Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Won't you be...?

We have a saying in my family -- when someone asks you what's new, what's going on, you say "nothing to write home about." And often people will comment, "you write home often?" and of course the joke's on them. As you know... yes we do.

But I often think, when approaching the blank blogger screen "nothin much to blog about." I'll treat you to a real old-fashioned weblog entry from the life.

Pour yourself one.

I have a couple of outstanding life management issues of late. If you are a careful reader, you have found them:

1) I really need a new car
2) I don't talk to my neighbors
3) I need a good handyman, Eldin style
4) I have mice
5) I think Hollywood has gone Apocalypto, with a capital A -- every movie is about the eve of destruction, and what if these really are the end times (lower case)
6) I still work too damn much, only now without feeling, so now I hate myself on top of it.

But the light in my week is Recording for the Blind. Tonight I was treated to Legal Rights of People with Mental Disabilities. Besides being able to say "deinstitutionalization" and "mentally deficient," I began to wonder if I count as mentally disabled. These authors say only if your condition interferes with normal life operations and/or is dangerous. I am simply a middle-aged American who returns to the house 3 times from the driveway to be sure the oven isn't on, and who really won't run my drier if I am not home.

My goddaughter wouldn't get into the pool because she thought the flowers would come off of her bathing suit. I say, until proven otherwise, why shouldn't she think so?

Driving home, my oil light came on (that is, I was driving. Oil light was not) which it does now about 1000 miles too soon, but at 136K and 10 years, it is entitled. I just throw a quart in and call it a day. I stopped on the way home to do that very thing, in the parking lot of the Shaw's (next door to the gym I have neglected for over a week) feeling so independent and cocky because I just take care of these things, you see, when they need taking care of (please look away from the broken garage door, fireplace, and the mouse trap). Hear me roar.

8:30pm and I drive up, hop out to lift the garage door and that the car...door... oh.... crap.

Good thing it has a full tank of case and a new quart of oil. Which it is burning through.


I got as far as the AAA phone menu-- because you know I throw staff at problems like these -- when I decided this particular mysterious way was more palatable than 4 horsemen and a whirlwind of fire, and I just went next door.

Husband next door threw himself into the puzzle as only other people's husbands will. Your husband, I am sad to say, will read you a full chapter of What You Should Have Done, but to me he will bring a coat hanger, screwdriver, and wood shims (of course he does). We will pick and pry and make what sounds awkwardly like sex noise as we guide each other to the elusive door button. Oh yes, manual doors and windows. I told you I needed a new car.

The wife suggests the cops will do this and pours us wine. After 20 minutes, I feel like he has made a fair effort but it just isn't going to happen (pause... giggle) and I call AAA. Waiting in their family room, wine in hand, charm fully on, we get to know each other while my car idles in the adjacent driveway. They apologize for the loud graduation party this weekend; I say I have been out of town, in Texas where I used to live. I decide to be normal and not international woman of mystery because they are being nice and it is 9pm in the suburbs, and he used his best husbandry on me.

We talk about the mice (they don't have them. Wife suggests I am not home enough and should have loud boys like they do). We tell our best cocktail party stories and I say what I really need is a handyman. Neighbor Wife knows one she loves. She is a realtor, she recommends him, he'll do anything. No job too small. I give her my email.

AAA comes and the other neighbors are milling in my driveway, worried I have been raptured (now, seriously, everyone knows my SHOES would be there) and chatting up the driver who is trying to locate the phone number I left him. Other neighbor confesses she has climbed up our deck to break in before. Husband and I get to tell our story to a whole new audience while AAA guy opens the door by ROLLING DOWN THE WINDOW with a bent coat hanger.

damn. that's hot.

I have thought of all the places I will hide my extra car key in the garage, all the places I will hide my extra house key in the car. But I am also giving the neighbors my email, and calling the handyman, and thanking my car for being so old you can break into it. And thanking the Lord for making me careless, even if just for a moment.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Have you noticed what's happened to your hummus container?

On the left, Tribe of Two Sheiks classic hummus, featuring the 2 camels logo:On the right, Tribe hummus.

Your camels have been replaced by pictures of the delicious ingredients inside. The middle-eastern calligraphy is essentially the same.

You probably didn't think the Tribe was really made in Cairo or Casablanca, but you probably thought New York City or somewhere equally as world-stage. Tribe makes its home in the South Shore environs of Taunton, MA, not far from where the Patriot play. (I gave up remembering what the stadium is called anymore. Canaveral, I think)

So here's how this happened:

The Tribe began manufacturing in 1994 as part of the Rite Foods brand of food...stuffs. The official story about changing the packaging is "Many consumers had trouble identifying the hummus flavor inside the old packaging. We took a significant step to correct that creating illustrations on the labels of the vegetables/herbs in the hummus."

This angle is not mentioned in the official story.

The Osem group is actually part of Nestle, so this is not a takeover story (except maybe how Nestle owns everything).

Meanwhile, chief competitor Sabra pushes its "Go Mediterranean" slogan, though they are also owned by Pepsi-Co. Speaking of owning everything. (Mountain Dew "Voltage"? "Charged with raspberry citrus flavor and ginseng" Stop the madness, Pepsi. And don't make a hummus soda, no matter what the Cel-Ray people tell you.)

For one last "equal time" mention, the Cedar's factory tour. Ward Hill, MA, owned by ... itself, from what I can tell. Community-active and academically-endorsed. I may have just changed my hummus brand.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pronunciations we have changed in my lifetime

1. Halley's Comet
2. Iran
3. Sacagawea
4. Himalayas
5. Pakistan
6. Hiroshima
7. And didn't we used to say GRAUmann's Chinese Theatre?
when did that stop?
9. Harrassment
10. Uranus. stop giggling. 9 and 10 go just fine together.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Scrabble Cheez-It

I wish I could take credit for it, but there are some things the Universe just comes to on its own.

50 Things about Cheez-Its that will not change your life.

Bridal coloring books

#19 in an occasional series of repressed 70's memories that turn out to be true.

Today's power parents may be surprised to learn that coloring books were not always ads for Summer blockbusters. Coming of age post-Shortcake, as they have, they may not know that coloring books were meant for advertising other items besides toys and license franchises.
Like our American way of life.

Bridal coloring books had very simple plots: Kathy was getting married. Not Barbie. Not PJ. Just....some stunning campus beauty from your town who had found her true love and was going to marry him.

After the picture of Brad on one knee, was the close-up picture of Kathy holding the ring up to her flawless cheekbones. The ring was absolutely no fun to color, because of course, it should be clear. You could use white, but it looked milky, which any American girl knows is just no good in diamonds.

Brad wore a sweater, of the collegiate/tennis variety. Always color the boy FLESH and the girl PEACH. These colors are now melded as TAN.
The couple tell the parents. In the long-shot of the 4 in the living room (Mother clasping hands to cheek, Father shaking Brad's hand or clutching shoulder. Kathy, of course, is showing the ring) Sis is in the foreground, peeking through the door, or over a banister. This is you, of course, with better ponytails than yours ever work out.

Brad has a little brother. This will become important later, then implied more important even later. Stay with the story.

The middle part is the best-est because there are so many CLOTHES to color, and since bridal gowns are WHITE, which is a ludicrous topic for a coloring book, you color the bridesmaids, the mothers of bride and groom, the brunch outfits, the trousseau (which you have no idea what it is, but if you are raised Southern as I was, you know they require a hope chest to live in), and ---wait for it... -- the flower girl outfits.

Sis is the Flower Girl of course, and Brad's little brother Buddy or Butch or some other dog's name is Ring Bearer. Families who have mixed offspring would not have the poor taste to appear here.

The Bride and her court have a SLEEPOVER (how old are they?) which is what the court did apparently before the bachelorette caught on with such a death-grip. (side bar to the 9 brides I served. thank you for not putting us through that.) Here are pajamas, fuzzy slippers, at least one set of pink curlers and a face mask.

There is at least one picture of the generic-vicar, another waste of a good coloring page, but Kathy might have on a smart twin-set that is good for a festival of periwinkle.

Finally the wedding section, and there are flowers here, which are entertaining, and the cutting of the cake, which you make chocolate if you have an ounce of creativity. Sis and Buddy are made to dance with each other. (without benefit of cotillion) The couple runs in a platoon crouch to the waiting car under a flurry of rice. Also white.

More proof that your toys do not define the girl you turn out to be. I had two of these handbooks. I also had this one. That's a tepee. And though you can not see it well in this image.... a first aid kit. Well naturally.

One thing you can see is that I am not using a WHITE crayon.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Leading economic indicators

The email contains the bullet, "The most up-to-date cost control and staffing reduction data anywhere!" With an exclamation point.

Who wouldn't be excited?

I took a survey somewhere on the Internet (no, you really don't know where my hands have been) and was sent the results.

Of 15,000 mill drones like me surveyed, 66% reported their Mill had not experienced layoffs in the past 12 months. Exclamation point! To paraphrase Sheila Murphy, "That is not a happy statistic."

It means 33% have.

Of those 33% who said yes, up to 25% of their service workforce had been reduced. Or as we say in software, "reductized." AND... say the majority of those 33%, other jobs in their Mill have not been cut. Service work can be easier to automate than most jobs at your Mill, but they are 40K jobs, so you usually have to eliminate a lot of them to make a dent in the payroll and benefits.

"Excluding lay offs, what are some ways you are saving operating costs in this economy? "

Here are my favorite picks from 6 pages of verbatim for ways companies are "saving operating costs" besides firing you. Keep in mind, these were submitted by the workers themselves and are probably spun differently from the Corner Office.

Call it trickle down. You should be feeling these soon, next time you need some tech support.

We are trying to reduce the communication cost by changing our toll free number to chargeable number.
Hiring people who are willing to work on lower wages.
Link incentive strictly to customer satisfaction and productivity.
Guiding client members to the website.
Offer rewards to agents who want to go home.
Decrease the service level.
10% reduction in salaries for exempt employees.
Desk sharing. (like it should get any smaller)
We concentrate more on the small but stable accounts
We strictly enforce multitasking.
We will not measure our service level and/or other contact center performance indicator.
We have cut back on recruiting expenses by going with cheaper options.
Keeping training costs down.
Put more work onto the agents we currently have with us.
We're not allowing any overtime.
asking employees to do more with less
Assigning more responsibilities to the leadership team so that additional hiring is not required.

Have a meaningful day, fellow workers.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Workers' hygiene

You have recently received some helpful advice from your employer regarding how to avoid H1N1 (please don't call it "swine," they say) flu. This may have come in the form of a memo reprinting the Homeland Security Memo. You may have wondered, as I did, "why is Homeland Security running this issue, instead of the CDC?" Or maybe you just expect Homeland Security to run every issue.

Mme. Secretary was just addressing her employees -- the ones so often in harm's way abroad. Defending our homeland from.... over there. But if your Company wants to handle its liability the same way, one memo is as good as the next.

In the spirit of good healthy work practices, the DrawingIn room presents

Hygiene for the Worker, 1912

We boil it down (in carbolic) so you don't have to.
Authors: Tolman & Gutherie of the American Museum of Safety. (pause for effect)
Irony points: Adelaide Wood Gutherie. Not that Woody Gutherie, who probably wrote some very catchy tunes about workplace accidents.
Giggle milk through your nose points: General Editor C. Ward Crampton.
seriously? you're not even going to make me work for it, are you?
Audience: "designed for boys and girls from thirteen to eighteen years of age, for special classes preparing to pass examinations for labor certificates, and for vocational, industrial, and manual training high schools."

When your teenager won't get off his ass to put a dish in a sink, this is a good photo to hang on the fridge.

Add this caption from our text, " If he has finished the elementary school course, he will be able to meet most of the demands of ordinary business life. If he is fortunate enough to have completed a high school training, he will find that he possesses an equipment that will overcome many an obstacle in the way of success."

No miner boy, me. I gots me degree.

There are 19 chapters (the last of which is Tuberculosis). I treat you to these unaltered illustrations and quotations. Cross-stitch at will.

"If the person I want for this job is clean and neat and self-reliant, I may be sure that his morals and methods of work are equally clean and straightforward."

"We all prefer those friends who are cheerful and amiable. Isn't it just as probable that an employer will pick out the pleasant-faced, cheerful boy or girl to work for him, in preference to one whose expression is sour and gloomy and whose manner is short and surly ?"

"If you have any trouble in the nasal passages, a physician will tell you how to use a nasal douche."

"So it is well, if you cannot sleep out of doors, to have plenty of fresh air circulating through your room at night."

"...the Pennsylvania Railroad will no longer pay damages to any one injured in getting on or off their trains, if it is proved that high-heeled shoes or tightly fitting skirts were responsible for the injuries received."

"It is because milk is unclean and full of germs or has been
spoiled by standing or given in unclean nursing bottles, that
so many babies are made ill."

This problem of the coffee cups is older than first thought.

"It is believed that the largest number of accidents in shops and mills takes place on Monday, because the alcohol that is drunk on Sunday takes away the skill and attentive care of the workman."

"Many employers make the mistake of crowding too many workers into a small space...If you know such conditions to exist in a factory, avoid working there, and do not sacrifice your health and possibly your life. The factory laws of New York allow 250 cubic feet of air space to each worker."

"The children of parents who work very hard in certain occupations are usually smaller in size, less intelligent, and more feeble than the children born of healthy parents and brought up with the additional advantages of nourishing food, plenty of fresh air, and play."

To a minimum. It can't be eliminated.

I will let you caption this one yourselves.

"If the body is forced to keep at work after the fatigue point is reached, day after day, without sufficient sleep or opportunity to find healthful recreation, the reserve fund of energy stored in the cells of the body is used up ; 'and, if the strain is continued up to the limit of exhaustion, there may be a sudden revolt of the overtaxed organism and a collapse that may prove disastrous physically and mentally."

This is the modern method. The Victorian version of this book had the rescuer clap his hands sharply near the victim's face and bark, "I insist that you wake up a-twonce!"

Which brings us back to flu prevention and other workplace considerations. The President has already said you should use as much Sick Leave as you can.

Take this example from our text:

Monday, May 4, 2009

The lost trees of worcester

The December ice storm was not the worst of it. And it was plenty bad.

All along Rt 2, and in the wooded areas of Central Mass, the trees are bent and broken and there has been plenty of clean-up to do. Most of them hang where they are; others are trimmed back hard from the road and the leftover pieces kicked aside. It is a spooky drive west between 495 and the Connecticut River. But that was not the worst of it.

The worst of it are blocks of streets, entire neighborhoods, cutting down their trees under order of the state. Like Travis shooting Old Yeller, they do what they must -- bravely and through tears. 63 sq miles of trees are now in receivership of the Commonwealth. And nearly every tree must go. If you don't... someone else will have to, by court order. And that just ain't fittin'.

The expert opinion: "the only proven method of control and eradication of this destructive insect is the complete removal of infested trees (to include stump grinding) and the removal of select adjacent host trees that have a high risk of being infested."

As you look at the piles of branches, note the size of the trees they came from. In this neighborhood, most of the growth is far above the rooftops. I thank Historyteacher50 for shooting the scene I was looking for. I drive past a view like this several times a week, and in some neighborhoods, there is not a single tree left.

This is a Googlemaps view of West Boylston St where I work. The circled hillside is bare now.

The replanting has begun. The neighbors are trying to move on. With a sense of humor.

Even though it is clearly the end of everything we hold dear. Put it on the list.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

In case you're still sleeping at night

This might become a new series. I could call it Cures for Somnia. Let's face it -- it could be its own blog.

In any case, here's something to blow your mind, as told in the Economist.

Red Ash is the oldest of 36 fires currently blazing in Pennsylvania’s 180,000 acres (73,000 hectares) of abandoned mines. The most famous is beneath Centralia, which began in 1962 when residents burned some rubbish on top of an exposed coal seam. In 1981 a hole there swallowed an 12-year-old boy; Pennsylvania has since condemned the entire town, relocated almost all its residents and had its postal code revoked. Like Red Ash, Centralia’s fire is thought to have enough fuel to burn for many more decades.

The abandoned carousel is not just for creep effect (though it is totally creepy). It is from Centralia -- that Love Canal of coal towns.