Tuesday, December 24, 2013

And so this is Christmas

Of all the Christmas songs rattling around in my head of late – and there are plenty of them –John Lennon’s And So This Is Christmas is the  one that has been most persistent.

I don’t know why.

It may be in my Top Ten – I’d have to think about that for a second or two – but it’s not Top Five. Not even if I split my favorites into two lists, sacred and profane.

Nope, my Top Five secular list would be:

  • Let It Snow
  • Winter Wonderland
  • Christmas in Killarney
  • Little Saint Nick
  • Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer

Still, this is a wonderful song, and the video in the link below has some nice shots of Central Park, which is one of my favorite places. And one of my husband’s favorite places, too.

For some reason – thanks, EMI – I couldn’t embed it, but you can watch/listen on YouTube.

I usually include a picture of our Christmas tree inChristmas Door my Christmas blog, but we don’t have one this year. My husband is has been plenty unwell of late. He’s doing fine at the moment, thank you, and we still have a life that includes going out to lunch, watching football, and laughing about stupid things. But at this point, cancer will do what it’s going to do, and whenever and wherever it wants.

So, no tree for us this year.

But I did want to at least put a wreath on the door of our building, and here it is.

I bought that bow seven years ago – I remember because I was still recovering from a broken shoulder at the time – and, channeling my mother, recycle it every year. Too bad you can’t see the details on that ribbon, which is quite beautiful (dark red-orange berries on a cream background, dark red-orange piping on the ribbon).

Anyway, I wish a very Merry Christmas to my Pink Slip readers, and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year’s, too.

And, oh, yeah, there’s another Christmas song that – for obvious reasons – has been rattling around in my head this year.

Of course, it’s yet another one that for some reason defies being embedded and makes you go to YouTube for.

All I want for Christmas, is you.

You know who you are, baby…

And so this is Christmas, 2013.


Pink Slip is on Christmas break, and will return in the New Year.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Advice to Justine Sacco about tweeting

The Internet is a funny thing.

Last week, no one other than her family, friends, and colleagues at IAC knew who the hell Justine Sacco, Senior Director Corporate Communications at IAC, was.

Then, on Friday, all twitter hell broke loose when Justine, at Heathrow Airport about to board a plane for South Africa, launched another one of those tweets heard round the world:

“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

If only Justine had stopped well before her 140 characters were up. Anywhere along the tweet will do:

“Going to Africa.”

Bland, boring, not IMHO twitter-worthy, putting it in the same category as 99% of all tweets, 98% of all txt msg’s, and 97% of all cell phone calls. (“I’m walking down the street? Where are you?”) So, bland and boring, but not apt to raise anyone’s hackles, Internet-wise.

“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS.”

This might have been a good place to stop, too.

Yes, a poor joke, in questionable taste, but what’s a poor joke, in questionable taste, among friends?

Surely Justine’s friends and family followers would just have rolled their eyes. There she goes again

In any case, stopping at AIDs was othing likely to cause an international incident.

“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding.”

This might also have been a good place to stop. Not so good as after “I don’t get AIDS”, but certainly – as we now know from the full tweet – something that could get worse.

The biggest problem with the “Just kidding” coda is that it’s clear that Justine is aware that someone might take offense with the Africa=AIDS sentiment of the tweet.

At this point, one might have hoped that something that Justine might have learned as Senior Director Corporate Communications at IAC would have clicked in, and she would have decided not to post this particular tweet without backing up to the “Going to Africa” bit.

But, no, Justine decided to keep calm and twitter on:

“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

Ah, Justine.

Now it makes you look like you’re saying AIDS = black folks.

Justine is, perhaps, too young to remember the AIDS epidemic in this country, when we all learned to realize that AIDS knew no racial, class, or gender boundaries.

Anyway, by the time Justine landed in South Africa, a social media storm had starting blowing its mighty wind, and the previously incognito Justin Sacco was now being excoriated (and occasionally defended) across the whatever-sphere.

Justine herself was in the dark about all this, since there is still – blessedly – a ban on the use of cell phones on plane.

But while she was up in the air, her name was becoming mud, and Justine’s employer, IAC, was springing into action:

IAC, headed by Barry Diller, is the corporate parent of more than three dozen companies, including Match.com, The Daily Beast and Dictionary.com. The company, based in New York City, also owns BlackPeopleMeet.com, a dating site for African-Americans.

“This is an outrageous, offensive comment that does not reflect the views and values of IAC,” the company said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the employee in question is unreachable on an international flight, but this is a very serious matter and we are taking appropriate action.” (Source: NY Times.)

Outrageous, offensive, serious matter. Just what you want your employer to be saying about something you’ve done. And saying it publicly, to the whole wide world

Justine Sacco’s unfortunate tweet does not make her a racist. It just suggests that she’s not particularly bright about the power of social media, which is especially damning for someone who’s Senior Director of Corporate Communications for one of the world’s largest media companies.

At least in this one instance, she’s a dope, who, if she’d said something stupid, would have seen those stupid words disappear into the ether. Someone who heard them might have told her that it was a dumb/awful/base thing to say. And that would have been it.

But Justine put those words out there for all the world to jump on, calling her a racist, calling for her head.

I actually don’t think she should be fired (for one thing, I don’t believe she was on company time or a corporate account), which is not to say she won’t be.

Easier for IAC to just get rid of the problem, rather than, say, make her the internal poster child for educating new/young/’have thumb will tweet’ employees on what they should and shouldn’t be saying on Twitter, FB, their personal blogs, etc. Things that will make them look bad, and reflect poorly on the company while they’re at it.

The Boston Irish politico Martin Lomasney was justifiably famous for these words:

"Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never nod if you can wink."

Maybe we need an update:

“Never tweet if you can IM; never IM if you can speak; never speak if you can think.”

Good luck, Justine Sacco.

You may well need it.

And for god’s sake, start thinking before you tweet.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Knowing Shinola

I suspect that I am of the last generation that grew up knowing how to shine shoes, a skill passed down from father to child – at least in our house.

Of course, back in the day, you didn’t have many pairs of shoes, and most of them were leather, so they were built to last and you had to take care of them. Part of this meant polishing those few pairs of shoes on Saturday night. School shoes, which, over the years, migrated from double strap Mary Janes to saddle shoes to penny loafers, were attended to first, with liquid polish put on with the sponge tipped applicator attached to the lid of a bottle of Scuffy. Patent leather Sunday shoes got a bit of a shine up using Vaseline.

Weirdly, we also polished our white sneakers, using liquid SaniWhite or Lanol White. Since canvas is not the ideal surface for shoe polish, that polish mostly just caked up and cracked off. Better luck using SaniWhite on the white parts of saddle shoes, or on waitress whites. But white shoe polish was always something of a chalky mess to deal with.

While kids wielded the Scuffy and the SaniWhite, my father took care of his Florsheims with Kiwi, a crème polish.

Although I will confess that I can go years without polishing a pair of shoes – I have the cobbler do it when I take shoes in for new heels – I still have my shoe shine kit, which is actually a net bag containing several tins of Kiwi and Meltonian, as well as polishing rags and brushes.

And, yes,  I still remember how to use them. And, yes, I love the smell of polish. And, yes, I do use a bit of spit.

But the most famous shoe polish brand of all time wasn’t used in our house.

Despite living in a Shinola-Free Zone, it was hard to grow up without hearing the expression “he doesn’t know shit from Shinola.” (One of those “Kilroy was here,” Hubba-hubba, SNAFU (Situation Normal All Fouled Up), terms our fathers brought back in the duffle bags from WWII.)

Other than “shit from Shinola”, Shinola pretty much disappeared from the scene with the black and white TV, the Bakelite rotary dial phone, and the girdle.

But now the brand is back, and it’s only incidentally associated with polish.

If you want to get yourself some Shinola, you can strap it on your wrist (a Shinola watch). Pedal it down your driveway (a Shinola bicycle). Or toss it to your brother (a Shinola football).

Shinola also sells leather goods – which look very nice, I must say – and good old Shinola polish to keep them looking spiffy.

But if you want something Shinola, it won’t come cheap.

The Runwell watch will run you $700. The Runwell bike will run you $2,950.

And – hubba, hubba – Shinola’s headquartered in Detroit, where:

In short order, [it] has become a fashion darling and a paragon of both U.S. entrepreneurship and tricky manufacturing. Named after an old shoe polish brand, the company started selling its watches—along with bikes, bags, and journals—back in March. It hopes to make 45,000 this year and an additional 500,000 next year. Given an average price of $600, that would be a $300 million business in watches alone.

The company is the brainchild of Tom Kartsotis, founder and and former CEO of Fossil. He was living in Dallas when he launched the business that would become Fossil, but Detroit plays a big part in the ethos of his new venture. Shinola’s tag line is “Where American is Made,” and a narrator in its online ad says the company is “an effort to retake our place on the factory floor.” He continues: “We believe in the beauty of industry—the glory of manufacturing.” (Source: Business Week)

I, too, believe in the glory of manufacturing.

This sentiment is, I suppose, hard to avoid for someone who grew up in the era of American made, of American manufacturing might. When Detroit meant cars, Pittsburgh steel, and Akron tires. And when Worcester made a lot of stuff, including wire (at Thompson Wire, where my father worked); combat boots (H.H. Brown, where I worked the line one summer); and pocketbooks (made in downtown Worcester at the Davey’s factory).

So I understand that making stuff – tangible things that people actually need and use – is good. So I laud Shinola for making it in America, and wish them all the success in the world.

Still, the type of manufacturing we need to grow is not fine leather goods and pricey bicycles.

It’s the hard stuff, too: scientific instruments, aircraft, machine tools.

Nice to have Shinola shining bright out there in the Motor. The goods that Shinola manufacturers appear to be anything but shit.

Still, there is much about our economy that just doesn’t work. When so much of our job growth comes from unskilled, low pay service sector jobs, we just don’t know shit from Shinola.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

WestJet sure knows something about marketing

A few weeks ago, WestJet – which I take is the Southwest Airlines (or a smiley-face version of Ryanair) of Canada – asked travelers in a couple of airports what they wanted for Christmas. Or, rather, a blue-hatted Santa asked them. What the airline did was to set up:

…electronic Santa chat boxes in terminals at the Hamilton and Toronto airports. Travelers giggle at the chance to talk live with Santa through a screen, and parents and kids alike tell him what they want for Christmas. (Source: Huffington Post.)

FaceTime with Santa!

Fun. A cute idea. I’m sure that a lot of folks got a kick out of it.

But rather than leave it at that, WestJet turned on the jets and did a little flash mob shopping, and some flash mob wrapping. Lucky passengers, those, who took the time to sit on Santa’s virtual knee:

When they get to baggage claim, tired travelers see their luggage -- and big blue boxes with their names on the front and their dream Christmas gifts inside. Faux snow falls, tears are shed, and a giant gingerbread man waddles around the luggage belt eating cookies.

One couple ended up with a giant flat-screen TV; one guy got exactly what he requested: socks and underwear. (Guess it’s not all that smart to joke with Santa. As they say, be careful what you wish for.)

Keen marketers that they are, WestJet pulled it all together in a snappy video that, of course, went viral.

And to all a good flight…

An altogether fun and clever marketing idea, well executed.

Good publicity for WestJet. Nice way to build customer loyalty. And, apparently, a reasonably good approximation of the authentic WestJet culture, which puts a premium on caring for employees and customers alike. (One of the corporate values is “fun, friendly, and caring.”) They’ve won all sorts of awards for most admired culture, customer service superiority, best place to work, etc.

Many companies, of course, pay lip service to caring for employees and customers.

After all, it costs nothing to throw a bunch of lame bullet items on a PowerPoint vision or mission statement.

And no company is ever going to admit that they don’t give a hoot about either employees or customers.

WestJet’s mission is “to enrich the lives of everyone in WestJet's world by providing safe, friendly and affordable air travel.”

Can you imagine an organization that would admit that their mission was “to enrich the pocketbooks of everyone in senior management”?

Still, ‘tis the season when it feels good to feel good, and WestJet’s Santa Claus is coming to the airport – blue hat and all – is a definite feel good. Except maybe for the poor schnook who asked for underwear and socks. I’m sure he’s kicking himself, big time. At least he’s got clean new socks to kick with.

Obviously, WestJet can’t do the same thing again next year, as passengers will be primed to ask for iPads and xBoxes, rather than Thomas the Train sets and undies.

My money’s on these marketers to come up with something equally fun.

Marketers may want to head on over to Social Media Today and check out Kimbe MacMaster’s review of WestJet’s initiative.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Yes, Heidi Lieske, there is a better way to do this

The only wedding I went to as a small child was my Uncle Jack’s. I think this would have been in 1953, so I would have been three-and-a-half or so. All I recall from the wedding was that the bride’s gown was “ice blue”, which was apparently considered pretty leading edge by 1953 blue collar Chicago standards.

Anyway, most of what I know about the wedding is from the picture of the Wolf clan that was taken at the reception. The nephews and nieces – there were five of us at the time – were sitting on the floor in front of the grownups (including the bride, by then my Aunt Donna) decked out in outfits purchased for the occasion – no doubt at Wieboldt’s, which Grandma pronounced “Vee-bolts” – by my grandmother Wolf.

Grandma went in for matching.

The girls – my sister Kathleen, my cousin Ellen and I – wore identical nylon striped dresses with white colors and black velvet bows. The only difference being that Kath’s dress – as she had dark brown hair – was pink and white, and those worn by Ellen and me – the blondies - were turquoise and white. (At least I think Ellen and I had turquoise. It almost goes without saying that the photo is b&w.)

The boys – my cousin Tim and my brother Tom – had blue and white cotton shorts and shirt sets with, I think, some sort of nautical motif. (I just checked and I don’t have a copy of this family photo.)

I don’t imagine that Grandma paid more than $3 or $4 for any of those outfits. After all, we’re not talking Marshall Field here:

Wieboldt's was known for their good values, unpretentious merchandise, and multilingual sales staff, the stores were especially popular among ethnic, working-class shoppers who could not afford or did not like to shop at the big downtown department stores. (Source: Wikipedia)

So, fast forwarding to 2013, we’re talking about $25 – $35 per kid.

A little on the light side, perhaps. At least by today’s standards. (And the relative affluence of those grown up Wolf grandkids.) But how much do you want to shell out for a party dress for a three-and-a-half year old?

I’m thinking that you can probably get something reasonably cute, and a few steps up from Children’s Place, for $60 – $70.

A lot, but not a crazy lot. And, of course, it’s something that can get handed down or off once the party’s over.

But some folks don’t want reasonably cute, reasonably serviceable, reasonably priced.Grey suit

They’d rather do their kids up in designer duds, but withpinco pallinoout having to fork over $398 for a Grey Ludlow Suit and Bowtie. Or $572 for I Pinco Pallino for your little girl. Why not, when you can rent the outfit for less than a hundred bucks?

That’s the idea behind Borrow Mini Couture, the brainchild of former P&G marketing manager Heidi Lieske, whose:

…business idea came while shelling out more than $300 for a wedding-suitable outfit -- for her 1-year-old son.

"There has got to be a better way to do this," she thought. (Source: Huffington Post.)

Well, Heidi, there is a better way to do it, and that’s by not spending $300 for a wedding outfit for a 1-year-old, when you can get something pretty darned cute for about one-fifth that amount.

$300 for a “wedding-suitable” outfit for a 1-year old?

I guess if that’s where your head is, and you feel that your accessory child must be decked out in Hugo Boss or Stella McCartney or Versace, it makes more sense to rent than to by.

But does a 1-year old need to be slobbering over a $300 outfit to begin with?

Oddly, the site also offers casual items for rent, like this Hugo Boss sweater, BBC_LL_0916_Iventory_0373_O_F_web-108x128which will give your kiddy a “polished yet casual look.”

Seriously, folks, don’t most kids have something like this that granny got on sale at Macy’s or Gap Kids?

Lieske and her husband – he was formerly a “private-wealth associate” with Credit Suisse – are all in. They’re both working full time at Borrowed, and they’ve borrowed big time to make their dream a reality:

Lieske -- whose inventory includes thousands of dresses -- said she's plowed about $650,000 in savings, home-equity loan money and investments from family and friends into the company.

I understand the appeal for adults to rent party clothes. Every guy doesn’t own a tux. And if you’re invited to a fancier occasion only once every decade or so, I can definitely see renting a designer dress online. I actually think it would be kind of fun. But that’s for adults.

I find something completely unseemly about this approach to decorating your kids.

Interesting, although there are a number of grownup apparel rental sites, Lieske believes that Borrowed offers “the only online high-fashion rentals for children.”

Others, however, have tried.

"I'm not sure they're hitting on the value aspects the way that moms really think about it," said [Caletha] Crawford, a founder of the Children's Apparel Consulting Group. "For a lot of the prices that you could rent a dress, you could buy something that would be also pretty. Now, it wouldn't necessarily be the same name brand, but it would be very pretty."

My thought, exactly.

But there may be enough parents out there who want their kids to strut their stuff as mini-David Beckham’s and Posh Spices.

One of the dresses for hire  - a $715 Fendi number available for $99 – is described as something that “will leave you breathless.”

Well, so does the idea of renting a $715 dress for a kindergartner.

I’m sure the Heidi Lieske had fun shopping for thousands of dresses and Hugo Boss “polished yet casual” outfits.

Somehow, I think that her friends and family may find themselves paid off in inventory.

A doff of the designer chapeau to my sister Trish, whose daughter had plenty of cute party dresses when she was little – and not one of them cost $715.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Miley Cyrus for Person of the Year? Just one more indicator that the world is coming to an end…

Okay, she didn’t win.

And of the ten people on the semi-final list for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, I suspect she came in dead last, or tied for a dead last, dead heat with Syrian President Bashar Assad.*

Okay, if she had been chosen, she wouldn’t have been the worst person of the year. Not when Hitler and Stalin are on the list.

Okay, she certainly wouldn’t have been the most boring. On name alone, the boring-est ever would have to have been 1955’s Harlow Curtice. No not that Harlow Curtice. The Harlow Curtice who was president of GM.

And okay, she wouldn’t have been the only notorious woman to have been awarded this honor/cover picture. Come on down, Wallis Simpson – gal-pal extraordinaire and Person of the Year for 1936. (Can you imagine what People, Us and The Daily Mail would have done with Wallis and Edward? Yowza!)

But out of all the folks they could have tapped for the “honor” of making the list, Miley Cyrus? MILEY CYRUS?

Miley, Miley, Miley.

I remember when you were young and wholesome. And every little girl between the ages of 6 and 11 went out as you. Or Hannah Montana. Or you as Hannah Montana for Halloween. You were cute, funny, and – dare I say – wholesome.

Well, Miley more or less jumped that wholesome shark when she appeared in an erotic photo spread with her achy-breaky heart father – a spread in which, if you didn’t know they were father-daughter, you’d have come away with “lovers.”

Her tawdriness peaked – at least we can hope it peaked – at MTV’s Video Music Awards show this fall, when she vamped, twerked, and grinded her way into something other than the hearts and minds of those watching at home.

In truth, I don’t have a clue whether Miley Cyrus has any talent in the least, or whether she has a small modicum of talent, and needs to twerk it up to compete with more talented pop stars like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé , and Katy Perry.

Sure, “Wrecking Ball”’s catchy enough, if I close my eyes during the pathetically trying-way-too-hard-to-be-sexy video.

Yes, I am an old prude.

And, yes, I get why Time – searching for relevance in an age when “news” is dispensed by Perez Hilton, not Walter Cronkite; and trying to stir up young-folk interest in its Person of the Year Award list, which had only one cute-ish – in a hipster sort of way – guy on it (that would be Edward Snowden), and is mostly taken up by boring old war-mongers and politicos – might want to put Miley Cyrus on the list.

But what, exactly, does she represent?

The end of innocence? The triumph of notoriety over talent? That twerking is as newsworthy as filibustering (Ted Cruz), poisoning your own people (Bashar Assad), and telling the Catholic Church to stop obsessing over gays (Pope Francis)?

Has our culture become so celebrity-besotted that Miley Cyrus can make a run at Person of the Year?

If that’s the case, may I offer the agnostic’s prayer:

God, if there is a God, save our soul, if we have one.

*I decided to look things up and found that, while our gal didn’t make it onto the short list that the top five comprise, Bashar Assad (“Lethal Tyrant”) came in number four, wedged for eternity between Edith Winsor (“The Unlikely Advocate” whose unlikely advocacy toppled DOMA), and Ted Cruz (“The Joe McCarthy Look-a-like Barn Burner”). By now you probably know that Pope Francis (“The People’s Pope”) was chosen Person of the Year, while the first runner up was Edward Snowden (“The Dark Prophet”).

Miley did place number three in popular voting, with one-sixth of the vote, but apparently Time ignores vox populi. But she is, I guess, the people’s twerker.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sometimes I think Linus Van Pelt had it right…

The other day, I was walking out of our building at 7:30 a.m., and what to my wondering eyes did appear, neatly bagged in blue plastic, and neatly placed at the foot of our stairs, but a pile o’ dog excrement.

Since no one in our building has a dog, it wasn’t anyone here who carefully placed the bag where they couldn’t miss it, as a reminder to dump the dump when they left for work.

No, it had to be someone who was out walking their pooch, someone who just couldn’t make it the final few steps to the trash receptacle on the corner – which takes all of, say, 10 seconds to accomplish. But someone who is also conscious enough about picking up after their dog that they know that you don’t just leave a mess out there in the middle of the sidewalk.

This was not the case when I first moved to The Hill nearly four decades ago.

Back in those days, the saying was “your feet better have eyes.”

There was no such thing as taking a walk without keeping your eyes on perpetual alert, sweeping the bricks a couple of yards ahead to identify any hazards.

There were even a couple of times when a mess I came across was so spectacularly ill-placed, and so spectacularly messy, that I went ahead and cleaned it up.

But things have improved, and it’s fairly rare to find a “gift” – even when walking across the grassy knoll on The Boston Common.

People aren’t 100% wonderful when it comes to pooper scooping.

Sometimes there’s a big old plot out there just waiting to be squished by someone so absorbed in their iPhone that they aren’t paying attention to where they place their foot.

I have, on occasion, seen a bag of goodness nestled in among the trash bags awaiting pickup. And sometimes the G-Men don’t see those bag-eens, so I end up bagging it in my trash bag.

And once in a while I see evidence that someone has let their pooch poop around a tree.

But mostly people are pretty good about it. So much so that it’s almost up there with the societal transition away from smoking over that same four decade time period.

But then there was the little blue bag on my doorstep…

What, pray tell, is going through someone’s mind when they leave this calling card?

Someone will pick this up and make the supreme effort – an effort just beyond me at this time – to take the 10 seconds to walk to the trash barrel and dispose of it.

Someone will realize that my time is precious, and I just couldn’t afford to expand a nano-second getting rid of this myself.

Someone will recognize my inherent goodness – after all, I did bag the crap – and understand that goodness is sometimes not its own reward. Sometimes goodness needs someone else to walk those last 40 steps to the trash barrel.

Someone will be a dog lover who’ll be happy to participate in the charms of urban dog ownership with me.

Someone won’t mind.

Sorry, bub, but I do mind.

To say that, these days, I’m not in the mood to pick up after you and your dog is the understatement of the century.

Remember Peanuts’ Linus Van Pelt?


Well, Linus had it right!

Friday, December 13, 2013

What to tip the pool boy? McDonald’s workers are in the know.

There are certain corporations that one might think would pay special attention to any employee communications that might smack of noblesse oblige and Marie Antoinette-ism.

And one might think that one of those corporations might be McDonald’s, especially given that the average full time fast food worker earns less than $20K a year, and there’s talk about letting McD’s workers put out tip jars (preferable in the corporate view to raising the minimum wage and thus boosting the cost of a Big Mac by a quarter or so).

Any discussion on tip jars for minimum wage slaves, or any guidelines on whether and how to tip fast food workers, were curiously absent from the tipping guidelines that McDonald’s posted to help company employees weather the tipping season.

In truth, it is useful to have some rules of thumb for tipping your hairdresser and cleaning people, even if you go ahead and ignore them.

But all you need to do is google “what to tip the cleaning lady” and you’ll find plenty of info out there.

No need to McDonald’s to provide this sort of help to employees, when 99.99% of those employees are unlikely to need it.

The info has been pulled down from McDonald’s McResource line – which is aimed at providing employees with “practical solutions to many of life’s problems and challenges,” but while it was up there it quite helpfully and practically advised on what to give the au pair, dog walker, housekeeper, door man, and pool boy.

McDonald’s spokeswoman Lisa McComb told The Huffington Post that McDonald's did not create the post and asked the vendor that created it “make updates as needed.”

McDonald's would not reveal the name of the vendor. The restaurant chain's website lifts liberally from the website of Emily Post, a company that McComb labeled “one of the best-known etiquette gurus" in an email to CNBC. (Source: Huffington Post)

Nice that you want to help destress your workforce – or at least the upper echelons of that workforce. But is there no one in McDonald’s HR group who might have paused just a second or two and asked themselves about the wisdom of putting this sort of information out in a domain that, while not public, is public to any McDonald’s worker – who, I’m guessing, are called “associates” – who signs up for it. Did in not occur that someone would spot that list and decide to expose it?

Are their gaffe-o-meters so off that it didn’t occur to anyone that there’s at least a slight element of let-them-eat-cake-ism in a list that advises employees on how to tip their fitness trainer and private trash collector?

In case you’re wondering, the pool cleaner deserves the cost of one pool cleaning, and the fitness trainer gets the cost of one session, too. Your private trash collector only merits $10-20, but then again, he has access to your private trash.

Your au pair should get a week’s pay. (Depending on tenure and local custom, a nanny should get a month’s pay and a small gift from the kiddo.)

But come to think of it, maybe the tipping guidelines do make some sense.

Housekeeper. Babysitter. Nursing home worker.

Aren’t these the types of workers who supplement their earnings by taking shifts at McDonald’s?

Maybe Mickey-D’s is just looking out for its own…




Thursday, December 12, 2013

The World’s Only Self-Righting Object

One of the worst things about this time of year is the attack of the catalogs.

Interestingly, this is also one of the best things about this time of year.

I not only get to despise/enjoy the onslaught of catalogs that get addressed to us. But as the person who does the junk mail recycle for the building, I get access to the full array of catalogs that everyone else automatically drops into the recycle basket in the foyer.

By no means do I look through them all.

There is just not enough time, even if I were willing to stay up catalog grazing 24/7.

But I do go through them selectively.

And one of the ones I take a look at is Hammacher-Schlemmer, which really does offer the most amazing amalgam of pricey junk this side of the SkyMall catalog stuck in the seatback.

It’s not enough that much of what H-S has on offer is just breathtaking in its sheer and utter uselessness:

  • The 1959 Corvette Billiards Table
  • The 3D Clue Game
  • The Talking Plush Darth Vader

That there’s the stuff you just didn’t know you needed, or wanted, or could even conceive of:

  • The Remote Controlled Rolling Beverage Cooler
  • The Indoor Flameless Marshmallow Roaster
  • The Power Nap Head Pillow

And that there’s any number of both useless and inconceivable Thomas Kinkade anythings.

No, it’s that almost every item in the H-S catalog is, no matter how pedestrian, is prefaced with the word “The”, giving it more heft and meaning that if the name of the thing was left to its own devices without the honorific “the”.


  • The Spinning Spaghetti Fork
  • The Live Action Infrared Skeet Shoot
  • The Moisturizing Gloves and Booties
  • The Wind Defying Packable Umbrella

And many of them aren’t just “the”; often they’re THE VERY SOMETHING OR OTHER:

  • The Only Indoor Rotisserie Turkey Fryer
  • The Exact Reproduction Wizard of Oz Library
  • The World’s Thinnest Calendar Watch
  • The Best Nose Hair Trimmer

I don’t know how The Better Teak Shower Stool got in there. It’s just better? Not best? Ptui!

But what really caught my eye was The World’s Only Self-Righting Object.

Make that:

The Gömböc, the world's only homogenous, convex, self-righting object. Unlike inhomogeneous self-righting novelties built with weighted bases, the Gömböc is made of solid stainless steel, relying solely upon its unique curvilinear surface to achieve equilibrium from any starting position. (Source: Hammacher-Schlemmer.)

So I guess that means that the knock-over inflated Bozo that came to mind bozonwhen I see them fighting words “The World Only Self-Righting Object” must be an inhomogeneous self-righting novelty.

On the other hand, you can get a Bozo Bop Bag for a lot less than you’d pay for a Gömböc, sorry, I meant The Gömböc, which costs $499.95.

I suppogombocse The Gömböc is a bit classier looking than the Bozo Bop Bag. Still, the price discrepancy between $29.95 for a faux  Gömböc-ish, or Gömböc manqué, Bozo, and 500 clams for The Gömböc. I guess you really need to be a self-righting purist. Maybe even a self-righteous self-rightist.

And unlike the Bozo Bop Bag, The Gömböc is:

Entirely convex - every point on its surface bulges outward - it is similar in geometry to the shell of the radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata), which allows the animal to self-right without the use of its limbs.

Glad they mentioned that “without the use of its limbs” because, while I wasn’t thinking about the radiated tortoise, I was thinking about the human capacity to self-right. But, let’s face it, when most of us self-right, we’re getting an assist from our limbs.

Mathematically impossible in two dimensions, the Gömböc barely exists in three-dimensional space, the only known nondegenerate object to possess exactly one stable and exactly one unstable point of equilibrium.

Since H-S is the one that’s bringing up nondegenerate, I do have to say that The Gömböc at least has that going for it. Unlike a lot of the non-self-righting objects in S-H (including anything by Thomas Kinkade).

Flat objects (e.g. pebbles) have two stable points while thin objects (e.g. pencils) have two unstable points. Therefore, a Gömböc is a precise representation of minimal flatness and thinness - increasing either parameter creates additional points of stable equilibrium. Machined to tolerances below 10 microns (1/10th the thickness of a human hair), the Gömböc comes in a protective case to prevent dust from affecting its performance. 3.54" H x 3.93" W x 3.14" D. (6 1/4 lbs.)


Parameter. Equilibrium. Tolerance. Micron.

Here’s where my head starts hurting way, way, way too much for a Christmas catalog.

Or, rather, The Christmas Catalog.

Think I’ll go look at flannel muu-muus at the Vermont Country Store.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

And a very Ponzi fifth anniversary to you, Bernie Madoff

Hard to believe, but it was five years ago today that Bernie Madoff was arrested.

Ah, what a gift to business bloggers everywhere that bad boy was!

In “honor” – dishonor? – of his anniversary, Bernie agreed to meet with a WSJ/MarketWatch reporter at his big house digs in North Carolina. Apparently, he doesn’t get much company, given that his wife and surviving son don’t speak to him, and his other son committed suicide. His brother Peter got swept up in the scheme, and he’s also in the stir. Peter doesn’t speak to Bernie, either. But despite all this, old Bernie is not exactly full of remorse. In fact,

…Mr. Madoff pointed fingers at others and said his decades-long Ponzi scheme wasn't really his fault….it was clear from the outset that he wanted to justify the actions that resulted in his 150-year prison term. He said he felt "trapped" into the con by other people and always thought he would be able to get himself out of it. (Source: WSJ Online.)

So, if Bernie’s not mea culpa-ing, who’s on the receiving end of his tua culpa?

Well, first off, there were his stinkin’, no good, serves-them-right investors, who:

… he said, were "sophisticated people" and should have known better.

Okay, perhaps ‘sophisticated people’ should have known that something was up when they were getting so many happy returns – far happier than they would have gotten elsewhere.

But somebody has to beat the market, no?

Isn’t blaming his clients kind of like blaming the store for having its shelves stocked with items worth stealing? Of blaming the a murder victim for standing in front of the gun?

Banks were also the culprit.

He insisted banks knew about his fraud and were complicit in the scheme for years.

Well, it’s certainly easier to blame banks than it is to blame investors. And, sure, maybe if they’d had better safeguards in place, the fraud might have been uncovered sooner. Still…

Auditors are also on his list. And it’s absolutely the case that if they’d had their green eyeshades screwed on a bit tighter, they might have found the scheme out. Still…

Bernie also notes – with what I can assume is stunning narcissistic hubris – that:

One factor that allowed the Ponzi scheme to continue for so many years, he said, was that he had a lot of credibility in the industry. He dropped names and talked a lot about the old days, when he was among Wall Street's trading elite, sitting on industry committees and hobnobbing with a financial-services Who's Who.

Those were the days, eh, Bernie, when you were who’s who-ing it up in your bespoke suits and fancy-arse cufflinks? Now you’re wearing prison issue beige polyester.

While Bernie is happy to give plenty of blame, he’s not quite as willing to give any credit.

Harry Markopolos, who tried to blow the whistle to the SEC is, in Bernie’s words, “an idiot” who was whistling the wrong tune.

Bernie did – sort of – come to the defense of his employees, insisting that, other than Frank DiPascali, none of them were wittingly involved in the fraud.

Thanks, boss!

Madoff reminisced a bit about when he first realized that the jig might be up.

Mr. Madoff recalled one of the first moments he sensed that economic conditions in 2008 could be fragile. He was at the Palm Beach Country Club in Florida, he said, and he had "a young black kid" for a caddy, and the caddy was buying and selling homes.

Palm Beach Country Club. Good times, good times.

"He said he didn't need credit. He would buy homes and flip them for a profit," Mr. Madoff recalled. "I told my wife, 'This is the end.' "

The end of the housing boom would be a contributing factor in the collapse of his fraud, as many investors began seeking to cash out as the economy stalled and financial assets sank in value.

Darned those house-flipping caddies…

Meanwhile, fellow inmates and prison guards are always looking to Bernie for advice on their investments. In fact, the cons wanted the con to teach Investment 101, but the screws wouldn’t let him.

So no more fancy travel, no more multiple homes, no more Rolex watches, no more Palm Beach Country Club, no more Wall Street Who’s Who. And, what with the prison system not letting him rebuild his little life as Professor Madoff, an awful lot of time on his hands.

One thing he is allowed is 300 minutes worth of phone privileges each month.

But you don’t need your allocation if you don’t have anyone who wants to talk to you. Which Madoff doesn’t, other than the WSJ reporter.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer fellow.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Poopourri? Who needs industrial might when you can produce stuff like this?

Don’t get me wrong.

I’m delighted that I live in a country where raw sewage doesn’t free flow in the gutters.

I’m more than happy that the average American uses deodorant.

I think toothpaste with a boost of breath freshener is a darned good idea.

I’m glad I’m not in Naples with big black bags of festering garbage piled up a couple of stories high.

I like it that I don’t live on the Ponderosa with the Cartwrights, who over 14 years or so never, ever, ever managed to change their clothing.

And I have no problem with someone keeping a can of Lysol of Febreeze in the loo.

But do we really and truly need Poo-Pourri? Really? Truly?

Spritz the bowl before-you-go and no one else will ever know.

Leave the toilet smelling better than you found it.

Girls don’t poop.

How’s do you like them (road) apples for a brand promise?

Poo-Pourri, for those who haven’t had the pleasure:

…is a blend of essential oils that virtually eliminates bathroom odors! Our award-winning before-you-go® sprays come in a variety of scents and sizes.

Those scents actually sound more like flavors – blood orange, ruby grapefruit, cassis, tangerine, lemongrass… Delicioso!

How it works – instructions do always come in handy, even when the process is simple – is that you spritz a “protective layer of essential oils” that “keeps embarrassing odors buried under water.” You then “poo”, and that “protective layer” substitutes “pleasant aromas” for “nasty odors.”

“There’ll be no aerosol cover-up for you!”

Out, out, damned Lysol! Febreeze begone! Bring on the Bergamot and Ruby Grapefruit flavors scents.

The web site is pretty tongue in cheek (ewwww, forget I just wrote that), but I can imagine that being their copy writer gets boring fast. I imagine that there are only so many “holy crap” jokes you can make.

But there are plenty of varieties to flex your copywriting pecs on, with specific products aimed at different demographics. Including kids, with pink Sooper Dooper Pooper for girls and blue Sooper Dooper Pooper for boys. Ah, yes, get ‘em while they’re young and make sure they’re fussy, neurotic, self-conscious, and prissy. Excellent!

For the big gals, there’s Daisy Doo and Heaven Scent.

And apparently there are guys who don’t want anyone to know they poo, either, as there’s guy stuff, like Trap-a-Crap and Crap Shooter.

The testimonials would do any marketing director proud.

This is probably one of the best and most useful products ever invented that actually works!–Mary Anne Craft

I don’t know, Mary Anne. Toilets themselves works. As do telephones. And pencils. And they’re all pretty darned useful.

This item should be in every home in America! It is as essential as toilet paper. Seriously this is the best invention since indoor plumbing.” –Francijean

Come now, Francijean.

Better than the Internet? Better than M&M’s? Better than pantyhose?

Poo-Pourri is a miracle that has saved marriages.  People live by and for these products.  It has even changed lives:

“I am no longer uncomfortable using a public bathroom. I feel very confident in knowing that the restroom will always smell amazing.” -Nicole Tomlinson, Jacksonville Beach, FL

Well, I’m never particularly comfortable having to do the doo in a public bathroom. Particularly a public-public bathroom, like in the airport. But, hey, sometimes it happens. And I’m confident enough not to give it a worry.

Like McDonald’s used to, Poo-Pourri keeps a running tab of how many have been sold.

Over 4 million.

That’s an awful lot of stocking stuffers. Is there a company here with real legs? Are Americans so self-conscious that Poo-Pourri is a viable long term business?

Forget the auto industry. Forget refrigerators. Forget TVs.

We’ve got the market cornered on bathroom necessities.

Made in the USA!

Talk about industrial might!

Monday, December 09, 2013

“It’s the most wonderful job, of the year…”

Over on CareerCast, there was a completely idiotic article  – and, thus, right up Pink Slip’s alley – on the best seasonal jobs out there.

I couldn’t really see what made this list so special.

Santa Claus. Retail worker. Online order material handler. Package deliverer. Photographer. Personal shopper. Chef.

If I check this list twice, the only thing I can think of that was missed was Salvation Army bell-ringer and snow-shoveler. And Santa’s elf. (Although thanks to David Sedaris, we know that elf is not all that wonderful a gig.)

So these may not just be the best seasonal jobs. They may well be among the only seasonal jobs.

I can see that, if you were the jolly-holly type, being a Santa might be fun – especially if you were one of the high-end guys who can command $100 an hour.  But when it comes to being Santa, all may not be merry and bright.

As Pink Slip learned a few years back, there can be a lot of acrimony hiding behind those twinkly eyes, big tummies, and real or fake beards.

But whether the beards are real or fake, you no longer have to haul to the mall to get your kiddies to commune with the S-Man. Kids can now sit on Santa’s virtual lap by Skyping with him. (Dial “S” for Santa.)

Other than the fact that it’s a job, and it’s generally available, how can retail be considered one of the “best” holiday jobs?

Having worked retail for a couple of joyous shopping seasons, I can report that Christmas shopping does not bring out the best in mankind. It brings out the frantic, the crazy, the nasty, and the shoplifter.

In one of my favorite customer encounters when I was a salesgirl – as we were thus and then called – was talking with a man who was buying a box of letter paper for his wife.

I pointed out to him that, while the letter paper he had chosen was pretty, the box was shopworn: smudgy and just generally crappy looking.

He took it anyway, assuring me, “It’s okay. It’s just for my wife.”

I suppose he was in a hurry to get over to lingerie and do his more thoughtful and meaningful shopping for his girlfriend.

At least in retail, you got to encounter (for better or worse, I suppose) actual human shoppers. But a material recording clerk, trudging – or more likely golf-carting – around the warehouse with his clipboard – or more likely hand-held -  checking off and boxing up packages would only encounter fellow material recording clerks. I suppose they could have a few laughs about the crap that folks were ordering. And I suppose the malicious ones – those who were only intending to do a one and done as a seasonal recording clerk – would not be above mixing up orders: let’s put an XXS Winnie the Pooh sweatshirt in here, rather than an XXL; and ha-ha, this Barbie’s decapitated!, causing agita on the home fronts, and more work for the customer support reps.

I would think that being an adjunct UPS driver would be pretty darned stressful, especially if one wasn’t all that familiar with the routes. I wouldn’t want to be GPS-ing – or GPS’d – at all hours of the day or night, only to get to the delivery point and find that no one was in. I actually hate getting UPS deliveries to the house, as it’s just a colossal pain in the butt: we’re on a main street; the outside door to the lobby is locked; the buzzers don’t always work. I was sending my UPS packages to one or the other of my sisters’ homes, when I came upon the UPS service that lets you divert packages to a local UPS store. Far more convenient! Even though you have to pay – the similar FedEx setup is free – it’s still far easier to order online if I don’t have to worry about taking delivery.

While UPS and FedEx are doable if I pick up at the store, my favorite delivery mode is good old US Mail. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor locked foyer nor broken buzzer stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. Yeah, USPS! (I hope those meanies in Congress are never able to stamp you guys out!)

Personal shopper is one of those things that sounds like a “dream job”. And probably would be if you were a great shopper. I’m not. I mean, I do okay for the people I know and love. And I could shop for pretty much anybody at Staples. But I end up with so many dog clothing purchases on my own, I don’t think I’d be doing anybody a favor going out and clothing shopping for anyone else. I would definitely not be the personal shopper who’d be able to command the top dollar of $100-200/hour. (I would know enough, however, to avoid the dog-eared boxes of stationery.)

It might be kind of fun to be a mall Santa photographer, although you’d have to put up with cranky, squirming kids and plenty of parents demanding do-overs to get their little darlings’ right sides. Then there was the recent local hoo-hah over the young photographer who claimed that the not-so-young mall Santa pinched her in the rear…

Chef was a rather odd job on the holiday job list, but there is a lot of going out around the holidays, and catered parties. Do restaurants staff up with temps? Not that anyone would ever pay me to cook. (On the contrary…)

The final entry on the holiday job list was volunteer, with the article noting that “food banks always need extra volunteers at holiday time, particularly those that serve Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners to the homeless.” Before anyone gets all warm and fuzzy about volunteering to serve turkey to the homeless on Christmas, make sure to check and see if you’re really needed. Many organizations are overwhelmed with volunteers for the actual holiday. It’s the days before and after when they tend to fall short, as regular volunteers may be away. This is especially the case for organizations that have a lot of college kids volunteering. So, by all means volunteer, but ask if they’d rather not have you in on December 26th. It’s a lot less “glamorous,” and you’re not apt to get on local TV. But those who have no place to go have no place to go before and after Christmas, too.

Anyway, I’m just thankful that the days of looking for seasonal employment are well behind me. (Other than volunteering. Note to self: volunteer. Maybe not this year, exactly, but soon…)

But I do enjoy hearing my niece talk about her brilliant retail career at the Gap, where she’ll no doubt be folding jeans right up until closing on Christmas Eve.

I always say, everyone should work at least one retail and one food service job.

Friday, December 06, 2013

The N-M Christmas Book. (What’s in your fantasy?)

I’m mostly done with my Christmas shopping.

There are a couple of little things I want to pick up, but if I don’t get to them, so be it.

I’ll be wrapping at some point soon, and then settle down for a long winter’s nap.

Tis pity I got things wrapped up before I saw the 87th Edition of Neiman Marcus’ Legendary Christmas Book, and got to press my nose up against the window pane that looks in on the fantasy gift selection.

So, sorry folks, but no one on my list will be getting:

“HIS & HERS” 2013 ULTIMATE OUTDOOR ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM which includes a 201” screen which emerges like Venus from her scallop shell from wherever you want to stow it in your backyard.  201”, huh? I believe that even my husband would find this too damned large. But everything looks bigger in the great outdoors. In addition to the mega screen, the package includes super-duper speakers, super-duper subwoofers, and Direct TV. You also get a:

…built-in movie package featuring up to 300 movies and concerts (The American Film Institute’s 100 Most Thrilling American Films and 100 Greatest Love Stories, the remaining 100 are your choice).

Plus his-and-her mini iPad remotes.

This one retails from $1.5 M to $2.6M (depending on the speakers you want), and I don’t believe it was discounted on Black Friday.

My problem with this is,quite frankly, not just neiman screenthe price tag. It’s this sort of price tag for technology that, let’s face it, will be obsolete within two years. And you’ll be stuck with 201” worth of once-glorious screen that will start looking like a 1952 b&w Philco pretty darned quick. All that pleasure you got bringing up that screen would just be a yawn. One day the gardener would plant some roses out there, and you’d forget where you put it. Ten years on, when someone decides that your granite-countered, Sub-Zero’d, great roomed McMansion is a tear down, they’ll found this tech junk and laugh. Who needs 300 movies when we’ll all have 3,000 of them, and they’ll all be implanted in our brains!

Anyway, even if I’d seen the catalogue, $1.5M is a bit rich for my blood.

On the other end of the fantasy price spectrum, there’s the $11K CICLOTTE exercycle, which is just the thing to spin on while watching Barbarians at the Gate – for surely that would be a home entertainment pick – on your multi-million dollar outdoor entertainment system.

Back to the upper reaches of the gift range, there’s the FOREVERMARK ULTIMATE DIAMOND EXPERIENCE, which takes you to De Beers HQ in London to pick out your 25 carat diamond in the rough, name the diamond, and meet the craftsman who’s going to cut and polish it for you. But wait, there’s more. (For $1.85M there ought to be.) You get:

A private tour of The Crown Jewels and dinner with De Beers CEO Philippe Mellier and Forevermark CEO Stephen Lussier in the Tower of London follow.

But London can be dreary in winter, so you’ll next take yourself to Namibia and see how responsibly sourced diamonds are responsibly-sourced.

Back home, you meet up with the designer who’ll help you figure out whether to turn your responsibly sourced diamond into a ring, necklace, or belly-button button.

There is one thing in the fantasy catalog th081102_17at I’d actually like for myself. That’s THE GLASS HOUSE EXPERIENCE: dinner for me and my 10 besties, and an overnight stay at Philip Johnson’s. And I wouldn’t even let myself get creeped out by the fact that this is not just the house that Johnson built; it’s the house he died in.  I could happily die in that house, too. Not that I’d want the National Trust for Historic Preservation to have to body-bag me out of there. But they are, after all, the beneficiaries of all the proceeds of the $30K spend that lets you spend the night there.

For $70K, you can get an INDIAN LARRY’S “WILD CHILD” MOTORCYCLE – hand built in Brooklyn Okay, I don’t know who Indian Larry is, but there’s no one on my list who’d jump for joy to be sitting on a “handcarved leather seat in Indian Larry’s likeness.” At least I don’t think there’s anyone on my list who’d want it…

There are a few other goodies in the catalog:  JEFF KOONS’S DOM PÉRIGNON BALLOON VENUS ($20K). Meh. And THE NEIMAN MARCUS 2014 ASTON MARTIN VANQUISH VOLANTE - $344,500 is a tiny bit more than I generally consider paying for a car, but this does get up to 180 m.p.h.

But for pure snotty weirdness, I tip my exotic-skin hood to the BESPOKE GLOBAL FALCONRY COMPANION, which will set you back $150K. The kit includes:

Oiled walnut trim and edging. Trunk body: clad with black full grained leather with a natural milled texture with hand-stitched corners, black strapping leather, darkened bronze hardware with contrasting brass fasteners. Interior lining: quilted khaki canvas. Size: 34.375"H x 39.625"W x 26.25"D .

Falcon Transport Case/Portable Falconry Case:
Oiled walnut trim and edging, black full grained leather with a natural milled texture, black strapping leather, darkened bronze hardware with contrasting brass fasteners. Size: 27.5"H x 17.75"W x 21.5"D.

Trunk Contents:

  • Two Chatwin chairs with canvas tote bags. Chair frames are oiled walnut; upholstery is black full grain leather with a natural milled texture and black strapping leather with darkened bronze hardware. Size: 32"H x 23.375"W x 23.375"D.
  • Folding table. Black full grained leather with a natural milled texture, black strapping leather, darkened bronze hardware. Size (open): 29"H x 38"W x 31.375"D.
  • Leather perch scale. Perch is oiled walnut with removable leather-wrapped perch with 2 replacements. Sizes: Perch, 10.25"H x 7.5"W x 5.5"D; scale: .6"H x 7.9"W x 7.9"D.
  • Gold perch. 20-karat gold plated with hand cut rings of lapis lazuli. The perch comes with a 304 stainless steel spike to put into the ground or a "Kashmir Gold" granite base for indoor use. Size: 7.5"Dia. (various heights).
  • Decanter & cigar carrying case. Case has an inlaid engravable, hallmarked sterling silver plaque. Features two lead crystal decanters with sterling silver plaques laid onto square rosewood stoppers, a cigar cutter, and a walnut box to hold eight Corona No. 5s. Also includes a removable walnut rack that holds eight pewter tumblers, numbered 1 to 8. Oiled walnut, leather, rosewood, sterling silver, nickel hardware; pewter cups and lead crystal decanters. Size: 10.5"H x 15"W x 8.5"D.
  • Backgammon board. American black walnut, leather, photographic feathers, and hand painted surface. Marquetry falcon wood inlaid into the lid of the box. The compartments are lined with calf leather. The playing pieces are made from hardened gold-plated brass with leather on opposite side. The lenses are optical glass to replicate the cornea. The pupil and outer ring are polished black slate, the glint is mother of pearl, the brown iris is granite, the yellow iris is treated corian. The doubling die is veneered with bleached bird's-eye maple, the dice shakers are turned ironwood, and the dice are precision cut. Size: 4"H x 23.5"W x 15"D (closed).
  • Hoods. Hood A: Syr-Ab Hood made of calf and blue ostrich with a black ostrich inlay and a blue sapphire bead. Hood B: Dutch hood made of rattlesnake with designer ostrich eye panels and a blue sapphire bead. Hood C: Khan hood made of tooled calf with blue ostrich inlay and a lapis lazuli bead to match the perch. Hood D: Khan hood made of tooled calf and blue ostrich with a lapis lazuli bead to match the perch.
  • Two savers (matching case to put your hoods when not in use) of calf and blue ostrich with suede lining. Size: 3"H x 4.25"W x 4.25"L.
  • Glove. Elk, with blue ostrich and tooled calf leather overlay. Size: 15"L x 13"W.
  • Anklet. Kangaroo, with blue ostrich overlay. Size: .75"H x 1.75"W x 2.5" L.
  • Leashes and jesses. Dacron. Sizes: various.
  • Falcon Hood Stands. Two standard beehive stands with ebonized wooden base.; base 7"H x 4.75"Dia. One tall beehive stand with ebonized wooden base; base 14.5"H x 3"Dia. One standard column stand with ebonized wooden base; base 9.5"H x 2.75"Dia.

You supply the falcon, which may or may not like the idea of wearing a hood made of ostrich hide  - or is an ostrich not a fellow bird? And, widening and widening in the gyre, you be the falconer.

To the hounds, or to the birds.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Lulu: “girl power”–make that “mean girl power” - in action

A couple of things stick in my mind.

One is the “dog date”.

I don’t know anyone who actually experienced this, but a “dog date” occurs when a not-so-attractive (by popular guy standards) woman is asked out by a popular guy. (Think Greek, think jock.) He and his fellow popular guys bring their “dates” to a party, where the biggest dog is chosen. And everyone laughs up a storm at the hilarious notion that a popular guy would actually have asked a “dog” out.

Somehow, the “dogs” were supposed to accept that this was all in good fun. And everyone was supposed to pretend that this was the proper order of things.

The other thing that’s in my mind is a Princeton eating club tradition that I heard about from a woman I was once in a writing group with. In her story, she recounted being escorted into the eating hall, where she was evaluated by the assembled young men. I can’t remember what the evaluators actually did – pounded on the tables with their knives and forks? – but I believe that, if you were met with silence, it was because you had been weighed and found wanting, that you were not considered attractive, and the young man who brought you as his date would ask you out again only at his social survival peril. To have gotten the silent treatment was considered a humiliation, a putdown of the foolish Princetonian who had been naïve enough to bring a girl to campus who didn’t rate, looks- or clothing-wise.

The woman recounting her lunch at Princeton let us know that she’d been pretty well received, but that Jackie Kennedy had supposedly gotten the  most positive reception ever.

Somehow, the decency of a young man exposing a young woman he presumably liked to such a degrading system was never questioned.

This was the way it was.

What mattered most were looks, and if women didn’t like it, well tough.

As someone who grew up exceedingly insecure about my looks, it is painful to write about this.

What brought these thoughts up was reading about something called Lulu, which gives me an upside-down version of the pangs that “dog dates” and eating club scoring do.

No, Lulu isn’t a “looks” rating system, but it is an online slam book in which women – or, in post-feminist, Lulu-esque terms – girls rate men they’ve dated in a number of different categories. Anonymously, of course. Because, like, shouldn’t girls be able to trash guys without, like having to be upfront about it?

On Lulu, women can rate men in categories — ex-boyfriend, crush, together, hooked-up, friend or relative — with a multiple-choice quiz. Women, their gender verified by their Facebook logins, add pink hashtags to a man’s profile ranging from the good (#KinkyInTheRightWays) to the bad (#NeverSleepsOver) to the ugly (#PornEducated). The hashtags are used to calculate a score generated by Lulu, ranging from 1 to 10, that appears under the man’s profile picture. (The company’s spokeswoman declined to explain the ratings algorithm.) Men can add hashtags, which appear in blue, but these are not factored into their overall score.

Since it was started last year by Alexandra Chong, who has a law degree from the London School of Economics, the service has provided a sort of “Take Back the Internet” moment for young women who have come of age in an era of revenge porn and anonymous, possibly ominous suitors. “The thing that drew me to Lulu was that dating without a reference is the scariest thing you can do,” said Erin Foster, 31, an actress and writer. “Meeting someone out in the world when you’re not in school or don’t work with each other or have mutual friends — you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.” (Source: NY Times.)

So now you can get that idea by seeing what some snippy bee-yotch is hashtagging about his looks, personality, and behavior.

Might it not be better to just not go on dates with guys you haven’t been able to vet on your own?

Guess I’m just so yesterday.

“I think sometimes girls feel like they don’t have that much power in the hookup world,” Ms. [Sewell] Robinson said, “but this gives them something to bond over, and you can give advice to a girl you’ve never met before.”

Girls! Girls! Girls!

Didn’t girls used to be females under the age of 18?

But little Lulu’s all over girls:

We created Lulu to unleash the value of girl talk and to empower girls to make smarter decisions on topics ranging from relationships to beauty and health.

Lulu is a private network for girls to express and share their opinions openly and honestly. In our first iteration, Lulu is a private app for girls to read and create reviews of guys they know.

A diatribe on young woman who’ve decided to call themselves “girls” will be reserved for a late time and date.

Nothing wrong with it in small doses, I suppose, but this “girlie girl” stuff – all of a piece, I suppose with the wearing of the f-me pumps, and sexy outfits at work – is fairly disturbing.

A woman can be independent, competent, and strong. A girl at this age is playing cutesie-pie, pale-frail, trap-a-man. And she wants the boys to know that she’s no threatening dick-witherer.

Forget Helen Gurley Brown. That’s Helen Girlie Brown to you, sister.


Welcome to Lulu. Let's start the conversation


Isn’t a “conversation” a two-way street, best done between and among human beings who aren’t cloaked in anonymity? Isn’t a conversation an exchange of ideas; the telling (and re-telling) of stories; the sharing of our hopes and fears?

In what way, shape, or form is assigning a bad date the hashtag “f-ing dickhead” a conversation?

Sounds to me like trash-talking mean-girl-ism to me.

For this we (metaphorically speaking) burnt our bras?

I was going to end this post with E.M. Forster’s exhortation to “Only connect!”, rather than anonymously trash talk others. But then I found a better quote from him:

There's enough sorrow in the world, isn't there, without trying to invent it.


A number of years back, I wrote with alarm about an online (anonymous) campus gossip site. I’m delighted to report that Juicy Campus went out of business, and the founder has now become Mr. Nice Guy. Would that the same fate befalls Lulu, and that Ms. Chong finds something more positive to do with her life.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

You are what you tweet

I’m a sucker for personality tests.

When I first encountered Myers-Briggs over 25 years ago – for some reason, they administered it at Wang when I was there – it was a revelation. The test confirmed what I had suspected all along. As an INTJ, I was, statistically thinking, something of a weirdo.

A few years later, at another company’s sales kick-off, they did a quickie test that grouped all of us under one of four colors. I was in the blue bunch, a small group of mostly home office, introverted staffers. Most of the attendees were reds, or flaming reds, a band of extraverts that, not surprisingly, comprised most of our sales force. One guy who found himself to be the only sales person in the blue group, kept looking wistfully over at the large number of reds, who were – predictably – whooping things up, making a lot of noise, and, in general, behaving like a bunch of a-holes. (Just revving themselves up for a night of drunken revelry which would find them carousing through the halls wearing bed sheets, and using the hall stand used for an ashtray – remember these? – as a battering ram to try to break into a suite where a group of us blues were sheltering from the red storm, drinking wine and playing Trivial Pursuit.) The fellow who was blue about being in the blue group did tell us he took some comfort when they told us that Ronald Reagan was a blue…

Anyway, a few years later I got a bit hooked on enneagrams, largely through a book I found called The Enneagram Made Easy. I can’t remember my type, but I recall the book as being great fun. I lent it to a colleague at some point, and never got it back. I should probably just go on Amazon and get me one.

Still, I’m not quite prepared for companies to start big-data-ing tweets to figure out who to hire.

This strikes me as a tiny big unfair.

After all, is it not possible that someone’s tweeting on a specific topic of interest that they just plain like to 140 character on about? Like the Red Sox, or the Kardashians, or what happened in school today. Or that they’re tweeting for work and are, thus, not necessarily revealing personal traits. (“The Z1492 widget doohickey is now available in beta. For more info, ping me.” Does that tell you anything?) Can someone’s personality be defined by looking into just one aspect of their life? Or can we just assume that, whether your twittering is narrow or broad, personal or professional, you are what you tweet?

I know that the minute you blog, comment, order from Amazon, swipe your CVS card, Google the latest on Alex Baldwin or Obamacare  – let alone tweet – “they” have in their possession (or have the potential to have in your possession) an awful lot of information on you.

Privacy be damned!

Much of it, we voluntarily surrender (mostly without giving the act or its implications a thought) our information rights, happy (perhaps too strong a word) to give up (give away?) our privacy in return for some of the excellent things that the Internet brings us: the ability to settle every possible sports/TV/trivia bet out there; shopping while wearing PJs; connecting with old friends…

But if we think about it, most of us – at least those of us of a certain age – tend to have a “now wait just a durned minute” minute, when we think of the life altering implications of sacrificing our personal data on the altar of big data.

So why not have Acme Services grab our oh, so public tweets and analyze them to determine whether we’ll fit their corporate mold well enough to man the weekend customer complaint desk?

Well,  maybe because it seems sneaky, invasive, impersonal, and kind of nasty. I guess it’s more efficient than checking references, or checking someone out through the informal who-knows-who network, or even just relying on gut instincts. And if you want a crack sales force, I guess you’re better off making sure you’re stacked it with flaming reds.


But this will, no doubt, be coming soon to a hiring company and/or recruiter, thanks to Michelle Zhoe, a researcher with IBM who:

…says she can make a good educated guess about your personality just from looking at 200 of your Twitter messages…

Companies that pay attention to this research could save hundreds of millions of dollars — and stop annoying people. (Source: article by Dean Takahashi in Venture Beat.)

Well, I get how this could save hundreds of millions of dollars in hiring mistakes – who wants to have to train someone only to get rid of them a few months later? – but just how does it “stop annoying people”?

Although annoying wouldn’t be my word off choice. (C.f., sneaky, invasive, impersonal, and kind of nasty.)

  “Computers can derive people’s traits from linguistic footprints,” Zhou said in an interview with VentureBeat. “That hasn’t been widely applicable before, because where do you get those linguistic footprints? Now, you can do that with social media and digital communications. Those are readily available, so we saw an opportunity there.”

In Zhou’s analysis, 52 different traits are measured – traits like hedonistic, excitable, and curious.

So I suppose if you tweeted, “Dude, I was so wasted last night” you might be characterized as hedonistic.  An “OMG!!!! Front row!!!! New Direction!!! Harry looked at me!!!!” might peg you as excitable, while those who do a lot of “WTF????”-ing might come across as curious.

This type of analysis, of course, has applications way beyond job applications.

What big tweets you have! All the better to market to you with!

Other than marketing, Zhou mentions using her linguistic analysis to figure out the person on the other side of the negotiating table. And I’m thinking it would come in handy for jury selection. Not to mention looking for Mr. or Ms. Right.

Anyway, if I were to tweet on this, here’s what I’d say (in fewer than 140 characters, I might add):

Personality typing via twitter. You are what you tweet. One more genie we’ve unleashed from the technology bottle. God help us.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Don’t feel obligated, but, gee, shouldn’t you WANT to contribute to the group gift for our Dear Managers…

Well, yesterday I posted about a dopey gift that a small company owner gave to his employees last year.

But while the gift may have been unfortunate, his heart was in the right place in wanting to give his team a little something to recognize their value to the organization.

Then there’s another end of the ‘tis the season equation, one that I frankly was unaware of: employees being shaken down to contribute to a gift for management.

In an e-mail that would not have been out of place among Tudor courtiers looking to honor Henry VIII with an ermine wiping cloth for his toilette – if Tudor courtiers had had access to e-mail – one Pink Slip reader who works at a Fortune 500 company was asked to make a minimum $10 donation to go towards a gift for his group’s leader.

The solicitation e-mail sent such a mixed message – “feel free but not obligated to chip in” followed by “suggested minimum contribution is $10”.  Then there was the handy-dandy contribution form that was attached.

It included a table containing the names of the half-dozen members of the group’s management team – director level managers – with the suggestion contribution of $10 filled in, a column to enter another amount (if you wanted to donate more or less), and a note that you should check off which of the group’s Dear Leaders you wanted your contribution to go towards.

Employees were asked to print off the form – nice waste of ink on corporate colored printers – and return it with the cash.

I am no stranger to the well-meaning chip in for the new baby, the wedding, the whatever.

While I pretty much always threw in a few bucks and signed the card anytime an “opportunity” came my way, the subtle coercion of someone going office to office asking for a donation always rankled me a bit. While I didn’t completely discourage the practice when I was a manager – it’s nice to have an occasional baby shower and sheet cake break – I let people know that the card should circulate, round robin, in an envelope. You could sign the card and pass it on to the colleague in the next cubicle without feeling you had to throw in any money. (I told people that the only rule should be that the envelope should never leave someone’s office containing less cash than it had on the way in.)

But collecting for a suck-up gift for managers? And having some no doubt nosey-parker underling know – and no doubt keep track of – everyone who was giving or not giving.

Some things are just plain WRONG.

And this is one of them.

What surprised me is that the leaders themselves allowed this, but my reader assured me that this practice had been going on for several years, and the managers were just as happy as pigs in slop with it.

And why not?

They got some walking around money – we’re talking about large teams under each of these individuals, so all those $10 could add up – or a nice gift. And they get to hear the Santa’s elf who did the soliciting letting them know who’s on the naughty list and who’s on the nice.

Personally, the only circumstance when I think it’s reasonable to ask people to pitch in for a gift for a senior manager is when they’re retiring. Or maybe a transfer or promotion. But beyond that...

It may have been patronizing when “the boss” gave everyone a turkey on Christmas Eve, but at least the gift was going in the right Scrooge-to-Cratchit direction.

But paying tribute to managers…

It’s one thing if someone wants to give their manager a small gift – I’m thinking homemade cookies – if they have a close relationship, or if the manager’s done something especially nice. But beyond some token gift, this giving up is just peril fraught.

And asking people to return a checked off form with their $10 minimum contribution…

If I were one of the leaders on the list, I’d put a stop to this a.s.a.p.

And if I had gotten that e-mail, I’d have been sorely tempted to dime the deal to HR.

Bah humbug to this idea.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Personally, I’d rather have a lump of coal, thank you

I’ve never worked at a place where they actually gave you anything for Christmas.

Some places I worked for had the obligatory-fun/command-performance holiday party. Some had Yankee swaps. Or grabs. Some had group get togethers, lunch out of whatever.

But there was never any company gift – no gift certificate, no turkey, and certainly no Tony Robbins video collections. That I most assuredly would have remembered.

But if you worked for ReferLocal.com, that’s what Santa brought you last year.

Kristopher Jones admits he did a lousy job playing Santa Claus last December when he gave his employees personal-development CDs and workbooks by self-help guru Tony Robbins. It was the first holiday season in which his Web-marketing firm had a sizable staff, and he thought the gifts, valued at about $400 apiece, were a great way to thank everyone for their hard work.

"I'm a huge Tony Robbins fan," says the 37-year-old founder of ReferLocal.com in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (Source: WSJ Online)

When I saw “Wilkes-Barre” I momentarily confused it with Scranton, and thought that this might have taken place in a branch of Dunder Mifflin. Can’t you see this gifting as an episode of The Office?

…Says Mr. Jones: "The gifts were apparently more about me."

Kudos to Jones for admitting to having a less than deft touch with his gifting.

And who am I to poke fun at Jones to begin with. After all, he’s a successful entrepreneur and author of a book on Internet marketing – SEO Visual Blueprint - that I admittedly never heard of, but which sounds worth buying. (Although the second edition is over three years old, so maybe I’ll hold out for the third.)

But Tony Robbins!

It’s hard for me to think of anything that would be more destined to find it’s way into next year’s Yankee Swap.

Tony Robbins!

Pink Slip is no stranger to the man.

He was the subject of an April 2012 post, when his fire-walking event resulted in hot foots for a number of participants.

What would I rather have than a set of Tony Robbins CD’s and workbooks?

For starters, there’s the $400 that Jones paid for each set. I’d rather have had the $400. Or $40. Or even $4.

I’ll go so far as to say I’d rather have an MP3 player that only plays Horse with No Name, Gangster of Love (Steve Miller version), and Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven (not to be confused with the teen-bouncy Neil Sedaka S-to-H).

While I’m on the subject of music, I’d rather sit through a Miley Cyrus concert. Front row seats.

I’d rather have a 50 lb. bag of turnips.

I’d rather have a gift certificate to Cracker Barrel.

I’d rather have a Thomas Kincaid commemorative plate.

I’d rather have the collected works of Tom Clancy. (As long as I didn’t have to read them, but could just watch the movies.)

I’d rather have a 3XL Winnie the Pooh sweatshirt.

And speaking of shirts, I’d rather have a hair shirt.

And spend an afternoon with Ted Cruz while wearing the hair shirt. (Maybe I’ve gone a bit too far here…)

ReferLocal’s employees may be thinking along the same lines.

It was clear that his 16 staffers weren't impressed with the gifts, some of which still gather dust, unopened, on employee desks.

At least Jones is the type of boss that doesn’t intimidate his employees into feeling they have to suck up to him by pretending to like his gift. Apparently the employees were secure enough to leave those Tony Robbins CDs just sitting there, clearly unused. (A smarter move might have been selling them on eBay.)

When shopping for your employees, my recommendation would be to use the “shopping for a teenager” rule of thumb.

Nothing says loving like cash…

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday 2013

It probably goes without blogging that I won’t be doing any shopping on Black Friday.

Yes, I have pretty much finished my Xmas shopping anyway.

And, no, there was not one electronic anything on my list. (I checked twice, just to make sure.)

But it’s not that I don’t “need’ any electronics.

My two-year old last-Blackberry-in-existence is on its last legs, I’m afraid, so I’m dickering about whether to just wave the white flag and get an iPhone, or get myself an Android device.

I’ve had a tablet on my shopping bucket list for a couple of years now, but again there’s that dickering between an iPad and an anything-else-pad.

(I could, of course, put off the tablet decision further by commandeering the Kindle my husband bought a couple of months go. What was he thinking? The man doesn’t even own a cell phone. Is he really going to start reading from a Kindle?)

And we could use a flat-screen to replace the tubby-tube in the den.

But I don’t need anything that badly that I’d stand in line in the cold for hours on end, and risk getting trampled in a consumer stampede, to save a couple of hundred bucks.

For some folks, however, The Most Wonderful Time of Year means more than just Salvation Army bell-ringers, ribbon candy, and those annoying Lexus-with-the-big-red-bow ads. It means camping out at what ever big box store’s got big Black Friday bargains on offer.

In Akron, Ohio, the place to be is, apparently, Best Buy, where last Monday – that would be November 18th – the first happy campers showed up.

They’re waiting in comfort, with tents rigged with generators, flat-screen TVs, microwaves, heaters and mattresses. (Source: NY Daily News)

The rules of the game are that a) the tent must be occupied by someone – but not necessarily the same someone – or you lose your place; and b) when the doors open, each tent can have ten shoppers associated with it.

Ah, yes, just a short century and change ago, pioneering Americans raced their Conestoga wagons to stake their claims for a few acres in the Oklahoma Land Rush, lived in sod huts, got visited by plagues of grasshoppers, and wore the same pair or shoes and shirt for life. And if their kids were really, really lucky, they got a horehound drop and a walnut for Christmas.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen into the glittering trap of consumer electronics.

But, as Tony Avitar, who has been gone Black Friday camping in Akron for eleven years, has it. It’s all worth it:

"Originally, I started because you know I have five kids, and when you're on a limited income, or even not a limited income, you want to be able to get them nice presents instead of getting them like some crappy toy," Avitar said, adding that he and his pals would have Thanksgiving dinner in the tents.

Yes, what kid wants to find a crappy toy like a Raggedy Ann Doll, a Tonka Truck, or a Parcheesi game under the tree, when what they really want is an XBox.

That’s sure worth dad spending two weeks in a tent for.

I was thinking that, if folks just went to work for those two weeks, they’d make enough to pay full price for their electronics. But it turns out Avitar is a sound engineer who doesn’t work a regular nine-to-five, and this is a slow time of year for rock shows in Akron, so, he’s good to chill in his tent.

And, as it turns out, it’s not just about the shopping experience:

"Then it kind of became a family tradition my kids started coming down and it became a bonding experience with me and the kids." (Source: Huff Po)

I bonded with my father listening to the Red Sox on the radio, at Holy Cross football games, raking leaves, and going with him to the dump.

Bonding has certainly taken on a new dimension.

But, as Madonna told us oh so long ago now, we live in a material world.

On Akron camper has a “tactical battle plan” for scoring “that Samsung 65-inch television baby”:

“This is where the cold weather training in the Air Force comes in handy because it got cold last night!”

The few, the proud, the Black Friday shoppers!

Meanwhile, it’s not clear you get what you camp for:

…consumer research groups caution shoppers to be savvy about how they shop. Just because a retailer claims it has discounted an item, doesn't mean customers are actually getting a bargain, they warn.

“Retailers also trick consumers on Black Friday into falling for bad deals with misleading original prices, knockoff deals, and rebates,” research group Nerd Wallet warns. “Shoppers who skip the Black Friday lines, then, might not be missing much. There’s a strong chance they’ll see the same items at the same prices for Black Friday next year.”

Caveat, campers!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Each year, on Thanksgiving, I write about what I’m thankful for.

So rather than keep repeating myself, I’ll let you read what I had to say last year, to which I’ll provide a bit of an update.

Of course, I continue to remain thankful for friends and family, for my home, my work, and for my own health. When it comes to health, I do have to mention that, while we were very optimistic last Thanksgiving, in early 2013, they found a recurrence of my husband’s Cancer Number Two, for which Jim has been treated throughout 2013.

During that treatment – ongoing chemo – Jim was well enough that we were able to enjoy two excellent trips to his favorite place on earth, NYC, including a glorious trip the last week of September, when the weather could not have been better and we were able to take long walks every day. (We even had a fun “celebrity” spotting: Sylvester Stallone’s mother Jackie, dining at L’Absinthe. Not quite as interesting as our July meet-up with Gloria Steinem, but pretty much right up there with last year’s LOL sighting of Jackie Mason.)

A week after our return from NYC, we found ourselves in an ambulance on our way to the Mass General ER, where they discovered that Cancer Number Two had metastasized to Jim’s brain.

The next day brought surgery – successful – and radiation, which causes extreme exhaustion, but which should put the kibosh on further brain mets.

We do not yet know what all this means.

We remain hopeful, but both weary and wary.

Still, when we received the initial diagnosis for Cancer Number Two in late December 2011, we would have given anything for a couple more years. Which we’ve gotten.

Thus, I remain thankful for the wonderful doctors, nurses, radiology folks, and admins/receptionists at Mass General Hospital. Thank you Panos, Rana, Chris, Becca, Kelly, Kevin, Helen, Connie, Kristin, David, Ariel, Lynn, Pam, John, Mohammeda, Abe, Jason, Janice, Ebony and the many others who’ve brought us help and comfort over the last couple of years.

I’d also like to do my annual shout out to St. Francis House, which has been helping Boston’s poor and homeless rebuild their lives for over 25 years now. If you have reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving Day, please consider a donation.

Finally, I’m including a link to Linda Tirado’s excellent Huffington Post essay on being poor: Why Poor People’s Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense.

For those of us inclined to ask ourselves why they don’t just stop doing self-defeating stuff and behave more like us, this may be an eye-opening read.

One that makes me very thankful that I have absolutely zero experience being poor. (Being a “struggling student” really and truly does not count.)

Happy Thanksgiving!