Monday, August 23, 2010

Fact finding mission

With all the journalists out of work, it’s becoming harder and harder to dog_phonefind the facts behind the “news” stories.  There is a headline, a provocative statement, and 7 minutes of punditry, but no one asks the things I want to know.  So here are a few things I have tried to unearth, then I am going back to not listening to the news or the radio because frankly I know less when it’s over than if I never heard it.

1. What was that poll question?

According to the Pew’s own site, it was:

“Do you happen to know what Barak Obama’s religion is? Is he Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, agnostic, or something else?”  Most people answered that they did not know.  The Pew has asked this question 4 times in the past 2 years, and it is true that most people have said Christian (between 47-51%) until this year, when most people said they did not know.  “I don’t know” was the 2nd largest group until this year.  Now it is #1 and Christian is number 2.  The Muslim answer is up 7 points, still under 20% for 4 years running.  3003 people were polled.  540 answered that he is Muslim.

2.  Where is the proposed Islamic cultural center site?wtc

45–51 Park Place, Manhattan.  1 and 2 WTC were off Vesey Street.  .2 mi away. 

3. Who from Target gave money to whom?

This wasn’t easy to pin down, since even Target’s site won’t give you a simple answer.  They proudly announce that they donate $3M a week to community causes, so some of that is going to get away from you.  I had to go to the 2009 Annual Report to see where $150,000 to MN Forward.  It had fruit on the cover.  Not kidding.  It did not have a list of everyone it gave money to, or how much, or its definition of “dependent” for employee benefits, so keep looking. I did find Robert Ulrich’s personal donations (Chair and CEO).  I can also tell you that Rupert Murdoch gave about a million to the GOP – not that we needed that to prove NewsCorp was right wing.

But that led me into Newsmeat, where I intend to wander for a few hours exploring everyone’s (and I mean everyone’s) financial activism.  Call me for breakfast.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Because I can’t just stand idly by


When you are having dinner with a party of 9, and 3 of them are complaining of “pine mouth,” you’ll want to get to the bottom of it.  or I will.  You may just want to keep clicking my bookmark, hoping that I will write about it (or anything).

Here’s the story.  In case you, too, think you might be having a stroke.

Something’s gone off with the world’s pine nut supply, and Roger Hyam is the recognized (and self-imposed) non-scientific expert on this topic.  If you have been experiencing an odd metallic bitterness you can’t shake AND you have recently indulged in the pignoli, learn more through the tumahmiracle of web surfing.  If you have not recently eaten pine nuts, then you probably are having a stroke. 

Pine Mouth is not as new as you might think.  Hyam experienced his in 2008, and since it is nearly impossible to sort search results by date anymore, I’ll trust ABC when they say it was first documented in 2001.  We’re just late to the table (snar snar) on this topic.  Here are the prevailing theories behind why you may no longer enjoy pesto (or anything that comes after it) AND why you do still enjoy it even after you have succumbed to your partner’s “here – taste this – is this bad?”  And now she is not speaking to you (except to continue to yammer, “This Sprite – it’s like quinine.  Here.  Isn’t that bitter to you?”)

1. These nuts are stale: Any nut can go bad, and due to their fatty make-up, they can go wicked bad, as we say.  Considering the pile of nut bags stacked up in the fruit aisle

grocery_store   well…. no… I really meant these:

bulk%20nuts  and considering that pine nuts retail at about $20/lb, the ones you bought might have been around for a while.  But a couple of months for nuts is fair, and years if you freeze them.  Most pesto-eaters I know love to freeze everything anyway.  (you can call that a sweeping statement, but you know I am right)

2. These nuts are bad: The fungal theory.  Am I right ladies…?  In fact, no.  There is a fungus associated with pine nuts, but it is a “good” fungus, says the Yeast Infection Advisor.  [pause] says The Yeast Infection Advisor.  If you ever needed proof that everyone has a website but you, that ought to do it.  YIA actually recommends pine nuts for kicking the candidagibbons

3. These are the wrong kind of nuts:   Not all pine nuts are created equal.  And we don’t know the difference.   Hyam’s site separates them into convenient piles; he and other theorists on this topic that we can…

4. Blame China:  It’s not as if they have never put crazy things in their food before.

l_640_martinelli One other factor to this phenomenon is that not all who ingest the same chockful o’ nuts will have the same reaction.  But this not an “allergy” in the true sense of the word.  It just might be something else you are bringing to the table that your dinner mates are not.

5. What are you on?  Check your meds.  They won’t say “do not take with pine nuts” on the label, but as a parlor game with your closest friends, it could pass the evening.

6. It’s You.  Get used to hearing “I don’t know what you’re talking about” for a few weeks.

My own theory involves a certain seed company whose name I can’t silkwoodmention without danger of mysteriously disappearing, but it is also my theory behind the sudden appearance of peanut allergies – I think someone is altering the nuts.

More fun than researching the theories is exploring the recommended “treatments” for removing a taste from your mouth that lasts approximately as long as Bell’s Palsy and is only half the fun.  From here you can wander into instructions for harvesting your own pine nuts.  I know a few foodies who probably shouldn’t have this information.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Real corporate email

A story in reverse order.  Sort of.
As the Boss was leaving for the day (and week) I let her know I was closing out a thing that had been delegated to me be her boss this morning.  A thing that had been open for a month until my soooper genius was able to crack the case. 

And if you are anywhere in the vicinity of my friend circle you can hear the sarcasm dripping out of my voice. 

I said to her, "That email thread is my new favorite thing, by the way.  I want to make a blog out it." And that's the story I'm going to tell.
I don't yet have a name for the new mill.  It is not the Mill  (it is soooo not The Mill) but I can't figure out what it is.
Maybe...     derby
That doesn't matter now. 
What matters is that I am about to diss Sales, and they are the same wherever you go.  Second to them is Order Management, and you know that's an itchy rash.  
Our finance team is out of state, which seems like taking SOX compliance to an extreme degree...  and they are notorious red-tapers crippled by a manual process (sssh, don't tell them - I took it off the resume) that, to be fair to them, is really impossible.  So sometimes... the bill doesn't get sent, is what I am saying.
At the end of last month, OM wrote to ask about some paperwork for something that happened on BigCo Customer last fall
It went just like this:
Week One
OM:  Dear sales, we need that paperwork
Week Two
OM:  Hey, sales, did anyone get that paperwork?
Weenie1: Wasn't my sale
Weenie2: Wasn’t my sale
Week Three
OM: Ok, but can you tell me who the customer contact is?lassoed_calf_poster-p228713616410163189trma_400
Weenie3:  Maybe Inside Weenie knows.  (“looooping in,” we called this at The Mill) 
Inside Weenie: Wasn’t my sale
Week Four 
OM: Hi, Boss of anyone who might know, who should get this bill?
Manager of previous owner: What do you know – when I looked the customer up, I found this name under Primary Contact.
My grandboss: [FWDs all previous  nonsense] Caroline – make this go away.
Me: Hi customer: before I ever worked here someone should have sent you a bill.
Weenie1: Can someone call this customer?
Me: Dear Weenies.  You are not helping and I am closing this thread.
Weenie2: I think Weenie4 knew somebody at one time that was at a conference with a person who used to go out with the contact’s IT guy.
Me:  I GOT this.  Stop it.
Weenie1:  Yippeee
VP of Weenies: Thank God.
No – THANK ME.  And enjoy your commission.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

If you build it, they will wander

Survivor's Guide to the Mega-Maze

I spend a lot of my time driving to the metro-sprawl, where the action is, muttering to myself on the way home that I should move back into the city, and getting to know the boys at the Framingham Plaza 24 hour rest stop by their first names.  But for a small window on the calendar, it is "our time" in the fruitlands.  The urbanites must come to the Mothertown, for their apples and pony rides, and tilt-a-whirls, fireworks, and Mega-Maze.

I suppose corn mazes are not rare -- every town has a Simon's mall, and every county seat has a corn maze, and everyone's uncle makes the Maize Maze joke.

My story is only about the Sterling, MA Mega-Maze, official maze of the Davis family.

The image from Google is not current, so I shot this year's maze from my helicopter.  No, I didn't.  My helicopter is not that noisy.  If you followed that link, then you also found this one, which is a more realistic representation of how we spent our day. 

The Davises are to farm theme parks as the Tatelmans are to furniture (and, at one time, commercial parodies.  but don't let me wander off.  That's how we ended up back at the Obstacle Course).  Refreshingly unique, and thoroughly local.  See also Kimballs.  The important turning point in this tale of Yankee ingenuity occurs when the Davises realize they can  make a better go of it bringing tourists to their land rather than farm.  The story is a nicely told one on their website, so please do read it there.

The facts on the maze are detailed on their other page.

It has been hotter than HAWT through July, but August has a way of coming in like September, and the maze opened on the best weekend we've had in some time.  Both sides of the road were packed by midday.  Davis allows your kids to have "good old-fashioned fun" if you let them -- certainly plenty of inflatable obstacle course to go around, but even more low-tech gadgetry like a giant chess set, zip-lining, goat feeding, and splash parking than they will encounter in your family room. 

And of course....

There are dozens of ways to play the maze.  In their zeal to explain all the ways (and in your party's excitement to get going already) they gloss over the fact that you don't have to play them all.  It's not Yatzee.

First - it is themed after "Survivor." The theme changes annually, so only this year is it Survivor.  You can busy yourself collecting "immunity idols" on your journey, not that they make you immune from anything, but I suppose among your party you could decide whether they do (like from say...whining, porta-potties, or chiggers).

There are team challenges, which you can play against other teams, within your team, or just challenge yourself to function as a team.  Some of these are only truly challenging if you are under 10, but then suddenly there is one that even you can't do, you smarty-pants adult, and doing it to impress the boy working the game station only makes you look silly.  (don't look around; you know who I mean).

You collect rubbings of the sections you've been in and/or punch holes for the bridge's you have been over, you answer questions and solve puzzles, and sometimes try to find the next water station, but you don't really have to, and none of it makes it any easier to find your way out of the maze.

As you enter, they tell you it can take anywhere from 30 mins to 3 hours.  Later, when you pass by the same bridge-keeper for the 10th time, he will tell you some people have taken as long as 7 hours.

  • There is complimentary sunscreen and bug spray as you enter the park. Use It.
  • The paths are loose dirt and stones.  Don't wear sandals.
  • They are not kidding about what will happen to you if you pick the corn.  Do not taunt the teenage boys of Sterling.
  • Bring your own picnic.  Not only is it better and cheaper food, it is something to do.  And if you have driven your mini-van all the way past 495, you might as well stay for the day.
Thanks to Locke (we think he made that up) on the Alligator Bridge who explained how the system worked.
To Jimmy, who treated my friend like a real MILF and was very nice to her children (and did not assume I too wanted to try the zip-line).
To Josh, who was our go-to directions boy, and to **** who let us cut through and would probably be disciplined if we disclosed his/her identity. 

To the Davises, for giving the teens of Sterling a pretty cool place to work.

It is quite fun, until it suddenly isn't, and then you'd better stop for Flavor-Ice, just so you can tie it around your neck.  After a break and a dousing of blu-razzberry ( a flavor we have stopped spelling as either a color or a fruit) you may have a second wind.  Or you may give up a fiver to Mike at the putting green for any information leading to the eventual arrest of this outing.

Lastly, you can simply try to race from start to finish (no running).  But be advised that the maze course changes twice a day and cutting through the corn is not only frowned upon, but severely punished.

By these people.

Start your annual Mega-Maze Medallion collection while the corn lasts.  And if you are not within the sound of my factory whistle (or national guard ordinance training), find a the maze near you with this maze locator tool.