Friday, January 29, 2010

Alice Duffy on Broadway. Baby, take a bow!

Since I'm still holding on to the possibility that I may make something of my life yet, I was completely delighted to hear that Alice Duffy, aged 81, has made her Broadway debut.

I learned this the other day at the gym, where they had one of the morning shows I never watch on, and this one - which turned out to be The Today Show - had a piece on Alice Duffy.

Alice, who lives on Boston's South Shore, has a small play in the restaging of Noel Coward's "Present Laughter," reprising a role that she played in Boston.  (And, Mrs. Duffy, I hope you don't mind if I all you 'Alice.' Mrs. Duffy just seems so stuffy, even if you are  - yelp - old enough to be my mother.)

Her daughter, Clare, who works for NBC, wrote about her mother's debut here. This includes an embed of the video, which is absolutely worth a look. (I tried to embed the video here, but the link just went to today's video, which - as I'm writing this - is Steve Jobs showing off the iPad.)

There's a ton of feel good in the Alice Duffy story: Alice, who is the sister of one of my favorite actors, the late Peter Boyle, lost a daughter to cancer just a few months ago.  Alice is also someone who had started out in theatre, but had put it aside to raise her family. Kids out of the house, she got back into it, and has had many character actor roles in Boston, as well as doing some ads and bit parts in movies.

So, here she is on Broadway. Her surviving kids and her grand kids in the audience, along with some college pals from Trinity College in Washington, DC (sister school, by the way, of my own alma mater Emmanuel).

God knows, there's enough depressing news in the news these days, and there's been a spate of stories on employment that talk about age discrimination in the workplace, how companies are trading in a 60 for two 20's, and pocketing the extra 20 for themselves.  Personally, I find myself one of the older geezers still managing to hang on in high-tech marketing. Some days, I feel like Jack Crabb, the ancient character in Little Big Man, croaking about being the only white man to survive Custer's Last Stand. (My name's Maureen Rogers, and I'm the sole woman of a certain age still able to find work in my field....)

But I still harbor hopes that, if this work withers away and dies - who knows, if B2B tech marketing ends up relying exclusively on buzz word twittering, I may just pack up my lap top and call it a day - I can do something else. Something that requires the written word. Something interesting. Something engaging.

Maybe if I won Powerball, I'd feel different, but I actually like to work. (Hey, you've got to do something to fill the day, might as well get paid for it.) And, whether it's paid work or not, as far as I can see, the recipe for a happy old age is to keep doing things: volunteering, traveling, working out, stepping out, making a debut on Broadway.

Let's face it, one of the drearier aspects of getting on in years is that the losses start to accumulate. You can absolutely let yourself wither away and die, if that's what you want to do. Just pull the afghan up around your neck and retreat into yesteryear.

Not Alice Duffy, Broadway Baby at 81!

Baby, take a bow!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Not So Perfect Day for Bananafish

Well, I just heard that J.D. Salinger has died.

I can't say that I've read much J.D. Salinger since I left high school. Then again, he didn't actually publish anything since the mid-sixties, so there was nothing new to read.

I've often wondered how he's supported himself all these years, but - thanks to Wikipedia - I now know that Catcher in the Rye still sells 250,000 copies per year. They don't make adolescent angst novels like that any more.

To say that I adored Salinger's writing is not too much of an exaggeration. I wrote a bit about it here, in an essay on the decline of high school yearbooks.  Ours was supposed to have been dedicated to "The Fat Lady." As in Seymour's Fat Lady from Franny and Zooey. As in "Do it for the Fat Lady."  As in, well, you had to be on the 1967 Notre Dame Academy Yearbook Committee to understand just how much we were under the spell of J.D. Salinger.


Maybe I'll stop at Borders later and pick up a copy of Catcher.  Or, better yet, Franny and Zooey if it's still in print.

Pick Up Artists, Inc.

Somewhere in my grazing, I came across a reference to an outfit called "Love Systems." Although I am neither a target for their wares, nor an object of their desire, I thought I'd check them out. (Because I do not want to contract any type of web-transmitted STD, I'm not following my usual blogging policy of providing a link to the source. Get thee to The Google if you want to find this particular non-nunnery.)

Love Systems is part of the seduction industry, one sector of the economy that's presumably recession-proof, if their seminar schedule is any indication.

Throughout the world, on any given weekend, you'll have your choice of attending Bootcamp (Bootycamp?) for $3K (which combines classroom-style seminar with field experience); a Game Day Workshop - for picking up women during the daylight hours - for $1K; or other courses aimed at helping boy meet girl.  Make that boy bed girl, since these courses aren't exactly designed for Andy Hardy and Polly Benedict. We're thinking more son of Hugh Hefner cons Hooter's waitress into thinking he's a nice guy.

Since much of what they're selling is how to pick up women in pick up bars, I'm not going to go all tsk-tsk-y here.

Some/many women may go to pick up bars in hopes of meeting Mr. Right, but, deep in their hearts, they've got to know that they're more apt to be meeting Mr. Right Now. (Talk about 'looking for love in all the wrong places.')

But it does strike me as bizarre that you can pay $3K for a self-improvement seminar in which one of the takeaways is learning  the difference between a "Same Night Lay" and a "One Night Stand." (Nothing leaping to mind here? 'Same Night Lay" leaves open the possibility of seeing the woman again.)

The courses are run by guys with handles like "Big Business," "Samurai," and "Keychain."

Some of the names are not quite so stud-ly.

Quick. Word associate with "Biskit."

Limp Bizkit, right?

And Fader?  Is it just me, or does this sound - speaking of Limp Bizkits -  like someone who just might fade on you, whatever the love system in place.

One guy goes by "Tenmagnet", which at first glance I misread as "Termagant". Maybe he should capitalize that m in the middle. I would if I didn't want people to look and think "Shrew?"

My favorite, though was, "Bonsai."

Does a pick-up artists really want to be associated with a miniature, shrunken plant? Or do we think that "Bonsai" was thinking "Banzai!"

Or maybe not. Perhaps he's just channeling his inner femme - let's talk flower arranging - as the means to magnetize a ten.

Like any good marketers, this web site has some FAQs that don't hold back. Even if you're "old, ugly, and fat" the system will work for you because it's based on "Social and Evolutionary Psychology principles."

This sure is an infinite economy, isn't it?

Hubba, hubba!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pin money

I saw an article in the Wall Street Journal the other day -  "Recessionomics 101: How to Make Extra Money." You may need a WSJ subscription to access this article but, let me tell you, it just ain't worth it.

In fact, as I glanced through the article, I kept checking the URL to assure myself that I was, indeed, looking at the Journal, and had not stumbled across Stay at Home Mom Today, or Golden Years. Forget that catchy "Recessionomics" in the title. This one could just as easily have been called "How to bring in a few extra bucks while the kids are in school," or "How to pay for your Medicare add-on".

In fact, if one of the suggestions hadn't been 'sell stuff on eBay and Craig's List,' the article could have been from Ladies Home Companion:  "Fill the Sugar Bowl: How to keep yourself in pin money when the mister's hours are cut and the hens ain't laying."

Here were the Journal's suggestions for income augmentation in a world of high unemployment, no raises and rampant insecurity.

First off, you can sell stuff.

Great idea, that.

And fortunately the folks at eBay and Craig's List have come up with a forum for it, so you don't have to put up signs around the neighborhood and hold a tacky yard sale. (My mother always wanted to stop at yard sales. Unfortunately, if I were the one in the driver's seat, I'd generally refuse to stop, citing my rule of thumb: never stop at a yard sale in a house that's not as nice as your own, unless it's over 100 years old so there's the possibility of an antique. My mother would sigh, and look wistfully out the window as we sped by folding tables full of crummy lamps with the bases made in ceramics class, racks full of clothing that looked like it was bought at Zayre's in 1968, and grubby looking Barbie bikes with rust spots and missing streamers. Sorry, Ma.....)

Seriously, advising people to sell stuff they don't need on eBay is considered fresh advice?

Sheesh.  Outside of the Amazon rain forest and the wilds of Borneo, there can't be 15 people on the face of the earth who aren't aware that you can sell stuff you own for actual money.

The section on selling stuff did mention Linda Lightman, who has built up a $7M, 50 employee business selling on eBay. Call me crazy, but wouldn't a full article on Linda Lightman have been a bit more worthy. (By the way, Linda, if you're reading this, I'm thinking of parting with a gently-used annual subscription to the WSJ.)

If you have nothing to sell, you can take in boarders.

One thing for twenty-somethings to take on a roommate, but I can think of few things more depressing than having a stranger in your home. (Strange enough living with the people you're related and/or married to, isn't it?)

I'm sure if it comes down to losing your home or taking in a roommate, having a roommate wouldn't be so bad. Especially if it's a friend. Or someone who's never there.

But - yuck - the idea that you could wander into your kitchen and find someone you barely knew making a cup of tea. Or get woken up in the night by strange (as opposed to familiar - which is bad enough) snoring.

I can think of few circumstances in which having a boarder wouldn't make you feel uncomfortable and ill at ease in the one place on the face of the earth where you can hope for comfort and at ease.

(Back to my mother.  At one point, when she was an empty nester and the dog had died, my mother decided to take in a boarder. This wasn't for the money, but rather to have another living breathing soul in the house.  My mother was a secretary at Clark University, and the universe of possible boarders was Clark grad students. The first one - a lovely young Iranian woman - worked out very well. The second - a less lovely young South African man - worked out less so. He was kind of an odd duck to begin with, and I also think it creeped my mother out to have a man in the house, even if he did have his own bathroom. So, although she'd agreed to have him live with her for a full semester, half way through she lied and told him that one of my brothers was moving back home and she needed the room back. This from my mother who never lied! The boarder moved out, but he did leave behind a pretty nice oak chest.)

A third WSJ recommendation was taking part in paid (cash or other compensation) opinion polls, focus groups, product testing, or 'secret shopper' work.

Here it might have been interesting to see more detail on Mystery Shopping, which is something I will be looking into as a blog topic. As far as I know, you can't just set yourself up as a mystery shopper. You have to go through an agency, and the work is pretty darned demanding and pretty darned competitive, not to mention pretty darned unlucrative for most. (Still, it would beat taking in a boarder.)

Actually, I could have sworn that I'd blogged about mystery shoppers at some point, but all I could unearth was a post about "secret worshippers" who evaluate churches.

The final hot idea was take something your love to do and are good at and turn it into a business.

Wow!  Better get a patent on that idea before someone else starts using it.

Bakers, go forth and bake for money. Photographers, go forth and take pictures for money. Gardeners, go forth and garden for money.

Again, there was a missed opportunity here. The article talked about a woman in Maine who's built "a thriving baker business."

Wouldn't it have been interesting to learn how?

Seriously, folks, if the WSJ plans to keep on as the last great bastion of capitalism, they've got to do better than this.

How could they have put this article out there without including taking in laundry?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Prison Biz

At year's end 2008 (the last point for which the data's available), there were 1.6M prisoners in the US. That's about 0.5% of the population.

The growth rate has slowed since the turn of this new century, and now averages an increase of "only" 1.8% per year, way down from the go-go years of the 1990's, when the average annual rate of increase was an astounding 6.5% each year. (Source: US Department of Justice.)

I've been thinking about prisons because I just finished a very interesting book, Life Apart: Women, Prison, and Life Behind Bars by Christina Rathbone. The book provides some history of women's prisons, centering on Massachusett's prison in Framingham, but the heart of the book is her profiles of a handful of women she befriended at Framingham, all of whom are doing time for non-violent, drug-related crimes - a characteristic shared by the majority of female prisoners. (The book's been out a couple of years, but it's definitely not out of date, and I highly recommend it.)

Running through Rathbone's book is a thread of details: clear tooth paste containers; the clothing brands available in the prison canteen; high-caloric-high carb diets to keep prisoners logy and subdued.

Which got me thinking about the prison biz which, with its still "enviable" growth rate, represents a major US industry - and one that won't be all that easy to off-shore, either.

As it turns out, this week the American Correctional Association (More than 135 years of global excellence) is holding it's winter conference in Tampa, Florida.

There are a lot of products being showcased there:

OraLine is proud to introduce the first complete line of ADA Accepted Clear Toothgel, designed specifically for all correctional needs...ADA Acceptance will mean less inmate resistance to the introduction of the clear toothgel. OraLine’s brand means that you don’t have to pay national brand prices to receive national brand quality.

If it's not all that obvious to you why toothpaste and its container needs to be clear, it's to prevent prisoners from hiding contraband.

You can use that clear toothpaste with a security toothbrush "designed to inhibit the construction of shanks."

Same goes for the Bend-EZ pen:

* Totally flexible makes it difficult to use the pen as a weapon.
* Clear Barrel reduces contraband.

Try the NEW Washable Blue Ink. Stop wasting time and money trying to wash ink stains; gang symbols, doodling and other pen stains out of inmate’s uniforms. Simply launder as usual. No pre-wash required. Wipes right off of most surfaces with moist towel. Stop spending money repainting walls and furniture. Simply wipe with a wet towel.

There are shoes with no metal shanks. Clear-chassis typewriters. Clear chassis flat-screen TV's.  Non-confrontational board games. As well as products that don't seem to have any specPrison typewriterific correctional angle: hard candies that  look like they'd make handy mini-weapons during a food fight; Tito's pickled jalapenos; institutional sized laundry machines.

It's totally hideous that prisons are one of our few growth industries, especially when you consider - as Rathbone does - how many of those in prison are serving mandatory sentences that seem disproportionate to the crime (often non-violent and drug-related). These sentences may have been established in part to introduce more fairness into the system,  but they're also in large part the sort of knee-jerk reaction to getting tough on crime that so many politicians fall prey to because they don't want to appear soft and weak (which is, apparently, where nuance always gets you).

But, boy, walking the floor of this trade show would sure be interesting, wouldn't it?


Interestingly, I never think of myself or my family and friends as having anything whatsoever to do with the prison population, other than, perhaps, through volunteer work. We are, after all, so incredibly well-educated, middle class, law-abiding, nice. But it doesn't take long to come up with a number, well within the six degrees of separation.

A while back, I wrote about my old friend "L", now in prison in the Midwest for attempted murder of her children.

The boy next door growing up is in Federal lock up for buying kiddie porn. I always found him creepy - our neighborhood was plagued by a peeping Tom prowler when I was in high school, and I always suspected this guy - but I never would have suspected this.

My husband had a childhood buddy in Bellows Falls, VT, who dropped out of Fordham for the criminal life. Although he hasn't seen this guy in 40 years, Jim would often talk about his 'gangster friend.' Gangster friend, indeed. Jim's old friend became part of the Irish gangs of NY. He was implicated in some attempted hit on a member of the Mafia, and John Gotti put a contract out on him.  Gotti missed, but the friend is now doing hard time for 2nd degree murder.

A friend of mine had a classmate at Boston College who, a few years ago, murdered his girlfriend. The sordid story involved a married man from a prosperous and well-known family; a young woman who worked for a noted state politician; an expensive motor boat; a cover-up conspiracy; a brother who squealed; a body never found. The stuff of TV crime shows, and, in fact, I saw a story on this case on a true-crime show.

An in-law had a cousin who spent a few years in prison for some sort of collection agency fraud. My brother knows a local pol who's in the stir for a DUI hit-and-run.

Maybe that high number of folks in prison isn't so shocking, after all.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pork Rind Protectionism

A few months ago, it was the brouhaha over tires from China.

This time around, the protectionist fervor is aimed at Brazilian pigskin imports that will be used to make pork rinds. (Source of info: Wall Street Journal - requires subscription to see the full article.)

Now, I like fat, salt, and grease as much as the next junk food consumer, but, somehow, when I want to indulge myself, I seldom think "pork rind." (Sorry, folks, but I can't get the phrase 'hard on for a lardon' to stop rattling around in my brain unless I type it out. There. Satan, begone.)

No, give me a bag of Cape Cod potato chips, and I'm happy as a pig in whatever.

I have had pork rinds a couple of times, and remember them as tasty. (You just can't beat salt, fat, and grease when it comes to tasty.) But I can't imagine tossing a bag in the shopping cart. (Does Whole Foods even carry them?)

Pork rinds are, apparently, a rather healthy business. (And one that the US, by the way, leads the world. Who needs steel, automotive, or any other boring old industrial industry, when we own pork rinds? We're Number One! We're Number One!)

Last year, pork rind  onsumption grew by 5% - not bad for the midst of a recession, but still not at the pork rind peak of the early 2000's, when the no-carb, high protein snack was the darling of the Atkins diet crowd.

The company that got the Department of Agriculture to push open the door to pigskin of all nations is Rudolph, an industry leader that just happens to have a plant in Brazil. The decision to let masses of huddled pigskins into the US is, however, raising concerns about food safety.

"How essential is it that we start importing pork rinds from countries that have really bad diseases?" asked Dave Griswold, a veterinarian at the Bureau of Animal Health in the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

The feds counter that the new rules will actually make us safer from hoof-and-mouth, mad pig, and whatever other dangers are out there. (Swine flu?)

Rudolph, meanwhile, supports the new rule as "science-based", and in defense of the US consumer, since they say that their aim is to have the Brazilian option "in the event of a product shortage in the U.S.", which could happen if Rudolph succeeds in its quest to further popularize pork rinds.

Their web site provides all kinds of pork-rind based snacks, most of which seem to involve cream cheese for some reason.

They also sponsor an annual Pork Rind Heritage Festival in Harrod, Ohio. (Mark your calendars for the second week in June.)

There's quite a bit to do at the festival: corn hole contest, cake wheel, Bible School, Bessie Bingo, and entertainment by the likes of Arnold Coy, Jim Boedicker, and Rita Motter. City slicker snob that I am, the only thing on the list I actually understood was Bible School, and I'd rather listen to Arnold Coy, thank you. Of course, for those who need to ask, no explanation is sufficient; for those who don't need to ask, no explanation is necessary. But I do want to let you know that Bessie Bingo involves cows in a field and bets on where Bessie is going to let one fly. (You need to reserve a lot of time for this, since there's no guarantee that Bessie's going to go when or where you want her to. For quicker results, you can substitute chickens for cows.)

But the highlight of the festival will be the pork rind eating contest, which in 2009 was won by Jim Reeves, who devoured 11.32 ounces in eight minutes.

Naturally, when I read that, I figured there was some mistake.

Surely, they must mean 11.32 pounds (which is close to Reeves' world record for watermelon devouring - 13.22 pounds in 15 minutes).

But the Buffalo News, profiling their home-town hero, cleared everything up.

“That one is a real badge of honor because pork rinds sound benign and they are not,” says [George] Shea, [chairman of Major League Eating]. “They are impossible to eat. When you try to eat them quickly, they become like little shards of glass.”

Winning the pork-rind title, says Reeves, “tore my mouth up. They are kind of like little Brillo pads. When you’re just eating them socially, they’re kind of like cheese puffs. But when you’re trying to eat them fast and you are shoving them in your mouth, you are crushing them up with the roof of your mouth, rather than your teeth."

Fat, grease, salt, risk of foot-and-mouth, 'kind of like little Brillo pads.'

One can certainly see why Rudolph fears a shortage, can't one?


Today is the 39th anniversary of the death of my father.  He liked a tasty snack as much as the next guy, but I don't know if he ever had a pork rind. One of his favorites was, however, pickled pigs feet (crubeens), which was some kind of Irish thing. (I'm guessing my grandfather had them in his saloon when my father was a kid.)

Anyway, here's to my father. (Still miss you, Dad.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Taco toss

I have to say, I never would have looked at this AP article on if the headline hadn't been "Man Gets Day in Jail for Throwing Taco at Manager."

After all, who among us hasn't wanted to throw something at their manager at one point or another in the course of a career?

Alas, the article wasn't about an employee going postal with a taco. It was about a customer throwing what he claimed to be a spit-laden double-decker taco - whatever that is - at a Taco Bell manager. So now Warren Strickland of Fairbanks, Alaska, is getting a day in jail, a $100 fine, and a year's probation.

The offense came about because Strickland had to make a couple of extra drive thrus because his order got messed up. On his final return, he supposedly found spit in one of his tacos.

Now, in all the time I logged as a waitress/food service worker, I actually never saw anyone spit in food. But I did witness the following anti-customer and/or deliberately unsanitary-unappetizing behaviors:

  • Waitresses who would hand a broiling hot plate to a customer, rather than put it down on the table in front of them.  (I actually knew waitresses who inured themselves to the discomfort of carrying walk-over-coals hot plates for the express purpose of placing the plate in the hand of the customer.)
  • Waitresses deliberately spilling water on a customer.
  • Waitresses deliberately dripping "au jus" from prime rib down the backs of customers.
  • Waiters drinking half the shot of alcohol that was supposed to go into a mixed drink.
  • Waiters and waitresses snacking off of plates that were under the heat lamps awaiting pickup. (I will confess to that one. At one place I worked, there was a very tasty lobster out of the shell dish that was never delivered intact. If it sat under the lamp for more than a nano-second, I can guarantee that at least one waitress cadged a piece.)
  • Cooks frying up cockroaches in the fisherman's platter mix. Yum!
  • Cigar ashes flicked on to a salad by the constantly smoking salad guy.
  • The manager shooting a handgun in the direction of rat holes so that the rats would keep at bay while the waitresses cleaned up.
  • A dish boy pulling a dead rat out of a clogged up sink.
  • Rats running across my feet in the dining room. (You were fired if you screamed at a rat sighting if there were any diners in the house.)
  • A dish boy - nicknamed The Animal - using his just-out-of-the-dishwater hands to scoop big servings of ice cream directly into his maw.
  • A stoned waitress who'd dropped an order of steamed cherrystone clams on a filthy, sawdust cover floor, pick up the clam bellies - which had fallen out of the shells - and stuff them back into the shells, and go on to deliver the order to the customer

But, nah, I never saw anyone spit in food.

But Warren Strickland believes he was a victim, and, when the Taco Bell manager accused him of lying to get free food - of all the places I might want to lie my way into free food, Taco Bell would not factor on the list at all, but that's just me - Strickland tossed the offending taco at the manager.

The Fairbanks NewsMiner, naturally, had more scoop on this local matter than did the AP.

And lest you start thinking that day in jail is too harsh, you must know that Strickland - at 6'2" 250 pounds - is roughly twice the size of "manager Carol Dzimtrowicz, who said [the taco] hit her in the face and that she was scared of Strickland."

Strickland admitted that he was the perp for the taco toss, but says that the criminal complaint mentioned the size differential, but not the precipitating spit.  He added:

“Unfortunately, I destroyed the evidence (of the spit), or I could have gotten the place shut down,” he said Wednesday.

In addition to jail, probation, and the fine,

Strickland is barred from any Taco Bell during his year of probation.

No comment on how that counts as punishment, but apparently, to Strickland, it does. He has asked that he be allowed into another Fairbanks Taco Bell, which he will be if he gets written permission from the owner.

Why in God's name he would want to, given that - I'm guessing - every saliva-mouthed kid working in a Taco Bell anywhere in Alaska is going to be on the lookout for him.

My advice to Strickland: get yourself a pound of hamburger, some pre-shredded cheddar, a bit of lettuce, and an Ortega or El Paso taco kit and roll your own.

As for throwing food at your own manager - and not at the Taco Bell manager - it has been done.

When we worked at Durgin-Park (not, by the way, the site of the above rat lore; Durgin was, in fact, quite clean), my roommate Joyce was berated by the completely off-the-wall owner/manager - a.k.a. "The Boss ( long dead) for putting too much whipped cream on the strawberry shortcake. This being Durgin - all out in the open - the berating took place in full view and ear shot of the diners.

"You young girls," he screamed, "You waste so much, you're eating me out of house and home. I'll let it go this time, but next time your fired."

As it happened, Joyce's customers did not eat any of the whipped cream. When she was carrying the dirty plates back into the kitchen area, The Boss - ever present on the floor, and screaming at and/or firing one of us at any given moment* - spied the bowls, still full of whipped cream.

"That does it," he yelled at Joyce. "You're fired."

Joyce proceeded to whip the two bowls down on the floor, where they shattered, and the whipped cream splattered all over the pant legs of The Boss. (High-water black pants, worn with white socks, black shoes, a white shirt, black tie, and a gray cotton, too tight, buttoned up jacket. I can picture "The Boss" now.)

Well, The Boss was none to happy, so he started chasing Joyce around the restaurant, with most of the waitresses joining the fray to protect 125 pound (if that) Joyce from 250 pound The Boss. Fortunately, he was unable to catch her.

Grand comic opera, all around.

The Boss' energy flagged and the chase wound down. No surprise that The Boss couldn't keep up with a fleet girl in her early twenties. In addition to all the wait he was packing, if it was a typical night, he had already consumed a prime rib, a fisherman's platter, a plate of salt-covered sliced tomatoes, and quite a bit of Crown Royal.

Joyce went to the break room to get our coats, while I went over to the tables we'd been working, told the customers we were leaving, and told them that if they were going to tip us, they better do it now.

We had been planning on leaving in a couple of days, anyway, heading for our Grand Tour of Europe (five months hitchhiking around - ah, those were the days).

Anyway, when I saw that headline, I was hoping for a story like the Joyce-Boss saga.

But it was just a big guy, going out of control, and scaring someone half his size.

He should have just hurled the taco on the floor. If some spit-infused ground beef has just splashed back on the manager, she wouldn't have had a case.


*The dynamic was:

You got fired - for doing something like breaking a dish, or stowing napkins where they'd be convenient to your station, or making a mistake on a bill (which was often, but not always, tied to stealing: another whole story), or not having gotten the word that aprons were now mandatory (which had only been given to the older waitresses, a.k.a., The Old Bags, who showed up one day wearing aprons, while the young girls worked apron-less).

You cried a bit, and begged The Boss for your job back.

He said he'd think about it.

Some of The Old Bags went to bat for you.

You got your job back, with a stern warning not to let it happen again.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Some days, I really do hope that there's a hell

What constitutes luxury is surely in the eye and pocketbook of the beholder.

Someone in Haiti, no doubt, would look at my Peruvian Connection sweaters - honest Incan, I haven't spent that kind of money on a sweater in years - and think, hmmmm, I could clothe my family for a year on what that fou-head blew on a yarn-fest. And I think nothing of forking over $8.34 for a Cosi Signature Salad (low-fat dressing) a couple of times a week. Not to mention the new Blackberry vibrating in my pocket as I write.

But it's a pretty plain vanilla Blackberry, off the shelf at the Verizon Store on Washington Street.

I hadn't really thought that I could have gotten one that was a whole lot nicer if I'd waited until Versace introduces its first mobile phone.

I'm sure it's what Gianni would have wanted, but does the world we live in really need a phone that retails for more than $5K?

Maybe it's worth it, but, unfortunately, I won't be in Paris at the Plaza Athénée next week when Versace unveils it, so I'll have to wait until it hits the Versace retail outlets in May, where the folks will no doubt be lining up.

In any case, I'm grateful to an article about the upcoming Versace phone in The Wall Street Journal, which alerted me not just to the Versace news, but to the existence of the luxury phones to begin with. (And, by the way, we're not talking fashion phones, the ones that retailed for less than $1,000. You call that luxury? Feh!)

So I googled luxury cell phone, and darned if there aren't quite a few of these suckers out there.

You might even say that earpiece of luxury phones and smart phones are everywhere - just not where I've been. ("The strongest demand comes from Asia, Russia and the Middle East," which may explain why I haven't seen any.)

Luxe phones are now competing for the consumer Euro with luxe watches, in fact. While I've never paid more than $100 for a watch, luxury watches, somehow, don't bother me as much. This is probably because a watch can actually last a really long time, but a phone will be obsolete within 6 months. Sometimes that obsolescence is the innards, but sometimes it's the form factor. Electronics do have a natural way of slimming down over time, after all. I used to get annoyed enough when Verizon would tell me that hey no longer had batteries for a perfectly good but ancient cell phone that I'd probably paid $49 four years earlier. Imagine if you paid $5K for one. (For the record, those Peruvian Connection sweaters last forever, too. I've had one for 20 years. I know because I got it right before we went to Berlin in December 1989 to see The Wall fall.)

If you can't wait for Versace's to debut in May, at Continental Mobiles, you can get a chocolate diamond iPhone for 5,099 pounds sterling.  Buy you have to pay if you want a "hand-crafted case [that] exudes a sensual confidence and allure that is impossible to resist." (I just pulled out my Blackberry which, alas, does not have a case the exudes anything other than finger prints.)

Personally, I was able to resist Continental's confidence and allure, but that's because my 5,099 pounds sterling is going toward my 2009 IRA.

But, hey, what am I doing looking at iPhones to begin with. I'm a Blackberry kind of gal, and, even when it comes to luxury, we're apparently cheaper dates. I didn't do an exhaustive search of Continental's wares, but the bespoke Blackberrys seemed to be more in the 1-1.5K (pounds) range. More affordable for the working girl, but you don't get any of the exuding sensual confidence in that price range.

And then there's Vertu (not to be confused in any way shape or form with "virtue"). A Vertu can run you in the tens, and even hundreds, of thousands, for understated elegance. For that level of coin, you'd really want to keep your vertu intact, wouldn't you?

Despite all the availability of all these luxury phones, now might not be the time to enter this market.

In fact, Wired reported last July that the market for luxury phones was in the hopper.

Bad timing for Versace. Their foray into the luxury phone market may not prove to be any more successful at turning the company profitable than their brand extensions into jet planes or cars.

Perhaps Donatella Versace - who's run the House since Gianni was killed - doesn't go to the google. Perhaps she doesn't know what Wired knows. Perhaps she doesn't know there's a recession on.(Given all the truly terrible pictures of her out there, I can't say that I blame her if she doesn't spend a lot of time trolling around online.)

I will absolutely admit to becoming a carping, pursed lip scold about some things. But some days, I really do hope that there's a hell for ultra-luxury consumers. As for the ultra-luxury producers, apparently some of them will be suffering the hell on earth of their bad business decisions.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Talk is cheap, and silence for Conan O'Brien may be really golden

Ah, what I wouldn't have done for a $40M dollar walk-away in exchange for not-bad mouthing a former employer. And, since most of them are out of business, there'd be no one there to hold me to the no-bad-mouthing clause.

Not that I would call anything I've said about my ex-companies bad-mouthing. Is it really bad mouthing to tattle on the late, not-so-lamented Genuity by informing the world that they spent $100K to produce a brochure with a die-cut, brushed-metal cover that was too heavy to mail, which was just as well, since the brochure was written in gibberish. (Lorem ipsum - if you're not familiar with it, that's fake Latin that designers sometimes slot in where the real text will go - would have made more sense.)

No, mainly what I do - here on occasion, and in person (especially at alumni gatherings) - is odd-mouth, weird-mouth, could-you-believe-it-mouth, foible-mouth, and WTF-mouth.

But, according to yesterday's WSJ, Conan O'Brien's being offered just that. (Access to source material may require a subscription, by the way.)

In truth, I don't really have an opinion on the entire Tonight Show kertuffle, as I don't watch the show. Ever.

What I know about Conan O'Brien is this: Brookline Mass, red, Gumby-shock hair, Harvard grad, once stalked by a mentally unbalanced priest.

This is similar in amount and kind to what I know about his predesucessorcessor, Jay Leno: Andover Mass, lantern jaw, Emerson College, collects cars and motorcycles.

In our info-chocked world, it's hard to maintain ignorance of such things, no matter how willful you are.

But I am, of course, intrigued by the $40M "silence is golden" parachute he's being offered to vacate his seat and return it to Jay Leno.

The no-bad-mouthing stipulation - called a nondisparagement clause - is interesting. Disparagement, after all, is in the ear of the beholder, is it not? And one beholder's light poke in the ribs may be another's sledgehammer to the head.

And I wonder whether the nondisparagement is a two-way treaty.

So far, it's apparently not, as one NBC exec has characterized O'Brien as "chicken-hearted", "gutless", and "an astounding failure".

Fortunately, because I'm nowhere near worth $40M worth of employer value or disparagement, I don't have to worry about much in the way of public disparagement about me by former employers. They are, of course, entitled to all the private disparagement they want. ("All those long manifestos. Sure, she made her points, but I stopped reading on page 7 single spaced." ''Talk about analysis paralysis; if she'd only stop thinking for a moment." "Did she really have to ask that question at a company meeting?" "Can't we just get her to shut up?")

Ah, but those who live in the public eye are bound to get disparaged in the public eye - and that goes for both companies and individuals.

Not that the disparagement and counter-disparagement is apt to drag on for too long. With so much comedic fodder in the universe, a year from now will anyone even get an infra dig joke about Leno-O'Brien-NBC?

Whatever the final outcome of the Conan O'Brien-NBC negotiations, I do know that I will personally benefit from Jay Leno's exiting his 10 p.m. time slot. I'm a Law & Order junkie, and 10 p.m. used to mean Law & Order, in one form or another, at least half the days of the week. So, I much look forward to their return to the docket.

Meanwhile, on behalf of the little guy, I am pleased to note that O'Brien's $40M includes some spread-around for his staff.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Olé! (Would you mind letting those toreador pants out just a smidge.)

Just in case I need to do an emergency career change between now and The End, I'm always on the lookout for jobs that might suit.

One that I always used to assume I could fall back on was waitressing at Durgin Park.

I used to claim that, once I was old enough, I could go back to Durgin Park and waitress, Durgin being a hoary Boston restaurant that was once know for its ancient and surly waitresses.  Alas, I see that Durgin has been slicked up, and that at some point in the late 1970's, replaced its soi-disant "rude and short-tempered" waitresses with ones who were merely "sassy." I cannot imagine that many of the crones who waited at Durgin when I was a sweet young thing - Gussie, Angie, Jeannie, Nina, Dotty F, Dotty L, Flo - a crew of largely cantakerous (Gussie and Jeannie were sweet exceptions) and pretty darned old - made the cut when "rude and short-tempered" gave way to "sassy."

With Durgin out of the running, there are so damned few career changes I could make that I often go on the lookout for jobs that wouldn't be suitable at all. But which are sure-fired interesting.

One such job was revealed to me in a recent New Yorker profile of Justo Algaba, a fellow, or, rather, hombre, who is "one of the world’s most respected matador tailors."

My first thought, of course, was how many of them are there out there. Well, ask and you shall receive: there are five in the whole wide world, all in Spain, and serving bull fighters in Spain, Portugal, Mexico, and South America.  As well as serving the costume departments of operas staging Carmen. (The New Yorker caught up with Algaba when he was in The City to outfit the Met's matadors.)

Opera aside, Algaba turns out over 150 bespoke "trajes de luce" (suits of light) each year, and has said that “Every suit I make is like having a child."

Well, I don't know nothing about birthing no baby, but I would guess most women who do might take exception to this comment.

Algaba, of course, could argue back that what he does is far more rare. And apt to get even more rare, now that Catalonia (home of Barcelona) has voted to ban bull fighting. (Homage to Catalonia, on that score, by the way.)

Nonetheless, Señor Algaba is, apparently, making a reasonably good living.

Big time matadors buy 6-10 new suits per year, and the suits go for about 3,000 euros.

What that will get you is something, well, tailor-made, fitting "like a second skin", and designed to meet the specific style and personality quirks of the individual matadors. Some, for example, consider yellow suits bad luck. Others are fine with it.

Algaba has been in the matador tailoring business for 45 years. The story of how he came to his profession is almost, but not quite, as interesting as how I got into high tech marketing. But that's a story for another day.

Originally set on becoming a pilot, when Algaba was 18,

...he saw a help-wanted ad for a tailor’s shop. He wandered in and encountered the famous bullfighter El Cordobés, who was being fitted for a suit.

At this very moment, Algaba had one of those epiphanies that has thus far eluded me, career-wise:

He remembered that, four years beforehand, he’d made a promise to himself that he’d either be a bullfighter or make clothes for them. And he’d forgotten about it until that moment.

“I believe very much in the destiny of a person,” Algaba said.

Lucky man!

I'm still trying to figure out my destiny as a person.

I do know if will have absolutely nothing to do with a needle and thread.  While I'm fine sewing on buttons, doing minor repairs, and hemming pants, I'm a complete washout when it comes to anything that involves measuring, cutting, fitting, or running a sewing machine. As with so many of the domestic arts, any interest in or aptitude for this one passed me by, making family stops at the psyches of both my older and younger sisters, but including me decidedly out.

When I was 11 or 12, I did attempt a sewing class at the Girls Club, and made myself a hideous hang around the house shift made out of what can only be described as apron material: cream background with purple and green cats on it. The yoke was completely tilted in one direction, and the overall effect was a muu-muu that one would have been more likely to find worn by an obese chain smoker living in a rusting trailer, than by a 12 year old girl in Worcester. Thus went any thought of a career as a seamstress, tailor, or fashion designer.

No, I never would have stuck (picador'd?) it out as a tailor for matadors. No self-respecting bull-fighter would have been caught gored in anything I came up with. And I wouldn't have wanted to have anything to do with killing bulls anyway. So there!

Still, it was interesting to find that there is such a job out there.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Truly Invasive Medicine

Knock on pill-bottles, but I am someone who has had the immense good fortune to enjoy what can only be characterized as spectacularly good health.  Over the course of my full-time working career, I estimate that I missed, on average, about one half-day per year because of sickness.  Other than a bout with food poisoning, suffered in Berlin in May, 2007 (what was I thinking, eating that seafood appetizer in an outdoor cafe on a hot day?), I can't remember the last time I had any sort of illness-related shutdown. In any case, nothing that couldn't be cured by drinking a lot of orange juice, gargling with warm salt water, and getting into bed with a good book.

Yes, I realize that past performance is no guarantee of future results. But, as long as I can keep up the good health, well, lucky me.

But I am, of course, getting along in years, and it's probably just a matter of time before I am prescribed something other than the ointment I use on occasion for eczema in my ear.

So I read with interest an article in the current Economist on new "smart-pill" technologies. (And, no, the pill doesn't make you any smarter; it's the pill that's smart.)

One company talked about in the article is Proteus Biomed, developer of technology (now being licensed by Novartis):

...which enables pills to relay data about a patient back to doctors after they have been swallowed...When one of Proteus’s pills is taken, stomach fluids activate the edible communications device it contains, which sends wireless signals through the body to another chip worn as a skin patch or embedded just under the skin. That, in turn, can upload data to a smart-phone or send it to a doctor via the internet. Thus it is easy to make sure a patient is taking his pills at the right time, to spot adverse reactions with other drugs and so on.

Naturally, this brought to mind the 1960's Raquel Welch movie, Fantastic Voyage, in which Raquel et al. were miniaturized and sent in a miniaturized submarine into someone's body for some purpose or another. (You can read the plot here.) While I had remembered the vague plot outlines and, mostly, that Ms. Welch was in it, I did not, of course, recall that the submarine was named the Proteus. Never let it be said that the men in white coats lack for a sense of humor and/or history.

Other advancements underway include a pill from Philips (the electronics folks) that will precisely target the right spot to deliver drugs, and an implantable microchip from the eponymous MicroCHIPS - Yea! a Massachusetts company! (I'm such a sucker for home grown.) - that  will contain a reservoir to hold and dispense drugs.

Anyway, I'm all for these sorts of developments. Someday, after all, I may well be a forgetful old lady, wandering around looking for the slippers that are on my feet, and wondering whether I'm only supposed to take the little yellow pill during months with an R in them.

(I will go on record as saying I'm not in favor of remedies that are extraordinarily costly, with little bang for the buck, societally speaking. I really don't want to impoverish the follow-on generation so that I can manage to stay alive three more weeks, during which time I'll probably be spending most of my waking hours kvetching about how much better things were back in my day, and trying to foist some of the junk I've accumulated over the years onto my nieces. ("Hi, honey, it's Auntie Moe. No need to call me back. I just wanted to let you know that I'm Fed-Exing you the chipped plate with the sunflower on it that you always liked."))

And, while the types of smart technology mentioned in the article are all pretty cool, there are plenty of things we could be doing that may not be all that cool, but could make a difference in health, quality of life, independence, and keeping costs down.

It wouldn't have to be smart technology. Just a smarter way of doing things.

My Aunt Mary, who's 84, had a recent health scare involving the blood pressure medicine she's taking. After numerous trips to the ER, testing, and overnight stays, for heavy-duty symptoms associated with blood pressure, the problem was solved: the pills Mary was taking were the wrong dosage.

The problem was solved the old fashioned way: Mary looked at the pill bottle and said, 'hey, this isn't what I'm supposed to be taking.'

If my aunt weren't that sharp, the outcome might not have been so positive.

But you have to ask yourself whether this could have been cleared up on Day One if someone in the ER had as a checklist item:  Ask patient for pill bottle; call patient's personal physician and ask what he/she prescribed; compare and contrast.

Now, of course, everyone in my family who's heard this story - starting with Mary's kids, who lived it up close and personal - will automatically think "check the prescription" when things start going awry. But none of us are medical people, so it's not exactly surprising that a pharmacist's screw-up was not the first thing any of the lay-folks thought of.

Now it seems d'uh obvious.

How many other little things are there out there that we could be doing?

Meanwhile, kudos to the companies that are inventing these wonderful techie breakthroughs that are going to make it easier to be sick and/or old. (Personally, I'm hoping for the latter, but I do recognize that, my sterling luck to date aside, I may have to grapple with the former as well.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Nubrella? Looks good to me.

In addition to pocket combs and nail clippers, one of the the common objects I seem to buy an awful lot is the common umbrella.

This is, quite possibly, because I live in a very windy city with extremely ugly weather.

Last year, in the aftermath of a particularly nasty rain-snow-sleet-hail-wind storm, I started counting dead umbrellas lying in the gutter or shoved into a trash can. I stopped counting at 50 - and this was during a walk of a bit more than a mile.

I don't end up with a lot of total blow-out umbrellas, but I do suffer my share of partials - irreparably bent out of shape spokes, or shafts that no longer fully extend. I tend to ignore these problems until I end up caught out in a storm with a largely dysfunctional non-brella, holding on for dear life to the now-four inch handle that's not really holding up the flaccid, non-water proof material that is awkwardly draped over my head.

At any given time, I have in my possession a good half-dozen of these suckers. (Off the top of my head: I have the Mickey Mouse print, the tan, the maroon, the periwinkle, and two blacks, in various locations around the house, in closets, in pocketbooks, briefcases, etc.)

If I had any sense, I'd toss each umbrella in the recycle bin the moment that its sheath disappeared, since this always seems to be the precursor of gradual yet pronounced umbrella decline.

Fortunately, I don't end up spending that much money on any given umbrella, and I won't have to as long as there's a Filene's Basement within striking distance of my condo.

Still, I buy an awful lot of umbrellae...

So I was delighted to see (in an article in The Boston Globe) that a native entrepreneur, Alan Kaufman,nubrella.png has come up with the better mousetrap of umbrellas: the Nubrella  "a radical reimagining of the staid old umbrella."

Other than the fact that it looks like those dopey, $3 plastic bubble umbrellas that were popular in the 1970's - popular, that is, until everyone who was going to buy one did so, only to have it collapse and near-smother them when the first moderate wind hit it - the Nubrella seems to solve most of the problems that plague regular umbrellas.

First off, there's no handle taking up valuable real estate exactly where you want to be, in the center of the umbrella, trying to stay dry.

This means it's hands free, so, as you can see, you can both listen to your phone and wave to someone at the same time - although I must point out that, if you're waving outside of the umbrella, your hand is going to get wet.

It also means that there's no collapsible shaft to jam up on you. (It's been years since I had a non-collapsible umbrella by the way. The last one was, I believe, a corporate giveaway at a sales conference or other fun-fest.)

Most important, you can see through it - no small thing, given that most of the time, in these parts at least, when you're using an umbrella, it is not poised nicely over your head but is, rather, used as a windshield in front of your face. This makes the average umbrella-using pedestrian look like a Roman centurion who's afraid of the enemy slashing his face, and also results in all sorts of near misses and run ins, since you can't see whom you're approaching and, if they're similarly umbrella'd up, they can't see you, either.

Thus, our sidewalks, treacherous enough in bad weather - whoever decided that brick paving made sense never had to walk down Beacon Hill in a storm; wheeeeeeee! - become collision courses. Likely, some of those 50 wrecked umbrellas I saw were totaled in two-umbrella crashes.

"[The Nubrella] rests on your shoulders, and straps under your arms," Kaufman says. "You can ride a scooter with it on, or walk around in 40 mile-per-hour winds. It also blocks the wind chill and keeps you warmer." Kaufman says a first batch of 3000 Nubrellas that went on sale in 2008 sold out, but that he didn't have the capital to ramp up production or increase his marketing expenditure.

Kaufman's trying to solve that by submitting his product plan on the Shark Tank, an ABC reality show in which inventors pitch their products to a panel of investors who, I guess, thumbs up or thumbs down the idea. (I haven't seen the Shark Tank and had not, in fact, even heard of it. But I will be tuning in at some point soon - hey, if I can sit through episodes of Bad Girls and Hoarders - and no doubt posting about it. It actually sounds pretty interesting - kind of the like the MIT New Enterprise Forum meets American Idol. (For those not familiar with the New Enterprise Forum, back in the day, it held regular, public sessions during which a startup could submit its business plan to experts in the company's domain, in finance, and in marketing, and the experts would give advice. I went to quite a few of them, and the advice always seemed to be "get money to grow, or die". Sort of like the outcome of a morality play, only good did not necessarily vanquish evil.)

I will definitely be tuning the Tank in when they consider Kaufman's Nubrella. And I'm absolutely considering a purchase - although, at $49.99 plus shipping, that's a good 5 or 6 crappy, fall- apart umbrellas from Filene's....

Plus there's the goofy-looking factor. Do I have the courage to be seen in one? Can I, for once, be an early adopter of brave new technology, rather than a second-waver?

Stay tuned. I'm seriously considering a purchase. (I will be ordering the one with the black back, which looks like a cross between a gun turret in a WWII bomber, and an Amish buggy. What's not to like?)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The travel jones

Forget that there's a deep, dark recession going on.

Forget that real wages have been stagnant, like, forever.

Forget that hopping on a jumbo jet for Exotica is one of the worst things you can do to and for the environment.

Sunday's NY Times gave us the Top 31 places to go in 2010.

And the good news - given that there's a deep, dark winter going on - is that most of them are warm and sunny.

So, if you've got a travel jones - and who doesn't - and the scratch to hit the road that's mostly less traveled - you're probably at least moderately interested in where The Times is telling us to go.

First up, Sri Lanka.

Personally, given that my husband has been spending a good deal of time over the past year helping a Sri Lankan refugee gain asylum, it's hard for me to believe that all is sweetness and light there. Still, it's a place that:

...feels like one big tropical zoo: elephants roam freely, water buffaloes idle in paddy fields and monkeys swing from trees.

That tropical part sounds pretty good just about now - especially given that it was 15 degrees out when I left the house yesterday - and I'm somewhat down with the idea of elephants roaming freely - elephant dropping aside, and monkeys swinging through trees. Alright!

But there's also this:

...Among the most scenic, if difficult stretches to reach, is Nilaveli Beach in the Tamil north. While a few military checkpoints remain, vacationers can lounge on poolside hammocks under palm trees or snorkel in its crystal-clear waters

Military checkpoints? No, thanks. (Yes, officer, it is indeed my snorkeling gear and not an RPG launcher.)

Next on the agenda, Patagonia Wine Country. I'd love to go to Argentina, where I've never been. But those Patagonia wines all seem to be reds, and I - oeno-naif that I am - drink whites.

Seoul makes the list, having apparently supplanted Tokyo as the destination for "design aficionados", who flock to the "immaculate art galleries" - and when was the last time you were in a filthy art gallery? -  and to see "the widely noted Ann Demeulemeester store — an avant-garde Chia Pet covered in vegetation." That I would love to see - especially if it's the Paddy O'Hair St. Patrick's Day Chia Pet.

(My brother Tom, who for years has been raving about Inchon Airport, will be happy to see that Seoul's on the list - if only because he's been there and no one else in the fam has.)

There's a place in India where Ashtanga yogis  - who practice "a rigorous sweat-producing, breath-synchronized regimen of poses" - will flock to, and that's Mysore in India. (Marketing recommendation to Mysore, India: if you truly want to make it as a destination for English-sprechting travelers, lose that Mysore. If  Bombay can rebrand as Mumbai without skipping a beat - even though everyone in the world had heard of Bombay already - then, surely, Mysore has time to come up with something more attractive. Mypose, Myquest, even Mysweat.)

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen is on the list - and, of course, I completely date myself by remembering this song (that would be "Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen) being played incessantly on the radio when I was a babe in arms. And it's the first place on the list that I've actually been to. (Phew, I was beginning to feel like a pathetic little stay-at-home.) The Times characterizes Copenhagen as "one of the world’s greenest — and maybe coolest — cities.

I definitely remember the "coolest" part, but I'm afraid we didn't have any concept of "greenest" in the mid 1970's when I was there. Now the "greenest" would appeal more than the city's edgy pubs and cafes, where "a heady mix of hipsters, students, and immigrants mingle."

The next grouping of 2010 destinations starts with Koh Kood, and the question is asked: "Is this the next Koh Samui?" I am such a provincial dud that I've never even heard of Koh Samui, one of Thailand's Trat Islands, which will soon be home to "a designer eco-resort with 14 pool villas." What fuel wouldn't I burn to get to a designer eco-resort - especially if I could have myself my own personal pool villa. Let the eco-resorting begin!

Damascus ("the next Marrakesh?"), and Cesme ("the next Bodrum?") are both on the list, as is Antarctica. No big urgency on Marrakesh and Cesme. Let's face it. This time next year, we'll be asking whether Aleppo is the next Cesme. But if you want to se Antarctica, you'd better act now, as it could well be the next meltdown. Travel restrictions designed to protect this "fragile continent" from the "major environmental threat" posed by tourism may be put in place. (If you do go, please don't piss out the window or splash water from your luxury ship's heated outdoor pool on those glaciers. They're disappearing rapidly enough without any  assist from you, thank you.)

Lots of other places on the list: Leipzig, LA (yes, that LA; I heard it's the next Cesme, by the way), Las Vegas, Shanghai, Norway, Costa Rica, Mumbai, Minorca (Mallorca's so yesterday).  Nepal is promoting gay tourism, which I find pretty interesting.

Even Marrakesh (same old, same old) gets the nod. It may not be quite as hip as Damascus but, it does have:

La Mamounia, a famed playground for celebrities like Mick Jagger and Charlie Chaplin, reopened in November after a $176 million face-lift...At its dazzling launch party, Jennifer Aniston, Orlando Bloom and Gwyneth Paltrow walked the red carpet...

But not, I'm afraid, Charlie Chaplin.

...and "Cirque du Soleil acrobats wrapped in Christmas lights scaled the hotel walls.

Marakeshian's have all the fun! 

And they'll be having even more fun, once Harem - "a wellness retreat just for women" - opens this month. (Wonder whether that "wellness" includes any true "haremness." Ugh if it does.)

Anyway, nothing better than reading about "far away places with strange sounding names." (Mysore.) Especially when it's cold and dreary where you are.


I'm not going any place all that exotic any time soon.

Sarasota for a quick girl-cousins getaway in February. (Better be warmer than it's been down there; the whether's been making it sound like the next Newark.)

And then there's Paris in the springtime.

Hey, no looking down your nose at Paris, by the way. I heard it's the next Worcester.


A tip of the passport to my husband, who pointed this article out to me. Jim's originally from Bellows Falls, VT. I'm not quite sure what BF is the next of.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Meeting'd up?

The WSJ the other day had an article on how some companies are handling boring meetings. A Rochester, NY, ad agency is supposedly arming their employees with water pistols and instructions to

... spray colleagues who pass negative remarks, an effort to quiet naysayers and foster more participation at meetings...

Wonder how they define "naysayer"...

Is it someone who craps all over everyone and everything? Or someone who raises questions about stupid ideas, challenges false assumptions, and points out "facts" that are ginned up out of thin (or hot) air?

In either case, I don't see this 'Fire when ready, Gridley' idea working out all that well. Woe to the first employee to take a pot shot at the supposedly good humored boss! Which Lauren Dixon may very well be.

..."It helps [employees] be more comfortable because no one will be criticized or scrutinized," says Lauren Dixon, the marketing and advertising firm's chief executive.

Protecting folks from being criticized or scrutinized? Who's the arbiter who interprets comments and decides whether the person or the idea is being 'criticized or scrutinized.'  Because not letting anyone 'criticize or scrutinize' an idea sounds to me like the fast track to business failure.

Someone should be able to shoot down bad ideas without getting shot at, and it's actually possible to do so without being rotten and mean spirited about it. And wouldn't people rather work in a culture where it's okay to criticize ideas, and to take criticism about ideas. (A bit off topic  - but, hey, it's my meeting - but this reminds me of a completely idiotic brochure that Genuity came up with at one point. I can't remember the exact words, but the gist was 'Ideas are the greatest force in mankind. They are to be extolled to the heavens. There is nothing more wonderful than an idea.' I had been asked to review the copy draft for the accuracy of the technical sections, but I couldn't help reading the entire piece, and observing that history was riddled with plenty of bad ideas....My comments were ignored, and the brochure was published  - with a brushed aluminum cover with edges sharp enough to slit your wrists with. Which never happened because the brochures cost to much to mail out... If I had offered my comments at a Rochester ad agency review meeting I would, no doubt, have been drenched.)

Some of the better meeting ideas mentioned in the article weren't bad - a couple of brainstorming ideas; something called

...Mindjet Catalyst that allows employees to write out the talking points of the meeting as they are being discussed. They can then easily manipulate the text, organizing it by category and subcategory.

I don't see how this helps all that much with the boring aspect of meetings, but it does look like it could improve the productivity element.

Other than the squirt gun idea, the oddest thing mentioned was something called the "Bring TIM (Time Is Money)," from Bring TIM LLC, which is a clock cum calculator that, based on the average salary of the attendees, shows you just how much a meeting is costing, à la those billboards that show the federal deficit. (As an upside, if a meeting's small enough you could figure out what everyone else makes...)

Sure, Time Is Money if everyone sticks to their regular work hours with punch-clock regularity.

But in the world I've long inhabited, if meetings got in the way of your getting your work done, you figured out how to get your work done. (Nobody makes overtime, and don't get me started on 'comp time.')

Not that a lot of meetings aren't a colossal bore and spectacular waste of time.

I've worked for a couple of companies - Wang and Genuity come to mind - where going to meetings was a good part of my job.

Genuity was so meeting'd up that they served breakfast, lunch, and snacks because it was entirely possible to be in back-to-backs that ran from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m and beyond. You were lucky to get a bio-break. It reminded me of high school: bell rings, pick up your books, consult your schedule, head to your next class. Some of the same kids were in your next class, too, so you had someone to walk to the meeting with.

The worst Genuity meetings were those that were part of the process initiative kicked off once the company became part (sort of) of Verizon.

Directors and VPs were supposed to attend these meetings, but we all learned to delegate our way out of the dreadfulness. So did the delegatees. In the end, I believe the attendees were primarily security guards, cleaning people, and the caf staff - all of whom, no doubt, were happy to be off their feet and having a nice mid-afternoon cookie for themselves. Process/smocess.

Certainly no surprise that neither Wang nor Genuity's still around. (Hmmmmm, maybe if we'd had a TIM clock....)

The TIM gadget does make a good reminder to keep meetings productive, and I'm sure it will be scooped up by a lot of folks - if only as a gag gift.

They should also consider expanding their product line to include a BS detector, for when someone is really slinging it. A jargon-ectomy device would be good, as would a cliché-remover. For a brief time, I worked for a guy whose meetings demanded all of these items. My boss - the head of sales and marketing - would create sales forecasts out of whole cloth, then start rambling on about how he was going to 'run 'em up the flagpole,' and give it 'some Kentucky windage.'

Fortunately, he didn't last long, but his meetings were pure torture.

Another product-line extension might be the 'praise predictor', which would gauge who was going to be singled out for recognition. Would it be the world's foremost toady? Or, if your company has the 'employee of the month', would it figure out the sequence.  (Let's see: last month they picked a woman in accounting; this month, let's go for a guy in IT.)

A finger-pointing blowback machine would also be good. Every time a manager tried to throw one of their reports under the bus, a mighty wind - or a torrent from a fire hose - would flatten them.  This device could also be used on the credit grabber, and would work best with an add-on that alerted the person who's credit was being grabbed (if they weren't at the meeting to hear it for themselves).

Yep. Bring TIM is definitely on to something. If they decide to implement these new products, there'll never be a boring business meeting again.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Would that I'd had these valuable tips...

One of the A-header's in last week's Wall Street Journal focused on taking down your Christmas decorations.

The centerpiece of the article was a family in Pittsburgh that puts up 63 trees each year, all with separate themes. The trees are artificial, which is a good thing. Just think of the balsam needles you find all year - Christmas in July, alright - when you have just the one tree. The thought of 63...

As obsessions go, having 63 Christmas trees strikes me as fairly harmless, although it was noted that the family had to wait until their daughter was back at college before they de-decorated, since they needed her bedroom for storage. Does that mean she can't come home any other time of the year? That's just sad, although given the family's Christmas tree obsession, maybe it works out just fine for her.

I'm actually thinking of contacting the family to see if they could spare one of their 63 artificial trees for my cousin "B", who is on record for having the world's worst artificial tree. Despite the fact that "B's" husband "D" is an engineer, he could not figure out how to put the three tree sections together without leaving 9 inch horizontal gaps, giving quite a startling look to the tree.

On one hand, the fact that "B" has the world's crappiest tree is something of a surprise, as she has some of the world's most fabulous Christmas decorations which, I suspect, are perfectly well organized and labeled when she goes to put them away at the end of the holiday season.

On the other hand, "B" is carrying on the long and fine tradition of her mother, my beloved aunt "M", who, for many year running had the world's most pathetic and terrible real Christmas tree.

But I digress from what was, for me, the best part of the article: the tips from professional organizers on how to take care of your holiday decorations.

Some suggest taking pictures of things that looked nice together and storing them accordingly, while others advocate "zoning storage," for example, putting outdoor decorations in the garage.

Not me!

My decorations go into 4 large green plastic tubs (with festive red handles).

I don't worry about figuring out what looks nice together and storing accordingly in zoning storage.

Mostly because I don't have enough decorations to worry about, let alone enough storage to zone.

As for figuring out what goes where, most of my decorations are ornaments that go on the tree, and, from year to year, I follow a couple of simple rules of thumb:

Heavy ornaments go on the bottom, less attractive and/or less special ornaments move to the rear of the tree. Other than that, there's not much to fret about.

Christmas vases go mostly on the mantle, and I really don't care where they're placed from year to year. And I don't imagine that anyone else does either.

Wherever they go, they look just fine.

And that goes for the rest of my decorations.

Sure, Santa on the reindeer looks swell in the kitchen, but it also works in the living room, on my grandmother's rickety old desk.

In any case, storage is at a premium in our condo, and there's none of the luxury of storing in a basement, an attic, or a garage. Things get stored wherever they fit. And the wherever where my Christmas decorations fit is in the storage space underneath the staircase.

To get them there, I have to crawl on my stomach, pushing the tub before me, one at a time, to the back of the crawlspace. There, I place two tubs go on top of each others, and tuck the other two in sideways. (Good thing those festive red handles hold.) Also in the crawl space goes the red and green wrapping paper container, on top of which I store towels and blankets that I'm never going to use. The wickedly heavy tree stand goes in a little alcove just inside the crawl space, where it sits beneath a suitcase.

Since there are no spare cubic inches of storage space in my home, there is no margin for error in putting away my decorations.

Perhaps I, too, could be a professional organizer, specializing in folks with little or no storage - those of us who, if we buy something new that is non-perishable and has volume beyond that of a scarf, pair of earrings, or book (paperback), must throw something that occupies comparable cubic space the hell out.

There were a couple of other fine tips offered by the WSJs:

Mary Beth Breckenridge, a home and decorating columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal, says decorations should be cleaned before storing. Soiled cotton ornaments, such as little lambs, can be touched up with a toothbrush coated with cornstarch, she says, while artificial poinsettias can be tossed in a bag with a half cup of salt, which acts as a slight abrasive to rub off dust.

Alas, I didn't have this tip in time.

All those cloth ornaments that could have been touched up with a cornstarch-coated toothbrush! Or would it only work on the white parts? I think I'll try this on a little toy lamb I got in Ireland years ago. Its real wool coat is looking a bit ratty....

As for artificial poinsettias, I do not use them.

But I will keep in mind that, if I ever need to rub dust of them, I can do so with a grain of salt.

With that, I'll conclude what I'm guessing is my last Christmas-related post until late next fall, and wish hearty well-organized, well-stored decorations to all, and to all a goodnight.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Computer on (dash) board: unsafe at any speed

The Consumer Electronics Show was on last week, and it brought with it the usual brew of whiz-bang (flexible electronic readers), practical (the flashlight for your car with the 20 year battery life), and oh-no (I seriously do not want 3-D television).

In the on-no category, the post position is assumed by all the technology aimed at making the car an even more immersive technological experience.

The first wave of these “infotainment systems,” as the tech and car industries call them, will hit the market this year. While built-in navigation features were once costly options, the new systems are likely to be standard equipment in a wide range of cars before long. They prevent drivers from watching video and using some other functions while the car is moving, but they can still pull up content as varied as restaurant reviews and the covers of music albums with the tap of a finger.  (Info source: January 7, 2010 New York Times.)

I'm relieved that the driver won't be able to watch Avatar while tootling down the MassPike. But it's not distracting to read a restaurant review, or look at the cover of an album? What is so all-fired important about either of those tasks that they merit taking your eyes off the road for a nano-second.

Those concerned with safety are pushing back.

“This is irresponsible at best and pernicious at worst,” Nicholas A. Ashford, a professor of technology and policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said of the new efforts to marry cars and computers. “Unfortunately and sadly, it is a continuation of the pursuit of profit over safety — for both drivers and pedestrians.”

Audi is putting in a system that will let you to access a web site by "scribbling" what you're looking for in on a touch pad. Audi is, of course, going way out front on the safety front by having a notice pop up:

“Please only use the online services when traffic conditions allow you to do so safely.”

There, I've been warned. Now get out of my way so I can order extra peanut sauce with my Pad Thai, thank you very much.

A Ford spokesman - Jim Buczkowski - noted that, Ford, too is trying to make driving "safer and safer", while also stating:

“We are trying to make that driving experience one that is very engaging.”

Well, Jim-Bu, the driving experience already is, or should be, pretty darned engaging.

You're supposed to be looking ahead, checking for potential hazards, maintaining a safe distance from the car in front of you, checking your rear view and side mirrors to see what's crawling up your arse, making sure you don't drift lanes, slowing down - perhaps too late - when you observe the statie parked (nose in your direction) in the median strip, responding to changing weather, road, and traffic conditions, etc. - all while also taking a bit of time to observe the scenery and sing along with the Crystals "He's a Rebel" on the oldies station that "seek" just found.

Isn't this engaging enough for any one driver?

I will say that Ford does make a nod to safety by making sure that the built-in browser only works when the car is parked. (Any bets on how long before someone has a "workaround" for this?)

But it's generally acknowledged that the burden for driving responsibly wrests on the shoulders and texting thumbs of the driver.

“Cars are going to become probably the most immersive consumer electronics device we have,” said Michael Rayfield, a general manager at Nvidia, a chip company that on Thursday plans to announce a deal with Audi. “In 2010, you will sit in these things, and it will be a totally different experience.”

It will also be a totally different experience for those innocents killed or maimed by the fully engaged, fully immersed driver.

The automakers say that they're just giving the consumers what they want. (Can't let any nanny state get in the way.) They also maintain that - Web access aside -  they're giving drivers crucial information. I guess that's true if you consider knowing down to the decimal point what the temperature in your car is - something we all used to be able to figure out for ourselves in the old days. (As my sister Kath and I did when we were driving from Worcester to Boston a ka-zillion years ago in her Old Beetle - the one with the engine in the back and no heat whatsoever, other than in the dead of summer. Half way to Boston, Kath pulled over, and we both pulled our boots off and rubbed out toes so they wouldn't turn black and fall off.)

And where's Ralph Nader when we need him? In 2000, he sure proved himself to be the world's foremost busybody. Time to get off the political high horse, Ralphie-boy, and get back on the pony that brung you.  No, this time in won't be flaming Pintos and crumbling Corvairs. (And, yes, I know: the Pinto came later. So, okay, I took a bit of blog-etic license. So run me over with a computer-equipped Audi, why don't you.)

Come on, Mr. Nader, you must have one more crusade in you.

These immersive cars with computers in them are Unsafe at Any Speed, unless they're in Park.

Realistically, it probably doesn't matter whether the computer is embedded, or just a laptop with an Aircard or a smartphone. People are going to, increasingly, be answering their e-mails, looking for directions, playing TaiPei, and surfing eBay because they can and because they're too ADD to live without doing so.

But why should the automakers be enabling and abetting bad driving behavior? (Wait. These are the folks who convinced every parent in America that they were bad mommies and daddies if they aren't protecting their kiddos by toting them around in an armored ve-hi-cle.)

Sure, if computers in cars are outlawed, only outlaws will have computers in cars.

Still, wouldn't we be far better served by carmakers focusing on safety, rather than making the driving experience "more engaging?" 

What's it going to take? Some heedless, self-absorbed jerk who mows down a pre-school outing while updating his CRM data? Mo, betta jail time for the ultra-important folks who feel they have to respond to every e-mail in real time? A couple of whopping lawsuits against Audi because some narcissist ignored their, ahem, "warning."

Makes me truly thankful that I spend so little time on the roads.


Computers in cars are turning into an annual rant, apparently. Here's my post on it from a year ago.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Don't drive in Qatar, and other interesting bits from the "Pocket World in Figures"

One of the best things about subscribing to The Economist is that it comes with a copy of the "Pocket World in Figures", an annual compilation of all sorts of interesting statistics. I used to be a sucker for the "Statistical Abstract of the United States," too. But this is so much more broadening.

Browsing through it, I'm reminded that we're still the world's largest economy, by a long shot, and, after the combined Euro nations, the world's largest exporter of goods, services, and income. I'm not quite sure what "exporter of income" means, unless it's the remittances sent back to the poor folks back home by our immigrant population (legal and other). It obviously can't mean that we export our income to buy crap from China. Or can it?

We also rank highest, thanks to our infrastructure and institutions, in terms of overall global competitiveness; and we're tops in creativity and innovation.


We do, of course, run the world's largest deficit - but that's in absolute terms, not as a percent of GDP. (Phew.)

And we can't, of course, rest on our laurels. Israel spends more, as a percentage of GDP, on R&D. As do Sweden, Finland, South Korea, and Switzerland. (What are they R&D-ing about? Watches and chocolates?)  And Japan has more patents in force than we do.

Surprisingly, we don't own as many cars, proportionately, as many other countries. We only have 461 cars per 1,000 population. (I'm doing my bit to keep it down!)  We, in fact, rank 19th.

The number one honors go to Luxembourg - 647 cars per 1,000.

They can afford it, what with having the highest per capita GDP in the world - $103K to our $46K.

Luxembourg's not all that big, but L-bourgians do a lot of driving, because they're consuming a lot more kilograms of oil per capita than we are - 9,972 vs. 7,768.  But oil consumption is highest in Qatar - 22,057 per person, far surpassing runner up Iceland's rate of 14,237.

See, it does take more energy to AC than to heat. And maybe Qatari wash their windows and brush their teeth with gasoline.

Qatari might have such a high number because they may be burning up a lot of fuel by driving fast. Which would explain why they lead the world in auto injuries (nearly 10,000 per year per 100,000 in population), and road deaths 33 per 100,000.  (Qatar also has some of the highest rates of M-F obesity in the world. Must be all that driving. I'd say, get out and walk, but who wants to walk when it would be 110 in the shade, if there were any shade.)

Anyway, while you're not driving in Qatar, if you're a software salesperson, you probably want to stay out of Armenia, where 93% of the software is pirated.

Ah, the things I've picked up in my "Pocket World."

For one thing, Ireland doesn't make the Top 40 in terms of tourists. Maybe because Ireland is so small it just seems like it's always full of swarms of tourists in plaid pants and scally caps, trying to figure out if anyone in Ballymahangnail remembers their Great Aunt Geraldine, who came to The States in 1911.

Who would have imagined that Syria, Bulgaria, and Vietnam all get more tourists than the Old Sod?

I was pleased to see that the US is second, right behind France, in minutes slept per day, although 518 minutes a day seems about 38 minutes over long. (I do like those 480 minutes....)

The US also ranks highest in consumption of chocolate, but is  not - alas - among the biggest consumers of champagne. (Don't people realize that chocolate and champagne go hand in glove?)

What else do you need to know?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Gaffe-o-rama. (Or, don't let an avoidable gaffe derail your job candidacy.)

The Wall Street Journal the other day had an interesting little column on the importance of not making gaffes on a job interview. (Note: you may need a subscription to access this article.)

The article was the usual amalgam of suspect little factoids - "The incidence of nervous job candidates has doubled since 2006"; duh-obvious advice (don't show up for an interview and ask to take a shower because you're sweating); and interesting anecdotes. (On second thought, maybe the advice is not so duh-obvious, given that one of the anecdotes was about the sweating guy asking to take a shower...)

One piece of advice included in the article I must say I just plain didn't get.

In the section on making sure that you're tactful, an interviewing guru named Dan Burns was described as:

...often asking promising prospects when they could start work before he made an offer. They often said they weren't available for weeks because they needed to give notice.

"That's the last thing a hiring manager wants to hear," says Mr. Burns, a recent retiree and author of "The First 60 Seconds: Win the Job Interview Before It Begins." You risk killing your candidacy unless you tell an interested employer that you're equally interested in the job, he cautions. Once you get an offer, you're in a better position to negotiate your arrival date.

Personally, the last thing this hiring manager would have wanted to hear - unless someone was currently unemployed, was, 'Hey, I can start tomorrow. Notice, schmotice. The place I'm working now can just eat my dust." To me, this would be more of a candidacy killer than saying, "Gee, if I get an offer I'd have to give notice."

Perhaps the point here was that you should say, "If I do get an offer - and I certainly hope that happens, because I'd just L-O-V-E love to work here - I'll figure out how to get in here as soon as I can."

Anyway, the article got me thinking about some of the gaffes that people I interviewed over the years have made. (I'm sure I made plenty of interview gaffes along the way. It's just kind of hard to recall what they may have been, since none was as duh-obvious as showing up sweaty and asking to take a shower... One of my favorite gaffe stories came from a business school classmate, who threw up in a wastebasket during an interview. He did not get the job.)

Here are a few of the ones I remember:

  • The co-op student who made it clear that she was only interested in my job, not the more humdrum, but still do-a-lot, learn-a-lot, junior marketing position that was on offer.
  • The guy who started out the interview by telling me how terrible our web-site and collateral were, and who (bonus points for this) had tact and peacemaking on his list of attributes.
  • The fellow who showed up and asked, 'so what exactly is it that XYZ company does" - which may have been somewhat forgivable pre-Internet, but was a howling gaffe post-Internet. (Even pre-Internet, we did have libraries, telephones, and personal networks.)

Of course, all of these candidates may well have made better hires than some of the gaffe-free interviewees that I ended up hiring who turned out to be complete and utter disasters.

But today we're talking interviewing, not hiring, mistakes.

And it is (duh-obvious) essential to avoid as many interviewing mistakes as you can. This is such a buyers' market that people are more likely to get dinged for a minor gaffe which, of course, probably does make job candidates twice as nervous as they were in 2006.

Of course, advice on "sweating the small stuff" on interviews no doubt adds more to the general nervous making.

Sure glad I'm not interviewing these days.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

It was the best of jobs, it was the worst of jobs, 2010 edition

"Tis (apparently) the season when CareerCast publishes Len Krantz's annual roundup of the best and worst jobs for 2010. I thought the topic looked familiar, so I went to the Pink Slip wayback machine and found a post from last year on this very topic. (What I wrote last year still holds.)

Just in case you're exploring career options, here  are the besties, based on environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress.

1. Actuary
2. Software Engineer
3. Computer Systems Analyst
4. Biologist
5. Historian
6. Mathematician
7. Paralegal Assistant
8. Statistician
9. Accountant
10. Dental Hygienist
11. Philosopher
12. Meteorologist
13. Technical Writer
14. Bank Officer
15. Web Developer
16. Industrial Engineer
17. Financial Planner
18. Aerospace Engineer
19. Pharmacist
20. Medical Records Technician

Not all that much has changed in the past year. Oh, economist has fallen out of the Top 20, which is no great surprise. If ever there were an abysmal year for the dismal science, this would be it.

Actuary remains number one. (Why does this make me flash on the image bunch of guys in white shirts and short hair, standing outside their cubicles waving big foam fingers and chanting "We're number 1! We're number 1!")

And I see that Tech Writer - a job that I would actually be qualified to do - is now on the list.

It's not the only one I could handle, however. Depending on the formal qualifications, what is this blogger if not someone who:

Studies questions concerning the nature of intellectual concepts, and attempts to construct rational theories concerning our understanding of the world around us.

So, I could (kinda/sorta) be a philosopher.

As I did last year, I still question its presence in the Top 20.

I can accept that the work environment, physical demands, stress level - I think Socrates was the last philosopher killed on the job, and he did himself in - and pay level ($60K or so) are all decent. But just how can the employment outlook be "Very Good."

I can't remember the last time I saw a sign that said, "Help Wanted. Philosopher. Apply Within."

Since I am something of a philosopher, I made an attempt to construct a rational theory concerning my understanding of this little corner of the world around us. I did this to sate my own curiosity, as well as to help provide those parents whose philosophy major offspring are asking them to fund a $50 per annum college tab, using this employment report as evidence that philosophy has practical merit, with the ammunition they need to push back. (Not that there's anything wrong with being a philosophy major, if you're doing your studying at a Top 20 college, and  can afford to head right on to business or law school once you've gotten your sheepskin.)

I made my attempt at rational theory construction by clicking on the "Find this job" button, which brought me to a list of jobs for philosopher.

Low and behold, the only job that really seemed to be at all related to being a philosopher was an adjunct teaching position for a Philosophy Social Sciences Instructor at Western Career College for its Emeryville, California campus.

At Western, I will wager, there are few massage therapy, medical assisting, or criminal justice majors who really want to sit around contemplating Plato's navel. Instead, I suspect, they're ticking off a General Ed requirement, and hoping for a complete gut. Not, I'd say, the ideal setting for a philosopher. Perhaps even a stressful setting, given that a criminal justice major just might consider such a GE course a complete crock.

Nonetheless, knowing something about Philosophy Social Sciences (whatever that means in combo: a+b, a or b, ab...) is at least a requirement for this job.

The other thousand or so jobs that came up for philosophy seemed to be those that have "philosophy" in the company's description. (As in "our company's philosophy is customer-first....")

Could this be why the outlook for philosophers is so strong?

Perhaps I am mistaken here, and there is actually strong demand for philosophers. But, if I were a betting blogger, I'd bet that the methodology that assigned a positive employment outlook for philosophers was less than rigorous.

I saw the CareerCast list mentioned in a Sarah Needleman column in the WSJ.