Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Jockeying for position on the front lawn

When I was growing up, my family took a lot of “spins” – my father’s word for hopping into the car and driving around to look at things. We took spins on summer evenings, and winter Sunday afternoons. Sometimes the spins were purposeful, like going to Brookfield Orchards for a bushel of macs. During Christmas week, we took a rare winter’s night spin to see the decorations. But some spins were less mission-driven: just drive around and stop somewhere for ice cream. Summer spins always involved ice cream from the Cherry Bowl, Verna’s, Smithfield, DQ…

When we drove around, one thing we liked to observe was the decorations that people had on their lawns.

Our neighborhood was bathtub Madonna territory. Gazing balls. Pink flamingos. The odd birdbath.

My favorite house passed on the spins was a white, late 19th century farmhouse out in one of the burbs. It had a lovely front porch and a sloping front lawn that featured a small pond with sail boats in it.

It wasn’t on a spin route, but my all time favorite lawn-decorated house ever was the “elf house”, which was near my grandmother’s in Chicago. Shortly after we arrived on our biennial visit, we would clamor that my father take us on a walk to see the house with all the elves in their yard. Elves on swings. Elves splaying cards on toadstools. Those folks knew how to live! What I wouldn’t have given to have a few elf statues in our yard. But we didn’t even have a bathtub Madonna. We just had trees, shrubs, and flowers.

Back on the spins, we could tell we had entered a classy, high-tone neighborhood by the presence of lawn jockeys, holding their lantern to guide people on the path to the house.

Back in the day – we’re talking 1950’s and 1960’s – the lawn jockeys tended to be black, with Negroid features. At some point, black jockey statues were no longer acceptable, and I remember seeing a couple where the faces were painted over with white paint. Yes, white paint. Not pinky-tan, or the color in the Crayola 64 box formerly known as “flesh.” The whitewashing looked really silly.

Anyway, I no longer go on spins, and I haven’t given any thought to lawn jockeys in ages.

That is, until my sister Kath texted a picture of a custom-painted lawn jockey, with the comment “Alas, too pricey for Yankee Swap.”

We may need to raise our $20 limit, given how awesome the custom-painted lawn jockeys are at Saratoga Signature Interiors.

It, of course, makes plenty of sense for a shop in Saratoga to sell lawn jockeys. It’s a racetrack town – completely charming (I’ve been there) – and I’m guessing that it’s a lot of fun to have one of these buddies out during track season.

Horse owners, breeders, jockeys and horse racing fans alike enjoy the heraldry associated with these 40″ statues.

Dan Czech of Saratoga Signature Interiors is the interior designer now jockey artist who paints each jockey. Registered silks are always popular but making up one of your own is fine too. The statues are 100% aluminum so can stay outside and not be effected by weather. Jockeys are shipped all over the country by UPS.

Aluminum is something new, I’m thinking. Lawn jockeys of yore were cast iron, and you can play plenty for one of them (in some cases, over $2K) on eBay, where they have both black and white lawn jockeys. Collectible Americana.

Saratoga Signature Interiors doesn’t mention the use of lawn jockeys as Yankee Swaps, but they do put this idea out there:

Consider a custom painted jockey as a wedding gift to the groom (or bride). Customize using your wedding colors, date on base and a gold ring instead of traditional black.

Imagine the surprise, the sheer delight, when the bride (or groom) opens that gift.

There are a lot of different options, by the way: corporate logos, college or university, sports teams. Whatever fits your fancy.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

Columbia jockeylawn-jockeys2Jockey with identity crisis

That jockey sporting the powder blue is representing Columbia University, which would have been my alma mater if I’d stuck with the PhD program. Which I most decidedly did not.

Then there’s the Irish boyo, with his nifty tri-color jacket and shamrock. (I’m happy to see that it’s a shamrock, and not a four-leaf clover, which in my book is like saying Patty’s Day rather than Paddy’s Day.)

The jockey with the identity crisis – half Red Sox, half Yankee – is, of course my favorite. What an awful idea. I suppose there are mixed marriages. But still. And what’s up with that strategically-placed bat?

The boyo, or a full-bore Red Sox jockey would, I must say, make an ideal Yankee Swap item: weird, impactical… Maybe this year we should raise the limit.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Even more of the nth degree. (This is it. Promise.)

The last two editions of Pink Slip have been more or less Public Service Announcements on interesting and slightly out of whack degrees that can be yours for the asking. The list of such degrees came from a piece published on Fastweb . Here’s the remains of this very entertaining list.
Is it me or does it seem a bit odd that Texas A&M – which is landlocked, smack-dab in the middle of Texas – would offer a degree in Nautical Archaeology? Not that they don’t have every right in the world to provide study of “the remains of boats and ships and the cultures that created and used them.” One of the courses offered is called outfitting and sailing the wooden ship 1400-1900. Now I don’t imagine there’s a lot of call for this, but the article does list job prospects in maritime archaeology and conversation. I suppose that’s a typo for conservation, but, hey, wooden boats can be a conversation starter (or ender), too.
This, of course, puts me in mind of one of the worst movies I ever saw. Coaster is a documentary about some guys from Maine who hand-built a schooner and then took it on a voyage to deliver lumber to Haiti and return with a cargo hold full of rum. Anyway, the entire enterprise was just ridiculously pretentious – including the schooner-builders singing authentic sea chanteys while they handcrafted their vessel – and the even more ridiculous upshot was that the schooner sunk off the coast of Long Island and the Coast Guard had to rescue the crew. Anyway, my sister Trish and I were laughing so hard when we left the Exeter Street Theater that we had to sit on the curb to compose ourselves.
Oceanography and Coastal Sciences at LSU seems to be a completely valuable and relevant program. We need a lot more folks to help figure out what we’re going to do before salt water starts lapping the ankles of folks in places like landlocked College Station, Texas. But some of the courses? Fisheries acoustics? Fish recruitment? We offer an open office environment, and leading-edge benefits including flextime and tuition reimbursement?

I will admit that one of the most fun colleges I took in college – back in the day when college wasn’t exactly known for fun courses – was a film class in which, each week we watched a movie and then shot the shit about it. The only film I remember was Birth of a Nation, which included a subtitle that read “The love strain is still heard above the land’s Miserere.” Which I remember because for months/years after one of my friends and I would put on fluty magnolia accents and repeat this line while fluttering our eyelashes. So who am I to criticize a degree in Popular Culture, where you study “Everyday life, including but not limited to everything that is mass produced by us and for us. Its subject matter is the world in which we live, relax and have fun.” This degree can set you up for a job in PR or advertising, in marketing, in teaching, in museum work. And, as degrees go, this sounds like one big BS-y chunk o’ fun.

As opposed to Puppet Arts. Which sounds scary. Not clown scary, but scary enough. What are they thinking down there at UConn? But it sounds like a kinder and gentler degree than one in Race Track Industry, which for all the mint julep grandeur of the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown just sounds kind of sleazy.

We’ll all have a lot more free time when the robots and AI take fully over, so a degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies could prove valuable. And since we’ll all have a lot more free time when the robots and AI take fully over, a degree in Sexuality Studies might come in handy as well. Think I’d skip the course in primate sexuality. Yes, I realize that we’re primates. But I did have an odd experience many years back in which a young bonobo (pygmy chimpanzee) whose belly I was scratching grabbed my hand with one of his feet and guided it down to his erection. Which pretty much put me off primate sexuality, as it relates to that kind of primate. 
Surf Science and Technology is offered, not as one might imagine in Southern California or Hawaii, but at Cornwall College in the UK. Surf’s up, dude. Gnarly.
Theme Park Engineering is a degree on offer at Cal State. It involves studying electrical, civil, and mechanical engineering – all of which seem to me more practical degrees than Theme Park Engineering.  At Penn State, you can get a degree in Turfgrass Science. Sorry, but the very thought of golf makes me yawn. But I get that this is a big deal for those running golf courses. And, oddly enough, this is something I know a tiny bit about, as my husband’s aunt and uncle (who were my virtual mother- and father-in-law) partly owned and totally operated a golf course. They converted their tobacco farm to do so. Bill and Carrie’s house was pretty much on the golf course, and over the years I learned plenty about greenskeeping, the pro shop, running a family business, and local and familial politics.

This series of posts was prompted by an article I saw on an MBA in Wine offered by Sonoma State, which got me looking for other offbeat degrees. For an undergrad degree in Viticulture and Enology, where you study “the science and practices of growing grapes and making wines,” you can head to Ithaca where, high above Cayuga’s waters, you can get a degree at Cornell.

Wildlife sounds like a fine degree. Who doesn’t want someone who wants to preserve species, enhance wildlife habitats, and control wildlife problems?

Anyway, that’s it for the degrees you could have had if you hadn’t been slogging through English or Economics or Engineering.

Thank you Elizabeth Hoyt of Fastweb for pulling this marvelous list together.

Monday, June 18, 2018

More of the nth degrees

Last week, I came across a piece on Fastweb on “weird-but-cool” college majors. Sure, you may already decided that it’s worth going back to school for your nth degree – this time in Bagpiping or Citrus or Bowling Alley Management. But just in case there was nothing in the first part of the list that caught your academic fancy, here goes some more of it.

Comic Art students at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design learn how to work as cartoonists or as comic book authors/illustrators. Well, you can luck out and end up with all sorts of cool, East Coast elite, brainiac cartoons in The New Yorker and become the next Roz Chast. Or you can hit comic strip paydirt and create a strip (think Dilbert or Garfield or the granddaddy of ‘em all, Peanuts) that turns into a merchandise empire. Or you can prick a lot of balloons with political cartoons. But even if you don’t strike it rich, comic artist would be a fun way to (try to) make a living. And with graphic novels – which, for the most part, I don’t enjoy; other than Maus -  becoming more popular, you never know.

If you’re at Florida Southern and you’re not interested in studying Citrus, they also offer a degree in Diving Business and Technology, where you can learn, among other things, how to deal with the bends. And if you decide to transfer to Brown from Duke, you might have to surrender your Canadian Studies degree for one in Egyptology. I’m a big believer in a liberal arts education, but I don’t think that there are many parents who’d be thrilled to write a check for $75K each year to find out that their offspring had taken a course in ancient Babylonian magic and medicine. Forget “my son the doctor”. Think “my son the ancient Babylonian medicine man.”

At the University o Nevada Las Vegas, you can study Entertainment Engineering and Design, setting you up for a career doing casino shows. I suppose if you actually wanted to live in Las Vegas, a degree that happens in Vegas may let you stay in Vegas.

Maybe I’ve been hanging around a PT clinic that specializes in the care of runners – don’t ask what I’m doing there -  for too long, but studying Exercise and Movement Sciences at UVM doesn’t sound particularly odd to me. There are a ton of folks interested in fitness and wellness, and as the Boomers get older and grayer it’ll be critical to have folks who’ve studied fitness for specific populations.

Both my grandfathers ran family businesses. For my Irish grandfather, it was the Rogers Brothers Saloon. The Saloon went out with Prohibition, and my grandfather went out shortly thereafter. (The other Rogers bro didn’t even make it to Prohibition – both died young, but at least my grandfather made it to his 40’s.) My German grandfather had a grocery store that my Uncle Jack, who was 21 when Grandpa Wolf died, somehow ended up running. (Can this be possible???) My Uncle Bob, who was 11 when my grandfather passed away also worked at the store. I remember seeing him there. Bob was 10 years older than me, so he would have been in his late teens. “The boys” turned the business into a ships chandlery, servicing merchant ships in the port of Chicago. (Got to go make a delivery with “the boys” one time. Very exciting being with my handsome uncles as they hefted cartons of supplies down the gangway.) I don’t know quite when and how that business disappeared. But I’m guessing “the boys” could have benefited from someone with a degree in Family Enterprise, a major at Stetson U that “emphasizes ‘self-awareness, family systems, utilizing family involvement as a strategic advantage and how to consult with family enterprises.’”

Before he figured out that the car would replace the horse and wised up and opened his bar, my grandfather Rogers was a blacksmith. Without the benefit of having studied Farrier Science, I might add. And he ran his saloon without the benefit of any knowledge of Fermentation Sciences and without having taken any course the covered the sensory analysis of beer.

Floral Management is a major at Mississippi State. Isn’t knowledge of “sourcing, purchasing, distributing, marketing, designing with, and selling floricultural products” – that would be flowers – the sort of stuff you used to learn on the job? Kind of like horseshoeing. And bagpiping. Is there really a need for degrees in certain professions?

Anyway, if you (or my grandfather) wanted to go beyond the horseshoe aspects of blacksmithing, Southern Illinois offers a degree in Metalsmithing/Blacksmithing. Among other things, this concentration sets you up for be an independent artist. One of my college friends dated, and later lived with, a fellow who dropped out of MIT to become a metal sculptor. He was actually pretty good, but fast forward 20 years. I ran into him at a tech conference and he’d become a software developer.

Mortuary Science sets you up for working a funeral home. Or managing the corps des corpses at a medical school. Or in other places where you deal with the deceased. If theories of embalming and disposition sounds like fun, have I got a degree program for you…
At the other end of the circle o’ life, Sullivan University (a for-profit outfit) lets you study Nannying where, among other things you learn “how to prepare nutritious meals and snacks”. This seems to me to be something that you can learn by googling “how to prepare nutritious meals and snacks.” It also offers more up-level course on child development and learning opportunities for kids. Maybe a degree in Early Childhood Education would get you the same credential without having the limiting title of a degree in Nannying.

Still haven’t found the major of your dreams? We’ll be wrapping up this highly educational series tomorrow. Perhaps you’ll find something there.

Friday, June 15, 2018

To the nth degree

The other day, I saw an article on Bloomberg on what I took to be a pretty unusual business degree: an MBA in Wine. It’s offered by Sonoma State University (which makes plenty of vineyard-y sense). Across the pond, there are a couple of business in/of wine degrees offered, including one from the Burgundy School of Business.

For those looking to own or run a winery, the degree from Sonoma State makes sense, as it’s very focused on networking with wine biz execs.

John Stayton, executive director of SSU’s graduate and executive business programs, points out that many of their graduates are now in executive roles, or are even winery owners.

In other words, the courses are a good way to skip the traditional ladder-climbing in learning to run a winery, which usually starts with pouring wine in a tasting room or working in the office. For owners, they offer a quick way to gain essential knowledge, whether their wineries are tiny startups or entail lavish investments. (Source: Bloomberg)

MBA’s didn’t used to offer such pinpoint concentrations, at least not when I was in business school. Not that I actually have an MBA. When I was at Sloan/MIT, ahh, nearly 40 years ago, they didn’t offer an MBA degree. You got a Master of Science in Management, which no one in the hiring world understood unless they’d also gone to Sloan. My class was a big advocate for normalizing the program, and shortly after, Sloan started conferring MBA degrees.

My concentrations were completely geeky: Applied Economics and Applied Marketing, which set me up perfectly for my first post-MBA MSM job developing forecasting models for the corporate world. Talk about geeky. (Talk about nonsense…)

Anyway, the article on the wine MBA got me wondering just what other out-of-the-ordinary degrees there are out there.

The Google brought me to a piece on Fastweb on “weird-but-cool” college majors. As someone with a decidedly non-weird/non-cool undergraduate degree in Sociology (with a Political Science minor), I was naturally intrigued.

To get a degree in Adventure Education, I wouldn’t have to go that far. Just up to New Hampshire to Plymouth State, where I could take courses in fundamentals of rock climbing and canoe paddling.

There are a couple of schools where you can get a degree in Astrobiology, which is an “exploration of life outside of Earth.” Since we’re currently on the glide path to wrecking this Earth, I’m delighted that there are students studying planetary habitability.

There’s a community college that offers a degree in Auctioneering. Among other things, you learn the “auctioneer’s chant”. Forget economics. This is something that my husband could have easily taught. No, he never actually worked as an auctioneer, But he went to plenty of tobacco auctions when he worked on his uncle’s tobacco farm in Western “Massachusetts. (Yes, there are tobacco farms hereabouts. They grow shade tobacco used for cigar wrappers.) And Jim had a fast mouth. One of his parlor tricks was doing a tobacco auction spiel. “Gimme twenty-dollar bid…”

Carnegie Mellon offers a degree in Bagpiping, which qualifies you to work as a bagpiper or teach bagpiping. As long as there are Irish-American cops and firefighters in particular, and Irish-Americans (and Scots-Americans) in general, I suppose there’ll be a demand. Last Saturday I did a walk for ALS run by one of those Irish-Americans, and we had a piper (kilt and all) piping for us at the halfway mark.

Bakery Science is offered at Kansas State, where you can take a course in flour and dough testing. Which seems a lot more practical than getting a degree in Beatles, Popular Music and Society. It’s gear! It’s fab! It’s offered at – where else? - Liverpool (UK) Hope University. And it sets you up to become a Beatles historian. (This is a career path?)

Hipsters aside, I’ve read that bowling is on its way out as an activity. So it might not make all that much sense to study Bowling Industry Management and Technology and take courses like pinsetter maintenance. Job prospects would be, I imagine, pretty grim. A stat I found in USA Today from a few years back says that:

From 1998-2013, the number of bowling alleys in the U.S. fell to 3,976 from 5,400, or by about 26%.

There will, I suspect, always be a demand for a Citrus degree, however.  So Florida Southern College will likely keep offering courses like citrus grove management.

At Duke, you can get a degree in Canadian Studies. They have a program that “seeks to provide the student with an understanding of Canada.” Talk about something I’d like to understand. We look an awful lot alike. So how’d they get to be them while we got to be us? The degree qualifies you to teach or work in a museum. I propose that they add a course in why Canada gets Justin Trudeau and we get Donald Trump, and another course in applying for immigration. Eh?

Chemical Hygiene and Safety seems like a safe career bet, as there will always be science labs to run. At least I think so. Science still exists, no? At least it must in Canada.

Plenty more interesting degrees where these came from. Pink Slip will be back with a few more of them on Monday.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Recycling direct to landfill…

I’m pretty religious about recycling. Oh, every once in a while I’ll sneak a pair of worn out shoes into my trash bag, knowing full well and guiltily that those worn out shoes will gradually – very gradually – rot away in a landfill somewhere in Upstate NY. Sure, there’s the best case scenario that those worn out shoes will be incinerated in some incinerator with the temperature of the inner circle of hell. But that leather isn’t getting repurposed, that’s for sure.

The odd shoe aside, I’m mostly an avid recycler.

Most recently – i.e., Tuesday afternoon – I went to H&M on Newbury Street to recycle two bags full of clothes that weren’t good enough to bring over to St. Francis House. I had finally done a more-ruthless-than-usual culling of my stores of clothing (including plumbing the depths of an ironing basket that had last been empty in ought-four), and was searching for a place to dump them (other than the dump). Online, I found that H&M has a recycling program which has these three components:

  • Rewear – clothing that can be worn again will be sold as second hand clothes.
  • Reuse – old clothes and textiles will be turned into other products, such as cleaning cloths.
  • Recycle – everything else is turned into textile fibres, and used for things like insulation. (Source: H&M)

Plus, for each bag your surrender, you get 15% off your next purchase. Now I just need to find someone who shops at H&M…

Anyway, clothing from now on will go to H&M. Just as magazines, junk mail, catalogs, pasta boxes, tuna cans, jam jars and just about everything that can and should be recycled goes out back, Monday or Friday, in a clear plastic recycling bag.

And I assume that, from out back, it all decamps to some recycling center, from whence it will find its glorious way back to me at a later date in some transmogrified new form.

But I may be living in a recycling fools paradise.

In recent months, in fact, thousands of tons of material left curbside for recycling in dozens of American cities and towns…have gone to landfills.

In the past, the municipalities would have shipped much of their used paper, plastics and other scrap materials to China for processing. But as part of a broad antipollution campaign, China announced last summer that it no longer wanted to import “foreign garbage.” Since Jan. 1 it has banned imports of various types of plastic and paper,and tightened standards for materials it does accept…

“All of a sudden, material being collected on the street doesn’t have a place to go,” said Pete Keller, vice president of recycling and sustainability at Republic Services, one of the largest waste managers in the country.  (Source: NY Times)

Unfortunately, some of it’s finding a place to go: landfill.

Another outcome of the China policy change is that some of the items that had previously been allowable recycling matter, like egg cartons, are no longer recyclable. (They must mean those god-awful plastic egg cartons, not the old-school cardboard ones. Surely, those are still good to go.) I’m guessing Boston hasn’t been especially impacted by the Chinese change of recycling heart – most of the areas caught up in it are in the West. In any case, the city hasn’t sent out info on changes. In fact, the last communication I recall is the one letting us know that pizza boxes are okay if you pick the goop out of them.

In reading the article in The Times, I also learned a new term: aspirational recycling, which means putting stuff in the recycling bin (or, in the case of Boston, those clear recycling bags) that you’re hoping is recyclable. Some of those aspirational items were pretty wild.

Mr. [Brent] Bell, the Waste Management executive, said he had seen everything from Christmas lights to animal carcasses to artillery shells come through the company’s recycling facilities. “Most of our facilities get a bowling ball every day or two,” he said.

I do believe that, had I one or the other in my possession, I would have been able to figure out that artillery shells and bowling balls don’t belong in the recycle bag. But I must confess that I have probably been guilty on occasion of some aspirational recycling, slipping in the odd frayed power cord, assuming that, surely, this can be reused somehow. Guess I’ll have to figure out something else to do with the yards and yards of bright orange Ethernet cabling occupying cabinet space in my office.

While the Chinese situation is mostly hitting the West, we haven’t been exempt locally.

Ben Harvey, the president of E.L. Harvey & Sons, a recycling company based in Westborough, Mass., said that he had around 6,000 tons of paper and cardboard piling up, when he would normally have a couple hundred tons stockpiled. The bales are filling almost half of his 80,000-square-foot facility.

Wonder if some of my old Economists and LL Bean catalogs are biding their time out in Westborough. Hope not.

I hate to see my faith in recycling undermined, my hopes dashed.

But I should know better.

I once worked at a company that equipped each office with a regular wastebasket and a bright blue recycling container. One day, when I was working late, I watched as the cleaning person rolled her trash barrel down the aisle, stopping at each office to grab both the wastebaskets and recycling containers and dump them in to her barrel. Single stream trash vs. single stream recycling?

I have observed our guys often enough to know that the trash guys pick up the black plastic bags and the recycle guys take the clear plastic bags. So I’ll keep on recycling, managing my waste the best that I can.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Sorry I missed this chance to get me a flamethrower…

I’ve seen a lot of war movies, so I know what flamethrowers are used for, which is mostly to flush out the enemy from their caves, tunnels, and bunkers. I’ve watched a lot of news, so I know what flamethrowers are used for in non-military settings, and that’s to quell a wildfire. As in fight fire with fire.

And I suppose farmers could use flamethrowers to clear their fields of weeds.

When I was little, there was a field in back of my grandmother’s house (where we lived until I was six-and-a-half). Nanny’s next door neighbors were an ancient German immigrant couple – as far as I can tell, the only other Germans in Worcester other than my mother. Anyway, the Ladners had been in farmers back in the old country, and each spring, Grandpa Ladner – well into his nineties – would set the field on fire. It wasn’t his field, and it wasn’t planted with any crops, but Grandpa L was having some sort of flashback to his prior life and, so, set what he thought was his field on fire to clear it for his crop growth. Thankfully, Grandpa L didn’t have a flamethrower.

But I hadn’t really thought that any civilian (non-soldier or first responder), other than a farmer, would have any use for a flamethrower.

Elon Musk, however, apparently has 1,000 friends who dropped what they were doing and made their way to one of his outfits,The Boring Company HQ in California, to pay $500 for a Boring Company flamethrower.

Sure, we’ve all worked for boring companies at one point or another in our careers, but if you’re not familiar with The Boring Company:

To solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic, roads must go 3D, which means either flying cars or tunnels. Unlike flying cars, tunnels are weatherproof, out of sight and won't fall on your head. A large network of tunnels many levels deep would fix congestion in any city, no matter how large it grew (just keep adding levels). The key to making this work is increasing tunneling speed and dropping costs by a factor of 10 or more – this is the goal of The Boring Company. Fast to dig, low cost tunnels would also make Hyperloop adoption viable and enable rapid transit across densely populated regions, enabling travel from New York to Washington DC in less than 30 minutes.

Well, if The Boring Company can get someone from NY to DC in less than 30 minutes, that pretty much means they can get someone from Boston to NY in less than 30 minutes. So, let’s go, The Boring Company!

One of the ways that Musk engages his fans and helps fund The Boring Company is selling them stuff.

In this case, the first 1,000 who signed up for the latest sale paid $500 for a flamethrower. If my arithmetic is correct, that would amount to $500K, minus the cost of the flamethrowers. Boring had previously sold 50,000 ball caps for $20, which rolls up to $1M. And they’ve also sold another 20,000 flamethrowers. That’s a cool $10M.

So, the grand (gross – pre cost of goods sold) total seems to be $11.5M. Factor in the additional cost of the free churros that Musk fed to the 1,000 flamethrower buyers, this doesn’t seem like a lot of money to go towards funding a company that’s going to cut the time to get from NYC to DC to 30 minutes by boring – get it, boring – a tunnel. But I suspect that these sales are more about publicity than about raising money. And there’s always Kickstarter…

Anyway, Musk-ovites came from near and far to claim their flamethrowers.

“Imagine if you had the opportunity to get a kite and a key from Benjamin Franklin,” said [Dennis] Dohrman, 45, an environmental scientist who drove 39 hours from Hampstead, North Carolina, referencing the Revolutionary War-era inventor and statesman. (Source: Bloomberg)

I don’t know if this analogy quite holds up. I don’t believe that The Boring Company will be using flamethrowers to bore their tunnels. And I don’t know if Ben Franklin funded his experiment by selling souvenir kites and keys. But the mention of BF has, of course, set me off in a direction that my brain didn’t need to go in.

Imagine if you had the opportunity to get a phonograph needle from Thomas Edison? Imagine if you had the opportunity to get a slug of type from Gutenberg? An air sickness bag from the Wright Brothers?

The other direction my mind has been set off in is making a brain beeline to a ditty we sang in grammar school that included the words:

Benjamin Franklin, inventor was he.
Out in a storm with a kite and a key.
Found how electric that lightning could be…

Ah, but we’re hear to talk about flamethrowers, not Benjamin Franklin. And 1,000 folks lined up find how flaming a flamethrower can be:

At the front of the line, customers wielding demonstration flamethrowers roasted marshmallows as staff showed them how to power the flames…

While a few in line said they planned to resell thFlamethrower - fe limited-edition $500 flamethrowers online, where they already fetch a premium, most said they plan to keep them.

I guess if you’re looking for something just slightly overkill-y to toast your marshmallows, The Boring Company flamethrower’s your man. As for other ideas:

Musk offered suggestions for those wondering how to use their new flamethrowers, such as lighting fireplaces and barbecues. "No more need to use a dainty ‘match’ to ignite!" he wrote on Twitter.

Forget three on a match. It’ll be three on a flamethrower. You could lose your eyebrows that way.

This all seems slightly dangerous to me, especially living as I do in a densely occupied urban environment where there are no fields to de-weed. A cap would always come in handy, but I missed the window of opportunity there. As for the flamethrower, I’m a bit sorry I missed TBC capthis chance to get me one.

I’ll have to keep my eye on the next merchandise offering their planning for this winter: an ice blaster. Now there’s something that a downtown Bostonian can absolutely use. Wonder how it will work on bricks.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Here’s a job I’d be willing to take on–on one condition

The other day, I heard that when the FBI takes into their possession your paper files, they include the contents of your shredder in their grab. And they have a process for reconstructing those documents. If you’re envisioning straight-arrow guys in suits sitting their piecing together shreds of paper, you’re likely imagining a scenario that’s so yesterday. Having googled ‘how to recover shredded paper files’, I learned that there’s software that can help with the job. You scan in all those pieces and, thanks to AI, you may be able to get them into some semblance of readability

Anyway, I’m guessing that the FBI has access to this software.

Not so the White House, it appears.

When it comes to putting together documents that are in bits and pieces, they have it done the old fashioned way: by hand.

They’re not, however, dealing with files that were shredded in an actual shredding machine. No, they’re piecing together documents that were shredded into bits and pieces the old fashioned way: by hand. And these documents were shredded into bits and pieces by the tiny HUGE hands of the man who currently occupies the Oval Office.

Seems that there’s been more to the president’s day-to-day than just tweeting and “Executive Time.” He’s spending some of his valuable time tearing up “documents he is legally required to preserve has concerned White House aides.”

Two of the fellows charged with reconstructing - records management analysts making over $60K a piece – were Solomon Lartey and Reginald Young. They used to do more high-level archiving work. But once Trump blew into town, Lartey and Young, along with a number of colleagues, were tasked with taping the president’s papers back together again. That is, until they were laid off this spring – no notice, just frog marched out the door with no explanation, other than that they “serve at the president’s pleasure.” And his nibs was no longer pleased. Or maybe they just needed to make room for some lower-end members of the kakistocracy and found all these career record managers in their way.

Or maybe it’s that the records management group decided to purchase the AI software and no longer needed actual record management analysts who are good a figuring out puzzles.

It’s not because Lartey and Young were leaking, by the way. Their story came out after the fact of their dismissals, and came about when they were being interviewed about what they felt to be their wrongful pink slips. When they were asked what their jobs entailed, they noted that their work had been somewhat downgraded from what it had been under previous administrations.

Armed with rolls of clear Scotch tape, Lartey and his colleagues would sift through large piles of shredded paper and put them back together, he said, “like a jigsaw puzzle.” Sometimes the papers would just be split down the middle, but other times they would be torn into pieces so small they looked like confetti.

It was a painstaking process that was the result of a clash between legal requirements to preserve White House records and President Donald Trump’s odd and enduring habit of ripping up papers when he’s done with them — what some people described as his unofficial “filing system.”

Under the Presidential Records Act, the White House must preserve all memos, letters, emails and papers that the president touches, sending them to the National Archives for safekeeping as historical records.

But White House aides realized early on that they were unable to stop Trump from ripping up paper after he was done with it and throwing it in the trash or on the floor, according to people familiar with the practice. Instead, they chose to clean it up for him, in order to make sure that the president wasn’t violating the law. (Source: Politico)

Well, all thanks and praise to those White House aides who wanted “to make sure that the president wasn’t violating the law” in this case, but where are they when we really need them?

All this said – plus it being said that I would not want to touch anything that DJT had touched - I would probably be pretty good at the task of piecing together ripped up documents. As would my sisters.

We come by our logical minds and puzzle solving abilities naturally, as our mother was a big one for complex jigsaw puzzles and any sort of word puzzle – from regular old crossword puzzles to the tricky diagramless. My sisters and I are all crossworders, with Kath taking the cake for being able to do those British punning puzzles that I’m clueless with. My allegiance has mostly switched to Sudoku, but I still do an occasional crossword puzzle.

We also do jigsaw puzzles when we’re at Kath’s on the Cape. Here I believe Trish gets the “mother’s daughter” award. She’s both good and persistent.

So all three of us could be called upon, in case of a national emergency, to piece together the Trump confetti letters. But I think I speak for all three when I say that we’d only be willing to do so if the document in question were a confession or a resignation letter.