Giving Software its Due, A Lot of Education, Etc. takes

A clean pair of hands is a happy pair of hands. So, when do people wash them? An online poll by CNN.com inquired into the matter. Offered a menu of choices, 69 percent of participants said they’re most likely to wash their hands “after using the bathroom,” with “before handling or eating food” the runner-up (22 percent). Seven percent said they’re most likely to wash “after petting a dog or cat”; 2 percent cited “after handling money.” But we can’t assume these folks were truthful. In research conducted for the American Society of Microbiology,95 percent of respondents to a phone poll said they wash after using the bathroom. But an “observational study” in public restrooms found 67 percent of people did so—75 percent of women and 58 percent of men. Meanwhile, it wouldn’t hurt to wash after using one’s computer. A report by BBC News Online noted research showing computer keyboards accumulate “up to two grams of dirt every month.” Conducted by AOL UK, this study determined the main components of keyboard crud to be corn flakes and boiled sweets (15 percent apiece), noodles (7 percent) and bits of miscellaneous vegetable matter (4 percent).

If an ad over-promises, it should do so on a grand scale. That way, it gets the attention-grabbing benefit of exaggeration without making people feel it’s trying to put one over on them. The Seva Group, an info-techconsultancy based in Baltimore, adopts that principle in a campaign whose jaunty motto is “Software fixes everything.” The exorcism shtick will ring true for those who suspect their computers are indeed possessed by satanic forces. Underground Advertising of Baltimore created the ad.

And so to bedding. For a supposedly sleep-deprived population, Americans manage to spend a remarkable amount of money on nocturnal equipment. A study by The NPD Group finds sales in the “bedding and accessories” category hit $2.6 billion during the first half of 2000, up 10.7 percent versus the first half of 1999. Sheets and pillowcases, which take in 21 percent of retail sales in the “soft home furnishings” market, had a first-half total of $1.4 billion. If Americans are all wet, it’s not for lack of spending on towels, which accounted for $1.2 billion in sales during that period.

Who outranks whom in the nation’s hierarchy of political distaste? One gets an indication from a survey by The Hotline, a newsletter for inside-the-Beltway types. Voters were asked which bothers them most—the “increased influence” of business, religious groups, the entertainment industry ortrial lawyers? It was nearly a photo finish, with the entertainment biz (25 percent) attracting slightly more aversion than business in general (23 percent) and trial lawyers (22 percent). The increased role of religious groups was most bothersome to 14 percent of respondents.

Here’s an odd counterpoint to the dumbing down of popular culture: A new report from the Census Bureau notes that levels of educational attainment in the U.S. are at an all-time high. As of 1999, 83.4 percent of Americans age 25 or older had at least a high-school diploma, and one in four had a bachelor’s degree. In a racial breakdown of the data, 88 percent of whites had a high-school diploma, as did 77 percent of blacks. But the gap narrows when you look at young adults. Among 25-29-year-olds, 93 percent of whites and 89 percent of blacks had graduated from high school. One other tidbit: Average income for Americans age 18 and up with a bachelor’s degree was $43,782, compared to $23,594 for those with just a high-school diploma.