Wiffle Ball, Inc.
Jun23

Wiffle Ball, Inc.

One of my favorite family activities is playing Wiffle Ball with my eight-year-old daughter. I try to hit the ball clear across the street and over my neighbor’s fence about 100 feet away. Though, the theoretical limit of hitting a Wiffle Ball seems to be something like 90 feet. My daughter enjoys beaming it off the house and delights in watching it roll down the pitch of our gabled roof. When we get bored, we normally start playing light-saber fight with the bright yellow Wiffle Ball bats. One of the greatest things about real Wiffle balls is that they are (still) made in the U.S.A., in Shelton, Conn., near the New England cradle of the plastics industry. Joshua Robinson at the Wall Street Journal penned a wonderful profile of the company, Wiffle Ball, Inc., and its factory. There is also an accompanying photo essay on a WSJ blog. Both are worth a look. My favorite quote from the story: Wiffle Ball connoisseurs follow the company so closely that every few years, when the factory replaces its worn-down molds, the Mullanys have to field a slew of complaints. People call and tell them the weight of the ball is off, when in fact the crisp new molds are only going back to accurately producing the correct specifications. "It's one or two grams' difference," Steven said, "but people notice." The article made we wonder about the materials. I always figured that the balls and bats were made out of polyethylene, but I never knew for sure. Recycling symbols aren’t molded into the parts. I looked up the original patent, filed on the first day of 1957. It is a fun document to read: In the playing of games wherein ball is struck by a bat, or the like, a disadvantage has often been encountered in respect to the limitations of space in certain areas where the game is played. In addition, because of the construction of the ball itself, with which these games are played, injury to property and persons are sustainable. Further, such games are oftentimes not able to be played by younger children or by persons, who, because of limited space available or other reasons, do not desire to run in participating in the game. Enter the Wiffle Ball, the solution to all these problems. The patent presages half a century of Schaefer-fueled backyard barbeques. (The one beer to have when you desire not to run.) “The shell is preferably made of plastic material, such as polyethylene or the like,” the patent says. As for what kind of plastic, numerous references to the bat on the net say its...

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Three Interesting Little Chemical Deals

This week hasn’t seen much in the way of big news in the chemical sector, but there has been a spate of little transactions that are much more interesting than their sizes would indicate. DAK Americas is purchasing the PET business of Wellman Inc. for $185 million. Some thoughts and observations: 1) I’m a little surprised that Mossi and Ghisolfi didn’t buy the unit. After all, DAK had just purchased Eastman’s U.S. business and Indorama has just completed its acquisition of Invista’s North American polyester unit. I am under the impression that M&G was looking at Wellman while that company was going through Chapter 11. In May, M&G announced it was building a 1 million-metric-ton PET unit in the U.S. I suppose that suggestions another strategy. 2) A DAK spokesman told me that his company was interested in Wellman’s ThermaClearTi technology for making hot-fill containers. This will be a new business for DAK. Wellman had sued Eastman over that technology. Being that both businesses are now under the DAK umbrella, those issues are probably resolved. Eastman is buying Sterling Chemicals for $100 million: 1) This deal is pretty slick. This isn’t even a bolt on acquisition; this is a pretty seamless weld-on acquisition. Eastman knows acetic, though all of Sterling’s acetic goes to BP. Also, Sterling idled its phthalate ester plasticizer plant earlier this year after BASF terminated its offtake agreement. Eastman will restart that as a non-phthalate plasticizer plant. Last year, Eastman purchased Genovique for its benzoate plasticizers. 2) Moreover, Eastman says the deal is accretive in 2012. So it is financially pretty seamless as well. 3) BASF’s termination involved restrictive covenants on Sterling producing phthalate esters and phthalic anhydride. I wonder if this spells legal trouble between BASF and Eastman down the road. I don’t know why BASF didn’t fork over the $100 million to keep a competitor from buying the facility. 4) Sterling was a Gordon A. Cain joint. He formed Sterling in 1986 to buy Monsanto’s petrochemical business. PetroLogistics, which opened a 1.2 billion-lb propane dehydrogenation plant in Houston last year, has filed for a $600 million IPO: 1) PetroLogistics did a great job of reading the tea leaves of the U.S. shale gas trend. It concluded that North American crackers would crack more ethane and that there would be a resulting shortage of propylene. 2) The company’s ticker symbol is “PDH”, which is shorthand for propane hydrogenation. That it is a little cutesy for such a sharp penciled outfit. 3) The company makes one product, propylene, from one raw material, propane, primarily for three clients: Dow, Ineos, and Total Petrochemicals. These contracts will expire...

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Headed To BioPlastek Later This Month

I’m being let out of my cell here at C&EN’s Edison, N.J., office to attend BioPlastek 2011, June 27 to 29 at the Waldorf Astoria in NYC. It is being put on by Schotland Business Research and the Chemical Development and Marketing Association (CDMA). The lineup for the event is pretty impressive. The keynote speaker is Michael Okoroafor, VP of packaging R&D at H.J. Heinz. Heinz is making a move into bio-based polyethylene terephthalate. Pepsi, which recently unveiled a plant-based bottle, is also speaking at the event. I am personally curious to see if Pepsi will reveal a route to its bio-based terephthalic acid. There will also be something called “real time market research (using the audience response system)”. Anyone remember Love Connection? One presentation that I don’t want to miss is "Green PET: Thermochemical catalytic process for production of p-xylene (and ethylene) directly from non-food biomass." That will be presented by David Sudolsky from Anellotech. I could go on. There are presentations like that appearing over the span of two days. It should be pretty...

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Translating Documents Online, An Experiment

One thing that I do fairly often is translate documents on the internet. I normally use Babelfish and usually I am translating Spanish and Portuguese. I do have enough of a working knowledge of both languages that I can muddle through press releases without help. But it saves time and prevents possible human error if I have the translator do most of the heavy lifting and then zero in on the important parts with my own analysis. I did recently translate some documents in Dutch and German in Google and noticed that they were better than some human translations I have seen in those languages. (Dutch and German do seem more straight forward than Romance languages.) Anyway, I decided to do a side by side comparison. I am using a Braskem press release issued earlier this week on an accident at one of its plants. I figured I would share the result because businesspeople, scientists, and curious people of all kinds are using translation services more and more. Braskem’s original Portuguese: Em continuidade aos comunicados divulgados anteriormente, a Braskem esclarece que sua unidade de Cloro Soda de Alagoas permanece inativa por decisão da companhia e nenhum outro vazamento foi detectado desde o primeiro evento. A Braskem prossegue com o trabalho de identificação das causas dos eventos e está colaborando com as autoridades e órgãos competentes no esclarecimento dos fatos. Cinco trabalhadores da Mills, atingidos no início da manhã de hoje pelo rompimento de uma tubulação quando preparavam uma inspeção para identificação das causas do primeiro evento, receberam atendimento médico no Hospital Geral do Estado. Um deles foi liberado ainda pela manhã e os demais continuam sob cuidados médicos. Here’s Braskem’s translation: Complementing the notices to the market published previously, Braskem clarifies that its Chlor-Alkali in Alagoas will remain inactive by decision of the company and that no other leak has been detected since the initial event. Braskem continues to work to identify the causes of the event and is collaborating with the applicable authorities and agencies to clarify the events. Five workers from Mills, who were injured early this morning by the rupturing of a pipe as they were conducting an inspection to identify the causes of the initial event, received medical care at the State General Hospital. One of the workers was released this morning and the other workers remain under the care of physicians. Babelfish: In continuity to the divulged official notices previously, the Braskem clarifies that its unit of Chlorine Soda water of Alagoas remains inactive for decision of the company and none another emptying was detected since the first event. The Braskem continues with the...

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Dow On TV

Olin isn't the only company that makes chlorine and ammunition. So does Dow. Dow paintballs OK, the polyethylene glycol filling in paint balls aren't exactly Winchester rounds. Separately, CBS News did a piece on Dow's solar shingles: CBS Report on Dow Shingles Autoworkers paid taxes that helped subsidize my University of Michigan education. It is nice to see some of them getting back to...

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Nexeo? Seriously?

Nexeo Solutions. That is TPG’s new name for Ashland Distribution. Granted, the name “Ashland Distribution” was about as exciting as “Processed American Cheese Food”. But isn’t the name Nexeo a tad generic? For Pete’s sake there is a human resources consulting firm that goes by the name Nexeo. I would have named the company Chemodal.

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