Archive for January, 2011

Ass in Boots

January 29th, 2011

Unlikeassinboots Puss in Boots, the donkey who stomps on cross-country ski tracks is not so clever. This is not the first time I’ve gone on this mini-crusade and acknowledge it is in the rant class, like here.

Today, cross-country skiing on the same Boston golf course, I had a brief bonding moment over it and still feel good. Someone else is in the moment and realizes that XC skiers work to make those tracks, so that they and other skiers can glide rather than grunt on that route.

I thought I might wade into conflict as I headed up a long hill toward the woods. Coming down was a bearded dad with his daughter on his shoulders. He was in boots and maybe walking in the ski tracks. I was ready to discuss it with him.

Instead, as we neared each other, I saw that he was walking in boot and snowshoe tracks parallel to the ski ones. He was indeed clever.

His daughter looked around two and a half and grinned like she was really enjoying the ride. When we are close, I thanked him and he rewarded me, along the lines of:

Thank you for walking beside the ski tracks instead of in them.

No, I’m a skier too and know what it means.

I guess those who walk in the tracks aren’t skiers and don’t understand what they’re doing.

That’s got to be it. Have a great rest of the day.

You too…both of you.

If there’s anything better than feeling self-righteous, it’s not having to.

With Greed from Iran

January 29th, 2011

Wowsers, kiddies, it’s been almost four years since I strummed the glories of my spammer’s accidental poetry. Now for my next act, I got around to checking the meaning of the spam I’m too ignorant to read.

Starting about two months ago, I began to get an ever increasing amount of Arabic spam to one of my email addresses. I plugged several into Google Translate and learned a bit.

First, over half of them are not Arabic, rather Persian, most popular in Iran. More significant, none, zero, nilch, nyet, nada relate to the stereotypes of English-language versions. From early email days in old browsers, I have long gotten used to invitations to double my penis length, to pay a few thousand dollars to reap millions in a dead man’s fortune, and from the beginning of the housing collapse, sure, cheap ways to refinance.

So, I’ve been looking at those undecipherable (to me) strings, like

جورج کلونی دوست ندارد رئیس جمهور شود !؟
جورج کلونی دوست ندارد رئیس جمهور شود !؟

and not getting it. That was my first task for Google. As I don’t click on unknown and unknowable (read perilous) links,I still don’t know that one was offering. It is in Persian and translates literally into, “Geoerge Clooney does not like to be president?” The link in the nondescriptive message from one  mohammad ali hasankhani with a gmail account had a condensed URL and I didn’t brave it.

However, letting Google translate several other, I limned a pattern. They are sports oriented and maybe just trying to sell some worthless medical product or more likely charge a fee for a sports video or instructional booklet. Granted, a click to the links may send you someplace phishing for your credit card info, but at least these seem relative wholesome in contrast to what I regularly see  in English in my spam bucket.

One promises exercises to make you taller:

Collection of sports movements for increasing height

In the first step regardless of your age level, growth will begin Qdtan! ! ! ! ! Maybe have a little surprise, but 100% regardless of your age, this growth will occur in your height. For further should be said, more than 95% of people without news have bent and your spine curved in the back part of their Darndv the bezel and also sinking more than is normal.

Persian with sales pitch and shortened link from “Amir Ghazaee”

Another promises pool prowess:

Billiard

This unique collection of the principles and professional billiards learn pool training pool world by top professors and applied a set of rare beauty, secrets find a pool professional to teach you. all tips, trick and All the intricacy of fun playing pool with all the film one hour to learn. different ways of tapping method to cut the ball and everything you need to know to enjoy billiards ..

For more information, click and buy

Persian with sales pitch and shortened link from”Mani Rahnama”

Still another eluded Google’s Arabic powers, but seemed to be selling videos of what we call soccer here:

Sutee Hay House Khandh worldly affairs Voetbal

Goofs your friends are a set of football world to see? Scoring itself, Goofs and goalkeeper … In this CD in a series of world football Goofs collected

Include:

Scoring automatically by defenders and goalkeepers

Nzdn striker scored in a few step away gates and even the empty gates

But besides these reactions Goofs stunning diving goalkeeper and their golden

The beautiful flowers by the attackers will also be displayed

Click to view

Arabic with sales pitch and shortened link

After decades of primarily sexual oriented spam, I find some small joy in seeing what appears to be a more naive type of hustler. Maybe their net censors would never pass along  lewd pitches. Maybe they just have different hot buttons. Taller in the body instead of longer in the middle seems so, well, 1950s, a simpler time.

Evil Eye, Snow Setting

January 27th, 2011

My latest curse is on a Salvo plow operator on Fairmount Hill in Boston’s Hyde park neighborhood. May he be bedeviled daily until March 22nd — Spring — by vicious and malicious people who inconvenience him. May each jerk repeat the cruel act and make him clean up after their messes as though he were Sisyphus.

This driver exceeded my tolerance for those doing the necessary work of clearing out from our latest snow dump. Up here, we did get over a foot on top of all the other snow. My unfortunate 17-year-old, Isaac, did not get to loll in his non-school day. Instead, he joined me in hours of clearing snow. His was the 60-some foot driveway. Lackaday.

The evil plowman returned three times after his initial run, each time undoing considerable of my work, replacing open spaces at two points on our 50 feet of sidewalk as well as the wide driveway. I even waved him off twice, to no response. I have no doubt he was hanging around the neighborhood and reworking dry streets just to keep his hourly rate in play. He is an imp of no breeding and low morality.

I had cleared a wide walkway opposite the sidewalk run from the city street to our front door. That was for John, or mailman, and the newpaper delivery guy. Down near the driveway, I had made a similar, prolonged clearing for the huge wheeled recycling cart and the trash can, so those crews could have reasonable access on trash day. Of course, the biggest task was to clear the sodden heaps of road slush three feet tall from the driveway entrance.

The Salvo satan returned, pushing as much slush from that collected on the blade. It naturally flowed into the three open spaces. Instead, a slight turn of his wheel or lift of the plow would have maintained my open spaces. He clearly sought to punish someone obeying the law and respecting others.

He doesn’t deserve a pox, which would be too good on him. Instead, I think first of the Talmud, whose version of the golden rule is perfection — That which is hateful to you, do not do to another. That is all the law. The rest is commentary.

For the violation, he deserves my curse. He needs to have the same happen to him, repeatedly.

Do You Smell Pork?

January 26th, 2011

LanierWho knew? We certainly were not aware that we rented an apartment in a very historic home in Danville, VA, when I was a lad. No one, not even the owner told us.

Now there’s a marker at 770 Main Street, it is on the historic walking tour, and may have the additional cachet of being haunted. To us, Dr. Samuel Newman and his wife, whose first name I likely never knew, occupied the first floor for living and his pediatric practice. To historians, this is the oldest known residence in the city. The first mayor, Capt. James Lanier, had it built in 1830.

We were across the street from the Main Street Methodist Church. We attended it several times a week, as was the Southern wont of the time — choir practice, Methodist Youth Fellowship, volunteer sessions, prayer meetings, and over two hours each Sunday with an hour for kids and adults in Sunday school, followed by about 90 minutes of service with lots of hymns and 20 to 30-minute prayers buttressing the sermon. The YMCA was right down the road, as were three movie theaters. We had little reason to venture off Main Street.

The pic above is of that same 770 Main Street. That is a postal card in a compilation of them as a history of the city. Clara Garrett Fountain was somehow inspired to share part of her 100-year collection. Thanks to her and as the image is long out of anyone’s copyright I claim fair use, as I do to her cut line:

The nearby house at 770 Main Street, currently the office of Garrett & Garrett, attorneys, is the oldest documented residence in the city. Built in 1830 by Danville’s first  mayor, Captain James Lanier, it is remembered by many as the office of Dr. Samuel Newman, the city’s first pediatrician.

Dr. Newman turned out to be more than that. To us, he was the guy who jabbed penicillin hypos in my butt for my recurrent tonsil inflammations. As I found out later, he was also well known in Danville and several nearby cities and towns for his children’s clinics and forward looking preventative medicine for kids.

There’s a wonderful symmetry there in that the house served as a children’s clinic during the Civil War over 80 years before Dr. Newman bought it.  It also turns out that a clinic in nearby Martinsville was named for him. Scholarships from the Charity League of Martinsville and Henry County go to high school grads and college students in his name.

Dr. Newman and his wife were Jewish. That’s not all that remarkable here and now, although it seemed nearly everyone three miles above the North Carolina border in the middle of the state was Christian, some flavor of Protestant, in the 1950s. Catholics were rare and Jews much more so.

However, he was also a Virginian. As nearly everyone else around, he appreciated the long, skillful tradition of the region for its smoked porks — hams and particularly bacon. He worked long days and liked to start with some protein.

His wife was short and round. She always wore a purple ribbon around her neck, with a small key on the bottom. She kept the cashbox and took the payments for those who visited the practice. While her dresses were both fashionable and well pressed, over the years, the ribbon got dingy and a bit raveled.

In general, she kept a kosher table even though they were not Orthodox. She was a bit old world and put up with his breakfast preferences. However, many mornings when my sister and I came down the main stairs to the ground floor on our way to school, we’d see her running up and down the hall separating their living half from his office. She’d wave a hand fan or just her arms as she walked up and down, asking us at high volume, “Do you smell pork? Do you smell pork?”

I was reminded of her today while looking through Good Book (overly long subtitle) by David Plotz, self-defined as “never a very observant” (but proud) Jew. First of all, can that really be his name, asks someone with the last name of Ball? In Yiddish, of course, plotz means to burst, as if from strong emotion.

Regardless, he writes of poring through the Bible (at least the Old Testament) and finding remarkable passages, upon which he remarks. He did after writing this rush through the New Testament, in a defensive skim to prepare for an appearance on The Colbert Show. He wasted his time in the sense that Stephen didn’t ask a single question about the new stuff.

His section on Leviticus includes:

…God says that the pig, because it doesn’t chew the cud, is “impure.” Understood. But then the Lord describes lots and lots of other animals – including lobster, shrimp, ostrich, and most insects – as “abominations.” “Abomination” is a much stronger word than “impure.” Does this imply that bacon, pork chops, pulled pork, and ham are less bad than lobster? Can it really be that eating pork is a minor dietary offense, the kashruth equivalent of a parking ticket? God, I hope so!

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Edible Errors

January 24th, 2011

Not every food and  beverage purchase is a winner. I overstock or pick losers too.

Yet tossing stuff is not in my nature. Actually I was raised try to fix mistakes. More to the point, despite the USDA estimate that we throw away 27% of our food, I sure as heck don’t.

So, I was amused and challenged when I ended up with nearly a case of what I consider bad beer. It was not skunked, just not what I wanted to close my lips around the neck of, even on a hot afternoon.

We had a neighborhood and friends party last year in the sunny months. The uxorial unit insisted that I include some light/lite beer, as that is barely explicably popular.

Yeah, yeah, some think having a few beers with slightly fewer calories is smart, both wise and chic. It makes much more sense to me to drink a tad slower and have fewer, better brews.

Yes, I am a beer snob. Craft brews, particularly bitter ales, have totally destroyed my tolerance for gassy, low-flavor lagers. I started drinking when it was legal at 18 virtually everywhere and the choices were few and dreadfully similar. High end beer meant Michelob.

Now I prefer India Pale Ale, pretty much the higher the IBUs, the better. I am delighted when a bar has Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA on tap — it may be the perfect balance of bitterness and complex flavors. That’s not the specs of a light/lite beer.

So, I did check with the liquor store before grabbing a couple of sixes of it for the party. We had about 60 coming and with the wine, strawberry daiquiris and real beer, I figured one or two sixes would be safe. The stocker at the store said Bud Light Lime was the most advertised and by far the best seller. Not only that, but it was on sale, pretty much a case of 24 for the price of 12.

At party end, I had 19 bottles left. Sigh.

My wife would drink one every so often, perhaps once a month. Oh, woe, what to do?

As it turns out, the stuff is highly useful. Perhaps a Martha or Heloise might have cleaning uses for it, but it serves well in the kitchen.

I discovered this when I was making a chicken curry. I normally include chicken stock, but I had used the last of my frozen stuff. I guess in a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup moment, I thought the equivalent of you got lime in my curry sauce. I generally add a splash of citrus in my curries and let the beer do that.

Sure enough, it was the liquid and the lime flavor.

Now I tend to keep an opened, corked bottle on the counter with my vinegar, oils and sauces. When I need a bit of liquid and non-hot zing in a dish I’m cooking, I  may well reach for a BLL.

I did try a few sips from a cold one to verify. Yes, its popularity aside, BLL will never be a brew for me…at least to drink.

On the other hand, it serves a lot of other cooking purposes. It’s a reminder to rethink bad food and drink purchases.

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Trusting the Chickens

January 23rd, 2011

We should feel for the many companies pushing me-too products. Think laundry detergents and even chicken. To thrive, they have to convince consumers their same-as stuff is different and better somehow. They also have to bribe stores for shelf and counter space. It’s fierce in the grocery.

Today our Boston Globe arrived in a Perdue plastic bag with just such dubious distinctions on it. THE FIRST CHICKEN COMPANY WITH USDA PROCESS VERIFIED PROGRAMS it read in the middle. The print near the bottom was almost as large with their slogan TASTE THE PERDUE­® DIFFERENCE.

perduebragBetween the shouting was a new seal replete with a pretty irrelevant  two ears of corn (makes a little more sense than apple pie). It had check marks beside the U.S.D.A.-related claims of all vegetarian diet, no animal byproducts, raised cage free, and tenderness guaranteed. It also plugged no hormones or steroids added, this with a wee asterisk.

For getting with the U.S.D.A. program, it gets to put the new logo with the slogan on its packages. Particularly for customers concerned about health (and hesitant to pay two, three or more times the cost for claimed organic chicken at the hippy-dippy supermarkets), this is likely a feel-good combo.

Without being too cynical, let’s see what this means. For anyone used to manufacturing lingo, the key is obvious in the name process verified. Yes, boys and girl, men and women, this is just another spin on ISO 9000. Perdue has carefully defined how it buys, raised, murders, cleans out, cuts up, packages and ships its birds. They promise consistency and monitor the whole routine. It’s the same every chicken plucking time.

usdaThere are a couple of other companies who have gone through this trouble already. Sparboe Farms in Michigan and the related Van Essen Farms in Iowa do it. Actually, they seem to exceed Perdue’s standards and procedures. Unlike Perdue, they specify how and when they trim chicken’s beaks, how they test the dead birds that occur in raising, and employee training requirements. They truly are with the program.

Perdue’s lesser version is better than nothing. It’s probably healthier for the chickens and us who eat them and their eggs that they eat grains with no ground up chicken or other animal parts. Most of us probably think that is the norm, but nothing requires it.

The cage-free thing is nebulous, but likewise, kinder to the birds. It pretty much means they are not in tiny cages and can walk a bit and spread their wings while still staying inside. It certainly is not the same as the stereotypical old-style chicken farm where the birds walk about, eating grain and bugs off the barnyard.

The tenderness guarantee is a marketing ploy. If you don’t like a Perdue purchase, you might be able to get the store or company to refund your purchase if you go through the trouble.

bwak

For that asterisk,  it notes that federal regulations require no steroid or hormone added anyway. That should be true for all poultry sold in this country.

For the whole process verification thingummy, the ISO 9000 certification is a good idea at all its levels. All manufacturers, including food processors should define their whole operation, teach their folk how to do things right, and then monitor and measure compliance. Yet, having been involved in implementation at several companies, I snort too.

What ISO 9000 really means at it core is consistency. You can end up doing the same crappy thing over and over, so long as it is what you specify and you make sure it is. GIGO (garbage in/garbage out) as the old computer term puts it.

So we can simultaneously praise and pity Perdue. They sell commodity products and have a lot of competition. They have to try constantly to differentiate themselves and convince people that their chicken is not just the same as another chicken.

To Perdue’s credit, it has bred beasties with lots of breast meat, which Americans prefer. It also got a lot of traction with dad, Frank Perdue, in his ads. He claimed with great sincerity and commercial success that it takes a tough man to make a tender chicken. Therefore, we pay more, believing his and now his son’s company’s birds are better. Plus, he looked a lot like a barnyard fowl himself.

USDA Process Verified…what was it Garfield used to think, “Big fat hairy deal!”

How Much for a Bag?

January 22nd, 2011

My mom made even chores fun or at least tolerable. That included grocery shopping.

My sister and I played along, which was to everyone’s benefit. After all, she was raising us solo, with her deadbeat ex-husband skipping out on child support. We never felt deprived and she never resorted to self-pity or male bashing. She was busy, with her work and kids.

I got into the details of shopping. I was a cook from elementary school. We spent summers and holidays with her parents, including my working many long days with my grandfather in his patches, as he called his acre-sized gardens. I knew fresh foods, beetles and worms, how to plant, weed, pick and prepare veggies within a few minutes of harvest.

During the school year, we shopped as a trio. That became regular when I was in third grade in Danville Virginia. I can still picture the wonderful view of the Cat & Fiddle grocery as we turned left off Main Street. It was long before true supermarkets and if it was still around it might seem tiny and shabby, but oh, the sign.

Jutting out above the street was a splendid and huge neon sign. A standing cat worked the bow on his fiddle. No matter which approach you took, you had no doubt where the store was or what it was called.

groceriesTo the heading here, back then it was about $5 a bag of groceries on average. I was fastidious even then and paid attention to such things, as well as the sizes and costs of what went into the cart. As I do today, she shopped with the newspaper ads. If ham was on sale at 29¢ a pound, ham it was that week. My mother was big on vegetables and fruits, but we tended to get what was on sale. I never was deprived and we always had good stuff in the fridge, on the counter and in the pantry.

Oddly enough, while she was young during the Great Depression, she did not come by her conservation and frugality as an emotional response to it. Granddad was both wise and lucky. He got and maintained a job on the B&O Railroad for his whole career, including the Depression years. He ran a tailor shop and dry cleaners next to the house and often made clothes for his wife and three kids. He sometimes sold cars on weekends (Chevy, although he didn’t care much for them and bought Ford himself). Then there were the gardens. My grandmother pressed the kids into service at the end of the summer in the great canning wars. Sometimes, Granddad would show up with so many bushels of green beans, tomatoes, limas or this and that, the neighbors would join in. For their work, they hauled away and preserved their own shares. Many afternoons under the huge maple in the backyard, we got sore thumbs snapping beans and hulling peas, while a half dozen or more old women laughed and gossiped.

Some prices stick in mind. A box of toothpicks normally was 11¢ but might be 7¢ on sale. A can of tuna was 29¢ or on sale 19¢. Chuck roast was then much cheaper in proportion to other muscle meats, at 49¢ a pound and less on sale. This was in the late 1950s.

Figuring by today’s standards, our groceries can still be reasonable, for those who shop carefully. Tuna today hovers around $1 a can. Given inflation, it is less expensive than we paid for it. Maybe there was a cover charge (bag charge?) for the neon cat.

I tend to average $10 to $11 a bag of groceries now. The bags are a bit smaller than those of yesteryear, and I do shop judiciously. I may go to three stores on the way to get the best deals.

Along the way with my mother, I learned to work the coupons as well as ads. Before requirements for labeling unit prices (like a pound of coffee or ounce of dish detergent), I calculated the best deal by size. Even then, the king-size cereal or such might cost more per unit than a smaller one. I loved that stuff and delighted locating the best deal between brands and by size. That may be a mild sickness, but I pretend it helped make me a good project manager.

My late mother-in-law, in contrast, was one of many who clearly didn’t grow up that way. She found such grocery-shelf comparisons confusing, even though she worked in a bank and dealt with numbers all day long. She had long ago given up on coupons, finding them far too much work to locate the precise item in brand and size to qualify. She seemed astonished that I not only used coupons, but reveled in saving $20 or more a week on things we’d buy regardless.

The few times I have seen parts of The Price is Right, I figured I could have aced the grocery items they use. I pay attention and know for my area what milk, laundry soap and such cost.

Now that I do the cooking nearly all the time, the other benefit of grocery shopping, and in my case hitting the Haymarket every week, is planning the week’s menu by what’s fresh, what catches my nose and eye, and what’s reasonably priced. By the time I head home, I have a bunch of meals in the works. I also know what’ll be in the fridge and pantry for winging it then or in a month.

Honestly, I enjoy grocery shopping.

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Winter Fluffer

January 16th, 2011

After a glance, my uxorial unit declared the backyard looks like a field of Marshmallow Fluff®.  That’s how winter should be, and how it is in my childhood recollections.

We’ve been a week with scant new snow. We had a pathetic dusting last night, sky dandruff. Yet, the air has been colder than average and not modulated by that famous ocean effect that Boston gets. Our 18 inches up on this hill stays a solid foot, even after several sunny afternoons.

For much of my childhood, I spent vacations and for a few years lived in the Eastern panhandle of West Virginia. To my memory, snow that came stayed.

Romney is in the mountains and on a plateau surrounded by them. The huge apple orchards and corn fields overlooking the Potomac were white from the first flakes, on and on, with regular new snows.

Normally fluffin-town snow in Boston, if it deep enough to cross-country ski in, stays that way one to three days. Temperatures above 30F, bright sun, and no new snow quickly reduce the good stuff to intermittent grass decoration and junk that sticks to skis.

I’m quick to grab the skis (sometimes snowshoes instead) and head to one of my Boston ski resorts — the Arnold Arboretum, Franklin Park’s golf course or the nearby Blue Hills Reservation in Canton/Milton. Alas, I used to walk to the Forest Hills Cemetery when we still lived in Jamaica Plain, but two years ago, the management there got grumpy, nasty and non-accommodating.

It’s not a huge deal to drive 45 minutes or even a couple of hours to get to a bona fide cross-country course. They have groomed trails, warming houses or huts, places to pee and such. They do charge say $20 a person, but the big thing is that they are OUT THERE. It’s fabulous to ski Boston. I have an odd pride in being able to do so, even hitting someplace twice a day or more than one location.

So, I’ve been grokking the cold weather keeping the deep snow for my amusement and sport. Tomorrow again will be bitterly cold — more obvious in the arboretum or particularly on the Devine golf course, which only means faster skiing and no slogging in the gummy stuff.

If global warming means hotter summers and colder winters, at least the second part keeps my fluff deep and hard enough for play. Bring it on and keep it on the ground, if you please.

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Tracks in the Snow

January 16th, 2011

devinesnowCoastal New Englanders get to experience and describe at least two types of granular metaphor generators — snow and sand. Their natures make them all too similar. They fairly cry out for imagery of the ephemeral.

For the warm stuff, you could do a lot worse than invoking Jimi Hendrix’ Castles Made of Sand. The pretty nasty little song has it in refrain that “…castles made of sand fall in the sea…eventually.”

When I cross-country ski over the same ground on successive days, I think of such transience. Today on the Franklin Park golf course, I looked for the tracks I had laid down Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  I skipped yesterday and in that absence, evidence of my passage, poetically my existence, was either greatly diminished or gone entirely.

There’s our metaphor. We come, we act, we make a difference (we believe), we leave and our traces may soon be faint or forgotten.

For the non-Nordic skier, the tracks one cuts are both work and legacy. Following in ruts cut by a human on skis or a machine is much easier than pushing through six or 10 or 18 inches of snow and ice. When you put down the tracks, you invariably think you’ll return on them or at least other skiers will benefit, and likely do the same for you when they are first.

We can torture that trope even more with other snowfield visitors. Finding previous ski tracks obliterated and deeply pitted by those in boots or snowshoes is annoying and disheartening.

They might tromp in through ignorance or thoughtlessness or malice or simple lack of breeding. It’s a little thing for them to walk elsewhere and having extensive walking-in-snow experience I know they won’t gain much by using the ski tracks. Yet, what they do causes considerable inconvenience to skiers. I’m betting most don’t know.

Of course, given the modern self-centered America, if you’d call this to a tromper’s attention, you’d likely get some defensive and hostile tirade about no one owning the snow, it’s a free country and worse.

Even without stamped out tracks though, the ephemeral nature of tracks in the snow is that clichéd reminded that we are passing through and may leave no lasting trace. Given that, let us:

  • Revel when we find tracks left by ourselves or others that ease and mark our journey
  • Gladly cut trails for the benefit of those who follow
  • Be in the moment of the journey, whether following or making tracks

Grocery Theater

January 10th, 2011

megaphone“You better be f***ing gone when I get home, b**ch!”

Such was the very public message screamed into her cellphone by the young woman standing in the produce aisle between the displays of bananas and pinkish tomato-like objects. In her mid-20s, she carried her infant daughter in a thick, pink sweater suit. The tot in one arm had all the protection of the body and none from the hate inches from her wee head.

The woman continued to hold forth at extreme volume. She seemed to address another woman and added, “Pack your sh*t and get out now!”

I wondered as perhaps the other dozen fruit and veggy shoppers must have what inspired the tirade and its timing. How is it that the shouter discovered something while in the supermarket that primed her explosion? Did she simply call her home and hear a rival or disfavored sister’s voice? Did someone call her as she entered the store and dish some serious dirt?

Regardless, this was just one of the many cellphone thespians visiting their petty personal problems or prides upon the disinterested world of you and me. One underlying theme accompanies all those fools who career into people and objects in the streets, stores and hallways of America with cellphone or headset in use, fairly bellowing and blathering. The delusion to some may be cartoonish — that cellphones radiate some magical cone of silence and invisibility. Otherwise, we have to assume that these folk believe that their pathetic little dramas or observations are aural gifts to the rest of us.

Practically, I think of what surely must be billions of dollars spent on cellphone fees, either minutes or flat monthly, to enable such intrusive triviality. There are so many charities, churches, civic groups and more who could put those funds to meaningful application. Otherwise the babblers and boasters would be better off spending the money in ways that would ease or improve their lives or those of their families.

cell.jpgInstead, they are wont to tell their cell counterparts (and those of us within 50 or more feet) what they had to eat or are about to or some such silliness. They do display that nothing worthwhile is going on in their lives or their brains. Their tiny, trivial skits are desperate indeed.

Over a decade ago, I started seeing this regularly. I worked next to the Burlington Mall. Whenever I was there, indolent teens and adults lived the great lie of Microsoft — that we humans are intrinsically multitaskers. The shoppers and food-court gawkers could not walk and talk. They’d bump into each other, their ignored chums, or even store doors. They were jokes without self-awareness of being such.

Remarking nonstop on the unremarkable is the real task of the self-absorbed.

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