Monday, July 27, 2009

Pizza fail

True story.

Are you googling yourself Pizza Hut? this means you, Pizza Hut. say it with me. Pizza Hut.

Now, I know you might be thinking that you would never eat chain pizza, especially not suburban chain pizza. Youz a lie, as we say down home. That butter-soaked focaccia bread they make the pan pizza on is so good you don't even ask what "pork topping" is.

We don't have a lot of the Hut in these parts. This is Papa Gino's country. And sometimes I want that medium pan in a way that the Target/airport version can't provide. I want it brought out with that speculum they serve it with, I want the girl to tell me the pan is hot. Italian sausage and mushroom, every corporate-prepared crispy bit.

I have to go a bit out of town for this quest -- and not just any town. Searstown.

In typical Mass parlance, we insist on calling it what it is no longer named. Searstown in now the Mall at Whitney Field. yawn. Within a crazy snarl of shopping centers, which in younger regions of our land, would sprawl, there is a Hut.

So that's where I went.
As I enter, a worker at the cashier window (like a racetrack) is yelling "Tell her we can't seat anybody!" She didn't mean me; she meant the hostess-her. But "hi. hello." nice greeting.

They can't seat anybody because the computers are down. Nor can they take orders, make food, or give you your take out, because the computers are down. There are 8 staff I can count without turning my head, a kitchen full of pizza ingredients..... She banged the keyboard as a demonstration of their helplessness.

If I didn't spend all day and some of the night explaining the innovative nuances of customer service, I might have explained how the pioneers ran their businesses. But I tire easily.
A man came in to get his order, and she offered to give it to him if he paid in exact change. He left for an ATM.

I assume you have wheat bread...and a toaster of some kind...?

I drove back to Clinton, to where local businessmen still sell a pizza or a beer (or both) every 20 feet, and though they don't throw the dough anymore, they will make a well-done. They will give you a little something if you chat them up. They will have a newspaper on the counter while you wait. And for $6.50 you really can't complain.

Unless it is to PIZZA HUT.
Even that workflow was a little unpleasant, but by experimenting with the dropdown menus, I was able to construct a Complaint-Employee-Did not resolve situation email. Then I blamed the corporation for not a) having a disaster recovery plan and b) not raising their managers to think they can solve their own problems by making change out of a cigar box and calling the corp HQ or another store to verify cards for them. "As I was leaving," I wrote in my 500 character space, "employees were locking the door at the dinner hour."

Amazing to think that in a kitchen of food, ovens, and staff, a restaurant has to close.
Amazing to think I would rant like an old guy in a cardigan over something that was just going to make me sick.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The bloody hat mystery

I have a friend who compares himself to Bruce Wayne. "I'm just a guy with good equipment," he says, but I think we all enjoy thinking that the paramedic we know personally could save a man's life McIyver style with grape shears and a gum wrapper.

On a crystal summer day on Lake Winnipesaukee, we took a tour on the Doris E. A tour of the lake, mind you. A tour of the Doris E would be limited to an upper deck with exhaust blowback; bridge; cabin with chips, Snickers, and a head; and the bow, where we eventually ended up.

I can recommend this tour, especially if you are looking for the kind of stimulation that doesn't require you to do anything, which was the vibe of our crew as we rolled into Meredith: Dr A, Otto, Bruce Wayne, and myself.

I'll be the old one. Dr A should really be the one reading Camille Paglia.
(if you would like to catch up on characters, you may link now, but I find it more enjoyable to read first and link later. But whatever suits your lunch hour)

For 2 hours you will hop from shore to shore, being treated to the sights and facts and the stunning panorama of a mountain lake. There are no pictures; we all forgot our cameras.

Dr A (with irony): "How will know I had a good time?" This line in response to my admission that I no longer remember any anecdotes of our North Carolina vacation some years ago except those in the videotape we made of it.

There is nothing fancy about the Doris E - It seats about 50 in plastic ER waiting room chairs and is open to the air. There is a crew of 2. I have already mentioned the dining car.

Winnipesaukee is the 3rd largest fresh water lake in the US (asterisk - contained within 1 state. So they claim. Even then, I could not corroborate this fact in 10 minutes of online research. Winnipesaukee did not make the top 20 on wikipedia, but when you consider that most things ahead of it are shipping channels, I think we can still be impressed. The Quabbin Reservoir is only half this size, not a true lake, and you can't take a boat tour. Where was I?)

So the Mary Celeste--- I mean, Doris E. We are alternating between chairs and rail, all enjoying not being at work. Until...

I complain a lot about not having what I consider a practical trade, but times like this on a boat when abolsutely no one needs the have their idea broken down into tasks and timelines, I can be grateful.

Waiting on the pier at Weir's beach for "the all clear to go ashore on the gangway," a boy of about 6 or 7, sitting in front of us with his grandmother, suddenly fell to the floor. Slipped on water? Tripped on rope? Who even knows, but I saw it myself, and I charge that his guardian angel wrestled him out of his chair onto the floor. They can be scampish that way.

We heard this loud thrrrump (it trilled, shakesperean, because it was dramatic) and he popped up, looking stunned, then burrowed into Nanny's lap, mostly because the 9 year old girl in another party had also seen this happen.

Dr A assured Bruce Wayne, "You're on vacation."
He's fine, we all murmered to each other, he's fine, embarassed, what happened? but fine. Until... a few minutes later... we notice the dark stain spreading through his hat. Down his neck.
Wow. Um... Wow. "Bruce?"

For a minute or two, he tried to let the proper authorities handle the situation. After all, hadn't we been treated to a safety lecture each time we left a dock on this island hopping tour? Isn't this a Merchant Vessel on the 3rd largest lake (with some disclaimers) in the United States? Our captain appeared with bottled water and a paper towel. Several adults provided useless care to a scared boy with blood on his hands.

Too much to ask of a certain kind of man, really.
He stepped over, put his hands on the boy's shoulders and said, "What happened, buddy, did you bust your melon?"

Dr. A exchanged raptured looks and declared him Dreamy.

The mother from the other family (they are not with the injured party) says, in a hopeful and not suspicious way, "Are you are a doctor?"

"I'm a medic," he answers. ("ma'am," would have been too much. And out of chatacter, really.)

Over lunch, he had been telling us the importance of having his ambulance set up just so, because in a trauma situation, you can't fumble for your 4x4s, and if you have to ask a stander-by "Hand me the gauze!" it should be folded and placed label-out so they can see that's what it is. And of course he is right, and I said he would get no dissent from this group -- Dr A the Covey Keeper, Otto the original Anal Retentive Orientation Leader, and your humble narrator you already know.

He had one such stander-by bring him gauze and tape, dropped us from his field of vision, and taped up a boy who was now no doubt as in love with him as the rest of us. They put the bloody hat right over the bandage to hold it down, and our friend took his seat again.

who was that masked man?

Some more feckless jerking by the merchant crew, on and about the boat, including this guy, who may have been the company's medic, but he never said so. He yells over the bow, "Who was the paramedic," and I did not yell back, "Well not YOU," because I don't like to make a scene ( I like to write a scene) and our man stood tall, all shoulder and bicep tattoos, and said "It's a quarter inch lac," in that "nothing to see here" way we like in our first responders.

well that was too much for us. we weren't letting that go all day.

Nanny and the Boy did not exit the boat -- perhaps you might have chosen differently. Perhaps his mother his saying this right now as she calls her girlfriends with this story. But they stayed with the tour, and eventually our injured soldier came around and was back on the rail enjoying getting sprayed in the face and getting some attention from the girl from the other party (who, I should add also "checked in," as they teach them nowadays, after the adults had left by looking him in the face and saying in true empathy, "are you okay?" Paul Harvey will add, "and that girl grew up to be... Eleanor Roosevelt. and now you know...")

There is no moral or conclusion to this story. It's a blog, not Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories.
The captain let the injured boy drive the boat for a while and when we docked again, there was interest in filling out an incident report. I suggested Bruce note on his contact information that he was the only one to take any meaningful action (because now I think I am at work too and we should track this risk).

We went back to Surly Acres for wine and cheese.
No one fell off the deck.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

On my honor, I will try

There were 2 things I enjoyed/marvelled at about the code as I learned it:

1) Boy Scouts promised to DO. Girl Scouts promised to TRY.
Like shampoo that "helps restore vitality and luster," we are not truly accountable.
2) "...especially those at home."

I learned over dinner tonight that not everyone learns the same oath. My dinner mate, who was reciting along with me, went off on some other direction that kept her obedient to the cadre of the Scouts, but allowed her to leave the house. "And obey the Girl Scout Law?" What about the needy people at home, without proper first aid? and sit-upons? Who is looking after them -- well, trying to look after them?

On my honor, I will try...

By the way, try this some time. Recite the Lord's Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance together. It's spooky. Like this

Our father, who art in Heaven
Of the United states of America
They Kingdom come, for which it stands
On earth as it is in heaven

If you can throw the Girl Scout promise in there too, good on ya.

On my honor, I will try to do my duty to God and my country, to help other people every day, especially those at home.

I do not find this exact version in any (easily reached web-based) reference. The 1963 Brownie handbook, which is certainly the version I was indoctrinated with, has a Brownie promise that is nearly this. My handbook was the fat orange one with the plastic fold-over cover. Anyway, you can now substitute another name for your god or belief system. You promise to "do your best," which does sound like you are working harder at it, but still not a real commitment. As a trade-off, you now help them "at all times," which is more vigilant, I think than "every day." And you don't have to help people at home. Well, I guess you do, you can just lower them in priority. And earn your badge at a neighbor's house.

On my honor, I will try: To serve God* and my country, To help people at all times, And to live by the Girl Scout Law. the GSA put the asterisk in, not me

Let's Draw In!!

Crazy Girl Scout facts
1. Dorothy Stratton was national executive director. Not the Dorothy Stratton you're thinking of.
2. English Brownie Scouts must also try to do their duty to the Queen. Everybody wants somethin'.
3. The GSA can shut me down for using the wings without their permission
don't tell them about THIS

Great Girl Scout links
creepy social realist coloring book
Roundups with money
Be Prepared
Glengarry Girl Scout
Proof the cookies shrank

Give me a child until she is seven, and I will give you the dork

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Who moved my cheese?

How the excitement of a summer day by the pool can waste a pound of cheese.

The Tarletons were coming for a day by the pool. They live in the big city, where most of the world lies at their feet -- from their roof top deck to their charming walk to the harbor, but they do not have a private pool, as I do at Del Boca Vista.

We had picked this date a long time in advance -- before we knew it would rain the entire month of June, or work obligations would interfere. We picked today and had a fall-back rain event, but we hoped.

And after 3 hours of torrential downpours, lightning strikes and a by-god tornado warning Friday night, and an overcast muggy Saturday, today was the jewel of the summer. "Pick of the week," the New England weather men say, and assuredly the pick of the summer.

Saturday I did my house cleaning, and laundry, and the groceries for our lunch and poolside snacks. The boys like their big sandwiches, and Stop & Shop cooperated by having the roast turkey breast we love so much -- real meat, not squirmly deli turkey. Seeded rolls and banana peppers, thick-cut bacon, dijon mustard, (2) kinds of cheese. I bought swiss and american because I already had cheddar at home, and we were off to the races.

As I waited for them Sunday, I took an inventory of my goods, and found the cheese had gone missing. This happens to me periodically when I do a large grocery -- I don't pay attention to whether all the bags made it into my cart, or into my house, and it seemed that the cheese had been a casualty. Did I even BUY cheese? I second guessed myself, found the receipt in the trash and yes I had.

Oh, I left it in the trunk - gross, but still, it is cheese, and as the French enjoy reminding us scoffingly, it doesn't need to be refrigerated, nor should it be. But no, it is not in the car either. I consider for a moment going to get some, but I have already been out once this morning for more mayo and a salad dressing in case anyone wanted salad, and the boys are on their way. It is too bad, but oh well. There is the cheddar and the string cheese I keep because I should eat more calcium.

The Tarletons arrive and we have a big discussion about the order of business: pool, lunch, DQ, peach picking. It is only 11:30 and we agree it is too early for lunch, but Nick says could he have a little something. We each take a string cheese, and discuss whether the "chedder twist" is actually a different cheese or dyed mozz. We think it is dyed.

I have pita chips, Twizzlers, and water in our day bag anyway, and we take off for poolside.

Setting up in our chairs, I take out the pita chips, and...HEY. "I found the cheese," I say. The cheese was in the bag with the chips, which has been in the "rucksack" and is now at the pool with us -- 1/2 pound American, 1/2 pound Swiss.


I decide I'll put the chilled bottled waters next to it, push the whole thing under my lounge chair, and it's fine. It's fine. And we have a delightful pool date.

When neighbors set up next to us with an actual PICNIC BASKET, we are jealous, humbled, and hungry, so we break camp and head home. The deli bags go into the fridge and giant turkey sammies are made. I came back from washing my face and call out, "don't forget the cheese," because Jay is about to take a bite and Nick is nearly finished with his masterpiece.

The swiss has formed into a mass, like crayons left outside. I begin to separate the American, and offer to tackle the Swiss, because (as I say) "I have a system." I warn them that it involves fingernails, but the truth is that the swiss is going nowhere. It has become a block that requires reslicing. Jay says cheerily, "I think I'll have the American."

Sandwiches, chips, cranberry rickies. Leave room for the DQ. Plus, we still have peach picking. We do both for hours. hours. Shakes and blizzards followed by picking (though the peaches are not in fact ready and the orchard should do an hourly check before they continue to sell you 1/2 peck bags for $12). We berate ourselves for not thinking to get the full peck and split it, esp after it is clear there are no ripe peaches left.

Our favorite thing at the Nashoba is to get the bottle of wine and relax on their porch drinking it. The wine. not the porch. So we did it twice.

Came back home to find the American cheese right where I left it next to the stove -- sweating and miserable, and wondering what it has done to deserve this hell-journey I have subjected it to. Those who have been waiting for me to say I threw it out can now exhale. I did finally throw it out. it is curse-ed.

But that was still a fine good sandwich.

Happy weekend, readership. Bact to the rat race tomorrow

Friday, July 17, 2009


It has been far too long since we trolled the Alleywebs looking for the opium dens of the bibliophile. (how long? this long) This site was offered by the Readership, and your humble narrator has gotten to the vettin'. Could this be more overwritten? I think we both know it certainly could.

What's the hook?
Bah-gins bah-gins
Absurdly low prices: most under 5 dollars, with a "You save x%" statement under each title.

Anything good?
Well.... no.

They are advertising a KIDS CLOSEOUT at the moment - 7000 titles with an extra 50% off. They present in alpha-order, so it is not entirely fair to complain about "10 rules of dating" or "AAA Family Travel Journal." So I searched for the classic and the contemporary.

Charlotte's Web? Yes - lots of versions and editions, lots of price ranges, but still mostly under $10.
L.A Candy? No, and the matches it offered instead were very odd.

This list is about as compelling as the audio download at my local library. Big title count, not much selection.

Who are these people?
They don't say. They are in Thorhold, Ontario, and they are certainly a dealer in returns and damages. Click the "Scratch and Dent" area to enjoy more savings, though you can not be certain whether it is a scratch or a dent.

Better than Books a Million or Buck a Book or Building 19?
Doesn't appear so, but certainly no worse. And if you are in Ontario or New York, this is probably easier to get to.

Any cool features?
You know, it isn't easy to be a cool book title search website. I think Goodreads does this nearly as well as Netflix does movies, but to my mind there are 2 ways to buy books: direct search for what you want - card catalog style - and these sites are good for that. Or you want to browse, and I don't think any website is good for that. Book browsing is still too physical an activity for this to replace it

ya gotta have a gimmick.

Like being able to dump my discards there?
YES! An excellent example, thank you. No drop off/trade-in program here. Check other posts under the "For the Booklovers" category for those.

Still, seems like a great deal on books, doesn't it?
Not entirely sure. You can not purchase without an account, and the shipping charges are not offered ahead of checkout. So I can not prove how much the 6.99 copy of Charlotte's Web really comes to.

And honestly, don't you have Charlotte's Web? If you are giving Charlotte's Web to a kid, don't get one with a magic marker stripe down the side.

Can customer service answer questions about shipping charges, US sales taxes, and other hidden charges on my bargain book?
The customer service model (weekdays, business hours) and the site map signal a sort of "let's put on a website" vibe that might be part of the BARGAIN image, or just Canadian niceness. There are no FAQS, and tech service is only available by email. It also feels a little home-schooly, which is probably its major market.

I don't think they are hiding anything; I just think they want to get to know you before they become your book discounter.

So go in eyes open. And compare to used copies on Amazon, which will be in similar condition.
Inter-library loan is a pretty cool service too.

Monday, July 13, 2009


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

Yankee Candle should try a decades series. The 1970s would be an amalgam of Lectric Shave, Nair, Creme de Menthe, Chicken a la King, and cigarette smoke, all of which will linger in the folds of your hostess' caftan as she trails past you, dangerously close to her guests' ash.

The caftan was like a training outfit for the liberated lady who had given up her bra and girdle, but wasn't quite ready to show it.

That is... Maude rather than Carol

In her American burkha, highball in hand, the Hostess gets to be more comfortable than her guests, undistracted by fears of pantylines and snapped garters. No belts no pins no pads.

The envelope contains just one giant sheet of tissue paper for you to stick your head and arms through. where have you seen this before?


The difference between the caftan and the muumuu is that the caftan is fierce: Liz Taylor wore a caftan. Barbie had a caftan. Barbie would not wear a muumuu.

Ladies, if you feel you are not gaining enough ground in your domestic squabbles, try looking more like his mother. Not his mother now, but how he remembers her" hot rollered Liz Montgomery hair without a part, surprised U's drawn over her opalescent-blue lids. A blouzy loud-mouthed broad with blood-red fingernails.

Get yourself a caftan and a brandy snifter and Edward Albee your living room.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Rap battles we'd like to see

Bill Littlefield vs Charles Osgood
Izzambic Pizztameter

Dice Clay vs Slim Shady
Jack & Jill meets Bonnie & Clyde

Old Kid n Play vs Old Kriss Kross
Grand Mack Daddies

Young Dana vs Young Marguerite
Phenomenal Women

Nipsy Russell vs Gilbert Gottfried
Your rhymes are so.... blank

Dan Rather vs Roy Blount, Jr.
The Thrilla in Vanilla

Bad-Ass Dan, Chicago 68

Speaking of Chicago 68, this has also always been a favorite of mine. Listen carefully to hear Buckley call Vidal a "Queer."