Ledge update

July 25, 2011 LITTLE ROCK — Tourism’s contribution to the Arkansas economy increased about 1.4 percent last year, from $5.38 billion to $5.45 billion.The number of visitors to the state actually went down slightly, but their spending was up.Industries that cater to travelers employed more than 58,000 Arkansans and paid $1 billion in salaries.Based on surveys and information collected at welcome centers on the state’s borders, Texas ranked highest as a state of origin for visitors.

Riding The Incline

July 25, 2011 One break of the cables and we would have been a scene for every news station across the country.I could see the helicopters hovering above the trees and CNN’s Anderson Cooper reporting live.That was all I could think about, stepping inside the cable car at the top of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tenn., and I know it had to cross the minds of everyone else who paid the $14 to ride what is considered the steepest passenger incline in the world with a 72.7 percent grade at its highest point.

Closing the book

July 25, 2011 I used to have an aversion to big-box stores, especially those that destroy well-run, friendly neighborhood businesses, which is a fundamental part of the big-box strategy.Over time my stance softened. My family and I do more of our shopping in places like Target, Best Buy, Costco and Home Depot, because of the large selection and reasonable prices. Yes, the personal touch is missing — but that’s a tradeoff, because sometimes you want to spend an hour examining dozens of socket wrenches without a salesperson hovering.

Call your mom

July 22, 2011 I have two daughters. One is 11 and the other is 23 and goes to college in Daytona Beach, Fla. Like any mother, I worry about my child living alone so far away. She doesn’t know anyone there and doesn’t have anyone to help her. Her car has been giving her some problems and has left her walking a few times. She has never complained about the apartment building she lives in other than the upstairs neighbor being too loud at times.

Nothing in Murdoch meltdown justifies hacking into the 1st Amendment

July 22, 2011 For me, as an advocate for a free press, watching the ongoing phone-hacking flap in Great Britain involving News Corp. and media mogul Rupert Murdoch is part fascination, part revulsion and, at least for the moment, just a touch of First Amendment concern.

Summer of ’80 was scorcher

July 21, 2011 Thirty-one years ago on July 13, Batesville was the hottest spot in the nation, reaching an official 111 degrees.Thanks to Jim Barnett of Batesville for calling that to our attention (as if we could ever forget). Well, actually, we did forget the exact date. But we didn’t forget that summer.The information Barnett brought in — clippings from old Batesville Daily Guards — brought back memories of the rolling blackouts, which allowed the insides of homes to sizzle just like the outside heat was sizzling.

Patriotic purchasing

July 21, 2011 Is it unpatriotic for Americans to buy foreign-made products?Last summer, President Obama said: “I’m convinced we’re going to rebuild [the economy] better and stronger than before. And at its heart is going to be three powerful words: Made in America.”You’d think that would be a call to action — for government to encourage domestic manufacturing, and for consumers to aggressively support it.

Closing wrong borders

July 20, 2011 Sometimes coincidences can really dampen your spirits. This week I was driving around with a CD that features Johnny Cash lamenting “I don’t like it, but I guess things happen that way.” Then I learned that the Borders bookstore chain will be shutting down completely by the end of September.

Milking cows 101

July 20, 2011  Having a milk cow has many challenges, but the one that I like the least is the lack of freedom I have. She has to be milked twice each day no matter what, and not just anyone can milk her.I was reminded of this when summer came and I could wear short sleeve shirts while I was teaching. The first day I dressed that way, a young man came to the front of the room after class and timidly asked, “Professor Howard, did you get bit on your arms or something?”

Cost of success

July 20, 2011 Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, News Corporation, which includes American TV’s Fox News, is extensive to the point of global and is coming unraveled. At first the fallout from the phone and email tampering scandal seemed like it was going to be contained to a few people getting fired across the Atlantic pond. Perhaps there would even be some collateral damage to a handful of underlings, but something different is afoot here.