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.