Friday, February 24, 2017

This year’s swag bag. (Who wouldn’t want to be nominated for best supporting whatever?)

In keeping with my annual tradition, I will probably not watch the Academy Awards on Sunday night. I’ve never really been enamored with the show. Even in the prime of my movie-going days, I rarely watched it. These days, I rarely go to the movies, so don’t really have any horses in the race. I’ll be a hometown honey and root for “Manchester By the Sea”, which is on my to-watch list, just as last year, I was rooting for “Spotlight”. (Double reason there, of course: Boston setting, and, given my Catholic upbringing, a topic of supreme interest.) I did turn the Oscars on at the last moment and did see “Spotlight” win, which was gratifying – I yelped - mostly because of the topic. And in part because it was the only nominated film I’d seen. Anyway, the Academy Awards aren’t really my thing. On the other hand…

In keeping with my annual tradition, I will be commenting on the swag  bag, which is provided to the nominees for best/best supporting actor and actress, and best director, so that everyone takes home some sort of consolation prize, even if they don’t win the golden statue.(Or at least the major “everyones”. No swag bag for the Best Use of Black & White Cinematography in a Full-Length Documentary Not Made in the US of A.)

This year’s swag assortment -  valued at roughly $200K (taxable) -  includes a CPR Anytime kit. First, shouldn’t it be the CPR Anywhere kit? Wouldn’t that be the appeal? That you’d have it whenever you need it? Because “anytime” isn’t when you need it. The only time you need it is if you or someone nearby have heart failure. Anyway (anywhere, anytime), it seems to me that this is an item that you might want to have on hand at the award ceremony, given that someone could throw a big one when they do or don’t hear their name called. But the swag bags are delivered to the nominees ahead of time, so they’d have to lug it with them to the show – not easy for the actresses tottering down the red carpet in 7 inch heels, and wearing gowns that don’t exactly come with deep pockets.

Another swag bag item is a box of personalized Crayolas. Now this is a low cost item, but how fun. I just checked, and you can pick the colors you want in our box of 64. I was delighted to see old favorites like Sky Blue and Blue Violet are still available. And Raw Sienna, which I never used, but liked the name of. But Crayola is getting as tricky as everyone else with their naming schemes: Granny Smith Apple, Asparagus, Macaroni and Cheese. Timberwolf. Tickle Me Pink. (Sounds like an O.P.I. nail polish color.) You can also put your name on the crayons, and your picture on the box. Don’t know if the actors/actresses have to do the heavy lifting of color choice and headshot upload. Maybe that’s what assistants are for.

Another one of the lower-end gifts in the bad is a pack of sweat-absorbing patches – just press on and you’re good to no-sweat go. There used to be something called underarm shields that you sewed into your good dresses and sweaters to protect them from unseemly and destructive perspiration, but the Dandi Patches seem a lot easier. But who really needs them? Isn’t sweating good for you?

There’s also some type of pelvic floor exercise thing-y. (And I wasn’t even aware that men did pelvic floor exercises.) And, especially nice for the losers, a wooden box containing 40 cards on which positive quotes are printed. Perhaps they can consult their Stewart Smalley Affirmations which doing their pelvic floor exercises. If they don’t want to bother with the kegel kit, but want to get down on the floor, the swag bag includes a cellulite massage mat. Or you can just forget your pelvis and cellulite, and sit around grazing through your box of pithy quotes while munching on pecans from the jar that’s made its way into the swag bag.

The real goodies are, of course, the trips.

A five-night holiday to Kōloa Landing, a luxurious resort on Hawaii's Kauai island is included, costing around $1,150 a night, along with a week at Golden Door, an exclusive California spa where a "Classic Women's Week" costs around $8,850.

If the nominee prefers a European adventure, then a three-night stay in a suite at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo on Lake Como is also on offer, which retails at around $1,400 a night, before taxes. Also in the swag bag are three nights in the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento, where a suite costs upwards of $700 a night. (Source: NBC News)

There’s also a jaunt to something called the Lost Coast Ranch, a private mansion where the non-winner and 9 guests can hang out for a  3 night stay. At a value of $40K, this is the priciest item in the bag.)

The swag bags came about 15 years ago, in response to Bette Midler’s grousing about going home empty handed. Since then, an outfit called Distinctive Assets has been putting them together. For those who populate the bag, it’s pretty good marketing publicity. Or, as Distinctive Assets would have it:

“We give the bag out to acknowledge a job well done. Celebs are just people and they love getting a gift,” founder of Distinctive Assets Lash Fary told Fox News. (Source: Fox News)

Just people? Just people!

I don’t believe that for a New York minute.

I suspect the only thing we have in common is that a stay at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo sounds good to us common folk, too. The pelvic floor exercise tracker? The box of quotes? You can keep them. And I can buy my own jar of pecans, thank you.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The rich are different from you and me. Yes, they have more money to spend on survival.

My husband and I used to watch a “reality’ show called Doomsday Preppers, which focused on folks who acted on their fears – the grid goes down; California gets hit with the big one and sloughs off into the ocean; the feds seize their guns; Sharia law takes hold; carnage moves from the inner city to rural America (hmmm: sounds like a certain someone’s dystopic inaugural address) – and stockpiled guns, canned goods, toilet paper, etc. so they’d be all prepped for doomsday. Some folks on the show planned to shelter in place, guns poking out the turrets in their steel-encased houses. Others had armored vehicles in which they planned to get away to their safe houses in the woods. And some lived in remote fortresses, ready to live off the land. I remember who had even built himself a machine for making bullets.

While the preppers were assiduously making sure they had a lifetime supply of canned green beans and shampoo, or were prepared to make their own (or make do without), I don’t recall any of them making sure they had a full library, or collection of CDs. Me? Once I saw who was planning on surviving whatever nasty bit was going to take life-as-we-know-it out, and nary a one seemed to want to have books around, I pretty much decided that my preference would be to be sitting fat, dumb and happy at ground zero of whatever nasty bit was about to hit. Sure, I do hope that there are some monks in Ireland who are going to survive in their clochans and preserve the written word. But I’d just as soon not wait around to see whether they’d transcribed the complete works of Jane Austen and Anthony Powell, or Fifty Shades of Grey.

Anyway, whatever cataclysm comes our society’s way, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to survive anything that’s so dire that it would have justified doomsday prepping.

But apparently there are plenty of uber-wealthy folks who do want to survive. They’re not hand-crafting bullet-making machines. But they’re nonetheless doing some doomsday prepping.

The founder of Reddit, Steve Huffman, had laser surgery.

“If the world ends—and not even if the world ends, but if we have trouble—getting contacts or glasses is going to be a huge pain in the ass,” he told me recently. “Without them, I’m fucked.” (Source: New Yorker)

Huffman also has “a bunch of guns and ammo. Food. I figure that, with that, I can hole up in my house for some amount of time.”

And Huffman’s not alone.

…in recent years survivalism has expanded to more affluent quarters [than the nutters on Doomsday Preppers], taking root in Silicon Valley and New York City, among technology executives, hedge-fund managers, and others in their economic cohort.

Antonio García Martínez, who made his coin at Facebook, bought island property in the Pacific Northwest, and has it stocked.

“I think people who are particularly attuned to the levers by which society actually works understand that we are skating on really thin cultural ice right now.”  

He deliberately chose a survival site that wasn’t totally isolated, so that he could form a militia with likeminded others so that he can successfully “ride out the apocalypse.”

My question, of course, is you ride out the apocalypse – then what? It’s not like you’ll go back to dim sum in San Francisco.

Silicon Valley boys are hording gold, bitcoins, cryptocurrency. Bitcoins? Cryptocurrency? That’s going to survive the apocalypse.

More practically, IMHO, they’re investing in real estate and keeping their helicopters gassed up. They’re armed – some with guns and ammo, others with bows and arrows.

And, unlike most of those profiled on Doomsday Preppers, these guys are 1 per-centers, society’s winners. They’re educated. They’re affluent. They’re not so much worried about tsunami as they are financial meltdown or societal/political breakdown.

Interestingly after its Doomsday Preppers show took off, National Geographic (the network it ran on) sponsored a survey that:

…found that forty per cent of Americans believed that stocking up on supplies or building a bomb shelter was a wiser investment than a 401(k).

Sure hope that the sixty percent are right. I would like to get the opportunity to spend at least some of my 401(k). As for the tech preppers, they’re not bound by the constraints of a 401(k). They’ve got serious coin to spend on their survival.

Yishan Wong is an alum of both Facebook and Reddit. He says:

“The tech preppers do not necessarily think a collapse is likely. They consider it a remote event, but one with a very severe downside, so, given how much money they have, spending a fraction of their net worth to hedge against this . . . is a logical thing to do.”

…The fears vary, but many worry that, as artificial intelligence takes away a growing share of jobs, there will be a backlash against Silicon Valley, America’s second-highest concentration of wealth. (Southwestern Connecticut is first.) “I’ve heard this theme from a bunch of people,” [Linkedin’s Reid] Hoffman said. “Is the country going to turn against the wealthy? Is it going to turn against technological innovation? Is it going to turn into civil disorder?”

Among the fifty percent of the Silicon billionaires who aren’t prepping is PayPal founder Max Levchin.

“It’s one of the few things about Silicon Valley that I actively dislike—the sense that we are superior giants who move the needle and, even if it’s our own failure, must be spared.” 

A number of the Silicon preppers – and there are estimates that half of the Silicon billionaires have some sort of what’s called “apocalypse insurance” - are thinking New Zealand. (I will note that there’s an East Coast ritzy prepping cohort as well.) Other well to do preppers are investing in luxury “condos” built in de-commissioned bomb silos in the Midwest.

Me? I’ll be sitting in my home sweet home with the covers pulled over my head. And it really doesn’t matter to me whether those who are going to survive are the tin-foil brigade with their bullet-making machines, or the Silicon big boys with their New Zealand getaways and their helicopter, sitting their gassed and read to go. Include me out!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Don’t bogart that joint my friend, pass it over to Grandma Moses

The other day, I was talking with a friend whose mother is 95. Her mother is ready to go. She’s not only ready to go. She wants to go. Ninety-two was the last age when she felt good and enjoyed her life. That was about the time when one of her sons died, so there’s no surprise there. But now her life is a lot of aches, pains, and sadness. She’s ready. She’s not sitting around pissing and moaning. She’s a good-humored old Irish lady who’s still got all her marbles. Pain aside, she lives comfortably with one of her daughters, and enjoys the company and affection of her children and grandchildren. But she’s in pain most of the time (arthritis in her back), and the pain-killers aren’t killing her pain.

Then there’s my friend N, who’s in her late-eighties and is also ready to go. (She has told her friends that she anticipates that her death will be soon.) She doesn’t have any pain free days since a nightmare spill in which she broke her wrist. But they don’t want her to take anything too strong for the pain, fearing that she’ll become addicted. N isn’t afraid of becoming addicted. She’d just like the pain to let up while she runs out the last while of her life.

Last spring, my neighbor J died. He spent the last week or so of his life in a nursing home, but he was living at home (with a 24/7 home care aide the last couple of years) until his 99th birthday. But his last few years were pretty miserable. He was praying to die, and spent much of his day moaning. J went into a nursing home shortly after a couple of us heard a new tone in his moaning – it was beginning to sound physical, not existential. After speaking with his home care aide, I alerted J’s landlord, who called J’s West Coast daughter,the Visiting Nurses Association and the VA. They sprung into action and brought J to a nursing home, where his pain was better managed (so we heard) for his last few days.

Isn’t there a better way to manage the pain of the elderly? Well, since that could be me in a few short decades, I’ve got a vested interest in the answer here. So I’m delighted to hear that there is, in fact, a better way.

Medical marijuana is coming to the rescue.

One 98 year old in a NYC nursing home takes a little green pill full of cannabis oil.

Then Ms. [Ruth] Brunn, who has neuropathy, settles back in her wheelchair and waits for the jabbing pain in her shoulders, arms and hands to ebb.

“I don’t feel high or stoned,” she said. “All I know is I feel better when I take this.” (Source: NY Times)

Ms. Brunn, who has been able to stop taking morphine because of her use of marijuana, is not alone.

From retirement communities to nursing homes, older Americans are increasingly turning to marijuana for relief from aches and pains. Many have embraced it as an alternative to powerful drugs like morphine, saying that marijuana is less addictive, with fewer side effects.

It’s used for a lot of achy and pain-y problems: neuopathy, muscle spasms, Parkinson’s. Pot may also help with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Toking up, or popping a greenie, may be something new and weird for the older-elders, who came of age during the cigarette and good stiff drink era, but the boomers should be right at home when we start rolling in mass numbers into nursing homes. After all, rolling a joint is like riding a bicycle, isn’t it. (Do Zig-Zag papers still exist?)

There are both medical and legal concerns about elder use of marijuana.

Medically, there are some who believe that “marijuana could possibly make them [old folks] confused, dizzy or more likely to fall.” Not to be too cute about it, but they may already be confused, dizzy and more likely to fall than they used to be. Maybe toking up (or washing down) will help them relax and better cope with their pain. More research, please.

As for legal issues, while a lot of states have legalized marijuana, there are some concerns that the feds could crack down on it being dispensed in institutions that accept Medicare or Medicaid payments. Which would pretty much be most nursing homes, I would think. So far, it hasn’t happened, but you never know what can happen when there’s a new incumbent. Things could get bad enough for the old folks if mass deportations begin, given the population that provides a lot of the heart and muscle when it comes to elder care. I would hope that when the human element has been deported and replaced by robots, our elders will still be able to bliss out a bit, without the feds going haywire.

To get around the potential legal hurdles, some nursing homes are turning a blind eye to MJ use by their residents. They don’t help dispense it, but if someone’s using, they take a more or less ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach.

Like pretty much everyone else I know, I want to die in my sleep the day before (or the day after, at the very latest) I learn that I will be institutionalized and bed-ridden. But if medical marijuana can postpone that date, or – just in case I get stuck – make those final institutionalized, bed-ridden days a bit easier to withstand, well, don’t bogart that joint, my friend. Pass it over to me.



Tuesday, February 21, 2017


As a non-skier, I don’t pay a lot of attention to what’s happening at the ski resorts. But they do talk about it on the weather news, and the sense I’m getting is that this is a pretty good year, snow-wise, for New England. We’re not getting whited-out like we did in 2015, but it’s not the snow-drought we experienced last year, either, when, if not for snowmaking machines, folks would have been skiing on rock face.

Overall, however, as the world gets warmer, snowfall has become less predictable and skiing seasons in most of the places where people want to ski have grown shorter.

Since the 1970s the duration of the snow season, averaged over the northern hemisphere, has declined by five days a decade, according to the European Environment Agency. Huge regional variation exists, however, both in Europe and elsewhere. Californian slopes that were unable to open in recent years because of snow shortages had to close at the start of 2017 because too much of the stuff had fallen. (Source: The Economist)

What is bad luck for some (in this case, Mother Earth, and the ski resorts that now have to pay for what they used to get for free) presents an opportunity for others, namely, those who produce snowmaking equipment. 

The Economist article – those Euro-centrics! – only cites European companies, one of which (TechnoAlpin) claims to have roughly 50% of global market share. Not that I know anything about the snowmaking industry, but whenever I hear 50% market share, one of my eyebrows goes up. But whatever.

I’m going to do my bit to boost American greatness by giving a shout out to our native snowmakers. So let’s give it up for:

Victor, New York’s own Ratnik, makers of the Sky Giant Snow Gun, and the Mid-Energy Triple Baby Snow Giant High Capacity Tower. How much fun must it be to get to name your product a Triple Baby Snow Giant. (On the other hand, for some folks, the idea of a Triple Baby Snow Giant might be nightmare-inducing.)

Ratnik has its Babies, but Snowmakers (Snow Machines, Inc.) has Kids. You can get a Super Polecat, a Silent Polecat, or a Kid Polecat. A Viking or a Kid Viking. A Super Wizzard or a Kid Wizzard. (And you thought the only company in Midland, Michigan, was Dow Chemical.)

HKD used to be USA! USA! Then it went and merged with a Canadian outfit. But their US presence is in Natick, Mass. So they get a nod here, even if they don’t have Babies or Kids, just devils (Diablos) or angels (Halos).

I’m glad that these companies are making stuff, and that they’re making stuff in America. (At least I think they are.) I like that they make cannons and guns that have nothing to do with killing people, but are making skiers and snowboarders happy.

But with the upside of more demand for snowmaking equipment due to warmer temps, there’s a big downside: snow turns to slush, and then outright water, when the temps get above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. I am well familiar with this, as the snow on the roof of the building next store is seeping through my ceiling whenever we have a melty-day.

Anyway, because of this – warming temps, not the leak in the flashing next door - snowmaking companies plow a fair amount of money into R&D. I’m sure they’ll figure it out. Too many snowboarders and skiers out there who’ll be piste off if they don’t.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Just in time for Presidents’ Day

Every few years, C-SPAN conducts a survey of historians, asking them to rate all past presidents. Here’s the methodology:

C-SPAN's academic advisors devised a survey in which participants used a one ("not effective") to ten ("very effective") scale to rate each president on ten qualities of presidential leadership: "Public Persuasion," "Crisis Leadership," "Economic Management," "Moral Authority," "International Relations," "Administrative Skills," "Relations with Congress," "Vision/Setting An Agenda," "Pursued Equal Justice for All," and "Performance Within the Context of His Times." Surveys were distributed to historians, biographers, and other professional observers of the presidency, drawn from a database of C-SPAN's programming, augmented by suggestions from the academic advisors. (Source: C-SPAN)

Before I get into the results – every bit as exciting as Adele vs. Beyoncé at the Grammies, or whether LaLa Land will sweep the Oscars – I’m actually wondering where they found 91 people (even in this vast country) who are actually capable of rating all 44 presidents on each of those categories. Come on, William Henry Harrison was only in office for 31 days before he died of pneumonia. And you’re telling me that there are 91 historians who can rate him on “Crisis Leadership” and “Relations with Congress?” And are there really 91 historians who can tell the difference between John Tyler and Zachary Taylor? Apparently, they were able to discern enough differences to rank Zachary Taylor 31, and John Tyler 39.

Here, from Politico, are the full rankings:

1. Abraham Lincoln
2. George Washington
3. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
4. Teddy Roosevelt
5. Dwight Eisenhower
6. Harry Truman
7. Thomas Jefferson
8. John F. Kennedy
9. Ronald Reagan
10. Lyndon Johnson
11. Woodrow Wilson
12. Barack Obama
13. James Monroe
14. James Polk
15. Bill Clinton
16. William McKinley
17. James Madison
18. Andrew Jackson
19. John Adams
20. George H.W. Bush
21. John Q. Adams
22. Ulysses Grant
23. Grover Cleveland
24. William Taft
25. Gerald Ford
26. Jimmy Carter
27. Calvin Coolidge
28. Richard Nixon
29. James Garfield
30. Benjamin Harrison
31. Zachary Taylor
32. Rutherford Hayes
33. George W. Bush
34. Martin Van Buren
35. Chester Arthur
36. Herbert Hoover
37. Millard Fillmore
38. William Harrison
39. John Tyler
40. Warren Harding
41. Franklin Pierce
42. Andrew Johnson
43. James Buchanan

(Note that there have been 44 presidencies, making the incumbent #45, but Grover Cleveland had two separate terms, so he nabbed two numbers, but is only ranked once.)

The Big Three (as historian Douglas Brinkley calls them) are no surprise. Lincoln and FDR are my two personal favorites, which is kind of like saying that my favorite movies are Casablanca and The Godfather.

Obama had a pretty good showing, all things considered. He lost most of his ground (ranked 39th) because of his relations with a fractious Congress, and got his highest marks for Public Persuasion (ranked 10th), Economic Management (8th), Moral Authority (7th), and Pursuit of Equal Justice for All (3rd). On that final point, Obama was bested only by Lincoln (1st) and LBJ (2nd). (Here’s the link to the the full, category by category, rankings.)

Of all the presidents of my lifetime, Obama is definitely my favorite, but he’s not in the same league as The Big Three.

And then there’s the bottom of the barrel, James Buchanan, who was rated dead last in most categories, and achieved his highest ranking – 41st – for Administrative Skills.

Off the top of my head, I would have said Warren Harding (40th) was the worst. Or Andrew Johnson (42nd). Either of these gentlemen would have gotten my nod only because the incumbent is not yet in the mix. But James Buchanan? I know absolutely nothing about him,other than that he was the president before Lincoln. So I googled, and found that he apparently earned his reputation by pooh-poohing the importance of arguments over territorial slavery and may, in fact, have done some SCOTUS tampering around the Dred Scott decision.

Buchanan has been ranked among the three worst presidents in every poll and survey conducted since 1948 and in the past decade, and replaced Harding as the usual last-place finisher in these studies. (Source: National Constitution Center)

Looks like C-SPAN does their rankings whenever there’s a change in office. They’ve done three so far. Who knows, they may be conducting their next one any day now. I’d say that Buchanan supporters have reason for cautious optimism.

Anyway, Happy Presidents’ Day.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Food, glorious expired food

A number of months after my husband died (which, sigh, was 3 years ago today), I rounded up some of his gluten free foods and attempted to drop them off at a local food bank. Alas, I was turned away because these items – all completely non-perishable – were a couple of days past their use-by date. I guess it might be demeaning for someone picking up food from a food bank to be given expired food. But,r ealistically speaking, there was NOTHING wrong with any of this stuff (pretty much soups and a packaged “risotto” that was one of the few things that tasted good to Jim during the final stages of his life). And my thinking was that someone with celiac disease might appreciate getting food that would work for them.

Anyway, I took the food back home and used it myself. It was fine – even if it was a few months past the whatever it was date on the can/box. Don’t we occasionally read about folks who open a can of something or other, fifty years after the bought it, and find – yummers – that it’s still good? I seem to remember a Civil War ration can being unearthed and can-opened when I was a kid. And someone ate it and declared it fine.

Certainly, there are foods that go bad. Like milk.

The store that’s closest to me is one I seldom patronize. A few months ago, I needed milk, it was getting late, I didn’t want to schlep to one of my preferred stores, so I stopped in at my local. I’ve lived in this hood for over 40 years, so I knew enough to check the dates. Hmmm. I couldn’t find a pint of 2% that was younger than 2 weeks expired. I took a pass.

Similarly, I always look at the expiry date on bread, yogurt, fresh-squeezed OJ, and packaged salad greens, reaching way back on the shelf to get the furthest date out. Fresh is better than not-so-fresh.

Thanks to my fancy-arse fridge, those greens last well by the best-by date. Yogurt, I know, is good well beyond whatever date is stamped on the cover. As for milk, well, I use the sniff test. If it’s a day-or-so beyond, I’ll take a whiff. If it doesn’t smell sour, and if there’s nothing solid chunking around in it, it’s on the cereal. (Or, I guess, I could make a sour milk chocolate cake, which I haven’t had in years. Got the recipe here somewhere…)

Completely rotten fruits and veggies go down the disposal. If there’s just a bad part, I’ll cut it off and go ahead and eat the rest. Mold on bread: gone! In my experience, in a loaf of bread where one slice has mold, the rest of the slices will tend to smell a bit off. But if the bread is just stale, well, dealer’s choice.

Same with a lot of food stuffs: slightly stale ain’t going to kill you.

Use common sense. Which is how us Baby Boomers grew up.

As for drugs, I usually have aspirin and some sort of cold and flu whatever around. When I go to use them, which is not all that often, I invariably find that they’re expired. I then go online, and most of the time, I find that they’re fine. Now, if you’re taking something life saving – like insulin – you have to be more careful. But for general purpose OTC stuff, the potency may somewhat deteriorate, but most of it still works up to a point well beyond what’s indicated.

But, basically, I really don’t know what those dates are supposed to mean. Which apparently places me in the majority of my fellow Americans, or so I learned from a recent article in the Washington Post (which you may need to be a subscriber to access). But help is on the way.

On Wednesday, the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the two largest trade groups for the grocery industry,announced that they’ve adopted standardized, voluntary regulations to clear up what product date labels mean. Where manufacturers now use any of 10 separate label phrases, ranging from “expires on” to “better if used by,” they’ll now be encouraged to use only two: “Use By” and “Best if Used By.”

The former is a safety designation, meant to indicate when perishable foods are no longer good. “Best if Used By” is a quality descriptor — a subjective guess of when the manufacturer thinks the product should be consumed for peak flavor.

That's what most "use-by" dates indicate now, though studies have shown that many consumers believe they signal whether a product is okay to eat. In fact, it's totally fine to eat a product even well after its so-called expiration date. (Source: WaPo)

At least I have figured out not to be duped into deciding that something is unsafe to eat based on a date stamp. But what a con on the part of manufacturers this has been, if people are tossing out all of this perfectly good food.

Anyway, it looks like the simplification of the food expiration info will be a good thing. We’ll just have to remember the “Use By” is about safety. Wouldn’t it be better if they changed it to “Safe if Used By” or “Do Not Use After This Date.” Just saying. I’m sure I’ll keep using my visual inspection, sniff, and taste test. It’s worked so far!Ancient butter

And what are we to make of the different standards in other countries?

My niece Molly is studying in Ireland, and sent a picture of a mound of 1,000 year old butter from Cork. Looks more like a biscuit to me, but what do I know? All I can say is I will no longer worry when I can’t find the expiration date on my tub of Kerry Gold (butter that tastes like what butter should taste like, whatever its age)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ark of the Arfs

I’ve been on a couple of flights where pets have been onboard. A few years ago, my sister Kath and I were flying back to Boston from Florida, and we kept hearing this yipping noise. We actually thought it was someone with Tourette’s. But when we were disembarking, we watched as the woman a few rows ahead of us took a pet carrier out from under the seat in front of her and freed up the furry little head of her mop-mop dog Charlie.

The other pet experience I had was even more memorable. On a flight home from a business trip to Cleveland, a passenger took over one of the two toilets on the plane so that she could try to calm down her howler monkey. That monkey wasn’t having any of the calming down, and all I can say is that they don’t call them howler monkeys for nothing.

Anyway, whether yipping under the seat or howling in the rest room, a traveling pet is a lot better off in the cabin than it would be in the cargo hold. Honestly, it’s hard to think of a more disturbing experience for one of our furry friends than being cooped up in a cage in a cold, dark, and noisy space for a few hours. Traveling in the cabin if you’re a human flying steerage isn’t exactly a picnic, but at least we all know what we’re getting into: no leg room, bad or no food (not sure which is worse), the person in front of you reclining with his head in your lap, the kid behind you kicking, etc. The thought of how the animals have to travel. The horror!

While not much is happening on the in-flight end of the pet travel continuum – unless you’re willing to spring for a private plane – there is something that will make man’s best friend, as well as other members of the animal kingdom, more comfortable while they’re hanging out pre or post-flight at the airport.

The Ark at JFK, a new, $65 million facility in a 178,000-square-foot warehouse, is one step toward improving the latter [i.e., non-flight] experience. It will have a splash pool, overnight kennels, and pre-flight micro-chipping services to track your animals. Eventually, this first-of-its-kind service in the U.S. will feature an in-house pet spa, too.(Source: Bloomberg)

The JFK location is the key here, as one of the main services is helping dogs clear customs.(Is there extreme vetting for pooches?) It will also take care of the animals during layovers and see them through the boarding process.

I was going to say that I wished there were something similar for humans. But, silly me. It’s the First Class or Frequent Flyer lounge. I have been in enough of those to say that it really does make a difference to be able to lounge around, in a comfy chair, without having to fight off every else looking to use a plug. You’re away from the hoi polloi waiting for your flight to be called, and you get to the gate through the secret entrance.

The Ark at JFK's equine component will have stables for importing and exporting racehorses, show horses, and polo ponies, all of which follow relatively predictable schedules.

An aviary is also in the works.

I’m not all that fond of birds as pets. And I don’t know any horses. But I’m happy that there’ll be some more creature comforts from the canine creatures who do so very much to make human life worth living.