Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Masterpiece Theater of the Absurd

Last year, there was a majorly major art heist in Rotterdam, with works by Picasso, Money, Matisse, et al., valued in the tens of millions of dollars, spirited away, allegedly by a gang of Romanian no-good-niks. (Or whatever the Romanian word for no-good-niks is. My Romanian is pretty much limited to “duce la dracu”, which means “go to hell.”)

Radu Dogaru was prime on the theft and, last winter, while:

…sheltering with a computer at his mother’s house in this remote Romanian village [Cracaliu], set out the terms for a deal that had eluded him for months but that now suddenly seemed tantalizingly close. (Source: NY Times.)

Dogaru did so via Facebook, letting a fellow gang member know that he had someone lined up, and:

…that the eager buyer could have “the dogs” for 400,000 euro, about $531,000, and agreed to take the paintings to a meeting the next day to complete the sale.

Guess Dogaru and his pals didn’t realize that, given that you can’t exactly go to Sotheby’s with stolen paintings, the key to a successful art heist is having a buyer lined up in advance. Someone who just wants the paintings for private viewing, and who won’t blab that they’ve got them. Or try to sell them through Sotheby’s.

But absent a buyer, Picasso’s “Harlequin Head,” and Monet’s “Waterloo Bridge,” and Matisse’s “Reading Girl in White an Yellow,” were just “dogs.”

What Dogaru didn’t know was that his potential buyer was working with the Romanian prosecutor’s office, and that Dogaru was going to be nabbed when he showed up with the art.

But corruption being corruption, someone tipped Dogaru off.

And now the art world is in a swirl trying to figure out what happened to the paintings.

At one point, Dogaru’s mother claimed that the paintings were burned.

Mommy Dearest then changed her tune and suggested that the paintings may have been “spirited away by a tall mystery man in a fancy black car.”

Sonny-boy Dogaru, meanwhile, has admitted that he stole the paintings, but hasn’t given up their whereabouts because he’s scared to, or doesn’t know what became or them, or whatever.

Dogaru gets something of a mixed review in his home town.

His grandmother claims that her grandson was a good boy who “prayed, crossed himself and read the Bible.”

“He is a very serious man,” she added.

Villagers say that they occasionally saw Mr. Dogaru at church and that, unlike many local men, he did not get drunk or smoke and took great pride in his physical condition. But, according to a neighbor who declined to be named because he feared retribution, Mr. Dogaru’s only real interest in religion was the theft of icons from village homes.

“When he is here, we have trouble. When he goes, everything is calm,” the neighbor said.

Meanwhile, Romania being Romania, Carcaliu is not just any old plain vanilla Romanian village. It’s populated by an eccentric Russian Orthodox schismatic group, the Old Believers, who pretty much don’t cotton to outsiders.

Though only a small village, Carcaliu has so far defied months of insistent probing by the anti-organized crime unit, which hired a man from the area to try to make sense of the archaic Russian spoken there and carried out some 60 searches. The village has resisted giving up its secrets.

The big secret being what happened to all those works of art.

Were they buried in a cemetery?

Burned “in a stove used to heat water for the bathroom and a sauna”, a stove that “is barely a foot wide and seems far too small to contain what would have been a bulky bundle of canvas and wood.”

The only hard, but still very tentative, evidence of what might have happened has come from a laboratory at the National History Museum in Bucharest, which last week completed a forensic analysis of ash collected from the stove.

“It is quite likely that something terrible has happened,” said the museum’s director, Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu. Analysis of the ash, he said, had found nails, tacks, color pigments and fragments of canvas indicating the remains of at least four paintings.

“We know that she burned some paintings, but we don’t know if what she burned were the paintings from the Kunsthal,” the director said.

Dogaru’s mother sounds like a first class pip. So does her son.

He’s not only an (inept) art thief, but when he first landed in Rotterdam, he pimped out his 18 year old Romanian girlfriend.

While the girlfriend made about $2,655 a week from clients — about four times the average monthly salary in Romania — Mr. Dogaru and two Romanian friends spent their time pimping, pumping iron and robbing houses, according to the indictment.

But what’s $2,655 a week when you can make big money in the art world?

Should be easy-peasy. After all, Dogaru’s specialty seemed to have been fencing luxury watches. Expensive watches? Expensive art works? What’s the big diff, especially if you tune out the “one of a kind” nature of the art works.

Dogaru’s involvement in the theft came to (ultra)violet light when a prospective buyer brought in an expert, who decided that the paintings she examined were authentic. And called the police.

While Dogaru’s in prison awaiting trial, he’s still trying to parlay the paintings – which may or may not be burnt – into getting a better deal for himself.

When two Dutch police officers and a prosecutor traveled to Romania in June to interview him, according to Romanian officials who were present, Mr. Dogaru offered to give them four paintings if they moved him to stand trial in the Netherlands, where he apparently judged prisons to be more congenial than those in Romania.

No dice on that one.

Personally, I’m just as happy that Dogaru will be rotting I a nasty Romania jail rather than enjoying comfy digs in the Netherlands. And I hope  that his mother ends up keeping him company in the hoosegow, too.

Too bad this gang who couldn’t steal art straight didn’t get busted before they turned so many masterpieces to ashes.

But all the odd-ball threads of this story… Old Believers, pimped out girlfriends, burning the evidence, Romania period…

This theater of the absurd will make for some made-for-TV movie.

And Radu and Olga Dogaru can both duce la dracu.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

This is a specimen of my best Palmer handwriting…

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.

Which means more than the usual number of useless articles to read online. Or which, alternatively, means that I am more inclined to read more useless articles online.

In either case, now that I’m played out on the Royal Bébé, I’ve been clicking elsewhere, and came across plenty o’ nonsense.

There was the list of rules for wearing sunglasses in the office. (No croakies, no fluorescent frames.)

Then the one on Starbucks’ rolling out smartphone charging mats in some of its stores. Which would have been fine, if it hadn’t been for the completely nonsense headline: “Starbucks Adds Phone-Charging Stations. What's Next, Showers?” Showers? That’s quite a leap. I can think of a few things  - printers, maybe – that would make more sense as a What’s Next.

And don’t get me going on Anthony Weiner. (Did he really think that no one would figure out that he’d continued his sexting ways well after he resigned from Congress. Huma, Huma, Huma, easy to say, but I really do think that you can do better than Carlos Danger. Speaking of Carlos Danger, Slate has a nifty Carlos Danger name generator. Mine is Mateo Covert. My husband’s is Diego Menace. Huma Abedin’s is Ricardo Calamity.)

So it was almost a relief to come up with a sober and nuanced article on the decline and fall of cursive, which I ran into on CNN.

One young whippersnapper  - 26 years old -  recalled his penmanship lessons:

"I remember I hated it and I told my teacher I thought it was dumb," he says…"I don't even think I know how to write in cursive anymore."

There’ll be plenty more like him as time marches on, that’s for sure.

There are only a handful of states that even have a writing requirement (printing or cursive) anymore. Massachusetts is one of them, so at least our citizens will have a non-oral form of communication at their fingertips if there’s a nationwide electronics meltdown.

Technology is constantly increasing communication speeds, often anticipating words before our brains can send signals to our fingers.

And as anyone who’s ever hit “send” before reading through their text message can tell you, the words that get anticipated are not always going to be the ones your brain wants to send. Meanwhile,

…experts say handwriting is being sacrificed for the sake of technology's convenience.

Wendy Carlson [is] a handwriting expert and forensic document examiner. Carlson works as an expert court witness, maintaining offices in Denver and Dallas. She says the dramatic decline of handwriting is causing "great" deterioration of the mind.

"Texting played a role in it because people are trying to write quick short sentences," she says. "People aren't using their minds and they are relying on technology to make the decisions for them."

I’ll buy that those who’s sole form of written communication is texting (or, in the case of Carlos Danger, sexting) may not be thinking things as fully through as you do when you’re dipping your quill pen in ink and writing on parchment. Still, just because you’re writing “quick short sentences” doesn’t mean you’re “relying on technology to make [your] decisions for [you].” Or in the case of Carlos Danger, relying on something other than technology to make the decisions for him.

Carlson says cursive writing combines mental and physical processes which involve both sides of the brain. She says she's noticed that the number of people who write cursive decreases as technology becomes the most dominant means of communication.

"If you are typing or texting, it's a matter of punching and finger-moving," she says. "You are doing very little thinking because you are not allowing your brain to form neural processes."

I do know that when I’m handwriting a note, I have to think ahead about what I’m writing in a way that I don’t do when I’m typing. But when I’m typing – as in this blog – I’d like to think that I’m doing a little more than “punching and finger-moving.” Maybe my brain is forming a different neural process, but it’s not as if I’m just mindlessly moseying around the keys as if I were channeling to a Ouija Board. (Even if, at times, it might seem as if that’s the case.)

In any case, I don’t want to see the decline of cursive.

Who doesn’t feel great when they get something handwritten in the mail, let alone a love note left for you? (Okay, that love note is apt so be asking me to pick something up a Gary Drug. But it does have an XXX on it.)

I think that cursive should be taught, if only to teach patience and stick-to-it-ive-ness, and fine motor skills that involve something more than the opposable thumb.

My writing isn’t the greatest, but it’s decent enough. And I would definitely survive in case of catastrophic electronics failures. Just think of it. If the worst happens, us Baby Boomers would be called on to keep civilization alive. We might end up like those Irish monks who manually transcribed the imageexisting body of Western knowledge when the barbarians got beyond the gates, and a darkness settled in on Europe.

When I was in grammar school, we learned the Palmer method, and had to write out samples, fall and spring, to show that we could write cursive. Wonder what became of them. Perhaps there’s a warehouse in the Diocese of Worcester with bales full of Palmer penmanship specimens.


For an earlier take on this topic, see The Lost Art of Penmanship. (Cursive! Foiled again.)

Monday, July 29, 2013

I really wasn’t going to heap on poor Leslie Cohen Berlowitz

I really felt that I had exhausted my interest in and ability to blog about Bad Business Behavior, Résumé Inflation Division. Didn’t I say everything I needed to say, way back in the olden days, when I wrote about MIT Dean of Admission Merilee Jones and her less-than-honest c.v.?

But it may be precisely because of the Merilee Jones incident – which happened over six years ago – and the subject and object lessons that her sad case should have taught everyone, that I think Leslie Cohen Berlowitz deserves special mention. And a boot in the rear, which is what the American Academy of Arts and Sciences gave her the other day.

Not familiar with Leslie Cohen Berlowitz?

Well, neither was I.

But I am passingly familiar with the American Academy, which I have tromped by on many a walk through Cambridge, always with a wistful glance up the hill at it’s beautiful building and lovely grounds. If only greatness had been american-academy-of-arts-and-sciences-officethrust upon me, I could’ve been a contender, up there with this year’s newbies – an illustrious group that includes cartoonist Roz Chast and Bruce Springsteen. Sigh.

Since its founding in 1780, the American Academy has served the nation as a champion of scholarship, civil dialogue, and useful knowledge.

As one of the nation’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers, the Academy convenes leaders from the academic, business, and government sectors to address critical challenges facing our global society.

Well, while I’m a big fan of both of them, I don’t quite see how Roz or Bruce fit into the academic, business, and government sectors, but there is quite of list of Humanities and the Arts folks who are among the 4600 fellows.

Anyway, up until the other day, Ms. Berlowitz was The Academy’s chief executive.

Berlowitz got the booty in her booty for having:

…falsely claimed a doctorate from New York University and misstated her work history in federal grant applications and other documents over the past decade. (Source: Boston Globe.)

Berlowitz was allowed to resign, but other than her accrued vacation, deferred comp, and retirement benefits – which amounted to a nifty $475K payout – she did not get any severance package. But at her salary level:

… more than $598,000 in fiscal 2012 alone for an organization with only three dozen staffers.

She should be able to max out her unemployment benefits!

She may need them for her legal bills. The Massachusetts AG is looking into her executive perks, and the feds are investigating any federal grants that were given when everyone thought it was Doctor Leslie Cohen Berlowitz to you, bub. (Berlowitz denies that she ever claimed to have received her doctorate, but it seems pretty incredible that she never noticed it on any documentation over the years and corrected someone else’s error.)

Résumé inflation aside, Berlowitz was widely regarded as just awful to work for.

I know, I know, you have to take anonymous reviews on Glassdoor with a grain of something-or-other. Still, the comments from employees/ex-employees were almost uniformly savage about Berlowitz.

Under the “cons” of working at The Academy, one wrote: 

Executive Officer = primary “Con.” Condescending, Convoluted, Condemning, Contemptuous, Controlling, Congenial – no wait,, how did that get in there? And now, with the current news of falsified degrees, I guess “CON” itself may be applicable.

Another wrote:

I personally experience visceral disgust whenever I pass the Academy grounds. I am a successful survivor of the Norton Woods [Academy location in Cambridge], and I take very seriously the moral import of the words I am using in this review. The nightmarish interhuman reality at the Academy is directly attributable to the culture of intimidation and belittlement that the CEO narcissistically perpetuates in the name of high standards and commitment to the mission.

So I take it she won’t be missed by the employees.

While she may have been a beast of a boss, Berlowitz was not without her accomplishments. One was co-editing a volume entitled Restoring Trust in American Business.

Embroidering your résumé?

Not exactly a very smart way to go about restoring trust.

Wednesday is Berlowitz’s last day at the Academy of Arts and Scientists.

George Washington was one of the original members off the Academy.

Wonder if Berlowitz has a farewell to the troops planned?

Friday, July 26, 2013

How to lose your job in a fast food outlet

I logged enough time in the restaurant biz to have witnessed plenty of messin’ with the food, in ways that were sometimes deliberate and sometimes inadvertent.

One place was particularly notable for egregious food handling – across the boards – was Ye Olde Boston Tourist Trap, the Union Oyster House. This was forty years back, and I’m guessing (hoping) that such behaviors are no longer part of their modus operandi.

For one thing, Union was not just a tourist trap, it was a rat trap.

Screaming when a rat ran over your feet was a firing offense, but mostly the rats weren’t in evidence when there were customers moving around. But during the pre-close clean-up, rats raced out of their holes with such alacrity that you’d have thought the Pied Piper of Hamelin was piping them aboard.

Tossing soup spoons at their holes generally kept the rats at bay long enough to get our final clean-up done, but after dark these bad boys (and girls) pretty much had the run of the place. As we could often see the next day when we opened the house.

One day, there was a clogged sink in the kitchen. A dish-boy known as “The Animal” reached into the drain to see what was holding things up. Out came a drowned rat, held in the same hand, that a few minute later, was used by The Animal to dip into a five-gallon tice cream container and scoop out a mitt-ful of maple walnut ice cream. After that, the only ice cream any of us would eat was from a freshly opened container.

Other Union Oyster House “best practices” included frying up cockroaches with the Fisherman’s Platter and the salad guy who dusted his creations with cigar ash.

I was in the kitchen one lunch when a (completely stoned) older waitress dropped a platter of steamed Cherrystone clams on the floor. At this point, it pretty much goes without saying that the floor was filthy. Anyway, most of the Cherrystones popped out of their shells. In the spirit of waitress solidarity, we all helped Marilyn K stuff those clam back in their shells. Ready to serve!Yum.

But, with the exception of the fried cockroaches, I don’t think any of these practices were done with malice aforethought.

Anyway, I’m never all that surprised to read about food service workers who spit in the coffee and other gross and indecent acts.

Yet even I will confess to experiencing a feeling of at least modest  shock and disgust when I read about:

A Subway "sandwich artist" admitted today to putting his penis on the store's sandwich bread and posting the photo on Instagram. (Source: Huffington Post)

He was joined by a colleague in this funfest.

Their Twitter and Instagram pages are festooned with photos of their exploits In several photos, Subway's signature bread is shaped into penises.

One of the men, Cameron Boggs, admitted on Instagram that "today at work I froze my pee" in a water bottle.

Boggs posted -- and later deleted -- the most incriminating photo, which depicts a man rubbing his genitalia on foot-long bread...

In an exclusive interview with HuffPost Weird News, Ian Jett copped to defiling the footlong, but denied doing the dirty deed at work.

"I would never do that at work -- it was at home," he said. "This isn't something I'd ever do at Subway. It was totally a joke."

Not surprisingly, the comic-duo of Boggs and Jett were fired, and Subway released a statement:

This isolated incident is not representative of SUBWAY Sandwich Artists™. These actions are not tolerated and the franchisee took immediate action to terminate the two employees involved.

No longer Sandwich Artists™, Boggs and Jett can, I suppose, now rebrand themselves as performance artists (not ™’d, as far as I know). Which may be the only job they can find for the next little while, at least until they build up enough positives to drop their foodish hijinks to page two or three in a Google search.

In any case, they’ve joined the ranks of other recent food violators. Like the owner of a New Jersey pizzeria who was “reportedly caught on security footage” jerking off in the kitchen. And the Taco Bell worker who – Ay, Chihuahua! – posted a picture of himself – Ay, Chihuahua! – “licking a stack of taco shells”.

Makes fry-o-lating a handful of cockroaches look like good, clean food fun.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Shave and a haircut, two bitcoins

First off, I will admit that there is a lot that I don’t get about Bitcoin. But I do at least vaguely understand that it’s a virtual currency that doesn’t have anything to do with any government issued specie, and it’s multi-national, or non-national, or non-denominational, or whatever. If you’re using bitcoins to buy something with, you purchase them in whatever currency you want, and stop worrying about exchange rates and multi-currency handling fees.

At least that’s how I think it works.

Anyway, since it’s money, honey, it was just a matter of time before someone started scamming with it.

That someone was Trendon T. Shavers, who:

… raised at least 700,000 Bitcoin starting no later than September 2011 through his firm Bitcoin Savings and Trust and improperly used currency from new investors to cover investor withdrawals, the SEC said in a complaint filed today in federal court in Texas. (Source: Bloomberg.)

First off, is it really possible that there’s someone whose real name is Trendon T. Shavers?


As in – according to that unimpeachable, peach of a source, Urban Dictionary, is:

A update to the word "trendy" so you don't have to sound like your dad.

As in:

Your shoes are fabulous, they're SO trendon.
I really like your haircut, its really trendon

Or, your name is so trendon. Not!

Then there’s Shavers, which brings to mind the charmingly old-fashioned Little Shaver. Or the 1950’s college basketball scandal Point Shavers. Trendon T. clearly conjures up more of the latter than the former.

There’s also “shave and and a hair cut, two bits” which can so easily be transmogrified to “shaver and a hair cut (to the investors), two bitcoins.” At least it can be thus transmogrified when I get my hands on it.

Not that Trendon T. Shavers was quite good enough. According to the SEC complaint, Trendon T.’s Internet handle was pirateat40. Not to mention that the bank was formerly known as First Pirate Savings & Trust.

Good rule to observe: never do financial business with someone or something named “pirate.”

Anyway, while we can make up names for ourselves (like pirateat40), we can’t help the names our parents choose to gift us with. (Just ask the Winklevoss twins, who, as it happens are Bitcoin investors – although not through the Trendon T. Shavers Ponzi scheme.)

Shavers falsely promised investors as much as 7 percent interest weekly on purported trades, including selling the online currency to individuals who wished to buy it “off the radar,” quickly or in large quantities, the SEC said. Shavers also misappropriated investors’ funds for his personal use, according to the complaint.

Part of me wants to say you don’t get what you don’t pay for. And that the credulous schnooks who think they’re going to get 7 percent interest weekly almost but not quite deserve what they get. After all, that interest rate may have been achievable in, say, Weimar Germany in the twenties, when you could do even better – maybe even get 7 percent by the minute, if not by the second. But, let’s face it, 7 percent annually would be excellent these days. So, while the fact that someone’s a fool – and a greedy one at that – doesn’t justify the Ponzi scheme, it’s still stunning that there are people out there just ripe to be scammed.

But, darned the luck for Trendon T. Shavers:

“Fraudsters are not beyond the reach of the SEC just because they use Bitcoin or another virtual currency to mislead investors and violate the federal securities laws,” Andrew Calamari, director of the SEC’s New York office, said in a statement. “Shavers preyed on investors in an online forum by claiming his investments carried no risk and huge profits for them while his true intentions were rooted in nothing.”

Speaking of great names: Andrew Calamari! Which I think is Italian for Sponge Bob’s friend Squidward. An altogether excellent last name – even better than my mother’s, which was Wolf. (As in “who’s afraid of the big, bad”.

Meanwhile, before he set up Bitcoin Savings and [Who Do You] Trust, Trendon T. Shavers had a company called Business Cognition:

Business Cognition is a full service business efficiency and information technology consulting company. We provide expense analysis, technology, energy and telecommunications solutions for small to medium sized businesses. Located in McKinney, we serve clients in the North Dallas and surrounding areas.

I guess Ponzi Schemes are easier money and more lucrative than expense analysis and telecommunications solutions.

Still don’t quite get Bitcoin? Can’t blame you. Let The Economist explain it all to you.

And here’s a link to the SEC complaint.


    Wednesday, July 24, 2013

    Volunteers of America, make that Volunteers of Malibu, are Rita Meter-Maiding

    Even without the sterling example of George Zimmerman, I’m a bit hinky about community patrols. I suppose if I lived in a neighborhood where the folks wanted to make their streets safer, instead of in one where they’re pretty darned safe to begin with, I would consider tromping around with my neighbors in a show of ‘take our streets back’ force.  (Just thought of the Curtis Sliwa and the Guardian Angels for the first time in years. Are they still around?)

    Anyway, IMHO, with community patrolling – especially in locations that are on the gun-happy side -  there’s a lot of potential for cop wannabe run amok (c.f., George Zimmerman) and vigilantism. Mostly, I’ll leave the policing to the po-po, thank you.

    While I was familiar with the concept of community patrols, I was less aware that there are also people who explicitly volunteer to help out their local police force.

    There are so many worthy places to volunteer, being a fake cop would be pretty low down on my list.

    Isn’t policing what we pay out taxes for?

    But the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has a group called Volunteers on Patrol, a group of civilians:

    …dedicated to providing excellent service through relationships that build trust, create a safe environment, and enhance the quality of life in our communities within a “Tradition of Service”.

    VOP Program Principles:
      To be proud representatives of the community by being highly visible while on patrol. The primary objectives for the members shall be to prevent crime by mere presence, or identify public hazards. Members shall also act as the eyes and ears of the Sheriff's Department by identifying suspicious activities, crimes in progress, or dangerous circumstances. The members shall not take action themselves, but shall notify the proper authorities for handling.

    Other than the explicit “prevent crime by mere presence’, which we all do, I guess, whenever we go out in public, don’t most citizens do this already? We call in pot holes. We report crimes in process and dangerous circumstances.  Suspicious activity, well, that’s a slippery slope. Talk about eye of the beholder. But, sure, if I saw suspicious activity – say someone shimmying up my back fence – I’d dime it.

    In fact, a number of years ago, I did report someone shimmying up our back fence and standing on the roof of the backyard storage shed. It was 2 a.m., it was one of the rare times when I was home alone, and there was a big guy standing on that roof, about six feet from our living room window. Perhaps if I were a braver type, I would have confronted him. But I dialed 9-1-1 instead. Turns out it was a kid staying with his friend upstairs, and he’d gotten locked out. (He apparently wasn’t familiar with the conept of the buzzer.) But it could have been the real deal…

    Anyway, I don’t think that the Boston PD needs me to be any more than a citizen on alert.

    But those official cop volunteers in Malibu, well, as of last week, they’re empowered to give out parking tickets.

    The city said the program could save Malibu as much as $50,000, preserve deputies' valuable time for more serious crimes, and enable it to enforce new parking restrictions. (Source: Southern California Public Radio.)

    I realize that every community’s strapped these days, but tell me Malibu needs to save $50K.

    The effort is an extension of Malibu's "Volunteers On Patrol" program. The group's members have been assisting deputies with directing traffic, monitoring parking, and issuing warning citations for the past two years. 

    Come on, I can sort of understand wanting to help the cops catch bad guys, and keep a watchful eye on the neighborhood, but volunteering to be a traffic cop or meter made?

    "They attend a half-day training wherein they're taught about what constitutes a moving violation, how to mark tires on cars, how to deal with people and avoid conflict — that kind of thing," [City of Malibu spokeswoman Sandi Turner] says.

    Something tells me that a half-day training won’t be enough to handle the wrath of someone’s who particularly peeved that they’ve gotten a ticket, wrongfully or rightfully.

    And talk about the temptation for abuse.

    A friend or a cute young thing goes a bit over the three-hour max, and you give them a pass.

    Same for someone who looks a bit scary. Not that there are a lot of them in Malibu, but who wants to wrangle with the tatted-up dude with a American Nazi Party bumper sticker?

    But someone you just don’t like the looks of. Or the make and model of their vee-hicle. Tickets ‘r Us.

    Not that meter-maids don’t make judgment calls all the time, but they can always pull official rank if someone they know tries to weasel them, or the tatted up dude tries to intimidate them.

    The Malibu volunteers are given uniforms and police radios, so they can call in the cavalry if the tatted up dude gets pissy, or the cute young thing turns out to be a psycho escapee from Girls Gone Wild.


    Curiously, the volunteers don’t have any fixed schedules – they just go out whenever they feel the urge – as long as they’re on patrol 16 hours a month. (I must be misreading something here. How can this system possibly work if the city doesn’t have a clue whether there’s going to be someone out there directing traffic or tagging cars?)

    Anyway, one of the reason why Malibu is so keen on its volunteer ticketers is that parking is at such a premium there.

    Parking scofflaw  techniques are many and varied (and often involve trying to illegally restrict beach access).

    "So you have a lot of problems on the public roads where people have put up no parking signs, where they have fake driveways, where they have fake garage doors, where they put out orange cones, sometimes in conjunction with no parking signs, where they actually send security guards out and tell you you can't park there," [Jenny] Price [an advocate for public access to Malibu beaches]said.

    Price’s concern is that Malibu is putting to much focus on “parking near the big public beaches, and yet they've shown no concern at all about the really serious problem of blocking off public parking by private homeowners," she said.

    In real life, neither might be a problem much longer.

    I saw an article in Vanity Pair on beach erosion in Malibu.

    Another couple of years, there may not be any beaches to illegally or legally park at.

    The volunteers will have to find something else to do with their 16 hours a month.

    Tuesday, July 23, 2013

    Move over, Twinkie Defense

    A few weeks ago, here in Boston, a fellow was arrested for trying to swindle the fund set up for the Marathon bombing victims. He claimed that his aunt – who had died a couple of years ago – had been killed at the finish line. He was nailed when he went to pick up a check for $2M. His mother claimed that her son was just trying to get the money so that he could help the poor folks in his community. Right…

    I suspect that, if this defense sees the light of day in court, it will be as laughed in court as Dan White’s Twinkie defense was.

    But people being people, there re plenty of them who will always look somewhere other than into their own eyes when it comes to explaining their poor decisions that result in a cart-load of troubles for them.

    The latest is a lawyer from Tennessee who’s going after Apple, blaming them for his porn addiction and the breakdown of his marriage that resulted from said porn addiction.

    The man is seeking damages, and wants Apple to "sell all its devices in 'safe mode,' with software preset to filter out pornographic content."

    Per the complaint, [the man’s] problem began after he tried to visit "," but -- accidentally, he says -- typed "F**," an adult site that "appealed to his biological sensibilities as a male and led to an unwanted addiction with adverse consequences." (Source: Huffington Post.)

    I understand completely that someone could accidentally type in a wrong address. A kabillion years ago, when the web site F**ked Company provided a forum for companies that were on the skids, I would check it regularly at lunch, just to see what was there about the place I was working. One day, I accidentally typed in a similar URL, leading me to a porn site. I was at work, and my screen faced my office door, so I spent a couple of frantic minutes trying to close down the site. After trying to x-out an endless supply of x-rated pop-ups, I pulled to plug on my PC.

    Not that I’m the audience for porn to begin with, but does one get addicted at a glance? Is it like love at first sight?

    Anyway, in the mind of the lawyer filing the complaint, Apple’s the culprit here, as they’re enabling “unfair competition” between porn stars and his wife.

    In what must be one hell of an interesting complaint to read through, he further argues that Apple is hurting “brick and mortar or 'mom and pop' porn shops" that have suffered as a result of the ubiquity of free online pornography.”

    When I first starting reading about this lawsuit, I thought maybe this guy was one of those blame-someone-or-something for your troubles. But this lawsuit actually makes the Twinkie Defense seem reasonable and sane. So, having read through a couple of articles, I have to conclude that the poor man is mentally ill. Which is why I’m not using his name. I don’t imagine he needs yet another cite showing up when folks google his name.

    Anyway, this pathetic story does raise the question – at least in my mind – about whether the world would be a better place if there were at least a modest hurdle or two to get over in order to have full access to the wonderful world of porn.

    Not that I know all that much about the genre, but my understanding is that, in the old days, you did actually have to go to one of those ‘mom and pop’ – or perhaps just ‘pop’ – stores and actually purchase dirty mags. Which meant you had to show your face to the store clerk, plus risk your neighbor or your wife’s best friend spotting you walking in or out. Or you had to order them through the mail, and have it delivered in a plain, brown envelope.

    In either case, there was, more or less, a practical, physical limit to the amount you could accumulate.

    Not so on the Internet.

    But what could that hurdle be?

    Surely not preventing people from accessing porn sites. I don’t suppose that everyone who looks at porn becomes an addict.

    Anyway, this suit will, of course, go nowhere, and I do hope that the man who filed it gets the help he so clearly needs. And that he can overcome the professional and personal embarrassment of having his name and meshugas splashed all over the Internet.

    Meanwhile, I also read that Apple, itself, can be addictive.

    In 2011, researchers featured in a BBC documentary claimed that Apple users bond with the brand in an unusual way. According to brain imaging, they said, Apple devices trigger activity in the areas of the brain normally associated with religious devotion. (Source: RawStory.)

    No wonder that, other than an ancient iPod, I’ve resisted the lure of Apple products.

    I need a device addiction like I need a hole in my head…

    Monday, July 22, 2013

    Quelle horreur gastronomique

    I have no idea who runs it now – and I’ve never actually eaten there to begin with – but at one point in time, the restaurant atop Boston’s Prudential Building, Top of the Hub, was run by Stouffer’s. Our joke*at the time was that they boiled the plastic bag containin your meal by the side of your table, like when the waiter showily bones a fish, makes steak tartar, or mixes up a Caesar salad. (Are any of these still done anywhere? The Caesar salad production number was performed before Caesars became ubiquitous.)

    Fast forward a couple of decades, and there was a baguette problem in France when it came to the fore that a lot of the little corner boulangeries were no longer baking their own, but were selling bread from commercial factories. Of course, factory bread in France is not exactly a loaf of Wonder Bread. Nonetheless, bakers who do their baking on-site now display signs that read ‘Artisan Boulangerie.’

    I’ve been to Paris a few times, and baguettes, and their skinny sister, the ficelle, have always been on my must eat list while I’m there.

    A couple of visits ago, we saw a colossal line outside a bakery in our ‘hood. We decided that its bread must be pretty good, so the next morning I headed out to pick up a baguette. Alas, when I got there I found that the bakery was closed for good, and that the line snaking outside was just the locals grabbing their last. We missed out on what was probably a very good thing. But Paris being Paris, there was another boulangerie around the corner, and I got myself a baguette. Whether it was factory-made or home grown, I don’t recall.

    Apparently, it’s not just the baguettes that are mass produced.

    As I saw in a recent Economist, not-invented-here dishes are all over the restaurants. And the situation has made it all the way into the halls of government, where:

    …one of the hottest topics in parliament these days is how to force restaurants to reveal whether they make their boeuf bourguignonon the premises or rip open packets and warm up the contents. (Source: The Economist)

    What? Madame et Monsieur Manger aren’t back there behind the swinging doors whipping up canard and quenelles and coquilles saint jacques? Sacre bleu, is nothing sacred?

    On June 27th the lower house approved an amendment to a consumer-rights bill that will force restaurants to label the dishes they prepare from fresh ingredients in their own kitchens as “fait maison”, or “home-made”. This is tougher than the optional label the government proposed, but less stringent than the obligatory description of every dish on every menu as either home-made or based on industrial products, which some want.

    On the one hand, if someone can’t tell the difference – and that would probably include moi – what’s the difference?

    On the other…

    If you believe that you’re paying for Madame et Monsieur Manger aren’t back there behind the swinging doors whipping up canard and quenelles and coquilles saint jacques, because you like those dishes and you don’t have the time, interest, or ability to cook ‘em up for yourself, and M et M are just peeling back the lid on a high-tone version of an MRE, well, that doesn’t seem quite right, does it?

    The estimate is that at minimum one-third “of all restaurants serve dishes prepared largely or entirely elsewhere…Improbably long menus at small eateries are one giveaway.”

    Back home, I don’t think that I frequent restaurants that don’t at least cook from scratch on the entrees. But I do always gag a bit when I see “house-made” or “artisanal” whatever.

    Maybe it’s time for a little truth in menu-izing on this front, too.

    *Which works if you remember that Stouffer’s frozen dinners used to come in boil bags.

    Friday, July 19, 2013

    Lucky Charms are one very lucky foodstuff.

    It’s not as if I didn’t like ultra-sugary cereals as a kid.,

    In my cereal-eating prime my favorites were Sugar Pops (sugar-coated Corn Pops), Frosted Flakes (sugar-coated Corn Flakes), Sugar Crisps (sugar-coated puffed wheat, just not Quaker Puffed Wheat), and an abomination called Sugar Jets, pellets that, in my recall, we coated with puce-colored glop.

    It’s REAL FOOD. Sure it is…

    You will note that the operative word for all of these healthy breakfast items is “sugar.” Given my mother’s fatwa on candy and soda in the house – one of my brothers, desperately seeking candy, once ate the better part of a box of Ex-Lax – it’s amazing that she actually bought sugar-jazzed cereals. Perhaps they fell in the cookies-cakes-pies-ice cream category, all items we had in plentitude in our house. Go figure.

    Anyway, I confess to my childhood affection for the sugariest of the sugared cereals. But I draw the line in the sugar in a couple of places. Despite the fact that the cereal came in the form of letters, which I did like, and were sugar-coated, and thus worthy of a place in my Melmac bowl, I didn’t particularly like Alpha-Bits. And perhaps because they weren’t introduced until I was older, and beyond the full lure of candy masquerading as cereal, I despised Lucky Charms. Even the appeal of the fake-brogued leprechaun left me cold, if not gagging.

    So I was surprised to see that Lucky Charms, fifty-years in, remains a top-selling cereal: number ten on the list of best selling U.S. cereals.

    1. Cheerios (General Mills)
    2. Post (Ralcorp Holdings)
    3. Kellogg’s Special K (Kellogg)
    4. Kashi  (Kellogg)
    5. Quaker Instant Oatmeal (Pepsico)
    6. Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes (Kellogg)
    7. Cinnamon Toast Crunch (General Mills)
    8. Quaker Oats (PepsiCo)
    9. Kellogg’s Mini Wheats (Kellogg)
    10. Lucky Charms (General Mills)

    Cheerios I get. While I don’t usually buy the General Mills brand – not sold at Whole Foods, which, even if I weren’t a grocery store snob, is the closest grocery store to where I live – Cheerios is one of my favorite cereals. Although it can’t hold a spoon to Shredded Wheat – unfrosted!

    Speaking of Shredded Wheat, what is “Post” cereal?

    It can be anything from Shredded Wheat – yea! – to Raisin Bran, which is okay other than for the ball-bearing raisins (why not just buy bran and add your own soft and moist raisins?), to AlphaBits (gag), to Fruity Pebbles (which has something to do with Fred Flintstone and sounds ghastly to me).

    Meanwhile, I’m too lazy to read through all the stuff on Post and Ralcorp to figure out who’s doing what to whom – especially after I saw the name ConAgra in there -  other than to find that – as I suspected – Ralcorp has some relationship to Ralston-Purina of Puppy Chow fame.

    Of the remaining items on the list, I buy Kashi cereals, but did not know they were part of Kellogg. So much for cereal snobbery.

    I also buy Quaker Oats, mostly to make apple cobbler topping once a year.

    But where’s Quaker Puffed Rice on the list? How can Lucky Charms be more popular than a cereal that’s shot from guns, rather than gunked up with stale pieces of marshmallow?

    But Lucky Charms it is:

    Earlier this week, General Mills said the colorful, marshmallow-heavy cereal has been one of the strongest contributors to U.S. sales growth. (Source: Business Week)

    As it turns out, the folks who are gobbling up Lucky Charms are grown-ups responding to an ad campaign, which I apparently missed, aimed at adults. LC’s growth in the last fiscal year was double digit, and General Mills estimates that more than 40 percent of its eaters are old enough to vote, drink, and marry.

    “We know that adults have always loved Lucky Charms and by reconnecting them with the brand, we have reignited their love of one of their favorite things from childhood,” says Carla Vernon, General Mills’ marketing director for Lucky Charms.

    There are plenty of favorite things from my childhood that I have reconnected with, and I have to say that many of them turn out to be disappointing. (Ask me about watching a couple of episodes of  Spin and Marty.) And the thought of reconnecting with Sugar Jets makes my teeth ache. Not exactly a craving for a madeleine.

    But, hey, I’m all for Lucky Charms fans reconnecting with their brand. To each his own.

    To make the most of this enthusiasm, General Mills is promoting lesser-known chocolate Lucky Charms, which first debuted in 2005, and will add three new rainbow marshmallows for a limited time to its already dizzying signature array: “Hearts, Stars, and Horseshoes. Clovers and Blue Moons. Hourglasses, Rainbows, and Tasty Red Balloons.”

    Perhaps because I didn’t like Lucky Charms to begin with, none of the above makes them any more appealing to me, not even the chocolate or the tasty red balloons. I’m always suspect when a foodstuff is described as “tasty”. Taste is in the cereal bowl of the beholder, and mine tells me that combining colored marshmallows with cereal is not something I’m going to find very tasty at all.

    But there are plenty folks out there who feel and eat differently, and they’re making Lucky Charms one charmed cereal.

    Thursday, July 18, 2013

    “Follow your passion”? Not so fast…

    When I was in college, there was no such thing as “follow your passion.” There wasn’t a ton of focus on careers to begin with, and the assumption at my school – a Catholic liberal arts college for women – was that most graduates would become teachers, social workers, or librarians, and a smattering – a growing smattering for my era – would go to law or med school, get their PhDs in something or other, or do something or other that was interesting and useful.

    I was not, to say the least, particularly career focused.

    I half-heartedly started out in a PhD program in political science, mostly – in retrospect – because I wanted to live in New York City. But I only lasted a year, after which I spent a few years waitressing so I could travel cross-country and throughout Europe. After which I spent a few years getting my career legs. Which led to a reasonably interesting, challenging, and well-paid career in technology marketing. For the most part, I have enjoyed my work (and even the crazily dysfunctional organizations where I worked when I was full time in “corporate”). Most important, while at work I made some tremendous “life friends.”

    But did I “follow my passion”?

    Well, not exactly.

    If I’d followed my passion, I’d have been a writer. Maureen Dowd in my fantasy, but more likely Moe Schmoe in reality.

    But over time I have observed that there has been an increasing focus on finding work you’re passionate about. (Whatever that means.) I think all this passion-talk was a well-meaning attempt by some romantic baby-boomer parents to encourage their kids not to sell out and go for the bucks. But to do what a lot of baby-boomer parents had romantically assumed, while they were in college, that they were going to do. That is, until they faced the cold cruel reality that they were going to have to make a living.

    In terms of the people I know, I can count on one hand the number who I believe would say that they’re following their passion, career-wise.

    Anyway, there was an interesting article on the other day on how colleges (and parents) are back-pedaling on the “follow your passion” thang and front-pedaling on a more practical approach.

    One women whose three daughters had all gone to Scripps (a liberal arts school) spoke in the article about the evolution of her family’s thinking.

    When Kitty Wo’s eldest daughter started at Scripps College in California in 2002, ‘‘we thought a liberal arts education would be a wonderful thing,’’ she said. ‘‘There was no pressure.’’

    Her two younger daughters graduated from Scripps in 2008 and 2012, and ‘‘with each successive child, we've thought more about their career path and what field of study would be best,’’ said Wo, who lives in Honolulu. ‘‘Each girl’s experience led the next one to being a lot more proactive,’’ with internships and other job-related experiences.

    Wo’s middle daughter, an economics major, even worried that her younger sister’s media studies major wasn’t practical. ‘‘Her sister was thinking, ‘‘Oh my God, you’re watching movies?'’’ Wo recalled with a laugh.

    The Wo family experience  underscores the shift in emphasis that’s going on at all but the top-tier-iest of colleges, where you can still embark on a voyage of discovery with the full confidence that someone in your Harvard-Princeton-Stanford network will hire you for something when you graduate. Not to mention that a handful of top tier schools are well-heeled enough to make sure that their students don’t graduate $200K in debt.

    For the more pedestrian academies:

    Instead of ‘‘Follow your passion,’’ the mantra has become more like, ‘‘We'll help you get a job.’’

    Schools – responding to parental demand - are revving up the career services, internship programs, and alumni networking to help make sure that their graduates boomerang back on them with no prospects and a job as a barista.

    The schools that are really profiting by the shift toward a more pragmatic focus on career include Boston’s own Northeastern, which has always had a co-op program. That co-op program has helped turn Northeastern from a largely commuter school for kids studying engineering and P.T. to a destination school, with applications up 40 percent over the last few years. (I’m sure it also helps that Northeastern’s campus has been transformed from a few utilitarian buildings on Huntington Ave. to a very extensive and quite fine urban campus.)

    Spokeswoman Renata Nyul says Northeastern’s co-op program is a ‘‘huge reason’’ for its popularity. ‘‘Our mission is to provide a real-world experience and an education that’s rooted in the integration of rigorous classroom learning and real-world professional experience,’’ she said. ‘‘That’s been the ethos of this place for a long time, but lately is seems to really resonate.’’

    Co-ops can also pave the way for permanent employment, Nyul says: ‘‘Ninety percent of our graduates are employed full-time and 87 percent are doing something related to what they majored in.’’

    Other schools may not be jumping fully in on Northeastern’s co-op model, but they’re definitely getting more focused on where the jobs are. And they’re not waiting until senior year to get the kids thinking about work. They’re making career talk part of orientation.

    Not all parents feel this way – some are still holding out for liberal arts vs. voke-tech – but parent Andrew Speno pretty much summed up the current thinking.

    ‘‘Education for education’s sake is a luxury that middle-class families like us don’t have any more.’’

    Yet it’s kind of sad to think about jettisoning the entire liberal arts experience in favor of turning everyone into an accounting major.

    Nice to have a balance between the strictly practical and the love of learning stuff.

    The world needs poets, too.

    But if your parents are going to be forking out a couple of hundred thousand for your education – or (gulp) you're going to be borrowing that kind of money to get one – you really do have to be thinking about just how you’re going to be making a living. Especially in the world we’re in now.

    It was sure a lot easier back in the day when it was pretty much guaranteed that everyone with an education - other than the most egregious of f-ups or couldn’t care less types - would find their way into a reasonably decent job.

    Wednesday, July 17, 2013

    Nothing like a little something in that little blue box from Tiffany’s

    Jewelry thievery is the stuff of which romantic romps and/or heist movies are made.

    Any thug can rob a bank. Any terrorist can go after nuclear weapons. But the jewelry thief is the debonair fellow in the perfectly cut tuxedo. Cary Grant (Grade A), Robert Wagner (Grade B).

    Easy in, easy out. Nobody gets hurt.

    Sometimes, of course, the heists are inside jobs. And sometimes, of course, they actually involve women. And sometimes, of course, they’re not all that dramatic.

    One that probably won’t be lending itself to the large screen or the chase scene – but could end up a weeper on Lifetime; or maybe on the Bad [Older] Girls Club on Oxygen – is the still unwinding story if Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun, who:

    … worked as the vice president of product development at the jeweler’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters from January 2011 to February of this year, when her position was terminated due to downsizing. The FBI claims that between Novembertiffany 2012 and her dismissal, 165 pieces of jewelry went poof, including “diamond bracelets, platinum, or gold diamond drop and hoop earrings, platinum diamond rings, and platinum and diamond pendants.” Lederhaas-Okun, authorities say, would check out the jewelry for professional reasons—marketing purposes, showing potential buyers, and so forth—and then not return them. (Source: Business Week.)

    Lederhaas-Okun allegedly liked what she saw enough to put a ring on it to the tune of $1.3M – an awful lot of bling to scoop up in a relatively short period, but a very nice little severance package. If she’d been able to make a clean getaway.

    One of the reasons she got away with it at all is that Tiffany’s doesn’t put much focus on missing inventory worth less than $25K, and Lederhaas-Okun kept the items she cadged below this point. (Bet that policy changes.)

    Supposedly, Lederhaas-Okun didn’t keep the wares for herself – it might have been a tad difficult to show up for work wearing a $10K necklace that you’d boosted. It’s speculated that she got rid of them through a high-end fence as part of a “consignment theft” scheme in which the ultimate purchaser has agreed to take hot merchandise off your hands before you put it in your hands.

    The theft was discovered after:

    …a company-wide inventory review, and e-mails between Lederhaas-Okun and the unnamed jewelry reseller were found on her computer

    Found on her computer? Duh, duh, double-duh, duh.

    And speaking of computer,

    At first, Lederhaas-Okun claimed all jewelry had been checked out for a PowerPoint presentation for her supervisor. (The supervisor denied this.) Lederhaas-Okun later said that the missing jewels could be found, according to the Feds, “in a white envelope in her office.” Searches turned up nothing.

    Last time I checked, Power Point didn’t include actual physical goods, but the technology’s changing so rapidly these days, what with 3-D printers, that anything’s possible.

    Anyway, when I looked, Lederhaas-Okun’s profile was still on LinkedIn, where she bragged about being Tiffany’s primary contact for Paloma Picasso and, in excellent résumé form, her results:  “revitalizing [the] Designer category” and 60% growth in her $150M business line over five years. She also noted her work on “improved traceability to Country of Origin” compliance efforts, meeting “the requirements of Dodd Frank legislation.”

    She also:

    Collaborated with Internal Audit and Security developing new SOP for all operational aspects of product movement.

    She may have been doing too good a job here…

    Anyway, if the allegations turn out to be true, Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun may be trading in her charmed life as a retail executive (and Darien hedge-fund wife) for bracelets of a different sort. She could be heading up Moon River for 20-30 years.

    Diamonds aren’t always a girl’s best friend.


    Personally, I have seen little in the way of the little blue box. I did get this monogrammed sterling book mark from a very dear friend for Christmasbookmark so long ago that it’s in the shape of the women’s symbol. (The sisterhood is powerful!) And when I was awarded a trip to the Genuity iLeaders Winners’ Circle in 2001, I was delighted to see a mound of reasonably sized Tiffany’s boxes on the table on the night of the award’s banquet. Yes, I knew that whatever it was would have the company logo and something dopey on it, but I was hoping for something useful that I could just turn around to hide the logo and dopey whatever.  Maybe a Revere bowl. But, no, it had to be a good-awful glass paperweight etched with my name, the Genuity logo, and something dopey. The only use I could think of it was murder weapon. When I left Genu, I left it on my desk. I shouldv’e kept the blue box…

    Tuesday, July 16, 2013

    The Passing of Jim Buck (Chuck Foley, too)

    Last week, I read a couple of interesting obituaries.

    One was that of Chuck Foley, who “invented” the game of Twister. which I suspect every American of a certain age has been embarrassed into playing at one point of another.

    Right hand blue, left foot green.

    I remember playing Twister in high school a couple of times, but no game that involved being limber and/or ending up with your head in someone’s crotch was ever going to be on my all time favorite list.

    Hasbro Inc., which now manufacturers the game, said it continues to be a top seller.

    "What makes the Twister game timeless is the fact that it's always been about showing off your free spirit and just having some laugh-out-loud, out-of-your-seat fun," Hasbro said in a statement noting Foley's death.(Source: Huffington Post.)

    Hmmm. I hadn’t thought about the “showing off your free spirit” aspect. Talk about the anti-me. On top of that, I have always been – and always will be – the last “gal” pulled out of her seat for the fun of getting thrown in the pool. So forget Twister. Give me Clue or Monopoly any old day.

    Still, it must be fun to have something like Twister as your legacy.

    I also wish to note the point of interest that Foley was an Irish Catholic who somehow must have managed to skirt the repressed gene. He had nine children, so he must have understood pretty well just what he was inventing with Twister, at least after Johnny Carson demonstrated it with Zsa Zsa Gabor on The Tonight Show.

    Slán leat, Chuck Foley.

    You can do worse than invent a game that millions have played and some have no doubt actually enjoyed.

    Meanwhile, Jim Buck, the father of professional dog walking has passed on the great dog run in the sky. Buck got the chatty NYT treatment:

    There are eight million occupational stories in New York City, and none cries Gotham louder than that of the professional surrogate — the shrewd city dweller who spies a void that other New Yorkers are too hurried, harried or hard-pressed to fill and rushes enterprisingly in.

    Over time, the city has spawned professional car-movers and professional line-standers, but its most visible — and audible — paid surrogates are indisputably its professional dog walkers.

    By all accounts, Jim Buck was the first of them. (Source: NY Times.)

    Perhaps because I am neither rich nor a denizen of Manhattan, I have never heard of professional car-movers or professional line-standers.

    I can, of course, see the point of both.

    Even though I haven’t owned a car in years, and even though I never owned a car in NYC, when we were in New York over The Fourth, every time we walked down a side street, a little voice went off in my head that said ‘look at all these free parking spaces.’ This is the same voice that goes off in my head on summer weekends in Boston whenever I see all those gorgeous parking spots just sitting there empty. Almost makes me wish I had a car to back into one of them.

    So I get why there’d be demand for professional car-movers, given that parking spaces are even scarcer in midtown than they are in Boston.

    On the other hand, if you can afford a professional car-mover, maybe you can afford to rent a parking spot?

    Just sayin’.

    Professional line-standing is anther one that I would never use but can see the point of. New Yorkers seem to wait in line (or on line, as a New Yorker might have it) far more than Bostonians do.  Think of the weekend lines at movie theaters. And the queues at ATMs.

    But while I can see the point of hiring a surrogate to stand in line, I know that if I ever witnessed it, I would be supremely irked, and would feel compelled to give the person doing the hiring the stink eye when he/she came to claim his/her place. And if that person were a mind-reader, they would certainly be channeling the word a-hole coming out of my brain.

    Just sayin’.

    Dog walking, on the other paw…

    I love seeing the dog walkers out with their packs in my neighborhood. And I know that my dog-nephew Jack almost jumps out of his pelt he’s so excited when his dog walkers swing by to take him on his afternoon outing.

    Dog walking is a wonderful service.

    There is, of course, no proof that Jim Buck is the first professional dog walker ever. Surely, there were people who charged to walk your dog before the early 1960’s. (Maybe before that time the swells juts used their servants.) Nonetheless, according to the nation’s paper of record, Buck:

    …is widely described as the first person to professionalize dog walking in New York City and, by extension, in the United States.

    Love that “by extension.” It’s just not possible that someone in Chicago, or Boston, or San Francisco actually did it first.

    But that’s a quibble.

    Starting in the early 1960s, Mr. Buck, the scion of a patrician Upper East Side family, rose each morning at dawn to walk passels of clients’ dogs, eventually presiding over a business in which he and two dozen assistants walked more than 150 dogs a day.

    When he began that business, Jim Buck’s School for Dogs, it was the only one of its kind in New York. Today, the city has scores of professional dog walkers.

    Buck hung up his leash and retired a decade ago, his legacy the current crop of professional dog walkers, many who worked for his company at one point or the other.

    Chuck Foley. Jim Buck. Some lives are just plain more interesting than others, at least from an outsider’s perspective…

    Monday, July 15, 2013

    “Free Jahar”? Give me a break…

    Last week was something of a legal frenzy week in Boston’s federal court house.

    Whitey Bulger’s trial erupted when Whitey and one of his former protégés – or, if you look at it another way, one of several of Whitey’s goons who turned state’s ev for a sweet deal – started hurling f-bombs at each other in court. After which the defense asked for a break, because old Whitey is just exhausted by the strenuous trial pace, and the fact that he has to get up at 4 a.m. each morning to get to court on time. It was decided that Whitey had had plenty of time to rest while he was on the lam, so, see ya in court, boyo.

    If it weren’t for the bring up the bodies overlay, the Bulger trial (which is certainly colorful) might even seem a bit amusing.

    But there’s no getting around all those bodies, and the gruesome way in which the human beings who once inhabited those bodies lost their lives…

    In the same courthouse – where, as it happens, my niece once attended pre-school, where one of her classmates was the grandson of Billy Bulger, our former state senate president, the former president of the University of Massachusetts, and Whitey’s bro – an appearance was also made by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, also part of a brother act, this one the Marathon Bombing terrorist duo.

    While Whitey’s trial last week was  about bringing up the bodies – 19 is the count – the Tsarnaev court appearance (the trial won’t convene for a while) was apparently about brining out the crazies.

    Duke Latouf flew in from Las Vegas to show his support for Tsarnaev.

    "I believe this is a false flag for martial law," said Latouf…"I think they were Hollywood-style bombs." (Source: Salon, citing The Boston Globe)

    I always wonder just what it is that folks like Duke Latouf do for a living that enables them to take off mid-week, fly into Boston, and show up outside the courthouse to demand justice for the likes of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Can someone actually make a living as a conspiracy theorist?

    Then there’s the  “Hollywood-style bombs” comment.

    There are three people – including an eight-year old – who lost their lives to those “Hollywood-style bombs”, and dozens of folks – including the six-year old sister of that eight-year old – who lost their limbs to those “Hollywood-style bombs.”

    Does Latouf think these are false flag, Hollywood-style people?

    Many of those out demonstrating on Tsarnaev’s behalf were women:

    “I’m here to show Dzhokhar support, to let him know there are thousands of people worldwide that do believe his innocence,” Mary Churback of Freetown told WBZ-TV news. (Source: Boston CBS Local)

    Based on what, exactly? That baby-face? That mop of curly hair?

    Lacey Buckley, 23, said she traveled from her home in Wenatchee, Wash., to attend the arraignment. Buckley said she has never met Tsarnaev but came because she believes he’s innocent. “I just think so many of his rights were violated. They almost murdered an unarmed kid in a boat,” she said.

    There’s plenty that can be said about the crazy use of fire and man power during the manhunt that ended with the cops finally apprehending that “unarmed kid” in a boat. But there was incredible chaos at the time. Forget the bombings a few days prior. At the time of the manhunt, a cop in Cambridge had just been killed, another one grievously wounded (albeit by “friendly fire”),  and someone had been carjacked at gunpoint. And although the “kid” may have been unarmed when he was found in the boat, during the getaway, bombs had been hurled at the police and, since they’d just killed that MIT cop with a gun, it was pretty clear that at least one of the brothers had a gun.

    Lacey Buckley – again, what do these people actually do for a living? – probably takes the prize for a) having traveled the farthest, b) saying the looniest things, c) wearing the craziest tee-shirt (“Free the Lion”):

    "I see zero evidence to say he actually did this," added Lacey Buckley, 23, of Washington state. "There is no DNA; there are no fingerprints. They got nothing."  (Source: Boston Herald.)

    All I can say is, if I’m ever guilty of a criminal act, I’ll be wanting Lacey Buckley on my jury. (And does it count that Tsarnaev pretty much scrawled a confession, in blood, while in the boat?)

    "He's just a baby," Buckley told a Herald reporter. "Gross." (Source: Wenatchee World.)

    First, congratulations, Ms. Buckley, on making the home-town news. Now everyone in Wenatchee who didn’t know you were a bit “off” does now.

    Meanwhile, I beg to differ with Ms. Buckley here. Nineteen-year olds – no matter how doe-eyed, curly-haired, and ooey-gooey cute – are not babies. They’re young adults. We repeatedly see Dzhokhar Tsarnaev referred to as a teenager, especially by his supporters. Technically, sure, he’s a teenager. But, despite the “I’m cool/I’m cute” backwards baseball cap, he was hardly a teeny-bopper gunned down while skateboarding home from a Justin Bieber concert.

    And, at least in my day, once you got out of high school, nobody but nobody thought of themselves as teenagers. We thought of ourselves as college students, or workers, or soldiers. We considered ourselves pretty darned grown up.

    On the other hand, you can apparently be 35 years old and not be all that mature in your outlook.

    Karina Figueroa, 35, a New York City resident, said she believes that Tsarnaev is wrongly accused. “I’ve seen a lot of videos showing inconsistencies,” she said in an interview with the Globe. “They are framing him, I believe. I want him to be exonerated.”(Source: Salon, citing The Boston Globe)

    Not to mention that you can apparently be 35 years old and have so few other demands on your life (job? family?) that you can ship up to Boston to express your desire that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev be exonerated.

    Not all Tsarnaev’s fans had to travel from points afar to show their support:

    “I have sympathy for the victims. I can see where they are coming from," said Tsarnaev supporter Jennifer Mack of Boston. "At the same time, this is my country. I can support who I want." (Source: Boston Herald)

    Nice that you can see where the victims are coming from, Ms. Mack. Empathy is a good thing. And, yes, you can support whoever you want. Just don’t think it’s going to make you a lot of friends, especially in Boston, where nobody is more than a couple of degrees of separation from someone who was killed or injured on Marathon Day

    All this outpouring of support for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is amazing to me.

    You’d think we were talking about Martin Luther King in Montgomery Jail. Or even Edward Snowden at Moscow Airport. I may not agree with what Snowden did, but at least his supporters have a point.

    “Free the Lion”? “Free Jahar”?

    Somehow I get the feeling that, false flag conspiracy theorists aside, a lot of the support for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is coming his way because he looks like the lead singer in a boy-band.

    Friday, July 12, 2013

    International Brotherhood of Drone Pilots

    Those of us of a certain age – i.e., those who remember when everyday consumer goods like shoes, fridges, and TVs were Made in America – may recall an ad from the late-1970’s exhorting us to “look for the union label, when you are buying a coat, dress, or blouse.”

    The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union is now, or course, in the rear view mirror (which probably isn’t made in the USA, either, come to think of it).

    But there are still some unions left here, and there’s still some union organizing going on, mostly among lower-skilled service workers – store clerks, hotel workers, home health aides. I.e., those who do thankless tasks for short money.

    So I was a bit surprised to read about:

    A new collective-bargaining organisation, the Association of Unmanned Operation (AUO), [which] aims to represent civilian drone operators. (Source: The Economist.)

    And here’s the shocker (to me, at least): there are thousands of “civilians working for contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin [who] fly spy planes and fix them when they break down.”

    One such drone pilot, Andrew Lohmar, worked for the Navy for a number of years, and, among other episodes, was involved in recon for a 2009 rescue of some Americans being held hostage by Somali pirates. The job, it goes without saying, is one that is not without its stresses:

    “There were times you saw things that you did not really want to, including people dying,” says Mr Lohmar. “Other times brought home the fact that the people on the other end of the lens were human beings too, such as seeing a ‘bad guy’ playing with his kids.”

    Well, Hitler liked dogs, and Osama bin Laden wore a cowboy hat in his garden, so, yes, bad guys, like celebrities, are just like us. Yet they remain bad guys. Still, it must be pretty eerie (and definitely stressful) to be the one surveilling the bad guys, and giving the co-ordinates to someone who’s going to blow the bad guys away. Hoping all the while that the bad guys you’re surveilling are really the bad guys, and not a case of mistaken identity. And that their kids will be out of the picture once the finger on the button presses “go.”

    Given the nature of the job, drone pilots get pretty well paid. Newbies had been making over $100K,

    …but as America’s wars wind down and the sequester bites, wages have slipped and discontent among operators has grown.

    AUO claims that they are nearing recognition as the collective-bargaining organization at one contracting outfit.

    But as those wars wind down, and there’s less demand for drone operators, I would think that, while organizing might get easier – those slipping wages and all that discontent – the contractors will just go pfftttt.

    I also think that this is one of those organizations that end up promoting some pretty awful industries to help ensure that they’ll have plenty of employment opportunities.  Think about the devil’s pact made when the “corrections industry” and correction officers’ unions go a-lobbying. A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage, and a prison on every corner!

    While the AUO says that they are not interested in droning Americans, one can easily see this wondrous industry morphing into another one of those chicken-car-prison deals. A drone above every zip code!

    Shudder. Shudder, shudder.

    While I’m sure that the AUO will be promoting their profession (and along the way, promote their “industry”), I doubt that we’ll see any ads urging us to “look for the union label.”

    I guess by the time you think to look for the union label, you’re a little too late.

    Thursday, July 11, 2013

    My Gumbometer, please.

    Capitalism both works and doesn’t work by creating wants and needs we weren’t aware we had when we got up in the morning.

    Like it or not, many innovations come about because someone wants to make a lot of money. Thus, we get useful items like mattresses that aren’t made out of ticking stuffed with corncobs. And not so useful items like the Fage yogurt cup design that separates the plain yogurt from the fruit mix. (Not to mention the cryptic Fage “Suggestion: Please do not stir.”) Evil items like the insane, no-one-understands-how-they-work-even-the-biggest-quants derivatives and other financial instruments that helped tank the economy. And all the perfect-for-a-stocking-stuffer gear sold late at night on low rent TV channels. (Boy, do I have my eye on the perfect Yankee Swap gift for this Christmas.)

    And, like it/them or not, capitalist economies are the source of most innovations.

    Try as I might to think of any innovations that came out of the Communist systems, and all I can come up with are pairs of shoes with two left feet, and trucks with square tires. I’d also add use of the image of Che Guevara, but while the image may have Red roots, the exploitation of the image was capitalism all the way.

    In any case, my feelings about capitalism are that while it’s certainly not an unalloyed good (all that dreck!), it’s certainly better than any alternative that’s been put forth and tried out for any reasonable length of time – so far, at least.

    But I do approach many of the products of capitalism with a decidedly jaundiced eye, I’m afraid, especially when it comes to the creation of desire for the NEW, NEW, NEW and improved that turns folks into crazy consumers, happily tossing last week’s version onto the junk pile so that whatever’s salvageable can be gleaned by some Third Worlder, who did not grow up with the benefits of capitalism, only its downsides, and whose family subsists on twenty bucks a year – which they would be happy to spend on a corn-cob filled mattress, if only there were one for sale in their country. And they could afford it.

    With my decidedly jaundiced eye, I read an ad in a recent New Yorker for something called the MINIMATE GT Personal Ionic Air Purifier – “the ultimate personal mini air purifier” from Green Giraffe. And proceeded to google on over to Green Giraffe, fully prepared to make WTF fun on this little item.

    But then I read about it.

    So now I’m afraid – make that very afraid – that I have been living life up to now pretty much unperturbed by the indoor air pollution I’ve been exposed to. And in the past few weeks, as I’ve tried to eradicate a nest of fruit flies that seem to have taken up residence in the bathtub drain, I’ve exposed myself to a lot more. Sure, every time my trigger finger sets off a puff of Raid into the bathroom, I’m doing a bit to get rid of these pesky little bastards. But breathing in fly-poison just cannot be good for you. (I know it’s not good for the flies. I did a mungo-spray before we left for New York City, and closed the bathroom door tight. Five days later, the bathtub was a killing field. I wouldn’t say that I had to use a shovel, but – if I had wanted to, and if capitalism had gifted me with a purpose-built fly corpse scooper – I could probably have used a spoon.)

    The killing continues: a week post spray, those flies are dropping like, well, flies. So I am no doubt breathing in residual Raid vapors whenever I crack the bathroom door open to update the body count.

    While I’m not sure if the MINIMATE GT works on poison, I am hopeful that it would have. If only I had seen that ad in The New Yorker in enough time to have equipped myself with one.

    Here’s what I missed:

    Praised by editors from the The New York Times Travel Section and guidebooks Frommers and Fodors, the MINIMATE GT has been the subject of hundreds of scientific tests performed at leading universities and research institutes around the world. Weighing only 1.5 ounces, this sleek wearable ionizing air purifier lets you fight back against indoor pollution by creating your very own smog-free zone using the most powerful ionization technology available. Contaminated air is sanitized using ionized streams of electrons which destroy the pollutant molecules.

    An infinitesimal level of ozone produced in the corona completely neutralizes any residual odor-causing elements in the outgoing pure airstream, allowing you to create your own personal No-Smog Zone of purified air. The MINIMATE GT's patented emitter and grid are made of pure platinum and solid gold electroplated stainless steel. And, best of all, there are no filters to change. Ready to go whenever you are--to the gym, on the plane, in taxis, crowded elevators or anyplace you need to re-assert control over your personal air space to create a cleaner, healthier fresh air domain of your very own.

    A cleaner, healthier, fresh air domain of my very own.

    Now that’s what I’m saying.

    Air purifier

    I sure could have used this on the plane, even if the flight was less than an hour, and even if in summer the hawking and sneezing is less invasive than it is in winter. Which is not to say that attending to bodily functions in flight doesn’t happen, whatever the season. Why, just a few weeks ago some friends flew to Boston from Houston, and witnessed a family of four jauntily flossing their teeth. (The family that flosses together…)

    And while they were too delicate to mention it, I’m thinking that this gadget would be perfect for too-long-to-hold-your-breath visits to public bathrooms, one of the true downside features of traveling.


    Outperforms the bulky inefficient competitive units through use of solid platinum permanent emitter and gold-plated stainless steel collectors; powered by a single CR123A 3v lithium battery (included).

    Plus it looks so downright chic.

    I definitely see one of these in my future, which I’ll proudly wear alongside the other item that has MY FUTURE written all over it: one of those “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” devices.

    Who knew when I was watching Gumby so many long years ago that one day I’d be considering the purchase of a latter-day version of the Gumbometer?

    We’re capitalists, dammit!

    Wednesday, July 10, 2013

    The König’s English

    A while back, I caught part of a movie set in the techo-future, in which the lingua franca had English as its baseline, but was full of Spanish and Chinese words.

    Since English is both the de facto language of technology, business, medicine, and popular culture, as well as an incredibly vibrant and protean language, if and when this happens it will be no surprise.

    Just how protean is English?

    Well, it managed to incorporate lingua franca and de facto pretty handily, didn’t it?

    Personally, I like it that English is such a spongey tongue.

    Although I would not want to see it fully devolve into text-speak only – IMHO this would be something that would not get me to ROTFLMAO – I like that it is so colorfully evolved.

    It’s like one big melting pot, incorporating new words from all over the world.

    Sure, we do some hemming and hawing about linguistic purity – with the pecksniffs among us bemoaning the fact that no one uses hopefully “correctly”  - but English just seems to go with the flow. Out with the old – when was the last time you heard the word pecksniff?  – and in with the new (smartphone, borrowing from ourselves from “smart” and “phone”; and did we talk taco 50 years ago? I think not).

    Anyway, English is a gloriously rich and vibrant language.

    To which I say, yippee! (Derivation unknown.)

    Given how English has such a long history of absorbing words from wherever, and given that, at least for now, it looks like it’s going to be über alles, no one gets their shorts in a knot over the fact that our language is subject to change. (Even the pecksniffs.)

    Europeans, on the other hand…

    Deutsche Bahn, the state-owned railway, has issued a fatwa, a list of 2,200 English words that have crept into German, turning it into Denglisch. Among the words that, moving forward, will be discouraged, if not strictly verboten:

    …bonus, business class, lifestyle, non-stop and package deal must be replaced by their German alternatives. (Source: The Economist.)

    There are, however, other words on which the Germans are waving the white flag of surrender, conceding that they are now “sufficiently” embedded into the mutter/vater tongue.  On this list:

    …brunch, container, sandwich and VIP.

    The big offender in Germany is, apparently, advertising.

    Advertising in Germany is particularly prone to Anglicisms. “There is the illusion that using English shows you are livelier, younger and more modern,” says Holger Klatte of the German Language Association, founded in 1997 to preserve and promote Goethe’s mother-tongue. Zalando, an online clothes shop, is a typical offender with its “Must-haves”, “Basics” and “Shop by Style”. Deutsche Telekom’s slogans include the baffling “Call & Surf Comfort via Funk”.

    (Side note: I don’t think that the Deutsche Telekom slogan is all that baffling, given that “funk” means wireless to Germans. It could obviously use the word “in”  between “Surf” and “Comfort”, but other than that, any schnook should be able to figure out what they’re talking about. In any case, nothing to get in a funk about, that’s for certain.)

    Even though Germany’s version of the Grand Funk Railway is trying to police the language, there are no national organizations set up to do so.

    The French, on the other hand, have long waged a noble/futile battle for language purity, with big KEEP OUT signs and periodic campaigns to purge words like “weekend” from their national dictionary.

    France, in fact, has two groups who see to their language, including one that reports directly to the prime minister and…

    ….monitors businesses and other organisations for neologisms, especially ones imported from English. Offenders are told to use papillon for flyer, tablette for iPad and vignette for widget.

    Come on, mesdames et messieurs.

    Papillon instead of flyer?

    Isn’t a papillon a butterfly?

    And iPad is a brand name for one tablet/tablette. So why can’t you just accept iPad, in the same way that we accept Louis Vuitton?

    As for rejecting widget.

    Methinks that it’s a made up word to begin with. And a perfectly good on for “thingy.”

    While vignette, mes amis, is a perfectly good word for a little scene that captures something about an event or a character. It’s from the French for "something that may be written on a vine-leaf." Over here, we use it all the time.

    Yes, widgets are definitely shorthand, but I don’t think that there are too many techies – here or in France – who would think of them as “something that may be written on a vine-leaf.”

    What’s French for “oy”?

    Monday, July 08, 2013

    Things I’ve heard entirely too much about lately

    Unless you live in a monastery on a remote island, there are just way too many things that it is nigh unto impossible to ignore.

    A few things in that category are on my current list. And that’s because, over the past couple of weeks, I have heard/read/or just seen out of the corner of my eye WAY, WAY, WAY TOO MUCH about:

    Paula Deen

    How is it that, in a nanosecond it seems, Paula Deen went from occupying zero – well I guess I mean near-zero – shelf space in the store of my mind, to a couple of inches of that shelf space being taken up by all Paula Deen, all the time. Sheesh…

    Paula Deen, before-during-and-after PaulaDeenGate, was not my glass of sweet tea, that’s for sure. What little I had seen of her I found gooey and far too Southern charm for my taste. And I was more than a bit put off when we learned a few years ago that, while old Paula was encouraging Americans to eat the most unhealthy of fat-soaked and sugar-laden diets, she had been diagnosed with type-two diabetes. Which she failed to disclose until she’d lined up an endorsement deal with a pharmaceutical company that makes insulin.

    And, now, all of a sudden she is a virulent racist/Simon Legree, losing all her deals and endorsements because at some point in her life she’d used the N-word, and had entertained the idea of hosting some sort of "true Southern plantation-style theme" event, in which African American men would be featured as house slaves.

    Well, maybe she is a virulent racist/Simon Legree. Or maybe we’ve gotten so crazily sensitive that you can lose it all for something you said at some point in your life. Or a dumb idea you considered but rejected.

    The N-word is not now, and never has been, in my vocabulary.

    But, hey, I didn’t grow up in pre-MLK Georgia, either.

    If, at some point in her life, this had been a word she used, and that point is well-past, well, so be it.

    The domino-effect reaction to Paula Deen's slip of the lip seems disproportionate.

    It would make sense if all “the evidence” about recent inappropriateness, and about what a lousy boss she was, making women and African Americans feel uncomfortable all over the place, had fully come out. But to my knowledge, that’s not the case. Which means that the evidence hasn’t come out yet, or there just isn’t much/any of it.

    Maybe Paula Deen’s just a domineering by-otch. She obviously didn’t get to the top of the food heap by being Miss Melanie. I suspect that there’s a lot more mean-girl Scarlett O’Hara in there.

    But that doesn’t mean that she necessarily deserves to lose her entire empire.

    Maybe she just needs some consciousness raising and sensitivity training.

    In any case, if I never hear the name Paula Deen again, it will be just Georgia peachy with me.

    Alec Baldwin, come on down.

    I actually kind of like Alec Baldwin, the cute Baldwin, the one with a sense of humor, the one who can act.

    But it’s only because Charlie Sheen/Carlos Estevez still roams the celebrity earth that Baldwin hasn’t become the poster boy for anger management.

    His latest outrage is a twitter rant against a “journalist” (that’s in “quotes” because he works for the UK Daily Mail) who accused Baldwin’s wife of tweeting during James Gandolfini’s funeral. One of the things that Mrs. B. is accused of tweeting about was something to do with the Rachael Ray show. Alec Baldwin. James Gandolfini. Rachael Ray. A celebrity trifecta!

    Anyway, Baldwin called the reporter a “toxic little queen” and threatened to stick his foot where the sun don’t shine, except that he was afraid that the “toxic little queen” would “dig it too much.”

    Well, Alec, Alec, Alec.

    I have to ask, what’s in your wallet of a brain that you’d use a term like “toxic little queen.”

    Nasty, nasty, nasty.

    Haven’t you figured out by now that the only epithet you should use is the generic, all-purpose one of a-hole, you a-hole?

    If you get dumped by Capital One it will Paula Deen you right.

    Number 81

    I’m actually sorry to be grouping Paula Deen and Alec Baldwin in with Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots football star.

    In their worst dreams, there is nothing that either Paula or Alec has done that would come close to what this reprehensible character stands accused of.

    As you can imagine, Boston has had an insatiable appetite for news on Aaron Hernandez, who has been directly accused of first degree murder, and may well be involved in several other murders committed over the last few years. And it also seems that last year he shot the eye of a “friend” out.

    And as if murder(s)  and shooting someone’s eye out weren’t quite enough, there was also a story that claimed that, this winter, Hernandez was a passenger in a car that was going over 100 MPH on I-95.

    When the staties finally managed to stop the car, Hernandez is said to have called out, “"Trooper, I'm Aaron Hernandez, it's OK."

    But it’s not okay, Mr. Hernandez. It’s just not.

    Watching professional football is like eating red meat.

    If I thought about it, I wouldn’t do either.

    I may feel differently come September when there’s a “good game” on and, as is likely, we have nothing better to do.

    But if I never hear the name Aaron Hernandez again it will be too soon.

    Bottom line: all I can say for Paula Deen, Alec Baldwin, and Aaron Hernandez is that at least they’ve taken my mind off of Whitey Bulger.