Thursday, April 30, 2015

Louie, Louie. Oh, baby, we gottta go.

Icon-wise, this was not a good week for Baby Boomers.

First came the news that Joni Mitchell is in a coma. This turned out to be more rumor than news. Yes, she’s in the hospital but – according to her website – alive and well-ish.

Having been a major fan of Joni’s in my youth, I’m not quite ready for her to pave paradise.

But there’s rumors of coma, and then there’s news of death, and Jack Ely, lead singer for those one-hit-wonders, The Kingsmen, died the other day at the age of 71.

I don’t remember the first time I heard Louie, Louie – no doubt it was on Worcester’s rockin’ WORC 1310 on your dial, or on WBZ 1030 AM Boston (“This is the address of the sweet sound of success”), which was the far cooler and more sophisticated radio station to listen to. But I do know that I heard it played at every god-awful mixer I went to at St. John’s High.

Along with Wooly Bully, by the inimitable Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, Louie, Louie was pretty much the signature dance tune of my high school era.

Personally, I preferred Wooly Bully. The words didn’t make a tremendous amount of sense but you could at least understand them. Unlike the muffled, incomprehensible lyrics to Louie, Louie.

Which was, of course, the genius of Louie, Louie.

As the Lovin’ Spoonful once told us, there’s magic in the music. And the magic in Louie, Louie was the delicious rumor that its words were obscene.

In a world in which six-year old know all the lyrics to “Good Girl (I Know You Want It)”, it’s amazing  just what  a big and imagined deal this was.

Nobody actually learned what the words were, or even made a stab at writing them down that I know of. (We were nice Catholic school kids. Perhaps “the pubs”, who had far dirtier minds, were better equipped to make up dirty words.)

But the rumors….

Someone’s brother had slowed the record down and figured out what those lyrics were…

They were so awful the record was going to be banned…

A student at Princeton had secret knowledge of  them, but couldn’t tell…

It was always a boy, by the way, who was in the know.

Girls? Well, we were far too delicate to even think of making an attempt to slow the record down and find out for ourselves. Cover your ears!

In truth, the lyrics are nothing much. And certainly no song that contained the words “smell the rose in her hair” and “moon above” was ever going to be obscene. Not that we knew those were in the lyrics. All you could understand was “Louie, Louie, Oh, baby, we gotta go.” (By the way, for someone who’s never heard of the sixties, that’s Loo-I, Loo-I, by the way. You could always tell the finks who didn’t listen to radio of go to god-awful mixers. They’d only read about it and said “Looey, Looey.”)

The garbling of the lyrics was unintentional.

When it came time to do [make the recording] Ely discovered the sound engineer had raised the studio's only microphone several feet above his head. Then he placed Ely in the middle of his fellow musicians, all in an effort to create a better "live feel" for the recording.

The result, Ely would say over the years, was that he had to stand on his toes, lean his head back and shout as loudly as he could just to be heard over the drums and guitars.

It might not have helped, either, that the 20-year-old musician was wearing braces at the time, although Ely maintained that the real problem was trying to sing with his head tilted back at a 45-degree angle.

In any case, the end result was that about the only words anyone could clearly understand were contained in the song's first two lines: "Louie Louie. Oh no. We gotta go."

But the driving, three-chord instrumental progression was maddeningly memorable, as were the song's opening lines, delivered with just the right amount of rebellious if slurry snarl. (Source: Huffington Post)

Perfect touch that Ely was still wearing braces when he recorded this classic.

But those braces did not keep the song from being investigated by the FBI. Here’s from the FBI vault:

In 1963, a rock group named the Kingsmen recorded the song “Louie, Louie.” The popularity of the song and difficulty in discerning the lyrics led some people to suspect the song was obscene. The FBI was asked to investigate whether or not those involved with the song violated laws against the interstate transportation of obscene material. The limited investigation lasted from February to May 1964 and discovered no evidence of obscenity. (Source:

February to May 1964? Shouldn’t those guys have been out investigating whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone?

But I suppose paranoia about youngsters running wild in the streets, fornicating to the tune of “Louie, Louie”, would have been right up J. Edgar Hoover’s alley. After all, today it’s “Louie, Louie,” tomorrow those fornicating whipper-snappers will be shaking their fists at the White House and chanting Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today? “Louie, Louie” as gateway drug. No wonder the FBI thought they were on to something.

Here’s a link if  you’re up for feelin’ groovy.

As for me, oh, baby, we gotta go.

So did Jack Ely.

Thanks for the memories!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What’s the story, morning glory? The office rumor mill goes to work

There’s a song in the 1960’s musical Bye Bye Birdie, “Telephone Hour” in which the teenagers from the town of Sweet Apple, Ohio, spread the word that their classmates Hugo and Kim are going steady.

During my long and glorious business career, I thought about this song quite often, especially when what was churning through the rumor mill wasn’t about whether a couple of our colleagues were a couple. That happened plenty, but the usual grist for the mill was a pending lay-off. (And there was almost always a pending lay-off.)

“Telephone Hour” came to mind the other evening while I was watching Mad Men, a series set in the Bye-Bye Birdie era. As the final episodes play out, we learn that Sterling Cooper, having been acquired by McCann-Erickson, will no longer be running independently. They’re going to be absorbed, sucked right into the belly of the big, bad beast.

The partners are the first to know, but they actually find out accidentally – McCann didn’t have the courtesy to let them know that they had canceled Sterling’s lease on them.

And although no one was supposed to breathe a word, the rumor mill took off.

Although the circumstance was nowhere near as dramatic as what we saw on Mad Men – nor did anyone of us dress as well -  I worked for a small company that, when I joined, had just been purchased by a larger outfit. We were still operating independently, but hovering over us all the time was a vague and unsettling understanding that, at some point, we were no longer going to be operating independently as a quirky little company in Harvard Square. We were going to be part of them.

Most of the company’s founders – who were called The Principals – had either already re-lo’d to a new position on the mother ship, or had taken the money and run.

No one worried about them.

It was us that we were worried about.

Who wanted to leave Harvard Square for some wasteland suburban office park? Even worse, who wanted to get RIF’d.

Our fears lurked for years, during which time we became more and more them and less and less ourselves.

Our name kept changing. So did our senior management. Sometimes they were local, sometimes far removed.

In one classic incident, our new president – who’d been in charge for over a year before he stirred his stumps and came to see us – appeared at an all hand’s meeting. I can’t remember is he was visiting in the wake of a lay-off or there to announce a pending reorg, but I do remember that he failed to introduce himself.

A hand shot up.

“Sir,” one of our more outspoken and less socially-skilled techies asked, “Could you please identify yourself.”

The guy looked a bit startled but gave us his name.

Our techie friend gravely nodded and said, “I thought so.”

Fast forward another year or so, and we were definitely getting the feeling that our days in Cambridge were numbered.

We started piecing things together: more closed door meetings, the appearance of parent office personnel we’d never seen before, lots of hush hush. (There’s a great scene in Sunday’s Mad Men when Don Draper goes to pull his office drapes closed so that the partners can meet in secret over the McCann news. Joan, bless her – the lone woman among the partners – yanks them back open, telling the boyos that the best way to start the rumors flying is for the head honchos to have a secret meeting.)

Back in my little corner of the world, us peons were of course told nothing about what was going on.

So we, of course, began making stuff up, speculating about what might happen and when it would come down.

From the gray faces of our most senior folks – a couple of guys we actually trusted – we knew that “it” was going to be bad and more than likely involve yet another round of lay-offs.

And we were right.

We were right about that and a lot of other things.

During this period one of the senior good guys – someone who told me a lot of things I wasn’t supposed to know – came into my office piss.

“I told you not to say anything about X,” he said.

“Well,” I said, “You never told me anything about X. I saw Y talking to Z, and I just figured it out for myself.”

I (probably) wouldn’t have floated that rumor if someone had told me, in confidence, that it was going to happen. There was a reason people told me the good stuff. But that fact that I did get some insider information was typical of the way bits and pieces of real info leak out and can become grist for the mill.

When our Big Day came it was worse than I expected. My product was done away with, the one and only person who reported to me was let go, and they got rid of my boss. Among others. 

Plus they closed our office.

The new managers swept in to meet with those of us who would be making the trek to the soul-crushing suburban office park.

Mine asked me how I felt.

“My product was killed. Someone who reported to me was pink slipped. So was my boss. So were half my friends. How do you think I feel? I feel like a Korean War orphan.”

“Funny you should say that,” she told me. “My husband and I have an adopted daughter from Korea.”

Ah, well.

But oh, those pre-lay-off rumor mills.

It’s coming on Friday.

No, they never do lay-offs on Friday. It’s Monday.

I heard it’s only levels 27 and above.

I heard 27 and below.

I heard no one from product.

I heard everyone in marketing.

I heard the field’s safe.

I heard they’re closing the Cleveland office.

I hear the Mr. Big’s a goner.

I heard he’s taking over everything.

And it wasn’t as if rumors were just exchanged a couple of times a day. I worked at some places where all we did when something bad was about to happen was rumor monger and speculate.

You could set a rumor going with your first-thing-in-the-morning gossip gals, and by the time you were on the elevator at the end of the day, it was coming back to you as fact from one of your gossip bros.

This was at a company that would always announce its lay-offs in advance, and tell us that the RIF would occur by such and such a date. It was always the last possible date, and so we’d spend a month or two doing nothing but speculating.

I do not miss those days in the least.

Better to be watching the rumors start flying on a fictional TV show than living it in person.

Wonder if Peggy will keep her job?

What’s the story, morning glory?

What’s the word, hummingbird?


Beyond having watched the Mad Men episode, the inspiration for this post came from Robin Abraham’s column in The Boston Globe: Mad Men at work: Managing the rumor mill.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Quaking in our earth

The weekend news from Nepal was plenty dreadful. All those folks killed in an earthquake, in a country that’s poor and fragile to begin with.  And the death of a couple of adventuring Westerners who died on Mount Everest may make getting to the top of Everest start looking less like a bucket item and more like a must avoid to at least some of the potential climbers out there, which can’t be good for the Nepalese economy.

Nepal’s earthquake was a natural disaster.

Earthquakes. Volcanoes. Sometimes the earth just erupts.

And that’s happening a lot more often these days in Oklahoma, a place that didn’t used to have much earthquake activity to speak of.

Earthquakes in Oklahoma – a state we associate more with tornadoes – are different from what occurred in Nepal, and not just because they’re not (yet) killing people. The difference is that the Sooner quakes are man-made. And these days:

…they’re reported on daily, like the weather, and generally by the weatherman. Driving outside Oklahoma City one evening last November, I ended up stopped in traffic next to an electronic billboard that displayed, in rotation, an advertisement for one per cent cash back at the Thunderbird Casino, an advertisement for a Cash N Gold pawnshop, a three-day weather forecast, and an announcement of a 3.0 earthquake, in Noble County. Driving by the next evening, I saw that the display was the same, except that the earthquake was a 3.4, near Pawnee…

Until 2008, Oklahoma experienced an average of one to two earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater each year. (Magnitude-3.0 earthquakes tend to be felt, while smaller earthquakes may be noticed only by scientific equipment or by people close to the epicenter.) In 2009, there were twenty. The next year, there were forty-two. In 2014, there were five hundred and eighty-five, nearly triple the rate of California. Including smaller earthquakes in the count, there were more than five thousand. This year, there has been an average of two earthquakes a day of magnitude 3.0 or greater. (Source: article by Rivka Galchen in The New Yorker.)

The cause of this unnatural disaster in the making?

Not fracking, which is what I would have guessed.

No, it’s the disposal of the wastewater that’s brought up when you’re trying to squeeze the last drop of oil out of a well that’s all but played out. All that nasty water’s got to go somewhere and, in Oklahoma, it’s going down disposal wells, which are causing all kinds of commotion down below. (Fracking, by the way, is responsible for less than 10 percent the billions of barrels of wastewater that gets shoved down the disposal wells. And when fracking is the culprit when an earthquake occurs, the magnitude tends to be less than the quakes associated with wastewater from pumping oil.)

There is a ton of scientific evidence suggesting that a correlation between wastewater disposal and earthquakes exists. But oil companies being oil companies, and Oklahoma being Oklahoma – remember, this is the state that sent Jim Inhofe, the ultimate un-scientist, to the U.S. Senate – there’s been a ton of pressure to suppress the evidence.

Instead, the earthquakes have been chalked up to natural causes: a drought. (Watch out, California.)

Thus, although the earthquakes are a clear, clearly weird, and potentially disastrous danger, the state is taking something of a shrugging posture toward them. Oklahoma has some rules and regs in place about them, but they’re not especially stringent – more designed for CYA when accusations of you’re not doing anything start to fly.

We blithely pollute wherever we go, and now we’re pumping shite into the ground that’s making the earth explode.


Monday, April 27, 2015

If I were you…Advice to the intemperate commentariat

One of my addictions – an admittedly harmless one, unless you consider that deliberately doing things that make your head explode is, in fact, harmful – is reading comments online.

There is nothing – nothing, absolutely nothing – to be gained from checking out vox populi on  any article that even vaguely touches on race, politics, sexuality, religion, sports… Pox populi is more like it. Comments tend to be especially rancid when they’re anonymous. But not always. As was the case with a couple of comments I saw in a recent Boston Herald article on the current contretemps over Ben Affleck’s request that host Henry Louis Gates expunge Affleck’s slave-owning ancestry from a recent episode of Finding My Roots.

Affleck’s request was weak and embarrassing; so was Gates’ for giving in to it.

How much more interesting and instructive the show might have been if they’d let the voyage of ancestral discovery actually discover something that mattered in the telling of the Great American Story?

Anyway, I read the article and then, since I am an addict, I I couldn’t help twirling through a few of the comments.

Although I am an addict, my addiction did not get in the way of my realizing that Boston Herald + Henry Louis Gates (well-known African American scholar) + Ben Affleck (well-known liberal super star) will inevitably = racist and/or liberal-bashing commentary.

Two comments in particular caught my eye, because not only were they signed with a real person’s name, they were also associated with a real person’s employer.

Would a local accounting firm really want someone out there using their company’s name to go on a rant about how all liberals are liars?

Maybe they’d be fine with it. Maybe it’s a deeply held belief on the part of the firm’s partners. Maybe they don’t want the business of lying liberals claiming all sorts of fake deductions and hiding all sorts of income.

But I doubt it.

Certainly in liberal-ish Massachusetts it would be unwise to cut yourself off from a goodly proportion of your potential clientele.

So my guess is, no, the firm would not want M spouting off ridiculous nonsense about lying liberals anymore than they’d want M spouting off ridiculous nonsense about lying conservatives.

Now if M wanted to point out that Ben Affleck is a liberal, and make a claim she could back up that he is a liar, well, have at it.

Just keep all liberals out of it. And keep your company’s name out of it while you’re at it.

And would a respected local educational institution want one of its employees making a crack that 9 out of 10 people would interpret as racist? 

Maybe they’d be fine with it. Maybe they’re sitting around snickering about the dearth of African-American intellectuals out there. Maybe they think that white folks – maybe even just Irish Catholic white folks – are the only ones who can live up to this esteemed institution’s motto, “Ever to Excel.”

But I doubt it.

Certainly at a time when diversity in the academic environment is so prized, it would be unwise to have employees associated with your institution making silly, racially-tinged remarks.

So my guess is, no, the college on the hill would not want S making a snide comment that might be funny if you didn’t actually think about what it was saying. Which was racist to the core, even if this was unintentional on S’s part. Maybe he just thought he was putting Gates down. Fair game! Gates is a prominent academic, a public figure with a show on PBS. Attack away! No need to paint the entire African-American intellectual community with the same brush.

Personally, I don’t think employees should be fired for saying stupid things that have nothing to do with their jobs – unless the stupid things have a direct bearing on their work. (E.g., a police officer spewing racial venom on FB.) On the other hand, people need to be really careful about what they’re saying out there in the public forum, especially if they’re tagging their company’s name onto their own.

I’m all for free speech. But free speech doesn’t mean there are no consequences.

It would be quite easy for someone who was really pissed off by a comment to report the commenter to his or her employer. Or for someone, say, who knew a partner in an accounting firm or a university dean to say, ‘do you know what your folks are out there saying?’

Could get you into some kind of trouble ain’t nobody want.

I give both M &S credit for using their own names and not hiding behind Anonymous (or some scurrilous nom de web like “Obongo”). But when you’re using your own name, not to mention the name of the place you work, you really have to think twice before hitting the “publish comment” button.

Just a bit of Pink Slip advice to the intemperate commentariat.

Friday, April 24, 2015

They don’t call it a junk drawer for nothing

A couple of weeks back, I sorted through my main junk drawer.

Oh, I go to this particular junk drawer all the time since I shrewdly decided to always keep a comb there.  But I seldom go through it. Apparently, I keep a lot of things that I’m always looking for there, as well. As in:

  • A couple of small pocketbook-sized hairbrushes
  • More combs than I thought were in there
  • A couple of pairs of nail clippers
  • Several tubes of lip goop/lip balm/Chapstick/whatever. Included in the bunch was a tube of Napoleon Dynamite lip balm which, given that the movie was out 10 years ago, must be ossified by now. I didn’t check; for that one, I just chucked. There was also an extremely cute little travel jar of Vaseline. (If you haven’t figured it out by now, I have perpetually dry lips.)
  • Three glass cases
  • Three pens
  • Two notebooks
  • Two thumbdrives
  • Two sheathes for long-gone umbrellas
  • Four packets of Kleenex
  • Two padlocks for the gym, which I no longer need because they’ve replaced BYOL with a terrible system that pretty much guarantees you’ll never be able to leave your pocketbook in a locker that locks.

And that’s just the jumble of stuff I’m always looking for. In addition to all those goodies, I found:

  • A gift receipt for a book my cousin gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago
  • A pair of black shoelaces
  • A diagnostic fuse kit, I think for a car. (What was I doing with that?)
  • A quarter-roll of painter’s blue tape
  • A knee brace and an ankle brace
  • Iron cleaner
  • A key chain
  • A police whistle
  • Hand warmers
  • A Wash ‘n Dri
  • Two wallets
  • A roll of “traveler’s toilet paper”, which I will never need because I always have a Kleenex packet
  • A pocket protector with a picture of an armadillo on it
  • My niece Caroline’s birth certificate
  • Twelve train schedules dating back to 2009 for a whole bunch of different lines
  • Two bottles of bed bug protector
  • Instructions for long-gone clocks and other small appliances, some of which I don’t even remember having
  • Two hair rollers (sometimes I throw a curler in the back of my hair when it’s drying so that it will flip down; the days – make that nights - when I’d actually sleep with curlers in my hair are decades in the past)

But my favorite find in the junk drawer was a bunch of holy cards, including one from the May 17, 1953 Our Lady of the Angles Holy Name Society Communion Breakfast. Since I wasn’t there, I must have gotten this one from my father. Wonder if this was the Communion Breakfast that JFK spoke at…

All I can say is, they don’t call it a junk drawer for nothing.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

You’re driving me crazy, work edition

The biggest thing I miss about working full-time is having colleagues around.

I don’t lack for contact with my clients, but it’s not the same as being there. You don’t have impromptu conversations, coffee breaks, lunches out, or walks around the parking lot.

On the other hand, you don’t have to put up with those annoying little co-worker habits, as I was reminded the other day when I saw a piece on the topic on iMedia.

First on the list was whistling.

This, of course, reminds me of a sales guy I once worked with who used to whistle the theme from Gilligan’s Island. Constantly.

Not that I don’t find myself channeling my mother plenty these days, which means I’m occasionally whistling under my breath. (My mother went back and forth between no-tune whistling and La Vie en Rose. Edith Piaf and Liz Rogers? Talk about the odd couple!) But mostly when I’m whistling, since there are no co-workers around, I’m just annoying myself. At least so far…

The whistle while you work annoyance item was followed by emails that end up cc’ing everyone under the sun.

This one is as much a productivity hit as an annoyance, but there is a problem of how to respond to an e-mail where a lot of people are copied directly or cc’d.

Say Joe Blow shoots off an informational e-mail, and someone shoots back a quick “thanks”, including everyone on the list.

You’re then faced with the dilemma of whether to a) send Joe and Joe alone an e-mail thanking him; b) “reply to all” so that everyone can see that you are grateful to Joe and aren’t an impolite ingrate – especially after someone has already made sure that everyone knows that he/she appreciates Joe’s efforts; or c) ignore it: the last thing Joe needs is 50 e-mails thanking him for sending out the new corporate sales deck. I tend to use option a) or c). But I’m still suckered into reading the e-mails from those who go with b). What if they actually have something to add to the conversation that goes beyond “thanks”? You never know…

Apparently the use of the word “like” is, like, an annoyance to some. Never bothered me that much. I just edit it out.

On the other hand, leaving a messy kitchen was something that always made me crazy. As did those who left their leftovers and long-expired yogurts in the fridge. I was pretty much a fridge Nazi, and spent plenty of Saturdays tossing science experiments out.

As bad as the kitchen mess, of course, is the leaving of the coffee cups on the conference room table. Always drove me nuts – especially because people invariably walked by a wastebasket on their way out of the meeting.

Listening to music sans headphone is a peeve that really didn’t exist when I worked. For one thing, I mostly worked in a private office. For another – more important – people weren’t as hooked on having music on 24/7. I did work with one programmer who kept a TV on pretty much all the time, but she was a coding genius/speed demon, so she could do whatever she wanted as far as I was concerned.

I can see where it would be a big deal in an open environment.

I suspect that most people who listen to music have headphones. The problem is more likely those who occasionally click on a video without having their speakers off or a headset plugged in.

Unneeded conference calls is another annoyance. Interesting that this one is about conference calls, not meetings.

I guess this speaks to the workplace becoming more virtual.

But conference call or meeting, there’s nothing worse than working in a super-meeting culture.

When I worked at Genuity, you could be in non-stop meetings from 8 a.m. (or earlier) up until 6 p.m. (or later). You barely got a bio-break as you sped from one meeting to the next. No wonder Genuity went out of business.

People missing deadlines made the annoyance list, but, to me, this one goes beyond annoyance.

Yes, we all miss deadlines on occasion. Sometimes things come up. Sometimes you bite off more than you can chew. Sometimes you really thought you’d make it but don’t quite get there.

Still, a head’s up is always a good idea.

And speaking of deadlines, one of my favorite (least favorite?) corporate annoyances was the deadline bogusly imposed by a nonsense fire drill.

At Genuity, some of my friends worked for a VP who was past master of the fire drill. No wonder Genuity went out of business.

The use of corporate clichés and of “too much internal [buzzzword] lingo are, admittedly, annoying. And yet, they can be so deliciously amusing, especially when you got to play buzzword bingo.

It wasn’t exactly buzzwordy, and it wasn’t a cliché – given that I suspect no one ever used it before or after I heard it – but one of my favorite corporate whatevers was at a sales kick-off, when the president of our division said that we were going to go through the market “with all the momentum of an entrenched juggernaut.”

I was sitting with my boss, and, as I was mulling over why someone would choose to liken us to a death wagon, he leaned over and whispered, ‘just how much momentum does something entrenched have’?


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Britty Woman. (Lose some attitude, baby girl.)

I have been casually following the travails of one Britt McHenry, the ESPN reporter caught on candid security camera berating a towing lot attendant.

McHenry left her car overnight in a restaurant parking lot, and when she went to retrieve it (post-tow) ended up in quite the heated call-and-response with the woman she had to get through to get her car back.  Actually, what we see and hear on the widely available video of the incident is mostly the response. It appears that some of the call may have been edited out.

But whether McHenry was baited into her appallingly snotty comments by the tow-yard gal, Gina Michelle, or not, she said some pretty darned mean girl things – things that, frankly, seem more ingrained attitude than heat of the moment.

Here’s McHenry’s side of the repartee:

“I’m in the news, sweetheart.”
- “I will fucking sue this place.”
- “That’s why I have a degree and you don’t.”
- “I wouldn’t work in a scumbag place like this.”
- “Makes my skin crawl even being here.”
- “Yep, that’s all you care about is just taking people’s money. With no education, no skill set, just wanted to clarify that.”
- “Do you feel good about your job?
- “So I can be a college dropout and do the same thing?”
- “Why? Because I have a brain? And you don’t?”
- “Maybe if I was missing some teeth they would hire me, huh?”
- “‘Cause they [the employee’s teeth] look so stunning … ‘Cause I’m on television and you’re in a fucking trailer, honey.”
- “Lose some weight, baby girl.” (Source: Huffington Post)

What’s so shocking is not that someone would get into a pissing match with the person at the tow-yard.

I can imagine plenty of folks saying something along the lines of “I will fucking sue this place.” Or “Yep, that’s all you care about is just asking people’s money.” Maybe even “Makes my skin crawl even being here.” And, of course, playing the ‘I’m important’ card with that “I’m in the news, sweetheart” non-zinger.

But then there are the jibes about education, intelligence, skillset, weight, teeth, and working “in a fucking trailer, honey.”

This is just so mean-spirited, insulting and class-ist.

I suspect that a lot more kids grow up dreaming about being “in the news” than dream of working in a dead-end job in a tow-yard. But somewhere along their way there may be plenty of bad luck, and maybe a few bad choices and missed opportunities, that end you up there.

You’d think that someone who’s had more than her share of middle-class advantages along the way, including getting a decent education – McHenry has a master’s in journalism from Northwestern -  and likely some dental work along the way might be a bit more sympathetic to somewhere so obviously lower down on the socio-economic totem pole.

Anyway, Michelle – who herself may have a bit of the mean girl in her; or at least a bit of the pay-back’s-a-bitch, baby girl – made sure that the security video went public.

As a result, McHenry finds herself in the center of media storm, with petitioners and tweeters demanding that she be fired by ESPN, and others (“Camp Britt”) demanding that everyone just leave her alone.

ESPN – those paragons of morality and decency – are trying to make sure that no harm comes to its “brand image”. So they have (as of Sunday, April 19) suspended McHenry for a week.

More could follow.

After all, Bill Simmons, who’s certainly a more important play-ah at ESPN (and someone I enjoy reading, given that he’s a homer for all the Boston teams), was dinged for three weeks last fall for shooting off a couple of tweets criticizing NFL poo-bah Roger Goodell, who is not exactly the executive whose name comes to mind when someone says “competent.”

And the insults that McHenry hurled were pretty awful. Not to mention that there are probably plenty of ESPN couch potatoes who are husky college drop outs with bad teeth.

McHenry has, of course, issued the requisite mea culpa:

In an intense and stressful moment, I allowed my emotions to get the best of me and said some insulting and regrettable things. As frustrated as I was, I should always choose to be respectful and take the high road. I am so sorry for my actions and will learn from this mistake.

Well, McHenry is young – in her twenties – so there’s plenty of time for her to learn from her mistakes.

For Britt McHenry’s sake, I hope that this translates into more than just keeping her mouth shut when the security cameras are rolling. Maybe, while she’s at it, she needs to start thinking about just why she feels entitled to treat someone else the way she did Gina Michelle.

Surely, someone with a degree from Northwestern is smart enough to realize that were it not for her pretty-ish looks, she might not be “in the news.” And once those pretty-ish looks have faded a bit….

No, McHenry is never going to end up taking payments in the tow-yard trailer, but she won’t be interviewing athletes for ESPN forever, either. The males with the mike might be well along in years, but the females? No way.

Good luck, Britt.

Maybe ESPN has no right firing someone for an “infraction” that has nothing to do with their job, and which “the boss” only found out about because it was caught on camera. But I wouldn’t be surprised either way. I’m sure that as I write this they’re sitting around deciding whether to give in to the rabid masses calling for her head or the Camp Britt campers who’ll forgive anything a pretty-ish blonde does, especially if there’s an even tow company involve. (And, let’s face it, how many defenders is a towing company going to have?)

Whether she goes or stays, I’ve got some advice for Britt McHenry.

“Lose some attitude, baby girl.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Top of the World, Ma! (Yes, there are jobs that are worse than yours.)

There was a fascinating – and horrifying – article by ultra-intrepid journalist William Finnegan in last week’s New Yorker on the Peruvian gold-mining town of La Rinconada, and on the gold miners who labor there.

La Rinconada is no one’s idea of a tourist getaway, even for travelers who pride themselves as getting off the beaten track.

First off:

The town is seventeen thousand feet above sea level—the highest-elevation human settlement in the world.  (Source: The New Yorker – may need subscription to access the full article.)

Which means that you’ll be gasping for air when you at all exert yourself. So if you’re planning on heading there, don’t forget to pack your portable iron lung.

Dining options in town would have you howling for an Applebee’s, where at least you wouldn’t have to see alpaca-tripe soup on the menu.

And please forget any images you have as hell being a hot place.

Hell is La Rinconada, and baby, it’s cold outside. Inside, too, for that matter. (Finnegan’s hotel was unheated, so it almost goes without saying that the hovels where the miners live are unheated as well.)

And even with all the cold, the area is warming up, reminding us that things are gang agley in our fragile world: the glaciers that surround La Rinconada are melting.

All things considered, warming up is a mixed blessing, as Finnegan found out when he hit a relatively balmy day:

The sunshine—and a temperature now well above freezing—was rousing a mighty stench from the mud. I tried holding Inca Kola in my mouth to neutralize visions of bacterial apocalypse. Even its disinfectant flavor was no help. Until that afternoon, I had found it funny that La Rinconada residents (male) often seemed to make a point of urinating where someone dared to post a sign forbidding it. The same thing happened with garbage. A warning spray-painted on a building near my hotel threatened rubbish-dumpers with “massacre,” and the trash heap rising beneath it was at least ten feet high. I thought these rude communal gestures expressed the anarchic solidarity of the town. But none of it seemed amusing now.

There’s little in town by way of infrastructure.

Electricity exists in La Rinconada – which is not to say that most folks have it. But the citizens are:

…still waiting for clean water, a sewage system, garbage collection, a hospital.

On the other hand, the citizens – most of them come from somewhere else – don’t pay any taxes.

Most of the workers in La Rinconada are gold miners, and they’re not working for massive mines like those run by Rio Tinto

The mines, whatever you call them, are small, numerous, unregulated, and, as a rule, grossly unsafe. Most don’t pay salaries, let alone benefits, but run on an ancient labor system called cachorreo. This system is usually described as thirty days of unpaid work followed by a single frantic day in which workers get to keep whatever gold they can haul out for themselves. I found so many variants of the scheme, however—and so many miners passionately attached to their variant—that the traditional description of cachorreo seems to me inadequate. It’s a lottery, but, because of pilfering, it runs every day, not once a month.

Finnegan actually goes into a mine with Josmil Ilasaca, a young miner he befriends.

Actually, most miners are young. This is no country for old men, that’s for sure.

Not only are the mines themselves dangerous, but mercury, which is used in gold processing, pollutes the entire place.

Mercury poisoning can affect the central nervous system, causing tremors, excitability, insomnia, and a grim range of psychotic reactions.

Ilasaca, by the way, uses the term “artisanal miner” to describe his profession.

The word “artisanal” gives off all sorts of foodie vibes, doesn’t it? At least to those of us who know folks who make artisanal cheese, and who see the word on menus (sometimes as “artesian”) to describe everything from lovingly hand-crafted loaves of goodness to bagged bread.

I suspect it has a different meaning to someone like Josmil Ilasaca.

I can only imagine what someone like Ilasaca would make of the “gourmet kitchens” in which our friends and neighbors craft their artisanal cheese, yogurt, and bread.

People, of course, put up with the conditions of a town like La Rinconada and the brutal conditions in the mines because they a) have few choices – Peru is poor, and mineral extraction is one of the only games in town. But b) they also become artisanal miners – which, with the cachorreo system, gives them a shot at riches – for the same reason that the Forty-Niners rushed to California when they heard that there’s gold in them thar hills. You could get lucky. You could get rich.

Of course, most of them don’t, just like most high school ballers don’t make the NBA. (Or most bloggers don’t end up big, important writers. Sigh…)

Anyway, it’s always good to be reminded that those of us who live and work in safe places with heat and electricity, where we’re (for the most part) not being poisoned by mercury, and who have dining out options beyond alpaca tripe soup, are – most of us at least – pretty darned lucky.

Some of us, of course, are luckier than others.

We don’t work in Tyson chicken factories. We can shop at stores that carry fresh produce. We can jack up the thermostat – probably from our smartphone, while lounging a room away – if we’re cold.

But compared to the world’s true hell-holes, most Americans have it pretty good, materially-wise.

Just something to think about next time we’re feeling bad about how crappy our job is, or how ridiculous it is for that restaurant to have “artesian” pies on the menu.


Aside to my sister Kath on this story: If you haven’t read this article, you should know that, to propitiate the gods, people in La Rinconada offer up nip bottles. (To explain this aside: for whatever reason, the town of Wellfleet on Cape Cod is littered with nip bottles, at least along the paths where Kath takes her daily walks.)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Twenty years ago Patriots’ Day. (Oklahoma Strong.)

Today, Massachusetts celebrates Patriots’ Day. The official observance is on the third Monday in April, but “real” Patriots’ day is April 19th.

Yesterday we observed the twentieth anniversary of the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building, a horrific incident that killed 168 people, including a number of very young children who were in the building’s day care center. Over 700 people were injured.

On the day of that bombing, I was on a business trip in Illinois.

My colleague George and I had spent April 18th and 19th in Bloomington, Illinois, with calls on a prospect and a client.

The prospect call, at Caterpillar HQ in nearby Peoria, was god-awful. We were there to give a product demo, but we knew going in that they had already made their decision, and that our call was just part of some fake due diligence on their part. It was hard to blame them. Our product cost an order of magnitude more than the one they went with. Sure, you could do a lot more with our product, but unless you were a PhD in computer science who wanted to build a staircase to the moon with it, there were few out there who could begin to take advantage of it. (Cheap and easy to use will generally trump  expensive and brutal.)

After the rotten call on Caterpillar  - where, among other things, the demo failed in a couple of places; because the product was so hard to navigate to begin with, no one noticed that there were points where it just plain didn’t work – George and I took ourselves to a rather ridiculous hotel called Jumer’s Chateau. There, I recall, it was almost impossible to convince that waitress that we really didn’t want our fish smothered in cheese or drenched in cream.

Although cheap and easy to use will generally trump  expensive and brutal, this is not always the case.

We did have some clients, and one of them was State Farm.

The visit there was a success. State Farm loved us; we loved them. They served several different kinds of Jell-o mold in their cafeteria, so as a daughter of a daughter of the Midwest, I was right at home.

Buoyed after our excellent client meeting and Jello-mold lunch, we headed off to Chicago, where we had some sort of meeting the following day.

While driving through the soy-bean fields on what was a long (3-4 hours) and boring (c.f., soy-bean fields) trip, we turned on the radio. On a string of low-watt AM stations we started to get snatches of what sounded like some pretty terrible news.


The station would fade away.

Oklahoma City.

The next station would die out.

Day care center.

My God, who would bomb a day care center?

As we tried to piece together the story, we immediately thought Muslim terrorists. This was, after all, just a couple of years after the first World Trade Center bombing. What else was there to think?

As we got closer to Chicago, we were able to get a stable signal and hear the bigger picture filled in.

We had dinner in a hotel lobby bar so we could watch the news while we ate.

CNN was around, but we were years away from the fully immersive 24/7 news culture.

The Internet existed – and my company may or may not have had some basic informational web page up by then – but anytime/anywhere access to anything and everything was years away, too.

I don’t even think that I had a cell phone at that point.

George was actually the first person I knew who owned one. When he traded in his brick – which was almost the size of an old walky-talky – for something more sleek and modern a few years later, he gave me the brick. For a couple of years, that was my cell phone, kept in the car and used only for an emergency that never came.

When I think of all the explosion of news, the media coverage, the intensity of the Boston Marathon Bombing, I can only imagine what the world would have made of the far more horrific Oklahoma attack.

Around here, they’re still talking about “Boston Strong,” but I have a hunch that the folks in Oklahoma City were pretty darned strong, too.

Oh, they may not have expressed themselves in quite the same way that the pugnacious inner-Irishmen of Boston did. Remember this one?

Keep Calm

But I suspect that Sooners who are the descendants of those who drove Conestoga wagons to grab a few acres during the Oklahoma Land Rush and/or survived the Dust Bowl are pretty darned strong, too.

Natural disasters. World wars. Terrorist attacks.

There’s nothing special about our response to it.

People are tough. They rebuild. The move on. They survive.

Scars fade, wounds heal.

And unless you lost a loved one, or were injured, or witnessed the event, or helped the survivors survive, those scars fade and wounds heal sooner rather than later.

Most people don’t curl up in a fetal ball in the face of adversity. They get up and get going.

People are tough.

But it’s hard not to think of all those parents who lost their little ones on that terrible day in Oklahoma City.

Twenty years ago. Those little ones would be young adults.

Scars fade, wounds heal.

But I don’t imagine that anyone ever gets over the death of a child, especially one killed in such an ugly, senseless, sudden and violent way.

As we celebrate Patriots’ Day, thoughts are in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Strong!

Friday, April 17, 2015

And where would we be without listicles?

No matter how completely far-fetched, how completely absurd they are, no matter how arbitrarily and/or weirdly pulled together, I am a complete and utter sucker for any list.

It pretty much doesn’t matter what of.

Ten Best Donut Shops. Best Places to Retire. Snobbiest Cities in the US. (Go, Naperville!)  One Hundred Greatest Rock and Roll Songs of All Time. Fifty Experiences Everyone Should Have by the Time They’re Fifty. The Books You Need to Have Read if You Want to Consider Yourself Literate. Most Important New Words of the Last Decade.


Naturally, I prefer those list that reinforce any positive opinions I may hold of myself and the place where I live.

So I glommed right on to the silly Thrillest list: The 10 most Beautiful Neighborhoods in America, Ranked.

Now, having grown up in a neighborhood that would never have made anyone’s listicle  of most beautiful, I understand that some neighborhood faces are prettier than others.

But to pretend that there is actually a ranking of beautiful neighborhoods?

Even if, as it happens, my very neighborhood won the beauty contest.

Between the red brick sidewalks, the classic Georgian architecture, and the gaslights casting their amber glow down the narrow streets, this gorgeous colonial 'hood stands out from the rest of Beantown like a... well, like the most beautiful neighborhood in America. The row houses on Beacon Street overlook the fields of Boston Common (the oldest park in the country), and the whole neighborhood is equally beautiful in winter and summer. Hell, even the birdhouses are beautiful!

Beacon Hill's filled with little streets and avenues that lend the area a distinctly European atmosphere, and striding down the mossy cobblestones of Acorn Street feels like traveling back in time to the founding of the nation -- until you see someone taking as selfie with an iPad. And in that case, well, you can't totally hate; iPads are so convenient.

It is, of course, true that Beacon Hill is very pretty, very charming, very interesting in ways that, say, Main South Worcester just plain aren’t.

But is it the absolute most beautiful?

And “equally beautiful in winter and summer”????

Sure, if you’re gazing out at the Public Garden (winter or summer). But if you’re trying to walk down Charles Street when half the blocks are yellow-taped off to prevent you from getting hit in the head by a fifty-pound ice heave, and when the snow piles are black with exhaust and yellow with dog pee???

And I like that “striding down the mossy cobblestones of Acorn Street.”

Trust me: no one “strides” on Acorn Street.

Cobblestones just aren’t made for striding.

They’re made for creeping, mincing, crawling.

But never, ever striding. Unless you don’t mind cracking your skull on those cobblestones, and find yourself in the ER of Mass General Hospital (one of the the Best Hospitals in the World, by the way).

Anyway, however gratifying it is to live in the country’s most beautiful neighborhood, I do have the good sense to recognize that this designation is a total crock.

Beautiful? Without a doubt.

Most beautiful?  Really…

By the way, the first runner up – if Beacon Hill is unable to fulfill its duties for whatever reason, New York City’s Central Park West Historic District is first runner-up.

See the full list for yourself here.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Take me out to the Fitbit…

Yesterday was a pretty good day.

I began the day dropping my just-in-time completed tax forms off at the Post Office. I was going to just drop them in the mailbox, but was walking by the Government Center office, and decided to make sure they got in a real person’s hands before the witching hour.

Which turned out to be a good thing, as I had put the forms in a large envelope, without realizing that envelopes above and beyond standard business cost more. So if I’d gone the mailbox route, my forms would have been knocked back to me and not made it to the IRS or Mass DOR by the deadline.

After the nice PO guy hand-stamped my envelopes with a time well before midnight, I headed to the gym.

My gym (which is also Kennedy Brothers PT) runs a charity, Christmas in the City, which each December organizes a big Christmas party for homeless kids, and often has some sort of fundraising going on.

Someone had given them two tickets for yesterday’s Red Sox game. Usually, when they have tickets they go to the highest bidder, but these came in a bit late. There were no takers.

So, knowing that I’m a Sox fan, Jake of Kennedy Brothers fame, offered me the tickets for nada.

Well, I couldn’t take them for less than face value, but, as I had been thinking of heading out to Fenway to see if I could get a walk-in ticket, I was happy to have the much better grandstand seats.

Unfortunately, it was pretty last-minute to find a companion for ticket number two, so I ended up going by myself.

As did the guy sitting next to me, a doctor my age who, like me, is a Red Sox lifer, and who ended up being a great ballgame companion.

The weather was gorgeous, and the only lousy thing about the game was that the Sox got thumped big time.

Oh, well, there’s always next game.

One of the great urban experiences is walking to and from the ballgame, which I did, stopping on the way back at the Trident, the only indie bookstore anywhere near where I live.  And bought four books, included the latest from Stewart O’Nan, one of my favorite writers. Plus ordered another book that I’d just seen reviewed in The Economist.  Sure, I could have ordered it on Amazon or downloaded it onto my Kindle, but I want the Trident to live long and prosper.

Also on the way back from the park, I walked down Boylston Street, checking out the little memorials that had sprung up in observation of the second anniversary of the Marathon Bombing.

Life goes on…

And so does this lead-up to what the Dodgers are doing to “engage” their fans.

Anyway, those who don’t pay any attention to customer retention and/or corporate education may not be aware that “engagement” is all the rage.

And it’s no surprise that baseball would be concerned about engaging fans.

Baseball fandom is aging. I heard recently that the average age of baseball fans is 50, and on the rise. (Once again, I find myself above average. Yea, me!)

So what are the Dodgers going to do about it? Other than going on a spending spree that’s brought them to their whopping, MLB-topping 2015 payroll of $277M, $60M more than the Yankees are shelling out, and more than a $100M more than the Red Sox are payrolling this season. (The Sox are in 5th place on the hey, big spender list for 2015.)

The Los Angeles Dodgers are looking to work later this summer with startups focused on sports technology, in hopes of finding new ways of engaging fans with the team. The program will seek to foster emerging companies working in fitness and sports training, among other areas.

Tucker Kain, chief financial officer of the Dodgers, says the team hopes to join with companies that can develop fitness-tracking technology for players that could eventually be rolled out to the public.

“We want to track health and diagnostics of the team to keep them healthy, but also we want to make sure there’s an ability to scale and bring that data to fans,” he said.

The Dodgers on Tuesday began accepting applications for the program, which will be operated in conjunction with advertising agency R/GA and will host 10 companies in Los Angeles from mid-August until November. Aside from fitness tracking, the team is interested in joining with mostly late-stage startups that can develop technology for fan engagement, “smart” sports stadiums, big data and analytics, and sponsor integration.(Source: WSJ)

Forget the wisdom (or not) of a sports team getting into it with late stage startups. Might that might be a bit distracting? I mean, get that eye back on the ball.

I’m focusing on that “bringing that data” – i.e., the fitness info of the players – “to the fans.”


I realize that there are sports junkies out there who want to know everything, but do we really need to know how many push-ups Mookie Betts can do?

Obviously, the Dodgers, even with their crazy roster spend, have too much time and money on their hands.

I know that fan “engagement” is important, and I want those younger fans to be engaged enough to keep this most wonderful of sports going for as long as I’m still around. Still….sharing the in-the-moment fitness data with the fans? Oh, it’s a bit more upbeat than the end-of-life way that MLB engages with fans with official coffins and ash urns. Still…

I really don’t want to be taken out to anyone else’s Fitbit.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Details, details. (Or, Peggy Olson’s passport.)

I’m in a writers’ group, and the other day we work-shopped a story in which one of the characters was out in his driveway working on a 1950’s Mustang.

No, no, a thousand times no!

I didn’t make the point during the session, not when we were focused on big picture issues like voice and structure. But I mentioned it to the author while we were on the way out the door. (The author is an very old and very good friend, so I was able to make a joke of it by mentioning the name of a classmate of ours who actually drove one of the early Mustangs back in the day. Does it go without saying that the Mustang driver was one of the “funeral parlor daughters”, who made up a good chunk of the elites in our class?)

But this is just the sort of crap I pick up on and that drives me batty.

A few years ago it was some TV show, a dystopic saga that took place in Boston. Except when they showed folks gathering on the town green, the monument to the WWII veterans read “1939-1945”, indicating that the show was actually filmed in Canada.

Before that, it was a novel in which a character coped with the nylons shortage of WWII by drawing a seam up the back of her bare legs to mimic the look of sheer seamed stockings. The character in the book used a Magic Marker, which, of course, wasn’t invented until the 1950’s. Not only did I know that there were no Magic Markers during the war, I also knew – thanks to my mother – what women did use to draw on their fake seams. They used eyebrow pencils.(Probably a Maybelline.)

And then there is the matter of Peggy Olson’s passport.

I’m not an obsessive, but I am a fan of Mad Men.

And while she’s not my favorite character – that would be Sally Draper – Peggy, the scrappy up from the secretarial ranks copy chief, is certainly the one that I most identify with. (Oddly, when I took one of those which-Mad-Men-character are you, I came out as Don Draper’s first wife, the bitchy and vacuous Betty. If I couldn’t be Peggy,  could I not at least have been Joan, the voluptuous knockout?)

Anyway, I enjoyed the fact that so much of the first episode of the final season was devoted to Peggy.

Part of the episode focused on Peggy’s looking for her passport.

I was only half paying attention when Peggy finally found her passport, but unless I’m hallucinating, I did notice something funny about it.

As in it was blue.

Wait just a darn New York minute, I said to myself.

Didn’t we just see Richard Nixon on TV? So wouldn’t that make it the late 1960’s or early 1970’s?

Which would mean that passports weren’t that sharpfirst-3-passports-covers navy. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, passports were actually Wehrmacht grey-green. That’s it on the right.

So what was Peggy doing with a passport that didn’t exist until 1976, when blue passports were introduced as part of the bicentennial celebration.

With all the obsessive attention that Mad Men pays to period detail, how did they miss this one?

Perhaps they should have someone who actually lived during the 1950’s and 1960’s on staff who can make the “wait just a darned New York minute” calls.

I still have my original passport (issue date 1973) around here somewhere, along with one my husband had of the same vintage. (Cool ‘stache, hon.) Which is why I knew that Peggy’s passport would be green, not blue.

Of course, I wasn’t paying all that much attention, so maybe Peggy’s passport really was grey-green. But I could have sworn it was blue. And it shouldn’t have been.

Anyway, a mind is a terrible thing to waste on trivial little details, and I guess I’m exhibit number one on that account.

Why is it that I find these little detail errors so annoying?


And why, when there’s so much else to blog about on April 15th, did I head in this direction?

What could I have focused my Pink Slippian energies on instead?

Well, today is tax day and, wildly, I didn’t actually finish my taxes and send them off until yesterday. (Wildly, because I’ve generally been a February filer.)

I think I stalled because this is the last return I’ll do as married, filing jointly. I think I didn’t want to write “deceased” on the line that should have held Jim’s signature. Sometimes life is just hard…

In any case, I could have used today’s Pink Slip to focus on filing taxes, including the stupendous complexity involved in even the plain vanilla returns I file. I actually enjoy – in an odd way – doing my taxes. But I don’t enjoy reading the instructions. So, after a quick check to make sure nothing’s changed, I just go by what I did last year.

If I wasn’t going to do taxes, I could have done death.

It is, after all, the second anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Here’s a couple of bombing-related pieces wrote about the bombings at the time.: What Was Up Until 2:50 p.m. a Glorious DayThat Was the Week That Was, and Opening Day.

Of course, looking back, even up until 2:50 p.m., April 15, 2013 wasn’t all that glorious a day.

My husband’s cancer had recurred, and we’d spent the morning at MGH for a chemo session. We were guardedly optimistic that Jim would get some lease on life, but that was not to be.

As for the Opening Day piece about the first game I saw during the 2013 season, I went to that game with my very old and very dear friend Marie. A year later, nearly to the day of that ballgame, Marie was gone, too.

No wonder I didn’t want to write about the anniversary of the bombings.

Or I could have chosen to observe the 150th anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln.

They sure don’t make ‘em like they used...

But, no.

Instead I am focused on the color of Peggy Olson’s passport.

Did I already say Grrrrrrr…..?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Do you want to see regional English survive? So don’t I.

If there’s one thing that drove my Midwest mother crazy, it was the way New Englanders used expressions like “so don’t I” and “so aren’t I” to express agreement.

As in, your friend would say “I like ice cream,” and your answer would be “so don’t I,” rather than the grammatically proper “so do I,” or the more common/less formal “me, too.”

As in, your sister would say “I’m really hot,” and your answer would be “so aren’t I,” rather than that grammatically proper “so am I,” or the more common/less formal “me, too.”

My mother would argue that our usage made no sense.

To which our response was: so what?

It was just how we New Englanders rolled.

Just like we said “tonic” when others would say “soda” (or, as my Midwestern cousins would have it, “pop” – pronounced pahp). Alas, “tonic” has fallen out of New England favor, and even us old timers never use it anymore.


I don’t think people call rubber bands “elastics” anymore, either.

(Another sigh is heaved.)

And I suspect there aren’t many New Englanders under the age of 50 who know that a “bubbler” here is a “water fountain” anywhere else. Not that, thanks to bottled water, there are many “bubblers” around anymore. The only ones I can think of are a couple of old-timey stone ones in the Public Garden. No doubt these will be removed at some point, likely when some tourist’s kid, who doesn’t know enough not to put his mouth on the spout, will sue the City of Boston because of a canker sore.

I truly miss “bubbler”, which factors in a story in which I was the tourist.

The first time I traveled to San Francisco, in the early 1970’s, I was on Fishermen’s Wharf and asked someone whether there was a bubbler nearby.

She thought I was from England and that I was looking for a mailbox.

I’m all for being able to communicate clearly, but I really don’t want to see all regional differences go away.

(Don’t get me going on Macy’s replacing all the local department stores. Why couldn’t we just keep Jordan Marsh, and its fabulous blueberry muffins? Somewhere in Chicago, someone is lamenting that there’s no more Marshall Fields…)

Blame it on our national mobility, blame it on the chains (retail, dining, hotel), blame it on the media, blame it on the march of time, but all the little nuances that let us wake up in the morning knowing that we’re in Boston, or Tuscaloosa, or Fargo are dying out.

Oh, sure, they’re not gone yet.

There’ll always be NASCAR.

But even NASCAR has a toe-hold in New England.

So it’s interesting that while some regional differences seem to be getting stronger – gun ownership, church membership, etc. – the ones that actually make life interesting and not each others throats are withering away.

The good news is some folks out there has been keeping tabs on who says “so don’t I” an who calls a bubbler a bubbler.

Those folks are the University of Wisconsin, and – for the past 50 years – have been working on the Dictionary of American Regional English.

Between 1965 and 1970, English professor Frederic Cassidy sent field workers armed with a 1,600-question survey to interview and record people in more than a thousand far-flung communities. What were the local words for weather, household items, trees, courtship? Who called a “june bug” a “zoony bug” (answer: Georgians and Alabamans) or said “so don’t I” to mean “me too”? (Mostly New Englanders.) (Source: Boston Globe)

DARE knows that? So don’t I!

The good news is that their work been published:

Staffers compiled the information, along with quotations gleaned from printed materials, into what became six huge dictionary volumes, replete with maps and colorful quotations. Harvard University Press published the final volume, along with a complete multimedia digital edition, in 2013.

The not so good news is that the DARE folks are running out of funding, and still have a lot more things that they’re working on:

…the closure would halt other active projects — for starters, finding out how Americans speak now compared to in the 1960s. “The language changes, and we want to keep up with it,” Hall said. The team recently carried out a pilot project to duplicate Cassidy’s work in present-day Wisconsin. (They found online language surveys, while cheap, “didn’t get much participation;” old-fashioned face-to-face techniques still worked best.)

I know one thing that’s changed: people may have dropped their regionalisms, but they’re lobbing more f-bombs.

Another project they’re working on is developing ways to use the research, including creating the ability of others to use their data in their own apps.

“The one that is highest on my list is a medical app that would have thousands of regional and folk and archaic names for ailments and diseases.” An article in Harvard Medicine last fall cited a doctor in North Carolina who was initially flummoxed by a patient who said he’d “lost his nature.” It turned out to be localese for erectile dysfunction.

Must have been the only person in America who hasn’t seen the ads for ED medicine, and thus, if unwilling to utter the words “erectile dysfunction,” could have just uttered “ED”. Anyway, losing your nature must be even worse than a natural occurrence that lasts for more than four hours…

Just sayin’ (in my regional accent).

Meanwhile, the folks at DARE have mounted a GoFundMe campaign that’s limping along.

I threw them a few bucks.*

After all, what they’re doing is wicked pissah.

You know it, and so don’t I.


*Correction: I tried to make a donation. The page must not like Chrome. If I think of it, I’ll try again later.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Retiring minds want to know

If and when I retire, it will probably be to downtown Boston.

Maybe I’ll move to a new-fangled building with things like insulation and elevators. Or maybe I’ll just stay put.

So what if there are winters when you can’t step toe out half the time?

I live in a place where pretty much everything I need – including doctors, dentist, a pretty darned good hospital (Mass General) and a wonderful independent drug store – is within walking distance.

So, as I segue into geezerhood, I hope to become one of those little old ladies who trucks over to the library every other week for another armload of books. (In fact, I’m already on my way.) One of those little old ladies who putters around the neighborhood indie hardware store, which is actually more general store than Home Depot. (Hey, I’m there already.) And one of those little old ladies out on the corner with her ice chopper, cleaning out the corner ice dams and clearing the storm drain so that little old ladies don’t half to step on a Little Eva ice floe when they go out for a winter’s walk. (Hey, that’s me in the blue parka and the black beret, chopping away.)

Anyway, as long as I can make an occasional escape to a place where you don’t need to wear snow pants and sleep in heavy wool socks, I’ll be good.

Nonetheless, I like reading about what might be someone else’s idea of the best and worst places to retire.

And, according to Bankrate, the besties are Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota , Iowa, Arizona, Virginia, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, and  Wyoming (the number one state, by the way).

All I can say is, it looks like weather doesn’t factor that heavily into their calculation if places like South Dakota and Iowa make it on there. Having anything to do must not be high on the list, either. There are only so many times that you can gaze at Mt. Rushmore.

As for Iowa, I’m sure my cousin Ellen, whose father-in-law is happily retired in the metropolis of Atlantic, Iowa, will be interested to see that Iowa is a great place to retire. (Aside to Ellen and Mike: just because you’re in Florida half the year now, there’s no reason not to retire to Iowa for the other half.  Atlantic awaits!)

Whether they have crappy weather or not, these states rise to the top of the retirement heap thanks to good health care, a low crime rate, something called ‘personal well being’, and a moderate cost of living.

Back on the weather front, Arizona, weirdly, is the only warm—weather state on the list. What up Florida? What up South Carolina?

Interesting that my brother Tom and his wife, after living for years in Flagstaff, Arizona, have chosen to retire to the Pacific Northwest. They’re in the area in Washington that’s considered Portland, Oregon’s version of Cape Cod, and are, in fact, looking to augment their beach home with a place in Portland so that they actually have access to things like, say, doctors and hospitals.

Interesting especially because Oregon is on the list of the ten worst states to retire to – largely because of costs. (Other than the hipsters and the rain, I would think it would be a great place to live. But, of course, I automatically gravitate toward the hippy-dippy while simultaneously ruling out open carry and creationism states.)

As for the ten worst states for us geezers, here’s the list, which I find exceedingly odd, mainly because I could actually see living in New York, Oregon, or even Hawaii, which make it on the sorry-arse bad state list because of costs (and, certainly in NY, weather).

Here’s the full ixnay for etireees-ray states: Arkansas, Missouri, Oregon, Kentucky, Hawaii, Louisiana, Alaska, New Jersey, West Virginia, New York.

New York? Okay, lets take New York.

Other than the cost and the weather – which, given that I live in Boston actually matters not – I would think New York, or at least the New York City part of it, would be an excellent place to retire.

It is, in fact, where my husband wanted to retire to. (I kept having to explain to him that people tended to retire to places that cost less, not more, than where they were currently living.)

But I had to give him that, as far as places for old geezers go, it’s hard to beat NYC.

No need for a car, excellent medical services, plenty of free stuff, plenty of interesting stuff, and a great walking town

So, other than the cost and weather, what’s not to like? Oh, yeah, the Yankees. Other than that…

As for the other states on the worst list, West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Missouri would all be on my top ten must avoid states to live in, dead or alive.

But I can imagine there are plenty of folks who’d be perfectly happy to retire to, say, Branson, Missouri or the like.

Personally, I could live without being near the cast of the latter-day Lawrence Welk Show, but that’s not to say that others wouldn’t want to play out their golden years around the Lovely Lennon Sisters.

When it comes right down to it, it seems to me that the best place to retire is going to be the place where you feel comfortable, that you can afford, and where you have family and friends around.

One retiree’s Wyoming is another retiree’s Arkansas…



Friday, April 10, 2015

Where do we get headlines like these…

Trolling around the business news sites – and, I’ll admit, the Daily Mail – looking for today’s Pink Slip topic, what to my wondering eyes did appear but this headline on Bloomberg:

The Beauty and Logic of the Million-Dollar Car

Well, how could I resist?

And if this isn’t an invitation to stroll down memory lane.

Not that I can go all that far down it, given how few cars I’ve actually owned.

There was the used ‘81 Honda Civic with the rusted out body I bought for $2K. Then there was the little Mercury Tracer hatchback I got when the Civic wheezed what little horsepower it had into the glue factory. That glue factory – actually a Lincoln-Mercury dealership on the Lynnway (one of Boston’s major car strips) - gave me $100, sight-unseen, for the Civic. When I got it into the lot, where it promptly coughed and died, they told me that if they’d actually seen the car, they wouldn’t have given me anything for it. The cost for my brand-spanking new dark-red Tracer? About $8K, as I recall.

After a couple of years chugging around in my little Tracer, I was blessedly able to go car free for a decade or so.

When I needed to get another car, in 1998, the New VW Beetle was just out.

Be still my heart.

I was so delighted to have one, I ordered one without even knowing what the color was. Did I pay $17K? $18K? Probably $18K. I did spring for the heated seats. (The color was a very nice blue.)

So someone who’s car ownership outlay, in its entirety, amounted to a whopping total of $28K  really should have nothing to say about luxury cars.

And yet here I am…

I know that people are entitled to spend their money on whatever they want to spend their money on, but seriously:

Wouldn’t you have to be seriously out of your f-ing mind to spend $1M on a car?

Let alone $3.4M for the Lykan HyperSport.

Of course, a car that can hit 240 m.p.h. is not going to be used for grocery runs or to lug the dog to the vet. And not that it’s actually on the lot of a dealership near you. But it was, apparently, the eye-popper of a ve-hic-le that started in the latest Fast and Furious movie. 

Over the past decade we’ve seen almost every automaker (that calls itself a true “luxury” brand, at least) produce a contraption with a seven-digit price tag. Sometimes they get there only by making a one-off with diamond-rimmed headlights and titanium bones, but they get there.

The brands make these cars because people buy them. The past few years have seen an explosion of royals and tycoons around the globe who buy entire fleets of Aston Martins and Lamborghinis to support their proclivities. Bloomberg has discovered more than three dozen new billionaires in the world since January alone, and more than 300 since 2012. They buy the cars in Los Angeles, in Doha, in Moscow and São Paulo and Shanghai. Some, like hotel tycoon Steve Wynn, buy them to bolster their business interests just as much as their personal life.

“The fact of the matter is there are a lot of rich people around the world, and I mean super rich—hundreds of millions of dollars to billions of dollars of net worth,” says Jack Nerad, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “When you’re talking about these types of people, a million-dollar car isn’t really much of a stretch at all.”(Source: Bloomberg)

Okay. I get it. You can afford it.

But before you fork over, say, $8M for a Maybach Exelero, wouldn’t you start to think about what else you could do if you didn’t need a bejeweled automobile?

Maybe if you have billions, the question never crosses your mind.

The Beauty and Logic of the Million-Dollar Car

Oh, I’m sure that they’re things of beauty all right. A million dollars worth of hand-crafted lux is going to have some beauty to it, even if it’s more grotesque than beautiful.

So I can see the beauty.

I must be missing something when it comes to the logic.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

A is for Apple, and A is for Ain’t

Apple has never been the apple of my eye.

Sure, I’ve long admired their marketing and design genius, but  - other than an iPod I bought, what?, 10 years ago – their marketing and design genius have just not been enough to get me in their camp.

For Macs, it’s always been pretty simple.

I’ve been an Intel-processor type of gal from the get-go. Most of my career has been spent in the Microsoft world, both from the standpoint of the applications and equipment I used and of the platforms that the products and services the companies where I worked offered. (Even this post is written using LiveWriter, a no- longer updated freebie MSFT product that’s better for blogging than anything else I’ve used.)

Microsoft-y bias aside, when it came to doing a laptop replacements, which tends to happen every couple of years, I always look at the Macs. But even after I was convinced that Office apps would work just fine on a Mac, I would always cheap out. It just didn’t seem worth the extra $$$ to be one of the cool kids.

I don’t need a tablet, so I haven’t been tempted by the iPad.

I need a real computer for work. And I’ve got a Kindle, which is an excellent device for readers who travel. Yes, if I also want to use the Internet for anything other than a book download, I do have to lug the laptop. So I am probably going to replace my rickety old Dell with a tablet, but it will be a combo taplet-laptop SurfacePro.

As for the iPhone, well, when I finally get around to replacing my Blackberry – I think I’ve been holding out for being the last person in America to use one – I’m leaning Android.

For whatever reason, I can’t bring myself to get an iPhone, even though  pretty much everyone I know has one, including my generally technologically retrograde brother.

So I guess it goes without saying that I won’t be standing in line for the Apple Watch.

Come to find out, no one else will be, either.

Apple is pushing those interested in the new Apple Watch - an item that, let’s face it, no one really needs – to order online. Or make an appointment to come in an decide whether you want the $349 basic or the $17K gold luxury version.

Angela Ahrendts, Apple Inc.’s sales chief, wants to scrap the company’s tradition of having customers wait in line, sometimes for days, to get their hands on the latest gadget. Apple has instructed its sales force to prod shoppers on the company’s website to purchase the new smartwatch, which can be pre-ordered Friday.

“The days of waiting in line and crossing fingers for a product are over for our customers,” according to a memo to Apple sales staff. “This is a significant change in mindset.”(Source: Bloomberg via Boston Globe.)

There is some speculation that, fearing they have a Google Glass on their hands, Apple doesn’t want to end up with a no-line release, and have the world go into a spin about a mega, post-Jobs failure.

That would be something of a wormhole on the old Apple, wouldn’t it?

Me, I’m ‘meh’ on the Apple Watch – and not just because it comes from Apple.

I’m not that keen on the whole “wearable tech” thing.

And these smart watches seem to be trying to duplicate functionality that you already have on your smartphone. Which, since everyone always has their smartphone with them, doesn’t seem all that necessary. And the smartphone form factor is just so much better for actually getting things done.

I have a friend – a gadget-guy engineer – who has an early (non-Apple) smart watch. He says that the one thing it’s good for is to gently vibrate on his wrist when he’s in a phone-off meeting and gets a phone call. He can discreetly check his phone and see if the call is important.

Other than that, he’s not sold. (And he’s a gadget-guy engineer.)

It will be interesting to see how rapidly the Apple Watch is adopted. It has, from what I’ve seen, mostly gotten good reviews.

But I don’t see it turning into the next iPod/iPhone/iPad anytime soon.

And, of course, I a-is-for-ain’t going to be getting one soon, even if I don’t have to wait in line to get one.

I have to admit, however, that I’ll miss watching those lines on Boylston Street, slowly wending their way into the Apple Store. Me, walking by, taking it all in, shaking my head in disbelief that there are so many people who’d wait in line for a shiny new piece of technology, however genius the design and marketing behind it.

Sorry, Apple, not that it means a thing for you, but you’re just not the apple of my eye.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Spare me the mattress fundane

Remember back in the old days, and all a mattress had to be was comfortable?

Oh, you were born knowing that a mattress was an item that you never bought used, let alone picked off the sidewalk on trash day. So you knew you needed to go mattress shopping.

Which means that you went to a mattress store – like Sleepy’s – or a furniture store or a department store. You gave a few mattresses the bounce test, hoped that the one you liked the most didn’t have the dorky print, looked at the price tag, and placed your order.

A couple of weeks later, some guys delivered that mattress and – if you weren’t doing a platform bed – a box spring, humping it up the steep stairs to your walk up, hoping they could get that non-pliable box spring around the corners.

If you were a bit more progressive, you went to a futon store or went for a water bed. (Do water beds even exist any more?) If you had a bit more money, you got yourself a Tempurpedic (and found out very quickly whether you loved or despised it: there was no in between).

These days, mattress companies want buzz. They want folks to tweet out, to Instagram, to YouTube. Which probably doesn’t happen that often when Sleepy’s delivers a Beautyrest.

Casper is one mattress company that wants the buzz, they want to “surprise and delight” buyers and fundane things up a bit. I.e., take something as uncool and boring as buying a mattress and turning it into an experience.

“It’s a challenge for us. Mattresses aren’t about external signaling, it’s different than eyeglasses or sheets,” says Philip Krim, Casper’s co-founder and CEO. “We deliver a mattress on a cargo bike in New York. That just doesn’t make sense. But you’re spending your hard-earned money, it should be delightful.” (Source: Buzzfeed)

Casper does do a bit of external signaling, if that term covers attracting notice. It does so by delivering their wares on a cargo bike, which they can do because their Mattress in a boxmattresses come in a box. No more worrying about whether the delivery guys can hump it up the staircase for you.  Plus you get the kick of opening the box and having the mattress explode out for you.

And who wouldn’t want to selfie that action?

Hard to believe that, in the world of Sleep Number beds, where each partner gets to sleep on their own idea of comfort, folks would buy a mattress without testing it out for a few seconds, or even, Sleep Number-wise, making something that’s kind of bespoke. Candy-cotton smush to the left; maximum security prison board to the right.

But Casper has attracted a fair amount of investment money – $14.95M, from money men that include Ashton Kutcher. (Oh, why not.) And it doesn’t have a corner of the market to itself, either:

Casper is one of at least six fledgling bed-in-a-box brands seeking to disrupt Big Sleep; there are Keetsa, Leesa, Saatva, Tuft & Needle, and Yogabed. (Casper and Yogabed seem to have missed the memo about using a double vowel in the company name.) Their websites are cool and sleek, with white backgrounds, pictures of a happy, diverse group of twentysomethings (often lounging on mattresses), and the promise that they alone are reimagining the slumber experience.

Six bed-in-a-box brands?

Wow. Just wow.

All I can say it was a lot easier being a young adult back in the day.

Sure, we worried about being with it.

But the ways we manifested with-it-ism was by what we wore, who we listened to, and where we ate. “External signaling,” I guess.

And then once you got past the “scrounge phase” of home furnishing (with or without having made a used-mattress mistake), you didn’t give all that much thought to everything being cool.

No, you didn’t go out and buy furniture that looked like it came from Versailles, but you were happy enough with Workbench.

Pots and pans from Jordan Marsh were just fine. So was the silverware your mother got with Betty Croker coupons. (I still have mine.) If you had Corelle for your dishware, you made sure that you had a few accent pieces in your décor that informed the world that you were not your parents. (Raise your hand if you had at least one poorly-thrown, misshapen, yucky colored pot that was made by someone you vaguely knew. Extra points if it hung from a macrame plant holder.)

As for your mattress?

A mattress was a necessity. Beyond comfort, you gave it about as much thought as you did the new toilet seat you picked up at the hardware store to replace the (inevitably) nasty one in your new digs.

But, of course, there was no social media with which to record our every move.

The idea of turning mattress purchase into a fun occasion, a fundane, just did not occur.

Ah, so much has changed…

Here’s hoping that the young folks still have something in common with us oldsters in terms of putting those unboxed mattresses to good use.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Our Town

I’ve got to give it to the Brits. There is always, and I do mean ALWAYS, something interesting in the Daily Mail. Oh, sure, most of it is meretricious crap, but even the meretricious crap is often interesting.

What caught my eye last week was an article on the town of Whittier, Alaska – a town where almost all of the 200+ residents live in a single building.

The building, called Begich Tower, houses the town's entire neighborhood, including the local police department, a school, an indoor playground, two convenience stores, a B&B, a laundromat and the post office.

The local church performs baptisms in an inflatable pool in the basement and children can easily knock on their teacher's door for homework help in the evenings. (Source: Daily Mail)

How out of the way is Whittier?

Surrounded by only mountains and the sea, the remote town is so isolated that it's only accessible by North America's longest one way tunnel, which stretches for two and a half miles.

And which is not open from 11 p.m. until 5:30 a.m.

My guess is there’s not much more at the end of that tunnel than there is at Begich Tower, but if you’re stuck in a town that gets 250+ inches of snow each winter, and where everyone lives in the same building, even an Applebee’s or a McDonald’s might start to look good.

Whittier Alaska

In any case, the isolation (and desolation) are broken up during the summer, when cruise ships drop about 900,000 tourists into the town. What they do there is beyond me.

Gawp at the Begich Tower? Wonder what the Whittier-ites do to keep themselves from going stir-crazy?

And where do all those tourists go to buy trinkets? Door to door in the town’s only building?

But forget about those tourists. They get to get back on the boat and float on out of town.

What must it be like to live there?

Even surrounded by natural beauty, it must get pretty darned boring.

Where do you take a walk?

I will be the first to admit that my daily walk often takes on a sameness. It’s just as easy to take the Esplanade out to BU, and walk back home via Beacon Street. The horse knows the way, and I don’t have to think about it.

But when I do think about it, I vary the plot and take my stroll along the waterfront, or around the South End, or in the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

And no matter what my route, there’s always something to look at. And, while I occasionally run into a friend, mostly I’m just seeing an un-repetitive flow of people I don’t recognize.

What would the walk be in Begich Tower?

I think I’ll walk on the 6th floor today, I did the 8th yesterday.

And what if you want to stop for a cup of tea or a cup of ice cream? If the convenience store is closed, do you just knock on someone’s door?

Of course, living in Begich Tower is probably not all that different from the geezer complexes I’ve seen advertised of late.

You know, the ones that show all those attractive, silver-haired folks eagerly giving testimony to the benefits of the under-one-roof lifestyle. We see the residents exercising in the pool, getting their silver hair done, stopping by the ATM, and stocking up at the in-house convenience store (which doesn’t appear to stock anything that resembles fresh; but if you just need a quart of skim, a loaf of white bread, or a can of Chef Boyardee, you’re good to go).

I may scoff, but, especially after this winter, those geezer complexes have a certain appeal.

After all, there were plenty of days in there where I didn’t stick my nose out of the house. Some days, the farthest I got was the foyer where the mailboxes are. Sometimes I opened the front door and looked out. But once I confirmed that there was still an eight-foot snow bank out there, that was enough for me to scurry back in and flop down for a nap.

And if Whittier, as a norm, gets twice as much snow as we had this winter, well, staring at four walls is staring at four walls, whether you’re in a condo in downtown Boston or in Begich Tower.

Still, all that living together in the same building – while it would have some advantageous – does sound like too much of a good thing.

Give me anonymity and variety any old day!


Monday, April 06, 2015

It’s da bomb detector

There was an interesting article in The Boston Globe last week about a company in Somerville – of all places – that’s making nuclear bomb detectors – of all things.

When I think Somerville, I think three-deckers, blue collars, and hipsters priced out of Cambridge. That and the good restaurants and bars in Davis Square.

When I think bomb, I think Oak Ridge, Manhattan Project, White Sands, the Enola Gay. That and terrorists, with their warped and nihilistic response to modernity, filling pressure cookers with nails and fireworks in their mother’s kitchen.

And I also think bomb-sniffing dogs.

But with nuclear terrorism hovering over us – a clear and present danger – it’s certainly not surprising that companies, and not just governments, would spring up to try to do something about it.

In the case of Silverside Detectors, the response is build detectors:

From her incubator space in Somerville, [Sarah] Haig and her business partner, Andrew Inglis, are working hard to bring to market atomic bomb detectors for use in the United States and abroad.

“We’re in Act II of a Shakespearean five-act play,’’ she said. (Source: Boston Globe)

Two asides:

Am I the only one who read “atomic bomb” and thought, ‘how quaint.’ It sounds so, well, 1950’s. (As in the ditty we used to sing as kids, to the tune of the “You’ll wonder where the yellow went” jingle for Pepsodent toothpaste: “You’ll wonder where your teeth have gone, when you brush your teeth with an atom bomb.”) Atom bomb is just so ‘duck and cover.’

Second, you’ve got to love a bomb-detecting entrepreneur who cites dramatic structure. So, if we’re in “Rising Action” mode now, when does “Climax” come? Not to mention where and how. (The suspense is killing me.)

Anyway, Haig has a background in microfinance and third-world development, but when she got out of the Kennedy School of Government, she decided to do something about the threat of nuclear terrorism:

“I can bite off one tiny corner of this immense issue and do something,’’ she said. “I think what clicked is that we were looking at nuclear terror — the problem of what happens if bad people get bad material, try to smuggle it into the US, and set it off.’’

The detectors that Silverside is developing – in incubator space where they work side by side with robotics and 3D printing firms – are capable of ferreting out “the only two elements that can be used to make a nuclear explosion: plutonium and highly enriched uranium.”

They’re going to be marketed to city governments, energy companies, and any other entity that has something that a terrorist might want to get at. And they’re very on modern message:

Cost-effective nuclear detection

The company is “a team of physicists, engineers, and entrepreneurs committed to reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism.” They’ve received government grants, as well as private funding, and they’ve collaborated with physicists from CERN and MIT to make sure they get it all right.

You can learn more about Silverside here.

Am I sleeping better at night knowing that Silverside is fast at work, just around the corner?

Well, no.

But I am just delighted to read about a group of young entrepreneurs who are interested in doing something other than coming up with the next useless social-whatever in hopes that FB or Twitter will scoop them up for a couple of billion bucks.

Here’s the question, however.

What happens when something nuclear is detected?

Are improvised nuclear devices easily dismantled? I saw the Hurt Locker and all that, but will cities now have to train up a special squad who can handle this sort of task. (Talk about ‘thank you for your service.’)

And how are cities going to evacuate when a nuclear bomb is detected?

Hard to imagine the panic and chaos if the call goes out to head out of this or any other dense and crowded city. And what if a bomb does go off? I for one wouldn’t want the last moments of my life to be spent stuck in traffic, drivers leaning on their horns and hanging out their windows cursing at the top of their lungs.

I’m glad there’ll be an affordable way for cities to detect nuclear bombs.

The Marathon Bombers have let us know that even the most innocuous of activities – like standing with your kids on Boylston Street, eating ice cream and watching the finishers – aren’t always going to be safe.

But if a nuclear bomb goes off in my city, I don’t know whether surviving to see the aftermath will be worth it to me.

Easy for me to say: I’ve had a good run. But if an when the day comes, I hope I have the good sense to stay put.

One less person in a Zipcar, inching along Beacon Street – heading where? my sister’s in Brookline? Worcester? - leaning on the horn.

Meanwhile, good luck to Silverside and their interesting business.