Friday, September 30, 2016

Give me your tired, your rich, your not so huddled masses yearning to EB

In 1990, the US put a bit of pay-for-play into law by instituting the EB-5 visa program, under which foreign nationals can get themselves and their families a resident visa if they invested a certain amount of money and produced a certain number of jobs (10, in fact) for US workers. The entry price was $1M, unless they were willing to set up shop in a targeted (I.e., economically depressed) area.

Sounded good to Venezuelan businessman Pedro Brito, who had been robbed and threatened a couple of times. That was before his daughter was carjacked. Brito and his wife said suficiente and started looking around for opportunities to get out of Caracas and into America.

Their explorations led them to a Florida immigration attorney who put him in touch with a couple of hombres doing business in the great state of Vermont.

One was Bill Stenger, the chief executive of Jay Peak Resort, a family destination perched on a mountain in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom region. The other was Ariel Quiros, the Miami businessman who owned the property. (Source: Bloomberg)

For those unfamiliar with the Northeast Kingdom, it’s just about as far north as you can go. Think a smidge south of the polar ice cap. Think almost in the Hudson Bay Colony. Think no one up there. Think nothing doing. Well, almost nothing doing. Former Red Sox pitcher, and eccentric throw-back hippy par excellence Bill “Spaceman” Lee, lives up there.

A decade earlier, Jay Peak had consisted only of a ski area and a roach-ridden lodge. Now it had three hotels, six restaurants, some 200 cottages, an indoor water park, an ice rink, a spa, and a convention center, all tended to by 600 employees.

I can’t imagine it does much of a convention business, but as a ski destination, I’m sure it’s fine, if a bit far out. And three hotels and a spa sure beats a roach-ridden lodge. (At least it wasn’t a bed bug-ridden lodge.)

The re-do of Jay Peak was brought to us – to the tune of $280 million – by the EB-5 program. “The only faster way to become an American is to marry one.”

We welcome approximately 10,000 EB-5 visa holders each year, most from China, most wealthy enough to easily part with $1M. For others, like Brito, the price of entry is pretty much everything they own. And for Brito, the $500K he had in his pocket after selling his home and cashing out his retirement (along with money from 160 other investors) ended up not as an investment in an indoor water park, but in a biotech center in Newport that:

…would manufacture artificial organs and offer stem-cell therapy, with 50 sterile rooms for research.

Hey, kids, let’s put on an artificial organ factory!

To make a long story short: SEC. Fraud. Intermingled funds. Scheme. Shell game. Investigation.

But I’m going to stick with the one thing that just leaps out at me: what made anyone think that a biotech center in Newport, Vermont was at all feasible to begin with?

I live in a biotech center. It’s part of a metropolitan area with 4.5 million people. Some of the world’s finest research universities. Some of the world’s best hospitals. Etc..

We’re hearing all the time about everyone being able to work from everywhere these days. That’s all well and good, but there are such things as labs. And there are such things as wanting to live in an area where there are a lot of people doing the same sorts of thing you’re doing. Lots of employment opportunities if company A turns out not to your liking. Lots of people to share ideas with. Lots of nerdy, brainy scientists. Thus are formed clusters.

Exactly how does a cluster – of the positive sort of cluster that Boston bio-tech represents – form in Newport, VT, population 4,500 – one one-thousandth that of the Boston area. Newport, VT. Where one of the biggest employers in town is a state prison.

Talk about a cluster

On the upside, Pedro Brito is good-to-go visa-wise: his wife has gotten a student visa. And he’s optimistic about getting his $500K back. Fortunately, he had enough left over to open himself an ice cream shop in Florida, where the Britos are living. Easier on the Venezuelan bones than Newport, VT, I’m guessing.

Welcome to America, Mr. Brito!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Drought bogging you down?

I had a recent conversation with a gym pal who’d just returned from a vacation camping trip to South Dakota. She told me that she’d been talking to some locals, who were farmers. After telling her about how they were always watching the weather and crop news to see what was up with soybeans, they asked her what we grew in Massachusetts.

Like most good residents of our fair commonwealth would be, Dee was at something of a loss.

Most of what we grow, after all, are college degrees, software, in-patient days, financial instruments, or something in a petri dish at a bio-tech. Oh, we make some food, but Marshmallow Fluff is not exactly a crop.

I told her she should have told them cranberries.

While we haven’t been #1 for a while – the top cranberry growing state is Wisconsin, of all prlaces – we remain the country’s second largest producer of cranberries. We’re the headquarters of Ocean Spray (the world’s largest cranberry processor) –  quick, name another company that’s associated with cranberries – and we have a road called the Cranberry Highway. Plus, when you drive down to the Cape, you will likely pass a number of bogs.

Then there’s the fact that, given that Thanksgiving was invented here, we do kind of own the whole cranberry thing, don’t we?

And while we may not be #1 in the world as a producer, cranberries are, in fact, our #1 crop.

But, as we observe “the 200th anniversary of the world’s first known commercial cultivation”, the cranberry business has somewhat soured.

Oh, there are the usual suspects:

In the birthplace of the industry, many Massachusetts growers whose families have tended bogs for generations are in ‘‘dire straits,’’ facing challenges that include rising production costs, decreasing crop values, changing consumer habits, and increasing competition from other states and Canada, a task force recently reported. (Source: Boston Globe)

Yeah, well, thanks, Wisconsin. It wasn’t enough for you to hog dairy farming, you had to come compete on cranberries. And, while we’re on that subject, just what sort of ocean spray are your cranberries experiencing out there in Dairyland? Harrumph. I thought not…

What’s been an add-on problem this year, however, is the drought we’ve been having. Little snow last winter, and almost no rain since then. Sure, it was nice to have all those sunny days this summer – other than the fact that a lot of them were scorchers – but the downside is that there’s lot of brown grass, droopy trees, and withered plants. The news regularly features reporters standing in the middle of a reservoir with no water in it. No, it’s not as if we’ve turned into California or Phoenix, but some cities have had to go out and buy water.

What I hadn’t realized until I read this article is that cranberries actually don’t grow in those watery bogs. They:

…grow on vines and are typically wet-harvested by farmers who flood the dry bogs with water.

Flooding those bogs means using up water we don’t just have sitting around in our aquifers. And that costs money.

And once those cranberries are harvested – even if there are fewer than usual, due to the drought – there’s too much supply for the demand.

I don’t contribute a ton of demand on that supply.

I like dried cranberries in salad, so I usually have some around. On Thanksgiving, I sometime make a batch of cranberry sauce to add to the groaning board. I drink cranberry juice, and on the rare occasion I order a drive other than wine, it’s probably going to be a Cape Codder (vodka and cranberry juice). Cranberry soda’s good, too. And while it’s not to everyone’s taste, I occasionally have a hankering for Cranberry Bog ice cream, which you can get a few places on the Cape.

In all likelihood, fewer of the cranberries I’m demanding will be native. Our bogs are aging, and in need of renovation if we’re going to compete with the unlikely likes of Wisconsin. As it stands, “Massachusetts has the lowest yield per acre of any major growing state.” Probably because our two-hundred year old bogs are all tuckered out and, this year, just plain dehydrated. Still, there are plenty of cranberry growers who want to keep with it, so that they can hand the farm down to the next generation.

I’ve seen the same phenomenon at play out in Western Massachusetts, where – believe it or not – there are a number of tobacco farms. My husband’s aunt and uncle had one. They converted theirs to a golf course, but a number of Uncle Bill’s cousins were still farming when Jim and I were regular visitors out there, so I got to see what goes on in the fields and in the barns when the tobacco’s being “fired.” (It’s actually scary – and can get out of control. On one visit, we were awoken in the middle of the night by fire engines come to fight a fire at a barn down the road.)

Those tobacco farms I used to visit were handed off to the next generation, and now the next-next generation’s lining up to take over.

Why anyone would want to stick with such back-breaking and not colossally lucrative labor – and I imagine cranberry growing is the same – is beyond me. But I’ve always been a city girl…

Anyway, I’m sorry to see that the drought has been bogging down our cranberry industry. Meanwhile, I promise to do my bit to keep demand up. Next time I buy juice, it’ll be cranberry.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

I sure don’t blame them, but…

A couple of years ago, the Unitarian Universalist Association sold their property on Beacon Hill and decamped to another part of town. Part of the property they sold used to house Little-Brown, the publishing company. Oh, the UU’s are still in Boston. So’s Little-Brown. But they’re no longer on The Hill, and their buildings are all set to become more high-end condos. Some of the condos in the old UU headquarters – can it be called the old UU Vatican? – even have separate nanny apartments.

I miss seeing the Little-Brown building.It was just up the hill, and I liked walking by, knowing that I was walking by Louisa May Alcott’s publisher. And Emily Dickinson’s. That L-B was the company that brought out All Quiet on the Western Front, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Last Hurrah, and Catcher in the Rye. And they were plunked right here in the middle of my neighborhood.

Same for the UUs, whose building on Beacon Street I passed nearly every day. Ah, the Unitarians. If I were going to have a religion – other than ex-Catholic atheist – I would definitely be a UU. When my husband – and fellow ex-Catholic atheist – died, I turned to the UUs for a place to hold his memorial service. Although there was one or two mentions of the “G” word snuck into Jim’s service – I think they were there in a song or two – they worked with me on making something near-perfect.

So I was sorry to see the UUs go.

But I get it.

They aren’t making any more real estate on Beacon Hill. And there are plenty of rich folks coming into town, looking for condos, who aren’t necessarily attracted to all the ab-fab high rise buildings going up. They want character more than they want a health club. They want charm more than they want a view. And there’s character and charm a-plenty on Beacon Hill. Take it from one who lives in a high-charm, high-character condo: them bones, them bones, them old bones are good.

All this translated into big bucks for the UUs. They got to move into cheaper digs, and developers got to develop more swank condos.

And now the Appalachian Mountain Club, which does things like maintain hiking trails in the White Mountains, is following suit.

After nearly a century of managing its trails, huts, outdoor activities, and conservation efforts from a group of brick bowfronts on Beacon Hill, the Appalachian Mountain Club said Monday it has sold its headquarters there and is hunting for a bigger space in Boston. (Source: The Boston Globe)

They’ve sold their digs on Joy Street for $15M, which will be going “back to their original residential use.”

Well, not hardly.

I doubt that the “their original residential use” included kitchens kitted out with Gaggenau ranges and SubZero fridges. (Not that there’s anything wrong with a SubZero fridge. Some of my best friends, in fact, have them. And, say, now that I think of it, there’s one in my kitchen. But there’s absolutely no Gaggenau range in there.) And the original residents were rich old Brahmin bankers, lawyers, and China-trade traders – not management consultants, hedgies, and bio-tech-noids.

Not that I begrudge more rich management consultants, hedgies, and bio-tech-noids coming into the hood. And the truth is, the more their money pours in here, the more my place will be worth.

Still, I’ll miss having the UUs and the AMC as part of the old ecosystem.

But the AMC wants more room. They want some outdoor-ness.They want parking. (Hey, shouldn’t the AMC not want their employees to drive????) They also want “a more diverse neighborhood.”

I’ll give them that. This neighborhood is quaint, charming, convenient (if you don’t have a car), and interesting. But it’s not exactly diverse.

And it will be getting less so, without having the diversity of organizations like the UUs and the AMC in our midst, I’m afraid.

But tempus does seem to fugit.

“The majority of the world is living in cities now, and if we don’t connect them to the outdoors we’re in trouble,” [AMC’s John] Judge said. “We’re the country’s oldest conservation organization, but how are we going to engage the next generation with the outdoors and leadership? For us, it’s a pivot point.”

To pull off his “outdoor city” strategy, Judge said, AMC needs to be louder and a more prominent member of Boston’s civic life. It must work more closely with Boston’s universities and corporations. It must recruit more aggressively. And it needs a new headquarters site that makes a statement — that isn’t tucked away, out of sight, on a tony Beacon Hill lane with millionaire neighbors.

When I moved to The Hill, 40 years ago, it was not all that tony.

Some of the old establishments are still here: the wondrous Gary Drug and the equally wondrous Charles Supply. And I think The Sevens Pub has been here forever, without spending a dime to reno its look and feel. It’s under new ownership, but the Paramount has also been here forever. (Wish there were no lines outside the door all the time. They do make a great grilled cheese.)

But it was quite a bit funkier – there were still rooming husbands (one of which my husband-to-be lived next to), and a lot of the funky old places. Those funky old places and most of the antique stores are gone, replaced by upscale restaurants and boutiques catering to all those millionaire neighbors of mine.

Wish that the UUs had stuck around, and that the AMC had stayed here, too. We’ll be more bland and ritzy with them gone.

Oh, boo hoo…

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Leaning Tower of San Francisco

By the year 2100, the area where I live will be under water.

Fortunately for me, I will be long gone. Not only will I have cagily sold my condo the day before the market peaks, and passed papers the day before a 100 year Sandy-style storm floods my building, but – by 2100 – I will be long DEAD and gone.

Boston’s Back Bay (there’s a reason it’s called Back Bay) and the flats of Beacon Hill (where I live) are built on reclaimed land. In fact, the landfill that reclaimed it came, I believe, from the lopped off top of Beacon Hill. This made Beacon Hill less of a hill, while also making Beacon Hill more of a neighborhood.

All of the residential buildings in the hood are old. Old-old. My block dates to the early 1860’s. And one of the peculiarities of old buildings is that most of those put up on reclaimed territory have wooden pilings.

Despite the future coming of the great flood, one of the problems in my area occurs when the water table drops. When that happens, those wooden pilings dry out. So most of the homes on the flats (and, I suspect, in Back Bay) have had to replace their pilings at some point.

When I lived on Brimmer Street, the back yard of the house we lived in was a mucky construction zone for months while our landlord replaced the pilings. Fortunately for us, the pilings in the building where I now live were replaced prior to our buying our condo.

Still, there are plenty of things to worry about – that Sandy-like storm, for one - which could send the Charles River gushing through the windows on my lower floor.

There are other problems, as well.

Right after my renovation project finished last fall, the floor in the front ground floor unit fell about 3/4”. This came as quite a shock to the 99 year old fellow who lived there and his home health care attendant. My unit, which also has a ground floor component, dropped a bit in the corner by the door, but was mostly spared the full drop.

At first, we were concerned that the entire building was compromised – visions of the firemen coming and giving us all 5 minutes to pack what we could – but it turned out to be a relatively small-p problem. Bad, but not condemn-the-building bad.

In any case, I fully understand how unnerving it can be when bad things happen to good buildings, especially for the residents of said buildings.

Thus I read with interest a story in The Boston Globe the other day on San Francisco’s Millennium Tower, a lux-y condo building that, when its apartments were up for sale seven years ago, neglected to disclose a critical point. Sure, they notified prospective owners that the they might hear street traffic, and that the landscaping specs could change if the plants they thought they were going to use weren’t available.

But the 21-page disclosure document left out what owners of units in the buildings now say was a crucial detail: that the building had already sunk more than 8 inches into the soft soil by the time it was completed in 2009, much more than engineers had anticipated…

The Millennium Tower, which its developers say is the largest reinforced concrete building in the western United States, has now sunk about 16 inches and is leaning 6 inches toward a neighboring skyscraper. The building’s tilt has become a public scandal, a dispute that has produced a wide-eyed examination of whether San Francisco’s frenetic skyscraper-building spree was properly monitored by city authorities. (Source: Boston Globe)

I guess it goes without saying that an issue like this is of particular concern in a city like San Francisco, which has been known to have an earthquake or two. And which – unlike other cities with tall buildings – doesn’t have bedrock to anchor its skyscrapers. (Despite it being built on swamp, the tall buildings in Boston’s Back Bay bore through the landfill guck and get built on bedrock. There aren’t really any tall buildings on Beacon Hill itself.)

Needless to say, the Millennium Tower condo owners are none to happy, as they’re looking at property values that will be worth a lot less than what they paid. The sewage connections may fail. The elevators could stop functioning if the building keeps tilting. And then there’s the ultimate fear: someone figures out it might topple and declare the building uninhabitable. See you in court!

Nicholas Sitar, who’s a civil engineering professor at U Cal Berkeley is quoted in the article saying, “Any time you have a tall structure leaning, you have to start looking very carefully.”

I’ll say. (Building overboard…)

The entire situation sounds like a big finger-pointing litigation in the making. When the Millennium Tower was built, it was one of the first skyscrapers that went up in its district. There weren’t any regulations in place on how to deal with it. Developers hadn’t built there in the past because the land was too squishy, but engineering improvements over the years made them believe that it was now okay.

Among the other things that have come out is that city correspondence with the engineers responsible for the Millennium Tower project “had disappeared from the files.” There was no rule saying the city had to keep them, so they didn’t. (Really? Isn’t most correspondence these days electronic? Doesn’t EVERYTHING get saved. I see a voyage of discovery coming up. This will be keeping lawyers busy for years to come.)

The tilting tower has produced introspection among engineers in part because when the building was completed the developers received at least nine awards for “excellence in structural engineering,” among other citations.

That introspection has led to a suggestion from one engineer that the way to save the building is to get rid of the top 20 floors. Which might be okay – if the horror show of living through your building being dismantled for a couple of years is ever going to be okay -  if you hadn’t paid $2M+ to live on one of those top 20 floors.

My brother Tom is a civil engineer, and over the course of his career he’s worked on a number of major projects. No skyscrapers that I know of, but some plenty big deals. (Tom was lead engineer on Camden Yards, the Baltimore Orioles stadium.) Shortly after 9/11, he told me that, from an engineering perspective, the Twin Towers did their job. They weren’t designed for a massive airplane to deliberately fly into them, but they were, Tom said, sufficiently well built that they lasted long enough for a lot of people to get out safely. I’ll have to ask him what he thinks about the Leaning Tower of San Francisco. I’m just glad I don’t live in it.

Monday, September 26, 2016

You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound dog

Last Friday, Bruce Springsteen was on Stephen Colbert to promote his new book, Born To Run. Colbert’s show takes place in the Ed Sullivan Theater, and the conversation between Colbert and Springsteen turned to what had been a seminal event in Bruce’s life: watching the first appearance of Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show.

I looked it up, and that first appearance was on September 9, 1956.

Like most Americans alive on September 9, 1956, I was sitting in front of the TV watching Ed Sullivan. How do I know most Americans were watching Ed Sullivan that night? Well, somewhere I came across an estimate that, by 1956, 70% plus homes in the US had a TV. Multiply that by a Neilsen rating of 86.2 – thanks, Wikipedia, I really should make a donation…. – and you get 60% of everyone. Oh, I know, this calculation is imperfect. Maybe my four year old brother Tom was watching, maybe not; and my 9 month old brother Rick was probably in bed. And, as this was the midst of the Baby Boom, plenty of other households had little kids who would have been too fidgety and squally to sit through Ed Sullivan.

But I was six, pushing seven, and I surely was able to watch the really big show (actually pronounced ‘shew’), as Ed would have had it. And my sister Kath was, too.

We, of course, were a family of Ed Sullivan regulars.

First off, there didn’t used to be all that many choices. In 1956, there were three broadcast networks, and that was about it. Later on, there were UHF stations unaffiliated with a national network, but if there were any broadcasting in the Worcester area in 1956, they weren’t beaming into our living room. We got the Boston stations – 4, 5 and 7, and the Providence stations – 10 and 12. (Poor forlorn little Worcester: we didn’t get a TV station of our own until Channel 27 blew into town. I take it that it’s now a Spanish-language station, but back in the day it carried excellent content like reruns of B&W 1950’s TV shows, Abbot and Costello and Bowery Boys films, and a really low-rent version of Bozo. Given the caliber of high-rent versions of Bozo, it’s difficult to imagine a low-rent version being even worse, but trust me on this one.)

But we were Ed Sullivan watchers not just by the baptism of there being not much else on, but by the desire watch it.

For one thing, Ed Sullivan was a Catholic. (Extra points for being an Irish Catholic.) So what if he always seemed so pinched and dour. So what if his wife was Jewish. He was on of us, which made Sunday night with Ed almost a Holy Day of Obligation.

Not to mention the varied entertainment that the show offered: Metropolitan Opera singers, guys spinning plates on their noses – for acts like this, my father would always ask out loud how someone managed to find out they had this talent  - Borscht Belt shtick comics, bits from Broadway shows, classical violinists, dancing bears… And, of course, on September 9, 1956, Elvis Presley.

We watched in the living room of the new house we’d moved into just a few months earlier, moving on up the hill behind my grandmother’s, into a single family home that I believe was smaller than the flat we had in my grandmother’s decker. But which was ours. Sure, the rooms may have been pokey – the bedrooms, once the beds and dressers went in, had maybe 10 square feet to maneuver around in. And we’d left a large eat-in (and sleep-in*) kitchen with pantry for a tiny little kitchen in which, once everyone was squished around the new Formica dinette set, no one could move. But it was ours. It had a far bigger yard to run around in than Nanny’s decker did. And we didn’t have to worry about disturbing Nanny’s peace. (Not to mention that it had the unimaginably posh extra of a second bathroom.)

So there we were, on Sunday night, September 9, 1956, watching Elvis Presley wiggle his hips and sing “Love Me Tender,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” and a tiny bit of “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog”.

I don’t remember the music. Nor do I remember that Ed Sullivan was out that night, and Charles Laughton was the substitute host.

I do remember liking it that Elvis shook it up, and that he reminded my quite of bit of my sixteen-year old Uncle Bob, who also had black pompadour-ish hair and a penchant for outsized sport coats. (Or did Bob adopt this look post-Elvis? In any case, Bobby was one of my heroes, having won me a plaster-of-Paris kewpie doll at Riverview Park in Chicago on one of our visits to my mother’s home ground. Plus Bobby had the immense cool to hang foam dice in his hot rod. What’s not to love?)

But mostly what I remember was school the next morning.

When Sister Aloysius St. James asked our class whether anyone had watched Elvis Presley on Ed Sullivan the night before, 50 little hands shot up. We were so little – only six or seven – we didn’t yet smell a typical nun trap. You’d think that, having endured the first grade torture chamber run by Sister Marie Leo the prior year, we would have wised up. But, no.

Having told us we could put our hands down, she asked Question Number Two: how many families turned off the television set once Elvis Presley began performing?

This time, only Francis George’s hand was raised.

Ah, Sister Aloysius St. James told us with a sigh, there was only one decent Catholic family in our entire class, and that was the Georges.

I’m not sure what words she used to describe Elvis, but I’m sure evil and sin factored in there. Filthy probably, indecent. She may have thrown in immoral, although none of us would have known the word.

When Bruce Springsteen saw Elvis Presley, he was inspired to become a rock and roller.

Me, I thought Elvis, the way he swiveled his hips, was funny. But the next morning, when Sister Aloysius St. James asked her question, and told me and 48 other little kids that our families weren’t very good, the little seed was planted in my little mind that kept asking and asking and asking: if they’re telling me that my mother and father are bad people for watching Elvis on Ed Sullivan, what else are they telling us that flat out isn’t true?

Anyway, I hadn’t realized that I’d missed the 60th anniversary of Elvis on Ed Sullivan. But know it now, thanks to Bruce’s book tour. The book sounds pretty interesting by the way, even if you’re a casual or non fan of The Boss.

Meanwhile, I wonder whether Francis George is still a good Catholic, or whether the pronouncement on his family’s goodness woke him a bit up, too. 

*Sleep-in kitchen, you might be asking yourself? Yes, indeedy. Our kitchen, as did my grandmother’s, had a studio couch in the kitchen that was used for seating – the kitchen was truly the hub of the hangout universe – and, when folded out, sleeping facilities for two guests.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Do the laws of supply and demand not apply to the food industry?

Well, Mario Batali’s Eataly is coming to Boston.

For those not among the cognoscenti, Eataly (great name, by the way), is an Italian markeplace: restaurants, food shops, gifts, take out. It’s going in the place where the tired Prudential Food Court drearily lived for years. (Think Panda Express and cookies.) I’ve been by but not into the Eataly in NYC (the other US city that has one is Chicago), and it looks like just the sort of place that will lure me in: all sorts of pasta, all sorts of breads, gelato – I’m guessing. And only a 10 minute walk from my house.

I need a new serving bowl for pasta. I now know where to look.

I hope that Eataly doesn’t cut into the business of the still-standing little mom and pop shops in the North End. And I’ll back that hope with a vow to continue to nip down the alley into Bricco, right off Hanover Street, when I’m in desperate need for some magnificent Italian bread.

Still, I’m quite sure that I’ll get sucked into Eataly sooner rather than later. Just to see what will be on offer in their 44,000 square feet of marketplace.

Meanwhile, the thing that’s got Boston buzzing about this is wondering where they’re going to find the 600 workers they need to staff it.

Boston, it seems, is already suffering from a “massive shortage of food-industry workers.”

“It spreads what’s already in short supply even thinner,” said Jason Santos, a Boston restaurateur who plans to open his new Back Bay restaurant, Buttermilk and Bourbon, around the same time Eataly debuts.

Said Bob Luz, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, “It’ll obviously exacerbate what is already a very delicate ecosystem as it is today. There’s no question it’s going to have an impact.” (Source: Boston Globe)

A side point:

Am I the only one whose stomach gives a heave at the thought of a restaurant called Buttermilk and Bourbon. Buttermilk is for making Irish soda bread and pancakes. What’s that got to do with bourbon? I know it’s been a long time – decades, in fact – since I downed any brown spirits, but I was known to quaff a Jack Daniels or two back in the day. I must admit that I drank Jack in some putrid combinations – with Coke, with cranberry juice (a Scarlett O’Hara?), with (can this be right?) Hires Root Beer (diet) – but bourbon and buttermilk?

I’ll have to peek in when I’m storming past to get to Eataly to buy my pasta bowl, but I suspect I’ll take a pass on dropping in. Probably not aimed at the geezer demographic, no longer able to hold their liquor, anyway.

Why is Boston so strapped for restaurant workers?

It’s the result of a convergence of factors: a public transportation system that isn’t conducive to the late nights and early mornings typically required in restaurant work; and the rise of ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, which often pluck from a similar pool of job candidates.

Not to mention that the rents here are sky high, so a “line cook making roughly $13 an hour” is not going to be living anywhere near where they work. (Good thing there’ll be Uber and Lyft drivers to get them back out to the hustings.)

What Eataly has going for it is Batali’s celebrity and its reputation “as a promising place for innovative, ambitious talent.”

There are some minor concerns that they’ll be poaching “talent” from other restaurants, but Eataly doesn’t want to be a disrupter in that sense. And the North End establishments contacted don’t believe that Eataly will be wooing away their employees. (Their business, maybe.)

Anyway, it’s been a while since I took Economics 101, but I did have my own personal economist by my side for all those years, and, let’s face it, when you lie down with an economist, you wake up with supply and demand curves in your head.

And that tells me that the solution to a labor shortage is to pay the workers more.

The alternative seems to be leaving positions unfilled, or hiring folks who are less qualified. (Just how qualified you need to be to sell bags of pasta, I don’t know. I suspect I could do it. But restaurants will need people who know how to cook.) Leaving positions unfilled and/or hiring the unqualified tends to translate into poorer product and service. Which does tend to sent customers packing.

I know that there are those who would argue that raising wages will just get restaurant owners to automate everything, removing the need to have all those greedy, whining, pesky workers around bugging them.

But some places do need real humans. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be waited on by a robot, unless I was completely zonked on bourbon and buttermilk, by which point I probably wouldn’t care. And I may want to talk to a human about which pasta bowl to buy.

So let’s hear it for wages going up in Boston’s food industry. Perhaps coming soon to an Eataly near you.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Onward, Introverts!

I was going to use “Onward, INTJ’s” as my title, but then somehow I came across an online argument about whether NPD’s (i.e, those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder) were more likely to be INTJ’s than they were to be other personality types. And then I tripped on whether INTJ is the perfect personality type for someone with Asperger’s. So I said, why advertise my INTJ-ness. Let’s just go with the Introvert part.

But by way of context:

Anyone who has worked in corporate America has no doubt taken a personality test at one point or another. In one company I worked for, they gave us a quick and dirty test as part of a sales kickoff. As it turned out, all the sales people were Reds (or, as we called them, Flaming Reds), while everyone who was at the sales meeting who worked in a corporate function was an Orange, Blue, or Green. If they’d been a bit more Myers-Briggs-y, they’d have told us the Blue and Greens were the introverts, but, as we were the hold back, observe and analyze types, us Blues figured this out for ourselves.

I’ve also done the Enneagram, but I lent my really good Enneagram book to someone and never got it back, and I don’t remember what I was.

But I do remember when I was Myers-Briggsed.

I was at Wang, where entire swaths of the workforce took the test, and then went in their groups to off-sites to figure out what to do with it.

I was an INTJ.

Which stands for Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging.

Attention, Mr. Spock!

While I am certainly a well-compensated Introvert, and I’m not on the extreme end of that scale, this was the first I’d heard about being one. (The Red-Blue-Green-Orange scheme must have come later.)

I’d always known I was an oddball. It was good to have confirmation.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure, Myers-Briggs is a personality inventory that puts the theories of Carl Jung, all those archtypes, into practical, everyday practice.

You’re either an Introvert or an Extrovert. Intuitive or Sensing. Thinking or Feeling. Judging or Perceiving. (And, yes, you’re right, some of these words and categories don’t seem to make sense.)

I’m an INTJ. We’re the “Architect”. Our opposite numbers, ESFPs, are the “Entertainer.” While I actually find myself plenty entertaining, being an entertainer is my idea of a nightmare.

Anyway, according to 16 Personalities – which, by the way, has changed Perceiving to Prospecting, for some reason - here’s what INTJ-ness is all about:

It’s lonely at the top, and being one of the rarest and most strategically capable personality types, INTJs know this all too well. INTJs form just two percent of the population, and women of this personality type are especially rare, forming just 0.8% of the population – it is often a challenge for them to find like-minded individuals who are able to keep up with their relentless intellectualism and chess-like maneuvering. People with the INTJ personality type are imaginative yet decisive, ambitious yet private, amazingly curious, but they do not squander their energy.

Yep. Mostly.

With a natural thirst for knowledge that shows itself .early in life, INTJs are often given the title of “bookworm” as children. While this may be intended as an insult by their peers, they more than likely identify with it and are even proud of it, greatly enjoying their broad and deep body of knowledge. INTJs enjoy sharing what they know as well, confident in their mastery of their chosen subjects.

Yep. Entirely.

A paradox to most observers, INTJs are able to live by glaring contradictions that nonetheless make perfect sense – at least from a purely rational perspective. For example, INTJs are simultaneously the most starry-eyed idealists and the bitterest of cynics, a seemingly impossible conflict. But this is because INTJ types tend to believe that with effort, intelligence and consideration, nothing is impossible, while at the same time they believe that people are too lazy, short-sighted or self-serving to actually achieve those fantastic results. Yet that cynical view of reality is unlikely to stop an interested INTJ from achieving a result they believe to be relevant.

That’s about right.

I was wondering just how much ethnicity (my antecedents being Irish and German) factored in here. 16 Personalities handily lets you find out. As the world turns out, the Irish are more apt to be Introverts, Intuitive, and Thinking than are the average persons in Europe. And Germans are more likely to be Introverts, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging. Achtung, baby: ve have a vinner!

But enough about me putting the “my” in Myers-Briggs by running on about my personality inventory. (Jeez, am I really an NPD?) What triggered this post was an article in a recent Economist on the unfortunate, shabby (as they have it) approach that the corporate world takes to us introverts:

The biggest culprit is the fashion for open-plan offices and so-called “group work”. Companies rightly think that the elixir of growth in a world where computers can do much of the grunt work is innovation. But they wrongly conclude that the best way to encourage creativity is to knock down office walls and to hold incessant meetings. This is ill-judged for a number of reasons. It rests on a trite analogy between intellectual and physical barriers between people. It ignores the fact that noise and interruptions make it harder to concentrate. And  companies too often forget that whereas extroverts gain energy from other people, introverts need time on their own to recharge. (Source: The Economist)

Italics mine!

The other day, I had an on-site meeting with an open-office client. Although I don’t go into meet in person with my clients very often, I have a few that I occasionally drift in to see. This company is not my only open-office client, but it has embraced the concept with a vengeance. It gives me the willies.

The recent fashion for hyper-connectedness also reinforces an ancient prejudice against introverts when it comes to promotion. Many companies unconsciously identify leadership skills with extroversion—that is, a willingness to project the ego, press the flesh and prattle on in public. This suggests that Donald Trump is the beau idéal of a great manager.

Italics again mine. Beau idéal my royal, INTJ arse.

Yet in his book “Good to Great”, Jim Collins, a management guru, suggests that the chief executives who stay longest at the top of their industries tend to be quiet and self-effacing types. They are people who put their companies above their egos and frequently blend into the background.

“Good to Great” is one of those business books I have around somewhere. I think I read it. Part of it, anyway. (I think I had to for a client, for some reason. I don’t feel I’ve read it. I’m such a thinker!)

The article goes on that companies need to do something to make the workplace a happier milieu for their introverts: quiet areas, offices. I’d add not promoting all those self-aggrandizing blowhards to the mix. Unless those self-aggrandizing blowhards are managing robots:

One study that looked at operations lower down an organisation shows that extroverts are better at managing workers if the employees are just expected to carry out orders, but those who tend towards introversion are better if the workers are expected to think for themselves.

Fortunately, my career has been in technology – albeit in marketing – where it’s mostly okay to be an introvert.

Extraversion and introversion aren’t black and white, they aren’t binary. Most folks are on a continuum.

But I’m happy to see my peeps get their day. Onward, Introverts!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

“Ten Restaurants that Changed America”

Not that I was ever a foodie, but back in the day my husband and I did a lot of eating out, and a lot of that eating out was done at high-end restaurants. In our later dining out years, we settled into being regulars at a couple of locals, venturing out occasionally to try something new. But we pretty much knocked off of our lists any place where you even vaguely had to dress up.

Not that Paul Freedman’s new book, Ten Restaurants That Changed America, is all given over to foodie places – hey, HoJo’s is on the list!. But the review I read of it in The New Yorker got me thinking about some of the fine – and not so fine – dining Jim and I did over the years, and I found that I’d actually been to six of the places on the list. Not bad, especially when you take into account that one of them (Delmonico’s) went out of business in 1923, and another (Le Pavillon) closed when I was in high school.

Knowing little about the points that Freedman is actually making in his book, let’s start with Le Pavillon, in NYC.

While Le Pavillon was before our time, my husband and I used to go to NYC fairly regularly, and in the early days, we used to make sure that we had at least one meal at Caravelle, Lutece, or La Côte Basque.

La Côte Basque, which was founded by Henri Soulé  - founder of Le Pavillon, so I’m only one degree of separation - was pretty much our favorite. I blogged about our adventures there a couple of months back. La Côte – I can still picture the wonderful murals on the walls – had fabulous food, and you could often spot a quasi-celeb there. One time it was some cast members of the soap All My Children, another time, some big executive who was much in the news at the time we spotted him, as someone had just done a tell-all book on the shenanigans at his company.

After La Côte closed, we tried The Four Seasons and absolutely hated it. Beautiful, in a retro Mad Man kind of way, but completely uninspired. I remember my veal chop was okay, but my dijon shrimp appetizer – shrimp with a plop of mustard – was pretty blah. When the waiter asked whether I liked it, I told him I thought it was somewhat boring. He reported back to the kitchen and someone wearing a toque blanche came out and stood in the door and glowered at me.

For a couple of years, Jim and I alternated trips to NYC with trips to California. In San Francisco, we ate a bunch of the biggies (L’Orangerie, Ernies…), but the one that made the Freedman list was the Mandarin.

I remember thinking that the food was overrated – I liked Shun Lee in NYC better – but my purest recall was reaching under the table for some unbeknownst reason and finding it rimmed with a bunch of wads of chewing gum. Completely disgusting, and put me off my feed. So maybe the food really was great, but I just could get by the chewing gum.

Jim and I ventured out of SF a couple of times, to Berkeley and Napa. But I don’t think we ever ate at Chez Panisse. The one Berkeley meal I remember was at a not-so-good Thai place. We over-ordered and didn’t like the food, but were embarrassed to tell the waiter we didn’t want doggy bags. We gave it to a homeless guy. Hope he enjoyed it more than we did.

In Napa, we ate at a couple of places that I believe were sort of Chez Panisse-y. (The Mustard Grill?)

The final restaurant on the “Changed America” list where I ate with Jim was Howard Johnson.

I’d eaten at them before – hey, I’m a New Englander – but my most memorable time was when Jim and I went winter camping in the Catoctin Mountains with a couple of his friends. After a couple of nights nearly freezing to death, we took a break to stay at a HoJo’s in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where, after taking much-needed showers, and taking much-needed naps in a much-needed warm bed, we ate in the restaurant. Nothing has ever tasted better to me than that grilled hot dog.

A couple of places on Freedman’s list I made it to without Jim.

Somewhere along the line, I ate at a Schrafft’s, although I mostly know them from being a candy company in Boston, and for their building, which still stands, in the Charlestown section.

On my second trip to NYC, as a college student, I ate at Mama Leone’s. Loud, hectic, and not especially good, unless you like watery ravioli. But, hey, we were college kids – not to mention tourists – and what did we know. At one point, Mama Leone’s opened an outpost in Boston, and I ate there once on something of a lark with a couple of friends. As a free appetizer, they put out a plate of olives. I chose a large one, and, when I went to bite into it, my teeth hit bite marks. Fine dining at its best.

In 1972, my college roommate and I drove cross country, and our one fancy, dress up meal, was at Antoine’s. I even remember what I wore – a purple jersey mini-dress – and what I ate – Oysters Rockefeller and Pompano en Papillote. And I remember that the service was very solicitous. Touristy, hell yes, but, when in tourist-ville. Fast forward a decade or so, and Jim and I spent a long weekend in New Orleans. I think we took a pass on Antoine’s. But we did eat bread pudding every day.

Sylvia’s, despite all of our New York trips, was not a place that Jim and I ever ventured to. Maybe next time I’ll do the Harlem Shuffle on up there!

Meanwhile, the book sure looks interesting. With my waitressing past – including stints at two of the oldest restaurants in America, Durgin-Park and the Union Oyster House – I’m quite sure I’ll find it interesting.



Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Just in case you were wondering: an update on Nubrella

Since I’ve now been blogging for a full decade, I frequently see news stories that update news stories I posted about in the way back.

The latest was an article from The Boston Globe last week about Alan Kaufman and his Nubrella, the subject of a post I did in 2010.

For those who haven’t memorized everything I’ve written, the Nubrella was the umbrella reimagined, a hands-free helmet like apparatus. When I wrote about it, I was considering investing in a Nubrella – which I really want to type as “NUMBrella” for some reason – rather than continuing to buy a couple of crummy umbrellas each year. At the time of my writing, Kaufman was about to appear on Shark Tank. And I was going to watch to see what happened:

I will definitely be tuning the Tank in when they consider Kaufman's Nubrella. And I'm absolutely considerinnubrella.pngg a purchase - although, at $49.99 plus shipping, that's a good 5 or 6 crappy, fall-apart umbrellas from Filene's....

Plus there's the goofy-looking factor. Do I have the courage to be seen in one? Can I, for once, be an early adopter of brave new technology, rather than a second-waver?

Stay tuned. I'm seriously considering a purchase. (I will be ordering the one with the black back, which looks like a cross between a gun turret in a WWII bomber, and an Amish buggy. What's not to like?)

Well, I guess I get to award myself a couple of Pinocchios here. Not only did I not watch Kaufman on Shark Tank, I did not seriously consider a purchase – at least not starting the minute after I hit “publish” and uploaded the post. (Meanwhile, forgive a bit of a sniff-sniff boohoo-ery here. In 2010, I was buying all those crappy umbrellas at Filene’s Basement, which went out of business in 2011. Fortunately, Marshall’s and TJ Maxx, or Staples in a pinch, are good sources for cheap near-disposable umbrellas. Still, having shopped there for my whole entire life up until 2011, I do miss me my Filene’s B.)

Anyway, Kaufman is back in the news. In fact, he’s suing the Sharks.

By now, most of us know better than to take “reality” TV at face value. But Alan Kaufman, a Newton entrepreneur who pitched his hands-free “Nubrella” on ABC’s “Shark Tank” back in 2010, claims in a lawsuit that the show’s producers didn’t just fudge a few inconsequential details for the sake of drama — they lied about nearly everything.

A verbal agreement made on air that would have seen two of the “sharks,” or judges, invest $200,000 in Nubrella? Kaufman said he never got a penny. And a follow-up episode in which Nubrella appears to sign a distribution deal with The Sharper Image? Completely fabricated, he claimed.

Kaufman claims these distortions — along with re-runs of the show that depict an outdated version of his product — have brought him to the brink of ruin. So last week, he filed a pro-se lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court against the media and production companies behind Shark Tank, seeking compensation for lost investment opportunities, a cut of the revenue earned each time an episode featuring Nubrella airs, and a clear label indicating when the episodes originally ran. (Source: Boston Globe)

Is Kaufman the only person on the face of the earth who doesn’t get that “reality” shows are anything but? And after they treated him so shabbily – the two Sharks who said they were considering investing in him ended up blowing him off – why did he agree to make a follow up, ‘where are they now’ episode, in which he’s seen making a deal with Sharper Image. (Which he now claims had such a rotten reputation that they were the last place he’d have done a deal with.)

Anyway, Nubrella is running out of money, and Kaufman believes that the fact that neither the Shark money nor any deal with Sharper Image materialized is making investors reluctant to smile on his Nubrella.

There are a number of things that Kaufman has going against him.

First, he’s representing himself. I suspect that whatever defense Shark Tank mounts will be anything other than pro se.

Second, he had sued the show earlier, and:

…accepted a $20,000 settlement from Sony. His new lawsuit focuses on the damages allegedly caused by frequent re-runs of the episodes since then.

I’m just a pro se blogger, but I’m guessing that this isn’t a really strong legal leg to umbrella stand on. Don’t we all know a rerun when we see one?

On the other hand, a couple of the other entrepreneurs who’ve gotten into the tank with the Sharks have also had issues with them.But no one, it seems, has been as litigious as the Kaufman.

The Nubrella look has improved greenhouse_sharktank-7_business (1)over the years: it’s not quite as ridiculous looking as it once was. It’s grown up. It looks like something that an amateur drone operator, or a birder, might wear. And Kaufman’s positioning instincts also seem to have sharpened up. He’s now more narrowly focused, aiming his ware at “people who work outside: photographers, construction workers, and so on.”

Anyway, both money and inventory are running low for Nubrella. Alas, because there’s supposedly a big deal in the making:

A major fast food chain is considering a large order, he said; its workers, who use tablet computers outside to take orders from cars stuck in long drive-through lines, will wear Nubrellas when it’s raining, to protect the devices.

Having worked for many years in a seat of our pants tech company, I know those ‘prosperity is just around the corner’ deals quite well. Good luck with that.

In the meantime, despite all that’s happened, Kaufman would like to appear again on Shark Tank.

“Just be fair. Tell the truth,” Kaufman pleaded. “Put me on the air and let’s tell the audience, ‘this is the new design, and I never did a deal with Sharper Image.’ ”

Now that episode I’ll tune in to.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Fill ‘er up

My father was a good one for taking the family out for a spin, and on many of those spins, we headed west, out of Worcester, on Route 9. On those spins, we would pass one of my favorite gas stations.

It may seem peculiar that a child would have favorite gas stations, but I had two (neither of which was the gas station where my father filled ‘er up). One was the Esso station in Webster Square. This cathedral of fuel had a massive red dome. I adored it. The other was in Spencer, on Route 9, and had an apartment over it. And not just any old apartment. This one had a portico with stone columns that held up the front part of the apartment. I fantasized living there. What could be more fun than living with half of your home suspended over nothingness – nothingness other than a couple of gas pumps? And what could be a better bonus than being able to breathe in gasoline fumes, and seeing all those rainbow gasoline swirls that appeared in puddles after a rain storm?

Other than these two specials, most gas stations in those days were strictly utilitarian. Some were cleaner than others, but that was pretty much the only differentiator. That’s changed a bit. These days, you can find a few gas stations where they’ll still pump your gas (and, pretty please, clean your windshield) for you. And more than a few gas stations that have a convenience store where you can get junk food, sodas, and lottery tickets.

The Guess Corporation will be taking things further – a lot further – when it opens its members-only luxury GAS statoinstation in Greenwich, Connecticut. In order to join, your household has to have a net worth of $50M. But that’ll get you access to more than just a gas station. The space will also include a convenience store, designer clothing boutique and waterpark.

Once the Greenwich GP Club – the first of what the Guess folks guess will be have 250 clubs in its empire - opens,

… elites won’t have to wait next to some Joe Schmoe at the pump: A valet and concierge will greet members upon arrival before whisking their cars away to get fueled, hand-washed and waxed.

While waiting, members will be able to relax from their lives’ difficulties in a sleeping suite or catch up on business in a video-conference room…An on-site steakhouse will offer more refined food for travelers than hot dogs or beef jerky. (Source: USA Today)

Sleeping suite? It’s so taxing to motor over from your mansion in the leafy confines of Greenwich that you need to take a nap when you get there?

And although I was enough of an odd-ball that I once wanted to live over a gas station, I’ve become a bit more refined in my tastes. Sure, I’d buy a bag of M&M’s or Swedish Fish in the convenience store, but I wouldn’t actually eat under a gas station dome, hot dog or steakhouse.

“Greenwich is considered an ultra-affluent city in America, and we think it is important for GP Club to have a presence in the city,” Tiffany Taylor, a Guess Corporation vice president, said in an email to the Time.

Welcome to New England, Tiffany. But I gotta tell you, Greenwich is a town, not a city. These things matter in these parts.

The annual membership fees haven’t been revealed quite yet, but they do entitle members to take a nap, buy designer clothing, pump gas, or run a business meeting at any of the other GP Clubs.

But I don’t think there’ll be all that many out there.

In fact, I’d be surprised if the Greenwich edition – at least as currently spec’d – ever gets off the ground.

For one thing, there really doesn’t seem to be much cachet to joining a gas station, and cachet is a lot of what ultra-tony Greenwicah is all about. Oh, sure, this really isn’t a gas station. It’s a private club. Just one that’s dedicated to taking care of some retail and other “needs”, rather than to Cos Cob hobnobbing, golf, or racquet sports.  Maybe there are enough hedgies there who’ll be willing to spend big bucks, just because they can. But it just doesn’t seem Nantucket red, college-snob enough to attract that many members.

Seems moreTrump-ish to me than Greenwich. But what do I know. Just googled the primary results, and damned if Trump didn’t get 500 more votes than Kasich there. Maybe if they put in gilt toilets in the rest rooms, and ormolu pumps. It will be the best ever. They say.

Fill ‘er up.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Wanted Dead or Alive

I grew up in The Great Age of the TV Western. There were just too many to list, from those oriented just for kids (like Fury and Range Rider), to Warner Brothers staples (Maverick, Cheyenne), to the offbeat shows like Have Gun Will Travel, to the long-lasting shows like Bonanza and Gunsmoke. And then there were a couple of peculiar little shows, one of which was Wanted Dead or Alive, which introduced the world to Steve McQueen.

While there were exceptions – Maverick and Have Gun Will Travel – most of the leads in the cowboy shows were earnest, upstanding, boring, do-gooding fellows of tremendous rectitude who would not have been out of place at a Shriners Club meeting c. 1958. In fact, you could probably have rounded up all the regular characters on those shows(other than James Gardner in Maverick and Richard Boone in Have Gun Will Travel), and shipped them off to any pre-2016 Republican convention. I can definitely see Mitt Romney in a cowboy hat and string tie, shaking hands with Pa Cartwright.

One show that stood out from most of the other ‘aw, shucks,’ white-hat Westerns was Wanted Dead or Alive.

Josh Randall (Steve McQueen) was every bit as taciturn and white-hat as most of the fellows who populated cowboy shows, but he was also slouchy and sexy. (Not that I had a clue was sexy was when I was in my Western-watching prime. I always had some crush or another, but when I look back on those crushes, it’s with a big ‘huh?’) Josh Randall had a slurry way of speaking. Forget “Let’s go.” In Josh Randall argot, it was “Lez go,” muttered to the bad guy he’d just apprehended.

And that’s what Josh Randall did: apprehend bad guys as a bounty hunter.

I haven’t thought about Josh Randall in quite a while. Probably not since my husband died, as, whenever we saw Steve McQueen in some old movie like The Great Escape or Bullitt, Jim was sure to mutter the immortal words “lez go.”

But bounty hunters came to mind when I saw a recent article on the profession in The Economist. (There are no bounty hunters in England, from whence cometh The Economist, but they do so enjoy cocking an occasional snook at the quaint and violent practices of the former colonies.)

Almost every state – including Massachusetts, I take it – lets a private citizen work as a “fugitive recovery agent.” And, in many states, you don’t even need a license. (Surprisingly, Massachusetts is one of them.)

Bounty hunters are hired by bail bondsmen to go fetch those who have skipped out on bail, and are paid a percentage (10-20%) of the value of the bail bond they’ve skipped out on. While bounty hunters don’t earn a ton – in Massachusetts, I read that the average annual is $74K – if you’re hunting someone who’s out on a six-figure bond, you can get quite a payday when you catch a high-priced thief.

It is not work for the faint of heart—plenty of fugitives try to fight off n pursuers. So many bounty hunters lift weights and practice a martial art or wrestling, the better to snap on handcuffs and, on some fugitives, ankle cuffs, lest they try to kick out a backseat window on the drive to jail. Tools of the trade include ballistic vests, pepper spray, Tasers, handguns and, for some jobs, a shotgun loaded with a beanbag that “folds you up like a newspaper”, says Mike “Animal” Zook, an affable bounty-hunter in Spirit Lake, Idaho. Though built like a bear, he has been clubbed and, on four jobs, stabbed. (Source: The Economist)

Clubbed and stabbed? Think I’ll take a pass on this as a second career. I’m much more cut out to be the old maid schoolmarm in the one room schoolhouse on The Big Valley.

Not everyone’s happy with the state of the bounty hunting art, regulation wise. The National Association of Fugitive Recovery Agents – which sounds like something founded after the Fugitive Slave Act went into law – is advocating for more rules and regulations, including – perhaps – a fatwa on any bounty hunter who has murdered someone.

But purist, old-school bounty hunters, especially those out west, where the buffalo and Josh Randall roamed…They want to be able to kick that door in and get their man. They maintain that a system with a 90% success rate at finding those who’ve skipped bail ain’t broke. So it don’t need no fixin.’

Unlike Josh Randall, modern bounty hunters rely on technology to help make their hunting happier.

Knowing that a certain fugitive had a weakness for 7-Eleven’s Slurpees, Mr Zook got access to security video recorded by the firm and used face-recognition software to learn when and at which outlet he was most likely to swing by. He caught the man as he emerged from an Idaho 7-Eleven with the frosty drink in hand.

Some bounty hunters resort to tricks, like pretending to deliver a package. (Me, I just can’t see Steve McQueen faking it up in a Fed Ex uniform…)

Anyway, it’s always interesting to read about an interesting profession – even one that’s violent and retro. (Lez go.)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

What not to do at work

My first thought was that it was hard to believe that there are folks so unenlightened that they need the advice from Liz Ryan on Forbes contained in her piece, “Rude Things Never To Do At Work.” And then I thought about some of my work experiences over the years and came to the conclusion that her list was both too short and too tame.

On Liz’s must avoid list is participating in “a loud mobile-phone conversation while walking down a hallway.” I would add to that: participating in a mobile phone conversation at any decibel level while in a rest room. I once observed a colleague walk into the men’s room while yacking up a storm, and exit the men’s room a minute or so later, still yacking up a storm. One would hope that these were two separate conversations – one before, one after - but who knows?

In addition to not conducting business while conducting business, I would also advise colleagues not to leave the rest room in a mess. Unbelievably, I once picked a small turd up off of a ladies room floor. (Talk about a WTF moment.) And a colleague once told me that, in a men’s room stall at work, he’d found a row of dried buggers. Eww-that!

Liz also recommends not making loud eating and drinking noises, to which I would add not eating smelly foods – like multi-day old fish – while sitting in your cubicle. I realize that one person’s gag-reflexer is another person’s appetite whetter, but in general, strong smelling foods should be avoided.

And speaking of strong smelling. Liz suggests that the lunchtime warriors who get a workout in at lunch at least sponge themselves off before resuming their non-workout work. Smelling bad at work is just something you never want to do.

That goes as well for keeping smelly things in your office that aren’t human in origin. For a couple of weeks back in the day, we were all going berserk trying to figure out why our offices were smelling so foul. We did a nose count: no one was missing, so we weren’t looking for a body. What we did eventually find was a colleague who was keeping a 50 pound sack of yams under his desk. Unfortunately, some of those yams had gone bad, and there was a suppurating mass of festering yams just sitting there, suppurating.

No arguing on the phone, either. But we all know that arguments take place at work all the time, and handling them is especially tricky given today’s mania for the open office concept, in which everyone gets to hear everyone else’s everything. Note to office designers: open concept only works if there are ample, private places where people can hold an ample, private conversation without worrying about every word being overheard. (That said, it can actually be quite entertaining to overhear an argument, even if you’re only getting one side.)

Back on the olfactory front, just say no to applying or removing nail polish. Or wearing heavy aftershave or perfumes. That’s headache inducing for a lot of people. (I do have to ask who actually applies or removes nail polish at work? Aren’t there nail salons all over the place for that????)

Liz is also against trying “to engage one co-worker in a conversation focused on bashing another co-worker.” She’s right, of course, but, let’s face it, isn’t one of the most fun aspects of work getting into an occasional bash-out? I guess the operative word is “trying” to engage. Just pick your spots with your trusted network. No soliciting, no entrapment.

You should never walk into a meeting late and ask others to catch you up. I would add to this not to spend all your time in meetings pretending you’re more important than everyone else by perpetually checking your email, sending texts, etc. Unless, of course, it’s one of those giant, boring all hands meeting and everybody’s doing it.

Don’t “ask your co-workers about their financial status, or talk about your own.” My favorite stories in this arena all seem to revolve around a woman we nicknamed “Material Girl.” I once heard here complaining to another colleague that “you can’t furnish a foyer for less than $35K, let alone a living room.” Even by today’s standards, this is an outlandish comment, let alone back in the 1980’s when the comment was made. At a time – and in a company – where I don’t think the average employee made $35K a year.

I also observed MG perched on the desk of our admin, showing off a new ring she’d gotten, and asking “Does this look like it’s worth $14 thousand?” The admin didn’t make that, and she and her husband were both working two jobs – as were their kids – to get the kids through college.

You should never “invite one co-worker to lunch while ignoring another co-worker who’s standing or sitting right there.” Yikes! Shouldn’t that be something we all learn in kindergarten? And if you don’t want that other co-worker to join – perhaps she smells of nail polish, or likes to bash others – haven’t you heard of texting?

The final caveat is about not “pushing your political or religious view on your co-workers.” I can see where this one would be particularly key this year. It brings to mind a woman at Wang who, during the 1988 election, prominently displayed on the wall of her cubicle – where you couldn’t miss it walking by – a cartoon of presidential candidate Michael Dukakis with a target drawn over his face. Hmmmm. A little bit of assassination advocating, anyone? I didn’t have much reason for contact with this woman – who, by the way, was named Maureen – but in my few casual encounters, I was well aware that she was a real pill. Anyway, I guess the grownup thing to do would have been to go to her directly and tell her I thought her sign was inappropriate. But I just didn’t want an encounter with this nasty piece of work. So I dimed her. Wang had a line you could call to anonymously report bad behavior, where I left a message that someone had a sign up that some might find inappropriate. And the next day it was gone. I don’t know if the other Maureen ever figured out who had made the call. I did know some people who worked with her, and – political sentiments aside – they couldn’t stand her. So it could have been anyone.

This incident, in turn, reminded me of another colleague who, on the outside of her cubicle, posted an ad for men’s underwear – was it Calvin Klein? -  that showed clear and present tumescence. Next to it, she had a photo of a naked woman’s foot, with a thong draped over it, being kissed by a sexy guy. Like the other Maureen, this woman was also a pill, but we all sort of liked her. And it was in a much smaller company where we all knew each other. So a couple of us told her that she might do better putting her soft-core up where she could see it, but where the rest of us didn’t have to.

What offends and what doesn’t is clearly a slippery slope. Assassination “jokes” and soft-core porn have pretty much always been on the other side of objectionable, but these days it seems anything can be considered a micro-aggression. (Who knew that saying “you guys” to a mixed group, or to a bunch of women, could trigger feminist outrage?)

As for other rude things in the workplace. How about not leaving food moldering in the communal fridge? Or taking everything but the last of the coffee and not putting another pot on? Leaving a mess in the kitchen? Leaving your dirty paper cups on the conference table after a meeting? Grrrrrr…..

I worked with one fellow who when he took “thinking breaks”, roamed around, stopping periodically to stand in someone’s doorway staring at them. (Not rude so much as loony, I guess.)

And with another guy who perpetually whistled the theme to “Gilligan’s Island”. He was in the office next to mine,and a couple of times a day I’d have to ask him to come up with a new ear worm.

I could go on, but suffice it to say that I could write a book about rude office behavior. And I’m betting most of us can say the same thing. Guess that’s what happens when you actually work with human beings.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

As the Worcester ethnic world turns…

I’m a sucker for a lot of things, and one of the things I’m a big sucker for is seeing my home town of Worcester in the news. And Worcester was in the news – The Boston Globe, anyway – last week with an article on a Ghanaian chief who now make his home in my fair (former) city.

When I was growing up, Worcester was a town of ethnics. White ethnics.

The population was majority Catholic, and most Catholic parishes had a distinct ethnic identity. Some of the parish names were dead giveaways: if you went to Our Lady of Vilna, of course, you were Lithuanian. Mount Carmel? Italian. Notre Dame des Canadiens. French, bien sûr! Our Lady of Czestochowa? Polish.

But why would Holy Name be French? Maybe something got lost in translation.

There were a fair number of Hispanics (Puerto Rican and Cuban) in Worcester when I was growing up. While most of them were Catholic, they didn’t have a church that was “theirs”. I think this was because, Hispanics were a latter-day immigrant group, having found their way to the heart of the Commonwealth after World War II, not in the great Euro-immigration waves of the 19th and early 20th century, when the incoming tribes bunched up with each other and opened a church.

Back in the day, if your church didn’t have an identifiable ethnicity, it was, by default, Irish. So Our Lady of Angels, the church my family belonged to, was Irish, as was St. Peter’s, the parish OLA spun off from when my father was a child. (Wonder if the shutters on the St. Peter’s rectory still have shamrocks on them? I think the neighborhood is largely Hispanic now.) Being Irish meant not only that most of the people in the hood were of Irish descent. It meant ditto for 99.99% of the nuns and priests. (I remember one non-Irish priest at our church when I was a kid. Father Cyril LeBeau, who had two stints at OLA. The first occurred when I was an infant, and Fr. LeBeau, new at the time, refused to baptize me Maureen because you had to have a saint’s name, and there was no damned St. Maureen. My father explained that it was an Irish variant of Mary, and that he’d be hearing plenty of it, so get used to it.)

Some of Worcester’s ethnic churches have closed. (Holy Name.) Some have shifted gears. Our Lady of Vilna serves the Vietnamese community.

There were non-Catholic ethnic groups in Worcester, as well. Greeks, Albanians, and Armenians. “Jews”, who while not associated with any particular country (at least not as far as us ethnic Catholics were concerned) were ethnicky enough. Not a lot of African Americans, for some reason. And, to my German mother’s dismay, NO Germans.

Anyway, Worcester’s ethnic makeup, as with so much of the US, has shifted over time. One way it has shifted is that it’s now something of a hub for Ghanaians.

Jonathan Swift once wrote, “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.”

And given Worcester’s notorious weather, I’d say he or she was a bold Ghanaian who first settled in Worcester.

Harry Danso may not have been the first Ghanian, but he’s probably the most important one.

Danso is known as Nana Awuah Panin III in his native country. He wears a gold crown and colorful kente cloth, resides in a palace, and is chauffeured around town.

But in Worcester, he is just Harry, a middle-aged middle manager at an endoscopy company who paints his own deck and gently discourages his Ghanaian coworkers from calling him “nana.” the word for royal chief.

“I told them not to do that,” Danso, 50, said in an interview at his Worcester home. “Home is home. Work is work.” (Source: Boston Globe)

Ghanaians are, in fact, “the largest single group of immigrants” in Worcester.

some say they are advancing quickly because they speak English, emphasize the importance of higher education, and form closeknit societies that are often led by chiefs, an ancient role that has evolved in the United States.

I don’t remember any white ethnic chiefs, but there were definitely closeknit societies: the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Franco-American Society, the It-Am (Italian American) Club, the Polish Naturalization Alliance…

My family was pretty much assimilated. Irish, but not recent Irish. (My father’s grandparents had immigrated in the 1870’s). No one belonged to the AOH. But we were most decidedly Irish.

And this Worcester Irish girl loves the fact that Ghanaians are flocking to Worcester.

I recently had a Ghanaian cab driver (in Boston), who lived in Worcester and raved about it – and all the fellow-Ghanaians who live there. Which I now know includes Harry Danso.

Danso’s been here over 30 years. He’s graduated from college, bought a home, and raised his family. He also raises money to help out back home – improving education, work opportunities, and healthcare. And as a chief, he also plays an important role helping new immigrants assimilate.

Reading about Harry Danso and the Worcester Ghanaian diaspora, I have to ask myself: when it comes to immigrants, what is it that we’re so worried about?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Oh, oh, the Wells Fargo wagon is a comin’…

It was actually a pleasant diversion to read last week about the Wells Fargo scandal. That is, of course, because I wasn’t one of the over one million bank customers who, unbeknownst to them, were signed up for a bogus account or credit card in their name, something the bank has been doing since 2011.

The phony accounts earned the bank unwarranted fees and allowed Wells Fargo employees to boost their sales figures and make more money.

"Wells Fargo employees secretly opened unauthorized accounts to hit sales targets and receive bonuses," Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said in a statement.

Wells Fargo confirmed to CNNMoney that it had fired 5,300 employees over the last few years related to the shady behavior. Employees went to far as to create phony PIN numbers and fake email addresses to enroll customers in online banking services, the CFPB said.(Source: Money/CNN)

5,300 employees – roughly 1 out of 50. That’s a pretty stunning number to be on the take.

And where were the controls in all this? Didn’t any supervisors notice any strange bursts of activity? Hell of a good job there, Bud. Keep up the good work!

And they were firing people “over the last few years”. Ummm, once they started firing people, didn’t they bother to start putting controls – controls they should have had to begin with -  in place to keep it from keepin’ on?

Oh, those cheater pants employees were plenty cagey. They took money out of existing accounts and funneled it into the new, bogus ones. But didn’t anyone notice that 1.5 million new bank accounts weren’t translating into any more deposits? Didn’t someone think it was strange the over half a million new credit card accounts weren’t actually charging anything? All they were doing was racking up annual fees.

Wells Fargo is on the hook to pay back all the victims, and they were also slapped with a hefty, $185M fine. (Well, it would be hefty if Wells Fargo wasn’t worth $250B.) Plus they had to write a mealy-mouthed apology:

"We regret and take responsibility for any instances where customers may have received a product that they did not request," Wells Fargo said in a statement.

“Received a product that they did not request.” Not to mention had money stolen from them by paying fees for those non-requested “products”. Not to mention the credit rating hits that some no doubt suffered.

Just think of poor little Opie, playing Winthrop in the Music Man, and how excited he was when the Wells Fargo wagon was a comin’ down the street, back in the day when Wells Fargo had stage coaches, and delivered the goods.

“It could be something for someone who is no relation, but it could be – yes it could be, yes it could be – something special, just for me.”

Yes, Winthrop, or it could be – yes it could be, yes it could be - a bank account opened in your name, with money taken from the account you knew about to fund it, sticking you with overdraft fees when there was less money in the account you were actually using than you thought. Or it could be – yes it could be, yes it could be -  a credit card you didn’t want, but ended up paying the annual fee on anyway.

Anyway, if 5,300 employees have been fired, we have to assume that there were a lot more who knew something was going on. Did they just smirk and roll their eyes when Bud got the bonus for the third month in a row? Did they just sit there and stew when their supervisor encouraged them to be more like Bud? He’s a real go getter, don’t you know. This must have just been swell for morale.

There were whistleblowers. Among the complaints that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau received, there were some from employees.

Still, the “survivors” have to be looking at the person at the next desk, and wondering who knew (and who said) what when.

I’m sure that the bank will have plenty of customers bailing on them. And plenty others double checking their statements.

There are few businesses where trust is more important. It’s not just the 5,300 employees who done wrong that’s the problem there. It’s the fact that the controls in place were so shoddy that all those cheeseball get-bonus-quick schemes worked.

I sure wouldn’t want to be in their compliance department…

Monday, September 12, 2016

Fifteen years on

Because the cash machine around the corner was out of order, and I’d spent most of my cash at the Brimfield Fair on a really interesting, really cool Roseville pottery vase –and the rest of my cash on light bulbs at the hardware store –  I had to go out anyway.

Because the BofA in Back Bay is pretty much the same distance as the BofA on Cambridge Street, I decided to fetch my cash from the BofA on Boylston Street.

Because the Boston Public Garden is quite literally my front yard, and it’s such a pleasant way to cut over to Boylston Street, I was going to be going that way anyway.

And because it was the 15th Anniversary of September 11, I decided I’d follow the path that takes you by Boston’s 9/11 Memorial.

Boston wasn’t the target, but the weapons used for the Twin Tower attacks were planes that took off from Logan, so most of the people on those planes were locals. And Boston being Boston, if you didn’t know someone on either of those planes, you knew someone who knew someone. I know that I did. (Plus the company I worked for at the time had a NOC – network operations center – near the top of one of the towers, and a few fellow employees were killed there. I didn’t know any of them, but I knew a couple of the guys who were on the phone with them when the tower collapsed. They had been told that they were going to be helicoptered to safety from the roof, so they died with some hope, not just stark fear.)

I’d been on one of those flights – the American Airlines morning flight to LA – a couple of times over the years.

And I’d flown out of Logan on September 10th, heading to Orlando, but out of Logan. I’d also flown in and out of Logan over the weekend, having gone to Chicago for my Aunt Kay’s wedding.

So, what if, what if…

And, so, yeah, those attacks were personal. But that’s personal with a small p, not a capital P. Not my loss. Not my grief. Other than loss and grief in a general sense, and for country. (Like pretty much everyone else on the face of the earth, I’ve got my own capital P Personal loss and grief, thanks. Just nothing to do with 911 memorial9/11.)

Yesterday morning, there was a ceremony for the families of those who died, so the 9-11Memorial was decorated. There were a dozen or so people there when I stopped by, early afternoon. In the distance, I could hear bagpipers. (I passed them later. The Fire Department was having some sort of commemoration for all those NYFD firefighters who were killed.)

Not my loss. Not my grief. There’s no one who died that day who I miss. For those who can’t say the same, I wonder if it’s “better” to have lost a loved on in such a big and public way than it is to go through the private losses and griefs that most of us endure during our lives. Although I have never  lost anyone I cared about in such a sudden and violent way, I do believe that it’s easier in general to cope with a death if there’s been some time to prepare for it. In any case, so many of those who died on 9/11 were still so young. I read somewhere that the average in NYC was only 40. Whether sudden or prepared for, young is worse than old. No denying that.

Anyway, I was happy to give my small witness, to acknowledge 9/11. This is Boston. You know someone who knew someone.

Much has changed since 9/11 – in The World, and in my world. Some for the better. Most, alas…

One thing that hasn’t improved is the crassness of marketers.

Some knuckleheads in a mattress store in Texas thought it was a good idea to have a twin tower of mattresses sale, complete with towers of mattresses that someone knocked over. (Really?) And in a Florida Walmart, some knuckleheads put together a Coke display, with cartons of Coke Zero stacked to resemble the World Trade Center. (From Ground Zero to Coke Zero…)

Another thing that hasn’t improved is the crassness of some people.

And this year’s award goes to the bachelor party bros who brought a blowup sex doll to the 9/11 Memorial and take some selfies with it. (Yuck…) Turns out, they were Brits. But they were also Wall Streeters. No surprise there. It could have been worse, I suppose. They could have done some dwarf-tossing while they were at it. Or been doing jello shots off the belly of the sex doll.

There’s not a ton of stuff that I hold sacred, not a ton of stuff that I don’t think you can make fun of. But seriously, bachelor party folks, are you not aware that, given how few bodies were recovered, the 9/11 Memorial is something of a graveyard. Especially in the minds of those whose loved ones’ bodies were never found. Selfies are one thing. But the blowup doll? Why don’t you all just go and brexit yourselves?

Fifteen years on, there’s still plenty to think about…


Here’s a post that I did on 9/11, a few years back: Just another day at the office.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Coming in on a wing and a burrito…

I saw in the news yesterday the the long national campus nightmare of midnight starvation may be drawing to an end. Later this month, Alphabet/Google, in partnership with Chipotle, will be testing out a new service, in which drones will be delivering burritos and bowls (and a side of virus) to the Virginia Tech campus.


Why, when I was a girl, we never dreamed of burritos. Let alone drones.

If we wanted something to eat, by golly, we actually left our dorm rooms and foraged.

I was in college during a time when no one in particular actually gave a rat’s ass how crummy the dorms were or how terrible the caf food was. But even for its time and place, the food at my college was stunningly terrible.

Just how terrible was it?

Well, we had nicknames for a number of the dishes, and these nicknames included Abortion, Charles River Scum, and Puck.

I actually think that the food service kept these atrocities on the menu to keep the food costs down. Serve up Puck, and watch the meal count go down by a couple of hundred.

On our small, urban campus, where no dorm was more than a 30 second walk from the cafeteria, so many students took to calling over to see what was for dinner that they started posting menus in the dorms.

There was definitely fast food around when I was in school, but I don’t recall whether there was a McDonald’s nearby. Or whether I ever ate at a Mickey D’s or Burger King during the school years. (Summers, I definitely contributed to the tote board on how many burgers were served. One summer, while working at H. H. Brown Shoe, contributing (or maybe undermining) the war effort by polishing boots destined for Vietnamese paratroopers, I ate lunch at the nearby McDonald’s pretty much every day.)

While fast food wasn’t such a big thing when I was in school – there just weren’t that many outlets around – we did have options when it came to eating somewhere other than the caf.

On campus, there was a miserable little snack bar called Huey’s, after the Chinese guy who ran it. I’m not sure what was on the menu. Mostly I remember that, whatever it was – bagel, BLT – it was soggy. In that respect, Huey took a page from our general cafeteria recipe book. But some nights a soggy bagel was infinitely preferable to a heaping helping of Charles River Scum.

Occasionally, we crossed the street and bought dinner – i.e., a half pint of vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry ice cream – from an outfit called Dirty Drug. Was it actually a drug store, or did it just sell a couple of flavors of ice cream?

Moving further afield, we’d venture over to the Purity Supreme market and pick up bread and cold cuts. And everyone kept a couple of cans of Campbell’s soup in their desk.

If we were feeling flush, we’d “dine” at Pewter Pot, the Fatted Calf, Jack and Marion’s Deli – where my cousin MB and I once witnessed a knife fight in the open-concept kitchen, or Ken’s a fancy-arse deli that specialized in cheese cake. (As far as we were concerned, anyway.)

On weekends, we might troop over to Cambridge for a sandwich from Elsie’s, Tommy’s or Tasty (later made famous in Good Will Hunting), or something more sophisticated at the Blue Parrot or Grendel’s (still going strong, and, I’m guessing, still observing the same standards of hygiene).

Was there such a thing as calling out for food and getting it delivered?

If there was, we never took advantage of it. Part of the fun of being in the city was getting out and about in the city. And part of living in a dorm was putting up with a tiny room with cinder block walls – no TV, no phone, maybe a stereo. We WANTED to get out.

Not today’s kids. They want IN. So Alphabet’s giving them Project Wing, which:

will use self-guided hybrids that can fly like a plane or hover like a helicopter. They will make deliveries from a Chipotle food truck to assess the accuracy of navigation systems and how people respond.

The devices will hover overhead and lower the Chipotle edibles with a winch.

The burrito-bearing aircraft will be flown by automation, but human pilots will be standing by to take control if necessary to comply with FAA rules, he said. Because regulations also don’t allow drones to fly over people, participants will be shielded, according to the company.(Source: Bloomberg)

This proof of concept is aimed at showing the FAA how all this will work without killing people. (No word on whether it will impact people taking ill.) For Virginia Tech, it’s part of an initiative that will give them some cred on emerging transpo technology. For Chipotle, it’s a way to sell more grub. For the students, it’s a way to laze around and get served by hip and happen’ tech.

I am not looking forward to the day when drones are sweeping through the skies delivering books, bedding, and burritos. I imagine feeling like Tippi Hedren in The Birds. I won’t be able to decide whether to venture out to do my burrito shopping (in my case, from Boloco, not Chipotle) in person, as God intended it. Or barricade myself inside, going through my supply of canned goods until I starve to death. What an existential crisis that will be.

Meanwhile, I can’t help but feel that we were better off, when Puck was on the menu, to have to hit the streets looking for something to eat, rather than, like today’s students, just app-ing up a burrito and waiting for a drone to drop it in our laps.

With that, I’ll leave you with a link to what the words “flying” and “burrito” meant back when I was in college.

Since I’m having trouble embedding a YouTube, I give you “Wild Horses,” by the Flying Burrito Brothers, with a note that wild horses couldn’t drag me into looking forward to drone-world.