Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Entrepreneur of the Year

When I was in high school and down in the dumps about something, my dad said to me "it could be worse -- you could have no legs." He was right. No matter what gets my goat throughout my day, week, year, I have little reason to really complain compared to other people.

Other people like Alison Schuback for example. Alison is Inc. Magazine's Entrepreneur of the Year for 2008 and for good reason. After a catastrophic car accident, Alison was left with disabilities resulting from brain injury. Through her surgeries and rehab, Alison came up with the Invisibib -- a clear, vinyl bib for adults to wear to protect their clothing when eating. Brilliant!
The child of entrepreneurial parents, Schuback equates opportunity with self-employment. As medical bills mounted, she wanted to make money, not raise it or have others raise it for her. So in 2002 she invented a transparent, washable bib for adults with disabilities and launched a company to sell it.
Read her inspirational story here.

Monday, December 29, 2008

What Mimi Saw

If you haven't checked out 2008: The Year in Pictures from The New York Times you are missing out. They're amazing. Here are two of my favorites:

Modern day Anna Karenina

I am slightly obsessed with my new book, What Happened to Anna K. by Irina Reyn, and I'm convinced that if I hadn't bought myself a new 32" plasma television for Christmas and had a new disk of The Office to watch I'd be done with the book by now.

I read Anna Karenina a couple of years ago and enjoyed it. And this book -- a modern day Anna Karenina set in New York City -- is making me like the original even more. I may have to re-read it once I'm done with Reyn's incarnation.

If you're looking for a new book to read check this one out. It was just published in August, 2008, so there aren't any paperbacks yet in circulation but it's worth it to put it on hold at your local library.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Factory Girls by Leslie Chang

So I finished Factory Girls yesterday. I was on a mission as I have another book from the library sitting on my night stand, beckoning me.

While I really liked Factory Girls I found the two narratives of the book didn't meld together into a cohesive unit. While the book was, in fact, about China's young migrant worker women, Chang also talked at length about her own ancestors in China and her families escape from the Cultural Revolution. I thought the book could have done without so much of Chang's families past as it had extremely loose ties to the main focus of the book. It was odd to read about Min's factory hopping to better her situation and then switch to reading about how Chang's grandfather was murdered by Communists at the Fushun Mine. Not enough of a parallel to read smoothly.

In any case, I appreciated the time Chang took to really get to know the young women she wrote about. She obviously went to great lengths to keep in touch with them and even visited one of their home villages. I can see why this book made the New York Times list of the top 100 books of 2008. It is expertly reported and well written.

Check out an excerpt from the book via NPR here.

Put this one on your "to read" list. Next up: What Happened to Anna K.: A Novel.

Monday, December 22, 2008

My prediction all along....

I have worked for a national magazine, an industry weekly, a large newspaper, a business website, a smaller newspaper, and a regional magazine. When people ask me the future of newspapers this is what I tell them: I predict that large newspapers like the New York Times, Boston Globe, etc. will, eventually, be online only. Small community weeklies will thrive in print. Why? People love to see their name in print, and most ordinary people wont make the news outside of their community. Parents love to see their kids names and photographs for honor roll and local sports.

There is an alternative community newspaper in Asbury, New Jersey, who has shunned the web and is thriving in spite of, or because of, it. Here's a blurb from the New York Times story:
Finally, a story about a print organization that has found a way to tame the Web and come up with a digital business approach that could serve as a model. Except that TriCityNews of Monmouth County, N.J., is prospering precisely because it aggressively ignores the Web. Its Web site has a little boilerplate about the product and lists ad rates, but nothing more. (The address is, for all the good it will do you.)

“Why would I put anything on the Web?” asked Dan Jacobson, the publisher and owner of the newspaper. “I don’t understand how putting content on the Web would do anything but help destroy our paper. Why should we give our readers any incentive whatsoever to not look at our content along with our advertisements, a large number of which are beautiful and cheap full-page ads?”

What TriCityNews has going for it is the fact that they have no competition. People don't look to this paper for breaking news like they would a national newspaper or website.

I think this is the best news I've heard in months. And it validates my newspaper predictions and makes me feel smart.

Instead of layoffs.....

I was really happy when I read this article in the New York Times about what companies across the country were doing to avoid laying off their employees.
A growing number of employers, hoping to avoid or limit layoffs, are introducing four-day workweeks, unpaid vacations and voluntary or enforced furloughs, along with wage freezes, pension cuts and flexible work schedules. These employers are still cutting labor costs, but hanging onto the labor.

The article talked about how faculty and staff at Brandeis University are opting for a 1% pay cut to save jobs. While 1% of a salary doesn't really make a dent it could save someone else from being unemployed. This is a novel idea! Check out the article and read the comments -- quite interesting!

When I worked at the Portland Press Herald, the big bosses suggested that employees take a week of unpaid vacation to save jobs. They were actually surprised at how many people signed up. If employees believe in the company they work for and have relationships with their coworkers, I believe they are more likely to give a little than go through layoffs.

Is it better to have a job even if you have to suffer a pay cut, no holiday party or year end bonus than to be out of a job completely? I guess it depends on how much you like your job. For me, working for a small company, I'd do a lot to keep my job. As a journalist I feel fortunate to have a secure job in this market.

I think it's worth it for employers to look to other efforts to save money rather than layoffs. It shows employees that they care -- especially if they, too, take a pay cut.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Maine Public Broadcasting Network pisses off public

Due to cutbacks in public broadcasting in Maine, kids in Eastern and Northern Maine will only get to watch Sesame Street for half the year. The radio towers in both Calais and Fort Kent are also going to be taken down. No more NPR. No more public radio. No more news. No more educational programming.
“These changes will allow us to keep our local focus on news and public affairs while maintaining the cultural, science and children’s programming provided by our partners at NPR and PBS. It will also allow us to continue to develop and expand our new media capabilities and engage the communities we serve with timely and relevant content, which we believe will ultimately put us back on sound financial footing,” said Dowe.
If by "local" you mean Portland than maybe this statement makes sense. There's just so much more to Maine than the southern tip. And I'm not convinced that cutting off a majority of the state to programming really outweighs developing and expanding their new media capabilities. Public broadcasting means broadcasting for everyone. They're going to have to re-brand themselves I'm afraid.

Our tax dollars go towards public broadcasting and the communities that need it most aren't going to be getting it anymore. If this isn't a thumb to the nose of rural Maine and the Canadian Maritimes I don't know what is.

Read the press release here or listen to the story here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reasons to Love NYC #13

Because a Wasilla Phenom Is No Match for a Big-City Anchor.

I used to subscribe to New York Magazine when I lived in New York. Good subway reading material. Each year they make a list of reasons to love living in New York and my fav. this year is lucky number 13.
Whatever you thought of Katie Couric until now, you must, if you are a self-respecting American citizen, take this moment to praise her for helping to expose the awesome vacuity of Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
So true! I really think Palin thought an interview with Katie Couric was going to be about dieting and hair products. Silly Alaskan Snowshoe Hare. Just because Couric is a woman journalist doesn't mean she ain't smart.

Photo by Michael O'Neill

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Weird News Wednesday

Police: Armed burglars demand man's eggbeater
Tue Dec 16, 8:40 pm ET

TAMPA, Fla.-- It really must have been a special item. According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, two men entered a man's home early Sunday and demanded his eggbeater. One suspect was holding a pistol while the other brandished a knife to the resident's neck.

Police caught the men outside the home and they are being held in Orient Road Jail. One suspect also faces a charge of aggravated assault.

Police found the eggbeater in the man's left pocket.

Information from: The Tampa Tribune,

More Headlines

Cake request for 3-year-old Hitler namesake denied

Cops follow snow tracks to nab pizza thieves

Woman ignites ex's clothes, burns storage unit

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dogs are amazing

A friend of mine took her dog Benny (pictured at left) to the emergency vet hospital near her home in Walnut Creek, California, a few days ago when Benny's legs became paralyzed. The little pooch slipped some discs and had to have surgery, leaving his owner about $10,000 in debt. Yowch. But she did what she had to do to help her furry companion. That's true love.

Whenever I hear about someone who goes above and beyond for their pet I always think about this amazing book: Merle's Door by journalist Ted Kerasote. A friend suggested the book to me and once I picked it up I couldn't put it down. I've suggested it to all the dog lovers in my life. The book actually made me want to live in Wyoming, which is pretty amazing for a city girl at heart. It also made me appreciate my dog more...which is also hard for me to imagine.

If you are looking for a holiday gift for a dog lover, this is it. Here's a synopsis of the story:
Merle and Ted found each other in the Utah desert. Merle was about ten months old, surviving on his own, and looking for a human to hang his heart on. Ted was forty-one, liked to write about animals, and had been searching for a pup whom he could shape into a companion. The training went both ways. Ted showed Merle how to live around wildlife, and Merle reshaped Ted's ideas about the complexity of a dog's mind, showing him how a dog's intelligence could be expanded by allowing it to make more of its own decisions.

Acting as Merle's translator, and using Merle's life and lessons as a door into the world of dogs, Ted takes us on the journey they shared. He explores why the dog-human bond is so intense and how people and dogs communicate so readily with each other. He also uses the latest wolf research—showing that wolves treat maturing pups as partners rather than as subordinates—to explain how sharing leadership with your dog, rather than being its alpha, can help to create a healthier, more self-reliant, and better-socialized companion.

Funny, fascinating, and tender, Merle's Door is a moving love story that reveals how the partnership between dogs and humans can become far more than we have imagined.

This story breaks my heart

This story in The Boston Globe has ruined my day. I don't believe that pets are disposable, though I can sympathize with people who are coming across hard times and don't know what else to do. This is why people should think long and hard about whether or not they should adopt a pet into their lives.

I would give up a lot of other stuff before I got rid of my dog, Miles. But I'm lucky and I don't have to worry about going into foreclosure on my home and ending up in public housing or a homeless shelter. The comments on this article, which you should read, don't surprise me in their severity. People love their pets. We should be thankful that there are agencies like the MSPCA and humane societies where animals can go when their owners can't take care of them anymore. Instead of berating these people who have fallen on hard times we should channel that passion into helping these animal shelters financially.

Check with your local animal shelter this holiday season and see what you can do to help. The humane society in my town is looking for donations of blankets for their cat room. They also collect empty ink cartridges. Find out what you can do to make a difference.

Monday, December 15, 2008

New Book

I did a little too much holiday partying and not enough reading this weekend but I did pick up this book from the public library and I can't wait to sink my eyes into it.

I found it on the New York Times list of the 100 top books of 2008. This is from the New Yorker:
China is in the midst of history's largest human migration, a hundred and thirty million of its citizens having left their home villages in search of urban employment. Chang, an American of Chinese descent, explores the migrant experience and the burden of being Chinese through the lives of several young women in the industrial city of Dongguan. Their Sisyphean attempts at self-reinvention are both entertaining and poignant; the most ambitious of them achieves modest success selling dubious health products, before falling under the spell of an American raw-food guru. In her diary, she reminds herself, "We can be ordinary but we must not be vulgar." Chang's fine prose and her keen sense of detail more than compensate for the occasional digression, and her book is an intimate portrait of a strange and hidden landscape, a universe of relentless motion.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Weird News Wednesday

NYC man spends $7,500 to fight $115 parking ticket

Monday, December 8, 2008

New York (AP) --A retired New York City man says he's spent $7,500 fighting a $115 parking ticket because he's got "nothing else to do."
More News

* Hill sources: Democrats, White House get auto deal 12.10.08
* Former Calif. Assembly speaker's son out on bail 12.10.08
* Yahoo investor urges search unit sale to Microsoft 12.10.08
* Ill. gov. heads to work with no comment on charges 12.10.08

Former electrical hardware firm vice president Simon Belsky says he was erroneously ticketed two years ago. The 63-year-old says the ticket cites his van for blocking a Brooklyn fire hydrant even though the only hydrant on the street was down the block.

The November 2006 fine has ballooned from $115 to about $200 with penalties.

Belsky was in court last week and is due back Feb. 2. He says if he wins he'll file a civil suit against the city to recover the $7,500 he's spent on legal work. He says if any compensation is awarded he'll donate it to educational programs.

More Headlines:

Woman smuggles monkey to U.S. under blouse

Woman in labor ticketed on way to hospital

German journal prints suggestive Chinese symbols

Vets fix feline's face after 'cat'-astrophe

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Blogs that sock it to 'em

This past weekend my friend Nicole and I went to Best Buy to get her a new power cord for her computer. The cord ended up being over $100 to her dismay but she needed it. Her old one petered out. We pay for it and she plugs it into her computer and it melts into her outlet, rendering her computer useless. She brings it back to Best Buy and is refunded all but $30 for that Nintendo game she also bought.

Huh? She didn't buy a Nintendo game. But they thought she did because it was on her receipt. She was rung up for one without realizing it.

Without getting a refund and so mad she was seeing red, Nicole gathered her stuff and drove the hour back to Bar Harbor. The next day she placed a call to the Bangor Best Buy and the corporate headquarters to no avail. She was told she'd have to drive back to Bangor to talk to someone at that particular store. Not only did they charge her for something she clearly didn't buy, but are inconveniencing her further by making her drive 2 hours to solve a problem she didn't cause.

Furious at the lack of customer service she posted the story on her blog, Breaking Even, Inc., asking people to boycott Best Buy. You can read it here.

Be sure to scroll down and read the comments -- especially the one from Gina, Best Buy's Community Connection Manager. Nicole alerted Best Buy's customer service that she is a Maine Blogger and posted the fiasco on her blog.

After all that it was her blog that got their attention. That's saying something. Best Buy is combing the internet looking for posts that complain about their company. Perhaps if they did a better job with customer service in the first place they wouldn't have to spend time combating unfavorable blogs.

Monday, December 8, 2008

What Mimi Saw

My coworker lent me her copy of the first three episodes of MAD MEN, the A&E wonder-show. I'd never seen it but was intrigued with the premise: advertising executives on Madison Avenue in the 1960s. I knew it would be filled with whiskey in the afternoons, perfectly coiffed hair, and lots of smoking. I wasn't disappointed in those respects.

But while I watched the show I became uncomfortable in the way the men characters treated the women and how they reacted. I know that women were not treated nearly as fairly as they are today in the workplace, but what made me the most sick was how they treated each other. Talking up how a woman can use her slim ankles to attract her boss so he'll sleep with her is just one example.

I'm aware that this is really how things were. And I'm surprised that it bothered me so much. I gave it back this morning and won't watch it again. It's just too sad for wives and secretaries.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Crazy Ads

My friend Kathryn gave me a subscription to BUST magazine for my birthday. So far I have gotten two issues. I read them cover to cover, which includes the ads in the back. Some of them are pretty weird.....

Would you actually use a lip balm made by this girl/guy Wong? I wouldn't. On the About section of the blog it says:
"Lips by the most crazy, most radical, most radical thing to happen in the history of lip balm ever!!! It's a playful, sexy thing for fanciful individuals."
Sexy? It's lip balm. There is only one set of lips you should use lip balm for....

The curly stench coming out from under this woman's arm is alarming. I wouldn't even call her a hippie. She's far too good looking and her hair flows in a mermaid-esque way, not in a rats nest way. This woman is NOT a dirty hippie -- false advertising!

What IS a Glitter Lime anyway? Being the super sleuth that I am I had to find out. They are, in fact, glittery limes that you wear as jewelry. They have pins, necklaces, bracelets, and belts. I'm not sure about this fruity business...they don't look that cool to me.

Carried Away....

You have to read this story -- Woman swept to sea during proposal on Oregon coast -- from the Associated Press. It's so tragic!

What Mimi Heard: Teen Birth Control

My friend Anne Ravana covered an interesting meeting the other night in Bangor about teens and birth control. Last year a middle school in Portland began doling out birth control to their students which caused quite a stir.

One good point: teens need a parent with them to get their ears pierced but their parents don't even have to know if their child gets an abortion.

Kids don't want to talk to their parents about their sex lives any more than parents want to talk about their sex life with their kids. Teens are going to have sex no matter what. Better to do it with protection than without.

Listen to Anne's story here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Holiday Horror

The South Florida Sun Sentinel is publishing photos of terrified tots on Santa's lap and I must say, it has brightened my day. As I sit giggling in my coworker can't help but mention how happy I am. Is it wrong to find hilarity in children's fear of Santa? I dare you not to laugh at the following photos. See them all here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

College Debt

I rejoiced last week when my student loans sunk below $51,000. Yep. That's right. I have an expensive brain. And it was my choice. I didn't have to go to a fancy elite private university in one of the most expensive cities in America for grad school -- but I did. I have no regrets. Ok, maybe one, IT WAS EXPENSIVE! And yup, I am paying for my brain myself. No help from Mum and Dad. I am a big girl.

Had I not gone on to grad school most of my undergraduate loans would have been paid off by now. But even though I think higher education is expensive now I don't even want to know what the price tag will be when my kids are college-bound (and no, I don't have any kids yet, which only makes the problem worse).

This article in the New York Times discusses a study by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, saying that while tuition and fees for higher education increased 439% between 1982 and 2007, the median family income only increased 147%. I'm not good at math but that looks bad.
“When we come out of the recession,” Mr. Callan added, “we’re really going to be in jeopardy, because the educational gap between our work force and the rest of the world will make it very hard to be competitive. Already, we’re one of the few countries where 25- to 34-year-olds are less educated than older workers.”
Yikes Mr. Callahan (Patrick M. Callahan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education) what can we do? Turns out not much. Unless, that is, you live in California which is the only state to pass the grade in the center's study.

It costs upwards of $45,000 to attend Harvard for a year. One graduate class at NYU costs over $4,000. But kids have a choice as to where they go to school. I don't think a family should have to go bankrupt so that their child can attend Boston College. Let your kids shoulder some of the burden -- maybe then they'll think twice about flunking out.

Portbrio: weird name, funny blog

A former co-worker of mine, Miss Shannon Bryan, blogs for about turning 30 in Portland. She has a witty writing style that will hook you for sure. Her most recent post resonated with me as I am using Facebook to try to get in touch with old classmates for a 13th High School Reunion (that's right 13th) this coming summer.

I dare you to read this blog and not want more. Go on. Try. The link is above so you have no reason not to.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Last Night at the Lobster

I just finished reading Last Night at the Lobster by Steward O'Nan. I picked it up off the shelf at the public library. I judge books by their cover. This one looked interesting. And since I had just finished the really long Barry Parris book on Audrey Hepburn, this skinny book was appealing. I finished it over the Thanksgiving holiday.

It was about Manny, the manager of the Red Lobster in suburban Connecticut. The restaurant was closing and the book chronicled the last day and night the place was open. I have often thought about writing a book about food service, as I worked in bars and restaurants in Baltimore and Boston throughout college. But I could never wrap my head around a central idea. This book had a central idea but not much character development. In fact, after reading the whole thing the only picture I had of Manny was that he was Hispanic and overweight.

It wasn't a particularly fascinating book, and I probably wouldn't have understood it if I didn't have a background in waitressing. But it did reinvigorate my idea of writing about my own experiences. It was a fast read and that was exactly what I was looking for.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Whole Foods is super, and here's why...

I stopped in Whole Foods to do a bit of grocery shopping in Portland on my way back from a weekend in Boston. Whole Foods tends to be expensive so I only get certain things there, but the experience is so zen I can't help but buy stuff. When I lived in New York City, the hustle and bustle of Manhattan would sort of melt away when I would stare at the perfectly arranged vegetables and fruit. Such organization in a chaotic place. I love their produce and they make some very delicious baklava if I do say so myself.

Today I read this article in The Boston Globe on how Whole Foods cuts their energy costs and uses renewable energy.
Whole Foods said its canola oil-powered generator - it's scheduled to be installed in January by Lifecycle Renewables Inc., of Marblehead - is just the latest in its long-standing mission to become as eco-friendly as possible. For instance, a fuel cell powers a Whole Foods store in Connecticut, and the same technology will be used at a store scheduled to open next year in Dedham. Also, a wind turbine is expected to be installed at a Whole Foods seafood facility in Gloucester. Already, most of the company's stores manage to keep about 80 percent of their waste from going to landfills.
I love when big companies practice what they preach. It makes me feel better shopping there.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

More reasons to hate Wal-Mart

I'm sure you've all heard about this already but in case you haven't here's the link to the story of the trampled employee via the NY Daily News.

"He was bum-rushed by 200 people," said Wal-Mart worker Jimmy Overby, 43. "They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. They took me down, too ... I didn't know if I was going to live through it. I literally had to fight people off my back," Overby said.
They took the doors off the hinges? This is Wal-Mart, people! As of 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, there were 793 comments on the story on the NYDN website. Here's one of them...
This is absolutely discusting. I live in White Plains, NY and there were people in tents since wednesday. How do you miss Thanksgiving for a SALE! Its sad how materialist these holdidays have become. My younger brother went shopping at the Walmart in White Plains and there was a line and they would only let a certain amount of people at a time and when a few left theyd let more in. & still people were fighting and beating eachother over stuff. I dont know im so discusted. What a recession this is people are killing eachother over ninetendo and ipods. What a shame!!!
People have a lot to say on the subject, from blaming Pres. Bush to blaming the African American race. A bit over the top I'd say. Mob mentality is an intersting thing and, unfortunately, can easily lead to terrible accidents. I can just hope that people learn from this incident and take the real meaning of the holiday spirit to heart.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I am thankful grandparents

I had Thanksgiving lunch with my parents and grandmother today at a restaurant. It seems every Thanksgiving the number of people around the table grows smaller and smaller. I remember as a child we'd have 15 or so family members crammed into my parents house. And as I grew up my cousins and I moved away, had families of our own, and celebrated with them.

I read this article about video conferencing between grandparents and their grandchildren in the New York Times today and it left me feeling sad and sort of empty.
Some grandparent enthusiasts say this latest form of virtual communication makes the actual separation harder. Others are so sustained by Web cam visits with services like Skype and iChat that they visit less in person. And no one quite knows what it means to a generation of 2-year-olds to have slightly pixelated versions of their grandparents as regular fixtures in their lives.
I consider myself a lucky girl. I grew up in the same town as my grandparents. On my father's side there was sweet Pepiere and on my mother's side was Grandma and Pet-Pet, an affectionate name created by yours truly. My Pepiere was a simple man whose wife, my Grammie Geneva, died when I was just a baby. He had worked in the local textile mill his whole life. He smoked constantly, wore wing tip shoes, ployester pants, and Hanes T-shirts on a daily basis. He was bald on top and in the winter he grew a beard. He had a big belly and wore glasses. Every day he would hang out at Pat's, a local diner, with his buddies and was constantly shoving money at my sister and I. He suffered a stoke and died about a month later in the hospital.

Both Pepiere and Pet-Pet loved to hear me play the piano, which was located in my parent's basement which is the only place inside where they were permitted to smoke. Pet-Pet died rather suddenly in the summer of 2006 of lung and liver cancer. I was in NYC at the time in grad school and missed his passing by one hour. His last words to me over the phone were "I love you to, Pet." He was a constant presence in my life. I spent a lot of weekends at their house as a child - the same house my mother grew up in. He came to all my field hockey games in high school even though he didn't understand the rules and choked up after every visit home from college. He wore the Towson University sweatshirt I got him one Christmas all the time.

Grandma is left. And she has aged considerably in the 2 years since Pet-Pet died. It's been odd watching my spunky, independent grandmother turn into a child. I still see flashes of her sense of humor now and then and that makes me happier than I can tell you. My chihuahua, Miles, adores grandma and accosts her with love whenever he sees her.

The point of all this is that I know my grandparents. They were a consistent presence in my life from before I have memories. And I am so thankful. To think that Skype and iChat may be keeping grandparents from visiting their grand kids and parents from taking their children to see their grandparents is the saddest thing I have heard in a long time. If I had to talk to my grandmother over the computer I wouldn't get the chance to hug her, to smell her smell, to see if her fingernails are painted, and see the sparkle in her eye. I would have missed the Saturday red hot dogs at Grandma and Pet-Pet's, watching Grandma sew me a dress, playing with the old records Pepiere owned, and countless other experiences.

I guess what I'm saying is that video conferencing is nice, but it doesn't hold a candle to a hug from grandma.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Weird News Wednesday

Country faces Santa shortage

BERLIN (Reuters) Wanted: Cheerful, chubby men, preferably with fluffy white beards and no criminal record, ready to work hard for one month.

Germany is running out of qualified Santa Clauses and needs to recruit and train them fast, a leading job agency says.

Germans are trying to shut out the financial crisis by taking comfort in traditional festivities, and there is an acute shortage of Santas to entertain children at shopping centers, Christmas markets and private parties.

"Being Santa is not an easy job," Jens Wittenberger, in charge of Santa Claus recruitment at the Jobcafe Munich, told Reuters Monday. "To be honest, not many people have what it takes to be a good Father Christmas."

The job center wants its Santas to be child-friendly, good organizers, reliable and have acting skills. They also need a clean police record.

"You can't have your Santa drive up in a car," said Wittenberger. "Every child knows that Santa travels in a sleigh pulled by reindeer so we don't want to disappoint anybody." Santas are told to park their car a few streets away and walk.

"People are turning to traditions to protect their children from the 'evils of the real world', especially in the wake of this financial turmoil," Wittenberger said.

Recruitment sessions are being held in cities across the country, and while the job may be stressful, it's better than being jobless, Wittenberger said.

"Santas can make up to 60 euros ($75) an hour," he said. "That's not bad, is it?"

More Headlines:

Accused drunk driver ends up running over himself

Bra for the boys an online bestseller in Japan

Nebraska's 'Butt Bandit' suspect faces charges

There’s no Who-ville in Louisville this Christmas

Book Suggestions?

Last night I finished the bio of Audrey Hepburn and I must say, Barry Parris did a fabulous job writing it. Definitely a book I will recommend to others.

Now comes the hard part -- I need a new book to read. I would love it if there was a website where you could put in books that you have read and enjoyed in the past and recommendations for new books to read would pop up. Sort of like what Pandora does for music. I wonder if people would use it or if they are too busy watching Dancing With the Stars to read anymore.

Book suggestions...send 'em in.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Big 3 Carpool

This whole Big 3 thing is just so ridiculous. On one hand you don't want to give these three morons any money whatsoever just to punish them for being such greedy morons. But on the other hand you can't justify putting thousands of people out of work just because their bosses are jerks.

I read this article in the Boston Globe and sort of chuckled to myself:
After being skewered by Congress and lampooned on NBC's "Saturday Night Live," the CEOs of Detroit's three automakers may end up making their return trip to Washington by car as they seek a federal bailout.

The SNL skit was pretty funny.

Monday, November 24, 2008

13-year-old boys are not sexy

My coworker and I read this story in the Bangor Daily News today, trying to keep from vomiting.

What a 30-year-old woman could possibly find sexually attractive in a 13-year-old boy is so far beyond me that comprehension is out of the question. I wasn't interested in 13-year-old boys when I WAS 13. They're skinny (or fat) with big feet, braces, and can't even grow facial hair yet.

The worst part of the story?
Mason, her husband and their two boys, ages 6 and 10 years old, were friends with the victim's family, who also live in East Machias. The victim's family knew the Masons socially because he has two younger siblings that are around the same age as Mason's sons, Cavanaugh said.
Ew. Her kids are the same age. Can you imagine the looks these boys must be getting at school? If this woman's husband and children can somehow forgive her for her actions she should consider herself to be the luckiest woman in the world.

Francophiles Beware...

Smoking bans have made it to France and it's causing havoc for French bars and cafes, owners say. Telling the French they can't smoke while drinking their coffee is like telling a hippie to cut their hair. French cafes are supposed to be smoky! That's the allure, right? Here's a quip from the New York Times article:
Daniel Perrey, 57, owner of the CafĂ© du Crucifix in Crimolois, blamed social change, saying: “Sadly, it is the end to a way of life. The culture is changing, and we feel it.”

People are drinking less, smoking less and spending less, and even those who drink are newly wary of the local police, who now hover near the bar, especially at night, to test the sobriety of drivers. President Nicolas Sarkozy has asked the police to crack down on drunken drivers.
Granted I have never been to France. But my idea of Paris includes little cafes where women French inhale their cigarettes through their bright red lipstick covered lips while wearing a beret and drinking a latte. It seems, though, that the culture is changing and so too will my romantic perception of the entire country.

Friday, November 21, 2008

TV is for sad people...

I don't watch a lot of television. I never have. I didn't grow up with cable. I've never even owned my own set. I currently am borrowing my parents extra television (along with their rabbit ears circa 1958) and use the TV to watch movies with my DVD player.

The main reason I don't watch TV is because I don't want to get sucked into watching a program at the same time each week. The anxiety alone would put me over the edge. Plus, I don't want to feel like I have to stay in to watch Lost or Grey's Anatomy instead of doing other things -- like going to the gym, having dinner with my sister, or grabbing a drink with a friend. Plus cable is expensive.

Today I read with glee this article in the New York Times.
Happy people spend a lot of time socializing, going to church and reading newspapers — but they don’t spend a lot of time watching television, a new study finds.
I think I'm a pretty happy person. And I love having my lifestyle validated by the New York Times.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Second Hand Candy

I just got this email from my sister. She bought a candy bar at Marden's Surplus and Salvage and put it in the freezer for later consumption. If this isn't a lesson on where to buy your food I don't know what is...

the MOST disgusting thing happened to me last night. i pulled one of my favorite things from the freezer- a Ritter Marzapan and dark chocolate candy bar- poured myself some milk and sat on the couch to enjoy some and watch a little t.v.
mind you, it's dark and i can't really see what i'm eating... but it's delicious. of course it's delicious, it's my FAVORITE!

but i'm notice something odd. at first i thought i had eaten a piece of my hair that had fallen out onto the bar.... so i just pulled it out and moved on.
the second time i pulled this 'stuff' out of my mouth, i took a closer look at it. it kinda looked like the glue type stuff they seal wrappers with. 'weird' i thought. had i picked some up off the package when i took my last piece? i got over it.
but i was kinda loosing my appetite for this perfect confection...
i had not intended on eating an entire candy bar, so when i got half way thorough, i stopped eating. i carried the remaining bar and the wrapper, careful not to dump any crumbs, into the kitchen and flicked on a light so that i could see to grab a baggie...


i looked down at my lovely chocolate and saw that a fine webby film had collected in the indentations (you know, where they want you to break the pieces off). was this thing expired?! i mean, i know i bought it at mardens... but i'm pretty sure the 'eat by' date hadn't come and gone yet. sure enough, March 2009 was the date.
well what the heck then?!
i looked closer at my 'crumbs'....
there was my little web making friend- a grubby looking worm. how the hell had he gotten in there?


i instantly felt sick. i still feel a little sick.

And now I feel sick.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Weird News Wednesday

Blind woman threatened over unpaid 1-cent bill
74-year-old resident of Attleboro, Mass., told lien would be placed on home

ATTLEBORO, Mass. - A 74-year-old blind woman was shocked when her daughter found a letter from the city saying a lien would be placed on her home unless she paid an overdue water bill.

The amount? 1 cent.

Eileen Wilbur told The Sun Chronicle of Attleboro the letter sent her blood pressure soaring, and pointed out that stamps cost 42 cents.

Other Stories:

Man in wheelchair allegedly hides cash in leg

Man uses sandwich to assault girlfriend

Driver loses control after sneeze, hits river

Austrian city imposes tracksuit ban for cabbies

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tree Killers

While on a trip to Colorado this past summer I learned about the Pine Beetle. This pest, no bigger than a grain of rice, is killing acres and acres of forest from Mexico to Canada. I swear half the trees I saw were dead. I just read an article in the New York Times about these killer bugs.
The black, hard-shelled beetle, the size of a fingertip, drills through pine bark and digs a gallery in the wood where it lays its eggs. When the larvae hatch under the bark, they eat the sweet, rich cambium layer that provides nutrients to the tree. They also inject a fungus to stop the tree from moving sap, which could drown the larvae. That fungus stains the wood blue.

“The Latin name is Dendroctunus, which means tree killer,” said Gregg DeNitto, a Forest Service entomologist in Missoula, Mont. “They are very effective.”

To fend off the bugs, trees emit white resin, which looks like candle wax, into the beetle’s drill hole. Sometimes the tree wins and entombs the beetle. Often, though, the attacker puts out a pheromone-based call for reinforcements and more of the beetles swarm the tree. In a drought the tree has trouble producing enough resin, and is overwhelmed.
These trees can't win! It's a terrible problem that many people don't know about. The dead trees are worrying the tourism industry, as many ski areas have cut down entire forests.

It will be interesting to see how the ecosystems shift over the years with this phenomenon. I'll be watching...will you?

You think you've got problems?

I love to read Miss Conduct's column each week in the Boston Globe Magazine. Today I came upon this horrific question posed by a reader:
Soon after my wedding, I discovered my husband stole my paychecks, had sex with drug dealers, brought disease and crime into our house, and lied about everything. The situation began to feel abusive. I tried to help him, but after a while he couldn't live unsupervised anymore, and he finally went into psychiatric care. My high school reunion is coming up and I believe my wedding photos are circulating. Do you have a good line I can use to turn the subject away from my marital status?

B.P. in Boston
What the hell? Talk about bad timing! I think this woman's high school reunion is the least of her worries. I'd be getting myself HIV and STD tested STAT!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Luxury Hangover

My stylish friend Annie sent me to this column in the Boston Globe by Yvonne Abraham. In the piece, Abraham writes about the Natick Collection -- an addition made to the Natick mall to make it more posh, more high-end, more luxury. Here's a sample:
At Burberry, a nice salesman was thrilled to show me a $2,350 checkered bag encrusted with black marine motifs, even though my own bag - a $16 Target number encrusted with baby puke - screamed, "You are deluded, sir."
How true! Some people may be buying their loved ones a $3,500 Vuitton bag for Christmas but not anyone I know. As I struggle to just survive living on my own without anyone to split the bills with. I look my nose down at the marketing ploy of retailers these days...
In addition to filling magazines with ads, Louis Vuitton puts this season's "It Bag" into the hands of Lindsay Lohan or some other train wreck. She gets photographed with the purse and the image is everywhere. A legion of pinheads see it and scramble to get one of the bags, whose supply is strictly controlled.
Abraham's got it right. I'm focusing on getting my friends and family thoughtful gifts this Christmas that don't cost an arm and a leg. Grandma's not worried about upping her status with a Hermes Birkin bag anyway.

Rachael Ray and Courtney Balestier

Two magazines were delivered to my mailbox on Friday that weren't for me. I'm not sure who Patrick Duffy is or when he lived in my apartment but his magazines are now mine. Score!

I got a Maxim and an Everyday With Rachael Ray. I think Maxim is kinda funny and enjoyed browsing through it. I had never read Everyday With Rachael Ray and, honestly, think she's annoying. But I flipped through it and I'm so glad that I did! I came across a spread featuring one of my grad school friends, Courtney Balestier! I couldn't believe it! I had forgotten that she was an associate editor for the mag. But there she is, sittin' pretty and eating a pierogie. What a cutie!

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Death of Detroit

I have a friend who is a very talented automobile designer who has recently been laid off at Chrysler. His severance package is ok but what is he going to do when Detroit dies?

I read an op-ed piece by Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times today about bailouts for G.M. and found this interesting little tidbit halfway through the column:
Not every automaker is at death’s door. Look at this article that ran two weeks ago on “ALLISTON, Ontario, Canada — Honda of Canada Mfg. officially opened its newest investment in Canada — a state-of-the art $154 million engine plant. The new facility will produce 200,000 fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines annually for Civic production in response to growing North American demand for vehicles that provide excellent fuel economy.”

If the heads of these American car companies: G.M., Chrysler, Ford, etc. would have had a little foresight, listened to some analysts, and done some research on their own, they would have figured out what type of cars American's would be buying. I don't know many people who can afford to fill up a Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer, or Chevy Aspen, on summer gas prices. How are they so far behind Toyota and Honda in 'innovation'? I'd chalk it up to ignorance.

Click here for Forbes list of the world's worst gas guzzling cars.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What Mimi Heard

I plunked myself on the couch last night with my dog and a scarf I'm knitting and turned on the CMA Awards. Three hours and less than a dozen awards to give out leaves a lot of time for live performances, which I thought would be nice to listen to as I knit one perl one.

It wasn't nice. I don't know if it was due to nerves, altitude, humidity, faulty microphones or what but practically every single performer was off key. And sometimes badly off key.

I've been scanning blogs and articles this morning to see if anyone mentioned it and so far nothing. Really? Bloggers love to lambaste, right?

And while everyone is claiming how wonderful and grown up Miley Cyrus looked in her floor length gown, I was disgusted at how she seemed to be utterly embarrassed by her dad as he fumbled opening the envelope. Give me a break.

It was a great line up of performers but it left me wondering if I could make it as a singer in Nashville. It seems if I dress in skin tight leather with stiletto hooker boots it doesn't matter what my voice sounds like.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Weird News Wednesday

Here is a list of some of the odd news stories published by the AP and Reuters over the past week:

Woman dies after fall into boiling water
Tue Nov 11, 11:14 am ET

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) A Russian woman who fell into a pit of boiling water after parking her car died Tuesday from burns, a hospital official said.

The hole was caused by a ruptured underground heating pipe.

"She parked her car, left it, and immediately found herself in boiling water," said an official at the Military Medical Academy in Russia's second city of St. Petersburg.

A man who tried to rescue the 57-year-old woman also suffered burns but was in stable condition, the official said.

Most Russian cities have ageing municipal heating systems which pump boiling water under the streets and into houses.

Ruptures regularly occur in late autumn when the system is switched on for the winter.

More Headlines:

Cat missing for over 13 years back with owners

Woman found living with three dead siblings

China police chief arrests 48 relatives

Woman finds frozen pig head on pole in her yard

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


My friend Kathryn gave me a subscription to Bust magazine for my birthday. The first issue I got had Sarah Silverman on the cover -- score! To be honest, I had never read an issue of Bust -- I had formed the opinion (by covers only mind you) that it was an uber-feminist girl-power penis-hating rag. But flipping through the magazine Monday night at 1:00 am when my dog woke me up to eat, I realized that although it is a feminist magazine but it's also smart, and not as man-hating as I had presumed. If Amy Sedaris was a magazine she would be Bust.

This article has stories about creating a locally grown Thanksgiving dinner, Michelle Obama, and comedienne Margaret Cho. Not too shabby. These features are surrounded by Bust's staple fare, which includes: Buy or DIY, Test Kitchen, Trend Spotting (Peter Pan colars!), Looks (Cupcake Goth -- I couldn't believe it either), and News from a Broad.

I haven't read the whole thing yet, but I'm not writing it off as a grunge/punk/cupcake goth girl publication anymore. Any magazine that can talk politics, teach me how to make jam, and tell me where to stay in Sri Lanka deserves a closer look.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Magazines vs. Newspapers

I wrote a piece on Hollywood Slots for the December issue of Bangor Metro Magazine. Although it's November 10th we are getting ready to sign off on the mag and send it to the printers. I wrote this behind the scenes look at the 6-month old facility in October and primarily focused on the technology the company uses to run their hotel, restaurant, and game facility efficiently.

My uncle, who works for the Bangor Daily News and loves him some slot machines, told me there was a business article about Hollywood Slots in the newspaper the other day. Apparently the company isn't doing so well. They are planning on "reorganizing" their employees in hopes to layoff as few as possible. They have also shortened their hours. Instead of staying open until 4 am they will be closing their doors at 1 or 2 am depending on the day.

I went back in to the final layout of the story to make sure the correct information was in there. This is the last day for changes. How fast things can change! This is the prime difference between newspapers and magazines -- timliness. The magazine will take 2 weeks to print and be distributed. The entire company could go bankrupt in those two weeks and there is nothing we can do to change the magazine story. This is where the power of the pen leaves you high and dry.

Audrey Hepburn by Barry Paris

My friend Annie and I watched "Funny Face" a few weekends ago. I didn't really like the movie but since then I've had Audrey on the brain. I picked this book up at the library recently and it has become my bedtime reading.

I've always been interested in Audrey's unique accent. Actors and actresses from the post WWII era all seemed to have this weirdo way of talking. Not quite British but definitely more proper than regular American-ese. But Audrey sounded different. I had no idea before I picked up the Barry Paris book that she was from The Netherlands. This explains it.

Reading about her tough survival during WWII and how she got started in show business has been fascinating. And the fact that she chose her budding career over her wealthy fiancee. A pretty amazing choice considering the era. It's amazing how her unique looks catapulted her into her acting career. A trained ballerina, her face, her grace, and her childlike charm outweighed her novice acting chops. I can't wait to read more!

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Books I Carry

In the past 10 years I have moved 13 different times. I've moved twice in the past 5 months. And every time I do I try to lighten my load. My books make up quite a bit of the load that I move from place to place, much to the dismay of my parents who have moved me a lot. Here is a list of books that I have been carting around that I can't possibly live without:

1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
2. Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
3. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
4. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
5. The Bonesetter's Daughter (autographed) by Amy Tan
6. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
7. Merle's Door by Ted Kerasote
8. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
9. What is the What by Dave Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng
10.The Postman by Antonio Skarmeta

These are the first 10 that popped into my head.

As an adjunct journalism professor I also own a rather heavy (weight wise) collection of writing and reporting texts. These must come with me as well because they're a bitch to get from the publisher. And I have yet to find one text that has everything I need and want.

I also have a collection of literary journals that have published my poetry and stacks of magazines that contain my freelance work. These must stay with me as well. Hopefully I won't be moving for a while.

Secrets of Stretching

I read, in awe, this article on the New York Times website today. Here's a tidbit from the story:
If you’re like most of us, you were taught the importance of warm-up exercises back in grade school, and you’ve likely continued with pretty much the same routine ever since. Science, however, has moved on. Researchers now believe that some of the more entrenched elements of many athletes’ warm-up regimens are not only a waste of time but actually bad for you. The old presumption that holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds — known as static stretching — primes muscles for a workout is dead wrong. It actually weakens them.
Seriously? I vividly remember our high school field hockey stretching routine. We'd run a lap and all sit down facing the goal and stretch. Our arms, our legs, our butts, everything! Same goes for every other sport I ever played.

I have recently been going back to the gym. Winters in New England are notoriously long. When the sun sets at 4:30 pm my mamalian body says it's time to go to bed. Exercising literally keeps me awake. I guess I'll only be stretching after my workout from now on.