Friday, December 24, 2021

O Christmas Tree, My Christmas Tree

I'm not all that wild about Christmas. It's fine, but I'm not gaga over it. I see my friends and family pretty regularly, anyway, so gathering for the holiday is no big deal. Yes, of course I'll be happy to see my family on Christmas Eve, when I host the celebration. And I do appreciate that it gives folks in the Northern Hemisphere something to focus on other than the dark. But I hate the crass commercialism, the desperate shopping, the frenetic last-minute-ness.

What I do really like about Christmas is a) the music, and b) putting up my tree.

I'm not much of a smartphone photographer, but here's this year's edition. 

Last year, I picked out my tree from a lot down in the Seaport, and had them deliver it and put it in the stand. This year, when rumors of the tree shortage started to be heard throughout the land, I ordered one from the same place, sight unseen. I figured that last year's tree was nice and fresh, and this year's would be, too. (The year before, I had gotten my tree at the sale sponsored by a local neighborhood association. It must have been cut the previous May. It was so dried out, I spent the month of December sweeping up pine needles. By Christmas Eve, that tree looked like it belonged to Charlie Brown.)

The fellow who delivered this year's tree did so on a bike. Then it took him about a nanosecond to place it in the stand - I have one of those good foot pump ones - and whatever it cost (which was plenty) was well worth it.

I love decorating my tree.

I put on my Christmas CD's - and I have dozens of them - and start hanging ornaments, most of which have meaning to me.

Here are the little plastic ornaments - the red bells, the red boot, Santa on his sleigh - that my parents hung on their first Christmas in their own place. (The prior Christmas, right after they were married, they were living with my grandparents in Chicago.) Now they were in Worcester. It was 1946. In November, their first child, my sister Margaret, died in a terrible - and entirely avoidable - childbirth incident. Today, it would be a kabillion dollar settlement with the hospital. Back then, it was get back on the bicycle. (My sister Kathleen was born 11 months after Margaret's death.) I think about that first Christmas, how sad it must have been. They thought they'd be enjoying it with a burbling infant...

Those plastic ornaments stood the test of time, though. They hung on every Christmas tree that ever went up in my house, and on my tree for the past 30 or so years, along with other, later ornaments from the family tree.

I also have a couple of ancient glass bulbs, striped, that were my Grandmother Rogers. They're at least 100 years old and I no longer hang them on the tree, but display them safely on my credenza.

Ornaments, sweet ornaments.

The ones my mother made - needlepoint, counted crosstich.  The ones commemorating long gone pets. (If you look closely, the felt white and grey cat honors my sister Kath's wonderful cat, Emily. The most dog-like cat I've ever known. And that's a good thing.) The ones I collected on my travels - Ireland, Paris, Budapest, Amsterdam, Prague. NYC, Tucson, the State of Maine. The ones that friends have given to me.

I have a number of lovely brass ornaments, gifts from my cousin Barbara, that are all Worcester-related. The Antiquarian Society. The Salisbury Mansion. The Higgins Armory. The Worcester Auditorium. And my two favorites: a three-decker and a diner. So Worcester.

There are ornaments I bought just because I liked them, including some nifty 50's and 60's beauties I found in an antique shop.

I have a wolf ornament, in honor of my mother's family name.

Beetles. Christmas sweaters. Teapots. Pigs (don't ask).  

The polar bear with my niece Molly's name on it. The snowwoman with Caroline's.

I love putting my tree up, singing along with Judy Collins, Dolly Parton, Linda Rondstat, Nat King Cole, Bing. And even Elvis Costello (with the Chieftains). Thinking about everything and everyone that goes into the making of my Christmas tree.

My tree is imperfect. There are spots with too many ornaments, others too few. Sometimes I make adjustments, sometmes I let it be.

In early December, I went on a house tour in Salem, Massachusetts. The homes were all decorated for the holidays. The trees I hated were the ones that were too designer. Boring, bland. One house had two or three perfect trees with green, blue, and purple bulbs. Yawn. 

The trees I liked were like mine. They were personal. You knew right away that the family skied, that they had a daughter who was a Madeline fan. 

I love putting my tree up, and I don't mind taking it down, either. Which I'll be doing, I'm guessing, the day after New Year's. Packing all my little friends away until next Christmas.

With that, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.


In keeping with Pink Slip tradition, I take the week between Christmas and New Year's off and will return on January 3rd.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Merry Goopness, Gwyneth Paltrow

Yesterday's virtual window shopping stroll was through the Neiman-Marcus Fantasy Gifts catalogue. Today, I thought we'd tone it down, cost-wise, but still keep it in the realm of the outré, by poking around on Gwyneth Paltrow's site, Goop So much to look at, so much to chortle over. But I have restrained myself to picking just one favorite from each of her Gift Guides.

Wellness  There are dozens of tantalizing items in this guide, but I'm going with the set of five pre-rolled cones for only $19. According to Goop, "to be blunt, these are the best cones on the market." To be blunt, who even knew there was such a thing as a "pre-rolled cone"? Back in the day, if you couldn't roll 'em in a Zig Zag paper, you bought a pack of unfiltered cigarettes, wiggled the tobacco out of a cig, and stuffed it with pot. 

Lovers Lots of X-rated unmentionables in here. (Okay, so I'll mention some: vibrators, undies, bras.) And some of the usual suspects: wine, flowers. I was going to go with the holistic relationship and sex coaching. Or the rose garden coaching. But in the spirit of the season, I went with the $90 red bow. You put it on our head - presumably when you have nothing much more on than the Goop bustier and garter belt - and, voila, you're the gift.

Men Heavy on the booze-, red meat-, and electronics-related. You know. Manly stuff for manly men. Well, I'm not a man, manly or otherwise. And, sadly, I don't have a man, manly or otherwise. But given that Gwyneth is getting into bitcoin, how about the Gemini crypto card that lets you earn crypto rewards instead of boring old points. You can't actually get the card quite yet. But Gwyneth invites men giftees to get on the waitlist. After all, as we're told, "the future is now." (The future is now? Is that even possible? Maybe in Goop-ville.)

Travelers Sure, there were plenty of trips on there that I'd like to take, but my eye was drawn to the lovely pink watch cap, or, as it is now known, beanie. It's only $395. And if I really felt like traveling, I'd spring for the matching crewneck sweater for $895. But then I remembered being on a flight to Paris, years ago. And reading the Air France inflight rag. An article on how to spot an American tourist. Unlike chic Parisian women, in navy, ecru, and black, Americans would be wearing pink or turquoise. Hmmm. I had on a pink sweater, and the other sweater in my luggage was turquoise. 

Forward-to-Your-SO I was ruing the fact that I don't have an SO to forward anything to, but then found that the gifts were only for forwarding to your SO if your SO were female. My favorite item in this catalog? $400 cashmere bloomers. Seriously, Gwyneth, what SO would want these? 

The Under-$100 Gift Guide Under $100? Now you're talking. I was a bit tempted by the $25 Wisdom Club that lets you know what's in the stars for you in 2022. Then I saw it was monthly. Which adds up to a lot more than Under-$100. It probably works like those ads for the car leases for the car with the red bow on it. Maybe your SO pays the first month, and you're stuck with the rest. So I'm going with the $60 Churro Fiesta-in-a-Box. Yummers.

Cooks I already have an electric kettle, which I use all the time. Thus I don't really need the Stagg EKG Electric Kettle for $169. Still, it would have been my pick from this guide if I hadn't seen the frozen coffee pods from Cometeer for only $64. Cometeer is a local "coffee tech" startup, which I blogged about a couple of months ago. And now they've made it big enough that Goop is showcasing their product. Gwyneth and I both apparently have an eye for a promising up and comer. Way to go, Cometeer.

Kids Lots of adorbs baby stuff in here. I have an adorbs baby to buy for coming up in another couple of weeks, but I was thinking more along my usual lines: books and, ah, books, and, em, books. But I do need to ask a question. Who in their right mind would pay $240 for seven pairs of baby socks, even if they are from Hermès? 

Hosts Some standard upscale host/hostess gifts in this guide, but would it ever occur to you to bring a pair of $198 men's pajamas as a gift for your host. Unless you had something in mind...The strangest gift on this list, IMHO, is of the woke variety. As in paying for Therapy Reparations Sessions for BIPOC. I mean, good cause and everything. And I guess it would work for the host(ess) who has everything. Maybe Gwyneth wanted to support this cause, but just couldn't figure out what category it belonged under. (Suggestion for Gwyneth: put it under Wellness next time.)

Ridiculous but Awesome Everything about Goop (and Gwyneth Paltrow, for that matter) is pretty much awesomely ridiculous, so I had high hopes for this gift guide. Hopes weren't dashed! In-person Air Jordan sneaker making class. Only $5K. (A thousand extra if you want to use (unspecified) exotic materials.) Because who wouldn't want to know how to DIY a pair of kicks? But in my book, the most ridiculous item is a $32K Chanel sled. (It's actually a flying saucer, but who am I to quibble with Gwyneth Paltrow.)

Shopping excursion's over, and I'm now exahusted. So much for my becoming someone's personal shopper. I'll just leave it all up to Gwyneth to curate for me.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

N-M Fantasy Catalogue's thinner this year - but still plenty cray

One of my Christmas traditions is thumbing (virtually) through the Neiman-Marcus Fantasy Gifts (virtual) catalog. What's on offer is never my fantasy, mind you. Yet I'm always intrigued by what's inside.

Last year, what with covid and N-M's financial woes, I found the catalogue somewhat thin. This year's edition is even thinner. And while never too rich, never too thin may be the mantra for N-M shoppers, I don't think it's supposed to apply to the catalogue. 

Nonetheless, whatever made it in to the N-M wishbook was interesting enough to merit a comment or two.

If you like it, then you shoulda put a ring on it

First up, the Mughal Heart Diamond. 

Beyoncé warned men (quite regressively, I must say) that if they like it, they shoulda put a ring on it. But it was Marilyn Monroe who led the way, telling us oh so many years ago that diamonds are a girl's best friend. Especially if someone's going to shell out $6.1 million for a 30.86 carat "internally flawless" rock that has been "coveted by royalty and notable American and European families for more than a century." Talk about put a ring on it. 

And you don't just get the diamond for that kind of money, either. You get renaming rights. Out with Mughal, in with Elon Musk wannabe. The gem is mounted in a ring setting but a) wouldn't it be a little too heavy to wear unless you're keeping our hand in an arm sling? and b) would you wear a $6.1M ring out without a couple of bodyguards?

I think I'll just take the trip to Portugal if that's okay

Plummeting in price from the heights of the soon-to-be-renamed-Mughal diamond is a set of personalized dinnerware that comes with a trip to Portugal. Or the trip comes with the dinnerware. I'm not sure which. Anyway, 
...the pièce de resistance of the trip is the exclusive fine porcelain dinnerware set for 12 designed by you, customized with monograms, a family crest, or a motif of your choosing—it’s the perfect way to keep the memories of your European adventure alive with every dinner party.
Portugal is definitely on my bucket list, but I'm really not interested in personalized dinnerware. I have a perfectly serviceable set of Dansk Bistro, remarkably unchipped after 40 years in use, that I got at the Dansk outlet in Kittery, Maine. And I still love it. 

Who needs monograms? Who has a family crest? Other than those bogus ones they sell all over Ireland. And would you want to eat off of that? Not to mention that hosting a "dinner party" for twelve would give me a nervous breakdown, unless said "dinner party" involved pizza or takeout Chinese. 

But the trip to Portugal? I'm there. Or I will be someday, and for a lot less than $80K.

What's wrong with checking the book out of the library?

I guess that even luxurians don't want to overspend on their kiddos, so for the low, low price of $35K you can:
Ignite your child’s imagination with the Little People, BIG DREAMS™ London Adventure. The perfect gift for avid readers and dreamers alike, this exciting trip will have you and your little one working closely with an illustrator and author to cowrite your own inspirational story and turn it into a book.
Is it just me, or does this have spoiled brat written all over it?

Let's not turn that little one into a narcissist or anything. So how about this: give the kid a pad of paper and some crayons and have them illustrate a book on their own. If you want to help your child co-write their "own inspirational story" - or, better yet, non-inspirational story -  go for it. Just don't put too many words in their mouth, which is what the co-writing author in London will be doing. 

This gift does come with a library of the Little People BIG DREAMS books, so your kid can read up on Elton John, Amanda Gordon, Frida Kahlo, Charles Darwin, Jane Goodall and a whole host of children who made good as adults. David Bowie. Coco Chanel. Jesse Owens. RuPaul. And even a child who's made good without yet becoming an adult. That would be Greta Thunberg. 

Of course, you could buy these books at your local indie for a lot less than $35K. And - get this - you could probably even check them out of your local library. 

So it doesn't come with "25 beautifully printed and hardbound copies of your special edition." But there's always Kinko and a stapler for the DIY masterpiece your little darling can work on instead. 

Charleston! Charleston!

I've never heard of Bronson Van Wyck, but I guess if you want to throw a splosh party in NYC, he's your man. And for $395K he'll throw a raging Roaring Twenties Party for you at the Apollo Theater. 
During this unique experience, the legendary Harlem landmark will open its doors specially for you and 19 guests. Start the night by seeing your name in lights on the marquee, then get ready to be transported back to the decade of decadence and dance the night away on the famed Apollo stage.

Unfortunately, I don't know 19 people who would be willing to put on a Gatsby-inspired costume - even if the par-tay throws in "flapper-esque costume accessories to complete your and your guests' ensemble." Not to mention "1920s-style hair and makeup" for everyone. I can just imagine how a feather boa and a sequinned headband would look with my standard dress up regalia: black pants and a nice top. And I really don't want my hair cut in a short bob. 

And there'd also be the nagging overhang over the entire event. As in what came after the Roaring Twenties? 

Guests all do get an autographed copy of van Wyck's book that, admittedly, comes with an excellent title "Born to Party, Forced to Work." (Sadly, my memoir would be better titled "Born to Work, Forced to Party.")


I'm sure there are plenty of skiers out there who would savor the opportunity to hit the slopes with Lindsay Vonn in Jackson Hole. But would it be worth $235K? Even if it comes with three nights in a suite at a swanky boutique hotel - complete with concierge. Not to mention designer skiwear (from N-M) for you and your buds, and a pair of Lindsey Vonn YNIQ ski goggles. Lift tickets also included.

There's something about this that's just a bit off...
Consider the quandary that someone who likes to drive big might have. He - and a I'm pretty sure I mean he here - wants to roam the earth in a behemoth, a beast. The kind of vehicle that screams 'get the f out of my way.' That's fueled as much on testosterone as it is on fossil fuel. That gets 10 m.p.g.

And that's your quandary. You want the beast. But you're also environmentally aware. 

Neiman-Marcus is offering a $285K answer. 
Make every drive a journey to remember with the one-of-a-kind BARRETT-JACKSON HUMMER EV Edition 1, the world’s first fully electric super truck. Presented by Barrett-Jackson, The World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions®, this exclusive edition is the ultimate gift for drivers with an eye on the future.
No word on the mileage, but this Hummer does have a custom interior curated by an automotive expert. And a bespoke steering wheel - whatever that means. 

I dunno. Something about an EV Hummer just strikes me as being just a bit off.

And that's that for this year's skimpy little old N-M Fantasy Gifts. Skimpy or not, as always, it's plenty cray-cray. And definitely not for the light of pocketbook. 

Enjoy your window shopping!

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Thank you, Judge Colleen McMahon

Pharmaceutical companies are a decidedly mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The good is that they, of course, produce drugs that make us healthier and sometimes even save our lives. So thank you, Pfizer, Moderna, et al. for coming up with the covid vaccines.

The ugly is the price gouging, the chokehold they have on Congress that gets in the way of things like negotiated Medicare drug costs, and a reasonable price for drugs like insulin. (Americans pay about eight times as much for insulin as Canadians do.) The drug company defense is always that they need to invest a lot of money in R&D. Which is true. Except how does it happen that drug costs are so much higher in The States than any other comparable country? And then there's the fact the drugmakers spend a ton more - I've heard more than an order of magnitude - on marketing than they do on R&D. So there's that.

Then there's the bad, which is the behavior exhibited by Purdue Pharma, and its owners the Sackler family, over the years when they were knowingly and deliberately getting people hooked on OxyContin. (This was spectacularly chronicled by journalist Patrick Radden Keefe in his book Empire of Pain. And which I wrote less spectacularly about in a post last June.) 

And now we can circle back to the good:

A federal judge rejected OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy settlement of thousands of lawsuits over the opioid epidemic Thursday because of a provision that would protect members of the Sackler family from facing litigationof their own.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in New York found that federal bankruptcy law does not give the bankruptcy judge who had accepted the plan the authority to grant that kind of release for people who are not declaring bankruptcy themselves. (Source: Boston Globe)

Thank you, Judge McMahon. You ruled good!

To many, the settlement was plenty rich, worth $10B, of which $4.5B was to be ponied up by the Sacklers. But then you run the numbers, and find that, with 500,000 Oxy-related deaths in the U.S. to date, it works out to about $20K per capita. Not that all those deaths can be blamed on the Sacklers. But still. $20K?

Plus the settlement protected the Sacklers and their fortunes from being touched by law suits, of which there are over 800 pending. (I'm not the only one who's happy this settlement has been tossed. Imagine what a smile there'd be on your face if you were one of the hundreds going after them.)  

The Sackler family, for all its philanthropy (med schools, museums), has been plenty shady. 

In a hearing, McMahon focused in on how Sackler family members transferred $10.4 billion from the privately held Stamford, Connecticut-based company over the decade before the bankruptcy. McMahon wanted to know whether the money was moved in part to ensure a role for the Sacklers in bankruptcy negotiations.

But that wasn't the basis for McMahon's ruling, which asked the question "whether the bankruptcy law even allows for the kind of deal the company and its creditors struck if there are objections to it." Which there were. 

In any event, the ruling has been welcomed by plenty of folks, including a string of state AG's.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, who was among a handful of state officials seeking to have the deal undone, called the ruling “a seismic victory for justice and accountability.” Tong said the ruling will “re-open the deeply flawed Purdue bankruptcy and force the Sackler family to confront the pain and devastation they have caused.”

Needless to say, the ruling will be appealed, and will probably make it up to the Supreme Court. 

Who knows how this edition will rule. I haven't looked to see what the Federalist Society, the puppeteers for the current SCOTUS majority, have had to say about cases like this, but this Court is certainly difficult to trust.

Anyway, for now the Sacklers are sweating. To them this ruling no doubt looks bad and ugly. But me, I see it as a good thing. A very good thing.

Thank you, Judge Colleen McMahon. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

In the midst of plenty, school teachers have to resort to this

A week or so ago, something rolled by me on Twitter that I found quite disturbing. And heartbreaking. The tweet held a link to a video of some teachers in South Dakota, on their hands and knees on a mat in the middle of an ice rink, trying to grab as much cash as they could - stuffing it into their shirts, etc. -  to buy equipment and supplies for their classrooms.

The event was held during an intermission at a Sioux Falls, SD Stampede hockey game. The cash was provided by local lender CU Mortgage Direct.
When the competition began, the teachers — all wearing hockey helmets — crawled into the pile of cash, frantically stuffing the bills into their shirts as an arena of spectators hollered and cheered until every dollar was snatched up. (Source: WaPo)
I'm sure this was a well-intentioned, and I'm sure that the teachers were happy to get the money. But I found it completely mortifying and degradingto the teaching profession in general, and to these teachers in particular.

Plenty of people think that teaching is a cushy job. All that time off. Those easy-peasy hours. 

But such people have apparently never known any teachers, other than the ones they gazed upon as students, IRL. The teachers I know all work incredibly hard. They spend their summers creating and refining their lesson plans. They spend their last few days of vacation preparing their classrooms. They spend their evenings correcting assignments and devising new ones. They spend time emailing with students and parents. (Let's not even get into all the time they have to spend adjusting to virtual and hybrid learning.)

And they spend money out of their own pockets for equipment and supplies to make their classrooms a richer and more interesting environment, and to make sure that the kids who can't afford even basic school supplies have what they need. Some teachers even spend their own money on food, clothing, and hygiene items for their students.

Believe me, I'm well aware that there are plenty of lousy teachers. Cynical burnouts, incompetents, those who chose teaching because it was the path of the least resistance. But most teachers choose their profession because they love children and want to help them learn. And they do this even though their profession is often maligned, their work often thankless. 

In some communities, teachers are paid fairly well.

Even so, why should they have to spend their own money on anything other than extra items like seasonal decorations to grace their walls? Necessary equipment and supplies, for classroom or for students, should be paid for by the school. Period. 

South Dakota isn't a place where teachers make much money. 
South Dakota teachers are among the lowest paid in the country. According to a recent report by the National Education Association, South Dakota teachers in the 2019-20 fiscal year earned an average annual salary of about $49,000, behind only Mississippi. In terms of per-student spending, the state ranked 38th, having spent about $10,800 per student in the fall term of that year, according to the report.

The cost of living in South Dakota is a lot lower than it is in Boston or LA, and someone has to be last - or second to last, as Mississippi generally owns last place in most measures of education, health, and general welfare. But making $49K and having to equip your own classroom...


The blowback to the Dash for Cash event was immediate. Millions of people viewed the video, and a lot of them found the spectacle of teachers on their hands and knees as shameful as I did. "Dehumanizing," it was called. "Dystopian." The hockey team that sponsored the event has apologized.

The scramble reminded me of something straight out of Hunger Games, but there's a more current reference:

Some compared the spectacle to the popular Netflix series “Squid Game,” in which the show’s characters compete in deadly games to win a giant piggy bank full of cash.
The teachers, for their part, were happy to have the dough, happy for a break from paying out of pocket. And some of them are probably wondering what all the fuss is about. Just some coastal elites getting all cranked up about something that lets them look down on the rubes. MYOB, you snobs. 

But there's something truly disgraceful that, in the midst of plenty, school teachers have to resort to this to get what they need.


There's an non-profit called Donors Choice that helps teachers fund projects to help their students. I just donated to help buy books for the middle school in the neighborhood I grew up in. I went to parochial school, but am happy to help support "the pubs."  

Friday, December 17, 2021

Tummy tuck vs. brain surgery? Which should be the priority? Hmmmm...

The Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), the union which represents the nursing staff at Brigham and Women's Hospital, is asking the Department of Public Health to take a closer look at the surgeries that Brigham has been scheduling now that there's a state order in force to reduce electtive surgeries to alleviate some of the covid pressure on hospitals.

Because, despite our high vaccination rate - as of today, we rank fifth among states (and the only four ahead of us are fellow New Englanders: VT, RI, ME, CT -  we still have a lot of people being hospitalized due to covid.

Not surprising, most of those in dire enough shape to be hospitalized are non-vaxxers. And they're selfishly and idiotically hogging beds that could be used for people who need them for something other than covid. 

And with the state requiring a reduction in elective surgery, it means that the procedures that do get scheduled mean bumping someone else further back in the queue. 

Here's what the MNA told the state:

The union wrote that nonessential surgeries such as tummy tucks were continuing unabated as patients who need urgent surgery for broken bones and brain injuries were sometimes waiting for operating rooms.

“We don’t see any action by the hospital at all to try to curb elective surgeries,” said Trish Powers, an operating room nurse who chairs the union bargaining committee at the Brigham.

“We feel extremely overwhelmed, not just the nurses, but physicians, technicians — everybody is so overwhelmed,” she said. “We’re understaffed and have way too many patients.” (Source: Boston Globe)

Tummy tucks, eh?  

Hard to think of any other surgery that's more elective, unless it's a facelift, nosejob, or that weird thing women were having done a few years back where they removed their little toe so that they could fit more comfortably in their pointy-toed Manolo Blahniks.

Okay, so they're not actually postponing emergency brain surgery in favor of procedures like tummy tucks. 

Still, elective surgeries aren't all vanity projects. A knee or hip replacement counts as elective surgery. Shouldn't something that helps someone become more mobile and reduces their pain take precedence over someone who wants their jelly roll reduced? Come on, lady, just put on a pair of Spanx. 

And not all elective surgeries are nice to haves, either. 

They include surgeries for patients with cancer and other serious conditions.

Hospital officials have countered that they're complying with the order, which "applies to surgeries that require patients to stay overnight in the hospital, not outpatient procedures that allow patients to go home the same day." 

Most tummy tucks are day surgery, letting the hospitals off the hook. 

Still, the optics are pretty bad when someone can't get their knee replaced but someone who wants a tummy tuck can get the deed done.

And although nothing I read indicated that the MNA was actually accusing Brigham of doing tummy tucks - that might well be an extrapolation by the Boston Globe - I believe the nurses when they say that elective surgeries are chugging right along at a faster rate than it should be.

The hospital has every reason to rev up elective surgeries: they're a big source of revenue. And it's a big source of money for the doctors who perform them. 

Would it be any surprise if the Brigham were complying with the letter of the law - reducing elective surgeries that require overnight stays - while actually encouraging more still- lucrative day surgeries? Like tummy tucks?

The nurses also argue that, because of the incresaed volume in covid patients, those with elective procedures who require an overnight stay may end up waiting on a gurney in a corridor waiting for a room to free up. (Trust me, you do not want this to happen to you or a loved one.)

The DPH is reviewing the MNA complaint.

As I said, I tend to trust the nurses here. 

We'll see how this plays out. 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Well, they do say you eat a peck of dirt before you die

I suspect that Multi Level Marketing (MLM) schemes have been around forever.  I'll even bet that back in the day, Ugga was going cave to cave to sign up Ogga and Glogga to push pebbles from their local stream. And that Ogga and Glogga fanned out to the caves of Klugga, Glugga, Ugga, and Trogga to get them onboard to sell more pebbles, sign up more Neanderthals, and earn swell things like a sabre-tooth tiger necklace or a musk ox cape. 

MLM's? Likely as old as dirt.

And in the case of Black Oxygen Organics, the product itself was dirt.

And it wasn't dirt cheap.
 ...four-and-a-half ounces of it, sealed in a sleek black plastic baggie and sold for $110 plus shipping. Visitors to the Black Oxygen Organics website, recently taken offline, were greeted with a pair of white hands cradling cups of dirt like an offering. “A gift from the Ground,” it reads. “Drink it. Wear it. Bathe in it.” (Source: NBC News)

And don't just drink, wear, and bathe in it for the sake of drinking, wearing, and bathing in it.  BOO, which is what the product was called, was a miracle cure-all. Happy, all-cured users:

...posted miraculous testimonials of cured diseases, weight loss, clearer skin, whiter teeth, regrown hair, reclaimed energy, expelled worms and even changes in eye color (from brown to blue)...

There were: [of] many benefits and uses, including improved brain function and heart health, and ridding the body of so-called toxins that include heavy metals, pesticides and parasites.

(Does it also rid the ear of heavy metal earworms from AC/DC and Black Sabbath?) 

Anyway, it goes without saying that, with all the misinformation floating around there, anti-vaxxers and covid-skeptics glommed right on. After all, if BOO could turn your brown eyes blue, what might it do for you during a pandemic?

It also goes without saying that the BOO MLM takeoff was propelled by the Internet: Facebook groups devoted to the wonders of BOO, TikTok testimonials, Instas of folks slathering on the black stuff.

All these social media BOO-ers were upping the ante on what BOO is good for. Cure for autism? Come on down! Cancer: begone! Alzheimer's: fuggedaboutit! And it's most current breakthrough: BOO "protects against and treats Covid-19." And can detox more than heavy metals. If you're a vaccine-regretter who feels you were conned into getting the jab, you can use BOO to detox that Moderna and Pfeizer right out of your system.

Who needs Dr. Fauci and his experts/schmexperts when there are TikTok testimonials from those in the know? Who know the pandemic is a hoax, that vaccines are killers, that the number of deaths recorded is fake news. 

More people were buying BOO, and more people were selling BOO. In September, the company reported that over the past six months, monthly sales had increased from $200K to $4M. (This mirrored the timing on when social media BOOsters started in earnest.)
But success came at a price. Canadian and U.S. health regulators have cracked down on BOO in recent months, initiating recalls and product holds at the border, respectively. And just as an online army of fans powered BOO’s success, an oppositional force of online skeptics threatened to shut it down.

And then, the inevitable happened and a few weeks ago "the company announced in an email it was closing up shop for good." 

Leaving its sellers, especially those at the bottom of the pyramid scheme, eating dirt. Rather than hitting the paydirt of making tens of thousands of dollars in your first month alone, they were out the money they'd fronted for product, and weren't able to deliver the goods to the folks they'd swept in as customers and/or resellers.

No surprise here - other than to those who got swept in:

More than 99 percent of MLM sellers lose money, according to the Consumer Awareness Institute, an industry watchdog group. 

I do have a tiny bit of sympathy for those who lost a lot of money on BOO, but how is it that people in this day and age aren't aware of how MLM's work? Surely, most of the easily duped would have been duped already.

Just guess it's true that you're going eat a peck of dirt before you die. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Hitman for hire?

It's never going to be a VC's darling unicorn. And it's not really a disrupter - that is, except for those who get caught by it - but Rent-A-Hitman (RAH) sure is an interesting business.

In 2005, Californian Bob Innes was starting up an internet security business, and thought that he'd come
up with a catchy name for it
"'Rent' as in hire us, 'hit man' as in website traffic and analytics," he says. (Source: CNN)

The business went nowhere. He tried unsuccessfully to sell the domain name, with nada interest. Then he more or less forgot about it for a few years. Until one day he took a look at the site's email box and what to his wondering eyes did appear than people looking for an actual hit man.

So Innes decided to have some fun with it, building out a website that's a pretty fair parody of a business site, even offering "Got a problem that needs resolving?...We have customizable solutions for every situation", testimonials from satisfied customers, requests for consultation forms, and solid positioning against the competitors:
Everyone should know by now that the Dark & Deep webs are not safe places to shop for your nefarious deeds. There are lots of potentially dangerous sites, ripe with viruses, and fraud runs rampant there. Your privacy is NOT guaranteed and your information could be leaked to thousands of less than stellar sites, including law enforcement, and that’s no fun!
Rent-A-Hitman is safe, secure, and available right here on the World Wide Web. 

Our clients confidentiality is important to us, so rest assured that your information will remain private as required under HIPPA, the Hitman Information Privacy & Protection Act of 1964. 

All of our competitors websites cannot say that and shouldn’t be trusted — Capisce!

The HIPPA bit is a particularly fine touch, but I think the Capisce! is a bit over the top. It's a nod to Guido Fanelli, the persona Innes concocted to front RAH, which in a further Godfatherly nod supposedly opened in 1920. Not all that funny, but apparently enough to the credulous maroons who have tried to sign up for RAH's "point and click solution."

These inclulde a Michigan woman who was willing to pay $5K to see her ex-husband dead.

"This is kind of weird that your company is not on the deep or dark web," she wrote in a message to a man she believed was the site's chief consultant, Guido Fanelli. CNN obtained a copy of the message. "I prefer not going to jail," she added. "Thanks for your time."

Wendy Wein might "prefer not going to jail", but  she's heading to the slammer, facing up to 9 years, as she ended up meeting not with one of RAH's nearly 18,000 US-based operatives, but with a Michigan state trooper. There are several other who've been convicted of trying to "solicit a murder."

Since launching his site, over 400 folks have filled in a service request form. Most are doing it on a lark, but some have inquired about becoming am RAH field agent. And Innes estimates that about one-tenth of those who fill in the form are actually people who are honestly (if that's the right word) looking for a hit man. 

That's when Innes whistles in the cops.

"I thought nobody can be that stupid, and boy have I been proven wrong," says Innes, 54. "These people ... whoever they are, they see HIPAA, they think privacy. So they feel compelled to leave their real information -- names, address, where the intended target is..."

His first case was a woman looking to have three people killed over an inheritance. 

Innes was astounded. His "$9.20 website" might have saved three lives.

He does offer a cooling off period of 24 hours. But once the prospective client has pointed, clicked, and pulled the metaphorical trigger, he contacts the police.

Just amazing that there are people who'd fall for this, but then I think of the Q conspiracists. 

I guess the internet really does change everything. 


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Is there any good news for Biogen?

It's been a rough couple of years for local drug powerhouse Biogen.

In February 2020, when the pandemic was beginning to take off, they went ahead and hosted a leadership conference at the Marriott Long Wharf on the Boston waterfront. In hindsight they should, of course, have canceled it - many other organizations were, by that point, starting to cancel meetings and travel - but that's hindsight for you. It's always a lot keener than foresight.

That event turned into the Typhoid Mary of conferences, a superspreader that's been tied to as many as 330,000 covid cases worldwide. 

Now, no company wants their name associated with disease - unless it's with curing it. Especially a drug company. So bad news.

And then there's the Aduhelm debacle.

Aduhelm is a treatment for Alzheimer's, and despite the fact that there wasn't great evidence from the clinical trials that pointed to its efficicacy, there was a lot of pressure on the FDA to expedite its release. Which they did - a controversial decision. (Several of the panelists who had recommended against it resigned. And there were rumors of senior FDA officials having back channel meetings with Biogen execs.  Not good.)

But to Biogen, that rushed release probably looked like a good thing. An awful lot of people are eager for a new treatment for Alzheimer's, as there hasn't been one in a while. And the disease is just so awful...

So Biogen was hoping for the big advantage of getting to market with something new and shiny when the market's so desperate for new and shiny. 

Then there was the not so good news. A number of private insurers decided Aduhelm was too unproven to cover. European health systems have given it a thumb's down. Sales have been paltry. 

Medicare may end up covering it. Which would be good news for Biogen. And probably for the Medicare recipients who are prescribed it. Although it may not work exactly, but it's still good to have something to be optimistic about, even if the optimism is somewhat misplaced. But especially if Aduhelm turns out to be a dud, it's going to be bad news for those of us on Medicare who are being hit with a premium increase that's being attributed to the cost of Aduhelm. (It costs $56K a year. Which seems like an awful lot for something that may not do any good.)

And the bad news just keeps on badding.

STAT - the health news service - has an extensive piece that covers the Aduhelm situation, as well as internal turmoil and political skullduggery.

Biogen's head of R&D, Alfred Sandrock - am I the only one thinking J. Alfred Prufrock here (ah, the perils of a liberal arts education) - is being forced out. CEO Michel Vounatsos may not be long for this world, either. Then there's the rumor that the company is about to layoff 1,000 employees - perhaps before the end of the year. There's also some talk about there having been something of a cabal of execs with Greek surnames making preferential hiring and promotion decisions when it came to fellow Hellenics. Opa!

I didn't actually read the STAT article. It was behind a paywall. What I gleaned, I gleaned from STAT tweets. 

Covid. Aduhelm. Layoffs. Greeks.

The communications staff at Biogen must have been delighted to have something to kvell about. Which was Newsweek's naming them to their list of America's Most Responsible Companies for 2021. I have no idea what that means - responsible for what - and if they turned out to have gotten a bit too cozy with the FDA, whatever responsibility means is in question. But when you've had the last couple of years, and the last couple of weeks, that Biogen has, I'm sure they'll take it.

One last Opa! I guess.

Monday, December 13, 2021's CEO: giving real fake authenticity a bad name

Well, I just spent an hour+ writing an overlong post about what a putz's CEO Vishal Garg is. 

And then, puff, just as I was about to hit the Publish button, it disappeared on me.

Good thing I have nothing better to do with my time.

Oh, wait a minute, I actually do. So my brilliant, funny, overlong post which, as is so often the case with Pink Slip, included bits about my own brilliant career, will not be replicated in anywhere near full. 

Instead, I'll just focus on Vishal Garg and what a putz he is.

If you're scratching our head trying to figure out who Vishal Garg is, he's the founder and CEO of, a digital mortgage lender that took off during the pandemic, adding 7,000 employees.

Well, 900 of those employees have now been laid off. This despite the fact that just got a cash infusion of $750M, has $1B in cash, and was declared by Fortune to be a unicorn. 

I know, I know, business can be nasty and brutish, and careers can be short. And sometimes difficult decisions have to be made. Like laying off 900 employees a couple of weeks before Christmas.

This lay-off made the news because it was conducted, en masse, over Zoom. Everyone invited to the meeting was pink slipped (virtually, metaphorically).

When announcing the meeting, Garg mentioned that, when he'd done lay-offs in the past, he'd cried, but that this time he was going to hold it together.

I cried. Awwww.

I'm guessing this revelation of his vulnerability was either suggested by someone in HR, hoping it would give Garg some aura of authenticity - authenticity being all the rage amont today's leaders - and/or that Garg had just speed-read a two-minute article from the Harvard Business Review on authenticity (and how to fake it).

I'm all for authenticity. But when someone is being laid off, they really don't give a hoot about your feelings. What they care about are their feelings. Spare them your pain, please.

After the Zoomerama lay-off, Garg addressed the remaining employees, speaking out with a bit of a forked tongue. On the one hand, he lamented that he hadn't done the lay-offs three months earlier. On the other hand, having gotten plenty of blowback over his method and message, he apologized for not being sufficiently appreciative of the contributions and respectful of the feelings of the pink slippers.

Ah, man's quest for authenticity.

Garg might have been able to pull it off if it didn't slip out that he had been shit-posting anonymously on a networking site called Blind, complaining that at least 250 of those who'd been let go were dishonest slackers who'd only been working 2 hours a day, and, thus, stealing from customers, investors, colleagues, and - I guess - Vishal Garg. (Garg was outed for his posting, but has confirmed that it was, indeed, him.)

Truly, what in God's name is a CEO doing trashtalking about his employees - even if they are now ex-employees - on an anonymous site?

This is where the employees should be grousing, not the head guys. 

Of course, leaders have feelings that they want to express, too. Authentic ones.

Still, if more than one-quarter of the laid-off employees were only putting in two-hour days, that's a management problem, pal-ly, that Vishal Garg's managers should have been addressing. Maybe he should have been reading a five-minute take from HBR on Management 101, rather than brushing up on his personal authenticity. 

In the wake of all this, three of Better's top executives (in communications, PR, marketing) have quit over the way everything's been handled. (Garg has a pre-lay-off reputation as a bully who demeans employees, so I'm guessing his authentic self is the trash-talker.) 

Like all good unicorns, Better is planning an IPO, which was likely the main impetus for the lay-off.

Meanwhile, Vishal Garg is giving real fake authenticity a bad name.

If you can't be best, Mr. Garg, at least next time try to be better. 


Thank you to my cousin Ellen for sending this one my way. As for the cites I'm usually so meticulous about, they went 'poof' with the post, and I have better things to do than try to refind them. Just google Zoom lay-off and/or Vishal Garg and I'm quite certain you'll uncover all sorts of source material!

Friday, December 10, 2021

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

I live in a very charming neighborhood, and the (mostly) very charming shops on Charles Street, our main thoroughfare/shopping drag tend, to put out charming decorations for the holidays. Tasteful (mostly), too.

It reminds me of those charming and tasteful little towns that the charming and tasteful folks in the charming and tasteful Hallmark and Lifetime holiday movies fall in love with an in. You know these movies: complete and utter, too cutesy, totally unrealistic, romantic pap, in which the lovely (charming and tasteful) young single gal realizes that the place where the charming and tasteful man of her dreams is going to fall head over heels with her can only be in the small town (sometimes a suburb, but well removed from any urban taint) where she grew up. Awwwww. 

The towns, of course, are fake AF.

But Charles Street, even though it's in a large, tainted city - the sort of place where, if you believe in Hallmark, no one can ever find true happiness - is not fake AF. It's a very real place, and people actually live here. We even have - get this! - a drugstore that's not a CVS! And a donut shop that's just around the corner that - get this! - is not a Dunk's.

Anyway, I took a stroll through the hood the other day and took a few snaps of some of the charming and tasteful (mostly) storefronts.

Here's the nice little boutique hotel at the corner. I like the jaunty cap on the sign. 

And here's a couple of nice (charming, tasteful) little card and gift shops:

The shop below is for skincare and related (e.g., eyelash) services. Not sure about the purple fake tree with turquoise and silver bulbs. Don't seem to match all that well with the red Merry Christmas. But, hey, I'm in the holiday spirit: you do you!

This sandwich shop opened a month or two ago. Their windows are charming and tasteful, and their muffaleta sandwich is pretty tasty.

This shop is the ultimate in good taste minimalism. I've never been in. They sell jewelry and objets. I think they used to sell doorknobs, too. But that might have been a shop ago.

The wife of the owner of our wonderful hardware store, Charles Supply, is an artist, and I'm not doing her latest window much justice here. Trust me. Her windows are always wonderful and fun. 

This is a disappointing picture of the window at Blackstone's my favorite card and gift (and kitchen) shop on Charles. I've been shopping there for decades, and through three (that I can think of) owners. All wonderful. And through it all, it's always been Blackstone's. Love this place!

More tastefulness! More charm! From a couple of places that sell charming and tasteful stuff. Just not to me.

This is a new toy store - of course our charming and tasteful neighborhood has a toy store - where your kiddo can post a letter to Santa at the North Pole. And of course we also have a charming and tasteful shop that sells dog paraphernalia. Just not dogs. 

And why I can't line those two pics up the same way I did for the two stuff shops is beyond me.

Even the drycleaner gets into the act, in their own modest little way. Just not my drycleaner. 

One of the weirdest shops on Charles is a chacuterie that recently opened. "Boston's first quick service chacuterie store!" Likely its first and only. Seriously, just how much demand is there for quick service chacuterie? I would prefer to have the nut store that used to be here back. (Fortunately, I can still get Fastacchi nuts online. But it's just not the same as popping in for a house gift. Or something to put out for guests. Or something to just plain gorge on.)

There are a couple of shops on Charles that cater to trendy twenty-somethings, and this is one of them. Looks like pink is the thing. But that hot pink fake tree that looks like it was airlifted from the 1950's? No thanks. But I'm not the customer they're after, so I'll just let it be.

But in truth, I prefer my Christmas colors traditional. If God wanted us to have pink Christmas trees, he'd have given us pink Christmas trees. I'm also not wild about this heavy bronze and green swag below. What's wrong with green with a bit of red (or blue or silver or gold) to break things up?

Across Beacon, and still - I think - technically on Charles, are the Make Way for Ducklings. They're making their way for Christmas sporting their fine little Santa caps.

You know, sometimes it really is a beautiful day in my charming and tasteful neighborhood. 

And am I bragging about my charming and tasteful neighborhood? Having grown up in Main South Worcester, you bet I am!


Thursday, December 09, 2021

And so this is Christmas

If the Massie family likes to go hunting, well, not my jam, but let them.

But I do have a couple of questions for Thomas Massie, R-KY - make that RWNJ-K - who's offering his season's greetings with this family photo, along with the snappy caption: Merry Christmas!🎄 ps. Santa, please bring ammo.🎁

Where to begin...

First off, I have a pretty strong suspicion that Rep. Massie is one of those pols who spends plenty of time yelping about all those rotten libruls who don't want anyone saying Merry Christmas. One of those pols who celebrated the election of Trump for many reasons, not the least of which is was now okay to say Merry Christmas again. As if showing a little consideration to those who don't celebrate Christmas, but who do participate in seasonal events that mark the year's end, as plenty of cultures do, means I can't bellow Merry Christmas to those I know (or at least suspect) to be Christians - active or fallen away; agnostic, atheist, or true believer - who celebrate Christmas for reasons religious and/or secular.

And aren't people like Massie always carping about the 'reason for the season,' 'keep Christ in Christmas,' etc. Aren't they the ones who really don't approve of the separation of church and state?

So what about the birth of Christ suggests guns? 

Not that I'm any expert, but the Christ I learned about was a man of peace. (Blessed are the peacemakers, no?) He could, of course, display righteous anger when needs be, and I can picture him taking his whip made of cords and lashing out at the gun toters in our midst. But fundamentally, Christ was pro-peace. 

I'm no expert on guns, either, but the piece that Massie is holding doesn't appear to be the wholesome, sporty hunting rifle that one might expect under the tree in a wholesome, sporty hunting household. What he's cradling in his arms appears to be a weapon of war, used for mowing down humans, not shooting Bambi's mother for the venison steaks.

WWJD? I'm pretty sure he wouldn't approve.

And that would be during a normal Christmas season.

I'm pretty sure that Jesus Christ would really not approve of this picture coming in the wake of the massacre of four high school kids in Oxford, Michigan, by a classmate who'd been given a high-powered hand gun for Christmas. 

Wasn't Christ about suffering the little children? Not having the little children suffer.

And wouldn't a normal, decent person be so heartsick over this terrible incident that he might hold back a few weeks before blasting this out?

But no.

And that "please bring ammo" chaser?

Is Thomas Massie the only person in America who isn't aware that the Oxford gunman - make that gunboy: Ethan Crumbley is only 15 - had been caught by a teacher a day or so before the masscre googling for ammo on his smartphone? (The school tried to contact the mother over this disturbing incident, but she ignored their email and phone call. Instead, Jennifer Crumbley texted her son: "LOL. I'm not mad at your. You have to learn not to get caught.")

So doesn't Massie's "please bring ammo" bit seem a bit unseemly, inappropriate, not particularly funny?

Massie has come in for plenty of richly-deserved criticism. Predictably, he's taking (metaphorical) aim on his critics and has come out (metaphorically - so far at least) blasting at them for overreacting, for linking the picture to the Michigan murders. (Gee, who could possible make any connection here??) 

His real Christmas card, Massie notes, is the family posed with their musical instruments. They just thought doing a version with guns to show off their other great family togetherness activity would be fun. 

... I crossed guns with family and Christmas, and those are three things that really could trigger the leftists, and I didn't realize that it would be such an explosive cocktail when you put it together. But it adds up to freedom." (Source: Courier-Journal)

Freedom for you, maybe. 

But what about the kids in Oxford? Where's the freedom for
Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17?

Next week marks the ninth anniversary of the Shady Hook killings, when 20 sweet little kiddos between the ages of six  and seven were murdered. If they'd lived, they'd be roughly the same ages as the four sweet big kiddos killed in Michigan. Four sweet big kiddos who grew up with active shooter drills. Who grew up knowing that at any time, you could be killed while at school.


But, yeah, by all means, make sure the world knows that you and your family are packing, and that Santa should drop some ammo down the chimney. Might work if there's no fire going.

And if Thomas Massie needs to source ammo, he can always ask Ethan Crumbley. He may have been able to complete his search before that nosy teacher interrupted him.

Seriously, who the F are we?

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

What do American Girl Dolls, the board game Risk, and sand have in common?

I'm always interested in seeing what the annual nominees are for induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame. This year, they were American Girl Dolls, Battleship, billiards, Cabbage Patch Kids, Fisher-Price Corn Popper, Mahjong, Masters of the Universe, piñata, Risk, sand, the Settlers of Catan, and the toy fire engine.

And the winners were: American Girls Dolls, Risk, and sand. 

But first a look at the losers.

We had a game with tiny yellow and green metal battleships on it, so it must have been Battleship. But I can't be certain. We played it, but it never took off among my family and friends. And we played an awful lot of board games. Battleship was just sort of meh. We were much more likely to play Clue, Monopoly, Parcheesi, Sorry, and a few others.

What is/are billiards doing on a list of contenders for the Toy Hall of Fame? Billiards (pool without pockets), pool (billiards wihtout pockets), and snooker (variation on a pool theme) don't exactly bring kids at play to mind. More like the smoke-filled room in The Hustler, where Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) took on Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). Or The Color of Money, where Newman reprises his role as Fast Eddie, and Tom Cruise plays newcomer pool shark Vincent Lauria. I don't remember exactly, but I'm guessing Color of Money came with less smoke than in The Hustler. (1986 vs. 1961.) Just nothing I associate with toys and/or kids.

Cabbage Patch Kids were never really on my radar screen, but I remember the mania for them, their weird little faces, and the fact that the dolls came with names and adoption papers. Which I think was a bit controversial...

Although there were kids in my house the right age for the Fisher-Price Corn Popper, which was introduced in 1957, I don't think we had one. Yet I've seen plenty of them around over the years, and I regard it as a most excellent toy, guaranteed to drive adults insane with the incessant popping noise. Alas, I note that the Corn Popper, which always came in white with primary colors, has now been gendered and is available in pink and purple. Why?

Although I've loved playing TaiPei (a mahjong game) online, and am in possession of a great bracelet made from mahjong tiles, I really don't get Mahjong as much of a natural for the Toy Hall of Fame. Kids don't play Mahjong. Old ladies do. Maybe there needs to be a wing of the Hall of Fame dedicated to recreation for grownups. Like billiards and mahjong. 

Masters of the Universe? I cannot yawn wide, hard, or long enough to express my lack of interst in this franchise. It's been around for forty years now, so someone must like it. Just not me.

Even though there's always the risk of a kid getting bonked in the head as someone flails away at it, or a child being injured (physically and/or emotionally) in the scramble for the goodies, the piñata is a fine little nominee. Even though it does seem unfair that the kid who actually breaks it open is at a disadvantage in the goodie scramble, as they have to waste a precious second or two removing their mask once the piñata is spilling its guts.

I have never heard of the Settlers of Catan, and I'm not going to even look it up, as it sounds of such non-interest to me. Oh, what was I saying. Of course I looked it up. It actually sounds like a brainier version of Monpoly, so I might have even liked it. Not that I'll ever know. 

The toy fire engine? I'm kind of surprised that this hadn't already made the grade, Hall of Fame-wise. Maybe they figured that, if they let the fire engine in, the toy police car couldn't be far behind, and that might raise all sorts of political issues.

As for the winners:

I would have given my eye teeth for an American Girl Doll when I was a kid. They're beautifully made, have wonderful clothing and accessories, and are age-appropriate and altogether sweet. My nieces had Molly and Kit, and over the years I bought plenty of outfits and accessories for them, and for other little girls I've gotten gifts for. I still get the catalogue, and I still look through it. I've even been to the American Girl Doll store in NYC. (I took my niece Caroline when she was six.) I just love these dolls, although they are pretty expensive and, with the accompanying story books, sometimes leave a little to little to a child's imagination. But I think this is a wonderful choice.

For all the hundreds of hours I spent playing board games as a kid, I've never played Risk. I don't remember anyone I know having it. Too brainy, I guess.

Sand! Fabulous choice. We always had a sandbox in the back yard, and each spring, my father got a fresh dump of sand. We built roads and forts, made mudpies and other "food", and wiggled our bare feet in the cool sand on a hot summer's day. And then there was the annual day trip to the beach, which called for a new pail and shovel for each of us. The pails were tin, the shovels heavy metal, and we used them to make castles and just dig in the sand to watch it fill up with water. Sometimes we buried our feet. Never an entire body. Toys may have taken on different ways, shapes, and forms over the years, but sand hasn't changed a bit. And unlike an American Girl Doll, it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. So bravo, sand! Congratulations on making the Toy Hall of Fame.


Source: Museum of Play