Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Show-off


No, this isn't yet another post about Donald Trump. I have a flash fiction style story up again at FlashFlood this year, which runs for 24 hours in June in honor of (Britain's) National Flash Fiction Day. The slight twist is that I happen to have gotten more involved in a little online writing group recently. Kind of a fever took hold and quite a few of our members managed to submit and get accepted by the deadline, which made it fun to look for their stories instead of just my own--which, let's face it, I already know pretty well.

As was the case last year, I was struck by what a wide range of styles and subjects emerged. My story "The Show-off" can be found right HERE.

 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

rights

I am not a lawyer, but in any universal Golden Rule sort of standard, I am pretty sure that the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness trumps the right to bear arms. Period.


And this just in, a Congressional cover of the song.

 

 But on the right path, though they are, let's face it, they ain't Joan Baez. So...

 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

hops

I was just idly flicking through the channels one evening when I happened upon an old Huell Howser video about his road trip to Chico in which he has ended up at the Sierra Nevada Brewery. At the point I came in he was talking about the brewing process and was discussing the importance of hops with the brewmaster.

I like beer, and in recent years have developed more of a taste for hoppy beers than I once had. Hops are all the rage now, or maybe they went too far and are now becoming a little less overwhelming in whatever's fashionable, but I have to say that until that moment I had never once in my life considered what a hop was. This is more or less what they looked like on the show, sitting in a barrel waiting to be added to the vat:



Although beer may have preceded civilization, the use of hops doesn't go back very far. Pliny the Elder mentions them in the late seventies, AD, but they don't really get a brewing mention until around 822. (Hops fanatics can check out this very easy to read post at Beer Scene Magazine HERE.)

This is what they look like in (cultivated) nature:

http://www.newplanetbeer.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/hops1.jpg

Apparently, hops ousted another contender, grut, or gruit, which was a mix of bitter herbs and spices that helped preserve beer.. Hops have an antibacterial effect, according to Wikipedia, which favors brewer's yeast over other microorganisms. But they also add their own flavors to the brew. 

Here's an image of hops growing in a hopyard in Germany. The plant's tendrils have to be trained upward in order to get all parts of the plant the right amount of sunlight.



I think that might be all I have to say about hops--for now. If you were looking for any kind of brewer's recipe, you came to the wrong place.





Monday, June 13, 2016

Donald Trump, you don't know what the hell you're talking about

Very sorry to turn this political again, or to have had tragic events force me to do so, but I must protest against anyone who thinks that the shootings in Orlando mean that we have to oust the Muslims in our midst.

I am not going to protest the Donald by posting any of his incendiary comments, but I do feel it's time to speak out in some form.

I thought I'd post, once again, a bit about the new Muslim Mayor of London. Latest thing I saw was that he's prohibiting ads on the public transit that might make people feel bad about their body image. He said that he has teenage daughters and doesn't want them to have to face unrealistic images of women when they're traveling. Admittedly, they probably aren't riding public transit at the moment, but on the other hand, their grandfather was a bus driver. In any case, yay, Sadiq Khan!

Do you get it? There are humane and principled convictions in every faith. As well as aberrant ones.

I am so far from being pro gun rights that I don't really get anyone who would want to use one even for recreation. However, since I count several among my friends, I understand that there must be an alternative point of view.

One of the posters who appears in my blog roll says that Orlando means that Trump will win. I can only hope that he is wrong.

Meanwhile, in the real world, please do whatever you can to refuse to stand idly by. Speak out. Be creative. Or, shoot, be uncreative. Whatever. This is important.

Sadiq and Saadiya Khan

Friday, June 10, 2016

the minimum wage

I was quite happily watching the latest Panetta Institute panel when they started talking blithely about the minimum wage.

I don't normally do a lot of political opinion stuff here, but having to listen to them all weigh in in their masculine way, I must say, anyone who doesn't work at minimum wage really doesn't have a leg to stand on when opining about it. I don't think I worked at minimum wage all that much, but I worked pretty damn close to it, and I will say that anyone who is honest and shows up to work and does their fair to middling best deserves a bit better than that. Or maybe a lot better. Employers are in denial about that and then some.



Yeah, you really don't want to get me started.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

cubicle

"Cubicle" was mentioned somewhere or other recently, and it got me thinking about where the word comes from. I had what seemed a likely theory, which was that it originated whenever the vogue for these little compartments came into popularity in the corporate world. It's pretty much the only place you hear it, isn't it?

Well, it turns out that I am right in one way and wrong in another. "Cubicle" isn't a made up word, or no more than any other word is a made up word.According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, in it's current form it actually goes back to the fifteenth century, when it meant "bedroom". That's because it derives from the Latin cubiculum, also bedroom. The Latin verb was cubare, meaning "to lie down". Originally it meant "to bend oneself." That's a kind of interesting transition of meanings, but I don't know how that happened. Maybe the Roman beds were very, very small. Hard to tell from this one, which was retrieved from the Casa del Tramezzo di Legno in Herculaneum--after a volcano destroyed the town:

                                                                                                                     Allmare


"Cubicle" became obsolete in the 16th century--don't ask me why. Curiously, though, it was revived again in the 19th century to describe a dormitory sleeping compartment. From there the sense of any separated space was an easier leap. In 1926, it was used to describe library carrels.

A Wall Street Journal article called A Brief History of the Cubicle by Nikil Saval mentions that Richard Yates novel Revolutionary Road  used the word cubicle in 1961 to describe an office space, so the word has been used in this way for awhile. But it's real resurgence came  a little later in the 60s with the design of the modern day cubicle by one Robert Propst, who worked for a large office furniture design company called Herman Miller. Propst detested the open plan office that was currently in vogue. As Saval, who is also the author of a book on modern office spaces called Cubed: a Secret History of the Workplace, quotes him on the open plan:

It saps vitality, blocks talent, frustrates accomplishment. It is the daily scene of unfulfilled intentions and failed effort.

What's amusing to me is that the open plan was intentional back in the sixties, not accidental. Here's another quote from the article about a German design plan that swept America:

The 1960s witnessed the rise of an even more open plan: a new concept imported from Germany called the BĂĽrolandschaft, or office landscape. It called for cultivated chaos: desks grouped together in pods across a sprawling floor plan, with sightlines blocked by tall ferns and soundscreens and not a private office in sight. This new, swirling design—meant to flatten hierarchies and ease communication—became a big hit with architects, planners and designers. Soon it was springing up all over Europe—and, after the first U.S. office landscape was installed in the headquarters of DuPont in 1967, across the U.S. as well.

As Saval points out, the people who actually had to work in these spaces hated them. So the soulless, conformist cubicle as it has come to be thought of it in recent times, was actually a delight to people when it first came on the scene. The first, transitional version at Herman Miller was called the Action Office, or later the Action Office 1, and was designed by George Nelson under the direction of Propst.




Although designers agreed that the Action Office was beautiful, it didn't sell. So, back to the drawing board. Except, like many before and after them, Propst and Nelson couldn't agree on their vision of the workplace. They parted ways and Propst went on to design Action Office 2--better known now as the cubicle, a term not restricted to one company's design.

                                                                                      Asa Wilson

Now the trend is again toward the open office, cost cutting and yet another new philosophy of the workplace having swung the pendulum the other way. Here's an article on this trend from Forbes if you're interested. Apparently, the Millennials are down with it, the Boomers not so much. 

I have to laugh, as this dynamic is very familiar to me from my frequent viewings of various shows on HGTV. The trend in home design seems to be almost universally toward open concept, and a component of most of these shows is the breaking through of those nasty old walls that block the open sightlines so valuable to seemingly everyone. (I think I've only seen one person so far who protested, "But I don't like open concept.") However, like the quartz countertops and the stainless steel kitchen appliances, there's bound to come a time when the open concept becomes passĂ©, if not actually irksome. Walls, perhaps in some new material, will once again be built. Nothing in this world is perfect, my friends, and especially not the things that your parents once thought were the bees knees. 


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Dept. of the Treasury--the scam

I just got a call from an automated voice purporting to be someone from the Department of the Treasury. Unfortunately, I took the call, so I don't have a recording of it and am reconstructing from memory. The voice gave a name and said he was calling from the Department of the Treasury and that I was wanted in some serious financial matter, in, I think, Maryland. It said this was the second time they had attempted to contact me and that I should call back a certain number and talk to a federal agent.

Now, luckily, I am pretty sure that I do not have any pending business back east and I am always a bit dubious of an electronic voice telling me to do anything, but as there's always the slight anxiety that you have done something terribly wrong on your tax return or something like that, I decided I would look up and see if there was such a thing as a Department of the Treasury scam. And sure enough, there was. Or I should say, there are, because there are many of them.

Here's what I found on the Department of the Treasury website:

"There are numerous telephone and email scams in which individuals claim to be employees of the Treasury Department.  These scammers often state that they are from the “Department of Legal Affairs,” offer grant money in exchange for you wiring a small payment, or threaten to arrest you within a short period of time unless payment is made. Do not provide personal information or payment to these individuals.  Their actions are crimes under Titles 18 and 31 of the United States Code, and the Treasury Office of Inspector General is working to stop them."

Unlike me, you may have the presence of mind, or better yet, get a recording of this kind of phone call. If so, you can report it all to the Department of the Treasury. They will want:

  • the exact date and time that you received the call(s)
  • the phone number of the caller
  • the geographic location and time zone where you received the call
  • a description of the communication.
Go to the website mentioned above for the email to contact. 

As with so many of these types of things, forewarned is forearmed.