Thursday, July 31, 2014

Forget everything you know about “fine Corinthian leather”. (There’s new skin in the furniture game.)

I am in the early planning stages of a home make-over that will involve the acquisition of some new furniture.

I haven’t given much thought to what a new couch might look like, beyond the internal debate between blue and green. We’ll see what my design team (a.k.a., my sisters) comes up with.

One thing I do know for sure is that whatever ends up in my living room will not in any way, shape, or form resemble human skin. Which means that UK furniture designer Gigi Barker is off the list. Barker:

…has created a line of furniture made to look, feel and smell like human skin. (Source: Huffington Post)

I was going to say “shades of Buchenwald”, only to realize what a poor choice of word “shade” was, given the stories about lampshades made out of the skin of Holocaust victims. In any case, whatever there is that’s arty about upholstery designed to mimic skin, it is certainly a perverse and distasteful homage to the Holocaust.

Who would want such a thing in their home?slide_359380_4005821_free

Especially given that it looks like the icky bits hanging off one of the folks featured on “My 600-lb Life”. Seriously. Can you see curling up on this with a good book? Taking a bit of a sit-nap on a rainy afternoon? Watching the old ball game and root, root, rooting for the home team?

Yuck. I say, yuck, yuck.

Not only the yucky look, and what’s got to be the yucky feel. But the color? There’s a reason why the color formerly known as Crayola Flesh does not show up on many decorators’ palettes.  

Call it peach. Call it pinky-beige. Call it beigy-pink.

I’ll call it like I see it: belly roll or beer gut.

And as for making it smell like skin – whatever that means:

The furniture has been infused with human pheromones and aftershave.

Old Spice? Hai Karate? Aqua Velva? English Leather?

Since you don’t get to pick your color or fabric, maybe you can customize the olfactory.

And just how do you maintain this furniture? Noxzema? Oil of Olay? Dove (“one quarter cleansing cream”)?

While the average sentient adult might avoid this furniture like a rash, kids apparently can see beyond the superficial. Or maybe it’s that they just revel in yucky stuff. (Heard any good poop joke lately?)

"Children have been one of the most interesting demographics in relation to the work," Barker said. "Without any of the hang ups we later develop, they are free to truly explore and interact with the work. Work regarding the human body is very personal and we all have a very immediate reaction to it so the reactions have reflected this."

Out of the mouths of babes comes plenty that’s wack, that’s for sure.

Me, I’ll take my hard-earned hang-ups, any old day.

By the way, when it comes to furniture, art don’t come cheap.

The stool alone costs about $775 and the skin chair will run you close to $2,550, according to WIRED.

Barker is expanding her line beyond furniture, and has made herself a skin-like dress. (Fashions inspired by Hannibal Lecter…)

When I was growing up, there was a factory in Cherry Valley (which sounds charming, but is actually a mill-town that is part of Leicester, a town outside of Worcester) that made something called “elfskin.”

As kids passing by – which we did when taking rides to the Cherry Bowl for ice cream or to St. Joseph’s cemetery to visit family members of the late and lamented variety – we would always comment about “elfskin” – just what it was, and what it was used for.

Whatever it was, I bet it came in better colors than Caucasian belly fat. And I bet it wasn’t infused with any pheromones, either.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s DeMoulas

Visitors to our fair (and, let’s face it, occasionally unfair) city, turning on their hotel TV’s to catch the local news, may well be scratching their heads as they try to understand the battle raging between Arthur T. DeMoulas and Arthur S. DeMoulas.

Friends, for all the shorthand we’ve embraced when we’re referring to them – ATD vs. ASD, Artie T and Artie S – most of us locals don’t really get what’s going on any better than you do.

But I can fill in a few blanks.

Artie T and Artie S are cousins, sons of the men (Mike and George) who built the Market Basket grocery store chain, which has its origins in the mom-and-pop corner store that their Greek immigrant parents owned in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Artie T and Artie S are not exactly kissing cousins, and their blood feud runs deep – at least back to the early death of George, after which, the Artie S faction holds that Mike (Artie T’s father) tried to screw George’s family (that would be the father of Artie S) out of their share of the Market Basket enterprise.

Got it?

Anyway, the courts found that Mike had indeed tried to load up his personal market basket at the expense of George’s heirs, and awarded them 51% interest the chain. But the kertuffling continued, and the battling DeMoulases have been in and out of the news for years – lawsuit this, allegation that. There’s even some Whitey Bulger/bad FBI agent stuff drifting around the periphery.

Over the years, despite the family feud, Artie T ended up running the company. He was CEO until the board ousted him (and a handful of other execs, presumably Artie T allies) in June.

Here’s where the store story gets really interesting.

Artie T was apparently much beloved by the Market Basket employees. To the point where thousands of them – along with Market Basket customers – have been demonstrating for his return.

And we’re not talking a handful of folks milling around carrying Bring Back Artie signs.

As of last Friday, there’ve been three rallies at various locations. One drew 2,500 supporters, another 5,000. The largest rally (Friday’s) brought out an estimated 7,000 to 10,000.

Since Artie T’s ouster, DeMoulas:

…has seen business collapse as customers have boycotted, managers have refused deliveries, employees have rallied outside stores, and stores have run dry of perishable products.(Source:

Politicians are getting in on the act, and Elizabeth Warren – for all practical purposes, as close as we have to a saint of the little people – was booed (in absentia: her name was mentioned) because she has not come out in support of Artie T.

What I find astounding about this is that the employees are showing such ardent support for their former CEO, who it seems was a man who put employees first, made Market Basket a great place to work, etc.

Speakers at the rally [last Friday’s] still expressed their distaste for the company’s past management and recalled stories of their leader-in-exile, Demoulas.

Seriously, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of anything like this.

I did a quick run-through of the CEO’s of the companies I worked for and most of them were charismatic a-holes, non-charismatic a-holes, or useless non-entities. The only one who inspired anything near affection among the ranks was Dr. An Wang, founder of Wang Labs.

I was a late comer to Wang, which was already in the midst of its downward spiral when I joined the company, but the old timers (and some of the new timers) really loved Dr. Wang. As far as I could tell, he was a pretty much a kindly genius, not much given to small talk, but someone to whom many employees were grateful because they’d done pretty well under his leadership.

The biggest gusher I saw directed at Dr. Wang came from none other than Cisco’s John Chambers, who held a senior position at Wang when I was there.

Not that I’ve got much of an eye for executive talent, but I did have enough exposure to John to get that he was the real deal. (I was part of a “let’s save Wang” strategy group, a member of the financial services team, and we got to meet on occasion with senior execs. I remember reporting back to my friends that John was the only one “on Mahogany row” who was worth a damn.)

At some point during my years at Wang, Dr. Wang was diagnosed with cancer, and the news that he was stepping down was broadcast over Wang closed circuit TV.

John Chambers played a prominent role in the announcement, and, in his southern boy accent, and in near tears, gushed all over Dr. Wang, who sat there stoically. (I believe his son Fred was at his side.)

I don’t remember exactly what John said, but to my ears it sounded like, “Oh, Dr. Wang, Dr. Daddy Wang, I hope you don’t mind my telling you that you have always been like a father to me. Dr. Wang, Daddy Dr., Dr. Daddy Wang. Oh, I do so love you, Dr. Daddy Wang.”

I’m sure John was being quite sincere, and that he really did love and admire Dr. Wang. But it didn’t get him the CEO job. (I think it went to Wang.) John moved on over to Cisco. (Good move, John.)

Anyway, until the DeMoulas Demonstrations, this is as close as I’ve come to witnessing a public display of affection aimed at a CEO.

Artie T has announced that he’s putting together an offer to buy Artie S out.

The Market Basket board has said that they will consider it.

Meanwhile, I’m just wowed by the outpouring of support and affection for Artie T.

Who’d a thunk it?


Wonder who’ll play Artie T and Artie S in the movie? Any thoughts?


That’s ATD – the benevolent looking baldy – on the left and more hirsute and sinister looking ASD on the right. Maybe Frank Langella or F. Murray Abraham for Artie S? Roberto Benigni, of Life is Beautiful fame, for Artie T?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Endangered species: jobs that are slip sliding away

In the extremely unlikely case that I will be coming up with another career for myself any time soon, thanks to CareerCast and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, I’ll know which ones to avoid. That would be the ten jobs on the list that are forecast to experience the greatest declines by the year 2022.

If I’d had my heart set on becoming a tax examiner/collector, well, boo-hoo to me. There will be 4 percent fewer of them out there. Why is that, you might ask? According to the article, this decline will be predicated on federal, state, and local governments coming to their senses and simplifying the tax code. I’m guessing it’s because automated tax preparation applications are catching a lot of the errors that the taxman used to find.

Thanks to Kindle, online everything, and – I’m freelancing here – the general decline in literacy caused by communication in selfies-only - there will be 5 percent fewer printing workers. Which is kind of too bad, as this means a decline in printer’s devils, which has to be one of the best job titles ever.

Sadly, I would probably not be able to find work as a drill-press operator, as their ranks will decrease by 6 percent. Probably just as well. Given my mechanical aptitude, I’d likely drill press my thumb out of existence.

I would say, alas, I will never be a flight attendant (down by 7 percent), but coffee, tea, or me, a plastic smile, and a polyester uni were never going to me anyway. There’ll be fewer stews because there will be fewer airlines and fewer flights. (Fewer flights? Does that mean that they’ll be cramming us in as strap-hangers. Yikes!)

It’s not just the printer’s devil’s job that’s going to hell. Less printing means less demand for paper. So those brawny lads, the lumberjacks, will see their ranks topple by 9 percent. (And if I thought I’d lose a thumb as a drill press operator, I’d likely manage to whack a personal limb off while in the process of whacking an arboreal limb off.)

I’m sure I’ve done so since then, but the last time I actually remember talking to a travel agent was in 1976, when one was explaining the “bicentennial nightly” fare that was some kind of steep discount on the red-eye.  They’ve still managed to hang in there – and will for specialty travel – but we will be saying Bon Voyage to 12 percent of them by 2022.

Since it’s the only job on the top (bottom?) ten list that I actually would have wanted to have, I’m sorry to see newspaper reporter go. But come 2022, there’ll be 13 percent fewer Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lanes, intrepidly asking “Who, What, When, Where, How” for the Daily Planet. (Oh, how I wish this had been my profession, so I could more properly mourn its passing.)

No more meter readers, I’m afraid – down by 19 percent. No great loss – who wants to wait around for the meter reader? – unless, of course, you’re a meter reader. Or someone holding one of the few decently paying blue collar jobs out there. (Will someone tell me what exactly it is that people who used to be meter readers, lumberjacks, and drill press operators are actually going to do?)

Farmer is also going to be a thing of the past, with 19 percent fewer of them. Thank you agri-business! I was actually surprised to see that the median salary for the Old McDonalds of the world was $69K. Then I ran the numbers in my head and figured out that they were probably making about $13 an hour. Not much reward for risk of weather, market fluctuations, pestilence, exposure to chemicals, danger from machines, manure...

The most dire outlook is for mail carrier, with hiring predicted to decline by 28 percent by 2022. Like everyone else, most of my bills and statements now come electronically. Moving forward, I plan to have all of them arrive that way. But in 2022 I still hope to be getting magazines, cards, and the occasional physical object through the USPS. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

But what if there are no appointed rounds to complete?

Monday, July 28, 2014

See you in the funny papers. (On not going to Comic Con.)

Well, looks like I missed Comic-Con International in San Diego (sexual harassment and all – although, in truth, the description of the “bad stuff” sounds like it could have occurred at half the tech shows I went to over the years, and 90% of the financial services trade shows – think models teetering around in 4 inch heels and popping out of French maid outfits on all fronts ).

And I don’t plan on being any where near next week’s Boston Comic Con.

But I’m just a no-fun kind of gal, not into fantasy, costumes, role play, super heroes. (As they used to say, a hero ain’t nothin but a sandwich. Except in Boston, where we’d have to say a sub ain’t nothin but a sandwich, or a hero ain’t nothin’ but a sub, or something like that…)

Anyway, Comic Con’s being in the news got me to thinking about the role that comic books have played in my life. Which is minimal.

Sure, if you didn’t have the 50 cents for a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys book, but you did have a dime, you might head over to Sol’s Pharmacy and pick up a Little Lulu or an Archie  or a Dennis the Menace.

But mostly, they were something that, as fifties kids, we knew we were supposed to go for, but didn’t.

No, they were not in the same category as the pogo stick, another item that TV kids all seemed to have, but which I never saw in real life until I was well into my adulthood – and well passed the age at which it might seem like a reasonably good idea to hop on and give it a go. But they just weren’t around.

(Another pogo-stick like item was the odd beanie, as worn by Jeff’s friend Porky in the Tommy Rettig Jan_Clayton_Tommy_Rettig_Donald_Keeler_Lassie_1956 (1)episodes of Lassie. While we did see kids wearing coonskin caps (hard to avoid at our house, given that one of those coonskin cap wearing kids was my brother Tom), but this cap of Porky’s and other so-called fifties kids who were clearly the conception of someone who’d been a kid in the 1930’s or 1940’s. Well, get out of here on your pogo stick, pal. Say hello to Slip Mahoney and the other Dead End Kids when you see ‘em. And leave a hand free to take your comic books with you, why don’t you.)

Anyway, comic books were never my thing – or the thing of any of my friends.

Yes, it was interesting to read the the ads in the back – sea monkeys, body building, space shoes – but for those of us committed to the written word, comic books were kind of boring.

I wanted a book to be a real book.

Give me the long form and let me imagine what Nancy Drew and her pals the girlie Bess and the mannish George looked like when they sped around in Nancy’s roadster. To some of us, one word is worth a thousand pictures, I guess.

I guess I got my funnies fill by reading the funny pages in the daily and Sunday newspapers.

I followed the soap-opera, serial strips, like Apartment 3-G, about the working gals in NYC (no, not that kind of working gal: Margo was a secretary, Tommie was a nurse, and LuAnn was a teacher) and Gil Thorp, in which the brush-cut wearing Coach Thorp dispensed sage advice to teens, and always took time out to wish us a Merry Christmas. Then there was Dondi, the little war orphan who never aged, although the war he was orphaned in  shifted over time from WWII, to Korea, to Vietnam. (If it’s still going, it must be Afghanistan or Iraq. Good thinking to have picked a black haired, black eyed kid, rather than a little blond, blue-eyed Dutch boy who wouldn’t have outlasted WWII.) I also read Gasoline Alley, if only because they had a character with the wonderful name of Moon Mullins.

I similarly read the funnies where each strip contained it’s own self-contained story: Dagwood and Blondie, Beetle Bailey, Maggie and Jiggs, The Kazenjammer Kids, (wordless) Little King, and the (similarly wordless, I believe) Caesar, which featured a dog. Some time during the first grade, I remember telling my friend Bernadette about one of the Caesar cartoons that I found especially amusing. Only I pronounced his name “Kay-zar”. Which Bernadette corrected: she was nearly a year older than I, plus had a brother and a sister who were in college. So she was in the know about advanced pronunciation, etc.

I also liked the single picture/caption cartoons that ran in the dailies: Little Iodine and Dennis the Menace.

As I got a bit more sophisticated, I added Pogo and B.C. to my repertoire. And as I got a bit more sophisticated I grew to despise the pietistic, unfunny, and exceedingly repetitive Family Circus.

And then, of course, back in the adult day when I still read a physical newspaper, there were Doonesbury, and Calvin and Hobbes, and Dilbert.

But comic books? Nah?

I think that at one point we inherited a pile of early-fifties comics that had belonged to my older cousin Robert. My Aunt Margaret was in the habit of occasionally going through his belongings, boxing up anything she decided he’d outgrown, and depositing them on our doorstep. Thus, we became the owners of what was a tremendous collection of baseball cards that might have been worth something today if we had left them neatly boxed and catalogued. Since half the players were no longer active, who cared? We attached them to the spokes of our bikes with clothes pins, which made a wonderful clacketey-clack noise as you pedaled around.

If we did, indeed, take possession of a stack of late 1940’s – early 1950’s comic books, we no doubt pillaged them, as well. What we didn’t tear through likely went to the Boy Scout newspaper drive. (Recycling was not invented yesterday.)

All this musing brought on by Comic Con.

Getting old, getting old…

Friday, July 25, 2014

“Weird Al”: marketing genius

As someone who’s spent her career in the technology sector, and and as a marketer, I want to take a moment on this sultry summer day to salute “Weird Al” Yankovic for his absolutely brilliant take on the Mission Statement.

Mission Statement. Vision Statement.

How many hours did I while away thinking both inside and outside the box to help come up with just the right set of words to express just what the company was about.

By now, I have blessedly forgotten the distinction between Mission Statement and Vision Statement – is mission the tactical and vision strategic?

No matter, in the word of my sister Trish, who sent me the link to this:

Weird Al really nails it in this one!

Weird Al

I tend to flub it when I try to embed anything from You Tube, but please go and check this one out: “Weird Al” Mission Statement. It’s definitely worth waiting through the ad.

If you’ve ever worked in business, I guarantee you’ll be amused by this one. Especially if you’ve been in tech and/or marketing. For those who haven’t had the pleasure, off there pursuing careers in odd-ball fields like teaching, law, or medicine, here’s what you’ve been missing.

As I listened through this for the first time, I started making note of what was missing: seamless, robust, scalable, best of breed, globalization.

It was as if “Weird Al”could read my mind in real-time, as there they were.

If I had a dollar for every time I used any of those words. I’d only need a dime for each use of “seamless integration” to get rich.

The only missing word that I could find was “collaboration.” (Get with it, Al.)  And “paradigm shift” is just so nineties.

Anyway, this was my laugh of the day. Hope it’s yours, too.


And a tip of the corporate cap to Trish for sending me this link. Such synergy between her finding this and my need for a Friday post. World class thinking there, Trixie!





Thursday, July 24, 2014

Toys will be toys, especially if you’ve got $$$

If you, like me, are already sitting around wondering where summer went, and how you can salvage some of the dwindling hours we have left in it…

If you, unlike me, have some serious walking around money that is not already earmarked for boring stuff like new shades in the living room, repairing the hole in the ceiling that the HVAC installers gouged in ours last fall, and – jumping seasons a bit here – the pricey but beautiful sweater I just saw in the Peruvian Connection catalog…

You might want to check out this article on Huff Po on some nifty summer toys for the rich folk that are on sale at (mostly) Hammacher Schlemmer, which I believe translates into English as “silly, overpriced stuff that no one in their right mind would buy.”

Huff Po does some serious sneering, I’m afraid, but, seriously, what’s not to dislike about a set of campfire roasting rods from for $119.95. Yes, as HS tells us, these are “patented [and] counter-balanced” and come with a “stainless steel ‘line’ that terminates in a pair of roasting spits.” All the while keeping the kiddies “a safe distance” from the campfire.

But this is right up there with the perfect snowball maker in terms of sucking some of the joy out of childhood. (The kind that comes from taking a teenie-weenie risk, and from using an implement  - your mitten’d hands: snowball; a stick: toasting marshmallows -  that you have on your person or can easily create on your own.)  EVERYTHING DOESN”T HAVE TO COME IN A PACKAGE!

Come on, parents and grandparents of America, don’t you want your little ones to experience the satisfaction that comes from mastering the difference between a stick and a snake? From figuring out the risk/reward of pulling a stray hot dog out of the fire?


If you’re in a bit more of a spending mood,Hammacher also offers $699.99 electric roller skates. That should help with the fight against obesity, no? I’d say that these babies would be unsafe at any speed (they go 8 mph), at least for the pedestrians in their way. Bad enough having to dodge runners, bicyclists (get off of my sidewalk), folks in Hoverounds tearing up the pavement (slow down, gramps), and tourist gawkers on Segways (you’re supposed to be in the street, pal). Now we have the prospect of electronic roller skates?  Oh, for the days of the simple skate key…

Then there’s an inflatable version of Twister for $2K, which they call the “Color Dot Game” because the Inflatable Twistername Twister was already taken. The good news is that there’s more room to twist around in. The bad news is, it’s still, well, Twister. (Maybe I’ll sign up for the inflatable Trivial Pursuit when it comes out.)

Although I would be the first one to break my neck in it – that is, after I’d lost my lunch – I will say that the Human Bowling Ball ($5.5 K) looks like fun. That is, if you’re the type that likes to break neck/lose lunch, or watch others doing the same.

Since there are so few left who are willing to take mallet in hand and participate in the annual family croquet outing – come on, who wouldn’t rather sit there and drink wine and gossip? – maybe we can get someone to spring for this before next summer. I can picture this fitting in perfectly in my cousin MB’s back yard. Perhaps we could vary things up a bit and roll after Canadian geese. (I have a nominee in mind.)Human Bowling Ball

We’ll just have to figure out who gets to wipe the goose poop off.

Hammacher Schlemmer has all sorts of other summer goodies: a Barbecue Dining Boat that will set you back $50,000; something that lets the entire family walk (or stand) on water simultaneously for $999.95 (didn’t my brother Tom have something called “Jesus Feet” back in the 1970’s?); and a frankly quite fun-looking Inflatable Water Park slide for $8K. (I think this item may be from Sharper Image, not HS.)

You can also get an Inflatable Military Obstacle Course for $12,500.

Personally, life is enough of an obstacle course these days without adding in some inflatable military impediments.

No tree in sight? And, if you’re on an ocean beach, there probably isn’t much in sight other than a couple of scrub pines, there’s a Floating Rope Swing ($3,800).

Flying Hovercraft ($190K). Killer Whale Submarine ($100K). Motorized Monocycle ($13K – see the above on electric roller skates). Water Skier Controlled Tow Boat (for those with no friends, a high risk tolerance, and a spare $17,000). A Personal Submarine, which I guess must be a bit more water proof and depth capable than the cheapo Killer Whale Sub ($2 million: Paul Allen, step aside).

And just in case you build up a powerful, hungry kind of thirst playing with (and paying for) all these toys, you can get a Classic Snow Cone Cart for $4K.

Oh, whatever happened to the Classic DIY Lemonade Stand?

I guess if you need to churn out “up to 500 lbs. of finely granulated ice per hour,” this one’s for you.

But Snow Cones? Snow Cones! Really….

One good slurp and you’ve exhausted the colored sweet gunk and are stuck with a sopping paper cup filed with ice.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Nice way to derail your future, bro

Every few months, whether we need it or not, it seems that there’s some teenager putting a stake in the heart of his or her future by doing something truly dreadful. Something truly dreadful that generally involves sex.

Last week’s sordid story comes out of one of the most prestigious prep schools in the country, St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. SPS has been around since 1856, and is 100% residential. None of those down-market day-duckers mucking things up and detracting from the 24/7 SPS experience.

Anyway, the story currently making the news rounds involves a senior male who, on the eve of his graduation, has been arrested for sexually assaulted a 15 year old female sophomore. Allegedly, he was playing a game with a group of classmates in which they were trying to “hook up” with as many girls as possible before the school year ended.

The student who’s been charged must have been falling behind in the head (ahem) count, and resorted to force. As of this writing, this is not something that any of the other play-ahs resorted to. So far.

I’m not going to name names here. Google St. Paul’s School and one or two other words and you’ll find it. But what this guy’s name is doesn’t really matter all that much. What matters is that, again and again, we hear too much of this and variation on a theme stories. This one involved e-mailing a girl, inviting her to a off-limits rendezvous spot, and sexual assault. No gang-bangs, no roofies, no drugs and alcohol, no Instagram, no FB bragging. Just good old-fashioned sexual assault.

It will come as no surprise that the accused student is an athlete. Something about that culture seems to bring out the worst in some young men, that’s for sure. And I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that he had been accepted to Harvard.

But I am shocked that someone bright enough to get into Harvard – even, as is likely, via the affirmative action for privileged white athletic male route – was stupid enough to jeopardize his future to notch a meaningless sexual encounter.

Is he a sociopath? An arrogant punk? An entitled POS? All of the above?

I suspect that, whether he ends up in jail or this all gets lost in some he-say-she-say persiflage (or, as is unlikely based on what’s come out so far, that this is a boyfriend-girlfriend gone wrong thing), he’s probably kissing Harvard good-bye. They’ve got a character clause in that acceptance letter, thank you.

I know that at 18, an awful lot of boys are doing a lot of thinking with their little head. Still, you’d think these high-prestige schools – especially those that are 100% residential and, thus, have so much responsibility to and for their students; or is in loco parentis just plain out of date and quaint  – would get better at instilling in its charges (as their parents apparently haven’t) that this behavior is god-awful. And if the moral appeal fails, and if the Golden Rule derivative: what if it’s your sister/niece/friend doesn’t work, you’d think that they’d parade out the object lessons on what can happen if you engage in this sort of behavior.

I.e., you probably don’t get to go to Harvard. You probably don’t get the  posh internships you’d hoped for.Your fancy-ass network probably turns its back on you. A woman you really want to go out with may think twice, but that will be thinking twice before rejecting your request for a date.  Etc.

And while they’re at it, why not drum into the heads of their female students that, if a boy who has never spoken with you, nodded at you in quad, sat with you in the dining hall, shared a snide observation about a teacher, smiled at you at a game, told one of your friends he thought you were cute, retweeted your droll tweet, or done anything that leads you to believe he has some true interest in you, you’d be better off deleting an e-mail invitation to meet in a remote, off-limits place where it will be just him and you. On second thought, you might not want to accept that invitation even if you do have one or two checkboxes regarding his interest in you.

Maybe there’s no such thing as an Archie and Veronica date – two straws in the malted – anymore, but, for all their knowingness and sophistication, today’s girls would do well to heed an occasional warning from on of us dried-up old prunes.

But, if you do accept that e-mail invitation – after all, it’s a senior jock and he’s asked you – I am not blaming you, honey. You ARE the victim here.

Wonder what this young fellow’s parents are thinking just about now.

Wonder if they’re ashamed, sick at heart, aching for the young girl, and angry with their son.

Wonder if they’re focusing that anger on the girl. (Slut. Tease. We all know the drill.)

And wonder what’s going on in the mind of this young man these days.

Is it shame? Is it anger at the girl for (at least in his mind) leading him on, for lying after the fact, for telling?

Is he thinking he did something wrong? Or that he’s the victim here?

Or is the realization seeping in that he screwed up big time, and is probably not going to be living the life, or having the career, that he envisioned when he got into SPS, when he got the thick envelope from Harvard giving him the good t news?

Although it wasn’t part of my playbook, I’m quite sure that meaningless sex can be fun and entertaining. But that would be only when it’s consensual.

Suckering in a younger girl so you could score some points in a sex game with your bros. Well, that takes meaningless to a new low.

But this guy’s fellow gamers will be distancing themselves from him faster than you scan yell “Score.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Put a needle in this Haystack, why don’t you

As someone who has actually owned a car in a densely occupied urban environment where the parking ain’t easy, I well understand the frustration surrounding the hunt for a parking space.

When I had to commute by automobile – never, ever, ever my preference – I initially tried to get by without paid-for parking. I did get my Beacon Hill sticker, which entitled me to park on our fair neighborhood streets if and only if I could find a space. Which sometimes took a long and brutal search, which generally ended in my giving up and paying for overnight parking in the nearest garage.

After a while I smartened up and got worker-bee parking in that garage.

For $100 a month – it’s more now, but still a bargain – I had to exit by 10 a.m. each workday, and could enter only after 4 p.m., but had unlimited in-and-out on weekends, holidays, and snow days. Since I have been blessedly blessed with good health, I seldom had to figure out what to do on a sick day. On vacations, I parked at the airport or left the car at my sister’s.

When I started freelancing, car ownership became more problematic. I couldn’t justify paying for full-time parking for a car I seldom used, so I hit the streets. A complete and utter drag that eventually resulted in my giving my beloved Beetle to Volunteers of America.

So you’d think I’d be all over an app that let’s people more easily find that elusive space.

Well, not if it works like Haystack.

All wrapped up in a combination of like a good neighbor and unleash the inner greedster verbiage:

Help your neighbors by offering your street space before you head out with a simple tap. Cancel without penalty at anytime if nobody has taken your spot.

Not planning on heading out, but willing to move your car for the right price? Offer your spot for extended time during the most in-demand hours to help your neighbors who need it most.

Haystack lets you alert a fellow Haystacker that you’re about to leave your space, giving your estimated time of departure, your location, a description on your vehicle, and a head’s up on how long you’re willing to wait. The charge for this is $3, of which 75 cents goes into Haystack’s coffers. (The “willing to move your car for the right price” option is called Make Me Move, and lets you set your price.)

What’s wrong with this picture?

Well, what happens when hapless, app-less Mom and Dad Ohio with three squalling kids in the car see you get into yours and think, hey, it’s my lucky day.

Well, maybe Dad Ohio is not Midwest nice. He’s Midwest pissed. (Those three squalling kids…)

And forget about Mom and Dad Ohio. They can go find a garage.

What about those neighbors who, like you, have a parking permit. They see you get into your car and think, hey, it’s my lucky day. Only to have the Haystacker wave them off. Only to see the Haystacker give it up for his fellow app-savvy urban parking guerrilla.

Having narrowly avoided a couple of I-saw-it-first confrontations of my own, and having witnessed plenty of them, this does not end pretty.

It’s one thing if you actually own the parking place, quite another when it’s a place the city owns.

Anyway, Haystack launched in Baltimore, but has come to Boston.

The Hub of the Universe – at least the folks who run it – is not exactly excited about this:

“That has implications that at first blush are alarming to us,” said [Mayor Marty] Walsh’s chief of staff, Daniel Koh. “When a space is available, it should be available to anyone, regardless of whether they have extra money to pay for it.”

…Haystack’s 24-year-old founder, who says his app is an innovative solution to one of urban living’s great frustrations, contends the company is not selling public property at all. Rather, it is selling information about public parking — specifically, when spaces are about to open up.

“There’s no sale of physical property,” Eric Meyer said. “This is neighbors exchanging information for a fee, and they have every right to do that. What you’re really paying for is convenience.” (Source: Boston Globe)

Although Boston’s official tone was initially somewhat open toward Haystack, they’ve now come out saying they’ll put a stop to it.

In this, they’ll be following the lead of San Francisco

City attorney Dennis Herrera has threatened to fine three services —MonkeyParking, Sweetch, and ParkModo — if they do not cease operations, accusing them of “hold[ing] hostage on-street public parking spots for their own private profit.”

“It creates a predatory private market for public parking spaces that San Franciscans will not tolerate,” Herrera said in June. “Worst of all, it encourages drivers to use their mobile devices unsafely — to engage in online bidding wars while driving.”

Sweetch is like Haystack (only costs more). MonkeyParking is auction based. And ParkModo

…has taken to hiring drivers — at $13 per hour — to occupy street spaces at peak hours in busy neighborhoods as a way of increasing app usage.

How neighborly can you get?

Personally, if someone wants to order a pizza, do their laundry, or find the nearest hookup via app, well, have at it.

If you want to auction off your own personal, personally-owned space, have at that, too

Boston will be coming up with an app that let’s people know where metered spaces are open, and that makes sense to me. But there’s something completely unsavory about the Haystack pay-up app approach to a public good or service.

I know there’s no stopping the march of technology, but I’d be just as happy if someone put a fully-loaded needle in this Haystack.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Perhaps because I was never a super heavy business traveler, I escaped my full time career with relatively few travel horror stories.

Oh, there were the three hours spent broiling on the tarmac at Newark Airport waiting for the weather to clear at wherever we were headed. To conserve fuel, they turned the engines, and, hence, the AC. It was 95 and sunny. Excellent!

Sadly, I never got to Frankenmuth, Michigan. After hanging around Logan for about 3 or 4 hours, that game was called on account of snow. I had been looking forward to getting a glimpse of Frankenmuth, which is not only to home of Frankenmuth Insurance (our destination) but also some sort of Bavarian theme town. Jawohl? Neinwohl. By the time our call was rescheduled, I was no longer with the company.

Then there was the terrible, weather-delayed flight to Houston that got in at 4 a.m.

And getting stranded in Orlando on 9-11 wasn’t exactly fun.

Mostly, I had to deal with minor nuisance delays and the odd cancellation that was easy enough to work around.

On the pleasure side of the travel equation, I’ve been equally lucky.

The one big hassle trip was a seven hour delay at Shannon.

Once we got on the plane, the pilot charmingly told us that the delay occurred because the plane had been struck by lightning on the way over, and Aer Lingus “knew that we would want them to check it out.” Yes, indeed.

But my travel life has been pretty much sturm und drang free.

And then there was Frightmare: Return from Chicago.

Because of some traffic issues, my cousin Ellen – hostess par excellence for my recent visit to the Second City, formerly known as the Windy City, and before that, Hog Butcher of the World – decided to get me to O’Hare on the early side. This was great, as it gave me the opportunity to get on stand-by for an earlier flight.

Alas, I didn’t make it on.

But I was content to sit there with my Kindle.

Then came the news that the 4:57 to Boston was delayed until 7:04 p.m.

Oh, what’s two hours when you’ve got three more novels loaded, and you’re sitting near a plug?

Then the flight shifted to 8:15 p.m.

By this time, the cannier travelers – business people with tickets that were actually paid for – were booking on other airlines.

Since I was traveling on frequent flyer, my options were limited to getting wait-listed on other United flights. Which didn’t work out.

At some point, my flight was rescheduled for 9-something. With this reschedule came the admission that the plane we were going to be heading back to Boston on hadn’t left Newark yet. Given that the flight hadn’t left, and given that it takes about 2 hours to fly from Newark, that 9-something take-off began to look like the lie from the pit of hell.

While we were all sitting there doing the math, the gate person got on the PA and announced that our gate was being moved from C21 to B3.

Those of us who were more fleet of foot high-tailed it over to terminal B – quite a schlepp, I might add – only to find out that we had been misinformed.

There was, indeed, a flight to Boston leaving from B3, but it wasn’t ours, and it was full already.

Back at C21, I asked the gate person whether we had misunderstood the announcement.

No, we had heard right. What we hadn’t heard was the “never mind” that had followed the initial “get thee to B3” announcement.

By this point, the flight was scheduled for 11:30 p.m.

I figured by now that Flight 744 was just as likely to be cancelled as take off at 11:30, so I got in the customer service line. My thought was that I could keep an eye on my flight, but see what my options were for the following day.

After an hour-and-a-half wait, I got to the head of the line, where a remarkably pleasant and competent young woman told me that they had jiggered things around so that a plane coming from Houston, and a pilot coming from Detroit, would be taking us back to Boston, leaving somewhere around midnight.

Just to make sure, she booked me on the 6 a.m. flight the following morning.

Fortunately, our flight did take off at midnight, more or less, arriving in Boston at 3 a.m. Eastern.

I was delighted to learn that there are plenty of taxis to be had at Logan at 3 a.m.

So home I was by 3:30 a.m., and, after a quick shower, rolling into bed by 3:45 a.m.

I was exhausted, but none the worse for having spent 10 hours at O’Hare.

Between the Kindle – and the fellow traveler conversations I had with the Nigerian woman flying to Philadelphia, the fellow Maureen with a grandson named Oliver, the retired cop heading home from Alaska, the guy from Michigan whose daughter is looking at colleges – I was plenty entertained.

If this is the worst thing that ever happens to me while traveling, I’ll have a pretty darned good travel life.

Friday, July 18, 2014

My kind of town, Chicago is

While I am, first and foremost, a Worcester girl, I am also, quite proudly, “half Chicago,” the town my mother hails from. (Actually the town she originally hailed from was in the complete and utter back arse of Mitteleuropa, but she arrived here when she was three or four years old, and grew up in Chicago.)

Anyway, thanks to my cousin Ellen (and her good-natured and gabfest-tolerant husband Mike), I just spent an absolutely wonderful few days in Chicago.

This is one beautiful city and, while Boston is home and, quite naturally, one of my favorite places on earth, I have to put Chicago right up there with New York City and Paris in my personal urban pantheon.

I’m not wild about the flatness, and I wouldn’t want to live 1000 miles from the nearest ocean. And there is the matter of the Chicago accent. (But, as they might say in the Midwest, honest to Pete, most folks don’t speak “da Bulls/da Bears”, and I wouldn’t want to be full time around a Southie or Brooklyn accent, either.)

Other than that, as long as you’re not one of the poor unfortunates who live in one of the violence-soaked gangbanger neighborhoods where an eight year old on a bike or a toddler at the window isn’t safe from a stray bullet, what’s not to like?

Chicago is beautiful, with a waterfront that any city that fronts on water would envy.

And Chicago’s got culture.

Not that I visited any of them on this visit – been there, done that – there are wonderful museums.

Chicago has excellent restaurants, great shopping, and plenty of stuff to see and do.

Chicagoans like and like to talk sports and politics.

Okay, it’s not the pleasant weather capital of the world. But I grew up in Worcester, and chose to live in Boston, so weather is obviously not a deal-breaker, city-wise.

So far, Chicago sounds like to lot of big cities, no? Plus or minus on some of the attributes, but you could slug in San Francisco or Philadelphia, and nothing much changes.

But what Chicago has that, in my book, surpasses any major city in the U.S., is incredibly interesting, beautifully kept up, and – thanks to that flatness – blissfully and comfortably walkable neighborhoods.

And we walked around plenty of them.

Ellen and I tromped through the neighborhood where our grandmother lived, a wonderful area full of charming bungalows and prairie-style houses. Sadly, our grandmother’s house has gotten a little run down over the years, which would have Grandma spinning in her grave. Every other house in her neighborhood was getting plenty of TLC, but Grandma’s front yard was overgrown, the paint on the front door was peeling, the front screen door was shabby. In general, things looked pretty forlorn.

In my grandmother’s day, that front lawn was a velvet carpet, and no one who washed all her windows and curtains once a month was going to have a door with peeling front paint, that’s for sure.

So that was a bit sad.

On the upside, we got to see Blago’s house, which was right around the corner from my grandmother’s.

For those who aren’t that up on their Illinois politics, former governor Rod Blagojevich is doing time for trying to sell Obama’s senate seat to the highest bidder.

Anyway, his house – or former house, I gather – is a thing of beauty.

Which is more than you can say for Our Lady of Mercy Church, where both my mother and my Aunt Mary (Ellen’s mother) were married. I have to say that, whatever it looked like in the 1940’s when Liz and Mary were married, it is now a hideous combination of ugly old and sterile new.

It was, nonetheless, fun to drop in and check it out.

We also “did” Andersonville, Lakewood/Balmoral, Lincoln Park...

One house more attractive and charming than the next, all along lovely tree-lined streets.

Better than roaming around some of Chicago’s hoods was hanging with my cousin Ellen (talking everything under the sun, exchanging book lists, and criticizing the homebuyers on HGTV), and getting to visit with family: my Aunt Mary (still going strong at 89!), Ellen’s kids and grandkids, Ellen’s Chicago sibs and their spouses.

I also got to see some of Naperville, where Ellen and her husband raised there kids, and where they’re now retired.

I am generally suburb-averse, but Napervills is one of those fortunate suburbs that was actually a place on its own before it was a bedroom community. It has lovely neighborhoods, a nifty downtown that my cousin can walk to – and that nifty downtown has one of the best indie bookstores in the country, by the way – and a very pleasant River Walk along the Du Page River.

Ellen and Mike are going to be spending the month of September in Paris, and she’ll be blogging about her adventure (and about preparing for it) on Hello, Lamppost.

Those of a certain age will recognize these words as coming from Simon and Garfunkel’s 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy).

I suspect that once I departed Chez Brosnahan, Mike was adopting a quite different Simon and Garfunkel tune as his own anthem: Sounds of Silence.

Thanks, Ellen. Thanks, Mike.

My kind of town, Chicago is.

I’ve always kin of known this, but it was fun to be reminded of it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Shocked, I’m shocked. (Not really.)

The other day, I had lunch with a friend, a woman my age. Like me, K is a widow. Unlike me, she’s been a widow for more than a decade, while today I’m marking my fourth montliversary.

One topic covered in our rambling conversation was what aspects of widowhood were difficult, and which ones weren’t especially bothersome.

Although K has been at it a lot longer than I, we both hit upon not being able to go on trips with our husbands as one of the most painful things to go through. (Going on vacations had been important to both K and myself.)

But we also both talked about how, in general, spending a lot of time by ourselves didn’t bother us at all – never had (before or after being widowed), and probably never would. Neither one of us is, or aspires to be, a recluse. But we both like biding our time all by our lonesomes, that’s for sure.

As has always been the case, a lot of my “me time” is taken up with reading.

But I also take long walks – something I used to do regularly with Jim, but now do on my own. Admittedly, I occasionally find myself going over to the dark side and making a phone call on my walk, but I’m trying to make those walks either quietly observational or blanked out mind treks. I’m also perfectly content to stare out into space, sitting on a bench in the Public Garden, or to stare out into Jim’s pride and joy 48” flat screen (turned off) sitting on the living room couch.

Nope, not being able to spend enough time in my own head has never been one of my problems.

But there’s a study out that shows the shocking degree to which many folks will go to avoid being alone with their thoughts.

I shouldn’t be all that surprised. We are, after all, a nation of doers not thinkers. Still, it’s a bit shocking to learn that so many people would rather withstand an electrical shock than sit doing nothing for 15 minutes. But that’s what a recent experiment found.

Being alone with no distractions was so distasteful to two-thirds of men and a quarter of women that they elected to give themselves mild electric shocks rather than sit quietly in a room with nothing but the thoughts in their heads, according to a study from the University of Virginia. (Source: Bloomberg)

The study was multi-part, and involved relatively small groups, but those groups spanned age, profession, etc.

There was no evidence that any group, based on age, education, income or social media usage, was more likely to appreciate time spent in reflection.

The study originally started out with students, and researchers found that the kids got bored pretty darned easily, and disliked the experience of having nothing to do.

Naturally, a lot of us would want to chalk this up to the “always on” generation’s being singularly incapable of being calm, self-reflecting Zen gods like ourselves.

But, like all good researchers, the UVA folks forged on, so they tested:

…whether volunteers would prefer an unpleasant activity -- an electric shock -- rather than no activity at all.

And damned if a majority of the men, and one-quarter of the women, decided that – even though ahead of time, after they’d tested the 9 volt jolt and deemed it painful, after they’d said that “they would pay to avoid” the shock – with nothing better to do than think, they’d give themselves a bit of a shock to kill some time.

Maybe if I had to sit there for 15 hours with nothing to do, I might decide to stick my finger in the socket, metaphorically speaking. But 15 minutes? Don’t people have issues to think through? Conversations to replay? Slights to fret about? Problems to solve? Joyful experiences they want to recall? (Sorrowful experiences they want to wallow in?)

The most telling participants said they were bored, and giving themselves a shock was better than being bored, [lead researcher Timothy] Wilson said.

“Maybe the mind is built to exist in the world, and people would prefer to have a negative experience rather than none at all,” he said.

Talk about needing to live for the moment.

I don’t know about the study participants, but my memory bank is sufficiently full, my task list sufficiently crammed, my life sufficiently full and vexing, that I have plenty of things I can mull about.

Think I’ll put my laptop aside and cogitate on why there are so many folks out there who can’t stand to just sit there and think.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hoosiers take on student debt.

Over the years, Pink Slip has opined on a few occasions about student loans. So as the fifth anniversary of my first student borrowing post approaches, here I am again.

Except this time, it’s a bit more upbeat. At least if you’re a student at the University of Indiana.

Amid the furor over the $1.2 trillion in U.S. student debt, the seven-campus system decided to tell students annually before they take out loans for the next year what their monthly payment would be after graduation. (Source: Bloomberg)

I’m sure that there are some who think that college students should smarten up on their own, that this is one more sign that the nanny state is out of control, out for control, trying to protect us from ourselves. The same nanny state that wants to outlaw Big Gulps. That wants to keep consumer warnings on OTC drugs (may cause blindness, liver failure, suicidal thoughts, and an erection that lasts more than four hours). The same nanny state that one day will no doubt expect us to wear helmets in our showers. (Hmmm. Come to think of it, this might not be a bad idea for us oldsters, especially if the helmet has an embedded device that calls 911 when it hits the tile.)

But. I. Digress.

Indiana has found that a simple little reminder about the true costs of borrowing is paying off:

Federal undergraduate Stafford loan disbursements at the public university dropped 11 percent, or $31 million, in the nine months that ended March 31 from a year earlier, according to Education Department data. That’s more than fivefold the 2 percent decline in outlays to four-year public schools nationally.

Students aren’t dropping out. They’re just making more intelligent decisions about how to pay for their education.

All colleges and universities have to provide some guidance on borrowing when students start school, and some guidance on repaying when they’re nearing graduation. But what Indiana’s doing is letting them know every step of the way what they’re signing up for when they sign on that dotted line.

Natalie Cahill, 22, who is about to start her final year in nursing at Indiana’s flagship Bloomington campus, said that after receiving her debt letter she decided to search for more scholarships.

“When you take out loans for the year, you just see a smaller number than the grand total,” Cahill said. “Seeing the letter definitely put things into perspective.”

Students are applying that perspective. They’re applying more of their summer earnings to “the necessities”, rather than using it for the fun stuff. They’re sticking with their old smartphone, rather than grabbing for the shiny new device.

How’s Indiana going about it?

“We are having more contact with the student where they can say ‘I don’t want this,’ or ‘I want less,’” said Jim Kennedy, associate vice president and director of financial aid at the Indiana system. “If they know at all times their debt, and the repayment, it helps with a lot of planning….We added more stopping points in the process,” Kennedy said. Students “have to step back and really understand how much loan debt they’re taking on.”

I love what they’re doing.

Oh, sure, college kids should be smart enough to figure this out on their own. But they’re really not. And  it’s interesting to see students respond pretty intelligently when the consequences are laid out for them.

I would hope that other colleges and universities will follow Hoosier suit.

It’s become entirely too easy for kids to take on debt to finance their education. And the ease of taking on that debt makes it all to easy to buy those sneakers, take that spring break trip, go to that concert. Only to fast forward a few years and find out that payback’s a bitch.

Raising student awareness about the true costs of borrowing works on a couple of fronts.

Students will start their working lives with less of their paycheck committed to debt servicing. Leaving them more to devote to fun, adventure, condo down payments, and saving for their old age.

And by helping them realize that there are spending tradeoffs out there, they’ll be better equipped to manage the budgets that most of us have to live within. Some of those budgets are largely informal, others are down to the penny. Some are pretty darned elastic, others are tight. But most of us in the adult world know, more of less, what’s in the wallet of our life. The sooner “the young folks” figure this out, the better.


In case you share my interest in student loans, here are  my generic  2012 rant, a post on borrowing for law school, one on young adults who – this is pretty unimaginable – believe that debt is cool, my ur student debt post – September 2009 – on a misguided BU student who took on an extra $10K in debt (wow: I originally typed that as “$10K in death”) to live in a luxury dorm.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Twitter Police

For all the power and glory of the Internet – hey, look at me, I’m blogging – there’s an abundance of downside. The dissemination of untruths. The fomenting of hysteria. Anonymous bullying.

Of course, most of this “stuff” existed well before the Internet. Dissemination of untruths: Hmmmmm, Joseph Goebbels? The fomenting of hysteria: Joe McCarthy? Or, more benignly, Orson Welles, with his War of the World’s broadcast. Anonymous bullying: Ku Klux Klan?

At the macro level, there is nothing new under the sun.

What’s new is not the viciousness. It’s the global reach, the speed, the scale. All part of the Internet’s value proposition, by the way. All part of what makes it great. And all part of what makes it such a clear and present danger.

On balance, I do think that what the Internet brings for the good outweighs the bad, but it’s not 99% to 1%. It’s probably more like 80-20. (On that 20 side, I include both the obviously heinous stuff – child sex trafficking – and the stuff that’s probably not all that helpful to humankind, like so many kids no longer being able to make eye contact or small talk, because all they do is text.)

Anyway, Twitter is, of course, a microcosm of all things Internet, bad and good.

On the plus side: instant emergency communication, celebrity “intimacies”, amusing bon mots, the immediate gratification of knowing something – anything – right away.

On the negative end of things: unbridled misogyny, racism, gay-bashing – some of which is regretted the morning after the night before, but a lot of it expressing how people really feel.

Anyway, it’s comforting to know that Twitter has its very own police force, and the chief of police  is one Del Harvey.

Harvey was the 25th employee at Twitter, where her official title is vice president of trust and safety, but she’s more like Silicon Valley’s chief sanitation officer, dealing with the dirtiest stuff on Twitter: spam, harassment, child exploitation, threats of rape and murder. As Facebook and Twitter have become the public squares of the digital age, their censors now “have more power over the future of privacy and free expression than any king or president or Supreme Court justice,” writes constitutional scholar Jeffrey Rosen. Twitter famously prizes free expression, but as a business it needs to ensure its platform doesn’t turn into a toxic-speech zone that scares off users and advertisers. Harvey is the person Twitter trusts to walk that line. With a daily volume of a half-billion tweets, “your one-in-a-million chance of something going horribly wrong happens 500 times a day,” says Harvey. “My job is predicting and designing for catastrophes.” (Source: Forbes)

Harvey – Del Harvey is her nom-de-VP of trust and safety, by the way, not her real name -  has an interesting background. Among other interesting gigs, “she spent a summer as a lifeguard at a state mental institution,” and, more relevantly, volunteered to pose as a kid online, engaging in chats with possible pedophiles. Later, she played a decoy on the show, To Catch a Predator. For that show, assignations between adult men and (in the episodes I watched) early teen girls and boys were set up online and via phone and, when the subject showed up for his “date” with Lolita (or Lolito), he found himself filmed by NBC and arrested. (I saw this show a couple of times, and found it completely odious. I’m no defender of 40 year old men trying to have sex with 13 year olds, but this show came pretty close to entrapment.)

Putting pedophiles away is a good thing. But I have a sneaking suspicion that there are a lot more active pedophiles out there these days than there used to be. And that’s thanks in part to the Internet.

Yes, the Internet lets us find out we’re not alone. That we’re not the only one-handed vegan knitter who raises labradoodles. That there are other people who live for Mad Men. Who collect tea canisters. Who have scorecards for every major league baseball game played since 1946.

But I suspect that there are also plenty of people who may have harbored evil thoughts, but who might have kept those evil thoughts deep in the recesses of their minds where they belong.

Along comes the Internet, and, all of a sudden, you’re kind of legitimized.

Hey, there are a lot of us out there. I’m not alone.

I’m making this up, talking through my hat, as they say, but my intuition is that more pedophiles (and other bad folks) are acting on their dark impulses because they’ve seen them legitimized exposure to so many who are like-minded.

Which, of course, has nothing to do with Twitter and its top cop.

Policing what gets tweeted is probably on balance a good thing, even if it’s not for altruistic reasons, but to keep the advertisers on board.

No, I don’t want Del Harvey policing every nitwit who says something misogynist, racist, mean-spirited and vile. The really nasty ones seem to get outed on their own. But if we can stop a Sandy Hook massacre, or another 9/11, by following what people are saying in a public forum, then I say go for it.

…Twitter doesn’t allow threats but relies on its community to flag them for removal and report them to the police. While Twitter has automated systems to weed out spam, tweets about direct violence and suicide require manual review. “Context matters,” says Harvey. “‘Hey bitch’ can be a greeting or form of abuse.”

Be careful of that context, Del. I can certainly see plenty of opportunity to call the cops, only to find out that that “hey bitch” was misconstrued, and that sometimes when someone says “I could kill you”, they’re speaking metaphorically.

What a tough and interesting job Harvey has.

Not one I envy, but interesting nonetheless.

Monday, July 14, 2014

What to do, oh, what to do.

I’ve now had my laptop about two-and-a-half years, and my smartphone is coming up on three.

That laptop is definitely nearing its trip to the glue factory, freezing up every once in a while and even – gasp – throwing the occasional blue screen of death.

As I do every time I have to re-up on tech, I will consider (and likely reject) something Mac-ish.

Yes, I know they’re wonderful, and cool, and lighter than air, and run Office just fine - which is a useful attribute as far as old Luddites like me, who our workaday, get-things-done apps local, and not just in the cloud, thank you – but the old Intel girlll in me always ends up just saying no to things Apple.

I do have an iPod around here somewhere, but I never transferred the files over to this laptop when I got it, so I’m not sure that I could even add anything to my playlist – even if I could find the iPod.

There was nothing wrong with the iPod.

In fact, I liked it, and it certainly saved many a long drive to Syracuse, that’s for sure.

But I’m not someone who has to have a bud in my ear at all times, and I haven’t driven to Syracuse in a while. Maybe someday I’ll dig it out. (Of course, by that point, whatever I’m using for a smartphone will be my device for tunes. I just haven’t bothered going down that route quite yet.)

Although I liked my iPod, I didn’t love my iPod.

So I’m sure that, when it comes to my personal computing needs, I will yet again be able to resist the lure of Apple.

Part of it is always the price, which is always higher than whatever comparable Intel-based thing I’m looking at. Not unnervingly higher – especially given that whatever it is yields a tax deduction – but still enough to give me pause.

And then there’s my general pigheaded resistance to succumbing to Apple’s brilliance. Maybe it’s the fan-boys. Maybe it’s that whiff of superiority that still manages to emanate from the company, even if their star is not quite so ascendant post-Jobs, and in the Era of Google. And maybe it’s just that, since my first purchase of a Leading Edge – I could always pick the cool technology – over thirty years ago, I’ve been just fine with Intel inside.

My husband had one of the early Apples, but once that croaked, he became an Intel-er, too.

Over thirty years, that has meant a parade of Gateways, Compaqs, HPs, Toshibas, Dells.

I will be taking a serious look at the MacBook Air (i.e., I will go to the Apple store and see if some Apple cultie working ad majorem Apple gloriam can convince me that this is the year).

And I’ll also be taking a serious look at the Microsoft Surface Pro (i.e., I will go to the Microsoft store and see if some MSFT not-quite-cultie can convince me that the “it’s a bird, it’s a plane” hybrid approach that they’re taking is the one). While I lean Intel, from what little I have seen of it, I’m not that wild about the Windows 8 UI – much too pictorial and, sigh, Mac-like. But that’s the way of the world. Me, there are still a lot of things I’d still be content to do in DOS…

At present, I don’t plan on just getting a plain old laptop. But there is always the possibility that MacBook and Surface Pro sticker shock will send me into a swoon.

Anyway, the plan is to have the laptop replacement decision made by the end of the month.

If I do end up with yet another vanilla laptop, it will put more pressure on the smartphone decision, since I’ll no doubt be tempted to get one of the more tablet-like ones – you know, the ones that are too big to fit in your pockets. Wider, flatter, and god knows more functional versions of the original 10 pound “mobile” phones.

And I really don’t want to add a separate tablet to my list of electronics – work “thing,” smartphone, iPod, Kindle - I really do need a “device” that I can do work on, where I can use the only apps I do use regularly. You know, the old fuddy-duddy ones like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. (And, for blogging, Live Writer and Word Press.)

Meanwhile, on the phone front, the smartphone I will be replacing is, it will come as no surprise, a Blackberry.

Just as I have resisted the lure of the MacBook Air, when I got my first smart-ish mobile five years ago, I as able to withstand the iPhone, and went with a Blackberry. At the time, this was the preferred business phone – better for e-mailing, better for con calls – than the iPhone, which was better for web surfing and for apps.

I’m quite sure that the iPhone has caught up on e-mailing and con calls, and it’s got to be better than the Blackberry for surfing. (I really don’t care all that much about apps, other than the ones that let me read things – like train schedules – more easily on my phone. Asking Siri where the nearest vegan sushi spot is, and playing Angry Birds or Candy Crush or whatever the “it” game is, are not of particular interest.)

But why bother to keep resisting the iPhone? Why bother getting tangled up in trying to figure out what Android device to buy?

My parents got more than they bargained for when they spent my childhood – whenever I asked about something I couldn’t have or do that all the other kids could have or do – drumming into my skull that “you’re not like everyone else.”

So, Liz and Al, you’ve succeeded: I am not like everyone else. In fact, I may be constitutionally incapable of buying an iPhone!

But you haven’t succeeded all that well.

You also raised your kids to be sympathetic to the underdog, to be charitable, to be empathetic. All those terrible, white-wall haircuts the boys had because you felt bad for Vic the blind barber. Those clunky red shoes I let my mother by me out of sympathy for my mother, who’d always wanted a pair just like it. (I was 10. What was popular and styling in 1960 was not, I assure you, what was popular and styling in 1930 when my 10 year old 1mother craved those clunky red shoes.)

Seriously, I’m not sympathetic, charitable, or empathetic enough to buy another Blackberry, however bad I might feel for them (or how stubbornly I feel the urge to cling to my original smartphone choice).

At least I hope not.

Stay tuned for further news on my coming device purchases…

Friday, July 11, 2014

Lounge Lizard

As everyone who knew my husband was well aware, Jim was a frequent flyer junky.

He liked nothing better than accumulating miles – largely through credit card promotions – and using those miles. Especially when he could fly business or first class.

Now, having flown at all levels, from the most primitive of steerage on up through coach-plus, business, and first, the higher up the flying food chain, the better. The seats of comfier, the service is better, the food is edible, it’s quieter, and usually there’s some gifty little swag.

That said, since pretty much all I do on a flight is doze and read, I’m not the fussy about where I’m sitting.

Like any other normally sentient human being, I prefer not to be in the middle seat of the middle five across in the middle of a jammed 747.

Other than that…

Sure, if the skies were the limit, I’d fly business or first. But they’re not. So I don’t.

But Jim, partially because he was claustrophobic and partially just because, really and truly loved flying business or first. And part of what he most enjoyed was the having access to the first class lounge.

Here Jim did, of course, had a point.

Who wouldn’t rather sit in a comfortable chair, in a quiet environment, with cleaner rest rooms, with free drinks and snacks – and access to your flight that doesn’t involve a cattle call?

On a number of overseas trips, we enjoyed the perks of the Lufthansa, Aer Lingus, and Air France lounges.

Jim’s days of worrying about the first class lounge have, alas, ended. But, as it turns out, a first-class or business frequent  flyer begotten ticket on Lufthansa would no longer have gotten him into the luxe lounge. That’s because of a German trimmer who ate:

…for free 35 times in a year at Lufthansa’s Munich airport lounge without actually taking a flight, exploiting the change rules on a business-class ticket he had bought. (Source: Business Week)

Friedrich the Freeloader didn’t get away with it, however:

A German court ordered the man to repay Lufthansa €1,980 ($2,710), or about €55 for each time he visited the lounge. The man had bought a single ticket for about €744 and changed the date of travel repeatedly, exploiting the flexibility offered by that fare class. The airline canceled the ticket after more than a year and refunded the money. “Lufthansa pursued a prosecution only after the man bought the second ticket with the intention of resuming his foraging raids,” Bloomberg News reporter Richard Weiss wrote on Wednesday.

Anyway, thanks to this nosher, Lufthansa – like most US airlines – has decoupled the lounge from the ticket class. Now you have to be a true über flyer, or pay to join the club on an annual or ad hoc basis.

As for the frequent diner, it’s not clear whether this fellow actually flew on other tickets on those 35 days when he ate Chez Lufthansa, but it’s hard to imagine someone making 35 dedicated trips to Munich airport just to cadge some free food. Especially given what was on offer:

The Munich facility at Lufthansa second-biggest hub offers Bavaria’s Loewenbraeu beer on tap, together with local delicacies including leberkas meatloaf and sausages with sweet mustard. (Source: Business Week)

Liver cheese meatloaf?

Danke, but no danke.

But maybe if you’re from Munich…

Anyway, reading these stories made me think of Jim.

Not that it takes much to bring him to mind. All I need to do is look around. But sometimes things come up that I’d really like to share with him, and this is one of them. And it’s definitely one of te ones that has put a smile on my face.

(Oh, my dear sweet frequent flyer…)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

With “friends” like these

One of the great pleasures of waitressing is complaining.

Complaining about the hostess. Complaining about the cooks. Complaining about the bartenders. Complaining about the food. Complaining about the management. Complaining about the busboys. Complaining about the hours. Complaining about the breaks. Complaining about the stations. Complaining about the scut work you’re forced to do during downtime (all while being paid far less than minimum wage). And, perhaps most cherished of all, complaining about the customers. Which, of course, meant complaining about the tips.

In my experience – which, while extensive, is most thankfully not current – most people are reasonably good tippers. Occasionally, you’ll get stiffed. Occasionally (but far less frequently than the stiffs) you’re overtipped. (Not that there’s any such thing as an overtip…)

Most people being reasonably good tippers is a more than reasonable good thing, given that waiters and waitresses, if not for tips, would be making squat.

The federal minimum wage for tip-earning waitrons is not much more than $2/hour. It varies state to state, but there’s always a substantial delta between waitron wage and minimum wage.

The good news is that, in most restaurants, you can definitely make up the difference between tip-earning wages and the minimum wage – with plenty of room to spare. Obviously this varies. Working the breakfast shift in a coffee shop is not going to be as lucrative as waiting in a high end restaurant that serves booze.

Still, it’s a tough and exhausting way to make a living.

And, these days, if you decide to go social with your complaints about it, you might just find yourself out of that tough and exhausting job.

As happened to Kirsten Kelly, former waitress at a Findlay Ohio Texas Roadhouse (which specializes in line dancing to distract from the not-so-great food).

Kelly’s mistake was to take her grousing out of the break room and onto her FB page.

She did it circumspectly.

She didn’t mention the restaurant or put in any details that would have exposed the identity of the poor tipper.

Except, of course, to the bad tipper herself who was a former classmate of Kelly’s, and a “friend” on Facebook.

Now, if that “friend” were truly a friend, Kelly probably wouldn’t have bitched about her.

And if that “friend” were truly a friend, she would not have self-righteously taken it upon herself to march into the restaurant manager’s office, waving a print out of the offending post, and making a complaint of her own.

The message said, 'If you come into a restaurant and spend $50 or more, you should be able to tip appropriately for that,' Kelly told WTOL11, adding that she didn't identify the person or the place.

Still, her managers weren't happy about it.

'They told me that I knew what I was doing when I posted that, and they would have to let me go,' Kelly said. 'They were really upset.' (Source: Daily Mail UK)

And so they fired her.

'I knew that they could have yelled at me for that, but I didn't think they could fire me for posting that,' she said.

Maybe Kelly shouldn’t have taken her cheap-tipper rant to the airwaves.

But in terms of complaining about customers, this seems pretty small potatoes.

She didn’t name names, and no one would have known who she was complaining about unless they knew that they were the rotter who had left a lousy tip.

I have a pretty good idea what was going on in Kelly’s head when she posted: She’d had a tough night. She hadn’t made much money. She’s got bills to pay. She thinks people who can’t afford to tip shouldn’t eat out.

It’s hard for me to imagine the circumstances under which I would stiff a waiter or waitress.

I suppose if they spit in my soup, called me an a-hole, stabbed me with a fork, and tossed a Caesar salad on my head I might take it upon myself to stiff. And even to complain to the manager on my way out the door.

Mostly I leave about 20%. More if the service is exceptional and I really liked the waitperson. Less if the service is “meh.”

But having been there/done that on the waiting side of the table, even “meh” service will rarely go below a 15% tip.

Waiting is a tough, exhausting job. Cooks can be jerks. Food can be bad. Diners can be unreasonable. Sometimes you just make a mistake.

The mistake Kristen Kelly made was a pretty small one, but it had large consequences for her.

But I’d rather be unemployed Kristen Kelly than the nasty piece of work who took it upon herself to march her prissy bad-tipping arse into Texas Roadhouse to file her complaint.

A real friend might have told Kristen that it was pretty poor form to air this type of grievance. A real friend might have apologized for the crummy tip, and explained that she was a bit short. A real friend might have said “you hurt my feelings, even if you didn’t mention my name.” A real friend might have laughed it off, and/or told Kristen to kwitchyerbitchen.

But this was no real friend; this was a Facebook “friend.”

With friends like these…

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

What’s in a name? Plenty, if you ask Harriet Cardew.

One thing about the good old U.S. of A.

Unlike those rigid old foreign countries, we pretty much don’t have rules about what you can name your kid. In fact, I think we have stricture regulations about what you can put on your license place and, in my neighborhood, what color you can paint your front door.

Not having a list of approved names is both good news and bad news.

On the plus side, you’re free to be you and me.

On the downside, well, people can saddle their kids with some pretty outrageous names, “made up” names that are difficult to spell and, in truth, can put those kids at a complete disadvantage, as the whole thing gets all mixed up in issues of class and race.

Thurston Howell III and Chatsworth Osborne, Jr., are ‘obviously’ upper crust, old school tie kind of guys.

Misty or Duane, well…

Then, of course, there’s the school of “we’re rich and famous enough to call our kids whatever”. Way back, there was Moon Unit Zappa, who’s almost fifty! More recently, there’s Apple, and North, and Blue Ivy…

And then there’s the entirely complicated issue of African Americans coming up with unique, vaguely African-sounding names that so often seem to help doom their kids to terribly downtrodden lives, unless they make it as professional athletes. Seriously, what were D'Brickashaw Ferguson’s parents thinking? Sure, he made a good go of it, but who would potential employers have taken him seriously if he didn’t end up a professional football player?

Giving your children non-standard names can really be a problem. They’ve done studies where résumés are submitted with equivalent qualifications, but the invite to interview goes to the person named Jane Doe or John Smith. This is more complicated than “pure” knee-jerk racism. If both résumés had the candidate down as the president of the college African Students Union, Jane Doe and John Smith still get the nod over their more exotically-named peers.

Many European countries have very strict naming rules. No Moon Units in Germany! No Freedom, no Jupiters (I actually know someone with a granddaughter named Jupiter), no Sunshines in Sweden.

Of course, it was easier for these countries to keep a master list of names than it would be for us, given the breadth of ethnic diversity here.

And I’m sure that the European countries have had to expand their lists, given their ethnic make ups are not quite as homogeneous as they once were.

But Iceland must not get that many blow-ins having babies in the New Country, where even a relatively normal name – at least in the English speaking world – is verboten. (Or whatever the word for verboten is in Icelandic.)

Here’s what happened to the Cardew family.

Tristan Cardew, as one might reasonable discern from his name, is a Brit. It’s not immediately obvious from his wife’s name – Kristin – where she’s from, but it seems as if it must be Iceland.

Anyway, two of their kids were born in Iceland, and were given proper British names, Harriet and Duncan.

Unfortunately for them:

Icelandic laws state that unless both parents are foreign, they must submit their name choice to the National Registry for approval within six months of birth. The name must fulfill requirements that include "Icelandic grammatical endings," "linguistic structure of Iceland" and "Icelandic orthography." (Source: Huffington Post)

This is by no means an especially limiting list. There are  1,853 names for girls, and 1,712 for boys. So it’s not all Gunnar and, ah, Kristin.

But Harriet, apparently, doesn’t make the “Icelandic orthography” cut. (Not clear what happened to Duncan, but his name may have been Gunnar-ish enough, orthographically speaking.)

The Cardews:

… live in Reykjavik, Iceland, and up until this point, have been going by "Girl" and "Boy" on their passports. But upon getting Harriet's passport request, the government went a step further and denied her an updated passport completely, which could put her family's upcoming trip to France on hold.

There is a workaround. The Cardews can give Harriet an Icelandic middle name.

…but the family thinks it's too late. Instead, they applied for an emergency passport from the British Embassy where dad Tristan is from.

I know from personal (and recent) experience that this passport waiting game can be nerve-wracking.

A few days before my recent trip to Ireland, I got word that my niece Caroline’s passport had expired earlier in the year, and that the re-application process had somehow gotten screwed up. Fortunately, the problem was resolved, but she didn’t have her new passport in hand until the day before we left.

But this had nothing to do with Caroline’s perfectly good name.

Hard to believe that a country as seemingly sensible as Iceland can’t figure out how to get Harriet Cardew Kristindottir her passport.

I’m sure something will come through, so I’ll wish Harriet a well-deserved bon voyage.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Mr. July. (Seemed like a good idea at the time.)

Having been in marketing, I know that it’s exceedingly easy to make mistakes – sins of omission, sins of commission.

Back in the day when collateral was actually printed and not just published in an easily fixable pdf, I printed $7K worth of brochures with a glaring typo that wasn’t all that glaring on the galleys, but sure was on the finished product.

Unable to get anything out of marcomm, my boss once guerilla-marketed his own brochure for a new product, scrounging up some budget, hiring a designer, writing his own copy. Trouble was, our software was pure Intel PC, and the designer had created a fabulous illustration featuring an Apple, which – especially back in the day – had an exceedingly distinctive look. (Something like an ET neck???)

Then there was the brochure for our Data Window product. Data Widow, anyone?

At the same company, I once pitched in to glue apostrophes on a direct mail piece so we could turn “its” into “it’s”.

It happen’s happens.

And companies that hire celebs to shill their wares are always getting caught out when a celeb who looked good on paper winds up in a drunken brawl, rehab, a misogynist tweet-fest…

So it’s not that hard to believe that the University of Florida, having okayed a football calendar for 2014 that featured Aaron Hernandez as Mr. July, neglected to do anything about it once Hernandez transformed himself from Gators’ poster boy to poster boy for NFL criminality.

But while it may not be that hard to believe, it’s still a pretty dumb thing to have happen on your watch.

For those who don’t live around here and are, thus, not subjected to 24/7 Patriots minutia, Hernandez – a supremely talented tight end – has spent the last 12 months cooling his heels in jail, where he’s awaiting trial for three murders. Make that trials – but there are only two, given that one’s for a double murder. (The supposed motive for the double murder was Hernandez’ feeling dissed by two complete strangers over a jostled drink. For the singleton murder, Hernandez allegedly offed the fellow who was dating his baby mama’s sister.)

On a side note, the Pats must hope that for every Hernandez article, there’s at least something positive to balance it out, like a gushy picture of Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen romping with their kids, which, apparently, Boston sports nuts are equally greedy for.

Anyway, having Aaron Hernandez as MrAaron. July was not that big a deal until all those Florida football fans flipped from Mr. June. Then, what to their wondering eyes did appear but everyone’s favorite jail bird Gator.

Aaron! Aaron! He’s our man!
If he can’t do time, no one can!

At first, some thought that this was a photoshop hack, but then:

The official Twitter account of the Florida Gators confirmed the authenticity of the photo. (Source:

Well, if the official Twitter account of the Florida Gators confirmed this, it must be true.

Anyway, the calendar is not something that was directly produced by the Florida marketing department. It was just something they approved under a licensing deal. And the content was okayed a bit before the Hernandez news broke.

Still, once that news broke, wouldn’t you think that the Florida University in general or Gators football marketing department in particular – would have asked themselves whether they had any marketing exposure.

Surely, the junior marketing assistant who was responsible for getting the calendar boy lineup blessed in May 2013 should have been able to remember this in June, when Hernandez’ white-tee shirt perp walk made national news. Surely, that junior marketing assistant would have thought it prudent to alert his or her boss to remind them of the fact.

Maybe this happened, maybe not.

Maybe someone thought it would blow over, that their boy would be speedily exonerated – no harm (except to the murder victims), no foul.

But we weren’t talking choir boy (think Tim Tebow) here to begin with. Hernandez was not exactly someone with a stellar reputation to begin with, and had been in plenty of “character” trouble while at Florida.

Of course, success of the field always and forever trumps indecency in “real life.” Until you wind up accused of something as heinous as being the trigger man in three cold-blooded murders.

I know, I know. Presumption of innocence.

Well, whatever the jury decides, you would have thought that someone doing sports marketing at University of Florida would have been savvy enough to head this one off at the (dropped) pass.

As I know from direct experience, marketing is a highly fallible profession. So on one level, I get how this happened. Still and all, given how much these football factories rake in for their merchandise sales, you would think they would have been all over this one.

As of July 1, the calendar was still available at Because we’re half-way through the year, it’s a steal at $9.99.

Show your team spirit with the 2014 Florida Gators Wall Calendar from Turner Licensing…This calendar is the perfect way to pay tribute to your favorite college team, all year long.

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Village People

Boomers, there's no need to feel down.
I said, boomers, pick yourself off the ground.
I said, boomers, 'cause you're in a new town
There's no need to be unhappy.

That’s because there’s a place you can go and find many ways to have a good time golfing, riding around in golf carts, line dancing, and worshipping at a church that seems entirely devoted to entertainment.

Anyway, use the word “geezers” interchangeably with “boomers,” and that place is The Villages in Florida, the “world’s largest retirement community” and, amazingly – at least to me  - “America’s fastest-growing metropolitan area”.

Its population of 110,000 has more than quadrupled since 2000, U.S. Census Bureau data show. It rose 5.2 percent last year, on par with megacities like Lagos, Nigeria, and Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Source: Bloomberg.)

Well, I suppose I’d prefer The Villages to – sight unseen - Dhaka, Bangladesh. And, having just read Chimamanda Adichie’s absolutely brilliant novel Americanah, I have no burning desire to transplant to Lagos, either.

Still. The Villages?

Weather, at least until rising sea levels inundate Florida, is, of course, a major appeal. Especially after this winter, I can see why Northerners want to lay their shovels and bags of ice-melt down and hop on the next Jet Blue going south.

But the big draw seems to be that, in the words of one happy resident, “It’s like an adult Disney World.”

Without the waiting lines or screaming kids: The Villages is a 55+ community.

This alone is a deal breaker, I’m afraid.

I may well end up in some Golden Age Home, but I’m really hoping to keep well and indie enough to stay on my own in a community that’s home to people of all ages. Okay, Beacon Hill isn’t exactly teeming with kids, and a lot of the kids here are, quite frankly, entitled little snobs. But I live in a small condo building where the ages range from just-turned-three to just-turned-96. (The two kiddoes in my building are not, by the way, members of the entitled little snobs brigade. They’re really sweetie pies.) In “my” stores, restaurants, and streets, I see and interact with people of all ages. I like that, on any given day, I may have a chat with my neighbor Dick (who’s in his 80’s), with the kids upstairs, or with a my-age friend I happen to run into.

And while it would the ultimate in hypocrisy for someone who lives an an almost entirely white neighborhood to attack The Villages on diversity grounds, I do think I’d find it a bit white-bread. There may not be a ton of “people of color” living in my ‘hood, but I don’t have to venture very far to get me some diversity. Just out the front door to watch the tourists stream by. Or cut through Mass General and see the UN in action with both the patients and the staff. Anyway, I live in a city that’s about 50% white; The Villages comes in at about 97%.

And I’m just not that in to golf carts as a mode of transportation. Give me a Zipcar, ay old day:

Golf-cart accidents have killed more people than criminals, said Elaine Dreidame, president of the Property Owners’ Association of The Villages.

I deliberately omitted the rest of that paragraph, which listed some of the major politicians that The Villages have hosted. (Enough not said.)

But I will note that there does not appear to be a Unitarian Church within The Villages’ confines.

The Church on the Square looked a bit promising, but when I clicked on its link it said nothing about its credo, and a lot about the entertainment it offered. (Come to think of it, that sounds bit Unitarian…) You decide:

Church on the Square is a beautiful southwestern style church that appears to be taken right out of the late 1800’s. Residents enjoy a variety of musical productions here throughout the week, including choirs, quartets, gospel groups, instrumentalists and opera, just to name a few. Every Christmas, Church on the Square hosts a ‘Countdown to Christmas’ featuring different holiday music every night!

That ‘Countdown to Christmas’ should have been the give away. Unitarians would have a countdown to Christmas, Solstice, Hanukah, Eid, and Kwanzaa.
(Having found the info I was looking for, I can confirm that it’s not UU. It’s non-denominational, with a different minister ministering each week. Mostly it’s about the entertainment. )

Although I am not now, and never have been, a Unitarian. short of moving to Ireland, I cannot imagine living any place that did not have a Unitarian church.

The creepiest thing about The Villages, which among other creep factors seems to have restrictions down to how many pet fish you can own, is that it’s a company owned community, developed and operated by The Holding Companies of the Villages Ltd., which is run by H. Gary Morse.

In addition to selling homes, Morse, 77, and his family own the local newspaper, a radio station and a television channel.

They also hold a controlling interest in Citizens First Bank, which provides mortgages. The holding company is the landlord of more than 4.5 million square feet of commercial real estate, including dozens of restaurants and retailers.

Actually, make that the second creepiest thing about The Villages.

The first creepiest thing about The VillaVillages Founderges is this statue of The Founder, who is Morse’s father. You’d think he was Walt Disney or something…

I’m sure it’s safe. I’m sure it’s clean. I’m sure it’s balmy.

But this all sounds a bit too Stepford-y for my liking.