Monday, October 31, 2011

Job of the day: forensic entomologist

The other day, just in time for Halloween, ran a feature on 10 Scary and Creepy Jobs.

Not all of the scary/creepy jobs were directly death related. But a few of them were.

Like road kill removal specialist, which I personally do not believe is an actual job title. I personally believe this task is actually carried out by a DPW guy with a shovel. Then again, road kill’s not all the big a deal in cities, if you factor out squashed rats, squirrels, and pigeons.

Cryonics technician is admittedly rare, but as long as there are folks like Ted Williams who just can’t seem to let go, there will no doubt be some demand for professionals who’ll turn your corpus into a popsicle so that when “the cure” is found, you can be reanimated. (Actually, Ted’s a bad example, because it’s just his head that’s frozen, I guess so that the somewhat taciturn Teddy Ballgame can come back as a Talking Head.)

Then there are forensic entomologists, folks who “look for clues in murder victims by investigating what lives inside cadavers -- maggots, flies, and other creepy crawlers that have taken hold since the person's death.”

Now here was a job I wanted to learn a tad bit more about. And fortunately, I could do so at There I learned that they don’t call them carrion beetles for nothing.

Forensic entomologists are commonly called upon to determine the postmortem interval or "time since death" in homicide investigations.  More specifically, the forensic entomologist estimates a portion of the postmortem interval based on the age of the insect present.  This entomological based estimation is most commonly called the "Time Since Colonization". 

They may also be able to unearth details about whether a body has been moved, based on whether the colonizing insects are shade lovers or sun worshipers, etc. Not to mention that they can extract human DNA from an insect that’s been supping at the human trough. The mosquito bite could turn out to more than an itchy welt – it just might place you a the quote unquote scene of the crime.

Forensic entomologists also help suss out “circumstances of abuse”. Who knew that some “parents intentionally use wasps and bees to sting their children as a form of punishment"? And, of course, abuse may mean that the victims are kept in squalor, attracting flies. While it wasn’t a case of abuse – other than self-abuse - I learned that this could occur the summer in college when I worked as an admitting clerk in the walk-in clinic at Worcester City Hospital. One day, a middle-aged woman came in with maggots infesting her head. It seems that she’d passed out drunk and whacked her head. When she finally made her way, more or less, out of her stupor, the flies had done their colonizing.

And did you know that bees and wasps are a major cause of single-occupant car crashes? You do now. (Pink Slip is such a font of eLearning, no?)

By the way, you don’t have to be board certified to be a card-carrying forensic entomologist. For $25, you can order a set of “Forensic Insect Field Identification Cards,” that can help investigators that lack specialized training pick up on crime scene clues they might otherwise miss.

By the way, those flecks of blood on the wall might not be blood spatter. They could very well be cockroach tracks.

If this has got you jones-ing for some CSI training, you’re in luck. There’s an Animal Crime Scene Workshop coming up at the University of Florida in a few weeks. For $375,

Students will get hands-on experience in the excavation of a gravesite and the exhumation of buried remains. Emphasis will be placed on the collection of associated physical evidence from the crime scene. The proper collection techniques will be demonstrated and students will be expected to implement those techniques throughout the excavation process.

Keep Calm. Carrion.

Happy Halloween!


Since one thing inevitably leads to another, reading about forensic entomology quite naturally got me thinking about Barry and The Remains, a Boston rock band that was popular when I was in high school. What ever did we do before The Google? Sure, you could always – somewhere, somehow – “look it up.” But it’s highly unlikely that I would have been able to easily figure out that Barry of The Remains became Barry of Barry and Holly Tashian, the folk duo.

Come Thanksgiving, I’ll have to mosey around the ‘net and see if I can find out what happened to Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims…

Friday, October 28, 2011

“Students see red over T closures”? Oh, shut up, you boo-boo, baby whiners.

I picked up a copy of Metro Boston the other day. You know, the free and easy newspaper for those with limited time/limited attention span. Out of sympathy for the news vendor hunkered down at the station, I almost bought a Boston Globe for my train trip back to Boston from Salem. But then I said, nah, just pick up a free Metro, and you’ll be able to read every word in it (including the ads looking for medical research subjects), complete both the easy and hard Sudokus, plus get a catnap in during that 25 minute train ride.

The front page headline screamed, Students see red over T closures, and the inside pages further picked up the story: Closures on the Red Line: ‘Tufts’ luck for students.

It seems that the transit authority is going to be doing some weekend track repairs, November through March, which will require them to run buses between Harvard Square and Alewife Station on Saturdays and Sundays.

From the reaction of Tufts students – who live near Davis Square, one of the impacted stops -  you’d think they’d just learned that the Tran Siberian Railway was shutting down, and they were going to have to walk barefoot between Vladivostok and Lake Baikal.

“Shocked,” “frustrated”, “wicked annoying.”

Shocked? Shocked! Shocked,I’m shocked…

Up until they came to Tufts, it’s likely that 90% of these kids lived in suburbs with no public transportation whatsoever, and now they’re up in arms about having to take a shuttle bus to get from Davis Square to Harvard Square? (A distance, by the way, of all of two completely walkable miles.)

“That sucks,” said [name redacted to spare ninny further embarrassment], “I have friends [in the city], it’ll be almost impossible to get out there and see them.”

So true, [ninny with name redacted]. Getting into Boston from Medford if you have to take a shuttle bus for a couple of miles, rather than just hop on rapid transit, is nigh until impossible. Think scaling El Capitan blindfold.

Ah, yes, trapped on campus with no way out. Maybe you could just stay in Davis Square, where, last time I looked – which was in September – there was plenty to do. Maybe Mummy and Daddy can drive in every weekend and chauffer you to and fro. Maybe you can just stay home and txt your friends in faraway places.

[Ninny with name redacted] wasn’t the only Tufts Jumbo perturbed by the Red Line’s completely thoughtless and wretched decision to do this work on weekends, when it’s an inconvenience to students, vs. during the work week when it’s an inconvenience to people who work. (I was going to say ‘tax paying adults’ but that would sound just a tad too Tea Party-esque.)

There’s also a quote from [second ninny with name redacted].

While [second ninny with name redacted] will not let having to travel on a heinous shuttle bus keep him sequestered on the Tufts campus, he predicts that it will be “a huge pain.”

More ominously, he added:

“I can’t see this working out very well.”

I can see where you’re coming from, [second ninny with name redacted]. This temporary replacement of rapid transit with a shuttle bus does have all the hallmarks of a potential Hindenburg disaster, maybe even the Titanic. As I’ll find out for myself when I try to get to a play that I’m planning on seeing in Davis Square in December. Maybe I should leave now?

Anyway, I think that [ninny with name redacted] and [second ninny with name redacted] might be able to team up and have Mummy and Daddy come in every other week. It could be like the kindergarten car pool days. What fun!

At least [second ninny with name redacted] did indicate that he was willing to work through the “huge pain” and continue to make his way into Cambridge and Boston.

Unlike [third ninny with name redacted]:

“I doubt I’ll be taking public transportation anymore,” she said. “I don’t want to have to deal with crowded buses and traffic congestion. It’s too bad.”

Well, [third ninny with name redacted], I just want to point out to you that, on weekends, the subways can be very crowded, so the buses won’t be all that different. And there’s not a lot of traffic congestion between Davis and Harvard Squares on weekends, either. IMHO.

But if you want to punish public transportation by not taking it, well, knock yourself out!

To their credit, the Tufts student newspaper acknowledged that upgrading the tracks was not a bad thing, even though they decried that the announcement of the weekend T closures gave only two weeks notice. (Just how much advance notice does one need? Certainly, if you have a day or two in advance you can adjust your schedule so that you leave a few minutes early to account for the fact that the buses will go a bit slower, and take a bit more time, than the T would. Maybe Tufts kids these days are so tightly scheduled that we require this info months in advance. I see an iPhone app coming up…)

Meanwhile, assuming that they are able to come to closure with the closures, [ninny with name redacted], [second ninny with name redacted], and [third ninny with name redacted] will certainly have stories to tell their children and grandchildren. Tales of the Great Red Line Station Closures of The Winter of 2011-2112, when for five entire months they had to – get this – take a shuttle bus between Davis and Harvard Square.

Kids these days, I’m quite sure the ninnies will be telling their children and grandchildren, they have it so darned easy.

Oh, the humanity!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Every once in a while, I come across something that leads me to believe that humankind is going to survive the current malaise and meshugas.

That most recent something was an article I saw a couple of weeks back on The Boston Globe web site, when it was still free. (This content is no longer available unless you’re a subscriber. Sigh!)

The article was about a group of Cambridge twenty-somethings who, a couple of years ago, established the Awesome Foundation, which is committed to “forwarding the interest of Awesome in the universe, $1,000 at a time.”

It’s not actually a foundation-foundation, like The Ford, or The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur, or The Rockefeller. It’s not sitting on a big endowment, and passing out big checks. It doesn’t sponsor anything on NPR. What it does award is small amounts to help fund small ideas. Not so much a genius grant, as an ingenious grant.

It works like this: Ten trustees each kick in $100 a month, and together they review the submissions - the original chapter, now known as the Boston chapter, reviewed more than 130 for August - and the winner is given $1,000 for the project, with no strings attached.

As of this writing, they’re down to two awesome ideas for their latest grant, two finalists weeded out from 100+ submissions:

… a woman who wanted to buy a couple of goats to rent out as urban lawnmowers, and a sculptor who could “no longer make a case’’ for sculpture and instead wanted to buy a portable welder so he could go around and fix his city.

Goats are awesome, and all, but they do leave scat, however neat and pellet-y. So my vote goes to the guy who wants to weld his town. (And I do hope he doesn’t give up on his sculpting.)

Of course, my vote doesn’t count, because I’m not (yet) awesome.

Since the Cambridge/Boston chapter was founded in 2009, 22 other Awesome Foundation chapters have been formed throughout the US and Canada, as well as in Berlin, Hamburg, London, Zurich, Melbourne, and Sydney.

Grants are awarded ‘no strings’, and follow these rather loosey-goosey, yet awesome, guidelines:

Awesome projects are not strictly defined, but tend to challenge and expand our understanding of our individual and communal potentials. They bring communities together, casting aside social inhibitions and boundaries for a moment. They spark an instant of joy and delight and inspire a long-term hope for a more awesome future.

As I always say, some are born awesome, some achieve awesomeness, and some have awesomeness thrust upon ‘em.

Sure, I was born awesome – aren’t we all? But that was then and this is now.

What I wonder is whether it’s too late to achieve awesomeness or have it thrust upon me.

I don’t actually have any awesome ideas to offer.

But does anyone out there want to join forces, throw in a hundred bucks a month, and achieve us some awesomeness by throwing a bit of cash at some folks who do?  We could call it the getting old geezers chapter.

Awesome, no?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I HATE when that happens

Well, yesterday I managed to post not one, but two – count ‘em – two PinkSlip-pers, which is, quite honestly, one too many. This is true for my readers, I’m sure – only so much time over that morning coffee – but it’s also true for the writer. Especially when I am staring down more than a few writing projects that I’m actually being paid for. Unlike this labor of, ah, love.

Anyway, today’s post – which was really meant to be the one about cracking your teeth on nuts, which was erroneously released yesterday, right on top of the post on Dr Pepper’s hideous new marketing campaign – is going to be a pictorial celebration of the season.

Beacon Hill, where I live, is a lot of fun on Halloween.

There are quite a few people with small children in the neighborhood. The streets are dark and spookily lit with old fashioned (and just plain old-old) gas lamps. And lots of people get into the spirit by decorating their houses.

While walking down Mt. Vernon Street the other day, I passed a house that had these wonderful little sock monkeys in its windows.

Admittedly, these are a bit hard fully appreciate, but you will nonetheless get the picture, as I present to you, straight from my Blackberry to your eyeballs. I give you Sock Monkey 1, Sock Monkey 2, and Sock Monkey 3.

Monkey 2

Monkey 1Monkey 3

I so covet that Dracula…

This post is dedicated to my sister Trish, for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who knows her.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Some times you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t

Many years ago – if memory serves, and, mostly, it still does (kine-ahora) – the comedian Dick Gregory announced that he was a fruitarian, subsisting on fruit and nuts alone.

Now, much as I love fruit and nuts, I am not likely to go as far as fruitarianism. But it is quite easy for me to envision life as a vegetarian. Especially when I think about animal slaughter, chicken factories, and Mad Cow Disease. I am, more or less, something of a house-vegetarian, anyway. I eat meat when I go out, but seldom around that house.  There are definitely things I’d miss by going veggie: a hamburger, bacon, and chicken paprikash.

Fruit and nuts are definitely staples of my diet, however, and I always have some of both on hand. Sure those nuts are fattening – what isn’t? – but eating them feels healthy, wholesome, almost virtuous. They’re renewable. Don’t create green-house gases. And rounding them up doesn’t require the intervention of Temple Grandin. Nuts  - pistachios, walnuts, peanuts, almonds, cashews - are tasty and satisfying, and munching on them is a real treat. Especially almonds.

But now, alas, we are being warned off of them by the dental biz – or at least one dentist, Shrewsbury, Mass.’s Gerald Berenson, who has noted  “a  ‘mini epidemic’ of almond-driven problems.”

"I have been seeing and treating an unusual number of emergency patients a week due to fractured teeth, cracked teeth, very sensitive teeth as well as temporal mandibular disorders," he wrote in an email "After diagnosing each patient I have found a common denominator: ALMONDS." (Source:

Well, I’m no stranger to cracked teeth, but I’ve never suffered from an almond-related incident. Make that ALMOND-related incident.

I did once crack a back tooth while chomping on a cashew. Naturally, it was the evening before the Fourth of July, when the Fourth gloriously fell on a Friday, giving everyone – including dentists – a long weekend. I spent the entire weekend on the edge of panic. I got one of those dental emergency kits, and fixed up some kind of wax tooth thing, but my tongue couldn’t resist prodding “it” all weekend. I couldn’t get to the dentist fast enough on Monday a.m.

Ah, baby’s first cap!

I was already the owner of chipped front teeth, but those chips had nothing to do with nut-eating. And everything to do with teeth-as-handy-dandy-all-purpose-tool.

While backpacking in Europe – I believe I was on a remote island in Greece – one of the wire coils that secured my backpack’s belt to the pack’s frame came uncoiled. I didn’t happen to have a pair of pliers on me, but I did have those handy-dandy front teeth available. I did manage to close the coil but, alas, not without chipping my front teeth.

Over the years, I managed to further the damage by my inability to resist using those chipped teeth to cut thread, nibble on cuticles, and unscrew bottle tops. None of which did my teeth any good.

Over the years, my dentist tried bonding, but the bonding never lasted all that long. Probably because I couldn’t resist using those teeth to cut thread, nibble on cuticles, and unscrew bottle tops. Underneath that bonding there was, apparently, a chipped tooth crying to get out.

The final straw came when, after being flooded out of our home by a burst pipe, my husband and I spent a month living in a hotel. While in the shower one morning, I couldn’t get that little bottle of shampoo opened. Fortunately, I had those teeth with me.

I got that bottle open, but not without chipping my teeth further than they’d been chipped in their whole entire little old lives. I looked like the sister of one of the Dead End Kids.

I got me to my dentist, where I confessed my foolish deed. He just laughed and told me that I was one of the few patients he had who ‘fessed up to how they’d chipped their teeth. Most of them, apparently, claimed that they didn’t know, never knew, couldn’t remember.

My chipped teeth getting chippier, I elected to bite the bullet – metaphorically, anyway – and get dental veneers. Eight thousand dollars later, my four top front teeth were just bee-yoo-ti-ful.

Although I don’t think I could chip these suckers, at $2K per I’m not taking any chances. Not only do I not – or 99.99% of the time not – use my teeth as implements, I also warn everyone I see using their teeth as such about the perils of such folly.

But I have not stopped – and don’t plan to stop – eating almonds.

I like them as a snack. I like them in a salad. I like them in green beans. And I like them whole, rather than the dental recommended slivered or sliced, although I admit that slivered or sliced almonds have their purposes. (E.g., in green beans.)

I like almonds in candy bars, and wish that Peter Paul would make an Almond Joy version of its Mounds: dark chocolate avec almond.

Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. But I almost always feel like a nut. Chipped teeth, be damned!

Dr Pepper Mans Up? Talk about malpractice…

In truth, I really don’t have much of an idea what Dr Pepper tastes like, but on my mind’s tongue it’s a ghastly combination of liquid shoe polish, sicky-sweet something or other, and Moxie, New England’s own original hair-on-your-chest, disgusting tasting “soda”.  I suspect, however, that, given the popularity of Dr Pepper, the operative attribute of the three that I imagine is sicky-sweet.

But the promotion for the new Dr Pepper 10 is decidedly of the hair-on-your-chest variety. Dr Pepper 10 positioning? “It’s not for women.”

…the soda comes in a gunmetal can decorated with bullets; its advertisements include snake wrestlers and laser guns; and on its Facebook page you can visit a digital shooting gallery where you take aim at female products—lipstick, high heels, etc. (Source: The Daily Beast.)

Shooting gallery? Taking aim at female products?

I’m fine with marketing a product aimed (ahem) men, but do they really need to encourage their target (ahem) demographic, which I presume is teen-aged boys and “failure to launch” twenty-somethings who’ve never been on a date, to shoot at things associated with women?

There are plenty of male-ish things that wouldn’t involve shooting proxies for the female of the species. Think cars, trucks, motor cycles, cigarette boats, football, lumberjacks, boxing, stags, and garbage men. And that’s just for starters.

Wouldn’t it be kinder, and gentler, to take the Irish Spring approach.

You remember: “Manly, yes, but I like it, too.”

Admittedly, Dr Pepper is doing some clever marketing around Dr Pepper 10, given that this sort of campaign is quite naturally going to stir up some controversy and, thus, that most potent of marketing lures: going viral, which we used to call free publicity.

Some Moses in their advertising agency apparently went up the mountain and was handed down the tablets containing Dr Pepper’s Ten Man’Ments for using social media.

If it’s not exploding, it’s not exciting.

Kissy faces are never manly.

Unless it’s battle armour and you have a gigantic sword and/or small bazooka.

Exceptions made for beasts fighting to the death and bears destroying idyllic picnic scenes.

That is all.


Real men eat lunch, not tweet it.

We know you were there.

(Oops…I do that all the time!)

baby and/or imaginary friend.

Not the wittiest thing I’ve ever come across. And certainlyl pandering to the old stereotypes. (Am I the only one who can hear someone in the target demographic calling his buddy a ‘fag’ for sharing his horoscope.’ But a notch above Hee-Haw. I guess.

By the way, I found these on a blog called American Soda, tag line: “The Real Taste of America in Europe.” Wow! Talk about carving out a niche for your blogging self. I’m not 100% certain, but I believe that the unbolded words are American Soda’s commentary, not Dr Pepper’s.

Anyway, I had to borrow the Man’Ments from a secondary source because  access to the ur source – Dr Pepper on Facebook – required my “liking it.” LOL, as they say. I am so completely unwilling to “like” this, lest someone visiting my underused, don’t give it a second thought FB entry might think that I actually liked Dr Pepper, and had gotten sucked into their nefarious going viral marketing scheme. Which I so definitely have not!

Okay, who am I to talk? I’m blogging about it. But isn’t it amazing that 10-million plus and counting Facebook-ers have Liked Dr Pepper. And that hundreds are commenting pro and con on their wall. Citizen marketers, indeed.

You got your bread, you got your circus, and now you got your Dr Pepper Facebook wall where you can posit your own personal everlasting thumbs up or thumbs down. And the road to total immersion citizen-as-consumer continues apace.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if the good Dr sells much 10, or this ends up being another Coke Classic.

A clink of a Moxie bottle to my sister Kath for pointing this story out to me.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Baby Boomer on Board*

Hey, I’m all for ways in which the Commonwealth of Massachusetts can extract a few coins by taxing or charging for purely discretionary things. Like taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. And - once I get past weighing the morality of duping people who can ill afford $10 scratch tickets vs. giving people some hope that they, too, can get rich quick – even the lottery.

But I’m not wild about special-interest license plates, mainly because I like each state having its own unique, instantly recognizable license plate. Not that Massachusetts has ever had anything particularly memorable or interesting. Massachusetts’ state-plate boringness aside, I like that instant recognition thing you used to get when you saw the Wyoming cowboy on the bucking bronco, or Maine’s lobster (much better, IMHO, than the nuthatch-on-pine cone or the duck).

Anyway, Massachusetts has a new license plate trick up its sleeve.

Sarah Peake, a state rep from P-town, is proposing that the state issue a special plate, “commemorating” the Baby Boom generation as a means to raise money to defray the cost of the elder services we’ll be sucking up and down once we retire.

Personally, this doesn’t exactly make me want to run out and buy myself (another) Beetle. Or a little GTO. Or a Mustang, Sally. Or a fun, fun, fun T-Bird. (Maybe an Edsel…) If nothing else, who wants to be the butt of all the anti-Boomer nastiness that will be floating around if and when The Commonwealth announces a contest soliciting ideas for what should be on the plate?

On the other hand, I just might enter that contest. After all, the possibilities are nearly as endless as the wave of squalling Boomers produced between 1946 and 1964.  (Note to classifiers: I bet there’s not a person alive born after 1960 who would characterize himself or herself as a Baby Boomer. Just sayin’…)

And speaking of Baby Boomers, it’s not just those post-1960 tail-enders who experienced a different Boom than the the rest of this vast cohort. In fact, the Baby Boomer demographic is so huge, so longitudinally and latitudinally diverse, that it’s pretty much impossible to throw us all into one bucket.

For everyone who crossed the border into Canada to evade the draft, there was someone worrying about whether he was coming back from ‘Nam in a body bag.  For every nascent feminist refusing to shave her legs, there was someone poring over Brides Magazine and planning the perfect wedding. For everyone who inhaled (or not) there was an Animal House keg-meister. For every privileged sorority girl there was someone working her way through a community college and someone else joining the steno pool right out of high school.

My sister Trish is ten years younger than I am. I didn’t go to Woodstock; she didn’t go to Studio 54.

With the caveat that no one thing will represent all of us Boomer, I will put some license plate suggestions out there. Let’s see:

Howdy Doody, Mouseketeer Ears, Davey Crockett caps, Converse High-Tops,  Bucky Beaver. Or the Crest kid: Look, Ma! No cavities!

Ed Sullivan introducing Elvis. (No, he wasn’t one of us, but we all knew who he was. That goes for Ed Sullivan and Elvis.)

A bicycle with baseball cards clipped to the wheels with clothespins. A roller-skate key. A Tiny Tears doll. A Slinky. Clue.

Plaid (or Lassie) lunch-box.

Kids doing duck-and-cover.

A family with a bunch of kids having a picnic on Dad’s old Army/Navy/Marines blanket. (Ours was a Navy blanket: cream with a navy blue stripe across the top.) Mom = Donna Reed. Dad = Ward Cleaver, or Jim Anderson (even though his kids, other than Kitten, weren’t exactly Baby Boomers. Unlike Wally and The Beave.)

A bunch of women pushing baby carriages, toddler hanging on to her skirt. All the women = Donna Reed.

Even though it’s not in Massachusetts, an overhead shot of Levittown.

Or a shot of a block full of 1950’s, VA mortgage, ticky-tacky houses – each with a colossal TV antenna tethered to the roof.

Pinky Lee in a duel with Soupy Sales. (Soupy wins. He was cool.)

A Tricker Treater going out as a beatnik or Fidel Castro.

Fast forward a few years. The license plate could feature surfer jams. Penny loafers. Madras. Circle pins. Ed Sullivan introducing the Beach Boys.

A stack of LP’s. A bunch of girls hanging around with their hair in rollers.

Keep going:

Ed Sullivan introducing the Beatles. Ed Sullivan introducing the Stones.

A plastic wheel containing a month’s supply of The Pill.

‘Don’t trust anyone over 30.’ (Those were the days!)

A marijuana leaf and the motto, ‘Don’t bogart that joint, my friend.’

A Yellow Submarine.

The poster from Woodstock.

The Peace Sign. (And you kids think you invented chuck a deuce.)

A Medevac chopper saving (hopefully) some grunt.

A burning draft card. A burning bra.

I’ve got it.

Given what I anticipate will be a tremendous reluctance on the part of our cohort to pass from the stage, and journey on to the Great Be-In In the Sky, how about:

Hell, no, we won’t go!

And remember, the medium is not necessarily the message.


*Honestly: I really did think of this post title before I saw the article on

Friday, October 21, 2011

Not exactly the teddy bears’ picnic

And it’s not exactly Born Free, either.

The other day, in Zanesville, Ohio, an exceedingly disturbed and disturbingly malevolent man, Terry Thompson,  killed himself. But not before freeing the animals that he’d kept in what has been described as “abominable” conditions – something of a concentration camp for animals. Predictably (and, frankly, understandably), folks went into panic mode at the idea that lions, and tigers, and bears (oh, my) were loosed upon the land. Schools were closed, Amber Alert-style signs went up on the highways, and the local authorities went on a big game hunt.

The result? Dozens of animals have been killed, including 18 Bengal tigers and 17 lions. Several were captured alive and two, as of this writing – a monkey and a wolf – are still at large. (My guess is that wolf is in Canada by now. I’m rooting for it. As for the monkey, it’s possibly diseased, so it might be for the best – think Outbreak – if  it met its demise.)

The carnage at the farm was just horrific, and the trigger-finger cops are coming in for quite a bit of criticism for shooting to kill, not to tranquilize. (The police claim that if they’d tranquilized, the animals could have taken off before the drug kicked in, and they wouldn’t have been able to track them down, what with the encroaching darkness.)

Whether greater effort should have gone into saving, rather than eliminating, these animals, will no doubt be the subject of quite a debate. Too late for the poor, slaughtered animals, but it sounds like, for the most part, they were being put out of their misery. What Bengal tiger would choose to spend its days in a rundown animal park that didn’t exactly replicate its natural habitat? What lion elects to leave the veldt for a filthy farm in Zanesville, Ohio?

Poor things!

The wild-animal farm in which they lived out their unnatural, truncated lives wasn’t run as a business venture, but, rather, was just maintained for the particular entertainment and delight of the owner, Terry Thompson, who:

…had a history of animal abuse, according to Larry Hostetler, an animal welfare expert who knew him…Hostetler, executive director of the Muskingum County Animal Shelter, had charged Thompson's farm with animal neglect and mistreatment. Thompson liked to show off the animals he'd collected on his 50-acre farm, with a roster that has included animals such as a camel, a giraffe and a panther.

But he never sold tickets to the event, or entertained Zanesville tourists with his mistreated attractions. His interest was deeply personal, and according to Hostetler, deeply unhealthy. Thompson had been ejected from pet fairs in the past for bringing bear cubs to events, and the people he hired were often let go after they challenged him on his care of the abused and dangerous creatures.

Source: IB Times.

In any case, there is not one reason I can think of that a private individual should be able to “own” even one wild animal – think of the poor woman whose face was ripped off by the adult chimpanzee owned by a friend of hers – let alone keep dozens of them in unregulated squalor.

One thing to be living in decent wild animal parks and zoos. Not that this is an optimal setting, but with mankind encroaching on so many habitats, zoos do serve the function of preserving some magnificent species – like the Bengal tiger. And at least if you’re a cheetah loping around the San Diego Wild Animal Park you’re in a setting that has most, if not all, of the comforts of home.

But for every San Diego Zoo, there’s probably some hideous, half-baked place like Thompson’s, run by people who don’t know what they’re doing and/or who are exploiting and maltreating their animals and/or who are nuts. There are plenty of hobbies, and plenty of ways to make a living, that don’t involve treating animals shabbily.

Whatever you think about regulation, I’d say this is an area where there ought to be plenty. But, 

Ohio has some of the nation's weakest restrictions on exotic pets and among the highest number of injuries and deaths caused by them…On Wednesday, the Humane Society of the United States criticized Gov. John Kasich for allowing a statewide ban on the buying and selling of exotic pets to expire in April. The organization urged the state to immediately issue emergency restrictions. (,)

Sometimes there really oughta be a law!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Quitting with a grandstand play

Who among us hasn’t harbored the fantasy of quitting a job with a BIG, BOLD gesture? Who hasn’t wanted to sweep into their manager’s office, deliver an FU on a platter, and sweep out – all to the silent eye-applause of our approving co-workers? Who hasn’t felt the urge to belt out the opening lines to Take This Job and Shove It, grab their hat, and head for the door?

But what holds us back is that reluctance to burn a bridge, even if it seems like a bridge to nowhere. The niggling sense that what goes around may very well come around. The realization that it’s as much about the job being a bad fit, and about it’s being your time to go, as it is about the a-hole boss and the crappy working conditions.

None of these restraints seem to have harnessed the “I quit” energy of one Joey DeFrancesco, who left his job as a room service waiter at a Providence Hotel by delivering his notice while accompanied by a marching band. And, of course, lest any deed – good bad or indifferent – go unshared, someone recording the event for upload to YouTube.

Now, I have no doubt that the hotel job that DeFrancesco quit so colorfully after 3+ years was not a great one, and certainly not one that this Rhode Island College graduate wanted to spend the rest of his life doing. And it’s entirely possible that the person he reported to was a jerk of the highest order.

Still, showing up the boss, and recording and posting the show-up show-down, suggests that DeFrancesco himself may be harboring a bit of the high-order jerk himself.

Joey Quits

As the video shows – be patient: it’s nearly two-minutes in -  the boss is not exactly  thrilled to see Joey and his pals.

DeFrancesco, clearly relishing the moment, hands over his letter of resignation, which the boss declines to take. DeFrancesco drops it at his feet.

"I'm here to tell you that I'm quitting," DeFrancesco says with a smile.

And with that, the band kicks in, marching out of the hotel with stadium-like fanfare. DeFrancesco walks away with his hands aloft like a champion.

Ah, yes, “…aloft like a champion.”

That is until some new, potential employer becomes the 2-millionth person to view this – the count is already over 1 million – and decides not to take a chance on someone who’s this much of a grandstander. For what Joey may fail to appreciate – he is, after all, only 23 – is that, while every oppressed worker in the whole, wide, world may applaud this gesture, the people who do the hiring tend to be, well, managers. And as much of a jerk as your ex-boss may have been to you, a fellow manager might well pause and reflect on how embarrassed he’d be if some grandstanding, narcissistic jerk did this to him.

Anyway, DeFrancesco claims not to have anticipated the video going viral:

"I thought it would just embarrass the boss, but now it's all over the world and it's insane," he says. DeFrancesco says he's been contacted by various television news outlets -- and earlier this week he wound up being interviewed by a German newspaper about the state of American unions. [The hotel workers had recently unionized, in what was a rather acrimonious battle.]

Oh, come on. Does anyone put a provocative video out on YouTube and not secretly hope that it goes viral, and they end up in “various television outlets”?

Wonder what he’s looking for: Someone optioning this for a movie treatment? Publicity for his band? A book contract? A reality TV-show bid. (He’s a good looking kid. Is Jersey Shore still on?)

Okay. Maybe all he wanted was to have the last word with his putz of a boss.

In the old days, even if someone had brought in a marching band, it would have been a point-of-contact, in-the-moment incident that lived on in hotel lore for generations. I can guarantee that within 24 hours, every hotel worker in the state would have heard about this. But it would have been done without having that putz of a boss (who may be Simon Legree, or just some schnook with the less than glamorous, less than lucrative job as night manager of a hotel in Providence) made into such an object of public derision for all the world to see. (“Hey, I saw your dad on YouTube. Is he really a jerk that everybody hates?”)

Oh, Joey, Joey, Joey. I’m glad your got that new job that’s letting your use your history degree. But I can’t help but feeling that, at some point in your life, you may actually live to regret this.

You’re not Michael Moore, and this ain’t Roger and Me. Your ex-boss may have been a tyrant, but he’s not The Man. He wasn’t – until you made him one – a public figure.

This could come back to haunt you in any number of ways, including waking up some morning and feeling bad that you’d pulled this stunt.

Meanwhile, you’re 23 years old. Time to drop the “y” in Joey and start going by Joe.

Source: Huffington Post.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Age is only a number? The actress “Jane Doe” thinks not.

Jane Doe – a nom d’suit – is going after Amazon, seeking $1 million in punitive damages, because her age was revealed on IMDb, the movie database which Amazon owns. Worse than revealing the terrible truth – Lordy, Lordy, Jane Doe’s turning 40 – IMDb refused to remove the year-of-birth when asked to do so. (Info source:

Being sensitive about your age is an interesting thing, and I’m not going to get up on my high horse and say that everyone should be completely open about their age. That age is only a number. It doesn’t really matter. And all that other Life Begins at 40, 60 is the new 30, etc. blather that we’re being fed.

For one thing, at my advanced age, I am just barely capable of mounting a high horse, even if it’s a non-piston, static one on a merry-go-round.

For another, age discrimination has moved beyond the realm of ‘dirty little secret’ to pretty much a way of life, especially in some professions and industries. And I would have to say that high-tech marketing is probably one of them.

That said, I’m still working regularly, and have a good number of clients I can count on to call on me when they have product marketing writing needs. So, lucky me.

But I don’t think things would be quite as cheery if I were looking for a full-time job (other than, conceivably, as a staff writer/editor, if there were any such position). I’m about 100% certain that if I were seeking a position as a VP of Marketing – a job I have held – my résumé would be laughed out of its PDF. And not just because I’ve been on my own for the past seven years.

Even though I’ve kept up with what’s current in marketing – I’ve authored an ebook on product marketing, I blog (for myself and clients), I’ve co-authored an article on social media,  I’ve consulted on social media strategy, I’ve written tweets for a couple of clients, etc. (About that tweeting: Exceptional fun to work in such a short form. I have avoiding Twitter for personal reasons because I figure I’d become an addict.)

Anyway, at a certain point, in certain careers, someone’s going to look at the “best if used by” date stamped on the lid of the can and take a pass on you.

In my own case, with my clients, I don’t advertise how old I am. Let people think whatever they want, and let me keep kidding myself that, thanks to having inherited my mother’s skin, I don’t look my age. But I don’t hide how old I am either. A couple of my clients, who are also friends, came to my 60th birthday party, which is now coming up on 2 years in the rear view mirror. I talk openly about things I did/read/watched on TV/experienced 40 or even 50 years ago or even 50+ years ago.

But when, back at my BIG 6-0 birthday time, someone at one of my clients mentioned that my friend had told her that I had a major milestone birthday coming up, it made me nervous. I didn’t mind my friend knowing, and I didn’t mind this woman knowing, either. But I just didn’t want it getting around. (“OMG. She’s 60 and still working! OMG”)

After all, I’d been to a marketing off-site there a year prior, and, by my estimate, there were two – count ‘em – two other people over the age of 40 in attendance. Both women. And both let go since the off-site. One was the CMO, the other was a marketing staff writer. (So much for my assumption that I can get work as a staff writer…)

Still, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how old someone is, plus or minus: you mention where you went to school or grew up, someone asks you if you knew so and so, there’s only so much age-veiling you can do on your résumé to begin with, etc.

Let alone if you have some type of public persona, like an actress might have.

I have true sympathy for the Jane Doe suing Amazon. If ageism is rampant in high tech marketing, I can only imagine what it’s like in the acting biz if you haven’t achieved Meryl Streep-ness by the time you’re 30. Which Jane Doe clearly hasn’t.

"If one is perceived to be `over-the-hill,' i.e., approaching 40, it is nearly impossible for an up-and-coming actress, such as the plaintiff, to get work as she is thought to have less of an `upside,' therefore, casting directors, producers, directors, agents-manager, etc. do not give her the same opportunities, regardless of her appearance or talent," the lawsuit states.

No doubt in my mind that there are some movie types who will reject her outright because of her age. But, given the Hollywood love affair with the young (especially when it comes to the female of the species), it’s hard to see that someone “approaching 40” is an “up-and-coming actress” to begin with. I’m assuming here that this actress does not have a huge list of film credits to her name, which places the probability of her “making it” really big on the low side.

I laud someone for still trying at this point, but there is some point at which “all the stars, that never were, are parking cars and pumping gas.” (As is clear from that “pumping gas”, this line was penned in pre-self serve way back. Which it was – 1968 – when it was sung by Dionne Warwick in the catchy shower tune, Do You Know the Way to San Jose?)

There are some professions where you can be up-and-coming in your 40’s – politician, for one – but acting isn’t one of them, unless you’re the character actor type. (In which case, you’ve probably been at it for years, trying to be a non-character actor type, until you finally give up and get discovered.)

Jane Doe apparently has a double-whammy going for her:

While she loses opportunities because of her age, she's also missing work because of her youthful appearance, the lawsuit says.

"Plaintiff has experience rejection in the industry for each "40-year-old" role for which she has interviewed because she does not and cannot physically portray the role of a 40-year-old woman," the lawsuit says.

Methinks that, just as I’m no doubt kidding myself that I look a lot younger than 61.10, Jane Doe may be kidding herself a bit here, too. Despite fitness and assistive surgery, she’s probably a tad too knowing-eyed and long-in-the-tooth to do ingénue. But given how ageist/sexist Hollywood is, she may look way too young for the current idea of what 40 looks like, which is probably a quasi-crone.

I read elsewhere (ABC blog) that Jane Doe thinks IMDb somehow got her date of birth from a credit card transaction she made that had something to do with upgrading to the professional version of IMDb. (I’m happy with the amateur one that lets me see who besides Kirk Douglas said “I’m Spartacus.”)

The suit alleges that IMDbPro “intercepts credit card information obtained during the subscription process for the purposes of gathering information about its subscribers” and further “both defendants are fully aware of the information-gathering, storing and usage process and have done nothing to stop the unlawful and wrong practices.”

Calling the practice “unfair, immoral and unscrupulous”, Jane Doe’s Seattle-based lawyers are asking for a jury trial and $1 million in punitive damages. owns IMDb and both companies are named in the lawsuit.

I have no idea how IMDb operates, but in this day and age, in probably wouldn’t take a super-sleuth to spend a few minutes twiddling around on Google to find out the age of someone who was at all a public figure. Maybe someone boasted on Facebook that they’d gone to high school with her, but hadn’t seen her at last year’s 20th reunion.

When it comes to your YOB you may want things to be MYOB, but that’s probably not going to be the case.

Meanwhile, with all the publicity around this law suit – and all the hints – Jane Doe is from Texas, Jane Doe is of Asian heritage, Jane Doe has an Americanized name (e.g., Jane Doe), Jane Doe is almost 40 – it’s only a matter of time before she gets outed.

Surely, it would have been nice of IMDb to remove Jane’s birthdate when she asked. But if this information can at all be gotten publically – and I expect that when the discovery phase sets in, Amazon discover-ers in India will be googling madly – well, what are you going to do?

Yes, we should all be careful about age-ism (which can and does, of course, go both ways), and all the other isms that hold both the ism-ers and the ism-ees back.

But, sorry, Jane Doe, we’re living in the all-information-all-the-time world.

Privacy? What’s that?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

If we just stick a smiley face on that, maybe no one will notice…

There was an amusing little article in The Economist a few weeks back about South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s ordering state employees to answer the phone “It’s a great day in South Carolina. How may I help you?”

Ms. Haley says the new greeting will boost the morale of state workers and help her to sell the state. “It’s part of who I am,” she declares. “As hokey as some people may think it is, I’m selling South Carolina as this great, new, positive state that everybody needs to look at.”

Needless to say the blogosphere went bonkers. One wag suggested this alternative:

“Thank you for calling South Carolina where unemployment is high, morale is low and political leaders are very busy wasting your resources. How may I direct your call?”

First off, it never ceases to amaze me just what senior executives think will boost morale.

I worked one year over Christmas at State Mutual Insurance. My job, as I recall, was typing the letter “B” onto forms all day. I worked in a pod of “girls”, overseen by a mom-aged woman named Ginny.

A few days before the holiday, we were given the approximate time slot when the company’s president would be on our floor to issue his annual Christmas greeting. A few minutes before Mr. Big arrived, one of his lackeys stuck his head into our area and told us to be on the alert. Ginny told us all to sit up straight and look at the entrance (a space between two giant file cabinets – the ones that held all those forms I was typing the letter “B” onto).

Mr. Big came into sight, raised his hand in a quasi-wave, and, without making eye contact with anyone, called out, “Merry Christmas girls.”

And we all, quite naturally, responded, “Merry Christmas to you, too, Mr. Big.”

But we didn’t quite get the words out before he had disappeared, moving on to the next pod on our aisle.

All the “girls” started to snigger, which peeved Ginny a bit.

“He doesn’t have to do that, you know,” she told us.

Too bad we didn’t have the expression ‘like, duh” back in the day.

Now, I’m sure it wasn’t much fun for Mr. Big to have to trek around a very large office building that probably housed over a thousand workers, but wouldn’t it have been better to do something like hold floor meetings, where we could all crowd around and get a little canned speech about what a great year we’d had? With cookies. And maybe have us ask a question or two.

Hey, I was just there for a couple of weeks, and didn’t have any morale problem that wouldn’t be cured by going back to school and not having to sit on a steno chair 8 hours a day typing the letter “B” onto an insurance form. Still…

Fast forward a decade or so, and I was working at Wang Labs.

And so it was Christmas…

The tradition at Wang had been to have each department host a Christmas party – family invited – on Christmas Eve morning. And then informally dismiss everyone at noon, without forcing them to take a half-day off. It was quite a nice little tradition. I was only at Wang a couple of years, but it was fun to see everyone’s kids, and have our VP dress up like Santa and give them all some little gift.

Then the new president blew into Lowell.

A week before Christmas a “holiday greeting” memo came out that tersely informed us that Christmas Eve was a full work day, and that anyone who planned on leaving even an hour early should put in a vacation request. And, by the way, you can keep those rug rats at home where they belong.

To make up for this, we were all offered a free turkey dinner from the caf, served up by our senior execs, wearing Santa hats.

Peace on earth and morale boost toward men!

And the Wang Christmas gala was by no means the last of the bogus morale enhancing/employee thank-yous/etc. that I lived through. (I could write a book…)

How is it that, so often, those in high places can’t see that the only way to have good morale is to a) provide decent working conditions; b) communicate honestly and openly with employee – and I’m talking two-way communication here; and c) THIS IS THE REALLY IMPORTANT ONE: either succeed at what you’re doing (yay, us!) or have a reasonably clear and actionable plan for achieving success (let’s go, team!).

I suspect that “It’s a great day in South Carolina. How may I help you?” is not going to improve state worker morale, or make South Carolina a better place to work or do business. (Plus, it’s a mouthful. People in South Carolina are no doubt a lot more patient than people in Massachusetts, but who wants to hear all that jibber-jabber when they’re calling about a missing tax refund. Wouldn’t you rather hear a pleasant voice telling you you’d reached the state tax division.  As someone commented on a blog I read on this, the greeting sounds like you’ve reached a recording, not a human. Which may, actually, be Ms. Haley’s goal. Humans, after all, cost money and have morale issues.)

In terms of the hokey-hype, the truth about South Carolina is that it ranks pretty low in things that matter, like health and educational attainment. And high in things that matter in the other direction, like unemployment.

It may be a great day in South Carolina if you can afford to live in a pristine 200 year old restored home in Charleston. It may be a great day in South Carolina if you can afford to retire to Hilton Head and play golf every day. It may be a great day in South Carolina if you like barbecue. It may be a great day in South Carolina if you want to re-lo your business to a place where you can get away with paying sub-standard wages.

Other than that….

Naturally, it got me thinking about what the reaction would be if our governor ordered Massachusetts state employees to use a similar greeting. Talk about the entire population of the state playing ROTFLMAO.

The entire state infrastructure would be brought down as everyone logged onto their local “newspaper” to start flaming.

If the order did go through, they’d have to have an intermediary step, however.

Press 1, if you want to hear positive things about the state – like educational attainment, health, and unemployment rate. Press 2, if you can’t stand the fact that this is a pretty good place to live and want to hear only about real or imagined negatives. (“It’s another miserable day in Massachusetts – make that Taxachusetts – which has crappy weather and is run by a pack of socialists.”)

I would venture that the majority of people think that the place they live is pretty darned good. And certainly one would expect that Nicky Haley would love-love-love her state, as one would prefer a governor to do.

But this lame-o phone greeting? What was she thinking? (I don’t know what her background is. Maybe she never managed people.)

I read the article a few weeks back. The order has probably already been rescinded.

Meanwhile, I did find one measure in which South Carolina bested Massachusetts: lower instances of binge drinking.

Which might be in jeopardy if the order hasn’t been rescinded, and state workers have to run through that smiley-face of a greeting all day long.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Who’s wants to be the boss? Not many, apparently.

Well, today, you may be shocked and/or amused to learn, is National Boss Day.

Personally, I don’t recall ever receiving or sending a “Happy Boss Day” card, being taken out to lunch, taking anyone out to lunch, or otherwise feted on the Big Day.

In fact, if I even knew such a day existed, I had mercifully put it out of my mind. I’m sure there are other Hallmark holidays out there that are just as gacky as this one – National Prison Guard Day, National Hedge Fund Day – but being the boss is not something that, to my mind, bears celebrating. There’s no avoiding that element of sucking up, and that element of pressure if you happen to work in an environment where The Boss would expect something – and some brown-nosers would deliver.

Oh, I’m sure that there are some workplaces where the underlings want to recognize that their bosses are great. But the mental picture I have here is some petty tyrant in a white, short-sleeved shirt and too-wide tie, who has a plaque in his office that reads:

If you work for a man, in heavens name work for him!If he pays you wages that supply you your bread and butter, work for him speak well of him, think well of him, stand by him and stand by the institution he represents. I think if I worked for a man I would work for him. I would not work for him a part of the time, and the rest of the time work against him. I would give an undivided service or none. If put to the pinch, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness.  Elbert Hubbard

As a waitress, I actually worked for a man – who was known as The Boss – who had just such a plaque posted in the waitress break room. He was not a petty tyrant. He was a major tyrant: irrational, vicious, mean, and drunk. I do believe that at some point I removed said plaque from the break room wall and may, in fact, still have it in my possession.

Not that I advocate employees spending all their time badmouthing their boss and/or the place they work. If it’s that bad, and there’s no way to make it better, you need to get the hell out at some point. But if you work for a man who’s a major tyrant, there’s no way in hell you’re going to “think well of him.”

No, the Elbert Hubbard sentiments speak to a different world, in which employees and their managers had different relationships. (And when people had names like Elbert Hubbard.)

Like the 1950’s world inhabited by the woman, Patricia Haroski, who dreamed up the idea of Boss Day– quite sweetly – to honor her father, a State Farm Insurance man who was also her boss.

It certainly seems that, in this day and age, National Boss Day should have run its course. Today, the boss had better be more of a leader than a dictator. The role that needs to be played is no longer so much handing down orders as it is communicating what needs to be accomplished, helping (if needed) come up with ways to get those things accomplished, removing barriers when the pop up, acting as a sounding board and mentor when needed, etc. Oh, there’s still all that stuff like giving reviews, figuring out raises, putting names on the layoff list. But, at least if you’re in any of the places I’ve worked, being the boss is definitely not about command and control

There were actually a few things I liked about being The Boss. I liked mentoring. I liked problem solving. I liked getting out of someone’s way. I liked helping decipher the company strategy, and communicate it to “my folks.” I liked acting as the firebreak between irrational, fire drill requests from upper management. I liked it when someone told me that someone on my team did a great job. I liked providing opportunities for junior employees to get more visibility in the organization, if they wanted it.

The best managers I worked under did all of that, and more.

Interesting, the very best manager – in terms of how I was treated personally - that I ever had was someone who was incredibly controversial and widely disliked. If he took a dislike to you – and that could be for an entirely arbitrary reason (he thought one guy in our group looked like an SS officer) - well, look out.

But, for me, it worked. Especially since he was someone I could also sit down with and call-out if he treated someone miserably because, say, he thought they looked like an SS officer.

Anyway, there were other things I liked about being a manager. I liked getting invited to meetings I wouldn’t have gotten to go to if I hadn’t been The Boss. I liked knowing things early. I liked being known. I also liked getting paid and bonused to be a manager.

But managing is not all sweetness and light, and I hated dealing with problem children, with petty tensions. I hated when I had to perpetually look over someone’s shoulder, or intervene when they’d pulled some decidedly bone-headed move. hated when I had to tell someone, even if they were a poor performer, which was by no means always the case, that they no longer had a job.I hated the incessant bitching and complaining about who got paid more, who got more credit, who got better things to work on. I

I always had an open door policy, but some days I just wanted to barricade myself in a Safe Room

These days, I’m glad I’m no longer The Boss. Too much psychic energy needs to go into it…

(Funny, before I became a manager, I had a boss that I was quite fond of, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was that he did. In fact, my colleagues and I would some times scratch our heads and ask ‘what does Bill Z do all day?’ Only when I myself started managing did I figure it out…)

A lot of folks apparently feel the same way.

As I saw in an article on that cited a survey from OfficeTeam (part of Robert Half, the staffing company) that found that:

…76 percent of employees polled said they have no interest in having their boss’s job


…65 percent said that they didn’t think that they could do a better job than their boss.

This I find completely shocking! What red-blooded American worker doesn’t feel that they could do a better job than their boss. Certainly not many that I’ve ever known.

Maybe things have changed more substantially in the workplace since I was a pup. Maybe today’s workers actually do want to celebrate National Boss Day.

Which I will celebrate in my small way by saying that a number of my projects come from people who at one point in time reported to me. I used to tell them that I wanted them to be successful so that, when I wanted out, they’d hire me to do freelance work for them. Damned if it didn’t work out that way.Thanks, Boss!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Flabby, big-baby, whining, petulant players. Scheming, enabling, backstabbing, finger-pointing ownership. And to think that I used to actually be a Red Sox fan…

There is no dearth of logs being tossed onto the scorching funeral pyre of what was not so long ago The Greatest Baseball Team Ever. With plenty of those logs left over to be heaved into the maws of the outsized pot-belly stove that will heat up our rage during what will be a long and keenly experienced Hot Stove League. Fire it up, boys and girls, we’re heading into the first winter of our discontent since every last member of Red Sox Nation started grumbling online.

And what a grumble-rumble we’re having, as we still shake our heads over the ignominious and unprecedented fall from grace. This fall took them, over the month of September,  from a sure thing for post-season play (kabillion to one odds that they weren’t going to make it up until the last pitch was thrown)  to the epic fail that they unleashed upon us: the worst collapse in baseball since Abner Doubleday was a boy-o.

And this wasn’t a choke, mind you. It was more a matter of lackluster, lackadaisical, not really giving enough of a shit. Which is pretty amazing, given that you don’t get to be a professional athlete without having a fierce competitive streak. Maybe once you’ve signed that multi-year, Scott Borased, golden contract, and “they” can’t do anything about it other than eat it, a bit of that competitive fire dies down. (Pass the chicken wings, please.)

As it turns out, the pot-belly stove is an excellent image for this year’s Hot Stove League season, which we’re now in our virtual spring training for.

Pot-belly works so well because so many of our multi-million dollar pitchers decided that $15M per annum doesn’t buy quite what it used to. And what it doesn’t buy, apparently, is sitting in the dugout rooting your teammates on during a game when you’re not pitching. Baseball is boring, don’t you know. It’s much more fun hanging around the club house, sucking down cold ones, scarfing down fried chicken, playing some dumb-ass video game, and working on the pot-bellies that apparently eroded their overall fitness, stamina and ability to pitch when it was their day.

And then there are the team’s clueless owners/senior management who, until it was all revealed once the season was over and out, had nary an inkling that something was rotten out on Yawkey Way, and it wasn’t just the garbage pails full of gnawed on chicken bones. How inept was ownership? Here’s how: when Hurricane Irene was bearing down on New England, the team members were asked to OK canceling a Sunday game and playing a double-header on Friday. They – or some of them, at least – pitched a complete hissy fit. They were tired. They were achy. They were stressed.

Well, boo-feckin’-hoo: ain’t we all?

They were forced to play the game, and to make it all up to them, the owner bought them all $300 headphones, and invited them all out to a post-hurricane night o’ fun (long-necks and chicken wings, anyone?) on his yacht.

And of course, the latest is that the other “they” – the nefarious, backstabbing, finger-pointing owners – are rumored to have been trash talking manager Terry Francona. Not enough to just force him out of town – Francona quit the day after the season ended – they have to ply the press with all kinds of stuff about his personal life that is really none of our business.

Whether the owners are actually the ones responsible for the Trashing of Terry or not, the citizens of Red Sox Nation believe it to be so. And, sometimes, it’s not what’s true that matters; it’s what you believe to be true. (Here’s what I believe to be true: Terry Francona did a tremendous job with the Red Sox over the years, but his time had come. He is probably no longer the right horse for the course (coarse?) that the Red Sox have become. But, if I’m reading him correctly, he’s also a man of intelligence, dignity, decency,and good humor who in no way shape or form deserves to be treated shabbily.)

The owners, of course, also allowed Theo Epstein to leave the friendly confines of America’s Most Beloved Ballpark, for the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, which, it stands to reason, must be America’s Second Most Beloved Ballpark. For all the bad choices Theo made as GM – and there were some lulus, including the signing of John Lackey – he of the snarls, the beer swigging, the chicken chomping; he who it now seems may have been the bad companion that the nuns always warned us about (how else to account for little Johnny Lester turning into a bad guy?) -  who’s confirmed as the worst Red Sox pitcher ever (statistically speaking), and is about to be declared, by popular acclamation, the most hated Red Sox player in team history.

Or so I’ve heard.

Anyway, it’s now apparent that whoever said there’s no I in TEAM wasn’t aware of the 2011 Red Sox.

I’ve worked with malingerers, goldbrickers, back-stabbers, credit-grabbers, snakes, snarks, and snipers – fortunately, a finite and contained number that, in most cases (but certainly not all), got their comeuppance (i.e., at the first opportunity, they went to the head of the lay off list). May it be so with this year’s Red Sox. May the true rotters get their comeuppance. (I’d say let them sit on the bench and ride the bus with the Lowell Spinners for a while, but why give them the chance to inflict their poison on the bright-eyed, ass-busting kids trying to make it to The Show.)  May those who were just wooed astray by the rotters at least come to the self-realization that they conducted themselves like POS-es, and promise themselves (and us) that they won’t do it again.

I’ve also worked – directly and indirectly – under any number of leaping, screaming, flaming a-holes. Unfortunately, a far smaller proportion of them ever, ever, ever got their comeuppance. Which I suspect will be exactly what happens with principal owner John Henry et al.

Because, in truth, the only comeuppance that would likely matter to them would be hitting them in the pocketbook.

And that would mean that we – the citizens of the ingenious marketing construct that is Red Sox Nation – would have to pull some kind of Occupy Lansdowne Street maneuver. We’d have to stop buying tickets, stop subscribing to NESN, stop paying $7 for a cup of watered down hot chocolate as we sit freezing our butts off in the stands. Which is hard to do if, like me, you really and truly love watching baseball, and really and truly love seeing a game live at Fenway. (Embarrassing admission:I actually like singing “Sweet Caroline." But I’m no pink-hatter. I’ve been a fan for 50+ years, having seen my first live game in July 1960. Ted Williams hit a home run against the Indians. Terry Francona’s father, Tito, was in the outfield for Cleveland that night, as was, of all people, Jimmy Piersall.) I suppose I could forego that $7 hot chocolate…

Still, I’m hoping that this year, it’s easier to buy tickets than it has been since the magic year of 2004. I’m hoping I don’t have to spend 10 hours in the hell of the Virtual Waiting Room for the privilege of forking over $28 (plus $7.50 “convenience charge”) for bleacher tickets to see the Mariners. I’m hoping that there will be a nice, late spring day when I decide at the last moment that I want to go to a game, and I walk out to Fenway and buy my bleacher ticket at game time. So that I can watch some guys I really like – Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury et a few al. – play a game I thoroughly enjoy.

I’m hoping that everyone who attended games because it was the thing to do – all those pink-hatters – and who don’t know the difference between the infield fly rule and pulling the goalie, decide to stay home, leaving room for those of us who actually understand and like the game.

Next year is the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, and the owners – who are marketing geniuses, I’ll give them that – have been making a huge production out of it. All kinds of souvenirs, all kinds of hype. Until the September Collapse, and the follow-on revelations about abounding unsavory behavior, I had figured that it would be impossible to get tickets for any game next year. Now I’m thinking that ain’t going to be the case. (Ha. I say ha, ha.)

The Red Sox are also selling souvenir bricks to commemorate the park’s – excuse me, America’s Most Beloved Ballpark’s – 100th anniversary.

Your own personal message will be engraved onto a brick that will be placed inside Gate B or Gate C. You will also receive a complimentary replica of your brick with a custom case that you can proudly display in your home or office. (Red Sox Brick Sale Page. )

I like that “complimentary replica”. For $250, for the 4”x8”, and $475 for the 8”x8”, I’d hardly call the replica complimentary.

I’m thinking two things here:

One, the Red Sox will have to really put a filter on those personal messages. Sure, $250 is a lot to pay for a brick, but there are a lot of pissed off fans out there, and I’m sure at least a few of them want to get a message expressing their true and current feelings across. And, two, if Opening Day were tomorrow, security would have to pat everyone down to make sure they weren’t smuggling bricks into America’s Most Beloved Ballpark to hurl at a couple of choice members of what was once know as The Greatest Team Ever.

It’s sure hard to deal with the reality that a lot of guys got paid a lot of money for a lot of nothing. No one’s ticked off because they didn’t make the play-offs. If they’d been hustling, and it was just a matter of a couple of injuries and a bit of bad luck, people would be grousing but not, well, almost humiliated to have rooted for this team. It’s the seeming lack of caring, lack of hustle, lack of accountability on the part of a significant number of players. All of who made a significant amount of money.

Oh, blech, I’m sure come February, and pitchers and catchers convene in Florida, I’ll be back in the fold.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------Source for most of the bad-boy details in this post: But I’ve also read plenty of other articles, and lots of ranting and raving (much of it quite funny) over on the Sons of Sam Horn.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

When you’re lost in the maze, in Dan-vers, and it’s dinner-time, too.

Sure, there’s plenty on the agenda to occupy your time thinking about what’s going on in and around Boston these days, what with not having to expend a scintilla of emotional energy on watching baseball anymore. (I’m still watching. It’s just not as draining now that the Red Sox have departed.) There’s Occupy Boston, currently occupying the Rose Kennedy Greenway. There’s the solons in our state legislature focusing on whether to allow free drinks in our future casinos. There’s a new baby panda at the Franklin Park Zoo.

And then there’s the family who got lost in a corn maze in Danvers, and called 911 for a rescue.

The family, who shall remain nameless because the “victim” – which is how the Danvers po-po referred to their first-time caller – asked to remain so -  thought it would be a fun idea to take their 3-week old baby, at dusk, to a corn maze.

Now, having a 3-week old in tow does give some level of exculpation to their calling 911, if you can get past the WTF question about the wisdom of bringing a 3-week old infant into a corn maze to begin with. Based on my limited but non-zero experience aaa-corn mazewith corn mazes, corn mazes tend to have a lot of autumnal chaffy-kind of motes in the air. You know, the stuff that makes your nose itch if you’re a grownup, and which might do worse to your entire respiratory system if you’re, say, 3 weeks old. I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies, and I don’t know all that much more about the allergens floating around corn mazes.  And yet… (Just sayin’.)

As corn mazes go, the Connors Farm one looks like a pretty interesting and complex one. Still, it doesn’t look like a ka-billion acre Archer Daniels Midland corn field occupying the entire land-mass of three counties in Iowa, either. And despite all those trees in the background, Danvers is not exactly rural-ia.

And yet, despite the rumor that the family was no more than 25 feet from the road, they were lost. Dusk set in, as did panic. And rather than a) call the owners of the corn maze to come get them; b) have someone (that would no doubt be the husband) flail through the corn rows -  which are, in fact, a lot more permeable than, say, hedge rows – and forge a way to safety; or c) start shouting their lungs out to attract attention (too hurtful to the baby’s ears?); the stranded elected to d) dial 911.

“I don’t see anyone and I’m really scared, it’s really dark and we got a 3-week old baby with us,” a woman told the 911 operator.

As noted, having a 3-week old baby on board is a mitigating circumstance for what otherwise would be fairly numb-minded and infantile behavior. (Again, that’s if you can overlook them toting such a tiny one into a corn maze for starters.)Not to mention that this behavior aids and abets those who relish pointing out just what a nanny state we’ve become.

The call was placed about 6 p.m., one hour after the maze stopped letting people in. (I believe that the folks from Connors Farm have said that they let late-comers wander around for a while, and then do a walkthrough if everyone who walked in hasn’t wandered out, but this info isn’t in the article cited below.)

The Danvers police called in the dogs for this search and rescue. The police dispatcher stayed on the line during the tense  7 minutes and 22 seconds it took to effect the save. Seven+ minutes! Not exactly Little Jessica McClure in the well, or the Chilean miners, but might there not be a made-for-TV-movie out of this one. (“Nightmare at Corn Maze.”)

While the family nervously awaited rescue, the operator – now on the line with the husband, asked him to make sure his wife didn’t “freak out” and then:

…asked the man if he heard police dogs barking and told him repeatedly to yell “Hello K-9” to get the dogs’ attention.

“Hello K-9”?  Is that some secret code that police dogs respond to? Or is it all pups? I’ll have to try this on my dog-nephew, Jack.

“Thank you so much,” the woman told the operator. “Never again …We thought this was fun. Instead it was a nightmare.”

Am I the only one who thinks that a call to the law office of James R. Sokolove is not in the making?

Some call it corn, I call it amazing!



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

One potato, two potato: the Aroostook County potato harvest ain’t what it used to be

When we were in college, one of my friends dated a fellow who’d grown up on a potato farm in Presque Isle, Maine, and I remember the stories about everyone in the community pitching in come harvest time. Throughout Aroostook County, schools closed for a couple of weeks, and the kids worked the fields.

Even at the time, this sounded like something straight out of the 19th century: Laura Ingalls Wilder meets Charles Dickens.

I knew automatically that, as exciting as it would have been to get sprung from school, stoop labor wasn’t going to be a very good trade-off.

Not that I had much direct experience as a field hand, other than picking wild blueberries and occasional forays into apple picking. Blueberries we picked every year in the Worcester Airport woods and/or at Hadwen Park. As for apples, every once in a while, on a trip to Brookfield Orchard, my parents would decide that, this year, it would be fun to pick our own. Once we started picking, we would all realize that a) it was colossally boring after the first two or three apples; and b) it took a lot more than two or three apples a piece to fill a bushel basket. After this dose of reality, for the next couple of years, we’d just go ahead and buy an already picked bushel. A few years later, either my mother or father would forget how much we despised apple picking, and get the bright idea that this year, we’d pick.

The bottom line was that, although descended from farmers on both sides, we were all city people, and farm labor was just not our thing.

While we didn’t have to toil in the fields, all of the Rogers children were enlisted, make that dragooned, into the annual family leaf raking festival. We had a pretty big back yard, with lots of trees and abutting a full woods. Plus a shady front yard. So we had lots of trees. Which lost lots of leaves every year.

It’s leaf round-up time! My father was the trail boss, and we were the cowpokes. Yippee-ki-ay!

Somehow, ‘Don’t try to understand ‘em, just rake, bag and dump ‘em,’ doesn’t have quite the poetry and romance as ‘Don’t try to understand ‘em, just roll, rope, and brand ‘em”, which was the Rawhide theme. And we didn’t actually bag our leaves, we raked them onto old worn out chenille bedspreads, and hauled them a ways into the woods to dump them there. Through most of my childhood, I believe that leaf-burning was still legal, and autumn always meant the smell of smoldering leaves that people had raked into the gutters and set fire to. But we weren’t leaf burners, we were leaf dumpers, but a ways into the woods, not near our yard.

We also owned a bit of the woods and, when spring sprung, we had to rake the leaves in our part of the woods. I used to think that my father was insane. Who rakes the woods? But I now believe that he wanted to make sure that the neck of the woods that we owned was clear of dead leaves to that we’d have a firebreak just in case some kid drinking up in the woods dropped a still lit cigarette butt into a pile of dried leaves.

Anyway, while I am just as happy never to have had to participate in an Aroostook County potato harvest, I’m a bit saddened to learn that those potato harvests ain’t what they used to be, as The Boston Globe reported a couple of days ago.

For one thing, school lunch programs may be declaring something of a fatwa on French fries and potato chips, which would put a crimp in demand for praties. Which I’m guessing follows a potato-eating decline that’s been going on for years. When I was a kid, almost every supper included potatoes. Once in a while rice; pasta only when the meal was pasta-based. But these days there are so many more starches to choose from: cous-cous, bulgur, quinoa. Back in the day, starch = potatoes, especially when you came from a family that was half-German, half-Irish. Talk about Potatoes ‘R Us.

So now it’s the harvest-by-school-kids that may be on its way out:

It used to be that all the schools got out for three full weeks in late September and early October, but now it is just the high schools; the middle schools close for a week, if at all. Student hand labor - the tedious back-breaking process of picking potatoes off the ground and piling them into baskets - has been mostly supplanted by the harvester, increasingly skillful machines that dig up and start the process of sorting potatoes from the clumps and rocks.

The good news, it can’t be outsourced to India or China. The bad news is, automation can now do the task. (Or is that good news, too?)

The last hand-picking farms disappeared a couple of years ago. Most students work on the harvesters, working along a conveyer belt to finish the sorting process, but the state says you need to be 16 before you can put your fingers near those open grinding parts.

While the harvesting used to involve pretty much everyone, last year only 20% of the kids at Presque Isle high school found harvesting work.

Despite the low numbers, talk about ending the harvest break outright has gone nowhere. The Presque Isle superintendent has been told to bring the topic back to the school board when the number hits 15 percent, but in the county, the favorite argument for keeping the tradition alive is the tradition itself. It is, as much as the potatoes, what the county is known for.

Some of the kids seem to enjoy the experience as a connection to what their parents and grandparents did. And, needless to say, most of the old fogies think it’s good for kids to learn the value of earning a buck through hard physical labor. As a major proponent of everyone  - especially those who will go one to professional, white collar, clean-hands work - having jobs that are dirty, backbreaking, exhausting, and ill-paid at some point in their life, preferably when they’re still kids, I think that the old fogies have a point.

But time, and automation, march on, and there are fewer and fewer jobs that required kids’ hands-on.

Too bad.

We are all so removed, these days, from “the real”: from knowing where our food comes from (From the store, dummy! Duh!), where our clothing comes from (From the store, dummy! Duh!), and where are iPads come from (From China, dummy! Duh!).

What is it that we’re supposed to do again, once all the routine and boring stuff is automated or outsource?

Oh, now I remember. We’re all supposed to be entrepreneurs.

Maybe some Aroostook County high school geek is, at this very moment, creating an Android app, a game that lets you knock clumps of dirt off of potatoes and pile them into mountains.

No muss, no fuss, no tender little fingers near those nasty grinding parts.

Almost, but not quite, like the real thing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Day2Night Convertible Heels: where were you when I needed you?

There was a recent article on about the Mass Challenge, a Boston incubator that supports youngheels entrepreneurs. One of the entrepreneurial companies being incubated is an outfit called Day2Night Convertible Heels, which makes shoes that come with a variety of interchangeable heels, covering the range from comfy walker to stiletto.  That’s a Day2Night kit picture above. And lest you think that we’re talking clunker-ellas here, the shoe below goes with that wrench-kit set of heels. Not bad.

Having worked in a shoe factory, albeit one that made combat boots and work shoes, I D2Nheelsdid have a question on how the heck this would work. While the vamp of a shoe may stay relatively constant across heel heights, shoe soles are shaped to fit with different height heels. Thus, if you break a high heel and cagily break off the heel of its companion shoe, you’ll still have difficulty walking.

But Day2Night has figured this all out for us, with a “foolproof design” (patent pending), of a:

….unique sole [that] flexes to adjusts to the heel height you choose


The heel technology can work with almost any style, for any occasion. 

Well, brava to Founder and CEO Candace Cabe.

Not that I wear heels much anymore, and the heels that I do wear are of the pre-geriatric, somewhat low and somewhat wide variety. (At least I think that they’re pre-geriatric. My niece Molly recently showed me a picture of her trying on clunky shoes, which she told me looked like something that I’d wear. HI-larious!)

So although I’m not apt to purchase a pair of these shoes, I think the idea is brilliant.

In my day, this would have replaced the heinous look of business women in menswear power suits, menswear shirts, floppy bowties, and opaque stockings wearing athletic socks and big white sneakers as they walked to and fro work. Once on the job, you removed the socks and shoes and inserted your up-until-then non-stressed and aching foot into the utter torture of the high heel. (On rainy days, the substitute for the big white sneaker was a low rise rubber Sport-o duck shoe.)

Picture Tess in Working Girl, minus the big hair and outrageous makeup, but before she did her makeover and got the job, got the man, and got the upscale wardrobe, and you’ll have some sense of what the average “career gal” in Boston looked like in the 1980’s. (I still see women of a certain age who continue to sport this practical yet wildly unattractive look.)

I must say that I never did fully embrace it. Sure, I had the menswear suits, the menswear shirts, and at least a couple of the floppy bowties (which I generally avoided, substituting the far more attractive silk shirt with built in bow), but I only did the sneaker-thang once or twice. I did, however, embrace the philosophy, and, having spent way, way, way too much money recovering high heels that I’d caught in the brick sidewalk, I took to wearing flats to work, and left a couple of pairs of heels in my desk drawer. (Every woman I knew had a drawer-full of high heels: black, navy, cordovan, taupe…)

If I had a dollar for every Friedman (sic?) of Boston menswear suit, every Brooks Brother’s menswear shirt, every Jos. Banks floppy bow ties, every pair of Johnston and Murphy three inch spikes… Or, better yet, the full amount I paid for all this dreadful kit…

Anyway, I think the idea behind Day2Night is completely ingenious.

The idea, by the way, struck Candace when she was packing for a business trip that involved social events that called for a variety of heel.

Me, I’d have just settled on some compromise shoe that didn’t quite work for any one event, but wasn’t a show-stopper, either. But this was the big advantage of working in high tech product management/product marketing: all you had to do was look presentable. You were there for content, not for appearance. (The marketing-marketing women tended to dress in a less menswear kind of way.)

Candace, I guess, went ahead and pack-horsed multiple pairs of shoes, given that there wasn’t time to invent the Day2Night shoe right then and there. But she took the idea and ran with it – faster than you can run in a pair of stilettos, that’s for sure.

Hers is one of the ideas up for funding from MassChallenge.

At some point, I’ll graze through their list and see what else is out there, but Day2Night Convertible Shoes has just got to be a winner.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Nifty little holiday

Low-key, do-nothing little holidays have always been among my favorites. And when it comes to low-key, do-nothing little holidays, Columbus Day may be the capo di tutti capi. 

What’s so great about Columbus Day?

For one, even if you’re working, it’s kind of a quasi-working day. Even though most companies don’t observe it, a lot of folks take the day off because the schools are closed – at least they are in Massachusetts – so the traffic is light. With a lot of people out, C-Day often becomes a long lunch, or clean up your e-mails, or gloriously meeting-free day.

For another, the weather, at least much of the time, is pretty good. After all, as we learned from Helen Hunt Jackson’s wonderful little ol’ poem, which I must have memorized – what? - 50+ years ago:

O suns and skies and clouds of June,
        And flowers of June together,
    Ye cannot rival for one hour
        October's bright blue weather…

Much of that “bright blue weather” – at least in the early part of the month – is sweater or light jacket weather, and the nights are great for sleeping. The leaves used to have started to change colors by this point in the season, but that was then and this is now. Still, it’s fall, but it’s mum and marigold bright fall, not the dour, leafless fall that’s due in November.

On the other hand, October can also bring torrential rains of the sort that keeps the dog inside trembling, as happened here the other day, when my “dog nephew” Jack wouldn’t step paw out of the house until the rains abated, roughly two hours after his usual walk in the park outing. (Poor baby. The look of pure joy and relief on his furry little face when he lifted that leg at the first telephone pole we hit…)

Although football is in full swing, and winter sports like hockey and (most years) basketball have started to rev their engines, baseball is still on on Columbus Day, as we get to watch all the lead up to the World Series. And now that the Yankees Go Home – made all the sweeter in that the last out of their season was an A-Rod strike-out – I can watch the games for the pure enjoyment of baseball. Of course, I’ll pick a team and root for them: what’s the point of watching a sports event if you don’t want someone to win? (Detroit and Milwaukee in the divisional series. I am half Midwest, after all.)  But it will be without the tension and agita that’s involved when your own dog’s in the hunt.

Columbus Day also means a quirky, unassuming little parade. Sometimes I catch a bit of it, sometimes I don’t. (It’s always more fun in a political year.) This year, I will not be catching any of it, as the North End Columbus Day Parade Committee is holding its parade in East Boston. (For those of you who don’t know Boston, these are two historically-Italian neighborhoods that are geographically separate – by ocean blue, in fact – so the idea of the North End-ers having their parade in East Boston is interesting.)

I like that there are no obligations associated with Columbus Day: no special foods, no must-attend events, no present buying. It’s pretty much a free ride.

So it’s altogether a nice little holiday.

I know, I know, there are those who don’t believe we should be celebrating anything here, given that the Native Americans didn’t fare all that well in the wake of C. Columbus’ arrival on the shores of the New World, and the treatment of Native Americans remains a blight on our history.

But is there really anyone out there who thinks for a Genoa minute that, if it hadn’t been Columbus, it would not have been someone else who got in the ship and set out to see what was beyond the blue horizon, even if there was a strong possibility in their mind that the earth was flat. (Ooops!) And that, on balance, the discovery and development of America has been good for more people than it’s been bad for.

And that includes my family.

Of course, it doesn’t help that of late Columbus has been revealed as a something of a venal and self-aggrandizing P.O.S. (Oh, those feet of clay.)

So this holiday is, I suppose, something of a mixed blessing.

Still, a holiday it is and, at least in my book, one still worth celebrating.

Now, if only I can get this out of my skull:

Columbus sailed the ocean blue, in fourteen-hundred-ninety-two…

It would be an almost perfect world.