Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hey, Houston, ready to get your ERP/Cloud back online?

I’ve been monitoring the doings in Houston via the news, and via my friend John’s Facebook page. John lives in Houston, and, as of this writing (Monday evening), is still in his home, and still with power.

In addition to being a Houstonian (by way of growing up in Connecticut and living in Boston and DC), John is one of the smartest and best all-round marketers I know. He’s just incredibly versatile, and can pretty much do anything on the marketing continuum – and do it well. John is also very thoughtful.

So, even though I’m sure that John would agree with me that savvy marketers should take advantage of new opportunities as they emerge, he never, ever, ever in the whole wide world would have done something as ridiculous as send out the sort of email blast that he was on the receiving end of on Monday – the first “work” day of the unimaginable Houston flood. Here’s the email that John found in his mailbox the other day:

Dear John,

Our heart goes out to you and your families as we hear the stories coming out of Houston and affected areas. Thanks to organizations like the Red Cross, we are able to donate and will continue to do everything we can to help in providing emergency supplies to the affected areas.

We understand that in times of crisis, people matter and always come first, so we’ll be doing everything we can to support our fellow Texans.

From a practical perspective, we are also quickly provisioning servers here in Dallas and assisting in ERP/Cloud to help businesses get back online.

I’m not quite sure where to begin on this one, so I’ll quote the comment John himself made:

Oh for fuck's sake.


This company – and I have some idea which one it is, but John didn’t reveal so I’m not going to guess – was, by all means, perfectly justified in reaching out to the folks on their list. But combining this faux, mealy-mouth show of concern with a pitch to get your business back up ASAP just sticks in my marketing craw.

I suspect that, for those living through the horror that is Houston, few companies on Monday were worrying about how they were going to deploy their ERP on the Cloud if they hadn’t already. Most companies of a certain size (and/or inclination) have a disaster recovery/business continuity plan already in place. Whether they hae their systems in house, manage it in someone else’s data center, or are in the Cloud, or have some hybrid setup, their systems and data are backed up. Because that’s what companies of a certain size (or a certain inclination) do. And they actually may be working on getting their systems up and running, and getting essential work done. Because that’s what the DR/BC guys do – as long as they have access to their systems, and that’s what business professionals do. As long as they’re not bailing out their living rooms, making sure their kids (and their puppies) have their life jackets on, or sitting on their roofs waiting for a helicopter to ferry them to safety. 

Companies that don’t have a DR/BC plan in place, that haven’t backed up their systems, that have everything in paper files that have now turned to mush. Well, they’re in trouble. But the probably have more on their minds. Like bailing out, making sure, and sitting on…And these companies likely aren’t on the email blast list of this hosting company to begin with.

Anyway, my advice to the marketers who sent out this unwelcome and fairly nitwit email is this:

Why not just go with an email or – better yet, a series of tweets – that covered these points:

  • Our heart goes out…
  • We’ve just made a donation to Red Cross…
  • We’re doing everything we can to help our fellow Texans…
  • When you’re ready, we’ll help you get back to business

I’m sure the marketing people at Company X were well intentioned, and under pressure to get something out quickly (more than likely in response to some a-hole sales manager screaming “Let’s get on this right away…”). But if there’s one thing that smart and experienced marketers like my friend John know how to do it’s stop, take a deep breath, think things through, and ask themselves how they’d like to get an email like this if their city were under siege, if their homes and maybe even their lives (and livelihoods) were in jeopardy, if they were dealing with sewage burbling out of their toilets and alligators and water moccasins swimming in the garages where their cars were sitting totaled.

But the email that John received on Monday… I couldn’t have said it better than John: Oh for fuck’s sake.

Pink Slip’s
heart, of course, goes out to Houston – especially to my friends John and Rolf (and their pups). We’ve made out Red Cross donation, and even dropped some packages of diapers off at Boston City Hall for shipment down to the poor folks dealing with the disaster that is Texas. But we’re not doing anything about anyone’s ERP/Cloud systems.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Rainbow sprinkles? Sorry, they belong on cupcakes.

The other day, my sister Kath sent me a piece she’d seen on Serious Eats in which the the writer decried the disappearance of chocolate sprinkles. First off, on behalf of Kathleen and myself, if you’re a New Englander, there’s no such thing as chocolate sprinkles. They’re jimmies. And writer Keith Gandolfi, who grew up in a Worcester suburb eating ice cream at Friendly’s, must surely know this.

Perhaps he was just trying to make himself understood by readers who didn’t have the pleasure of growing up in New England. Possibly. Although in my opinion, he could have explained jimmies right upfront, therefore educating the world at large.

Or he could have been avoiding a bit of feared unpleasantness. After all, for a while now there has been a completely over the top meme about the name jimmies being racist, a referral to Jim Crow laws, an indication that the term is used in New England because we’re way too white.

There are plenty of PC things that I do go along with.

Although the word was quite popular when I was growing up, saying “gyp” or “gypped” to mean cheated out of something has long been expunged from my vocabulary. And “paddy wagon”? That sure seems slur-ish, no? And then there’s “Indian-giver.” Be gone, offensive terms.

Not sure where I stand on “Dutch treat.” It doesn’t come up all that often. And there’s a newer meaning than paying your own way, as I found from The Google: it’s a strain of marijuana popular in Amsterdam.

But if I want jimmies on my ice cream cone, by gar, I’ll ask for jimmies.

But I digress.

The point I want to make here is that my sister and I are completely with writer Keith Pandolfi in his scorn for rainbow sprinkles on ice cream.

Rainbow sprinkles (which are not jimmies, by the way: jimmies are chocolate) belong on cupcakes, not ice cream.

Unfortunately, Keith’s local ice cream spots – he now lives in Brooklyn – only serve rainbow sprinkles.

I suspect that in a blind taste test, I might not be able to distinguish rainbow sprinkles from jimmies. But, unless they’re decorating a cupcake, I want nothing to do with them. Similarly, I prefer nonpareils with white nonpareils on them, not the rainbow variety.

Anyway, here’s Keith - for whom “an ice cream cone without chocolate sprinkles isn't an ice cream cone at all” - on the joys of jimmies.

I loved the added texture the sprinkles provided, the waxy exterior giving way to a cool and crunchy interior; I loved how the sprinkles completely covered my cone, as if it had been encased in Vesuvian ash. I loved biting through the scattered coating to reveal the vanilla or, occasionally, coffee ice cream below. I loved licking them off, slowly and methodically, savoring their cocoa flavor, until each and every one was gone.

This is as fine a description of what jimmies bring to the ice cream cone experience as any I’ve ever read. Okay, I haven’t actually read any other descriptions. Still, this one is excellent.

How did it happen that, over time, rainbow sprinkles replaced jimmies? Was it because some jimmies producers decided to scrimp on the cocoa, making them less appealing? The thinking on the switch to rainbows might well be that, if the topping was going to be bland tasting, useful only for the crunch factor, it might as well be colorful?

Kathleen and I both part company with Keith on his fondness for jimmies on softserve:

Their crunch was particularly essential atop ice-cream-truck soft-serve; to me, soft-serve without a healthy coating of sprinkles is just a structureless blob.

No, no, a thousand times no. I’m not a major softserve fan. I scream for ice cream. But if you’re going to get something chocolate and crunchy on your softserve, mysister speaks for both of us when she notes that Keith Pandolfi:

…doesn’t mention that chocolate dip on soft serve was better than sprinkles any day.

Amen to that.

The Serious Eats article was informative on a couple of matters.

First, Keith wrote about a fellow foodie, Stella Parks, who makes her own jimmies. There are plenty of things I can’t imagine making at home, and if I had to come up with a list, jimmies would surely be on it. (Kath tells me that there are also folks out there who make their own Oreos. Why?)

Second, courtesy of Parks, he offers a wonderful history of rainbow sprinkles:

…the brightly colored confections appeared as far back as the 1800s, evolving within the pharmaceutical industry as a way to dispense drugs. Since it was unsafe to have a patient dose out a milligram of, say, cocaine for himself, pharmacists would either sprinkle liquid medication over nonpareils and toss them until the drug was fully absorbed, or, later, use the nonpareils as a candy coating, rather like medicinal Jordan almonds, which also made less palatable drugs easier to swallow. Dyes were often added to the coating as a way to visually distinguish between different types of medicine. "As near as I can tell," Stella says, "the rainbow sprinkles we eat today came about as a way for medical dragée manufacturers to stay afloat, as scientific advances like encapsulation made the former methods obsolete."

Who knew? Other than Stella Parks, that is.

It is, of course, still possible to get good, chocolate-tasting jimmies without having to DIY them. Between the article and the comments, you’ll find a number of options. I certainly didn’t know that King Arthur Flour – which is, after all, my flour – also makes chocolate sprinkles. Alas, they call them chocolate sprinkles, not jimmies, even though King Arthur Flour was founded, and spent 200 years, in Boston before upping-stakes and moving to Vermont.

I have a couple of suggestions for Keith.

One, when he’s out for an ice cream cone, he should bring a small container of jimmies with him. Or he can move back to New England. I don’t know about Friendly’s, but you can get jimmies at J.P. Lick’s. Admittedly, I think they’ve fallen into the chocolate sprinkles trap. But whatever you want to call them, there’s nothing like an ice cream cone dipped in them to make your day.

As for rainbow sprinkles: cupcakes only, please.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Oh, THAT Robert Lee

By weekday, Robert Lee is the channel partner manager for a payroll services company. You can find him at the top of the LinkedIn heap – which contains 5,000+ other Robert Lees – if you know enough to put the name “Syracuse” in there. Then, when the right Robert Lee surfaces, you know it’s him because, in addition to his day job, his résumé lists his part-time gigs as a play-by-play announcer, doing some college football on ESPN and a lot of things for Siena College.

For all intents and purposes, Robert Lee’s résumé is that of someone who has been able to do what he likes and wants to be doing – announcing sporting events – while also making a living. He graduated from Syracuse with a degree in broadcast journalism, but didn’t turn out to be Bob Costa. But Robert Lee gets to keep his hand in, balancing his ideal job (I believe passion is the current word of art) with the real world requirement that grownups pay their bills. And sometimes that means working for a payroll services company.

He sounds like a practical kind of guy, and my hat’s off to him.

So I feel a bit sorry that he’s found himself embroiled in the latest PC fiasco to draw our attention (and draw our attention away from where the real battle lines should be drawn).

As it happened, Robert Lee was scheduled to broadcast an upcoming football game between the University of Virginia and William & Mary. Now, I don’t believe that UVA is some big football powerhouse, but they do play in quasi-big-deal athletic conference that includes Virginia Tech and Miami of Florida. William & Mary does not come to mind when one thinks big-time college football. Their conference rivals include Elon and Stony Brook. UVA and W&M are both in Virginia, and are both pretty highly regarded schools. But their football rivalry is not exactly Michigan vs. Ohio State, or Texas vs. Oklahoma. I don’t imagine a lot of people, other than a handful of alums and assorted other college football junkies, would have been tuning into their game. The game was being broadcast over the Internet, for crying out loud.

But the folks at ESPN put the name “Robert Lee” together with “University of Virginia” and thought that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have Robert Lee announce the game, even if Robert Lee wasn’t planning on showing up wearing a grey uniform with gold buttons, sporting a silver beard, and riding a steed named Traveller.

ESPN was not, in fact, worried about having any viewers offended by having a Robert Lee associated with UVA. Their prime concern was that, given the recent events in Charlottesville attending the alt-right rally that was nominally to protect and defend a statue of Robert E. Lee (but we all know was really so that a bunch of weenie, tiki-torch and gun-sporting neo-Nazis could march around chanting racist slogans), their Robert Lee (not to be confused with The Gallant Old South’s Robert E. Lee) might be in for a ration of twitter shit. When ESPN asked Robert Lee the announcer, not the general, whether he’d rather do another low-end game that weekend, he said sure. Here’s what ESPN president John Skipper had to say. (And how’s Skipper for a great name for someone at the helm of a sports network?)

“There was never any concern — by anyone, at any level — that Robert Lee’s name would offend anyone watching the Charlottesville game,” Skipper said in the statement. “Among our Charlotte production staff there was a question as to whether — in these divisive times — Robert’s assignment might create a distraction, or even worse, expose him to social hectoring and trolling.” He added that Lee was offered the chance to broadcast a different game on the same day and opted for that. (Source: NY Times)

Nonetheless, a part time Fox sports contributor who believes that ESPN has a liberal bias decided to make this an example of liberal PC run amok, and we were off to the races.

Other than Game of the Week when the Red Sox are playing, I don’t watch much ESPN, so I don’t know whether they have a liberal bias. (Not that I’d recognize it as such.) But I guess because they talk about social issues – gender (Caitlyn Jenner), race (Colin Kaepernick), and sexual identity (Michael Sam, the gay football player) – rather than sticking to the X’s and O’s, they’re perceived as having a liberal bent. Being headquartered in Connecticut probably doesn’t help. Nor does the fact that they fired baseball commentator Curt Schilling for shooting off his mouth about something. 

Whatever the political or apolitical atmosphere at ESPN these days, it does seem sort of ridiculous that they’d be worried about an employee being hectored and trolled while announcing a game that so few people were even watching. I suspect that Robert Lee might have been the subject of a few harmless tweets, but that would have been about it.

Unfortunately, the Fox guy chose to make a big deal out of a big nothing, claiming (falsely, as it turned out) that ESPN had pulled Robert Lee to avoid offending any delicate sensibilities. So now everyone who follows the wide world of American sports knows that someone named Robert Lee is no longer going to announce a University of Virginia game. Making the incident, if not Robert Lee personally, the subject of hectoring and trolling beyond anything that would have occurred if ESPN hadn’t somewhat dopily stepped in and asked Robert Lee if he might not prefer to be deployed elsewhere that weekend. Which, as it turned out, he did.

Twitter being twitter, once the Fox guy got in the act, the heavens opened and the tweet storms rained down.

The best tweet I saw was this one:

I know I'm not the only hoping there was a Confederate general named Joe Buck. 10:25 PM - Aug 22, 2017 91 460 1,196 Sean Davis @seanmdav

For those who never watch baseball on ESPN, Joe Buck does baseball games of the week, and playoff games. Like many Red Sox fans, I can’t stand him, so I enjoyed this take on the brouhaha.

Anyway, my hope is that Robert Lee can continue to do what he loves. And that maybe even he can attract enough notice that he ends up making a professional step up and gets to be a full-time broadcaster (if that’s what he’s looking for). Maybe it’s too PC of me to even notice, but God knows there aren’t a ton of Asian Americans in the broadcast booths. The only one I can think of is former pro (and St. John’s High of Shrewsbury) baseball pitcher Ron Darling, whose mother is Hawaiian-Chinese (just looked him up on wiki, so that’s how I know).

Meanwhile, here’s hoping that all the Robert Lees out there – just think, more than 5,000 on LinkedIn alone – aren’t being hassled. I’m pretty sure that the Robert E. Lee I know isn’t being bothered. That would be my mailman, Robert Emmett Lee. Nothing to do with the Confederacy. His parents are Irish immigrants, and he was named after the Irish (not white) nationalist Robert Emmett, and goes by Bobby. Great mailman, by the way…

Other than that, I’ll be rooting for the underdog on the UVA vs. William & Mary card, with or without Robert Lee in the booth.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Voice-first shopping? My mother was ahead of her time

Somewhere in passing I heard that the rising generation of consumers want to consume content that’s video, and consume everything via voice. Personally, I’m not enamored of video content. If I click on a story title of interest, and I find a video on the other end, I’m disappointed. And won’t view the story. Give me the written word. But, then, personally, I am an old geezer. I’m less anti voice-first apps. I use the Comcast/Xfinitry one when I want to find something on TV that’s not on one of the stations with a number I’ve taken to heart (MSNBC: 901; HG-TV: 832; NESN: 851…)

Still, I rue the day when everything will be video and voice. And I worry about what this will do to the brains of those who never read or write anything. And I worry about whether this is how we’ll end up with Huxley’s alphas, betas, et al. Ruling alphas will learn to read, and will have access to a vast store of knowledge. Betas will just be able to call up the videos containing whatever the alphas want them to view.

O, Brave New World.

Whatever my misgivings about voice over the written word, I was intrigued to read about Walmart’s enabling its shoppers to buy-away by speaking to/through their Google Home devices. So while the elites are using Amazon’s Alexa to order their groceries from Whole Food, the people of Walmart will be able to get their guns and butter the new-fangled tech way.
The companies announced the partnership in separate blog posts on Wednesday.
‘‘We’re thrilled to partner with one of the most popular stores in America to help make your shopping faster and easier,’’ wrote Sridhar Ramaswamy, a senior vice president for Google.
‘‘This is just the beginning,’’ added Marc Lore, president of Walmart US eCommerce. ‘‘We will continue to focus on creating new opportunities to simplify people’s lives and help them shop in ways they’ve not yet imagined. (Source: Boston Globe)
Yep, that’s what Americans need to do. We don’t have enough crap already. Let’s make shopping easier and faster. Not that I don’t use Amazon. It really is ultra convenient. And it really does have everything.

And I really don’t want to shop in ways that are not yet imagined. Perhaps because I am singularly lacking in imagination when it comes to ways in which to shop that go beyond brick & mortar, flea, catalog, and online.

Anyway,perhaps because the article mentioned a couple of grocery items – Tide PODS and Gatorade – it brought to mind how my mother – that leading edge embracer of all things nouveau – ordered groceries when we were kids.
Yes, she was assisted by a long written list, but she ordered groceries, from Morris Market, using her very own voice.

Until I was well into high school, my mother didn’t drive. This was not all that much of an oddity. A lot of women didn’t drive, and most families – at least in our neighborhood – had one car (if that). And that car was driven by dad to work.

This was an era, of course, when kids weren’t chauffeured around. There weren’t a ton of organized things for kids to do – we were more or less free range – but if you did have organized things to do, you made you way to any activities you participated in pretty much on your own. The only exception was in high school, when dads dropped off and picked up kids at sock hops.

If you lived in a city – as we did – there were plenty of places you could get to without a car. Within a couple of minutes walk of our house, there was a pharmacy, a barber shop, a dry cleaner/tailor, a hairdresser (Paree Beauty Salon), a couple of convenience stores (which in Worcester were called spas for some reason), an electrical repair shop, a laundromat, and a double-wide three decker that sold gravestones (samples displayed in their front yard). And then there was Morris Market, the last standing grocery store when Kaplan’s closed.

There was an A&P a bit further away (15 minute walk), and a Stop & Shop (20 minute walk), but we shopped at Morris Market.

Morris Market was convenient. Plus it reminded my mother of her father’s grocery store/butcher shop back in Chicago: an old fashioned, non-chain, wooden floor store with a butcher-owner. Morris Burack = Jake Wolf (my grandfather). On occasion, the older kids in our family were dispatched there mid-week when there was something my mother needed. But she was pretty thorough in her weekly grocery ordering, and we did have a bread man (Cushman’s bakery) and a milk man (Blanchard Dairy: my father’s cousin Ellen was married to a Blanchard, so they were “our” dairy, even when most of the neighborhood went with Hillcrest). So there weren’t a lot of interim visits to Morris Market. I do remember going over there with a jar of spoiled pickles to return. And another time I was sent over with a couple of pounds of hamburger meat that smelled funny. Turned out, they’d just painted the store.

Mostly, my mother got a week’s worth of groceries delivered on Friday afternoon.
The order would have been called in on Friday morning, and delivered about 3:30 p.m. I’m not sure whether this intentionally coincided with us being home from school, but my sister Kath and I were charged with unpacking all the cartons of groceries, and checking them off against my mother’s hand written (but voice-activated) list to make sure that everything she’d ordered had been delivered.

Bad enough we had to check off the groceries – tedious enough, giving we’re talking groceries for a family of seven that ate out once a year. But no, we had to make sure that we weren’t overcharged or undercharged for any item.

This was before the era when you could look through your grocery receipt and see an item name next to an amount. Back in the day, the register slips just showed the amount. So Kath and I would have to take an item out of the grocery carton, find the price on it, and then search through the register tape looking for something that matched the price. When you found it, you to cross through it – a moment of triumph.

It is really hard to explain just how crappy a chore this was. We both hated it. But my mother was a complete stickler, and a frugal one at that. She needed to know that she got everything she ordered, and that she was charged the correct amount. (I remember one time being sent back to Morris Market to give them a dime because she’d been undercharged on something like a can of Campbell’s soup.)

It is a testimony to what little goodie two shoes Kath and I were that it never in a million years would have occurred to us to just make sure that everything had been received, and forget about the crazy price check. Even though our mother never reviewed our work to make sure we weren’t cheating, we never did.

My mother eventually got her license. She really didn’t have much choice. My father became ill when I was 14, and was sick off and on for 7 years before he finally succumbed to kidney disease. And my mother knew that her drivers – first Kath, then me, then Tom – would be going off to college. She needed to learn to drive.

I don’t remember when she stopped shopping at Morris Market and switched to a “real” (i.e., chain) supermarket just down the hill. Morris Market had diminished over the years, unable to keep up with the competition from those “fancy” chains. Eventually, it closed up shop.

But I remember my mother, sitting there in the kitchen, on the phone, calling in her long grocery list. She was not, of course, talking to an Alexa. She was talking to Morris Burack’s wife. Or his son-in-law Paul Bornstein. Or Paul’s wife Sylvia.

But Liz would have known just what to do with a Google device. Read the list off, then, once it was delivered, check – or, better yet, have your girls check – to make sure that you’d gotten everything you’d order, and that the price was right.

Ah, too bad she didn’t live to see it!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Stand by your desk? Sit down, you’re rocking the boat? What are us desk jockeys to do?

A few years back, a doctor working on obesity issues came up with a new mantra: sitting is the new smoking.

Worse than smoking, maybe. After all, you might walk a mile – a healthful mile – for a Camel. But sitting on your duff at your desk? Stop kidding yourself; you’re killing yourself.

Oh, you may have thought that parking your carcass on a pricey ergonomic chair, rather than spending the day swiveling around on a glorified steno pool chair that provided no back support, was somehow going to save you. But, no…

Dozens of studies  have drawn connections between sitting too long and diabetes, hypertension, some forms of cancer (especially in women), anxiety and a generally greater probability of early death. (Source: Bloomberg)

The specifics:

When a body sits for an extended time, blood pools in the legs, and the arteries there lose some of their ability to dilate. Metabolism slows, and with it the healthy functioning of various biochemical operations. That in turn leaves the body more vulnerable to the physical and psychological effects of sedentary living.

And as if early death and anxiety, slowed metabolism, and arteries that don’t dilate properly aren’t bad enough:

There’s also the risk of a weak, flat backside.

Now I know that, in the age of Kardashian and Beyoncé, a flat backside is a “thing.” And not necessarily a good thing. Thus, we read those horror stories about women with Brazilian butt lifts gone bad. Not to mention that just last week, at a get together with two old college friends – a get together that involved shopping – the conversation quite naturally turned to whether and why women of Irish ethnicity didn’t tend toward bootylicous booties to shake. (Not that women our age are doing much booty shaking, even when they have them.)

But I’d never heard of a weak backside.

Weak brain. Weak back. Weak bladder. Weak knee. But weak backside? What are the implications of a weak backside?

Man, all these years sitting on my rump, and I may have flattened and weakened a backside that was not especially ample to begin with. Jeez Louise Linton.

One of the outcomes of all the bad outcomes associated with prolonged duff-sitting is the rise of the standing desk.

When I was still working full-time, the alternatives to sitting in a desk chair were having one of those blue bouncy balls, or having one of the ergonomic kneeling chairs. But I’ve noticed that standing desks are an option for most of my clients (mostly tech firms with a lot of young folks working there).

Of course, it hasn’t been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that sitting is worse than smoking. No unequivocal Surgeon’s General Report. No skull and crossbones warning on your desk chair. (Nothing will replace those “Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law” tags.) In fact, there have been some findings popping up that suggest that sitting ain’t all that bad.

And whether standing desks help is a subject of some dispute.

Nonetheless, the number of companies that offer standing desks has tripled since 2013.

I have a few doubts about just how wonderful and glorious all this standing is.

I have tendonitis in my right ankle. Walking is fine. I’m able to do my 4-5 Fitbit miles each day, no problema. But when I’m standing for any amount of time, the tendonitis kicks up or kicks in. This doesn’t happen as part of my work. If I’m working, I’m sitting on my weakening, flattening backside. But I’m doing some volunteering at St. Francis House, and whether I’m in the kitchen or in the clothing center, there are oodles of time when I’m standing stock-still scooping salads or sorting through piles of donated clothing items.

And there’s some research that suggests that:

…standing too long creates problems of its own: swollen ankles, leg cramps, varicose veins, posture problems, lasting muscle fatigue and back pain.

So, is it stand by your desk? Sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down, you’re cramping your legs?

Fortunately, there’s a middle ground.

…walk around — for a couple of minutes once an hour, or for five or 10 minutes a few times a day. This gets the blood and breath flowing moderately. Toe tapping and other kinds of fidgeting help, as well, whether sitting or standing.

Let the toe tapping begin!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Let them eat Hermes scarves!

If you were, say, the wife of, say, the Secretary of the Treasury. Which would make you fifth in the line of succession to become FLOTUS, if, say, the rapture occurred and the current POTUS, VP, Speaker of the House, President Pro Tempore of the US Senate, and Secretary of State were all swept away to the great beyond. And if, say, the man you had recently married was exceedingly wealthy, so that you didn’t have to do much with your time other than shop for designer duds. And if, say, you’d been a C-list actress in defunct TV shows and movies no one had ever heard of, and, say, that C-list of your acting jobs was out there easily accessible by anyone with Google fingers. And if you lived, say, in a country where there was increasing class-based tension that was pretty noticeable, even though a lot of said tension was side-channeled into racial tension. (Phew! We’re getting out of that one easy!) And if, say, you were accompanying your husband on official business that was taking him to Kentucky to visit Fort Knox…

So just saying that if any two of the above conditions held, let alone all of them, would you be out there on Instagram hashtagging the luxury designers you were wearing. Especially given that three (Hermes, Valentino, Roland Mouret) out of four (Tom Ford) of those designers weren’t American. And, thus, probably weren’t doing much to MAGA the way your husband’s boss wants to happen.

Anyway, if you missed the story, Steve Mnuchin’s June bride, Louise Linton was building her brand on Instagram,letting all her friends/fans/followers know what she’s up to, and what she had on when she was up to it:Louise Linton 

“Great #daytrip to #Kentucky! #nicest #people #beautiful #countryside #rolandmouret pants #tomford sunnies, #hermesscarf #valentinorockstudheels #valentino #usa” 

I have no idea how many followers Linton has. There are only 10 likes for her post. But she sure got a lot more shares and notice for what followed her initial designer-name-dropping bit.

An Insta user, one Jenni M, responded by posting “Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable”. Creepily, Linton did a bit of research on Jenni M – enough to figure out the Jenni M has kids – and had a response of her own:

“@Jennimiller29” cute!....Aw!! Did you think this was a personal trip?! Adorable! Do you think the US govt paid for our honeymoon or personal travel?! Lololol. Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country? I’m pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day “trip” than you did. Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you’d be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours. You’re adorably out of touch. Thanks for the passive aggressive nasty comment. Your kids look very cute. Your life looks cute. I know you’re mad but deep down you’re really nice and so am I. Sending me passive aggressive Instagram comments isn’t going to make life feel better. Maybe a nice message, one filled with wisdom and hunanity [SIC] would get more traction. Have a pleasant evening. Go chill out and watch the new game of thrones. It’s fab!” (Source: Huffington Post)

Where to begin with this one?

We pay more taxes. (Royal “we,” by the way.) We are sacrificing.


No doubt Steve Mnuchin took a pay cut to work in the administration. Big deal. He can afford to take a couple of years off, no doubt doing good and strewing goodness. And I do have to wonder just what sacrifices Linton made. She was in a Cold Case episode, but that’s been off the air for years.

Anyway, the exchange has gone viral, and Linton ended up issuing a wishy-washy apology.

But you’d think she would know better.

Just last year, Linton was caught up in a mini-scandal when she self-published a memoir of her gap year in Zambia that was, apparently, full o’ misrepresentations and outright lies. In the aftermath of that episode, and the blowback she got, Linton – at that point not yet married to Mnuchin, but his girlfriend – ended up getting rid of her Twitter account.

Insta, of course, is so much cooler. Or prettier. Or whatever.

But it apparently didn’t get through to Linton that social media is not always your friend. Thus the instant Insta fiasco.

Seriously, folks, how absurd is absurd?

Well, as it turns out, it gets even better. As it turns out, one of the bit parts Linton had in the course of her illustrious career was that of a character (the show was CSI NY) - who attends a costume party dressed as no other than… Hey, I think I’ll make this a multiple choice:

a) Eleanor Roosevelt
b) Mother Teresa
c) Marie Antoinette

I don’t want to give the answer away too soon, especially if you’re leaning Eleanor Roosevelt. So I’ll give you a bit of a visual clue:


That be Linton in the powdered wig.

Let them wear Hermes scarves!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Hey Lady! Or, my life with Jerry Lewis.

The first movie I remember going to was 3 Ring Circus, which starred Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. It was playing at the Park Theater, in Worcester’s Webster Square, and my father took me and my sister Martin and LewisKathleen. It was 1955. I was five.

There is no doubt in my mind that I found it just HIGH-larious. Oh, that Jerry Lewis!

We didn’t go to the movies very often. This was the era of TV, even if there was a pretty limited menu, and what was shown appeared on a 8” b&w Philco screen. Most of the movies I saw as a kid were Disney. The next movie I recall seeing after 3 Ring Circus was the Disney cartoon, Cinderella. Again, my father took us – where us now included my brother Tom. My father gave each of us a dime to get something to drink from a press-button machine. Kath and Tom went before I did. Alas, by the time I put my dime in, there were no more of those conical paper cups being dispensed, so I watched my orange drink (which no doubt would have been flat and cloyingly sweet) run down the drain.

But I did see another Jerry Lewis movie: The Bellboy. At the drive-in. I hated it. Jerry played a mute. That was no fun. But it was on a double-bill with a war movie that was at least entertaining. At first I was thinking that the war movie wasThe Halls of Montezuma, but that was released in 1951, not 1960. Then it came to me that the movie we saw had the word “Hell” in its title. And may have starred Jeffrey Hunter, an actor as rigid and stiff as Jerry was spazzy (sorry, but that’s the word we would have used in 1960) and loose. Which would make it, Hell to Eternity.

Hard to believe I didn’t see The Nutty Professor (1963). But by that point I was long past going to the movies with my father.

But that was pretty much it for me as far as Jerry Lewis went. By 1963, I had pretty much outgrown him. The 1960’s. I wanted to see  David and Lisa. Bunny Lake Is Missing. Georgie Girl. If I wanted a laugh, there were the Beatle movies – Help, A Hard Day’s Night. The Beatles were funny. Jerry Lewis wasn’t.

Fast forward – and I’d almost entirely wiped this one from my mind – and at some point in the late 1970’s, my husband and I (by now confirmed Jerry haters) went to the Chateau de Ville in Framingham to see Jerry do his standup routine, and, I think, sing “Rock-a-bye Your Baby (with a Dixie Melody)”. The Chateau de Ville was a dinner theater and the dinner that night was scrod that had apparently been sitting on a steam rack for about 3 days. But we weren’t there for the scrod. Towards the end of his show, Jerry took questions from the audience. He was smart enough not to call on my husband, who was going to ask something about whether he considered The Nutty Professor his most artistic work.(Hard to recall a point in my life where I had the interest and energy to attend an event featuring an entertainer I couldn’t stand. Oh, to be in your twenties and full of snark.)

Jim and I did become regular watchers of the MDA Telethon, appalled by Jerry’s bloated ego and schmaltz, mesmerized by the mostly mediocre “talent,” but in awe at his capacity to raise a ton of money for a good cause. I’m quite sure if I’d had a kid with muscular dystrophy, I’d be shedding a tear or two for his loss.

One sure fire way for Jim and I to share a laugh was to mention that Jerry Lewis was so revered in France. “Monsieur Lewis, vous êtes such a comic geeee-nyus,” one of us would say, deploying our finest phony French accent. We were completed perplexed that such a sophisticated – jaded, even – culture could fall so head over heels for Jerry Lewis. 

And then, once we saw King of Comedy (1982), we became Jerry Lewis fans. When Jerry Lewis played a prick, he was a genius. This guy could act. (There is some sense that playing a prick wasn’t exactly a stretch for Lewis.) And we much enjoyed him as the schmatta trade mogul in the late-1980’s TV series, Wiseguy. As I said, this guy could act.

Gradually, we lost interest in Jerry Lewis. We might turn on the MDA Telethon for a few minutes, but mostly he was dead to us.

We’d see him on TV occasionally, being interviewed, generally coming across as a self-pitying, maudlin, self-aggrandizing, mean-spirited a-hole.

Jerry Lewis. Meh…

Given the choice of listening to Gary Lewis & The Playboys on a perpetual loop playing “This Diamond Ring” or watching a Lewis-Martin comedy, I’d take “This Diamond Ring.”

And now, Jerry Lewis is no more.

One by one, the iconic figures of the collective Baby Boomer childhood are passing away.

Hey lady, you know what this means? They’re coming for us next…

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Oh, the Totality!

I just tried to look it up, but, at a quick glance (one not clouded by eclipse glasses), I couldn’t quite figure out what the eclipse action was when I was growing up. There were a few eclipses (total and annular) in the 1950’s and 1960’s that were visible in the United States. No word on Massachusetts.

I don’t remember any big deal around preparing for or viewing an eclipse. June 30, 1954. September 1, 1958. I would have been playing outside. October 2, 1959 I would have been in school. July 20, 1963 was a Sunday. I would have been lolling around after lunch, probably watching a Red Sox game with my father, who would likely have been planning to take the family out for an evening spin and ice cream.

If these eclipse events were happening over Worcester, Massachusetts, we were surely told something. My sister Kathleen and eye have the same recall of eclipse warning: if you look at the sun, your eyeballs will turn to egg whites. Boiled egg whites.

We knew what that would look like. After all, what child of boomer-dom didn’t know how to create a cool special effect by erasing the eyeballs on the face of someone on a magazine cover. My parents didn’t exactly approve of this. I remember receiving a light reprimand for erasing the eyes of President Eisenhower from the cover of 20170821_142412Newsweek.With apologies to Sekazi K. Mtingwa, whose picture was the first one I came across while flipping through an old copy of MIT Technology Review looking for someone’s eyes to erase, this is what the special effect looked like. Who needed Photoshop when you could use an eraser on a glossy picture? It was kinder gentler time…

There were a few American eclipses in the 1970’s-1980’s. They must have passed me by. There were a few in the 1990’s, too, and one of those I do recall. It may have been the May 10, 1994 one. I remember that the office emptied out at some point in the afternoon, and we stood out there in front of our building watching and waiting. I think we had pieces of cardboard with pinholes in them. Or something. I remember the atmosphere as being sort of brownish and eerie. No one’s eyes turned to egg whites. Fortunately.

My sister Kathleen actually participated in a totality event. She and her husband have a friend who’s an eclipse aficionado,and they traveled to Guadalupe for one of the 1990’s show of shows to view one with the friend and his wife. So Kath has got the been there, done that checked off for having witnessed a total eclipse of the sun. (I forgot to ask here whether Bob had headed out to Madras, Oregon, or Carbondale, Illinois – both of which were going to experience the totality - for yesterday’s edition.) Kath and Rick were staying put. No egg white eyeballs for them, thank you.

Me, I never got around to going to the library to pick up a pair of eclipse glasses. I was too lazy to make a viewing apparatus out of a shoe box and a piece of white paper. Too lazy to do something with my colander. I think I read that you could do some viewing by doing a waffle weave with your fingers, but I wasn’t willing to chance it. So I made sure I was in the house by 12:29 p.m. when the partial eclipse hit Boston.

I made my lunch, took it into the den (where the blinds were shut), and watched the eclipse travel across the United States on MSBNC.

One of the reporters, in Madras, Oregon, said that being there, with all the campers who’d traveled to get a glimpse of the totality, was like being at Coachella for nerds. Carbondale, Illinois, looked like Coachella for nerds, too. Only with a bunch of pompom waving Southern Illinois University cheerleaders.

With all that’s been going on, it was a good break to have the eclipse to focus on – something that everyone could enjoy, even if they spent the totality of the full or partial eclipse in their town watching the eclipse transit the country on TV. At the peak eclipse in Boston, when 2/3’s of the sun was blotted out by the moon, I nipped into the kitchen to check. It was a bit overcast, but the atmosphere did seem to have the same brownish hue I remember from 20+ years back. I didn’t look directly at anything, so my eyeballs will not be turning to egg whites.

Meanwhile, in addition to the eclipse offering us a respite from the prevailing ugliness and unpleasantness, it also provided an excellent opportunity to listen to Bonnie Tyler.

Here’s a link to the You Tube of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” This may not be the absolute worst music video ever made, but it’s definitely a contender. So if you’ve still got your eclipse glasses, I suggest you put them on while listening to this one.

Better yet, just go listen to Bonnie’s best tune evah, It’s a Heartache. (No weirdball video, either.)

Hope you enjoyed the eclipse. And hope you remembered to avert your eyes. No one wants egg white eyeballs, that’s for sure.

Monday, August 21, 2017


I sometimes ask myself what I would have done if I’d been living in Germany in the 1930’s. Oh, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been a Nazi. And I’m pretty sure that I would have done plenty of sneering at and about them. Until they came to power, that is.

Then, what would I have done? Probably kept my mouth shut in public and spoken only to those I trusted 100%. I suspect I would have had many sleepless nights. I suspect I would even have prayed.

Would I have been Sophie Scholl, the university student who was beheaded for her anti-Nazi activism in 1943? Probably been too scared.

Would I have helped a Jewish friend? Probably given money to help them flee the country; probably not hidden them in my home.

Thankfully, we don’t live in Nazi Germany, and comparisons between the 21st century United States and post-WWI Germany are pretty thin. But one lesson we can take is just how fragile countries can be. Germany was prosperous, cultured, “liberal.” And then…Things can and do happen fast.

But if you’re a well-off white person, living in a safe area, things aren’t all that scary, even in our present not especially pleasant times.

Still, when I started hearing about the “Free Speech” rally that was taking place pretty much right in my front yard on Saturday, and that the organizer had invited some alt-righties, it was pretty clear that I couldn’t just sit in my house watching HG-TV and eating bonbons.

It became confusing fast about who was actually going to be speaking. Was the nincompoop who did all the Pizzagate “work” for Alex Jones going to be given a microphone? Remember Pizzagate? Hillary and her pals running a pedophile ring out of the basement of a DC pizza parlor? That Pizzagate?

How about the numbskull Holocaust denier? The one – well, there may have been more than one – who spoke at the Charlottesville rally? One of the “nice people” who attended that event? You know, the one where a lot of innocent folks carried tiki torches while chanting “Blood and Soil,” and “Jews will not replace us”? Was he invited? Uninvited? Decided not to come?

I couldn’t imagine that Boston would turn into Charlottesville, but I sure didn’t want a bunch of neo-Nazis and Klansmen tramping around my neighborhood. Talk about ‘get off my lawn!’

But there was Charlottesville, and that straight out of Leni Riefenstahl (but at blessedly lesser scale) torch light rally. And those Klan salutes. And Heather Heyer. All playing over and over again in my mind.

So I checked out what was on offer for a counter-protest.

There was some gathering at the State House, which would have been easy-peasy. Five minutes up the hill and I’m there. But it sounded a bit “off” to me. One of the sponsoring group was demanding that end to sanctions on North Korea. Say wha’? It just looked like the kind of scene that might attract an anti-fa element. No thanks.

Meanwhile, there was a march, starting in Roxbury, sponsored by Black Lives Matter and a whole lot of clergy. I’d participated in a BLM march a few years back, and it was well-organized, heartfelt, well-run. A walk out to the starting point at the Reggie Lewis Center. The walk back into Boston Common. Why, I’d even get my Fitbit steps in!

It took me a while to decide on what hat to wear.

I have the Red Sox cap with the 1950’s logo. But – ugh – that was the logo when the racist Tom Yawkey was the own of my beloved olde towne team. I love the cap, but an anti-racism march didn’t seem like quite like the venue.

I considered my Red Sox cap with the kelly-green B and the shamrock, which I wear to show the world that not all shamrock-wearing Bostonians are punks.

And then I remembered the cap I bought for Fourth of July. The one I wear to show the world that liberals are patriotic, too. I’m not much of a selfie taker, but this is me, right before the march was about to start:

MR at march

The sign in back of me shows the Obama post-Charlottesville tweet with those cutie-pie babies and  the Nelson Mandela quote:

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion..."

The sign is being held by Chuck, husband of Deb, brother-in-law of Pam, a crew I met on the way to the march and ended up staying with throughout . Along the way, we added Ayesha to our band. Here’s Ayesha with her sign:


She was marching so her grandkids don’t have to.

The crowd was large, loud, spirited, blissfully diverse with respect to race, age, and sexual orientation. And from where I walked in its midst, 100% peaceful. Not to mention full of excellent signs. Here are a few of my favorites.


It was overcast when I left for the march, and overcast was predicted for the duration, so I figured I’d be okay without water. Wrong! The sun came out, so I popped into a Subway to slake my thirst, and pick up a bottle for Pam, who’d gone through hers already. I grabbed three bottles, but the line was so long at the checkout.. I will have to admit I did my old lady privilege thing and just handed one of the kids working there $20 and walked out. Nice to be able to throw down $20 for three bottles of water without thinking twice. Not everyone, I realize, can do that.

By the time we were approaching Boston Common, I’d gotten a text from my sister Trish that the “free speech” rally had been virtually unattended and was already over. It turned out to be pathetically organized. Apparently the mikes didn’t even work.

On the way, I’d been making jokes about outnumbering the alt-wrong 1,000 to one. And that was about the way things turned out to be. 40,000 of us, about 40 of them.

Overall, there were 33 arrests. Our quite wonderful Police Commissioner, Bill Evans said:

“99.9% were here for the right reason. To fight bigotry.”

Actually, if you do the math, it looks more like 99.999%. Five nines! That’s pretty damned good. And not all of those arrests were fringe, anti-fa elements, either. (By the way, a shout out to the BPD who did an excellent job as far as I’m concerned.)

Anyway, yay Boston!

I’m all for free speech. Let those a-holes chant “Blood and Soil” all they want. But part of my free speech is getting out there and chanting, No Nazis, No KKK, No fascist USA.

They – the Nazis, the KKK, the fascists - turned out not to be here. But if they’re thinking about coming to Boston, I want them to know that we outnumber them 1,000 to 1. (Which I hope is the ratio across the entire country, by the way.) And our signs are a whole hell of lot better than their ridiculous tiki torches.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Shake, shake, shake. Shake, shake, shake. Shake your salt shaker.

This is my go-to salt & pepper shaker set. I like it for a couple of reasons. First off, they were a gift from my late, much beMarie SPloved, and greatly missed friend Marie. So, when I use them – and they are my go-to, so if I’m salting and/or peppering, I’m mostly using them  – I think of Marie. Second, they’re amusing (to me anyway). They just make me smile.

Once or twice a year, when I’m feeling a bit fancier, I use this set. These I inherited from my mother, who used them for holiday dinners. She had two sets – holiday dinners meant a long table with a lot of Crystal SPpeople sitting at it – and one of my sisters has the other pair. I like them because they remind me of family, and family history.

I have a bunch of other salt and pepper shakers, some gifts, some that I bought, and some that, like the crystal set, are part of my inheritance.

My mother quasi-collected sale and pepper shakers, something I think my father got her going on, but which she kept up so that her kids always had something they could get her for her birthday or Christmas. Woolworth’s sold S&P shakers for 49 cents.. I remember getting her a pair of cute little pink pigs, and another set of smiling Dutch SPturnips. I have the pigs around here somewhere. I also have one of the pairs I believe my father got for her. They’ve been smashed and glued back together, and have missing pieces. They sit on my kitchen counter, and I like them because they remind me of my parents, because they’re sort of pretty, and because the blue in the Dutch maid’s skirt and the Dutch boy’s shirt matches the accent color in my kitchen.

I also have a pepper grinder, which is as high tech as I want to get when it comes to dispensing pepper, or salt for that matter. I mean, the basic design of a salt and pepper shaker is pretty simple. It just works. Sure, the salt can clump together if it gets some moisture in it. And the corks that hold the S&P can fall out, fall in, or just plain get lost. Mostly they work. And if it ain’t broke…

Nonetheless, Herb & Body “a California-based lifestyle company” feels that things could be improved on. So they have developed Smalt:


Isn’t dining already a multi-sensory experience? Even if you’re eating by yourself, there’s taste, touch, smell, look. And if I’m eating with others, that means friends or family, and adding talk to the multi-sensory experience is plenty enough fun. Do we really need a device that’s more complex that the knife, fork, spoon, and salt shaker combined? I mean, the more stuff a device can do, the more things there are that can go wrong. With the exception of the Swiss Army knife, multi-function usually translates into multi-problem.

But Herby & Boy thinks the time is right:

Our aim is to develop smart home devices that aspire to make ordinary life more fun, easier, and healthier.  Connected kitchen is the next wave of smart home tools and our company’s ambition is to be at the forefront.  We will be bringing tools to the market that will be interactive and fun while enriching peoples’ lives.   Our first innovation, “SMALT”, is the first of it’s kind to market and will transform an ordinary kitchen tools that people have been using for centuries into a fun experience. (Source: MySmalt)

Maybe it’s just me – old fogey, quasi-Luddite (especially when you consider that my career has been in technology) – but I really don’t see how making something as brilliantly simple as a salt shaker more smaltcomplex makes “ordinary life” easier. (It goes without saying that having this device on my dining room table won’t be making my life more fun or healthier.)

And, God knows, I really don’t care to have a connected kitchen. My life gets enriched by friends and family, by experiences, by looking at my salt and pepper shakers that remind me of friends, family, and experience.

Features mood-lighting to set the ambiance (sic!) and a Bluetooth speaker to play music!

I don’t have much call for mood-lighting, but isn’t that what candles are for? And is there anyone who doesn’t already have a couple of ways to play music, without involving their salt dispenser? Do we need a smart-aleck salt shaker playing tunes?

Maybe this is just a way for Herb & Body to get attention. (Mission accomplished!)

But I have to say it bothers me when people with fine minds and good technical skills devote those minds and skills to things like the Smalt.

Go head, please. By all means, make our lives smarter and easier. But aren’t there any more useful places you could be focusing your efforts on?


Saw this on my friend John Whiteside’s FB page. Thanks, John.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Baseball Gloversville

I’ve driven through Upstate New York, on I-90, many times, and one of the towns you pass through is Gloversville, once the home to the American glove making industry. Not all American gloves were made there. The same interstate passes through Amsterdam, NY, and – although I’m not sure it’s still in operation – you can still see the Fownes glove factory from the Thruway.

Driving through and around Upstate (and through parts of New England) you get to see all the evidence you need to of the rise and fall of American manufacturing. We used to make things in America. Now we don’t so much. Which is not to say that there is no manufacturing here. There’s plenty. It’s just that a lot of the everyday objects we take for granted are made elsewhere. Like shoes. And clothing. Gloves. And baseball gloves.

I played baseball as a kid. The boy: girl ratio in my neighborhood was skewed towards boy; we were one of the only families on our street that was majority girl. So if you wanted to play with the pack of kids running around the ‘hood, you ended up playing a lot of “boys’” games. Like baseball.

But I never owned my own glove.

Not that you needed one.

As long as there were enough gloves to go around, so that the team in the field was gloved, it really didn’t matter whose glove you used.

But my brothers, who played Little League (and, one of them, beyond: Babe Ruth, Legion, high school), always had their own gloves, starting with some flat little kindergarten starter glove that one of them had when he was really little – it looked like something out of the dead ball era; something Nap Lajoie might have worn – and moving on up to the “real” gloves you needed to play “real” ball. Which, of course, you outgrew. So we had plenty of mitts around the house over the years.

I remember my brothers breaking in their new gloves, a process that involved sticking a ball in the pocket of the glove, folding the glove over it, and wrapping some rubber bands around it. Once the rubber bands were off, they sat around punching their fist into the center of the glove, to make it more supple.Then there was something to do with oiling a glove. Not quite sure what that entailed. I’m guessing that a nine year old didn’t exactly do a bang-up job with it, although my father, of course, would have known just what to do. He was a ballplayer from way-back.

I can’t remember what brands those gloves were – Spalding? Wilson? Rawlings? Whatever they sold at Western Auto, I suppose.

But I don’t remember ever hearing the name Nokona until I saw an article on it on Bloomberg the other day.

Nokona, as it turns out, is the last baseball glove that’s actually made in America. Spalding, Wilson, Rawlings. They all still market gloves. They just make them in baseball happy (not!) places like the Philippines, Vietnam, and China, where they’re:

…stitched together thousands of miles away by people who couldn’t afford a ticket at Fenway Park. (Source: Bloomberg)

All this was oversea-ing was happening in the 1960’s. (Thanks, Obama!) But:

One company didn’t get the memo. Since the Great Depression, Nokona has been making gloves in a small town outside Dallas with a long history of producing boots and whips for cowboys. There’s a livestock-feed store next door to the factory, which offers $5 tours for visitors who want to see how the “last American ball glove” is made. You can watch employees weave the webbing by hand, feed the laces through the holes with needles, and pound the pocket into shape with a rounded hammer. The American flag gets stitched into the hide — and that, they say at Nokona, is more than just a business matter.

“Made in America means you believe in our country,” said Carla Yeargin, a glove inspector and tour guide at Nokona, where she worked her way up from janitor. “We have the love for the ballglove, because we made it here.”

Well, I’m not going to get into it with Carla, but it is actually possible to believe in your country without believing that everything needs to be Made in America. That said, it might have been nice if we’d given some thought to what the folks who lost their jobs to offshoring were going to do with themselves. Maybe we’ll get it right before all the remaining factory jobs are automated.

Nokoma ball gloves are made with an exacting process made up of about 40 steps that take about 4 hours to complete. The end product is pretty high end:

The company emphasizes the craft that goes into each glove, and that’s reflected in the bill. Rawlings has gloves for all budgets: Its top-end models cost plenty, but you can get a 9-inch children’s version for less than $8. Nokona’s equivalent-sized mitt costs $220, and its pro model runs to $500. 

I don’t know who’d pay $220 for a glove for a little kid, but I’m guessing that the $8 Rawlings is pretty cheesy and useless. For the 7 years old compelled to play, hovering in right field, hoping that no ball is ever hit his way.

Of course, in baseball’s early days:

…it was considered unmanly to use a glove. Broken bones were common. The first mass-produced gloves had little padding and no fingers.

Well, that sounds almost as much fun as playing football and getting your brain rattled.

Anyway, Nokona doesn’t produce a lot of gloves. A mere 40,000 of them, which is less than 1% of the 6.2 million gloves sold in the U.S. each year. And they don’t have a lot of big name ball players sporting their wares. But they keep at it. So I’ll be keeping my eye out for someone (in the stands or on the field) sporting a Nokona next time I’m at Fenway. You can customize your Nokona – right down to your name on it, and your color choice for the laces. I suspect I’ll end my life without ever having owned a baseball glove. But if I were to go for one, sign me up for a custom Nokona with purple laces.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I hear Guam is lovely this time of year

Much as I loathe, despise, and – when it comes right down to it – out and out abhor Donald Trump, I will acknowledge that he does seem to possess some sort of talent for branding, for marketing, for giving his audience what they want.

Still, I’m scratching my head over is words of support for the president of Guam, spoken in the aftermath of Kim Jong Un’s disturbing threats to the safety and security of the island:

Mr. Trump said: “I have to tell you, you have become extremely famous all over the world. They are talking about Guam; and they’re talking about you.” And when it comes to tourism, he added, “I can say this: You’re going to go up, like, tenfold with the expenditure of no money.” (Source: NY Times)

Admittedly, Trump is past master of getting maximum bang for his buck. Just look at the bankruptcies, the flim-flam, and the vendor-screwing. Not to mention the ability to con the media into a kabillion dollars worth of free advertising during the election-cycle-that-dares-not-mention-its-name. And let’s not into the emoluments clause. (Do all those Secret Service golf cart rental feels fall under that?)

And he’s great with the memorable, colorful branding phrase.

But surely he can’t be right in his prediction that Guam will be experiencing a tenfold increase in tourism? Without spending any money?

First off, there’s that tenfold increase.

Last year, Guam hosted 1.5 million visitors (more than half a million from Korea, by the way). Tenfold would be 15 million.

I think you can support a tenfold increase if you’re starting with a pretty low base. Say, 1,000. Or even 10,000.

But going from 1.5 million to 15 million – over whatever reasonable period of time (and, perhaps cagily, Trump didn’t predict when this tenfolding would occur) – is pretty much unfathomable. And 15 million visitors to a country the size of Guam – population 160K. Well…

This type of growth would be plenty difficult to achieve under normal circumstances. Let alone abnormal circumstances. I.e., a proven madman threatening to drop bombs off your coast, while another likely madman is threatening to end the world as we know it, including setting off a war that will domino-effect end in the obliteration of the source of so much of Guam’s tourist traffic (i.e., from South Korea and Japan).

Sure, Guam has become “extremely famous all over the world.” But not for its waving palms, sunny days, and pristine beaches. Which I assume is what Guam has on offer. Most of what I know about Guam is that tit was the site of a major battle during WWII, that it’s an important military location for the US, and that, even if they can’t vote, Guam sends folks to our political conventions. They wear funny hats and, when they cast their votes, they always give a shout out to being the place where it’s tomorrow before anyplace else in the States.

But really and truly, is anyone actually looking up from their TV, turning to their spouse and saying, “Honey, how about Guam this year?”

Maybe Donald, Melania, and Barron can upstakes from Bedminster, NJ, and spend the last few days of their vacation in Guam, just as a show of faith and good will. Putting his – or, rather, the taxpayers’ – money where his tenfold mouth is. Or perhaps Ivanka and Jared can spin over with the kids, when Jared gets back from his upcoming deployment to the Mideast – once he delivers regional peace, that is.

I mean, wouldn’t the saber-rattling (make that nuke-rattling) on both sides give you some pause? If you want aquamarine waters and umbrella drinks, wouldn’t you be better off going to someplace in the Caribbean that’s not in Kim Jong Un’s gun sights?

That’s for new tourists, of course. The ones who’ll make up part of the tenfold increase.

Apparently, those who’re already committed to a trip to Guam are hanging in there. Or at least the tourist bureau folks are wishing and hoping that this will be the case.

The Guam Visitors Bureau has heard reports of cancellations, but [the Bureau’s Antonio] Muna said it doesn't yet have any concrete figures on how many took place. Officials are still expecting a strong August, Muna said…"Japan and Korea make over 90 percent of our arrivals. And they're much closer to North Korea than Guam is," Muna said. (Source: OregonLive)

Way to spin things, Mr. Muna: “Hey, Korean and Japanese tourists, come to Guam. Because, when you think about it, your countries are more likely to get nuked out of existence than we are. So come on over.”

Why that’s actually a spin worthy of one Donald J. Trump. Maybe marketing genius is actually contagious.

I’ll have to keep my eye on Guam’s tourism stats, but I’m not holding my breath about that 10x happening anytime soon.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Think I’ll do me some back to school shopping

As a decidedly nerdly child, I always looked forward to heading back to school in September.

There was always the possibility of a new nun being transferred in. There was the fun of covering your books with brown paper bags or cool “college” covers. (At one point, I had a four pack that included Penn State, Villanova, and Kentucky, I think. Quite a random assortment. I bought it because it had a Holy Cross purple and white cover in it.) And by the end of summer, I was actually getting a bit bored with lolling around playing Monopoly and making gimp lanyards at Bennett Field.

For all the anticipation there was not much actual preparation for going back to school, not all that much back-to-school shopping to be done. Other than a new pair of Stride-Rites (grammar school) or Weejuns (high school), there wasn’t much by way of clothing purchase. Throughout grammar school and high school, I wore a green jumper and white shirt.

In grammar school, these were handed down from my sister Kath. In high school, you got your jumper and shirts freshman year, and that’s pretty much what you wore for the next four years.

You also carried your school bag until it fell apart, so that wasn’t an annual buy. For part of grammar school, I carried a hideous bright green fake suede-ish bag with the school name and logo in bright yellow. Then I graduated to what was called a Harvard book bag: a dark green rubber lined canvas bag that you slung over your shoulder.

Until seventh grade, I went home for lunch so – oh, boo-hoo – I never had the pleasure of a lunch box. What I wouldn’t have given for a red plaid lunch box with Thermos. Or a Cinderella one. Or any sort of lunch box, since that was what all the kids on TV carried. Maybe it was a suburb thing, but why didn’t any of those TV kids come home for lunch? It’s not as if their mothers did anything but hang around in crisp housedresses, heels, and pearls. Surely, they had time to heat up some Campbell’s Vegetable Beef and slap a piece of baloney on white bread.

From seventh grade on, I ate lunch at school. In seventh and eighth grade, the nuns wanted us to have something of a junior high experience, so we “ate in”, sitting at our desks, which we covered with sheets of clear plastic. There was a lunch room in our school, and not that many kids in the younger grades ate at school. So there was certainly room for us to eat there. But for some reason, we weren’t allowed to eat at the cool fold down tables in the lunch room. Maybe it would have been too much effort to pull down the tablews for us.

In high school, Catholic school became more normal, and we ate at school. In the caf. In any case, school was too far away to go home. I don’t even remember the Whelan girls, whose house was practically on the school property, going home for lunch. Anyway, from seventh through high school. I carried my lunch in a brown paper lunch bag. No back to school shopping required.

But in grammar school, there was always the new pencil case to look forward to. And a couple of black and white marble notebooks. In the later grades, a loose-leaf binder and paper was a requirement.

All this was available at Woolworth’s.

So, as exciting as going back to school was, back to school shopping was not a big deal in my world.

These days, of course, it is a big deal – lots of advertising, back to school sales, etc. And Walmart, of course, understandably wants to take advantage of the seasonal splurge.

But in one store, Guns at Walmartthey combined back to school with something of a Guns of August theme, with a sign reading “own the school year like a hero” hung over a display case full of guns.

I don’t know what – if anything - the person who hung this sign was thinking.But what comes to my mind is Columbine and Newtown.

Guns and back to school shopping don’t seem to go hand in hand. Not even at Walmart.

The sign appears to be part of an ongoing superhero-themed marketing campaign that is not related to guns. (Source: Boston Globe)

Walmart investigated the unfortunate sign, and now says that the entire matter is a prank. Not clear whether the store was pranked by an employee, a shopper, or a Photoshopper. But whatever the circumstances, Walmart is saying ‘not us.’

It’s not, of course, much of a surprise that folks jumped to a conclusion that it was something of a serious promo on the part of Walmart. After all, just last month there was the incident in which a third-party seller offering their wares on described a wig’s color as “n***** brown. And there are those who believe teachers should be armed. So why not the school kids, too?

How do the PR folks at Walmart keep up with all this? Especially when they have to be doing all that back to school shopping that didn’t even exist back in days of yore.

Me, while I don’t use a pencil box, I do enjoy shopping for office supplies. I think I need some pens. Maybe I can take advantage of the back to school sales at Staples.

Monday, August 14, 2017

All concerted out

Amazingly – to me at least – I’ve been to three concerts in the last couple of weeks.

First up was Mary Black, pretty much my favorite Irish singer. Mary is a folk singer – and then some. I’ve been a fan for years, had seen her a few times in concert, and have about a dozen of her CD’s. A couple of years ago, she did what was billed as her final tour. Unfortunately, I missed the Boston stop. Fortunately, that final tour turned out to be a semi-final, and on her recent swing through the States, she made a stop in Beverly, Mass. So off I went.

When Mary came out, her voice was a bit – well, off is not the right word; she’s never off – let’s just say a bit “under” her norm. She mentioned that she was warming up, and that her voice would be fully back as the night went on. I figured that, at age 62, her incredibly powerful voice had lost some of its power. But damned if her voice didn’t come back.

Roisin O opened for Mary, and Roisin O, as it turns out, is Mary Black’s daughter. My guess is that Mary unfinaled her final tour to introduce her daughter to Amerikay. Fair play to her. Roisin was wonderful – a very engaging performer. But my heart and ears belong to Mary.

She couldn’t possibly have covered all of my favorite songs of hers – there are just too many. But she hit plenty of my high points – “Dream of Columbus,” “Carolina Rua,” “No Frontier” – and it was a fine night.

I’d been to the venue – The Cabot Theater – before, and it’s a great old rehabbed theater. It was a vaudeville theater in the 1920’s, and its funk and charm has been brought back. That said, they could do something about the AC. We were there on a cool (for late July) evening. If it had been really hot, the theater would have been pretty unbearable. Other than that, a very fine evening.

Last Thursday, I heard another Irish performer – Emmet Cahill – that’s CAH-hill, not CAY-hill, as they say around these parts. Emmet has a tremendous voice, as pure an Irish tenor as you can imagine. He’s often compared to to “The Great John MacCormack.” Of course, there can’t be three people under the age of 100 who would get a comparison to “The Great John MacCormack.” But I’m here to tell you that Emmet’s voice is a little more current than the voice of his predecessor, which to modern ears sounds just a bit orotund. (If you’re curious, here’s Count MacCormack singing “Maggie,” one of my grandmother’s favorites.)

And not to be a look-sist, but young Mr. Cahill has it all over John Mac when it comes to the looks department. He is absolutely adorable, and comes across as very charming and sweet. (Seems for real. Hope he’s not an axe murderer in real life…)

I had seen Emmet perform in Worcester this past winter, and that concert was fine, even though some of the songs he covered were a bit on the schmaltz end of the spectrum. “Danny Boy.” “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen.”

And “Machushla, Machushla”???? Not quite as bad as “Mother Machree”, but, oy vey. Speaking of “Mother Machree” - in my book “The Horse with No Name” of Irish music - at the Worcester concert, someone in back of me requested it during the open request session. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I let out an involuntary, yet audible, gasp. Fortunately, Emmet either didn’t hear the request, or he figured I might create a scene if he honored it, but there was no “Mother Machree.” He was more partial to my request, “Galway Girl,” a fun Steve Earl song.

Last week’s Emmet Cahill concert was in a lovely old Catholic Church in a Boston ‘burb. This was an odd setting for a concert, but it worked. (They had de-churched things a bit by taking the hosts out of the tabernacle, but it did feel a bit churchy. I almost reflectively genuflected. Talk about muscle memory!)

Emmet was in fine voice, and, while he did hit most of the Irish chestnuts, he through in a few more show/pop tunes than he did in Worcester. And he really does have a lovely voice and is a thoroughly charming performer. Once again, I was able to get in my request for “Galway Girl” there – quite fittingly, as I was there with my niece Molly, recently returned from a uni semester in Galway.

Molly wasn’t the youngest person there, but when I ran the numbers in my head, I came up with a median age older than my own. I may be flattering myself here, but there were a lot of older folks in the crowd. I do hope that Emmet breaks through before his audience dies off. (He also performs with the cute-young-Irish-guy group, Celtic Thunder, so he has another audience – admittedly with some overlap – out there.)

And then, last Friday, on a perfect summer’s night, I saw James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt at Fenway Park.

I saw him there last year (Jackson Browne in tow –  with JT, not with me), and last Friday night was even better.

Bonnie Raitt – bless her – hasn’t changed her look in 40+ years – but the girl can still rock it. Lots of fun. James Taylor, well, he’s 69, and his look has changed over the years. For one thing, he’s bald (and looks exactly like his father, who I used to see around the neighborhood). But his voice is still warm, mellow and sure. And he can be very, very funny.

I’ve always loved James Taylor. How can I not like a guy who wrote a song with my birthday mentioned in it? That doesn’t happen to most folks. Sure, there’s “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” (A real, live nephew of my Uncle Sam, born on the Fourth of July.) And a few others where the date is noted. I may not get a mention in any song – there’s no “I’ll Take You Home Again, Maureen” out there – but for a great lyric, it’s hard to beat The first of December was covered with snow, so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston. Thank you, Sweet Baby, James for a wonderful night at the old ball park.

The only downside was that, 200 miles away, the Yankees were beating the Red Sox…

Anyway, three in two weeks is a lot of live music, and I’m all concerted out for a while. But all three were great in their own very different ways.