Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Night of the Butterfingers

I’ve always enjoyed Halloween.

As a kid, what was there not to like?

Out at night, roaming around, unsupervised, with a bunch of other kids (no adults need apply); dressing up as something other than a parochial school kiddo; and getting candy.

I can still recall what certain houses gave out but, come to think of it, most of the houses I remember didn’t give out candy:

  • Three houses down: popcorn balls wrapped in orange or black cellophane. When I was in high school, and I was their babysitter, I found out that this family always had candy around for snacking. Just not on Halloween for some reason.
  • The house out back: apples. They were and old couple, Irish immigrants. Apparently, giving out apples was a thing in the Old Sod. Well, sod that. Apples we could get at home. Nonetheless, we went and rang their bell because my parents thought it would be mean and un-neighborly not to trick or treat there. And this family was plenty un-neighborly to us kids. Anytime a ball rolled downhill from our backyard to their backyard, Mr. D. hung on to it. I remember my father calling him an S.O.B. (and my mother having a fit at the strong language used around us kids).
  • Around the corner: something from Hostess, usually a package of Snowballs. The father drove a delivery van for Continental Bakery. So they always gave out Hostess treats, which I suppose they got at a bargain rate. (If I were a betting woman, I’d say that was the fell-off-the-truck rate.) The father was pretty unpleasant. And one time, while driving that delivery van, he ran over my brother Rick’s trike. Fortunately, Rick was not on it. But I had to walk around the corner and fetch the mangled trike from in front of their house.
  • At the end of the block: two families where the fathers were drug salesmen. They both gave out puzzles that were advertising give-aways from some company they repped. The puzzle was always a little disc with a clear plastic cover. The object was the balance three ball bearings on the noses of three seals. Harder than it sounds. Given that we had five kids, and we all trick-or-treated through 8th grade, we must have consumed dozens of those puzzles over the years. Even though they weren’t candy, I always enjoyed getting one.

And then there was candy. The candy I remember the source of came:

  • From the folks across Main Street, on the corner of Stearns Ave. A very nice elderly couple gave out 10 cent candy bars (this when a normal candy bar was a nickel): chocolate covered marshmallow witches from Schrafft’s. Fancy-dancy.
  • From my grandmother, who gave out treat bags with candy corn and, I can’t recall exactly, but I’m guessing Brach toffees, a candy she always had in her house. We lived at Nanny’s until I was 6, but we were still in the ‘hood. So we had to go trick or treat at her house, even though her house was spooky. Dark, with a dark creepy driveway, and a big, scary shaggy fir tree you had to walk by to get to her back door, which is where she was giving out candy. Plus she was a cranky and downright eccentric old lady. Most kids wouldn’t go there but, jeez, it was our grandmother so we were pretty sure she wasn’t going to kidnap or poison us.

And everyone else on our wide-ranging route..

Anyway, lugging home a heavy bag of candy and looking through the treasures it held – even those nasty popcorn balls and the (yawn) apples – was close to heaven. Even if we knew my mother was going to go through and toss out everything she didn’t approve of –  like unwrapped candy corn, even if it came from Nanny’s, and lollipops, which she set aside (for some reason: I’ll have to ask) for my cousin Barbara, whose trick or treating days were well behind her by the time we were marauding around sugar- and night-crazed.

My mother put all the candy she was willing for us to eat in a communal bowl and parsed it out. Given how much candy we managed to bring in, it didn’t last all that long. I suspect that most of it made its way to my father’s office.

Ah, Halloween…

I will be heading to Salem, where my sister Trish lives. She used to live right off Salem Common, and Salem being Halloween central for the region, she’d get hundreds of kids ringing her bell. There will be fewer in her new digs. But we’ll see plenty of Elsa’s, plenty of Tom Brady’s.

And there will be Butterfingers.

I won’t be in costume. And I’m plenty used to being out after dark without adult supervision, other than my own. But, oh those Butterfingers.

Tonight’s the night!

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

What price environmental virtue?

On the continuum of environmental virtue, I’m in an okay place.

I walk a lot. And use public transpo. But I also take Uber. And a couple of weeks back, when I had to rent a car to get to a wedding in the mountains of NY, I turned down a hybrid. Nerve-wracking enough that I had to cope with that antler dance in Hartford where I84 disappears and you have to take I91 and I691 and, I swear to God, I ended up passing through Hartford twice. But having to cope with that weird gear-shift dial. Let alone having to worry about plugging in. Ugh! Maybe if I ever get another car (speaking of ugh), I’ll get an electric or hybrid. ‘Til then.

I recycle. Religiously. And take care of all the catalogues and other junk mail that all the other residents in this building get but leave on the hall table. I bring my own shopping bags to the grocery store.  I recycle unusable clothing at H&M, and worn out sneakers at Nike (which takes mine even though they’re never Nikes). I try to avoid buying water bottles. And, back in the old days (i.e., last summer), when I was still buying 6- or 8-packs of Diet Cokes, I would snip the plastic holder into pieces so that no duck would end up wringing its neck on one. I’ve mostly moved away from disposable containers. But I don’t get the environmentally-friendly paper towels from Whole Food. Because they just don’t absorb anything that’s remotely liquid. And, yep, I sometimes use panty shields.

I put on a fleece when I’m cold. And take off my sweater when I’m warm. But I’m pretty liberal with the heat and AC when going without in winter means wearing mitts and blowing on my fingers every five minutes, and when going without in the summer means not getting any damned sleep.

So I don’t give myself a gold-star A+ for being a an environmental goody-two-shoes. But I do give myself a B, maybe even a B+.

There are, however, folks who’ll go to what I consider environmental extremes. Like the woman in Australia who avoids using Glad Wrap, or even those reusable plastic covers you can get from Vermont Country Store that look like something straight out of the 50’s. No, Dana Sluka tried her hand at making:

…her own wax-covered cloth for covering dishes. An online tutorial explained how to melt beeswax in a double boiler and brush it onto a piece of cloth. Ideally, the wraps can be reused for a year or so. (Source: WSJ)

Wonder if she’s ever considered using a Pyrex bowl, one that comes with its very own cover that can be reused for, like, forever. Especially when you factor in the time and the risk entailed in making your own version of Glad Wrap:

It sounded simple enough. Then Ms. Sluka accidentally dribbled hot wax all over her laminate counter. “It was sticky and I couldn’t clean it off,” she said. An idea came to her: She reached for the kitchen torch that she uses to make creme brulee. Using the hottest flame setting, she began warming up the globs of wax on the counter. The heat caused the counter to crack.

That doesn’t seem quite worth it to me, but Sluka has devoted some not-inconsiderable amount of time to achieving eco-friendly perfection, and she’s selling her products online. (Because data centers and shipping stuff don’t create any bad enviro footprint…)

Sluka is not, of course, the only one trying to come up with more environmentally-friendly products.

Some women are making their own straws.

Dedri Uys:

…starts by rolling strips of paper into tubes. To get the paper to stick together, she uses either homemade cornstarch paste or gelatin glue. She has tried sealing the paper with wax from soybean oil, but those straws were “barely usable,” she said. “If you squished them, bits of soy wax would fall off from the inside.”

Paraffin wax was better, though on her first try the wax didn’t melt completely and coagulated within the straws. Other straws ended up too fat.

I was going to say ‘no comment.’ But I’m going to comment:

Wouldn’t it make more sense to just cut down on the number of straws you use? Or buy yourself a reusable glass or aluminum tube?

Sheesh. Making your own straws.

I will admit to using an occasional straw, mostly when I have an iced coffee from Dunks. I suppose I could refuse the straw, but it’s pretty difficult to drink an iced coffee without one. Unless you fancy iced coffee running down the front of your shirt. Of course, I should be bringing my own container to Dunks rather than taking their terrible, assault-on-the-environment cup. But, hell, it’s not like I’m guzzling iced coffees morning, noon, and night, and tossing the empties out the window of my gas-guzzling clunker as I speed down the Mass Pike.

Maine’s own Lindsay Weirich’s is also a paper straw maker.

…she recommends using canning wax, a food-grade paraffin that is used to make candy.

She warns fellow crafters to be careful when heating the flammable wax that “you don’t ignite it.”

Another English woman uses slender bamboo shoots to make her straws, “using sandpaper to smooth the rims.” 

Then there’s the woman in Philadelphia who coated her canvas tote bag with wax to waterproof it.

Note to Rebekah Bussom: grocery stores in Boston actually sell waxy-coated tote bags that last a few months, if you’re not carrying sharps or heavy cans of stewed tomatoes in them. I suspect that grocery stores in Philly do the same.

Perhaps these women – and, yes, everyone mentioned in the article was F – are such dedicated crafters that this is just a natural (literally and figuratively) extension of their craftiness. Perhaps they’re just grand eccentrics.

Me? I’m all for being environmentally aware, eco-friendly, etc. But I didn’t live with an economist for all those decades without learning about the concept of opportunity cost of their time. Don’t any of these women have one?

Monday, October 29, 2018

Well, if NPR says so…

I went to Hoboken once. In 1972.

A group of us Columbia grad school adventurers decided that we’d had it with life bounded by West 95th (where the Thalia Theater was located) to the South; West 120th to the North (where there was a greasy spoon where we all had burgers on Sunday); Morningside Park to the East (and we never went there; it was scary, a steep ravine); and Riverside Drive to the West (where occasionally a professor hosted his – and it was always his – students over for wine and cheese). In Hoboken, there was a fish restaurant someone had heard of – I’m guessing (thanks to Google) that it was the now-closed Clam Broth House. So we took the subway down to lower Manhattan and the PATH train to Hoboken.

And that was my one and only for Hoboken.

Back then, there was nothing to attract young folks to Hoboken, other than the desire to live dangerously and, I guess, sup on clam broth.

Oakland. I went to Oakland once. I think it was 2000. Or so.

I was on business trip in Las Vegas, with plans to meet up with my husband and his good friend who lived in Reno. But first, I had to make a side trip to San Francisco for a one hour client meeting.

Unfortunately, my plane was delayed. And delayed. And delayed

I was definitely going to miss my client meeting.

I decided to forget SF and just fly direct from Las Vegas to Reno.

Unfortunately, my bag was already checked. I could see it on the tarmac. But it was checked. And they would not give it back to me. In fact, they told me that if I went to retrieve it – I could see it, tantalizingly sitting right there – I would get arrested.

Of course, I wasn’t going to get arrested. But, really, no problem, I thought.

I’ll fly to Reno and have them forward my bag there.

But, no.

There were too many airlines involved. Too many airports.

So I had to fly to San Francisco, pick up my bag, take the shuttle to Oakland Airport, check my bag, and fly to Reno.

So, yep, I’ve been to Oakland. Or at least Oakland Airport. Once.

Back then, there was nothing to attract middle aging folks to Oakland, other than the desire to secure more affordable housing in the one neighborhood anyone would live in. I know this because I had a friend whose brother had done just that.

And then, Hoboken became a thing. A boom thing. And Oakland became a thing. A boom thing.

That kind of boom is happening now in Boston. An hour away, New England's second-largest city, Worcester, is booming. (So

"Properties are hot commercially, properties are hot residentially ... everyone just wants a piece of Worcester right now. It's crazy," said Kate McEvoy, a vice president for Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and fifth-generation Worcesterite. (Source: NPR)

(By the way, if I lived in Worcester, I’d be a fourth-gen Worcesterite. That is, if I counted my great-grandparents as Worcesterites, rather than folks who lived in the Cherry Valley section of Leicester, which is just a couple of feet outside of Worcester proper.)

Anyway, Worcester is growing faster and “is outpacing just about every other small city in America and could find itself a case study for urban growth.”

How. About. That.

The recipe, according to UMass Amherst sociology professor Brian Sargent:

"You need a larger city near a smaller city. You need the larger city to get really expensive fast, and that's Boston," Sargent said with a chuckle. "You need the smaller city to undergo underdevelopment, or a lot of times postindustrial depression. Then, as the expensive city prices people out there'll be some bleed-over from there."

I’m wondering just how a city undergoes underdevelopment. Wouldn’t it be experience? Or suffer from? But postindustrial depression?  Worcester had that down to a science.

When I was a kid, all kinds of tangible, physical things were made in Worcester. Industrial wire. Steel. Industrial abrasives. Aircraft engine parts. M-16 rifles. Space suits. Boilers. Shoes and combat boots. Pocketbooks. Boxed pizza mix. Plastic toys. Soda. Pies.

As far as I can tell, the only items on the above list still manufactured in Worcester are soda (Polar) and pies (Table Talk).

By the time my childhood was ebbing, and I was planning my escape – Table Talk Pie was not enough to hold me – Worcester was definitely in its postindustrial funk. Enter the resurrection.

The city is especially hot right now for tech, biomedical and specialty manufacturing businesses. And the types of services that come with that kind of boom. City officials have greenlighted $2.6 billion in recent construction — new housing, as well as retail and restaurant space. And Worcester is finally growing, after losing residents for much of the past century.

According to NPR, Worcester is attracting young professionals. Foodies. It has a “scene.”

All those long-abandoned pre-industrial depression factories and mills, why they’re “just waiting to be rehabbed.”

Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus, who grew up here, says that for as long as he can remember, Worcester dreamed of a return to its glory days but couldn't figure out how to get it done.

"It had sunk into the psyche of the city that it wasn't going to come back, that this was just our fate," he said. "Probably the worst thing in the world is when people start to believe it, and so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Ah, Worcester, Gritty, three-decker-clogged, messy old Worcester began clawing its way back.

Even while my mother was still alive – and she died in 2001 – all of a sudden there were a few good restaurants. A decent boutique hotel. UMass Medical School and Medical Center.

They rehabbed the train station – from where our family departed on the Great Lakes Limited for the trips to Chicago when we trained rather than drove – but for years a quasi-abandoned, pigeon-filled dump. And then they “beautified” Worcester Common, a park that sits behind Worcester’s funky old city hall.

Worcester’s psyche?

Well, even when the city’s psyche was down in the Ballard Street dumps, there has always been a booster-ism lying just beneath. And now it’s sticking it’s nose above water.

After all, Worcester is the Heart of the Commonwealth. The second largest city in the region. (Most likely the largest city in the US that no one has heard of.) And the future home of the Worcester Red Sox.

I sometimes joke about retiring to Worcester. Sounds like if that’s going to happen, I better get back there and gobble up some property.

Worcester. Boomtown. Right up there with Hoboken and Oakland.

If NPR says so…


A nod of the Worcesterite psyche to my sister Trish, my high school classmate Franny, and my cousin-in-law Dick, who all sent this story my way.


Don’t blame us if we ever doubt ya,

You know we couldn’t live without ya.

Boston, you are the only, only, o-only…

red sox

From the Dropkkck Murphy’s “Tessie”, played after “Dirty Water” after every Red Sox win. What a year. Fun to watch and a likable team to boot.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Bloomer Girl!

Last Saturday, I went to a wedding in Orange County, New York, and spent the night in the city of Middletown.

I had never heard of Middletown, New York, so I naturally felt compelled to look it up in wikipedia.

I’m always interested in the notable people who come from a town, so I went and grazed Middletown’s list. Not a lot of particularly notables on the list, I’m afraid. You know they’re scraping when they’ve got the Chief Technology Officer of the NYC Department of Transportation as a highlight.

There were a few people I’d at least heard of: marathoner Frank Shorter and basketball player Cleananthony Early. Then there was an entertainer named Little Sammy Davis, but he turned out to be no relation to the Sammy Davis.

But the notable who caught my eye was one Lydia Sayer Hasbrouck, women’s dress reformer.

Women’s dress reformer? Okay!

Lydia Sayer Hasbrouck was born in 1827, and was keen on freeing women from the constraints of Victorian-era clothing: crinolines, bustles, cinched waists, laced up corsets…and making it easier for women to get comfortably around. One woman she was keen on freeing was herself:

In 1849, she adopted the then-radical style of clothing known as the bloomer or reform dress — an adaptation of Turkish pantaloons with a knee-length oBloomer girlsverskirt. When she applied to the Seward Seminary in Florida, she was told that she could not be admitted unless she stopped wearing the reform dress.She refused and had to finish her education elsewhere.She later recounted that this experience "anchored me in the ranks of women’s rights advocates advocates", and she resolved to fight for women's "physical, political and educational freedom and equality. She wore the reform dress throughout her life, including at her wedding. (Source: Wikipedia)

Women, she felt, would never be the equals of men if they were forced to wear impractical clothing. Quite a woman, Lydia was trained in hydropathy – 19th century water-based PT – at something called Hygeia-Therapeutic College, where she enrolled after Seward Seminary rejected her. She was also a journalist, and, elected to the Middletown Board of Education in 1880, “she is thought to have been the first American woman to hold elected office.” She worked as a real estate developer. Plus she was a wife and mother of three. No fussy, impractical clothing held this bloomer girl back!

These days, there are plenty of comfy and practical clothing options for women. As I write this, I’m wearing jeans, sneakers, a turtle neck and a fleece. Comfy r’ us.

We’ve come a long way, baby. And yet, we still see women destroying their feet by wearing pointy-toe high heels. And the creator of Spanx is a billionaire.

If Lydia Sayer Hasbrouck could see all that comfy clothing, I suspect she’d be a bit shocked but mostly delighted. As for the spike heels and Spanx, she’d probably be rolling around in her Middletown, New York grave – able to roll, no doubt, because she was wearing her those bloomers…

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The open plan office is about to get even worse (if that’s at all possible)

“Wow, I’m so excited that we’re going to move to an open-plan office workspace,” said no one in the history of work.

I’ve never worked in a fully “open concept” environment, but I’ve worked in private offices and I’ve worked in tiny, door-less cubicles. DecWriterAnd just like I’m with the person who uttered the words ‘I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich and rich is better’, I’m firm in my belief that private office is better.

The closest I came to an open office environment was the computer room I worked in nearly 40 years ago.

My job was developing (admittedly bogus and useless) forecasting models and reports for Fortune 500 companies so that they could forecast their fortunes. This was in the day before personal computers. So we didn’t have computers in offices. And we mostly didn’t work off of screens either. We worked on paper, on “DecWriters” like the one pictured here – the one with the stiff sitting at it, fingers poised over the keyboard, as rigor mortis sets in. DecWriters were attached to a mainframe computers and we typed stuff in and waited for the mainframe to spit something back.

Anyway, when we had to work on our models, as opposed to sitting in our offices bullshitting with each other, bullshitting customers, or listening to sales people bullshitting us, we worked in the Terminal Room, we sat in a bullpen with a dozen or so DecWriters, a couple of clattering old printers, and a few green screen terminal boxes that we fought for because they were so cool. (Ahem.)

Working in the Terminal Room wasn’t all that bad, as we got to socialize while we waited for the deathly slow mainframe to compile our models, etc. And, when we had a question about our pretty complex modeling language – XSIM – we could just shout out our question and someone always had the answer. (It was easier to shout out a question than it was to look through the XSIM documentation, two tan-leatherette volumes the size of a couple of Gutenberg Bibles.)

But the Terminal Room was okay because we could always retreat to a private or semi-private office.

As I said, no one but no one wants to work in an open office.

Nope, it’s something dreamed up by accounting, in cahoots with HR who shill for the company by trying to drum up enthusiasm for willingly giving up private space where you can hear yourself think and make a mammogram appointment or deal with your insurance company after a fender-bender to “collaborate” with colleagues. “Collaborate” mostly being a euphemism for being distracted by having to listen to your colleagues think out loud, make mammogram appointments and deal with their insurance company after a fender-bender.

But open plan is apparently here to stay. And necessity being the mother of invention, folks are stepping in to make it “better.”

Panasonic’s Future Life Factory is developing wearable blinkers, designed to limit your sense of sound and sight, and help you focus on what's directly in front of you.

The prototype device, called Wear Space, is designed to keep people distraction-free when working in busy spaces or open-plan offices by blocking them off from their immediate surroundings...

Panasonic hopes that by using the partition to cut the user's horizontal field of vision by about 60 per cent, it will encourage them to concentrate on the work in front of them.

"As open offices and digital nomads are on the rise, workers are finding it ever more important to have personal space where they can focus," said the company. "Wear Space instantly creates this kind of personal space – it's as simple as putting on an article of clothing." (Source: Dezeen)

Seriously, the only article of clothing that I’d want for an open plan office is a Harry Potter invisibility cloak.

Invisibility cloak aside, all I can think of when I hear that open office denizens will be wearing something that looks like a horse blinker is “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”


This partition is fixed around the wearer's head by a pair of noise-cancelling headphones fitted to the inside of the curved body. These are used to block out ambient sounds, and feature three levels of noise cancellation depending on the environment.

The design studio behind WearSpace is doing a crowdfunding campaign to get support for this product.

The crowd-funding site is mostly in Japanese, but when I looked they were only looking for $133K (15 million yen), of which they’ve raised $75K (8.4 million yen).

Even if I could read kanji and understand Japanese, I would most assuredly not be investing in WearSpace.

Hard to believe if, but once this hits the market, the open plan office will get even worse. And I didn’t think that was even remotely possible.

A tip of the WearSpace blinkers to my sister Trish who spotted this item.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Well, well, wellness

There’s wellness, and then there’s wellness. In the former category, I’d put my flu shot and Fitbit. In the latter category, while I don’t have anything to personally contribute, I guess that’s where I’d put OneTaste, where wellness, well, “just got interesting.”

OneTaste is a global lifestyle brand focused on increasing health, happiness and connection through scientifically-proven methods combining mindfulness and sexuality.

Some of my favorite words in the whole wide world are in that mission statement: lifestyle, brand, scientifically-proven, mindfulness, and – I guess, or used to know something about, or whatever  – sexuality.

OneTaste. Now there’s a name that at once sounds both like a product you’d find on the grocery store shelf (like Taster’s Choice) and like something that just doesn’t make sense. What can OneTaste possibly mean? Don’t we all believe in eye of the beholder, chacun à son goût?

OneTaste’s main offering is something called Orgasmic Meditation, and I’ll mostly leave it at that. To go into the details, I’d have to use an eight-letter word that begins with a “c” and ends with an “s”. A word that Pink Slip, in its first decade-plus in existence, has never had reason to use. Not that I have any problem with this “c” word. After all, women come equipped with one. Anyway, this particular “c word” really doesn’t seem to apply even tangentially to business, which is the nominal reason for Pink Slip’s being.

As for the company’s Orgasmic Meditation:

OneTaste has said the practice, which its members call “OM,” helps women connect differently with their bodies and with their intuition, while teaching men to be more sensitive to a woman’s needs. The company was founded in San Francisco in 2004 and made money by selling classes, coaching programs and retreats about the practice and the spiritual teachings associated with OM. (Source: Bloomberg)

Alas, for those interested in “spiritual teachings associated with OM”, OneTaste, which had three centers in the US – San Francisco, LA, and NYC – is shuttering those outlets.

A fourth in London no longer offers classes and is holding discussions about whether to shut down, a spokeswoman for the company said…Its “focus for the future,” according to a statement, is “to bring the world of Orgasmic Meditation (OM) online for a global audience.”

I realize that a lot of training is going online, but in reading about OM, it sure sounds a lot more physical than virtual. Maybe it’ll all be “how to” videos. (Well, not that spiritual, orgasmic teaching is at all porn-y, not at all, but porn was a major driver in the development of the Internet.)

OneTaste may well be shutting down their physical operations so they can scale and expand their reach, something online does well. But there seems to have been a tiny bit of trouble in OM paradise:

Former OneTaste members and employees told Bloomberg Businessweek that for years, the company pushed them to ignore their financial, emotional and physical boundaries. Some said they went deep into debt at the encouragement of OneTaste staff, who suggested they take out additional credit cards to pay for expensive courses. They also said OneTaste staff told them to OM with or have sex with each other and with customers, sometimes to help with class sales and sometimes for spiritual growth. In 2015, OneTaste paid an out-of-court settlement to a former worker, who claimed she faced sexual assault, sexual harassment and labor violations at work.

All this was exposed in a June Bloomberg article that reported that, at least for one member:

OneTaste was much more than a series of workshops. It was a company that had, in less than a year, gained sway over every aspect of her life.

After taking a class, this woman joined the OneTaste sales team and began:

…living in a communal house in Brooklyn with her co-workers. Seven days a week, they gathered for multiple rounds of orgasmic meditation, or OM. (They pronounce it “ohm.”) They spent hours calling and texting people who’d come to a OneTaste event, trying to sell seats for the next, more expensive classes.

Not to mention being pressured to pay for more classes for herself. She and her husband ended up flying the OneTaste coop having “spent more than $150,000”. Ohm my…

This woman wasn’t a one-off:

In some members’ experiences, the company used flirtation and sex to lure emotionally vulnerable targets. It taught employees to work for free or cheap to show devotion. And managers frequently ordered staffers to have sex or OM with each other or with customers.

At the time of the Bloomberg article, OneTaste (surprise!) denied all.

But here they are, a few months later, closing their wellness centers and changing their strategic focus.

What a business. Sounds like a sexed up version of Scientology, no? Beware of any business that’s cult-like and talks about mindfulness and sexuality.

But what do I know? I’m just a little Catholic girl who believes that if your meditation is going to involve orgasm, it should probably take place in your bedroom. Or in a hotel room. Or out in the woods. Just not on the floor of a wellness center in the midst of a whole bunch of other adherents. And you shouldn’t have to go $150K in debt for it. Ohm well, at least if it’s online, you’re doing it in private. Where it belongs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

October’s Bright Blue Weather. (A baseball story.)

Although the last couple of days have fit the bill, today isn’t much of an example of October’s bright blue weather. Overcast and maybe even a bit of rain are predicted for the day. Clearing but pretty chilly by game time – in the 40’s. So (assuming I haven’t won a raffle for a ticket to watch the game from the Monster Seats) I’ll be just as happy to be watching Game One of the World Series from the comfort of my den. I will be representing, of course, with my black & orange Jack MR in Red Sox capO’ Lantern “only in October” Red Sox cap. I may even buy myself a box of Cracker Jacks.

As a Red Sox lifer, I am naturally delighted that our boys are still playing this late in October. And I naturally want our boys to prevail over their opponent, the LA Dodgers. But since 2004, when the Red Sox reversed an ancient curse, I don’t quite have the same emotion invested in a World Series win.

Sure, I was happy they won again in 2007. And in 2013. But if they lose this time, I won’t be losing any sleep over it. Which indeed I did in 1967, 1975, and 1986, when the Sox lost all three times in seven game, heartbreaker fashion. In 1967, I wisely decided that I wouldn’t watch a seventh and deciding game in any World Series the Red Sox were playing in. So I didn’t watch that year, or in 1975, or in 1986.  In 2004 and 2007, the Red Sox swept in four. In 2013, it took them six games to put the Cardinals away. So it hasn’t been an issue for a while.

This year, if it comes to it, I will probably watch a seventh game.

Hoping they win, but somewhat shrugging it off if they don’t.

There’s shrugging and then there’s shrugging, however.

I would have preferred their opponent to be the Milwaukee Brewers, as I would have been happy enough to see them win. I’ll be less delighted to see the Dodgers triumph. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but for some reason, I feel about the Dodgers almost the same way I feel about the Yankees. Me no like. Maybe if they’d stayed in Brooklyn, rather than decamp in the 1950’s to sunnier, palmier climes…

On top of that, the Dodgers are staying at the Ritz, where they’re crossing a picket line of striking hotel workers.

As scabs, they join the Yankees, who also stayed at the Ritz when they were in town for the division series. On the other hand, when the Houston Astros played Boston in the league championship, they chose not to use their usual hotel (the Sheraton) and stayed instead at a hotel where the workers aren’t on strike. Both teams, of course, lost, but the Yankees really and truly deserved to.

So, given solidarity issues, I’ve gotten another reason not to completely shrug off a Dodgers victory.

I’m guessing that the TV and MLB powers that be are just as happy to have the Dodgers in the mix, rather than the Brewers. As narratives go, there’s these two ancient, storied franchises battling it out. It would have been even better if Frank McCourt (no, not that Frank McCourt; the other Frank McCourt), a Boston boy (unlike the Frank McCourt who was a Limerick boy) still owned the Dodgers. But he sold out a while back. Still, there’s that “storied franchise” thang…

Unlike the Brewers, whose story isn’t so storied – not even 50 years in the making - and who have ratcheted back and forth between being in the American League and the National League.

Anyway, with the Red Sox vs. the Dodgers, they’ve got good story, both from the way back and from the current era.

The way-back story dates from 1916, when the Red Sox (who still had Babe Ruth on board) beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series in five games.

The more recent story is that the Dodger’s manager, Dave Roberts, is a beloved figure in Boston. His famous steal was a catalyst for the Red Sox comeback against the Yankees in the 2004 AL Championship Series. When the Dodgers are introduced, Roberts will most likely get quite an ovation.

But we don’t like him that much that we want his team to win.

The Red Sox are favored-favored; the Dodgers, because they haven’t won the World Series since 1988, are the sentimental favorites. Or so I’ve heard. Take it from a Red Sox lifer, as droughts go, 30 years is nothing.

Anyway, one of the fun things about having your team in the World Series is that there’s a good buzz in town. And given how small and compact Boston is, it’s hard not to feel that buzz. We’re a sports town in general, and a baseball town in particular. So having the Red Sox make it to the farther reaches of October is a good thing. Buzz, buzz, buzz for the Fall Classic.

I haven’t see a ton of Dodgers fans walking around as yet. But I’ve passed a few of them. Enjoy the weather! It’s not exactly bright Dodger blue. But when your guys are still playing at the end of October, what’s not to like?

Meanwhile, I’ll be in the den, watching our boy of summer be the boys of autumn.

Go, Red Sox!

Monday, October 22, 2018

How now brown cow?

A survey that may or may not have been conducted by the ghost of H.L. Mencken – the survey was commissioned by an outfit called the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy – found that “seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows.”

Really. This is udderly ridiculous.

Do these folks ever wonder why there’s no polka-doGallowayt or chocolate chip milk coming from Holsteins? Do they think that Galloways are the source of Oreos? Or are they canny enough to recognize that cookies don’t come from cows.

It’s not just milk that brings out our inner ignoramus.

One Department of Agriculture study, commissioned in the early ’90s, found that nearly 1 in 5 adults did not know that hamburgers are made from beef. (Source: WaPo)

Well, if we hang on for a bit, the 1 in 5 may be proved correct. I recently had a not bad fake hamburger. Not a veggie burger, mind you. A fake burger. (It tasted like a well-done hamburger. Not juicy and dripping a bit of blood, but once you threw a pickle and ketchup on it, it tasted just fine.) And then there’s pink slime…

But the real question is whether those 1 and 5 who didn’t know hamburgers are made from beef actually know that beef comes from an honest to goodness animal.

The problem is that most of us are generations removed from the farm.

One set of my Irish great-grandparents worked in textile mills when they came to Amerikay. The other pair came over and bought a farm. A dairy farm. But none of their offspring were farmers. My grandfather Rogers fled the farm for the big city of Worcester, as did his brother Jim. They ran a saloon. The other brother fled the farm for Hammond, Indiana for some reason, coming home only for his mother’s funeral. My great Aunt Lizzie stayed on the farm, but commuted by trolley from rural Barre to the mill-town of Ware, where she worked as a bookkeeper.

My German grandparents fled Europe – and the farm – for Chicago, where my grandfather opened a butcher shop.

My grandmother did have a garden at the family’s lake house, 50 miles or so outside of Chicago, where she grew vegetables, including the nastiest wax beans – a.k.a., “vax beans”. The area where the lake house sat was more rural than resort-y. There was a duck farm down the road and a cornfield across the road. I seem to remember my father and uncle picking corn for dinner. (Surely, they paid the farmer…)

I had a little second-hand farm experience, but most of us just plain don’t grow up on farms, or anywhere near one. So we never experience things like just-picked vaxed beans and chickens running around with their heads cut off. Literally.

Thus we end up with lack of basic food knowledge:

When one team of researchers interviewed fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at an urban California school, they found that more than half of them didn’t know pickles were cucumbers, or that onions and lettuce were plants. Four in 10 didn’t know that hamburgers came from cows. And 3 in 10 didn’t know that cheese is made from milk.

My German grandmother made her own pickles, so I knew all about cucumbers. But I understand that someone might be confused. Even though both items are green and pimply. (Plus I’ll cut some slack because for some reason it’s sticking in my mind that my husband didn’t get grapes/raisins or plums/prunes. And he had a PhD from Harvard.)

But how could you not know that onions and lettuce are plants?

Then again:

The USDA says orange juice is the most popular “fruit” in America, and processed potatoes — in the form of french fries and chips — rank among the top vegetables.

For the record, the Macintosh apple is my personal most popular fruit, followed by cherries. As for top veggies, while I do love potatoes, I’ve gotta go with broccoli, asparagus, and peppers.

Not sure while it’s all that important. What’s the difference if someone thinks that chocolate milk doesn’t come directly from a brown cow? Maybe they grew up well after the era when we watched our mothers mix Nestle’s Quik into white milk, hoping she stirred it well enough to get all the lumps out. (Or better yet, got to watch our mothers make chocolate milk with Hershey’s syrup, which tasted a lot better than choco milk made with Quik, what with the possibility of a lump of grainy mix in it.)

But I guess that it’s good to know this kind of stuff in a general knowledge sort of way. Or because it might help us become more aware of things nutritional, and thus stop kidding ourselves that a potato chip counts as a vegetable.

Friday, October 19, 2018

See you in court!

I went to small claims court once.

I was in college. It was a landlord thing. “They” didn’t show. My roommate and I did. So we got the $200 or whatever it was that, at the time, was definitely worth it. (While we had plenty of problems with our actual landlord – a notorious Boston student-slumlord of the era – they were usually resolved after we showed up a few times at the property manager’s office and squawked about, say, the lack of a working fridge. No, this was with another notorious student-slumlord. We had put a deposit down on an apartment, but the deal – verbal agreement, I believe – was that we had 24 hours to pull out and get our money back. “They” weren’t interested in giving us our that money back, so we took them to court. And won by default.)

I don’t think there were any lawyers in court the day we went. Just small claimants like me and my roommate, representing ourselves. I think we brought the original lease we’d signed, which may or may not have had the bit about a 24-hour out clause in it. Other than that, the only thing we knew about small claims court was that it existed.

But these days, even with the infinite information resource that is the Internet, who has the time to figure it all out for themselves? Party of the first part, party of the second part. Habeas corpus. There ain’t no San(i)ty Claus(e).

Who has the time? Oh, maybe us old semi-retired geezers, but certainly not the millennials.

And now they don’t have to, thanks to an app developed by a Stanford student that lets folks sue someone for as much as $25K.

“I think people are really upset with how the legal system works,” [Joshua] Browder said. “Lawyers say this app isn’t necessary, but if your issue is below $10,000, no lawyer is going to help, and if they do they’re going to take 50 percent of what you make.” )(Source: WaPo)

So, no one can take on a case that might take a couple of hours time to clear if there’s only $10K at stake – and they’ll only get $5K for their efforts? What a world! Must be all the law school debt folks are racking up these days. (Just imagine if you darkened a lawyer’s door with our 1970 vintage $200 claim. Even marked up for inflation, we’re talking about a bit over $500.)

How does [the app, DoNotPay] work?

Once opened, the app tells users they can sue anyone by pressing a button. The app then asks several questions about the nature of the filing, as well as users' name and location, before asking them to fill in the amount they want to sue for.

After directing the claim to one of 15 separate legal lanes -- such as an automobile accident or recovering personal property -- the app provides users with the documents necessary for their suit, including a demand letter, county filing documents and even a strategic script to read in court. Users print out the documents and mail them to the relevant courthouse, setting the lawsuit in motion.

Well, why not? You can already get info on making out a will, etc. online. Why not an app that takes care of the paperwork?

DoNotPay is free, and it’s Apple-only. In their own words:

The DoNotPay app is the home of the world's first robot lawyer. Fight corporations, beat bureaucracy and sue anyone at the press of a button.

Well, I’m going to quibble here. It’s not actually a robot lawyer. It’s not like one of those weird articulated headless robots that climb stairs and twerk to “Uptown Funk” shows up in court carrying a briefcase and talking in a robotic monotone. But that’s a quibble. Who doesn’t want to fight corporations and beat bureaucracy?

It may not be the best thing in this litigious world to be able to “sue anyone at the press of a button.” But there is, of course, a certain inevitability about this app, is there not?

Equally inevitable, lawyers aren’t all that excited about the app even though, if seems to me, they could benefit from having such easy access to documents. Nothing to stop them from using it.

And yet, lawyers they are a-sniping. One tweets:

Explain claim splitting to me. How about the difference between a statute or limitations and a statute of repose.

Given that it takes about a nanosecond to find these answers, I wouldn’t say that this is the strongest argument for seeing a lawyer vs. using DoNotPay.

In addition to suing the bastards at the press of a button, DoNotPay also lets you swipe, Tinder-like, through a listing of class action suits where there’s been a ruling to see if there’s any money growing on trees for you. Now that sounds like fun. Not enough fun to get me to convert to an iPhone. But fun.

“It seems like the only people who are benefiting from human misery are a handful of lawyers,” [Browder] said. “I hope to replace all of them by making the law free.”

Replace all the lawyers – at least those who “benefit from human misery”? Maybe the Internet really does change everything.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

“Girl with Balloon”? Can someone please explain the art world to me????

There are some things in life that I just plain old don’t get.

Right on top of that list I’d have to place Banksy.

Actually, it’s not Banksy who I don’t get. He – Banksy is an anonymous British mostly graffiti artist (and I’m saying “he” here because I’m guessing the odds that Banksy is a man are pretty good; 6-nines if not better) - who’s parlayed his talent, attitude, wit, snark, lack of respect for the pompous and overblown art establishment, and outright anarchy into a fortune. Good on him!

It’s the folks who buy in who I just don’t get.

As an artist, I don’t find Banksy all that great shakes.

Here’s his “Girl with Balloon.”

Balloon girl

Now I hate to sound like one of those philistines who looks at a Rothko color field painting and says ‘what’s the big deal? I could do that.’ But there is something kind of ‘best artist in eighth grade’ about Banksy’s work. A couple of steps above one of those ‘draw the pirate’ contests:


But that’s just me. Banksy? He’s the multi-millionaire artiste.

Not to mention that he seems to be having a boat-load of fun making fun:

On Friday night, Banksy’s “Girl with Balloon” sold for $1.37 million at a Sotheby’s auction in London. Moments after the last hammer hit the podium, a shredder stealthily installed in the frame ribboned the painting, as stunned bidders watched in shock (a few in amusement) and assistants struggled to get the work off the wall and prevent further damage. (Source: Fortune)

If you’re thinking that this shredding o’ the work of art might, say, compromise the sale, you would be dead wrong.

The woman who bought the picture is all in.

“When the hammer came down last week and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked, but gradually I began to realize that I would end up with my own piece of art history,” said the woman, according to The Guardian. (Source: Fortune, again.)

Weird enough to me that someone’s willing to pay nearly $1.4 million for this work, which is as much about the hot air of art speculation as it is about any intrinsic worth of the piece. Don’t see this one standing the test of masterpiece time.

So here’s the shredding in action. I will note that the embedded shredder is one of those one-strip shredders, not one that turns paper into confetti. And it’s not like what was shredded was, say, a Rothko color field painting. But a valuable piece of art was shredded nonetheless.

shredded banksy

There’s speculation that Sotheby’s was in on the “prank”, but both the auction house and Banksy are denying it.

Anyway, someone who can afford to spend nearly $1.4M on a piece of art, and hang on to it after it’s destroyed, obviously knows something about money. At least about spending it. In this case, she may also know something about making it.

Since it was sold last Saturday, the work has supposedly doubled in price.

Well, hats off to Banksy. I can’t even figure out to monetize a blog, and here a pedestrian work of schlock doubles in price after it’s shredded.

There are some things in life that I just plain old don’t get.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Mouse in the house!

In the first 26 years I lived in my condo, I had one mouse experience. Then last fall, after the building next year had a fire, I had a mouse in my bedroom wall. My friend and neighbor Joe got rid of it for me. It appeared to be a one and done mouse situation.

While the fire next door was small the water damage from putting it out was HUGE. And after about a year of negotiating with insurance and contractors, construction began in earnest on what is a down-to-the-studs, out with the ruined floors, gut reno.

The noise – jackhammering, drilling, pounding, sluicing old floorboards and cabinets out the window and down the chute into the dumpster – has been terrible. At least it was until I got myself a pair of $300 Bose noise-canceling headphones. Bust they jut cancel (muffle, actually) the noise. They do nothing for the mice.

The building next door is one of a series of row houses built circa 1860, on landfill, on the flat part of Beacon Hill. My condo is in another of these buildings.

Amazing, given the antiquity of my building, not to mention that landfill aspect, that I’ve only had two mice prior to this year. But now…

About a week ago, I was sitting in my den when I saw a mouse scamper across my field of vision and into the den closet. I opened the door to the closet and – eek! – the mouse ran out. Not expecting a confrontation, I shrieked, the mouse freaked, and then it streaked. Whereto, I didn’t quite see.

So I re-upped, with new mouse-bait gel, the two types of traps I’d gotten last year when I had the mouse in the wall: old-fashioned spring guillotine traps, and new-fangled plastic ones that lure mice in then slam the door on them and their tiny little lives.

I didn’t catch anything. But I didn’t see anything for a few days, either.

Sometimes I can be optimistic. Maybe, I told myself, it was just passing through.

Nope. After a few nights, it paid another visit. I screamed at it to f-off, and it f-offed to behind the loveseat I’d been sitting on. After that I couldn’t see where it went, but I did tip the loveseat up and determine that it hadn’t taken up residence in there.

I bought and put out more of both types of traps, but this time swapped out the green gel bait for peanut butter. Plus I put some ward-off, anti-mice packets full of something at the place I figured they might be coming through.

Then on Sunday evening, while watching baseball, it (or one of its pals or – ick – babies: this one did look pretty tiny) ran onto the rug in front of the loveseat. I cursed at this little critter, but softly this time, telling it that there was nothing for him in the den. Sure, I eat in front of the TV plenty of times, but it’s not like I’m slobbing food on to the rug (at least not without picking it up).

On Monday, I set in supplies:

Steel wool to plug up the cracks in the baseboard. Duh! Why hadn’t I thought of this first thing. After all, part of the charm in living in an ancient building is that it sometimes settles, leaving gaps between floor and baseboard. Me and my trusty screwdriver went at it with the steel wool. It’s not a great look, but who cares?

Peppermint oil. Tim at the Gym also lives in an ancient urban condo. He recommended peppermint oil. And the very helpful person at Whole Foods told me that, before she got her cat – and I am NOT going there – she used peppermint oil on cotton swabs to keep mice at bay. I didn’t use the cotton swabs, but The Google confirmed the merits of peppermint oil, so I made up a spray bottle full of one-part peppermint oil (which ain’t cheap, at least not at Whole) and one part water. And I sprayed around baseboards I’d plugged with steel wool, as well as those that didn’t appear to have any gaps.

Irish Spring. Who knew that Irish Spring soap was good for something? The Google, that’s who. I couldn’t face clearing out the den closet, 8 foot deep and chocked full of useless desktops, laptops, routers, and printers. Not to mention plastic containers full of bedding. And other stuff. So I chopped up a couple of bars of Irish Spring and hurled them to the back of the closet. Mice be gone!

It’s only been a night or two, but so far so good.

Meanwhile, the gut reno-ing next door continues a-pace. Guess I should be happy that it hasn’t dislodged a larger member of the rodent family. If that happens, well, both my sisters are on the alert for my decamping to one of their places if I spot one of those jumbos.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Sears limps closer to its final finish line

Sears wasn’t a supreme presence in my life growing up.

I don’t recall that there was a physical Sears retail presence in Worcester until the Sears store opened at the Auburn Mall in the early 1970’s, when I had one foot out the Worcester door and the other one not far behind it. Plus Sears clothing was always just a bit “off” as far as my heightened and sophisticated fashion sense went.

My family did get the Sears catalog, but I don’t remember my mother ordering much from it. When she went shopping, she dressed up, got on the bus, and went “down city” to one of the many stores that still graced downtown Worcester. (Ah, those were the days.) Not that my mother was averse to ordering things without having a hands-on experience. My parents always belonged to at least one book club – Book of the Month, Literary Guild, Classics, Vision Books (for Catholic kids). They also bought most of their albums from the Columbia Records catalog. And for a while my mother belonged to some tchotchke of the month that brought some “foreign” whatever that gave our house an international flair. (That little Greek plate is hanging on the wall, over my shoulder, as I write this post.)

But that Sears catalog… I loved thumbing through it in its entirety, especially drawn to the small toy section and completely intrigued by the pages that displayed fruitcakes, tinned cookies and petit fours. 1972_Sears_Christmas_Catalog_Fruitcake

I had never had fruitcake. All I knew about them was the jokes. And yet my sweet tooth drew me there, to gaze longingly at those colorful treats.

Fast forward a bunch of decades and I occasionally had a tire rotated at a Sears automotive, or looked at Kenmore appliances. I think we bought a TV there 20 years ago. I seem to remember a boombox or two. But I may well be thinking Lechmere Sales or Best Buy.

My most indelible Sears experience was working there one year when I was in college.

I have had plenty of crappy jobs in my life, but working as a customer complaint taker at Sears was right up there. Who needed training? Just answer the phone and write down whatever the pissed-off customer has to say. (Ten+ years ago, when I was a wee broth of a blogger, I did a piece on my experience on this particular job.)

And now Sears, which has been limping along for quite a while now – its workforce declined from 300K to 68K in the past decade – is limping ever closer to what is likely their inevitable finish line. One foot in the grave, the other on a banana peel. Sigh. I’m an old lady. I miss the iconic brands of my youth, even if I’ve done absolutely zero to help prevent or slow their demise.

The company lost about $5.8 billion over the last five years and shut down more than a thousand stores over the past decade. Many of the 700 stores that remain have frequent clearance sales, empty shelves and handwritten signs. (Source: NY Times)

Nothing says “let’s shop here” like empty shelves and handwritten signs.

Sounds like they’re ready for EOL.

Nonetheless, it’s depressing to think about all the folks who’ll be losing their jobs when the 142 stores on the chopping block shut their doors – even though there are plenty of other not-so-hot retail jobs out there for the asking. It’s depressing because, for all the retail clerks who are there because one crappy job’s the same as the next, I’m pretty sure there are plenty of lifers who, for whatever reason, have been working at “their” Sears for 10, 20, 30 years. It’s where they go each day. It’s who they take a lunch break with. It’s the regulars they recognize from waiting on them over the years.

Shed a tear for Sears? Hardly. Edward Lampert – the hedgie who runs Sears – will no doubt come out ahead.

It’s the little guys I feel bad for – even though when I was a little guy at Sears, futilely answering the phones, I hated every moment of it.

And, of course, there’s now even less likelihood that I’ll ever get one of those tinned fruitcakes I had my eye on 60 years ago. Of course, if there are any out there, they’re probably still as edible as they ever where.

Anyway, it may be a tiny bit premature, but so long Sears.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Chole’s stocking was hung by the chimney with care.

Even though the stores are all candy-corned up at present, it’s never to early to think about Christmas. Thus, although I never order anything from The Company Store, I was nonetheless delighted to get their “Get Your Home Ready for the Holidays Catalog.” Other than the tree, the wreathe, the poinsettias, and the greens – and I won’t be doing them until December – I already pretty much “have everything I need to create an inviting holiday home for family & friends.” Still, I like to look at stuff, even when I have no intention of buying anything.

Anyway, I was paging through the catalog when, what to my wondering eyes did appear than an array of cuter than cute Christmas stockings, labeled with names that the folks who order matching family PJs from The Company Store may well name their kids.

Company store

Noah. Benjamin. Avery. Stella. Jack. Elizabeth. Amelia. Samantha. Henry. Nary a Brandon nor Jaden, no Destiny, no Nevaeh (that’s heaven spelled backwards, btw) in sight. They even have their pet stockings labeled: the somewhat retro Ginger for a cat, and the more on current point Baily for a dog.

And then there’s the stocking for Chole.

Chole? Huh?

I did go to the google to see if I’d missed a cultural moment when one of the Kardashians or one of their pals named a baby Chole, setting off a naming flurry that resulted in enough little Choles out there, such that the name was now up there with Avery and Henry. But I mostly came away empty.

Which is not to say that the name Chole doesn’t exist. I really had to dig, but I did come up with a couple of baby name sites that list it as a nickname for Soledad, or as a regular old American name that means “Victory of the People.” But I put as much faith in those baby name sites as I do the sites that show the heraldry, the coat of arms for everyone with an English or Irish last name. (The illustrious Rogers family, when they weren’t grubbing around to see if there were any praties that hadn’t yet rotted, apparently had a crest with three deer on it. Right.)

Anyway, I couldn’t find anyone who was actually named Chole. And when you search for Chole, most of what you get back are recipes for chole marsala, a Punjabi chick-pea dish.

Chole. Maybe it actually is a diminutive for Soledad. And maybe there are folks with little ones named Soledad, who call their little one Chole. If so, then props to The Company Store for their nod to diversity. You’d think, however, given that all their other stocking names are on the Top Whatever list, that they might have used something more common. Like Soledad. As in journalist Soledad O’Brien.

But you know what I’m thinking? I’m thinking they weren’t trying to appeal to the Hispanic demo, let alone to anyone who named their kid Chole because it means Victory of the People. I’m thinking that they meant that stocking to say Chloe.

In which case, I’m sorry that they printed all those lovely four-color catalogues with the name Chloe misspelled.

I know what it’s like to do a print job and discover, when you open the box, that there’s a big, glaring typo/spello staring you in the face.

I was in marketing before the Internet existed, and back in those days, you actually had to print your brochures out. Oh, folks still do print stuff. But it’s not like it used to be. A lot of stuff just gets put on the web as regular old copy or as a pdf. Which makes mistakes very easy to correct.

Before heading out on vacation, I once okayed brochure copy for an 8-page, 4-color, well-designed piece. For once, we had a bit of budget, so I got to work with an actual designer. A very sweet piece. I just loved it. Let’s print 10,000 of them! (Why not? The marginal cost of everything in the print run over 5,000 was negligible. Of course, if we’d given everyone in the world with even a tangential interest in this product 10 copies of the brochure, we still would have had plenty of them left over even if we’d just bought 5,000. But that’s how we used to think, back in the day.)

Anyway, I had someone lined up to proof the galleys, but she didn’t catch the glaring error that I had missed. I didn’t blame here at all. This one was clearly on me. Naturally, after the brochures were delivered, the guy who headed Quality Assurance left one on my desk with the word “illude” circled. Oops. I had meant “elude.” Should have asked him to proof the copy to begin with.

I sat there trying to convince myself that there was a way in which “illude” could kinda-sorta work. But I was kidding myself.

Anyway, we had no budget to do a reprint of the run.

So we lived with illude. Serves me right for using a fancy-arse word to begin with.

And, of course, no one noticed.

And, of course, there are probably 9,000 of those left over brochures rotting away in a landfill somewhere.

I suspect that same will be true with the Chole stocking. But at least the person – if they search for “name Chole” versus just “Chole” will find that at least some people think it’s a name.

And there’s always the possibility that they intended the name to be Chole to begin with. Which I don’t believe in the least. It just doesn’t go with Stella and Jack. I’m sticking with Chloe.

(Nice to have so much free time that I can dwell on nonsense like this, is it not?)

Merry Christmas, Chole, wherever you are!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Rocket J. Squirrel, emotional support animal

Well, last winter it was the performance artist who attempted to fly with her emotional support peacock. I thought that was somewhat out there.

Now it’s the woman who tried to take a Frontier Airlines flight from Orlando to Cleveland accompanied by her emotional support squirrel.

As I’ve written in the past – c.f., my post (linked above) on the emotional support peacock: I’m both pro-animal and pro-emotional support. But there are limits to my pro-ness, and a wild, non-domesticated animal is where those limits are found.

I will give you that squirrels are adorbs. But they are basically rats with cuter faces and better tails.

Seriously, who looks to a jacked-up version of a rat for emotional support?

The answer is the woman trying to get from Orlando to Cleveland, accompanied by her own little Rocket J. Squirrel, minus that old-fashioned leather aviator’s helmet, and minus the moose companion. (On a disturbing personal note, I saw a video of the woman being escorted off the plane in a wheelchair, giving everyone in her glide path the finger. She reminded me of my late mother in law…)

A Frontier spokesman said in a statement that the passenger had alerted the airline that she would be bringing an emotional-support animal on the flight but did not mention it would be so . . . bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

“Rodents, including squirrels, are not allowed on Frontier flights,” the statement read. “The passenger was advised of the policy and asked to deplane.”

When the passenger declined, others aboard Flight 1612, which was traveling from Orlando to Cleveland, were forced to deplane so that authorities could remove the woman from the aircraft. (Source: WaPo)

The still anonymous squirrel lady was finally rolled off of the plane. The commotion resulted in a flight delay of 2 hours.

Frontier’s policy doesn’t allow rodents as emotional-support animals: cats and dogs, only. Which, truly, seems plenty sufficient when it comes to the need for an emotional support animal. Oh, I’m sure there are arguments that can be made for ferrets and pot-bellied pigs, but, come on, there has to be a limit. If the sky were the limit on what sort of animal could be brought on board on the basis of what in many cases is a fake certificate purchased on the Internet, why stop at squirrels? Why not rats – and not those cute little pet white rats. I’m talking city rats, like the one whose carcass I almost tripped over in the gutter while crossing Beacon at Charles the other day. (Fortunately or unfortunately, that sucker was no longer in any condition to provide emotional support.) And why not snakes on planes? What if someone derives immense emotional support from a boa constrictor or a cobra? Wouldn’t you just love to be on a flight when one of those slithered lose? Why not a baby alligator? They’re cute, if not cuddly.

(Frontier has fewer restrictions on trained service animals, allowing miniature horses in addition to dogs and cats. I’m a bit surprised they don’t also allow capuchin monkeys, which are often used as assistive companions for those with mobility issues. Maybe they do, but it just wasn’t mentioned.)

I’m all for the airlines cracking down on what members of the animal kingdom can fly. And maybe a good first step would be a bit stricter about the documentation required to claim the requirement of emotional support. Ordering an “official” certificate for your furry, feathered, or snake-skinned friend is about as difficult as ordering some Bose headphones or a soap dish from Amazon.

While I am experienced with ordering Bose headphones and soap dishes form Amazon, I actually didn’t know just how easy it is to get one of these certificates, not first hand, paw or claw, anyway. So I went and looked. Pretty damned easy.

Some of them even have “doctors” on staff that evaluate your application, which includes questions on whether you’re ever overwhelmed, discouraged, pessimistic, burnt out, sad, unhappy, worried, frustrated, burdened….

Have these folks looked at the state of the nation lately? Sure looks like a no-fail test to me!

Oh, you’re supposed to give the names of any doctors or therapists you’re seeing, but the app doesn’t ask for any contact info for those. And how much follow up is anyone going to do when all you’re going to spend is $69 for the basic pet certification kit??

You’re also asked to list your meds. Seems like it would be plenty easy to gin a list up.

Bottom line on certifying your animal: it doesn’t look like it would be too hard to fake any of this.

(The one app I read through did say that if you indicated that you were ever suicidal, the “doctor” evaluating your application might call you. Plus it noted that, if you wanted more than just your certification papers and special pet collar, you could sign up with one of their “doctors” for tele-therapy. Still….)

Meanwhile, I do have a question for the woman who tried to fly with a squirrel: are you by any chance a graduate of Wcaossamotta U? Asking for a friend…

Thursday, October 11, 2018

City Girl, Europhile Edition (Part Two)

Yesterday, I started a post on the top cities for tourists in Europe – at least according to the readers of Travel and Leisure.

That post was something of a stroll down memory lane, as city-loving me has been to Budapest (15), Prague (14), Edinburgh (13), Paris (12), and Madrid (11). So I did a bit of meandering around, and ran out of runway. Which brings us to today’s post on the next 10 cities on the list.

I know I’ve been to Spain’s San Sebastián (Number 10), but I remember nothing about it, other than that the ocean was really gray. Maybe if I remembered something about it, I’d want to return. Or not.

I’ve not been to 9th place Siena. but I fantasize about a Tuscan villa, with day trips to Siena and other fabulous old towns. I’ve not been to 8th place Lisbon, either. But Portugal is on my bucket list. So maybe some day…

On our second trip to Prague, our second city was Kraków (Number 7). We loved this place. We stayed in the charming Hotel Francuski, close to the Planty Park, which girds Krakow’s Old Town. While we enjoyed our visit here, it was kind of eerie. There was no escaping its proximity to Auschwitz (which we, of course, visited). Sorry for the segue after just mentioning Auschwitze, but in Krakow, we ate surprisingly well. I had envisioned Polish food as all beets, lard and perogies. We did eat at a perogie restaurant – which set out tin cups of ham-flecked lard to eat of dark bread that was as thick as a brick, but for some reason, there were some nice French restaurants there in Krakow, and we ate at a couple of those. We also ate once at McDonald’s, mostly because it was located in the cellar of a 13th century building. And, once we discovered them, we snacked every day on pretzels from street vendors. Yummers.

There must have been something in the sangria because, while I know Joyce and I went to Barcelona (Number 6) on our way to the beach at Sitges, I remember nothing about it. Surely, we at least walked by the cathedral??? By that point, our trip was winding down, so maybe we were museumed and cathedraled out. Maybe – and I never thought I’d say this – we were citied out, too. On the other hand, I have many memories of hanging out in Sitges for a week or so, we’re we lolled in the sun all day, mostly hung out with other American kids, and ate mussels (and drank sangria) every night. Most vividly, we ran into an American fellow who had graduated from college a few weeks before. With $1,000 in Traveler’s Checks in his pocket – and the romantic notion in his noggin that he would be trekking around Europe for months, perhaps years – he had landed in Europe. (Luxembourg, I’m thinking.) At his first port of call, someone had convinced him that the best way to see Europe was by car, and he’d invested much of his $1,000 stash in taking a car off the hands of that someone. It broke down shortly, but somehow he made his way to Sitges, where all the other American kids helped him out with a few bucks. (I know we fed him a couple of times.) He was too embarrassed to go home so soon after he had bid his family and friends so long. Like me, this guy is pushing 70. Wonder how he tells the story…

Seville, Spain (Number 5) and Porto, Portugal (Number 4) are not cities I have ever given one nanosecond of thought to, beyond typing this sentence in. So there. But if Portugal’s on my bucket list, Porto may sneak on it as well

Third place went to Istanbul. During our mega-1973 Euro tour, we did get to Turkey, but Izmir only. An interesting enough place where we stayed in a 50 cent a night hotel, with hall toilets that were holes in the floor. And, oh yes, they turned the water off in the toilets at night. I felt like we were in a Camus novel…

Rome is number 2. And I can see why. Rome is chaotic but fascinating, and I love that, when you’re walking about, there’s an ancient room, Bernini fountain, or Renaissance cathedral around every corner. I’ve been to Rome three times, and much enjoyed each trip. Not enough to feel I have to get back there. If I’m going to see someplace in Italy (other than all those fabulously scenic towns in Tuscany) well, see Naples and die, I guess.

T&E’s number 1 is Florence. Another city from the 1973 Euro-thon. I loved Florence, and remember standing on the Ponte Vecchio and thinking ‘these Italians sure know how to live.’ Even with limited funds, we lived well for a few days in Florence, mostly living off of prosciutto and melon – the first time I had this scrumptious delight. When I figure out that Tuscany tour, I shall return.

Meanwhile, whattsamatta with Berlin? London? Copenhagen? Guess Travel and Leisure readers have a bias towards places in the sun. (How did Edinburgh sneak in there?) Nonetheless, for a city girl, Europhile, list lover, thinking through the list gave this armchair traveler a good deal of pleasure. And makes me want to go somewhere. Next week, if not tomorrow…

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

City Girl, Europhile edition (Part One)

I’m a city girl. Always have been, always will be. My idea of a great vacation is going to a city. Mostly in Europe, but I’ve traveled extensively throughout the US as well. But I’m a major-league Europhile, so I was interested in a recent Travel and Leisure article that ranked the top European cities to visit. (I think the cities were voted by the mags readership.)

15th place went to Budapest. A number of years ago, my husband and I spent a few days there on a trip that included Prague. I found it very interesting, right down to the bullet holes from the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 – or were they from WWII? I liked hanging out in the cafés along the Corso, drinking voros bor (that’s red wine to those of you who don’t have two words of Hungarian; those are mine) and even spending a bit of time in the Café Europa – a real throwback to what I imagine hangouts were like before the war. (Pick a war, any war.) I remember the goulash was delish. Margaret Island was lovely. And our hotel looked out on the Chain Bridge that crosses the Danube and connects Buda and Pest. I can’t remember exactly when I was there – late 1990’s? early 2000’s? – and I’m too lazy to dig up an old passport. But it was during Hungary’s transition to a market economy, and they actually had a Dunkin’ Donuts there. Unfortunately, they’ve since transitioned to a right-wing nationalist form of government. Glad I got there once, but have not desire to return.

Prague (Number 14), on the other hand, I completely loved. We landed there, exhausted, in the middle of a ferocious rainstorm. We decided to do dinner in the top floor of our hotel. (A very nice one – best breakfast spread I’ve ever seen in my life. I still remember the sour cherries, Napoleons and champagne.) While we were eating, the rain stopped and the sun came out, just in time for sunset. The skies were purple and the sun brought out the ochre, orange and gold in all the old buildings. I believe that Prague was considered an open city. In any case, it wasn’t destroyed during WWII and all those beautiful old baroque churches and castles remain intact. Pure magic. The food wasn’t much, but did we love walking around this city. And taking their excellent subway, which cost about five cents and was far more modern than public transpo in the US. I can still hear the stations being announced: Mustek…I.P. Pavlova. The only downside of taking the the subway was the fact that, at least back then, not many Czechs used deodorant. While in Prague, I felt very European, especially when I was asked for directions once in German. (Despite having next to no German, I was actually able to help these folks out.) I was also asked something in Czech, which I had nary a word of, beyond thank you. The woman got quite annoyed that I didn’t understand here. Despite her pissiness, we much liked Prague and returned for a second time.

Edinburgh came out 13th. I first visited Edinburgh in 1973, and remember little about it other than the castle looming over the city, and that it was dark, cold and gloomy. Not so fast forward to 2015, when I went again. This was a year after my husband died, and I was meeting up there with my sister Trish and her family for a few days. I went a few days early, the first pleasure trip I’d ever taken on my own. I’d been on plenty of solo business trips, and some of those had included a day of sightseeing. But this was my first on-my-own vacation junket. The castle still loomed over the city, but it was bright and sunny. The museums were great. I took a day-tour of the Highlands. (Corny but excellent.) And, once my sister and her family arrived to bolster my nerve, tried haggis. My Edinburgh regret is that I didn’t buy a Harris tweed pocketbook. I thought I’d be able to get one at the Edinburgh Airport, but shopping-wise, Edinburgh Airport is no Shannon. There wasn’t much there on offer.

How can Paris be Number12? The first time I saw Paris, in 1973, I fell in love with the city. And that’s when I was staying in a hostel and traveling with little by way of money. My friend Joyce and I spend 5 months hitching around Europe, and Paris was a place we both adored. I vividly recall racing around the Louvre with packs of other tourists, trying to find our way form the Mona Lisa to Wing Victory to Venus de Milo. Mostly at the Louvre, I’m embarrassed to admit, we were bored. We’d both taken modern art in college, and found the Jeu de Paume more to our liking. In Paris, I (accidentally) ate calf’s brain and (on purpose) ate at McDonald’s. Just because. I vowed that Paris was one place I’d return to, and I have been back a handful of times with my husband. Getting back there one more time is on my bucket list. I need to drop a bit of my husband’s ashes off in the Tuileries Garden. I thought Prague was beautiful, but Paris is the most beautiful city I’ve even been in. Hands down.

My one and only time in Madrid (Number 11) was on that 1973 pan-European post-student trip with my friend Joyce. Franco was still in charge, and policemen were unfriendly, fascistic and scary. The Prado was dark. Although through most of our trip we camped or hosteled, in Madrid we stayed at a nasty B&B in someone’s apartment. One of the original AirBnB’s. Our room was sweltering, had no window, and a ceiling made of some rough weave black cloth. That we’d taken one of our few train rides to get there – we tried to hitchhike most places, but for some reason we took a train to Madrid – and had gotten bitten alive by mites didn’t help with my impression of Madrid. Glad I went. No desire to go back.

Too much ground to cover, even as an armchair traveler. I’ll get to the next 10 spots in tomorrow’s post.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Lunchbox support groups? YGTBKM!

Growing up, there were a couple of things I really craved.

One was a pogo stick. I’d never actually seen a pogo stick in real life, only on TV and in books. But I sure wanted one.

Another was boot-style, lace-up roller skates. Most of us slogged around on those heavy metal skates with the red webbed straps and the skate key. Our sidewalks weren’t all that even, so the skates shook loose and you had to stop and tighten them every few minutes. What a drag! Plus those skates were so heavy hanging off our skinny little legs. What a drag!

I did know one girl who had those lace-up skates. Mary B, a cute little red-headed only child. (Only children had all kinds of stuff the rest of us could only dream of.)

And the final object of my little heart’s desire was a lunch box. Red plaid. Alice in Wonderland. Cinderella. Mattered not. I just wanted one. One with a thermos bottle, of course.

At my school, kids went home for lunch. Only those who lived on the fringes of the parish, too far to walk back and forth, or those rarities whose mothers worked, got to eat lunch at school. And thus got to carry a lunch box. The rest of us, we legged it home where, at least in my home, lunch meant slurping down a bowl of CampbBunker Hillbilliesell’s soup, gulping down a sandwich, and plunking in front of Big Brother Bob Emery’s Small Fry Club on WBZ-TV for a few minutes of cartoons, contests, ukulele strumming and – on a really good day - performances by the Bunker Hillbillies (a band of boys from the Boys Club in the Charlestown section of Boston). What I wouldn’t have given to see these superstars in person! I believe that Bimbo was one of their signature tunes, back when bimbo didn’t mean bimbo).

In 7th and 8th grade they switched us to junior high mode so that we would be better prepared for high school. Our hours changed – started earlier in the morning, and got out at 2 rather than 3  - and everyone had to eat at school. For some reason, we weren’t allowed to eat in the school’s lunchroom. We ate at our desks, after we covered them with a piece of reusable plastic.

By 7th grade it was way too late to carry a lunch box. Sigh. We were in brown paper bag territory now. What was in that bag was up to me. Which meant that 4 days a week I ate a bologna sandwich on white bread, with a dill pickle. (The dill pickle sliced by me and wrapped in Saran Wrap which, as often as not, leaked.) On Friday I ate an American cheese sandwich on white bread, with a dill pickle. Or a PBJ on white. I drank a carton of milk to wash the sandwich down.

I usually brought a piece of fruit. When I had a nickel, I’d buy a bag of Wachusett potato chips or a packet of Kraft Caramels. Mostly I didn’t have a nickel.

This went on through high school. My high school had a caf that sold food, but the menu was pretty limited and dreadful and I don’t think I ever paid for lunch there.

I don’t remember any of my classmates carrying a lunch any more exciting than mine. And as far as I can recall, the only mother involved in lunch packing was that of my high school friend Kath. And I only remember that because Mrs. H wrapped Kath’s bananas in Saran Wrap.

I know that things have changed mother-child-wise since I was a girl. And that there are a lot of competitive mommy types out there. Still, I was a bit taken aback by a recent WSJ article on the competitive world of school lunches. (The link was sent to be by my sister Kath, another brown-bagging, lunch-making student of yore.)

These days, pics of fancy-arse lunches are posted on Insta. Like the one that contained.

..veggie and tofu samosas, surrounded by an assortment of eight fruits and vegetables, including broccoli, grapes and lupini beans.

The kids might want a Spider Man or Selena Gomez lunchbox, but tofu samosas and lupini beans – whatever they are – are more likely to be served up in a $30 on up bento box, like this one from Yumboxes:

Bento box

Now there’s a lunchbox that never saw Oscar Mayer bologna on white.

Yumbox revenue is up, thanks to the 90% increase in Instagram posts about lunchboxes that occurred through the first eight months of this year.

One dad puts together “an elaborate themed lunch” each Monday – with a theme like Willie Wonka, Princess Bride, and Star Wars. One mom goes Sue Grafton with lunches dedicated to a letter of the alphabet.The O lunchbox “included an orzo salad, an orange and an Oreo cookie.” Thank God for quinoa and zucchini.

The lunchbox craze has helped fuel a cottage industry that includes specialized utensils, pre-written parental love notes and lunchbox-planning apps.

Inevitably, a number of lunchbox support groups have sprung up. I just couldn’t bring myself to look at any of them.

But I must say I’m stopped in my tracks by the idea of “pre-written parental love notes.”

I came from an era when there was no such thing as a “parental love note.” Maybe we got a birthday card, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Even if my mother had made my lunch, I can’t imagine ever finding a love note tucked in it. And I didn’t have kids to write love notes to.

I suspect, however, that if I had had kids, I would have been a love-note writer. It’s just the way I roll. But a “pre-written parental love note.” YGTBFKM. How hard is it to scrawl a smiley face on a PostIt note and sign it Love, Mom? If you’re spending all that time prepping tofu samosas for a Bento box, surely you have time to pen your own little love note.

But what do I know…