business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  From the Associated Press:

"Applications for unemployment benefits inched down last week as the total number of Americans collecting aid fell to its lowest level in more than 50 years.

"Jobless claims fell by 2,000 to 184,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average of claims, which levels out week-to-week volatility, rose by 4,500 to 177,250.

"About 1.42 million Americans were collecting traditional unemployment benefits in the week of April 9, the fewest since Feb. 21, 1970."

• USA Today reports that "a group of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology dug deep into the science by devising an Oreometer, a device designed to split the iconic Oreo cookie with a specific amount of force. The goal was to create a perfect split every single time: one side a clean cookie, the other side with all the filling."

One thing the scientists couldn't figure out, the story says, is "how to manipulate the perfect split Oreo split with equal cream on each side of the cookie."

But, they found, you can do it so "all the cream to wind up on one side. There's just one stipulation, the researchers found: The Oreo needs to be from a freshly opened pack and separated with a twisting motion … The scientists concluded the main factor was not the twisting of the cookie, but rather the 'adhesiveness' of the creme filling. The filling can be affected by a number of factors, including the way it's stored, packaged, manufactured and shipped, according to the study."

There's actually a name for this line of research:  Oreology.

First of all, I don't have a degree from MIT, but I think I sort of knew this intuitively.

Second … I checked, and it costs more than $53,000 a year just in tuition to go to MIT.  I know I sound like a parent here, but if I were spending that kind of money on my kid's education there, and this is what they had to show for it, I might be a tad peeved.  On the other hand, if they're paying for it themselves … no, I'd still be sort of annoyed that in a world with all the problems that it has, really smart people are trying to figure out the best way to separate an Oreo.

Especially because the best way to eat an Oreo isn't to split it.  You leave it intact, dunk it in cold milk, and then eat it.

•  In Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports that "Best Buy has made it easier to get rid of an old television, computer or other unwanted electronic device with the debut of its e-waste pick-up service that would allow for items to be collected from customers' homes and then recycled.

"Starting this month, consumers can make a request online for pickup and recycling of electronics like major appliances, computer monitors, select fitness equipment and more through the Best Buy Standalone Haul-Away service.

"Best Buy will haul two large products along with an unlimited amount of select smaller products like laptops, cameras and cords per pickup. The Haul-Away service is available for $199.99 per pickup or $159.99 for customers who have Best Buy Totaltech membership."

This sounded like a pretty good idea - being a resource in addition to a source of product - until I saw the price tag, which just sounds a little excessive.  At the very least, you'd think Best Buy would find a way to provide it for less money or even for free to its best customers.