Friday, April 29, 2011

The End of the Line

Today, the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton is being celebrated and televised.

If a meteor, say, were to strike Westminster Abbey during the nuptials, or, perhaps more kindly and gently, and alien starship were to suck Buckingham Palace up during the breakfast reception, a number of those who are in the line of succession to the throne of England would be off the royal grid.

Fortunately, thanks to the sleuthing of Daniel Willis, who spent 18 years documenting the heirs and spares, and the late Bill Reitwiesner, there does exist a full list of the 4,973 folks who are in line if the big “what if” in the royal sky ever happens. Willis and Reitwiesner, both Americans, worked independently, and each came to the same conclusion. (Source for all info that didn’t come off the top of my head, unless otherwise indicated: WSJ.)

Last in line is Karin Vogel, a German therapist who works with the elderly in a Rostock hospital, helping them deal with chronic pain. She is a great-great-great, etc.  of Sophia of Hanover.

Somewhere in the way back, the British Parliament got in the act by passing the Act of Settlement, confirming that it’s up to Parliament to figure out who’s entitled.

The Act laid down that only Protestant descendants of Princess Sophia - the Electress of Hanover and granddaughter of James I - are eligible to succeed. Subsequent Acts have confirmed this. (Source: the Royal web site, a complete treasure trove, but one that, today, is likely to be – unlike the monarchy it showcases – overtaxed. Just think of all those gawkers trying to figure out whether The Lady Cosima Windsor comes before or after The Lady Sarah Chatto in the line up.)

Karin Vogel will not be at the wedding. They had to cut the list somewhere, what with the bride’s parents’ invites, and the groom’s parents invites, and the friends of the B&G, and some fellow Euro-royals, and a bit of headcount thrown to Granny just in case she wanted to invite the gals from her book club, or the folks she stalks grouse with at Balmoral Castle.

Karin Vogel won’t be watching the wedding either. She doesn’t own a TV. Now, if she were an American, she would definitely be what is known as unAmerican. But she’s a German, and it’s probably not unGerman at all not to worship at television’s altar. I’ve been to Germany a few times, and the TV’s pretty darned awful. Talk about desperately seeking the Armed Forces Network. Years ago, in the days when we didn’t yet have Internet to take with us, while on a trip to Berlin, I really felt like watching something on TV. In fact, what I really had a hankering for was a re-run of The Streets of San Francisco. I don’t know what the German is for mirabile dictu, but mirabile dictu, Die Strassen von San Francisco was, quite wondrously, playing. And keep in mind that this was well before the dawn of On Demand. So what if the episode was dubbed. It was the one where Ricky Nelson played the ex-rock star gone bad, and it was fairly easy to figure out the plot. (I can’t remember how you say, Buddy Boy in German. For those who were never hooked on Streets, that’s what Lt. Mike Stone/Karl Malden called his young partner Inspector Steve Keller/Michael Douglas.)

As for Karin Vogel’s role as one of destiny’s forgotten darlings:

Some 4,972 people would have to die for Ms. Vogel to win the crown.

As for Ms. Vogel, the end of the line is just fine.

"I can lean back and relax," she said in an interview, pleased at the very remote prospect of having to preside over 16 sovereign states anytime soon. "It is really very comforting that one doesn't have to worry about Great Britain."

Well, leaning back and relaxing, without having to worry or even think of Great Britain would be a colossal relief to anyone, I would venture.

For those of us who aren’t Protestant descendants of Sophia’s son George 1, we’re freed up to worry about our owned darned countries.

Worrying about the US of A apparently wasn’t what Dan Willis or Bill Reitwiesner were expending their fret-cycles on. Instead, they did something that’s, errrrrr, useful and came up with the royal succession list. Willis, in fact, has “all but memorized lists of descendants stored on a document in his computer.”

Man, I’m impressed.

I can just about get as far as the kiddos of Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong Jones.

Although it’s preposterously unlikely that Karin Vogel will ever be crowned and sceptered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, she may well end up moving on up through the ranks.

Parliament is considering updating the rules so that men don’t take precedence ahead of women.

Under the current procedure, if Kate Middleton and Prince William had a daughter and followed up with a son, the son, though younger, would be first in line to the throne.

Enacting this change would cause a few switcheroos, even at the top of the list, as Princess Anne and her children, who now trail not just her younger brothers, but all of their spawn. It would be down a peg for the Duke of York (a.k.a., Prince Andrew) and the Earl of Wessex (a.k.a., Prince Edward), and their offspring.

I may not have any royal blood in me, but, unlike Karin Vogel, I do have a TV.

I will not be paying that much attention to today’s wedding, however.

Too early in the morning.

Plus I don’t have a good enough hat. A Red Sox or Black Dog cap just won’t cut it.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Doodle Bra

Last week, I went on a one-day road trip with my nieces, Molly and Caroline. They girls are early teens – 14 and 13, respectively.

While making our cold, windy, and rainy way up to Ogunquit, Maine, the girls provided entertainment by reading from Seventeen Magazine.

Now, I was never a big reader of Seventeen, my era’s teen Bible, which may explain why I didn’t figure out how to choose fashionable clothing, wear make up, or flirt until I was well into middle age (if I ever did). But I did see Seventeen on occasion, and my recall is a lot of madras, a lot of bangs, and a lot of articles on whether it’s okay to beat a boy at tennis. (Not if you want him to ask you back out.) A girl from my high school was featured in a column one month. Her claim on fame was having a brother who was made the national poster child for Down kids.

Seventeen has come a long way, baby, and it ain’t all good.

Forget “should I kiss on the first date?”

These days, it’s an article on how to avoid STD’s during summer flings. (Don’t forget the condoms.) This was accompanied by a first-person cautionary account of a 14 year old who acquired a tan and herpes on a fun-in-the-sun family vacation to Mexico. Whatever happened to mini-golf? Olé! (O-lay?)

In contrast, there was some teeny, wholesome throwback advice on how to have a fun date. Why not suggest a McCafé? Absent the product placement, this could have been found in the teen-mags of my era. So perhaps all is not lost.

My favorite article was about a young woman who had started a company with her father. Their big idea was so, well, big idea-ish, that they got friends and family to invest in it. The investors (and I’m going from recall of Caroline’s narration) included the boyfriend of Rachel Segal – the inventor, or discoverer, or whateverer of the Doodle Bra. The beau had $10,000 saved up from his Marine tours, which he sunk in Rachel’s business. In retrospect, he would have been better off financially if she’d suggested a McCafé.

Doodle Bra, you may well be asking yourself. What, pray tell, is a Doodle Bra?

Well, it’s a plain old vanilla bra that you draw on with washable pens. It’s similar to the Doodle Bear, which was why Rachel’s Daddy Dearest, Randy Segal, made the immediate connection when he saw his daughter strutting around in a bra that her friends had doodled on.

The Eureka moment, or perhaps the Billy Ray Cyrus moment, is born. Let’s call it a Doodle Bra and sell it on the Internet! We’ll be rich! We’ll be famous! Our ship has finally come in, in the form of a plain white bra and an erasable marker.

But you have to spend money to make money, and the Segals needed other people’s money to make their money. Which seems only fair, since the Segals were the brains behind the outfit.

Fast forward a while.

The Doodle Bra is making some sales, and getting quite a bit of publicity. (2009 must have been a hectic Pink Slip news year. How else to explain how I missed the Doodle Bra?)

And then the investors started making polite inquiries.

Come to find out, unbeknownst to Rachel Segal, Randy Segal and his wife (I’m guessing she’s Rachel’s step mother, because she’s only 11 years older than Rachel but, hey, you never know), have been living (and vacationing in Hawaii) off of the investors’ “investment”.

Rachel is no longer on speaking terms with her father, who’s made reimbursement and done some short time for his antics. And she hopes to keep on keeping on with the Doodlebra biz, which has this to say for itself:

The goal of DOODLE BRA™ is to provide a multipurpose product for girls and young women that inspires creativity, fun, and sharing of ideas while still being an affordable necessity…Each person can design and create their own fashions over and over again for the price of a single garment…The DOODLE BRA™ allows the customer to maximize their spending power by receiving happiness and entertainment for the value of purchasing the necessary garment alone…

Multipurpose product: bra and creativity-inspiring, happiness conferring, and entertainment producing item.

Well, wouldn’t you get the same bang for the buck – maybe even more bang – with a tee-shirt? Also a necessary garment and one on which you can show off the post-doodle results in public.

The DOODLE BRA™ is about empowering young girls to be comfortable with their sexuality while still having fun and knowing it is “GREAT” to be girls…

Ah, but a tee-shirt (unless it was a wet tee-shirt, which might end up with doodles being smeared) would not do such a good job “empowering young girls to be comfortable with their sexuality.” So it just had to be a bra (because tweener boys are so in touch – get it? in touch? hah-hah -  with their sexuality that you don’t need a Doodle Jock).

Now, I well understand that, given the sexualization/ trashification of our culture and commerce (which has become our culture), tweener girls need to hear some straight talk about sexuality in a way that the relatively chaste and relatively chador-clad girls of my era did not have to.

Case in point: My niece Molly has a parochial school classmate whose 8 year old sister did this fill in the blanks when her mother said “Sticks and stones can break my bones.”

But whips and chains excite me.

In the breathless words of Rihanna. Who was, of all things given her lyrical bent, a victim of domestic violence.

If an 8 year old Catholic school kid is exposed to this matter…

So yes, indeed, parents are going to have to have R-rated conversations with their children while they’re still little ones. Either that or home school them; make all their clothes out of homespun; don’t allow any access to TV, music, or the Internet; never set foot in a Toys ‘R Us; and, if it is ever necessary to go out of the walled and shuttered family home, blindfold the kids until they get to the next walled and shuttered safe house.

Still, to me, there’s something a bit perturbing about positioning bra-doodling as a good and healthy vehicle to making tweeners understand what’s meaningful and appropriate with respect to their nascent sexuality.

And tweeners seem to be getting younger:

DOODLE BRA™ comes in “training bra” type called a “Cami” for girls as young as 5 years old and older.

Five years old. Isn’t that the age when you’re still supposed to be worrying about peeing in your pants, writing your name in block letters, and tying your shoes?

By the way, Doodle Bras go up in size to 42 DD which – scourge of obesity aside – probably surpasses the needs of the tweener community.

Girls from today on will only know that when you start to become a young lady;

You get your first “DOODLE BRA™”.

That moment used to occur around getting your first bra-bra. And/or your first period.

In those days, the only thing we got to write on was an autograph book. Or a stuffed “autograph hound.” On which you writ in permanent, indelible ink. But in today’s ephemeral world, who wants anything permanent? I have to say, worry about the Communists aside, it was a lot easier to be a kid back then.

As for Doodle Bra, in a canny product line extension, there’s now a Doodle Pantie, which gets us even closer to that tweener – “girls as young as 5 years old” -  sexuality that the Doodle Bra folks want girls to get comfortable with.

I suppose that at a time when the top 1% of the population are on their way to controlling 50% and beyond of the nation’s wealth – at which point, Banana Republic will shift from being a consumer brand to serving as a sobriquet for the good old USA – I suppose I should be more in favor of someone from the bottom 99% taking a shot on the goal of movin’ on up.

But I can’t help but thinking that the Doodle Bra is yet one more handbasket in which we’re all heading to hell in.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ripped from the headlines: Brain Collector Seeks Trump-Like Donors to Probe Personality

This header on Bloomberg -  a caption certainly worthy of The National Enquirer – proved irresistible to anyone with the least of click through urges. Let alone mine.

The article was on a University of California -San Diego scientist doing research on that most fascinating of subjects, the human brain.

Since, even at my advanced age, I haven’t yet given up on the notion of doing something meaningful with my life, I’m hoping that neurologist Jacopo Annese will consider my brain for collection, my personality for probe.

Thus, I’m putting this out there: take my brain, please.

I am no Donald Trump. I never played a flying monkey in the “Wizard of Oz”.  And I'm not like the woman in Iowa who can’t experience fear. I get (well, mostly) why those are brains you’re after.

Still, I do have a reasonably good brain and a reasonably good personality. Plus a completely excellent memory – both on the concrete, physical detail side of things, and the emotional level. Just ask me what I wore for the first day of kindergarten (a not especially fetching gold and brown number). And how I felt on that first day when I realized that the patrol line left by a different door than the one I came in on (panicked that my mother and brother, who were walking down to meet me, wouldn’t know where I was; relieved when, as I attempted to scoot back into Gates Lane School, I was taken in hand by Yvonne LaChappelle, an eighth grader who lived on our street. She made sure I found my mother and Tom.).

Anyway, Annese is doing interesting work out at UCal-San Diego, running the brain bank. Which is actually called the Brain Observatory, a far more interesting moniker, in my book.

Not that I have a book, exactly. I mean, I do and I don’t.

Anyway, the Brain Observatory:

… begun six years ago, is creating novel technologies and strategies to help researchers study how personality, memories, emotions and other traits are reflected within the brain’s chemical and electrical signaling systems. Success, Annese said, depends largely on the depth of information shared by the bank’s donors. (Source this section and the one below: Bloomberg)

Annese wants The Donald because he’s had a colorful and interesting life.

The ideal is “someone with an interesting life, a politician or businessman whose biography has already been written,” he said in a telephone interview. “We want to write the last few chapters of their biography in neurological terms.”

Having someone who’s already got stuff written down by and about them apparently saves a lot of up front work. Then there’s The Apprentice, and the playing footsie with a run for president material.

My video trail is non-existent, but I do have a (digital) paper trail:  nearly five years worth of blog posts, and many of them do contain autobiographical threads. (C.f., first day of kindergarten.)

(As an aside, I’m not some ultra-feminist looking for affronts. But looking for a “businessman whose biography has already been written.”? Jacopo? Jacopo, Jacopo. I’m not going to say it was interesting  - in truth, I couldn’t make it through my free copy. But that’s pretty much been true of most business puffographies. Just think about Jack. But Carly Fiorina has had an interesting career, and did put a memoir out a few years back.  And now that I think of it, she’s a two-fer: person of business and politico wannabe. She may not be as flamboyant or household word-y as Trump, but I do imagine she’s got a fairly XL ego. And her hair’s better than his. Ditto Meg Whitman, another two-fer. So lose that businessman thang, why don’t you.)

Anyway, I was hopeful when I saw the donate tab on the Brain Observatory web site. But “donate” is just looking for money – the chrome piggy bank should have been a giveaway there.

But I did find out a bit more about what they’re looking for – information, that I found somewhat encouraging:

The library will also include cases of ordinary, healthy people, because it is not feasible to characterize brain disease without a clear understanding of how the brain matures normally during life. We strive to preserve and examine as many cases as possible. This is an extremely labor-intensive and expensive process, but we believe this work is both timely and necessary to provide the knowledge to support current neuroscientific research. (Source: Brain Observatory.)

Well, I’m ordinary. Especially compared to someone who played a winged monkey in W of O, another person who’s fearless, and then, of course, Donald Trump. Yup, I am more or less ordinary.

Maybe less ordinary, rather than more ordinary. While I didn’t play a winged monkey, I did have the lead (Christmas Fairy) in the fourth grade Christmas Play, “Carol of the Bells.” And, as for work, I did spend one summer in a combat boot factory, so all my jobs weren’t perfectly B-school prosaic.

No, I’m not fearless. There are heights, bed bugs, clowns, and being trapped somewhere without anything to read. But I’m not a complete scaredy cat.

And my hair, frankly, trumps Trump’s. What is with these rich folks – not just Trump, think Kelly Ripa – who can’t afford decent dye jobs.

“With a growing group of living, willing donors, we can really catalog many aspects of behavior and personality,” Annese said. “You never know what’s going to be important.”

Well, being able to remember what you wore the first day of kindergarten could end up being pretty darned important.

But I’ll just quickly and simply summarize my case: good memory, good personality, good health, lots of biographical material floating around in digital format (and a lot more in neurological format).

Dr. Annese: take my brain, please.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Project Propec (and you think your job is crappy)

I dog-sat Jack, my dog-nephew, for a bit last week.

During our time together, Jack pooped three times.

Fortunately, my sister and her family live quite near the Salem Common, an exceedingly good dog-walking place, well endowed with ample trash receptacles in which to drop a plastic bag o’ poop.

What the City of Salem does with their poop round up, I have no idea.

I suppose that the solid wastes collected on The Common end up making an already odiferous landfill and even more odiferous landfill.

Last week’s dog walking weather was relatively pleasant. While not exactly warm, it was not windy, snowy, sleety, or wind-chilly. And the ground was not covered with treacherous frozen snow that makes finding just the right spot more difficult for Jack (not to mention whoever is walking him) to identify and partake of during the dead of winter.

Thus, I was quite interested in a recent Bloomberg/Business Week article on a French “boutique fertilizer company” that my brother-in-law Rick pointed out to me last week.

Agronutrition – quite the name for a place that trades in crap, which I personally don’t think of as all that nutritious (dogs, of course, may disagree here) – is not just trying to do the same old make lemonade out of lemons (metaphorically speaking) trick that’s been tried before. (Last year there was some group in either Cambridge or Somerville doing something with converting dog crap into energy in local parks.)

No, what’s interesting about Project Propec is what they’re doing behind the mercifully closed doors of their lab:

“What we have here is endomycorrhiza, the molecular detoxifying mechanism for a diffusive airborne substance with a 100 meter radius that provokes an immediate intestinal ejection at a precise position,” microbiologist Hicham Ferhout says, thumping shut the steel door. “In layman terms, we’ve finally discovered how to make a dog sh*t in a specific spot, disinfect the deposit and convert it into environmentally friendly energy  or fertilizer. I have to think like a dog.”

Dogs crap an average of 22 pounds a year – I’m guessing Jack, who is a black lab, does a bit more than that – and, with nearly 9 million dogs in France, there’s a lot of waste going to waste.

Project Propec is a joint venture between Agronutrition and the City of Toulouse, which has been spending over $50 M Euros each year shoveling shit. (And that’s not metaphorical shit shoveling, either. It’s the real deal.)

Toulouse was prompted to get down to the business of dog business when they established an Office of Tranquility to handle citizen complaints.

Forget liberté, egalité, fraternité.

These days, les enfants de la Patrie are being called aux armes to bitch about la merde de chiens. 

Toulouse deputy mayor,Jean-Michel Fabre, could point to seven dog parks, “but the dogs refused to use them.”

Fabre, quite handily, a veterinarian,  noted a key problem:

“It’s not the dog owner who chooses the place his dog will poop. It’s the dog who makes the decision and it required a lot of deep thought and analysis to get the dog owners of Toulouse to realize it.”

But once Project Propec has its breakthrough, dogs will  no longer go where they wanna go, doo what they wanna doo. They will be irresistibly drawn to an X Marks the Spot and make their deposits.

Which will be productized, and monetized, as fertilizer.

Things look (or smell) promising:

Ferhout says the initial tests getting 34 female beagles to  poop as directed were 100 percent successful and that field
experiments at seven sites throughout Toulouse are scheduled to begin this fall.

The formula for the merdish G-spot is a secret, but it is a “mélange of dog feces, urine and sex pheromones.” God knows that should have plenty of curb your dog appeal to the canine set, who like nothing better than a good old smell fest.

Agronutrition’s CEO, Cedric Cabanes had this to say:

“I can’t right now say that it will work with 100 percent certainty…But if it does, Toulouse will become the center of a miracle industry.”

I, for one, absolutely believe that getting a dog to crap in a designated spot, and to do it fast, if not a miracle, will certainly be a tremendous feat.

On the other hand, do we want to deprive our doggy friends of the great fun they have when on a leisurely, olfactory rich, nose to the ground (or groin) walk. Other than in inclement weather conditions, when I’m all for depriving them.

I’m less interested in the fertilizer aspect of Project Propec, although anything that’s sustainable and eco-friendly is all to the good. And as Cabanes has said.

“Once we’ve done it with dogs, we can do it with humans.”

That would be the fertilizer half of the equation. We (most of us, anyway, at least after the toddler stage) have already figured out where to go when we have to go.


Tip of my Black Dog cap to Ricky T.  This was a thank you gift from my sister for taking care of Jack.

dog cap

Monday, April 25, 2011

Becoming a Europhile

Today is the 38th anniversary of my leaving on my first trip abroad. With the exception of the flight home from my grandfather’s funeral, when I was not quite two years old, it’s also the 38th anniversary of my first plane ride. And, no, I did not know how to unbuckle the seat belt until someone showed me how.

For those of a certain age, the $206 flight to Europe was something of a rite of passage.

Planes, boats, trains (ah, the EuRail pass!) were thronged with back-packed American kids with well-thumbed, bright blue copies of the Harvard Student Agencies’ Let’s Go Europe, the less stuffy, student alternative to Arthur Frommer’s Europe of $5 a Day.  Everyone carried American Express Travelers Checks, and the American Express offices in big cities were the places where you could pick up the occasional letter from home. (I still remember that the Am Ex in Paris was on Rue Scribe.)

The delicious freedom of being nearly incommunicado with your family for months on end will, alas, be a pleasure unknown to today’s student travelers. They will be armed with smartphones with universal coverage or, at worst, be able to Skype mom and dad from any old Internet café.

Not the intrepid travelers of my day!

My college roommate, Joyce, and I, out of college and waitressing to support our travel jones, had spent the previous summer-into-fall camping our way back and forth across the US in her Karmann Ghia. But that jaunt “only” lasted about six weeks. Mere prelude for our European Adventure.

We boarded our flight with $1,000 in Travelers Checks each, and the following (each, except for the tent), including what we were wearing:

  • Kelty back pack (with rain cover)
  • Sleeping bag
  • LL Bean backpackers tent
  • Mess kit (aluminum pan, plate, collapsible cup, fork, knife, spoon)
  • Water proof jacket with hood
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Bandana
  • Sweater
  • Two pairs of jeans
  • One long sleeve shirt
  • Two short sleeve shirts
  • One bra
  • Four pairs of under pants
  • Four pairs of socks
  • Pair of gloves
  • Pair of flip-flops
  • Nylon roll-up mini-dress
  • Nylon roll-up nightgown
  • Notebook
  • Pen
  • Wallet
  • Map of Europe

We landed at Heathrow, with nothing whatsoever planned, other than the address of a dump in Earl’s Court, which we no doubt found in Let’s Go, where we planned on spending a couple of nights.

We figured that we’d figure things out. Which we did.

Figuring things out included acquiring: A Gaz, one burner “stove” so we didn’t have to eat cold food when we were camping. Youth Hostel cards (we joined in Ireland, becoming members of An Oige), so we didn’t always have to camp. Sac couchettes, muslin sleep sacks used in Youth Hostels.

We also figured out that hitchhiking was going to be cheaper than a Eurail Pass, so we figured we tried it. Which we did, sticking our thumbs out on the outskirts of London and snagging a ride to Bath.

Other than a train in Spain, and a couple of trains in Italy, our land transportation was exclusively the Rule of Thumb.

Even at the time – let alone in retrospect, oy! – we recognized that we were putting ourselves in some harrowing situations: The doctor in the Mercedes swilling vermouth as he careened through the Tyrolean mountainside. The two French guys in Yugoslavia who, in the roadside café we’d stopped at leaned over and whispered “Nous avons hashish.” Which might have been an okay thing to say if we weren’t sitting next to a table full of Yugoslav police. The middle-aged guy in Belgium – the one with a kiddie car seat in the back of his car – who grabbed my breast while we were tootling down the highway. To list but a few of the times we were at risk…

Mostly, however, hitching was great fun. People bought us meals. They put us up. They drove out of their way to drop us off where we wanted to go.

And where we wanted to go was: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Greece, and Turkey.

This was no “if it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium” bus tour.

If we liked a place, we stayed, including a couple of weeks spent camping on the beach in one of the lesser Greek islands.

This you could do back in the day, when you got out of college with little or no debt, and when it was generally accepted (although by no means the norm) if you wanted to fart around for a few years before embarking on a career.

Which both Joyce and I eventually did, mine in technology marketing, hers (quite successful) in the fashion biz.

Now changed utterly, of course.

People don’t hitchhike, here or there. Taking off four months to do nothing except see the sights, eat like the locals, and experience a peculiar form of transient, responsibility-less life has completely gone out of style. Even a twenty-something unencumbered by college debt would be reluctant to hit the pause button on their career path to kickback for any appreciable while. If they were going to head out, it would be with a posse of Facebook and Twitter followers lined up to read their every utterance. (OMG! Creep just grabbed my boob. What’s Belgian for douche! LOL.) And with plans to turn it into a book (self-published, probably), or make sure that the trip had some grand purpose, beyond Grand Tour, that would benefit their résumé. (I traveled through Europe to raise awareness for the Hangnail Foundation. Make that Mongolia: Europe is just so darned yesterday.) And whose parents would “allow” them to be out of reach – other than those letters to the American Express office – for four long months.

Thanks to advice we got from fellow Americans at those American Express offices, Joyce and I ended up playing one currency off against the other. A guy would tell us, “Change to Swiss francs.” And we would. Another guy would say, “You should buy Deutsch marks.” And we would. And damned if we didn’t make a profit on our “currency swaps” at every turn. (Thank God for those econ majors we met.)

Thus, after nearly four months buzzing around Europe, we each came home with $600 in our pocket. Which turned out to be Europe on even less than Frommer’s $5 a day.

I can’t say that every moment was pure joy. Some of it was spent in the pouring rain waiting for someone to stop and pick us up. (Leading me to develop Rogers’ Rule: No matter how terrible the spot is, no matter how rancid the weather, someone will eventually stop for two young female hitchhikers. Even if it is the Belgian lech who’s going to fondle your breast.) There were bedbugs on that train in Spain. I got an eye infection in Ireland.

But I pretty much loved every place I went: look, feel, tourist traps, non-tourist “stuff,” cities, countryside, food, language, “the people.”That first trip abroad was pretty much when I became a Europhile.

Now, I might not want to trade my U.S. citizenship in to live there – not yet, at any rate – but when it comes to figuring out where I want to go on vacation, there’s still no place I’d rather turn than due East.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Peeps on Earth, Good Will To Men, Women, and Children

Spring has not yet sprung in New England.

By this time of year, we’ve generally had a string of sunny, sweater-weather days. Maybe even a couple of days when you can tie that sweater around your waist.

This year, alas, we seem to have traded a long, dreary and miserable winter for what is shaping up to be a long, dreary and miserable spring.

Baby, it’s cold outside. And wet.

Not that I was expecting the leaves to be out quite yet, but we should be seeing more of a nimbus of green on the trees than we are at this point. Sure, a couple of the hearty magnolias are out on Beacon Hill, and a couple of daffodils have shot their heads up in our front garden. But I have yet to see one damned red red robin come bob-bob-bobbin’ a long.

But I have, of course, seen my first Peeps, peep-peep-peepin’ along the shelves of CVS. Not to mention on Friendly’s menu topping off some special Peep sundae. I took a pass, choosing to expend my occasional Friendly’s calories on the small Happy Ending hot fudge with coffee ice cream.

I will say this for the peeps at Just Born: they are colossally brilliant marketers.

Sure, it helps to have a product that is well-known, well-loved, associated with childhood, squishy, sugary, bright colored, both fun and silly, and has a generally goofy-weird aura about it. I can honestly say that I have never marketed a product that had any of these attributes, let alone all of them.

That said, the Just Born marketers are extremely good at what they do in terms of working with the Peep sub-culture that has grown up over the years. They could have just treated all of their products as equals, focusing equal time on Hot Tamales and Ike & Mike. But they have recognized and embraced the special character, charisma and genius of Peeps.

If you’re feeling especially crafty this weekend, you might want to craft up a Peeps TopiaryPeeps topiary. I’m betting you won’t even need to directions, since this appears to be the craft degree-of-difficulty equivalent to making Pudding-in-a-Cloud for dessert. (“Gee, Sarah, how do you make it?…Oh, you mean I just have to plop a dollop of pudding in a somewhat larger dollop of Cool Whip?”) But, thanks to Just Born marketing savvy, you can find the instructions here.

AnPeeps pool caked I don’t want to force my ideas on anyone, but a certain someone in our family has a birthday coming up, and this Peeps Pool Cake looks right up her alley. I will do my part to help turn this into a reality, if anyone’s interested. Thank goodness for blue jello!

Me? I can’t wait to bite the head off my first fresh Peep this Sunday at my sister Trish’s. Nothing says spring like that first chomp down on that fresh, sugar-dimpled Peep. Yum!

Especially at this time of year, we all need to keep this in mind: it’s a Peep’s world. We just live in it.


Can’t get enough about this topic? See my earlier Peep-inspired Easter-ish posts:

Product Innovation in the Peep-able Kingdom, Not a Peep Out of You and The Harley Davidson of the Candy World.

And, of course, you should check out this year’s entries to the Washington Post’s Peep Diorama contest.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rule, Britannia wedding souvenirs

What with the Royal W just a bit over a week away, and it being Queen Elizabeth’s birthday today, I was feeling in a bit of a take-a-royal-gander mood. So it was interesting to check out the Kate and William souvenirs that are on offer. (Source:

This just might be the major boost that can get Recession-deadened consumers spending again.

I sure hope so.

Not that I’ll be buying much of anything.

Still, it’s nice to know that if I do decide to commemorate this event, there are plenty of options.

At first glance, the Pez dispensers look like  a cheap and easy way in. But these are one-offs, being auctioned on eBay, with the proceeds to go to the charity of the pez-dispenser-REUTERS-Herwig-Prammer__1302188574_5928couple’s choice. Which is flat-out no fun for those who collect Pez dispensers, as eBay should damned well know if anybody does. Harrumph.

I’ll take a pass on the commemorative condoms. Was it just 30 short years ago that her sisters were kidding Lady Di about her face being on the tea-towels? Now we have Crown Jewels. Not what I would call an uptick in taste, that’s for sure. (“Well, Kate, you can’t back out now. Your face is on the condom pack.”)

Beer lovers can get a bottle of “Kiss Me Kate” or “Prince William Porter.” Tea lovers can buy Kate and William tea-bags. Car lovers can get a windshield sticker.  And the Franklin Mint has a couple of Kate dolls, available in “limited” edition. If $195 per doll is above your personal limit, there’s also a Barbie-style fashion doll.

What else is out there?

Creepy playing cards. Creepy chair cushions. Creepy cardboard cutouts.

If you’re seized with the entrepreneurially spirit, and are feeling flushed with royal zeal, you’ve still got another week to come up with a souvenir. So have a go. But do be mindful that the Royals, like any other corporation, celebrity, or celebrity corporation, want to control the use of its brand. Just keep calm, carry on, and follow the guidelines that has so kindly put together for us.  There has been a “Temporary Relaxation” approved by Prince William that lets you use Royal Photographs and Insignia on souvenirs, including the full-coat of arts of the prince.

To qualify for the privileges detailed in the circular such souvenirs must be:

(a) In good taste.
(b) Free from any form of advertisement.
(c) Carry no implication of Royal custom or approval.

I suspect that the condom-makers didn’t exactly follow the guidelines. Nor the sick-bag maker. (“Throne up.” Get it. Thrown up. Har-dee-har.)

I don’t blame them for wanting to steer clear of condoms and air sickness bags, but those Royals sure are picky about textiles:

With the exception of carpets, cushions, wall hangings and head scarves, Royal Devices MAY NOT be used on textiles (which includes articles of clothing, including T-shirts, drying up cloths and aprons).

Note that a Royal Photograph is not tea-towel-London-Peter-Macdiarmid-Getty-Images__1302188575_1896a Royal Device, so Kate’s face can go on a tea towel. Not to mention “metalware, ceramic or other semiindestructible” container or receptacle for, say, biscuits, or tea. As with textiles, photos only: no use of the Prince’s coat of arms or cypher.

There is still time to whip up some net bags with Jordan almonds in them.

I do caution that this event will all mostly be good for British business – and right-io-ly so. It’ll also be good, of course, for the Asian factories spewing this stuff out. (Honestly, don’t you ever wonder what’s going through the mind of some Chinese peasant working in some sweatshop churning out William and Kate tea-towels, Pez dispensers, and biscuit tins. What’s Chinese for WTF?)

If an explanation or guidance is required in respect of the rules please write to the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, Buckingham Palace, London, SW1A 1AA.

Hurry, do.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Winklevoss Identity: never too rich

Before I begin, I should probably get a couple of things out there:

  1. I have yet to see The Social Network.
  2. I’m not much of a Facebook user.  I pretty much “friend” friends and family who ask, but that’s about it. (However, I am planning on asking my teenaged nieces to triage my FB presence.)
  3. I would not be quite as interested in this topic if the Winklevoss twins did not have such a great last name.
  4. And/or if the actor who portrayed the Winklevi in The Social Network was none other than Armie Hammer, scion of the Armand Hammer family, of Occidental Petroleum fame and fortune.

For those unfamiliar with the threads of the Winklevoss story, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who were at Fair Harvard with FB founder Mark Zuckerberg, reached a settlement with FB, Inc. a couple of years ago. Implicit in the settlement was the admission that theirs had been the original idea that spawned Zuckerberg’s vision of an online student-to-student social network.

At the time of the settlement – in 2008 – the twins agreed to accept $65M in cash and stock, and amount now worth about $170M, thanks to FB’s success.

That amount, unfortunately, is not enough for the Winklevoss twins, especially in light of how much their former classmate – i.e., the person who exploited the idea commercially – is worth.

Rich, as we know, if all relative to what the next guy has.

Thus, the $1M condo on Beacon Hill may look swank to someone living in wattle and daub hut, but to the condo dwellers, it’s a wattle and daub hut compared to the single-family mansion next door.

Thus, the Winklevoss twins are aggrieved.

It’s not enough that they came from a privileged background, graduated from Harvard, rowed in the Olympics. It’s not enough that each of them has the education, pedigree and social network that provides entry into the sorts of jobs that earn folks multi-million dollars a year.  It’s not enough that each of them must have cleared about $40-$50M each on the settlement, post-lawyers and give-backs to side parties who had a role. It’s not enough that most people would be overjoyed to have a net worth of one-tenth this magnitude, enabling them to live modestly but amply for the rest of their lives.

As long as – whine, whine, sniff, sniff – that meanie Mark Zuckerberg has a kazillion, $40M is petty cash, chump change, and insult. (I saw that idea first…)

So the Winklevoss twins went to court to see if they could have a do-over on their agreement to settle for that paltry $65M, even though it’s now grown to a somewhat less paltry $170M (or, as I’ve seen in one place, $200M). They claim that they were swindled, screwed, done-in by the original settlement, and that they’re entitled to four times the number of shares. Which, of course, everyone now knows are worth a boatload more.

Alas for the Winklevoss boys, an appellate court “rejected the Winklevoss brothers’ claims that the 2008 settlement should be voided because it was procured with fraud.”

In his decision, Judge Alex Kozinski wrote that the "Winklevosses are not the first parties bested by a competitor who then seek to gain through litigation what they were unable to achieve in the marketplace. … At some point, litigation must come to an end. That point has now been reached." (Source: Slate.)

Not to be denied, the Winklesvosses are now looking for a review of last week’s court ruling.

I sure hope that, if they lose again, they’re on the hook for court costs.

Anyway, it does appear as if, in 2008, the deal the Winklevoss twins agreed to was a good enough one.

Sure, if they knew then what they know now…

But how many times does that happen in life, and to how many people does it happen to? Note to the Winklevosses: the answer to both of these rhetorical questions is A LOT.

Who among us doesn’t want do overs?

The salary we accepted when we could have negotiated for more. The lowball project fee that you took thinking you could knock the work out quickly, only to find out you were making something only a few cents north of minimum wage.

And let’s not even get into the realm of personal do overs? Talk about carry me back to old Wor-ces-ter.

The Winklevoss twins turn 30 this year.

My advice to them is, as Ann Landers use to say, kwitcherbitchin.

Take the millions, count them – and your many blessings, and stop obsessing about Mark Zuckerberg’s billions.

Frankly, I don’t need to see the movie to appreciate what a bunch of a-holes all of these guys are.


Source for info, unless otherwise indicated: Huffington Post.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Poor Farm

There was an article in The Boston Globe a couple of weeks back the town of Milton’s (a close-in suburb) trying to figure out what to do with the poor farm that was left to it over 300 years ago.

The person doing the leaving was Governor William Stoughton, who was both a judge and prosecutor during the Salem Witch Trials. Hmmmm. Pretty convenient to be both judge and prosecutor, don’t you think? Would you even have to jump up and say, “Objection, Your Honor,” or just cut to the chase and say “Objection sustained.” Which may not have been necessary, since Stoughton refused to allow the accused to have any defense counsel. Stoughton did, however, allow “spectral evidence” – dreams and visions – to be used in court. (Info on Stoughton: from Wikipedia.)

But, unless you were Sarah Good or Rebecca Glover or one of the other “witches” who were hanged, Stoughton wasn’t a completely bad fellow. He did, after all, leave Milton some land “for the use and benefit of the poor.” (Not stated but I suspect strongly implied: we’re talking the deserving poor. And not the kind inclined toward wearing black pointy hats and cruising around on broomsticks.)

Anyway, throughout the 18th century, the poor could cut wood on the 34-acre plot, and in the 1800’s a poor house went up.

The original Poor House, or almshouse, was built around 1805, and included cages to punish residents who disturbed the peace, according to a history compiled by the town. Paupers lived and farmed there, and the able-bodied men worked on the town’s roads.

That building was sold for $102 in 1854. A new Poor House was built for $2,675 on the spot where it still stands today. Also remaining are the 1871 Men’s Almshouse and 1888 Pest House, built to quarantine people with smallpox.

But poor houses went out of fashion in the mid-twentieth century and, since the 1940's, Milton has been out of the poor house biz:

… instead renting out three buildings on the site and using the income to help needy individuals with emergencies — in small grants totaling about $20,000 annually in recent years.

The buildings have now fallen into disrepair. But while the buildings may be down, “requests for emergency aid are up.”

The town selectman are looking into selling or leasing the land, which abuts the Blue Hills Reservation (hiking, swimming, skiing…), which is quite a pretty area.  Selling all or part of the land could bring in as much as $8.5M, which would nicely augment the $400K that has accrued in the Governor Stoughton fund over the years.

As with everything else these days:

“It’s all about the Benjamins,’’ said town planner William Clark. He said whatever the selectmen decide must be approved, however, by the state attorney general and Massachusetts Probate and Family Court, to be sure Stoughton’s will is honored.

I.e., that the poor get the benefit of the proceeds.

If I were the Town of Milton, I wouldn’t be getting rid of this property quite so fast.

At least in my life-time, I don’t think we’ll be going back to the point where we cage folks for disturbing the peace. But other than that…

For the sake of argument, let’s just say that we do get rid of all those irksome hand-out programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. After all, the social safety net is for effete, Euro-style dandies, not for hearty, don’t-look-down Americans. (I bet old Governor Stoughton would agree with this point.)

But, as there always is in checkered game of life, there will be winners and losers under the grand new “you’re on your own, bub” scheme.

So, Milton, hang on to that poor farm.

You may need it for those who neglected to save anything for their dotage. (Note to self: design new tee-shirt: Old geezer slapping himself on the forehead. Caption: “Damn, I forgot to save for retirement.”)  Or for those who really and truly did try to put things away, but who didn’t have much luck as part-time money managers; or who got caught up in the next Bernie Madoff scheme; or who thought they were saving enough, but that was before the fund-managers got through extracting their small-print fees. (Hey, what’s this heads-I-win-tales-you-lose thing?)

If you have a poor farm and an alms house, once again, paupers can farm and able-bodied men work on the roads.

Ninety’s the new sixty, don’t you know? Start hoeing, Gramps.

Sure, you might want to rename the Pest House.  Something like Pleasant Manor would work. Or House of Health.

Maybe the paupers can farm herbs that can be used for palliative care for those who can’t afford to even get their case considered by a Death Panel.

And while I do hope smallpox won’t be making a comeback, you never know. Inoculations are sort of nanny-state, aren’t they? And if you don’t inoculate, it’s survival of the fittest. Thus the ninety year old pauper, having survived smallpox, should be fit as a fiddle and ready to farm for his remaining years.

Anyway, my advice to Milton is hang on to this property. You never know when a poor farm is going to come in handy. Could be any day now.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Patriots’ Day 2011

I hope that the United States never becomes so blandly homogenized that all fifty-states worth of nifty little regionalisms disappear.

Bad enough that most regional department stores are gone, all replaced by the ubiquitous Macy’s. (Remember when we used to think that Boston without Filene’s and Chicago without Marshall Field were unthinkable?) Thank the lord of retail that we still have furniture stores like Bernie and Phyl’s, now employing B&P’s three adult children in their TV ads. (Quality, comfort, and price: that’s nice.)

Then there’s the chain restaurant. In many parts of the country, Olive Garden is what passes for Italian. Personally, I’d rather eat at the worst Italian restaurant in Boston’s North End – and, trust me, there are some pretty terrible restaurants there – than sup at an OG.

Regional accents still seem to manage to survive, even in the face of threats like late-last-century’s Valley Girl incursion, which seems to live on primarily in the Interactive Voice Recording system used by Fidelity, AmEx and a bunch of others. (You know the one: the chick chirping “Sorry, but I don’t understand what you just said” with that annoying up-lilt at the end of the sentence. IVR systems apparently can’t interpret voices yelling “I just want to talk to a #**&*(&$**@(&^ human being.”)

Thanks to the persistence of regional accents, we have the persistence of bad accents in movies placed in New England (special points to those set in Boston). Fortunately, there are some actors who come by their accents naturally. Thus, I never have to cringe when Mark (or Donny) Wahlberg, Matt Damon, Ben (or Casey) Affleck, or Worcester-boy Denis Leary is on the screen (at least with respect to their accent). I will say that I thought Leo DiCaprio’s version in The Departed was wicked pissah. Jack Nicholson’s o,n the other hand. Honey, you’re so not home-boy. Same goes for Tom Hanks as the FBI agent in Catch Me if You Can. Love ya, Tommy, but no can do.

While regional accents manage to survive, I’ve noticed that some local words have fallen out of use. It’s been years since I’ve heard anyone refer to soda as “tonic.” I do believe that “bubbler” fell off the truck in favor of “water fountain,” followed by the actual bubbler/water fountain itself falling off the truck in favor of bottled Poland Springs. (Nothing tasted better on a hot summer day that slurping some icy cold water from the pebble-stoned bubbler in a public park.) “Rubber band” has pretty much replaced “elastic.” Let’s dig our heels in on frappe and not let McDonald’s get away with perverting the definition!

Anyway, one bit of regional differentiation that has stood the test of time is Patriots’ Day as a Massachusetts state holiday.

It used to be celebrated on April 19th, but that was before Columbus discovered the three-day weekend, so now it’s the third Monday in April. This year, the celebration is off by a day, but that’s okay because April 18th is Paul Revere’s Ride, which is the kick-off event to the Battles of Lexington and Concord, which we mark on April 19th.

Patriots’ Day!

Now that the so-called “hacks’ holidays” – city workers and state workers who worked in Boston/Suffolk County got off Evacuation Day (which handily coincides with St. Patrick’s Day) and Bunker Hill Day – are being done away with, Patriots’ Day remains our one odd-ball holiday. It’s school vacation week. It’s a state wide holiday that, while not universally observed by business, is a day off for a lot of folks. The Boston Marathon is run today. The Red Sox, a major league baseball team that people in these parts used to care about and follow passionately, play a rare weekday morning-start day game, timed so that fans can spill out into Kenmore and watch the runners pass. And, occasionally,we actually get nice weather.

Patriots’ Day!

Forever in peace may she wave!

An altogether splendid holiday celebrating an event nicely commemorated by Emerson, in one of the poems that, fifty years on, I can still recite. (Drat! I missed the chance to show off O Captain! My Captain! on the anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination.)

                                   Concord Hymn

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

concord hymnThe foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those spirits dare,
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

                                             Ralph Waldo Emerson

Rest assured, Ralph Waldo, that, at least here in the Commonwealth,  or at least here at Pink Slip, memory does their deed redeem.

Happy Patriots’ Day!


Source of picture and cut and paste of the poem: Wikipedia.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Iceland’s Phallological Museum gets its man. (Not much else to do in there in the cold and dark.)

Although I don’t go there very often, one of my favorite museums is the Harvard Museum of Natural History (HMNH). Its exhibits include the fascinating (boringly so), 4,000-strong (or fragile) collection of glass flowers. And a whole lot of stuffed animals. Not Steiff-cutesy stuffed animals. Actual animals, taxidermed. Many of which breathed their last well over a hundred years ago. So they’re a bit long in the metaphorical tooth, showing signs of age and appearing, well, moth-eaten. That some of cases contain moth balls contributes to the moth-eaten atmosphere. Although the museum has been reno’d over the years, the last time I was there, it still had many of the its original creaking wooden floors and old display cases. An altogether wonderful little museum, with the entire experience enhanced by the occasional whiff of moth ball.

Precisely because of the moth ball smell, the HMNH is not quite as pompous, smug, and bogus-ly underplayed (nothing says Harvard quite like a good strong does of insincere self-deprecation), as so much else Harvard that we non-H locals have come to expect from the little college that could.

I mention HMNH because it is fun, entertaining, and quirky, and absolutely worth an occasional look-see, especially if you have a kid in tow.

And to position myself (without resorting to pompous, smug, self-deprecation – I am, after all, non-H) as the sort who, if not exactly jolly, does enjoy an occasional fun, entertaining, and quirky little museum.

That said, even with the newest addition to its sizable and growing collection, I can’t imagine beating a path (or anything else) to the Phallological Museum of Iceland.

First, let’s clear one of the obvious comments out of the way: this must be the first, last, and only time that the words “phallus” and “logical” are combined. Personally, something like the Phallo-non-logical Museum might be a better choice. Or is it just me?

That aside, the Museum is, I suppose, to be congratulated on its acquisition of its first human phallus.

Long promised to the Museum, its 95 year old possessor died a few months back, leaving his posthumously pickled specimen to join the bottled-in-formaldehyde (or dried and framed) ranks of walrus, whale, seal, and bear penises.

This is pretty much a members-only museum, but in also houses penis art and artifacts (lampshades, anyone?).

There was no indication of the size Pall Arason’s unit, but size assuredly does not matter, especially after death. Besides, whatever it is, Arason’s would be just a shrinking violet next to the 67 inch sperm whale penis. (No Moby Dick jokes, please.)

The Museum’s founder and curator is Sigurdur Hjartarson, a retired high school headmaster, author, and scholar who, nearly forty years ago, was given a bull’s pizzle as a joke. This aroused Hjararson’s latent interest in phallus collecting.

This begat the Museum, which:

…is probably the only museum in the world to contain a collection of phallic specimens belonging to all the various types of mammal found in a single country.

I’d say that “only museum” claim is a safe bet.

Phallology is an ancient science which, until recent years, has received very little attention in Iceland, except as a borderline field of study in other academic disciplines such as history, art, psychology, literature and other artistic fields like music and ballet.

Speaking of little attention and borderline field, the Museum’s website is available in Esperanto. (Faluslogio estas antikva scienco…Hey, Esperanto looks fun and easy! Maybe I’ll take it up. Too bad so few people speak it, even though it looks like most Westerners would be able to read it.)

The Museum collection contains a couple of hundred penises and “penile parts” (quick: which has a bigger yuck factor?). Plus, it:

…has also been fortunate enough to receive  legally-certified gift tokens for four specimens belonging to Homo Sapiens.

I do believe that the web-site needs to be updated, as one of those “legally-certified gift tokens” has been turned in.

Gives new meaning to the words “organ donor,” doesn’t it?

Anyway, the Museum, which is located in Húsavík, “the whale watching capital of Europe”, draws over 10,000 visitors each summer.

Iceland is on my bucket list, and I suppose if I’m there…

Still, I’d rather go watch a full-blown whale than look at what’s left of him floating in a vat of formaldehyde. 

If I had a bull pizzle in hand, I would use it to tip my cap to my brother-in-law Rick who spotted the Phallo Museum article (from AP) and sent it my way.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

High in the sky. (Aer Lingus gives new meaning to the mile-high club.)

Five weeks from tonight, my husband and I will be flying to Shannon for a long-awaited vacation to Ireland. We’ll be on Aer Lingus, which -  if history is any guide - will be packed cheek to jowl with tourists of a certain age heading “home”on a once in a lifetime roots tour, largely focused on shopping for Aran sweaters and tweed scally caps, and finding her last name on a shop (or grave) in a town where their great-grandmother was born. Not that I haven’t done all of the above me-self, mind yez. Just sayin’. (And, yes, it was a bit of a thrill to be standing in the cemetery in Ballintubber, Co. Mayo, and see all those Joyce graves. A family reunion of a sort. Plus my husband looks pretty darned cute in a tweed scally cap.)

So our Aer Lingus flight will no doubt be crammed, stuffy, and noisy. In that, it will be not unlike the coffin ships that many of the Irish immigrants came to Amerikay on. Full circle: only flying is quicker, and you’re not as likely to die mid-voyage.

Whatever else the flight has, it is unlikely to have one Miguel Saez Sanchez onboard as a flight attendant, manning the drink carts with all those Rosaleens and Geraldines.

That’s not only because Sanchez worked the San Francisco to Dublin route, and I’m flying Boston to Shannon, but because his appeal to overturn his dismissal will likely not be adjudicated for a couple of months.

Sanchez was fired because he went a bit out of control on a flight. The result, he claims, of having unwittingly eaten a marijuana-laced brownie the night before, washed down with a few vodkas, with a diet-pill chaser.  Wheee…..

Post take-off, Sanchez thought he was being photographed by the plane's passengers who he believed were "plants" by the airline. He then told a crew member that he could feel fleas and lice on his body. (Source: Huffington Post.)

Back in the day, I do not believe that a marijuana brownie would have caused paranoia and hallucinogenic flea-flicking. It would, I do believe, have caused a mild, goofy-grin, mellowed-out little buzz. Just what are they putting in grass these days? (And with respect to fleas, note to self: just to be on the safe side, check for bedbugs in airplane seat.)

Anyway, Sanchez claims he didn’t know that OTC diet pills were verboten by Aer Lingus. Nor was he aware that the brownie was laced.

Both strike me as plausible denials, more or less.

It’s not as if the consistency of a marijuana brownie is all that different from that of a plain old Joy of Cooking brownie. It’s not like the difference between a Marlboro and a “funny cigarette.” (When I was in high school, we were actually warned never to accept a cigarette at a party, because it might be a “funny cigarette” that could make you high.  There was nothing high about my high school tenure, and, although I didn’t frequent parties where someone might have offered me a cigarette, funny or otherwise, I did at the time believe that it was possible that you could get slipped a cigarette mickey. This belief was dispelled, of course, the first time I actually came across a real “funny cigarette” and realized that only someone who was a complete idiot, had no sense of smell, or, well,  was on drugs, couldn’t tell the difference between a Winston and a joint.)

Anyway, The Irish Independent was the ur-source for this article, so I thought I’d jet over there to see if there were any more details.

Indeed, there were.

Sanchez, apparently, got sick shortly after eating the brownie (referred to in The Independent as “a cookie,” but which Huff-Po more plausibly translated). He then learned that the brownie was laced. Sanchez says that he had smoked grass one time only, years before, in Amsterdam (where else?), and never touched the stuff because of his violent reaction to it. Anyway, Sanchez was advised to take a shower, but had a paranoia attack in the shower. Nonetheless, he felt well enough to fly the next day.

And then “it” kicked in. (See above: Just what are they putting in grass these days?)

Sanchez told his supervisor that he wasn’t well enough to work his shift, but they were in flight by that point. Nowhere else for him to go. It did, however, appear to some of the passengers that, with his jacket on and briefcase in hand, Sanchez was preparing to exit the plane.

Which must have raised some passenger concern about exactly how Sanchez was going to accomplish this feat.

Anyway, Aer Lingus is not having any of Sanchez’ reasonable doubt:

Tom Mallon, for Aer Lingus, said that for a member of cabin crew to consume marijuana, slimming pills and alcohol "is nothing short of folly in the highest". He said Mr. Sanchez had cut himself off from travelling in a plane in any role other than as a passenger.

Not that I would want to witness a flight attendant freak out, and I am on his side with respect to the diet pills, but I am also inclined to tell Tom Mallon to lighten up, or, even, light one up – if he could find some grass as mellow as that or yore.

This is not quite as colorful or dramatic, of course, as the recent story of the Jet Blue steward who jumped (air)ship beer in hand, sliding down the emergency chute, which he had activated. (Fortunately, the plane was on the tarmac at the time.) Wheee….. Talk about a grand gesture that had ‘I quit’ written all over it.

Still, this story is a good one.

I’ll be on high alert for some cabin fever among the stews on my upcoming flight.

Just stay away from the emergency exit, please.

I don’t think that slide will get you all the way from a couple of miles up down to the Atlantic. Plus, when you get there, it’d be cold, dark, and wet in the middle of the night. (Probably a lot like a coffin ship.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ashes to ashes for Messrs. Kluger, Bauer & Robinson

Gambling’s so much easier when you cheat, that’s for sure.

But doesn’t it ever cross the minds of gamblers who cheat that they’re going to get caught?

Or is that what being a cheating gambler’s all about?

Anyhow, the latest episode of Busted: Inside Trading to have piqued my interest is the one that involves attorney Matthew Kluger, trader Garrett Bauer, and middleman Kenneth Robinson, whose greed, apparently brought the entire operation down.

The trio’s Tinkers to Evers to Chance went like this:

Kluger, who worked at Wilson, Sonsini, and who years earlier had worked at both Cravath and Skadden, firms so widely known that we all feel we’re on a first last name basis with them would relay confidential info to Bauer via way of Robinson. Bauer would make the trade, hand part of his “winnings” off to Robinson, who would take his cut and give the rest to Kluger.

Over seventeen years, the crew reputedly amassed over $32M in profits – and that’s with taking six years off when they felt that the heat was on. They’re time off of bad behavior occurred when Bauer was under investigation by the SEC for a suspicious trade involving Clorox’ acquisition of First Brands. (Nothing came of this investigation.” The trio laid low, but, hey, the lure of easy money was too great for them, so they stepped back in.

All good things must come to an end, however, and the end came when Robinson decided on a little side action, exploiting his status as middle-man to clear $200K on the HP acquisition of 3-Com.

Tsk, tsk.

I knew Gordon Gekko and you, Mr. Robinson, are no Gordon Gekko. Some greed is just no damned good.

When Bauer learned that Robinson’s house had been tossed by the Feds, his heart went pitter pat.

"I felt like I was in shock. My heart was beating 10,000 miles an hour," Mr. Bauer said, according to the criminal complaint. "I went right up to my apartment, and I broke the phone in half and went to McDonald's and put it in two different garbage cans. And someone was watching me. I thought it was an FBI agent. And I asked him, 'Do you know me? You look familiar.' And, like, I was so panicked. I literally didn't sleep that entire night." (Source: NY Times.)

Bauer no doubt has a few more sleepless nights ahead of him, including that first night in Federal lock-up where he ends up doing his time.

Bauer offered to take care of Robinson, claiming that he had over $20M squirreled away for just such an occasion. He also advised Robinson to burn $175K that he was holding from a recent deal. It is so not easy being the bag man.

It may be easier being the guy in the know.

Mr. Kluger, of Oakton, Va., allegedly stole information regarding 11 deals while at Wilson, Sonsini, which he left last month. Mr. Kluger circumvented Wilson Sonsini's computerized document-management system by looking at the titles of documents related to deals he wasn't working on but not opening the documents, prosecutors said.

Looks like Wilson, Sonsini will need to come up with a better document naming scheme than acquirer-target. (HP-3Com Acquisition.)

By mid-March, Kluger realized, in his own words, that “things could get ugly.”

Which they have: both civil and criminal charges have been filed against Kluger and Bauer.

Robinson – who was described by one of his neighbors as
“the nicest guy”, and, curiously, as “American pie”, under the mistaken assumption that American pie is the equivalent of “American as apple pie”, and not the name of a raunchy gross-out movie -  has taken the deal and has pled guilty.

Meanwhile, it was NY Times Deal Book column that had Robinson by name. The earlier NYT story had him as a ““Co-Conspirator 1.” Deal Book also had the skinny on the hiatus that the group had taken, and the info on Robinson’s greed having been the event the resulted in the trio’s downfall.

Once Robinson took the deal and started stealth recording, they got Kluger talking about how careful they’d been, and how the Feds probably didn’t have enough to overcome “reasonable doubt.”  The taped conversations will help with that problem.

Kluger, by the way, is the son of Richard Kluger, a social historian who won the Pulitzer for his book, Ashes to Ashes, a history of the tobacco industry. This has to be the best connect-the-dots since Pulitzer-winning poet Mark Van Doren’s son Charles was swept up in the infamous quiz show scandal of the 1950’s. Of course, that was only about tricking the television audience, not about screwing shareholders who didn’t have inside info on what Clorox or HP was up to.

Interesting that Bauer had suggested that Robinson turn some of the ill-gotten gain to ashes, isn’t it?

You just can not make this stuff up.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How do you think I’d look in elfin ears?

A few years ago, while walking down Charles Street in Boston, I passed a late-middle-aged man on his way to work.

He carried a bulging brief case and wore standard, old-lineYankee, Brooks Brothers  lawyer drag – grey suit, khaki trench coat. But what really caught my eye was the other element of drag this fellow had on: an early 1960’s-vintage rain bonnet. An item of clothing I remember quite well (if not all that fondly).

Believe me when I tell you that rain hatno woman or girl stepped toe out of the house when there was a cloud in the sky without one of these in her pocketbook, pocket, or school bag.  They folded up quite nicely, as seen below, but I speak from experience when I say that woe betide the woman or girl who folded them back up when they still had rain bonnet caseraindrops on them. Peeling them open during your next hour of need was no easy matter. As I recall, however, the lowly plastic rain bonnet did the job of keeping your hair dry, even if they could do nothing about the humidity that could sap all the vitality out of the curls that you had so carefully created, thanks to the Spoolies you had slept on the night before. Personally, I didn’t like the clear plastic bonnets, much preferring the kippier clear plastic with daisy print.

In any (lawyer brief) case, my neighbor was apparently not alone in his preference for wearing a decidedly dowdy rain bonnet.

In fact, if you google “man rain bonnet”, you get a number of hits. Especially if you remember to include the word “fetish” in your search.

There’s even an item on Yahoo Answers asking the all important question: Would you look negatively towards a man wearing a plastic rain bonnet?

Well, maybe negatively’s too strong a word.

Does weirdly work better?

But to each his own, and, if someone has a problem with a Boston lawyer wearing a rain bonnet, well, see you in court.

That said, I will confess the I prefer my lawyers sans rain bonnet, especially male lawyers.

This is, perhaps, because you can take the girl out of Irish Catholic, but you can’t take the Irish Catholic out of the girl.

Thus, while I acknowledge that most, if not all, of us have our own little quirks, I’d rather keep fetishes out of sight. No need to keep them out of mind. In fact, in mind is an exceedingly good place for them.

The rain-bonneted counselor came to mind when I saw an article, thanks to a nudge from my sister Trish, on Huffington Post about elfin ear surgery.

Not that men wearing plastic rain bonnets and elfin ear surgery have all that much in common. Other than the action with both takes place above the neck. And both are pretty darned peculiar.

However peculiar a plastic rain bonnet fetish is, however, it is not likely to cause you any grave harm, at least not of the physical variety. I suspect that in a Boston white-shoe firm, being caught out wearing a rain bonnet might move you off the partner track. And I don’t think it would actually work as date-bait, either. But in the case of a rain bonnet, it’s a matter of easy-on, easy-off. And if you’re in easy-off mode, no one can tell.

Elfin ears, on the other hand, are permanent, and seem to be a veritable trifecta of possible harm: professional, personal (other than with fellow elfin-ear-ites), and physical.

Steve Haworth, a three dimensional artist making leprechaun-esque dreams come true, explained, "There's a lot of people out there who have an inner vision of themselves and they want to express that to the world around them."

Interesting. I would have thought that, for most of us, “inner vision” has something to do with who we are and what we aspire to, not whether our ears are pointy. But that’s just me. (You can take the girl out of Irish Catholic…)

Huff-Po took its elf-ear-in-the-news cue from Good Morning America,which, in turn, had picked upon it from an article in the AARP magazine (of all places).

It’s all part of the body modification culture.

Not that I haven’t participated in body mod, since, broadly speaking, it does include the commonplace and quite modest ear piercing.

But that’s about as far as I’d be willing to go – especially when it comes to something like the ear which, like the rest of our body parts, has been purpose-formed over a couple of billion years thanks to our friend evolution. Obviously, if God or Darwin had wanted us to have elfin ears, that’s the way that the evolutionary cookie would  have crumbled.

For those opting to modify the mighty course of evolution, the elfin ear operation is not generally done by an actual surgeon, but rather by an “artist” who does the job without your having the benefit of anesthesia. Cry ouch! (Maybe they rub an ice cube on it, which is what I did when I pierced my own ears a million years back.)

The medical profession, not surprisingly, no like:

"The real risks are one - major deformity of the ear, which is very easy to have happen and two, infection of the ear," said Dr. Arthur W. Perry, author of "Straight Talk About Cosmetic Surgery." "And if infection occurs, it can destroy the ear within days."

"It's very difficult and often it's not possible to fully reconstruct a nice-looking ear," he said.

At least with the rain bonnet, all you have to do is take it off to return to normal.

Damn! Just realized that I forgot to look at my lawyer friend’s feet. Wonder if he had on the equally throw-back and dowdy, but immensely practical, clear plastic rain boots that were in vogue during the great Age of the Rain Bonnet.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Armenia unplugged

Last week, an elderly woman in Georgia (the country that used to be part of the USSR, not the state that used to be part of the CSA) gave new meaning to the term “Internet hacker.”

A 75-year-old out scavenging for copper and other scrap metals came across a promising find in the Georgian village of Ksani: fiber optic cables owned by the Georgian Railway Telecom company, the connectivity provider to eastern Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Their cable was, apparently, the only way in for Armenian ISPs. Thus, the country suffered a number of hours without access to eBay, World of Warcraft, YouTube, and all that glorious porn.

I’m sure things were tough, but I suspect not as tough as they’d be in the US of A if we were all deprived of Craigslist, Groupon and Twitter for a couple of hours. OMG: no links to tiny url’s.

Of course, if the Internet went “out”, so would the lights, the banking system, most/all of our phones, sewerage processing, shipping and handling, etc. There’d be a run on the stores, with none of the politesse we witnessed when the Japanese were queuing up for a couple of packs of ramen noodles after the tsunami.

I’m sure that we would have heard about it if the Armenians had suffered a societal breakdown and spun into chaos once they lost Internet access. There’s plenty enough to do in Yerevan. No need to stay in doors googling the cute boy you were in Young Pioneers with. Get out and enjoy the nightlife!

Anyway, I haven’t seen a picture of the Hackin’ Granny, but I am, of course, picturing a babushka. You know what I’m talking. Stooped over picking potatoes, cabbage, or shards of coal along the railroad tracks. Lives in a log cabin with geraniums in the window boxes – geraniums that bloom for the two weeks during the year when there’s warmth and light. Couple of metal teeth in her head. Always had a fond spot in her heart for little Joey Stalin, the local Georgian boy made good. But, just to hedge her bets, still kept a couple of icons on the wall, even during the bleakest, most harrowing hours under Communism. (When we think that things are bad here, just think about what the bleakest hour under Communism must have been like.) If I’ve missed any cliché about Eastern European babushkas, please feel free to fill in a blank or two.

Of course, in real life, she was just as apt to be more like the Druggin’ Grannies who get busted every once in a while in The States: chain-smoking, bleach-blonde hags wearing jeans with black leather jackets and/or Winnie the Pooh sweatshirts. Sons named Wayne and Dwayne, both of whom have done time. Grandsons named Brandon and Jared, both of whom have done time. Great grandsons named Colt and Caden, both of whom have done (juvie) time.  Druggin’ Granny has to push the merch and support the gang because everyone else is behind bars. If I’ve missed any cliché about the type of families who specialize in running meth labs, please feel free to fill in a blank or two.

Whether she’s a babushka or not, who’s going to throw a little old lady in the hoosegow?

Well, the Georgians might.

…the unnamed woman, who has been dubbed "the spade-hacker" by local media, is being investigated on suspicion of damaging property, and could face up to three years in prison if charged and convicted.

Three years. Wow!

And for those who think that flacks are only found in American business, a spokesman for Georgia Railway Telecom had this to say:

"I cannot understand how this lady managed to find and damage the cable," the head of the company's marketing department, Giorgi Ionatamishvili [said]. "It has robust protection and such incidents are extremely rare."

Maybe that “robust protection” is not quite robust enough. (Makes me wonder what kind of robust protection surrounds the fiber that was laid down the median strip of the Mass Turnpike. I suppose our Staties would notice a babushka with a hoe and a bucket and/or Colt’s and Caden’s grammaw.)

Mercifully, “such incidents are extremely rare.”

Bad enough that thieves are stripping abandoned houses of everything except the rat carcasses, and defacing public statues and monuments to get at the bronze. Just leave our Internet alone!

Source: Huffington Post, by way of my sister Trish.

Friday, April 08, 2011

His & Her Sinks (Hooked on HGTV)

For the last month or so, I’ve been hooked on HGTV.

Even more surprising, my husband has been hooked, as well.

Who’d a thunk it?

Surely, no one who knows us.

With an exception or two folks – it’s exactly two, now that I think of it – pretty much everyone I’m related to or friends with is into home improvement. And a lot of them pretty much believe that, if you’re not interested in perpetually updating the place you live, you have no business owning property. You should be a renter.

Not wanting to fix things up?

Why, it’s almost as un-American as not wanting to own a car.

Might as well move to some airy-fairy, left-wing, Euro-nation where people live happily ever after in small apartments and bicycle everywhere.

Now I don’t exactly think that you should let a place fall down around your ears. But I’m pretty much of the if it ain’t broke school.

Sometimes, I will confess, I do fall into the even if it is broke school. Thus, I haven’t gotten around to fixing the door knob on the upstairs bathroom that’s been MIA for three years. (Even though this should be a short fix, it’s a long story.)

But it is on my to-od list, along with put in some new overhead lights and paint the bedroom.

Honest.  As God is my witness, there will be some type of handle on the upstairs bathroom door by Christmas. (And, yes, I know that I said this last year.)

I’m pretty sure that I would be more inclined towards home projects if my husband had ever expressed a scintilla of interest in fixing anything up – rather than get the heebie-jeebies at the thought of having his routine interrupted. And I do occasionally fantasize about a do-over for the 1980’s bathrooms and kitchen. But then I come to my senses and say to myself: what the hell for? Everything works – except for that doorknob, the garbage disposal (who needs one? certainly not someone who rarely cooks), the spray thingy in the kitchen sink, and whatever that non-burner burner item is on the ancient Jenn-Aire range.

Just thinking about initiating, let alone overseeing, a major home project gives me the heebie-jeebies, too.

Maybe if someone left a bag containing $100,000 on my doorstep, expressly ear-marked for home improvement; and a side bag containing enough moola to ship us off to Paris for the duration, I’d be happy to get a few things done.

But I am absolutely not one of those folks – and I do know plenty of them – who actually enjoy home improvement, love having a project going, and get a lot of satisfaction from having their bathroom/kitchen/den/patio/whatever done precisely to their liking. And now that I think of it, the folks I know who like having a home improvement project going tend to have plenty of money to spend on home improvement projects. (We’re not talking Home Depot DIY-ers here.)

Anyway, the older I get, the more I’m afraid that I’m a chip off the old block of my grandmother, whose house was almost falling down around her ancient ears when she left it at age 92. At that point, not much had been done since three decades earlier when my parents papered and painted all the rooms in her flat (along with the other two apartments in Nanny’s house, both of which our family lived in at one point or another, until we got a house of our own when I was 7). Make that almost all of the rooms. My mother refused to step toe in the bedroom inhabited by my feckless wastrel of an uncle, Charlie.

Her view, honed, I ‘m sure, by the fact that she was pregnant at the time, was let him get off his lazy arse and paint his own room. He didn’t, so the room, I do believe, did not get a fresh coat of paint at any time between, say, 1910 and 1974, when Charlie died (in said bedroom) and Nanny went to live with my Aunt Margaret. That Charlie was a heavy smoker did nothing to improve the look and feel of Charlie’s bedroom.

Anyway, Nanny’s idea of a fix was putting scotch tape over the break in the glass of one of her kitchen windows. Or tacking a small, mismatched piece of linoleum over a worn spot on the kitchen floor. Or putting a broken vase back together with a big schmeer of brown glue, which protruded from the crack by a good quarter of inch. (I have the vase, by the way. I suppose that I could soak it in hot water and reset it with Crazy Glue so it won’t show. Maybe once I get that doorknob taken care of…)

So, yeah, I’m an unlikely candidate for getting hooked on HGTV.

Not as unlikely as my husband, however.

I’ve been telling him for years that, when we sell our condo, we’ll get less than he thinks because our kitchen and bathrooms are so dated.

His response has always been “nobody cares about that stuff”.

He now understands that house hunters do.

HGTV has been a revelation to Jim.

And an eye-opener to me.

I can’t even begin to pick a favorite show, they’re all so interesting.

In Selling New York you get to see some really great places – one in the Ansonia, recently – as well as some tiny little off-the-air-shafters that are going for $1M. Selling New York seems to typically involve some psycho drama, as well. In my favorite, a young woman was contentedly living in a very nice apartment in Chelsea when her worry wart of a mother decided it was dangerous for her to live in a non-doorman building.

The young woman put up a brave fight to keep her independence, but her mother, aided and abetted by her realtor (and Selling New York star) college roommate and her two realtor (and Selling New York stars) daughters, put on a the full court press to get her into a doorman building. One comment: “She’s too pretty not to live in a doorman building. It’s just not safe.” (Oh, no, no one would ever attack a woman who wasn’t pretty. Or who lived in a doorman building.) Another one: “What if she has to carry a heavy suitcase?” (Isn’t that what roller bags are for? Or are roller bags just for the unpretty (and un-twenty-somethings) among us?

Holmes Inspection is excellent. Mike Holmes is the home inspector to end all home inspectors. By the time he’s through, the shoddy work is gone, you’re better than new, and there’s not a termite, hint of asbestos, or loose wire worry to keep you up nights. Too bad he only works in Canada.

House Hunters. House Hunters International. (You can get an awful big bang for the buck in Ecuador, by the way.)

It’s all good.

I especially like Property Virgins, in which the very pleasant and reassuring, but tough, host Sandra shepherds first time buyers through their search and purchase.

Whatever the price range is – and the Property Virgins I’ve seen have had anywhere from $130K to $900K to drop – everyone, but everyone, expects a master suite. Walk-in closets. (Boy, am I out of luck on re-sale. We have one closet that’s not ever as deep as a hanger. You have to angle things in. Good thing we have a great location and a fabulous living room. Plus by the time we sell, there will be a doorknob on the upstairs bathroom.) Updated kitchens.

Yes, even the young couple with $130K to spend on a Southern California condo wanted an updated kitchen. And their budget was limiting them to looking at short-sales from banks on re-po’d units. They turned up their nose at one affordable place because the stove – while in good working order – was out of date. (It appeared to be 1990’s vintage.)

Jeez Louise.

Did folks with short money used to expect updated kitchens before their was an HGTV network that informed you that every other Property Virgin (PV from here on) on the face of the earth demanded one? Forty years ago, did homebuyers scorn kitchens that didn’t have avocado or harvest gold appliances?

The other evening I saw one woman fretting because she liked the house, but the kitchen would have to be redone immediately. Its offense? The appliances weren’t stainless.

Forget that the house was less than 10 years old, and the kitchen was pretty darned up to date.

“That oven is so dated,” the woman sneered. Would she have said that same thing if it had been a 10 year old stainless oven?

Not that I don’t like stainless. If I did a do-over, that’s what I’d do, even though I am well aware that, at the high end, you have your SubZero matched up to your cabinetry.

My favorite great and universal expectation, however, is his and her sinks in the vanity.

I know that it’s not quite as bad as his and her, adjoining toilets would be. But, really, who wants to be standing their brushing your teeth while your husband is trimming his nose hair?

Apparently everyone shopping for a home in North America.

It’s a bit surprising, given that most of the PVs require at least two bathrooms.(Other than the young, single PVs from New York, who are mostly just looking for a separate bedroom.) Better yet, PVs want two-and-a-half bathrooms. So they already have multiple sinks.

Yes, I know, kids take up sink time, too.

And, yes, if everyone is getting out the door at the same time, there can be bathroom conflicts. (Hey, I grew up in a big family. The major improvement when we moved out of Nanny’s into our own home was that there were two bathrooms. Which worked out to three-and-a-half people per bathroom.)

So I will acknowledge that there are circumstances where his and her sinks – or kid and kid sinks – make sense.

Still, to have this so high on the make-or-break feature list?

Couldn’t you just stagger things a bit? Or are people so darned polite first thing in the morning that, absent those his and her sinks, you end up with an endless loop of  After you, Alphonse. No, you first, my dear Gaston. And you never get to work.

Still, watching someone (other than yourself, in the mirror) flossing?

Maybe it’s just me, but that honeymoon’s soon over.

Meanwhile, wonder what’s on HGTV tonight?

As long as the Red Sox keep losing, there’s no where else for me to go.

Anything to put off having to take care of that damned doorknob.