Category Archives: QUIRKY

THE VALUE OF A BUSINESS

I am part of a microcosm that supports big business. I utilize Facebook as a convenient communication apparatus to keep up with friends and family both near and in distant places. Amazon is for stuff ranging from cat food to books and is a source of entertainment with the Fire Stick and Alexa. I have an iPhone, although it is a 5s.  I use Netflix for TV watching and Google plus Google Chrome for surfing the net.  I feel I should be using local businesses and I truly felt good about buying Virginia Diner peanuts at Northwest Hardware. BUT when the guy behind me got upset because the cashier was taking too long, I insisted he go ahead of me.  He was a bit embarrassed but moved ahead of me anyway. It was aggravating. This doesn’t happen at Amazon.

Which takes me to Christmas and the Hallmark Channel.  The town of Hollyvale, North Dakota is very typical of a Hallmark location and the Christmas Spirit in the digital age is a moving topic. What strikes me about this program and others is how business-centric they seem to be.  Though there are other types of plots, a common theme is that there is some business, or a town filled with businesses that revolves around Christmas and is enjoyable for the townsfolk but relatively unprofitable.  The characters have to find a way to make the business viable, in this case by helping Kate Harper, a national news reporter, find her Christmas spirit and draw people to the town. You can’t turn this plotline over to a soulless corporate operator who will lay everyone off and destroy the essential character of the town.  Typically, this involves teaching someone the true meaning of Christmas and the special value added to a company by longtime employees who put their hearts into their work.

A FAANG company would maximize profits by automating the bakery and relocating production to a central facility in Illinois. The ski lodge would be renovated, and new management would be brought in.  Of course, the toy store would close.

But the characters in this movie find a way to generate some minimum profit that’s enough to keep things running while providing steady jobs for devoted employees and special memories for customers. Plus, they find the Christmas Spirit for Kate Harper by reuniting her with Jack Brewster, her special friend, and her estranged father.  And that’s the happy ending. I cried a little.

The goal is to create a sustainable business that meets the needs of the various constituents without making anyone wealthy, just happy.  Too me, this is a noble goal.

I asked myself a question—what does this storyline mean? One possibility is that the Hallmark movies are a “true” reflection of our culture and of natural human values. We know that capitalism drives resources to their best use and this does not benefit everyone. Is Shareholder driven capitalism bad for people, even unnatural.? The role of business schools, as well as CPA, CFA and CFP training programs, are to indoctrinate young people in this unnatural value system just as the role of military boot camp is to get young people to overcome their natural instincts and run toward the fighting.

I suppose another possibility is that there are many folks who think about shareholder-value capitalism as synonymous with democracy and do not worry about the discriminatory aspect. I have come to believe that the role of Hallmark movies is to indoctrinate people in the unnatural part of the capitalist system. I like the idea of a small town filled with people who have a common purpose such as finding the Christmas Spirit or peace on earth or love for each other.

GRIPS, GAFFERS, &; Best BOYS

GRIP, GAFFERS, & BEST BOYS

I love movies. My beloved and I watch at least two movies a week.  We recently watched The Kominsky Method and Mr.Roberts, a movie starring Kevin Kostner playing Kevin Kostner, but using the surname Roberts.  As always, I waited for the credits to see the names of the Key Grip, the Gaffer, and the best boy.  Christine asked what these folks did on a movie set and I could not give her a coherent answer.  This happens a lot when I don’t know what I’m talking about but should.

Grips are technicians critical to the making of a film. They have two primary functions.  They support the camera department, particularly if the camera is mounted to a dolly, a crane, or assumes an unusual position such as hanging from a helicopter on one of those James Bond sequences.  A dolly grip specializes in operating camera dollies or camera cranes so that mobility is enhanced. Grips work closely with the electrical department to create lighting set-ups for a shot or sequence under the leadership of the Director of Photography.

The key grip is the leader of the grip gang. He supervises the building and maintenance of all the equipment that supports cameras.  This includes tripods, dollies, tracks, jibs (a boom type device), cranes, and static rigs. This equipment uses heavy duty parts but is quite delicate. It requires a high level of experience to operate and move.  The assemblage of the equipment is based on meticulous specifications for virtually every scene in a movie.  These guys push, pull, mount or hang cameras and equipment from a variety of settings including a basic tripod or the mounting of a camera on a 100ft. crane.

Where did the use of the term grip come from?  In the 30s-40s, the slang for a tool bag was a grip. But the explanation I like the best is the notion that during the days of the hand-cranked camera, several guys had to hold onto the legs of the tripod to keep the camera steady. The director always wanted the fellows with the “good grip” and it stuck.

A gaffer is the head electrician on a film set. If it has to do with lighting, the gaffer oversees it. The term originally related to the movement of overhead equipment controlling lighting with a gaff, a long pole with a hook on the end. Deep-sea fishermen also use gaffs.

The gaffer must have a mastery over the vast array of lights, lighting equipment and lighting techniques required for a particular film.  In turn, this demands a knowledge of the set, script, and the inclinations of the director.  The gaffer has the responsibility for making certain that all lighting workers are up to speed on all the changes being made and are working well with other members of the crew. The lighting crew has to be constantly available even if that means working 18-hour days. The gaffer has to make sure the team meshes well by avoiding accidents and short tempers.

Best boys are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the lighting department. Their many responsibilities include the hiring, scheduling, and management of the crew; renting equipment; workplace safety and maintaining discipline within their department; completing time cards and other paperwork; planning and implementing the lighting or rigging of locations, and coordinating with the photography unit. He is the second-in-command to the key grip.  On large film crews, the gaffer also has a best boy.

The term “best boy” most likely originated as a term for a master craftsman’s most able apprentice.

The next time you are watching a movie look for the name of the key grip, the gaffer, and best boy. These are the guys that make it happen.  It will mollify your need to be totally satisfied with the two hours spent gazing at a screen. Kevin Coster just plays Kevin Costner.

THE OXFORD COMMA

OXFORD COMMA DEBATE

comma

The Oxford (or serial) comma is the final comma in a list of things. For example, I would love to have a pear, a knife, and a napkin. The Oxford comma comes right after knife.

Use of the Oxford comma is stylistic, meaning that some style guides demand its use while others don’t. AP Style—the style guide that newspaper reporters adhere to—does not require the use of the Oxford comma. Unless you’re writing for a publication or drafting an essay for school, the use of the Oxford comma is generally up to you. However, omitting it can sometimes cause some strange misunderstandings. I love my girlfriend, Meryl Streep, and Jane Fonda. 

Without the Oxford comma, the sentence above could be interpreted as stating that you love your girlfriend, and they are Meryl Streep and Jane Fonda. Here’s the same sentence with the Oxford comma: I love my girlfriend, Meryl Streep, and Jane Fonda. Those who oppose the Oxford comma argue that rephrasing an already unclear sentence can solve the same problems that using the Oxford comma does. For example, I love Meryl Streep, Jane Fonda and my girlfriend.

Opinions among writers and editors differ on whether to use the Oxford comma, and usage also differs somewhat between regional varieties of English. A majority of American style guides mandate the use of the Oxford comma, including APA Style, The Chicago Manual of Style, The MLA Style Manual, Strunk and White’s Style Manual, and the Government Printing Office Manual. In contrast, the Associated Press Style Book advises against it. In Canada, the stylebook published by Canadian Press advises against it. It is used less often in England, but a few British style guides require it, notably The Oxford Style Manual. According to The Oxford Companion to the English Language, “Commas are used to separate items in a list or sequence … Usage varies as to the inclusion of a comma before and in the last item … This practice is controversial and is known as the Oxford comma because it is part of the house style of Oxford University Press.

WAIT A MINUTE—A CASE AT LAW OVER A COMMA?

The Maine dairy story is a convoluted story, as most law-related stories are. Here are the basics:

  • In 2014, three truck drivers sued Oakhurst Dairy for what they said was four years’ worth of overtime pay owed to them for deliveries they’d made.
  • Oakhurst Dairy said NOPE, citing a law that lists distribution of dairy products as one of the activities ineligible for overtime pay.
  • Maine state law at the time stated that workers are not entitled to overtime pay for: “The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: (1) Agricultural produce; (2) Meat and fish products; and (3) Perishable foods.”
  • Aha…!the lawyer for the truck drivers said.
  • Without a comma after “shipment,” it’s the packing “for shipment or distribution” that’s not eligible for overtime—not the distribution itself. Only with a comma would “distribution” have been included as one of the series of activities ineligible for overtime.
  • So: the law does not apply to the deliveries the drivers made. Pay up, Oakhurst.
  • The court (the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit) agreed—and took 29 pages to say as much. Oxford comma enthusiasts high-fived!
  • Oakhurst Dairy settled, agreeing to pay $5 million to the drivers.

This case was a David-and-Goliath showdown between the little guys and the corporate overlord. And it has guys driving around in trucks with copies of Strunk & White in the glove box.

Why does something as pedantic and ordinary as grammar ignite raging debate—both in Maine and in the rest of world? Even when there isn’t actual money at stake? And more broadly: Why do some of us love to correct the grammar of others? Love to sharpen our grammar chops on the soft underbelly of those unfortunates who might use literally to mean figuratively? Who misspell lose as loose?

Maybe it has something to do with that word “rules” when it’s paired with “grammar”: Grammar rules seem strict, impenetrable, and unyielding.  Some grammar rules are more like laws or statutes—breaking them quickly creates anarchy. But others are more open to interpretation: Splitting infinitives (to boldly go is a famous one). Ending a sentence with a preposition. Using “they” as a singular pronoun. And the Oxford comma.

ARE ALL GRAMMARIANS JUDGY AND HUMORLESS?
The type to correct you silently at a lunch counter when you’re ordering a sandwich.

Well, most grammar sticklers I know come at it less based in judgment than in something more generous: They want us all to be understood! “Grammar rules” stirs up in the righteous a feeling of right and wrong, of needing to put a stake in the ground, to polarize language: Black and white. Off and on. Yes and no. Smart and stupid. Occasionally it really matters (overtime or no overtime). But often it just doesn’t.

RUDE

RUDE

Bad behaviour

We find ourselves living at a time of incredible rudeness. Everyone needs to have an opinion, on everything, at all times, and this opinion must be delivered forcefully. We have been taught to celebrate meanness. In our country, the rise of a very rude man to a most powerful position has brought into sharp and terrifying focus just how dangerous one moment of rudeness might prove: it might lead us to nuclear apocalypse.

So, what does one do when confronted with rude behavior? Well, we can have the guts to call it out. It’s our duty. The only way to end rudeness is to make a conscious decision to do so. We should not have to put up with rude behavior.

The rage, injustice, and hurt we feel at the inexplicably rude behavior of someone leads us in directions that are uncomfortable and often wrong. For me, the trick to handling rudeness is to pause, take a breath, and ever so gently deliver a sentence as simple as “Just stop.” We can do it with grace. We can handle it well, by handling it without a trace of aggression and without being rude ourselves. Because once a rude person has had the looking glass held up to them and can see their actions through the eyes of others, they are far more likely to end that behavior themselves. This can be done by you, by me, by everyone. You and I choose to be civilized so we can expect others to be civil.

 

LYNYRD

IMG_0356LYNYRD’S WORLD

I like Lynyrd Skynyrd so

I named my cat Lynyrd

He likes to climb

Upon my desk

The right foot comes up

Then a

 big push of the back

On to the sill, he goes

Touching the window with his nose

To see the outer world

Still filled with many woes

He stretched and yawned

Then prepared for the leap

On to the bed for sleep

The spot he found

On a pillow that’s round

Was for Lynyrd quite fine

His world’s better than mine.

 

 

TO UBER

TO UBER

Uber is a new verb in the lexicon of Americans.  If you are in a city and you want to get from point A to point B, bring up the Uber app on your smartphone, tap the button and the screen asks where you are going.  You answer, the name of the driver, his/her picture pops up, and a map appears to show you where the driver is and how long it will take him to get to your location.  Amazing huh!

My friend Christine and I went to Baltimore to eat at Bo Brooks Seafood and

Bo Brooks

 

visit the National Aquarium.  Christine had visited Bo Books 45 years ago at around age 25 and remembered the crabs as tasty, bordering on spectacular.  Even though Bo moved the location to the Canton section of the city, the crabs were still good and the mallets were quite useful.

The National Aquarium was outstanding. We spent four hours at this wonderful facility.  We saw many varieties of fish, turtles, frogs, and nettles.  The main tank was so large that it took four scuba divers to feed the fish. We also saw a dolphin show that was very good and we needed a rest.

Dolphin

We stayed at a terrific place called The Hotel Indigo, a smallish boutique in downtown Baltimore.  We left our car in the garage for our entire stay and we ubered around the city.

Our first driver was Muhammed.  He took us on an adventure through several neighborhoods in Baltimore following the instructions of his GPS to Bo Brooks. There was Middle Eastern music playing on the MP3 player and the car was spotless. No money changed hands as everything was handled seamlessly via credit card on the app.

After having a wonderful dinner of fresh crabs seasoned with Old Bay and crab cakes, we left the restaurant and hailed Uber. Our ride was seven minutes away and we watched his route as he wound his way to us.  He called to tell us he had arrived and I told him we were at the other end of the parking area.  He came to us. Our driver’s name was Waqid and he drove a new Toyota mini-van. He talked all the way to our location. Very friendly!

The next morning, we were off to the Aquarium.  Our driver was a local named Gary—native of Baltimore.  He was like a tour director. He was quick to tell us about the good restaurants and local sights. When we arrived at the inner harbor, he pointed out all the good places to eat and shop.  Gary was the best driver of the six we had.

We were tired, the traffic was bad, and our next driver took eight minutes to arrive.  His professional name was Richard, but he preferred to be called Asher. He asked where we were from and Christine told him, Roanoke. He laughed and told us that he grew up in Roanoke. He went to Patrick Henry High where Christine taught.  Serendipity at work!!

About 7pm, we decided to go out to eat. For some unknown reason, we decided on Mexican.  I found a 4-star Taqueria on Eastern Avenue.  Our Uber driver, Raymond, took us to the exact location.  It was in a very seedy neighborhood and the place was closed.  He wouldn’t let us get out of the car. Instead, he took us 7 blocks in the opposite direction to a very trendy area and the James Joyce Pub and Restaurant.  Lamb stew and Shepherd’s Pie were just the thing and delicious. HOORAY for Raymond!

Hafiz took us back to our place. He got a little confused at a split intersection and we had to redirect. But he got us there without any problem.

Both Chris and I loved our Uber experience.  It is the only way to get around a city like Baltimore. We had x rides in total and spent $60.  Because I parked my car, I avoided a $60 valet fee and paid no parking fee. Balance is wonderful.

LIGHTNING ROCKS

Lightning is my granddaughter Emma’s dog, but he truly loves me.  Every time I go to Sarah and Keith’s house, I sit on the leather sofa because it is central, comfortable and I can protect myself as Lightning sprints through the door and takes a giant leap into my lap.  He proceeds to give me sloppy, wet kisses all over my face. And his tail is wagging so fast that it is a blur. He barks incessantly with his shrill tenor voice.  Sometimes he greets me with a little urine drip if he hasn’t been outside lately.  I don’t mind because I love this dog.

Lightning is a dachshund with a very large personality.  He is the larger dog in the picture above. The little fellow looking on is Mr. Jingles, Lightning’s running mate.  He is not as exuberant as Lightning and often seeks a safe haven in Sarah’s lap.  He’s not very fond of men in general.

If you notice in the picture, Lightning has what appears to be a rock in his mouth. It is a rock.  Every time Hattie goes to the trampoline, Lightning tags along.  The very first thing he does on arrival is to look for a mouth size rock.  He digs vigorously around the edges of the rock and uses his paws to dig it out of its resting place.  He then makes sure it is the correct size.  His rock is never just any rock–it has to be just right.

When satisfied, he throws the rock into the air and pounces on it.  He hits the rock with his nose, it rolls a few feet and he pounces on it again.  He then hits the rock with his right paw, then his left and dribbles the rock for 6 feet or so like a soccer player.  As Sarah and I sat watching Hattie do gymnastics on the trampoline, Lightning continued with his rock antics in the same order (mouth, nose, paws) for forty minutes.  AMAZING.  I have had lots of dogs, but never one that plays with rocks.  By the way, he brings his favorites into the house and keeps them in the playroom.

Dogs are wonderful participants in this life.