Rush Limbaugh. I'll be frank with you, though. If I were writing for ratings, I wouldn't keep gnawing away at him as I do because my posts about him are not my most popular.

Perhaps you're just sick of hearing about him. I hope it's not that you don't care. Seriously y'all, he's bad for our collective, national mental health; we need to put him out of business.

And on that note, I have this happy bit of news to share: Boston radio affiliate WRKO has dropped him!! Can I get a woot woot?!?

Below is a May 19, 2015 article from Media Matters. Read it with relish. Better yet, go to There you'll find a list of his advertisers. (Personally, I always go directly to the national advertisers.) Pick three and call or email them. Contact information is supplied. Heck, I'd be happy if you just do one!

Boston's WRKO Dropping Rush Limbaugh's Show From Its Lineup
By Angelo Carusone
May 19, 2015

Rush Limbaugh's Boston radio affiliate WRKO has announced it is dropping Limbaugh's talk show from its lineup. Limbaugh's syndicator, Premiere, confirmed the news in a statement, which reads in part: "We were unable to reach agreeable terms for The Rush Limbaugh Show to continue on WRKO. A final broadcast date will be announced in the near future."

WRKO has now become the second major radio station in recent weeks to drop Limbaugh's program. Limbaugh's longtime Indianapolis affiliate WIBC severed ties with him in April. WIBC's parent company noted that Limbaugh's absence could actually improve its advertiser prospects.

The commercial viability of Rush Limbaugh's show has suffered since 2012, when advertisers began fleeing the program in the wake of Limbaugh's prolonged attack on then-law student Sandra Fluke. The Wall Street Journal has reported on the millions of dollars in advertising revenue stations who carry Limbaugh's show lose, as well as the industry-wide damage resulting from Limbaugh's toxicity to advertisers. Notably, according to the report, the exodus of national advertisers has played a significant part in reducing talk radio advertising rates to about half of what it costs to run ads on music stations, even though the two formats have "comparable audience metrics."

WRKO dropping Limbaugh from its lineup is just the latest reminder that Rush Limbaugh is bad for business.

Advertisers continue to leave and stay away thanks to a dedicated group of independent organizers in the Flush Rush and #StopRush communities. Their participation matters and is having a big effect.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bad bowling

“Don't lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.” — Ralph Marston, writer and publisher of The Daily Motivator

OH, just put a sock in it, Ralph.

Paul and I are terrible bowlers. I mean really and truly, completely awful. I say that with assurance and relief.

Not that there's anything wrong with being a good bowler or aspiring to be one.

It's just that I find it joyous to totally suck at something and not feel even the tiniest bit bad about it. This whole constantly trying to get good at things that I'm not and get better at things I am is exhausting!! 

Do you get the idea that I might suffer from extreme performance anxiety? I do. That's what comes from being raised by two grandmothers for whom achievement and appearances were everything.

Paul and I are planning to have a bad-bowling party in celebration of how really bad we are at it. Some of you who are reading this have already been spoken to (you know who you are) and will be invited. I can't wait.

In the meantime, here's a vintage video that's amazing. Really, it's just priceless, not to mention unbelievable. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Not such a blurry line after all

“Without change there is no innovation, creativity or incentive for improvement.” — William Pollard, Quaker writer and minister

IN RETROSPECT, the title of the song Robin Thicke and Pharrel Williams "wrote" was prophetic. There were some blurry lines, but on March 10 a US District Court jury clarified them by ruling that Blurred Lines plagiarized Marvin Gaye's 1977 hit, Got to Give It Up, and awarding his heirs $7.3 million.

I'm doing a little Gaye happy dance.

For starters, I'm a huge Marvin Gaye fan. The man was blissfully talented, creating hits that included I Heard it Through the Grapevine, Can I Get a Witness and How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You). Tragically, he was shot to death by his father in 1984 at age 44.

The sublime Mr. Marvin Gaye

Just as important to me, however, is how much I loathe Thicke and William's malignantly misogynistic version. You can look it up on You Tube if you want, if it still exists out there. I hope it doesn't.

Instead I enthusiastically share a brilliant send-up of Blurred Lines created by three female law students I wrote about in a September 15, 2013 post. Watch it instead.

The reaction to the verdict by some has been apoplectic; the LA Times ran a subhead that read, "How the 'Blurred Lines' case could have chilling effect on creativity."

Personally, I think Pharrel and Robin deserved a spanking. I liked Pharrel's I'm Happy. In fact I wrote a blog post celebrating the song, but then I started listening to some of his other work, and frankly, what I've heard of it sounds repetitious.

As to why that might be the case, another quote from the LA Times sheds some light on Pharrel's "process." 

"Alone in a Burbank studio, Pharrell Williams started by 'surfing around' for a drumbeat…Once he got a 'groove' going, he later recalled, he let it speak to him. When he found a melody 'that sticks and shimmers,' it told him what the song should be about, and he started scratching down lyrics. In all, it took less than an hour, Williams testified this month."

I'm guessing that the reason it took him "less than an hour" (Paul said, "That's not composing music, that's tinkering.") and the reason it "stuck and shimmered" was because he'd heard it before. I'm not saying he intentionally copied Marvin Gaye's song, but maybe it sounded so right because it had already been so. Musical geniuses capable of instant brilliance exist to be sure, but I don't think that's what we're talking about here with Mr. Williams or Mr. ThickeThey had a catchy tune . . . which they borrowed.

It's possible to give a nod to someone else's past work and influence without purloining it. Jazz musicians do it all the time when they insert a couple of bars into a solo quoting a famous tune, but it's a brief reference that honors, not rips off, another musician, but I'll admit I'm biased. I'm married to a professionally trained musician, and I hang out with a bunch of them. They've invested in attending music school and put years into learning the mechanics as well as the art of building a tune. 

It's ironic that this case was indeed about blurred lines — the line that divides being influenced by and stealing. It can be a blurry line, but at some point it's crossed, and repercussions are due. 

Perhaps instead of having a "chilling effect" on musical creativity, this ruling will serve stimulate it. If so, it will be welcome because what's happening now in pop music is pretty awful, creatively speaking.

Paul found the below two pieces of evidence. The first talks about the wretchedness of lyrics; the second is a video demonstrating the sameness of popular country tunes. Below both of these, is a New York Times article about the recent jury finding in favor of Marvin Gaye's heirs. 

From the blog Seat Smart:

Lyric Intelligence In Popular Music: A Ten Year Analysis
By Andrew Powell-Morse
May 18, 2015

Popular music lyrics are dumb. No really, I’m not just saying that. As easy as it is to mock the quality of lyrics today, there’s some real science behind looking at how dumb they truly are.

How exactly did I go about this?

I turned to the Readability Score. It uses writing analysis tools like the Flesch-Kincaid grade index and many others to create an average of the US reading level of a piece of text. I plugged in song lyrics (punctuation added by me, since most songs lack it altogether) and out of the machine popped out average grade level, word count, and other very interesting metrics.

All told, I analyzed 225 songs in 4 different datasets, resulting in 2,000+ individual data points. How’d I choose them? If they spent at least a few weeks (3+) at #1 on the Billboard charts for Pop, Country, Rock, and R&B/Hip-Hop for any given year, they made the list.

While the results are certainly enlightening, it’s important to note that this data doesn’t touch on the meaning of a song, the metaphors, how the words connect with the artist’s personal story, etc. to create deeper meaning. These numbers are fun and interesting, so just enjoy them.

What did the data tell us?

So much for lyrics. How 'bout the melodies? From Sir Mashalot.

‘Blurred Lines’ Infringed on Marvin Gaye Copyright, Jury Rules
By Ben Sisario and Noah Smith
March 10, 2015

For the last year and a half, the music industry has been gripped by a lawsuit over whether Robin Thicke’s 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” was merely reminiscent of a song by Marvin Gaye, or had crossed the line into plagiarism.

A federal jury in Los Angeles on Tuesday agreed that “Blurred Lines” had gone too far, and copied elements of Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give It Up” without permission. The jury found that Mr. Thicke, with Pharrell Williams, who shares a songwriting credit on the track, had committed copyright infringement, and it awarded more than $7.3 million to Mr. Gaye’s family.

Nona and Frankie Gaye, two of Marvin Gaye’s children, are to receive $4 million in damages plus about $3.3 million of the profits earned by Mr. Thicke and Mr. Williams. The decision is believed to be one of the largest damages awards in a music copyright case. In one of the few comparable cases, in 1994, Michael Bolton and Sony were ordered to pay $5.4 million for infringing on a 1960s song by the soul group the Isley Brothers.

Since the “Blurred Lines” suit was filed in August 2013, while the song was still No. 1, the case has prompted debate in music and copyright circles about the difference between plagiarism and homage, as well as what impact the verdict would have on how musicians create work in the future.

Mr. Thicke’s lawyers had argued that the similarity between the songs — both are upbeat dance tunes featuring lots of partylike atmospherics — was slight, and had more to do with the evocation of an era and a feeling than the mimicking of specific musical themes that are protected by copyright.

But speaking to reporters after the verdict was announced, Richard S. Busch, a lawyer for the Gaye family, portrayed the ruling as a refutation of that view.

“Throughout this case they made comments about how this was about a groove, and how this was about an era,” Mr. Busch said. “It wasn’t. It was about the copyright of ‘Got to Give It Up.’ It was about copyright infringement.”

Neither Mr. Thicke nor Mr. Williams was in court on Tuesday. But in a joint statement, they said that “we are extremely disappointed in the ruling made today, which sets a horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward.”

Howard E. King, a lawyer for Mr. Thicke and Mr. Williams, said that his clients were considering their legal options but he declined to be more specific. (Noting the fame and fortune of Mr. Thicke and Mr. Williams, however, Mr. King — a wry voice inside and outside of the court — said that the verdict “is not going to bankrupt my clients.”)

The jury decided that while “Blurred Lines” infringed on the copyright of “Got to Give It Up,” Mr. Thicke and Mr. Williams had not done so willfully. Clifford Harris Jr., better known as T. I., who contributed a rap in the song, was found not liable. According to an accounting statement read in court and attested to by both sides, “Blurred Lines” has earned more than $16 million in profit.

The case was unusual not only for its large damages award but for the fact that it reached the level of a jury verdict at all. Music executives and legal experts said that while accusations of plagiarism — and accompanying demands for credit and royalties — are common in the music industry, it is rare for a case to progress so far.

“Music infringement claims tend to be settled early on, with financially successful defendants doling out basically extorted payoffs to potential plaintiffs rather than facing expensive, protracted and embarrassing litigation,” said Charles Cronin, a lecturer at the Gould School of Law at the University of Southern California, who specializes in music copyright.

The eight jurors in the case were instructed by the judge, John A. Kronstadt of United States District Court, to compare “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give It Up” only on the basis of their “sheet music” versions — meaning their fundamental chords, melodies and lyrics, and not the sounds of their commercial recordings.

That led to several days of esoteric analysis by musicologists for both sides, whose testimony was often vociferously objected to by the lawyers. The disputes involved passages as short as four notes, as well as mash-ups pairing the bass line of one song with the vocals from the other.

Yet the case also had plenty of star power and revelations about some of the more unseemly practices of the music business. As part of his testimony, Mr. Thicke performed a piano medley of “Blurred Lines” and tracks by U2, Michael Jackson and the Beatles in an effort to show how easily one song could be shown to sound like another.

He also said that he had been high on drugs and alcohol throughout the recording and promotion of “Blurred Lines,” and that while he claimed a songwriting credit on the track, it was Mr. Williams who had created most of it.

“The biggest hit of my career was written by somebody else, and I was jealous and wanted credit,” Mr. Thicke testified.

As news of the ruling spread Tuesday afternoon, some legal experts expressed worry about the precedent it set. Lawrence Iser, an intellectual property lawyer in Los Angeles who was not involved in the case, called it “a bad result.”

“It will cause people who want to want to evoke the past to perhaps refrain from doing so,” Mr. Iser said. “Rather than helping to progress the arts, it is a step backward.”

For the family of Marvin Gaye — who died in 1984 — the jury’s verdict was welcome. In one of the twists of the often complicated case, Mr. Thicke and Mr. Williams sued first, seeking a declaration from a judge to protect them against infringement claims that they said had been made privately by the Gaye family. Nona and Frankie Gaye quickly countersued.

When the verdict was read on Tuesday, members of the Gaye family — who were present at court throughout the trial — exulted and shed tears of joy.

“I’m really grateful,” said Janis Gaye, Marvin’s former wife and the mother of Nona and Frankie Gaye. “I hope people understand that this means Marvin deserves credit for what he did back in 1977.”

Monday, May 18, 2015

How to build a better mattress

“Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.” ― Anthony Burgess, English writer, composer and author of A Clockwork Orange

I'VE BEEN lobbying for a new mattress for about a year. Paul had been waking up too many mornings with an aching back, and although we've loved the memory foam mattress we've had for years, it was plainly time to replace it.

On the one hand I was looking forward to having a brand new mattress, and on the other, I was dreading shopping for one. We both agreed that we wanted our new mattress to again be memory foam, but from there what?

I started out thinking I wanted a Tempur-Pedic, but they're pricey, and neither one of us were keen on spending $3000 or more for one. After conducting a bit of research, I considered a BedInABox brand mattress, at about 1/3 third the cost of a Tempur-Pedic, but I changed my mind when I realized they squish their mattresses to fit in a 20"x20"x48" shipping box. Somehow, that didn't seem like a good thing to do to a mattress.

Then I came across Loom & Leaf and liked what I read. It was the same price as BedInABox which was a plus, but in addition I liked that it wouldn't be swished to ship, the cotton portion of the mattress is organic, the foam is planted-based, and the mattress is made entirely in the USA. I read reviews and comparisons, and felt like Loom & Leaf was a good choice.

This isn't our bed. The new mattress inspired me to redecorate, so our whole bedroom is 
torn up. The carpet has been replaced, and now I'm deep into repainting the woodwork. 
I'll show you a picture when I'm done!

Two things I didn't realize when I ordered it: 1) I got one of the first ones made; the parent company, Saatva, had only been manufacturing Loom & Leaf mattresses for a month 2) just how good a mattress and deal we were getting.

In case you might need to shop for a new mattress, I'm sharing two articles about the company; it's actually an interesting story.

The first piece about the parent company appeared in Fortune Magazine, the second article about Loom & Leaf appeared on Huffington Post.

This mattress company's profits are nothing to snooze at
by Brittany Shoot
October 22, 2014 

Anyone who has tried it lately can probably attest that mattress shopping isn’t exactly a bed of roses. Bed-in-a-box foam mattress e-tailers like Casper and Tuft and Needle have rightly earned rave reviews for cutting both cost and hassle. But comparing foam against traditional innerspring coil mattresses is misleading. It’s the exact sort of comparison that further obfuscates an already maddening decision between a dozen bone-white rectangles that all look and seem very much the same.

In the recent tradition of a transparency-forward, online-only retail, there’s another contender rousing the rest of the industry from its fitful slumber: Saatva, which delivers its dual innerspring coil mattress direct to customers’ doors, at a starting price of $899.

With the minimal overhead of e-commerce and despite the slow buying cycle associated with huge durable goods like mattresses, the company, which launched three years ago, has been profitable since its third month. Saatva’s revenue numbers demonstrate its industry stronghold: 300% growth year over year with projected revenue of $25 million this year and $45 million for 2015.

It’s hard to understand how one direct-to-consumer mattress company could boast such staggering figures against multi-billion-dollar industry giants like Sealy and Serta. That is, unless you’ve encountered the confusing mattress-buying process punctuated by mystifying markups and obtuse labeling. Head to a mattress outlet, and you might find a one model that seems like a good fit. But try comparison shopping at a department store, and you’ll find what appears to be the exact same mattress listed under another name and sometimes bearing a different price tag. You want simplicity? Dream on.

It’s almost easier to chase monsters out from under the bed than evaluate your options. Do you know what a gel mattress is? Does the endorsement of conservative radio hosts impact your opinion about Select Comfort’s Sleep Number adjustable air mattress? Would you sleep on a camouflage-patterned Duck Dynasty bed? Even attempting to assess the toxicity of manufacturing materials, flame-retardant chemicals, and off-gassing is the stuff of vivid nightmares.

The Serta, Simmons, and Tempur-Pedic troika have long held an oligopoly in the mattress manufacturer-retailer space. If you think one name is missing from that list, it’s Sealy, which Tempur-Pedic TPX 1.04% acquired in 2012 for $242 million. Major brick-and-mortar retailers have also been tossing and turning. Last month, Mattress Firm, one of the biggest Sealy and Serta retailers, acquired West Coast rival Sleep Train for $425 million cash and stock. Mattress Firm’s public filing in 2008, the last reliable data on the subject, showed that 84% of mattress sales take place in furniture or department stores, or in specialty sleep retailers, which at the time accounted for 42% of sales.

Saatva cofounder and chief marketing officer Ricky Joshi notes that his company has basically been in stealth mode, relying on word-of-mouth recommendations and stellar online ratings that highlight the company’s commitment to customer service. Raving reviewers on Google, PriceGrabber, and mattress review sites like are largely responsible for skyrocketing sales.

Since a steel coil innerspring mattress doesn’t roll up and fit tidily into a cardboard shipping box, the company built out a robust nationwide distribution chain, served by 10 factories and 31 distribution centers. Saatva also removes a customer’s old mattress. Boxed mattress sellers tend to put the onus of removing the old mattress on the customer, an annoying pitfall and one that can add to the final cost of a new bed.

Even factoring in shipping, Saatva can keep prices lower than competitors by not blowing the budget on advertising and instead leveraging those glowing reviews. Joshi points out that mattress giants often spend more money on marketing than the actual product. A look back at Mattress Firm’s 2011 IPO prospectus, for example, shows that the company spent only $180 million on product compared to $230 million on retail, advertising, and administration in the same period.

The company also saves by manufacturing in the U.S. Offering an American-made product was also a priority from the beginning. “There are a lot of question marks from overseas manufacturers,” Joshi says. Importing from overseas is a hassle, and not particularly economical. Besides, what’s more appealing to middle America than durable domestic goods? “It’s nice to be cool in San Francisco and New York City, but we also sell in Dallas, Chicago, and Columbus, Ohio.”

It’s hard to say what kind of fierce competition it would take to wake up the legacy mattress giants. And it’s worth wondering: can an e-commerce company like Saatva permanently disrupt the luxury mattress industry? Maybe we should sleep on it.

Loom & Leaf Co-Founder Interviewed on Huffington Post
by Leo Welder

Loom & Leaf Co-Founder Ricky Joshi discusses how the luxury mattress company is taking on mattress giant Tempur-Pedic.

“Tempur-Pedic is the best selling mattress brand in the United States. Loom and Leaf in many ways pushes the technology, luxury, and environmental boundaries beyond the big players, and can do this much more affordably.”

Snapshot of the Interview:

Friday, May 15, 2015

A very big Erector set

“Whatever good things we build end up building us.” — Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker

ONE OF the things we do at Brainstorm, the creative house Paul and I own, is build trade show exhibits. 

We're good at it, if I do say so myself. We've won more than a dozen International Teddy Awards for exhibit design excellence, in the process beating out big shops in Chicago, Washington D.C., Paris, New York, London, Madrid, Dallas and other major cities.

A few months ago MidAmerican Energy hired us to design and build a 40-foot exhibit for the Berkshire Hathaway show. MidAmerican is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Energy which in turn is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, the multinational conglomerate holding company helmed by Warren Buffet and headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska

Although I say they hired Brainstorm, it was entirely a Paul project from start to finish. All I did was provide moral support. The exhibit comprised components from seven different vendors and consisted of upwards of 500 separate pieces and parts! Reallly!! Considering that they all have to fit together properly, that's a lot of engineering, ordering, assembling, building and staying on top of things.

Visible here is a portion of the bricolage.

Abraham and Paul built crates to ship the exhibit to the show.
At work on the show floor.
Normally exhibits we design are graphic-laden, but in this case the client wanted a theater.
The large gray panel in the center is actually a video screen, and there are two 60-inch
monitors, one on either end of the exhibit.
I'm just in the picture to give you a sense of scale.