Category Archives: Business

Skim vs. Powdered

Our discussion the other day about paper plates reminded me of stories that my folks used to tell about their early married life.  My dad was in basic training in North Carolina and my mom moved there to be close to him.  She taught gym part-time and they lived in a small trailer.  One of the stories they told me about how broke they were was that they couldn’t afford to buy a set of plates.  So not only did they eat on paper plates, they cut the paper plates in half!

By the time I came along, they were in better shape, although still not great; my dad was in law school with two part time jobs and my mom was forced to quit working the minute the school district found out she was pregnant!  As a kid, things were tight, not destitute, but definitely tight. One of the ways that my mom saved on groceries was by using powdered milk.  I still remember it after all these years, chalky and for some reason never seemed to get really cold.  I hated it.

At least once a month we had Saturday dinner at my grandparents’ house – hamburger and french fry night.  There were a lot of reasons that I liked to eat my Nana and Pappy’s; one of those reasons was that they had “real” milk.  It was always very cold because that’s the way Pappy liked it and there was always plenty.  They had a special half-gallon carton holder that looked like this:

When my younger sister started school and had “real” milk every day, she began refusing to drink the powdered milk at home.  While I hadn’t been brave enough to do this on my own, I quickly followed her lead and my mom gave up and began to buy “real” milk.  I started drinking skim about 30 years ago and I’m still a big milk drinker all these years later.  My mom doesn’t understand how I can drink skim and  has suggested more than once that I “might as well go back to powdered milk”.  Yes, after all these years, she still remembers how we “forced” her to buy milk.

My milkman told me yesterday when he was making our delivery that big local dairies are going to discontinue skim milk production for a bit.  Apparently skim milk requires more steps and production time; during our current crisis, trying to keep up with demand means cutting out skim so more easily produced milks can make it to market faster.  Who would have thought?  Guess I’ll be on a higher fat milk for a while.

Do you remember any meals you enjoyed at your grandparents’?

Birth Announcement

The Birch Aquarium is throwing a baby shower!  They have just welcome two very rare babies – weedy sea dragons.  Apparently sea dragons  are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity and the aquarium has been trying for years.

Sea dragons, as you can see, look like little flotsams of seaweed and are actually distant cousins to the seahorse.  The Birch actually acquired their first sea dragons after years of successful work with other sea horse varieties.  In the wild, most sea dragon species call the waters of Australia home.

The two new additions are about an inch long and will feed primarily on shrimp, like their parents.  At this point, it is now known the gender of the babies; according to the Birch, they “likely won’t know until they reach sexual maturity in a few years. “This bit of sea dragon news caught my eye because we have sea dragons at the Minnesota Zoo; we’ve had them for years, so I didn’t realize they were rare.  In fact, while YA is joyfully trailing her hands in the shark/ray pool (which she can do for a LONG time), I almost always wander over to watch the sea dragons.  Their alcove is kept dark and they are mesmerizing as they float through their habitat, their “weeds” floating gracefully around them.

Do you have a favorite exotic animal?

It Hits Home!

It says a lot about you when you really decide that there is a crisis going on.  Work from home? Concert cancelled? Dog class postponed? Even the decision to stay away from Target for now didn’t bring it home to me until this:  Tuesday morning I got a note that the Hennepin County Library is closed until at least April 6.  Oh, the inhumanity!

Of course, it’s ridiculous to think this will have a serious impact on my life.  First off, I still have 14 books checked out; the library computer generously changed all the due dates to April, even the interlibrary loans.  Second off, there are tons of audio books online and I could always break down by reading books on my phone or pc.  Then there is the third off; I probably have 50 non-library books in the house that I haven’t read yet either.  I don’t think I have to panic.  Matbe Funny Planet by Ken Jennings (the Jeopardy guy) will be my next read.

What’s up next on your reading list?

Sticking Point

Yesterday was my first mandatory day to work from home. My office went from a surprising “you can work from home all you want” on Wednesday to “we strongly encourage you to work from home” on Thursday to “why are you here?” on Friday. I’m bright. I can take a hint.

So for the first time in 30+ years, on Friday afternoon I packed up my computer, my binders, my headset, my little box of pens, got a ream of paper for printing and headed out. Then promptly went back in and got my plant.

Over the weekend I thought about how my day would be different working from home. First, I would gain close to an hour by chopping off my morning and afternoon commutes. Then there would be my lunch hour, which I normally speed in my cube, sometimes working, sometimes reading. I decided that I wanted to put that extra time to good use – intentionally.

So today, I read a little longer in the morning, worked on a project during “lunch” and then at 4:30, took Guinevere for a little walk. Nothing big or earth-shaking, but at the end of the day I didn’t feel quite so stuck in the house. I’m not sure yet what other intentional things I will do in the next couple of weeks; I don’t want every day to be the same. But I do know that yesterday felt good and I wasn’t nearly as unhappy working from home as I thought I might be.

How do YOU get “unstuck”?

Unplugging! / Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Photo credit: Crissy Jarvis

I had already begun a tech-related post about social media, (see below) and then found on my Firefox start-up page a notice about National Day of Unplugging

beginning this Friday at sundown. This, then, is the Public Service Announcement segment of the post.

According to one study:

75% of Americans spend 3 or more hours per day on their devices (smart phones, tablets, computers);

48% use the devices 5 or more hours; and

32% check in before getting out of bed in the morning.

I know myself well enough that I will probably not wean myself from my computer for an entire 24 hours, but will try to cut down during that period. (I don’t have a smart phone, and rarely use our tablet.)

Meanwhile, here’s the post I’d already started:  Should I stay or should I go?

A California friend recently posted one last item on her Facebook timeline, saying: “I’m going inactive on FB. A book can change me and THIS ONE DID… Picture the same posts: me baking, fostering senior dogs, meeting up with friends and reading, and watching Netflix, and volunteering, and going to Church. Contact me via email for a while.”

The book in question is Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts RIGHT NOW, by Jaron Lanier, a virtual reality pioneer. From the book’s dust cover:  “Lanier’s… reasons include its tendency to bring out the worst in us, to make politics terrifying, to trick us with illusions of popularity and success, to twist our relationship with the truth, to disconnect us from other people even as we are more ‘connected’ than ever, and to rob us of our free will with relentless targeted ads.” It’s not a huge book, just 144 smallish pages, and he skims over a lot of detail (and gives numbered references to innumerable online articles). I understood maybe 1/3 of what I was reading.

But he’s right about the Big Brother aspect to our current online society. I hate it when I go to, say, a Perkins restaurant (and pay by credit card), and see online the next day (for the first time) ads for Perkins’ Signature Burgers. It’s creepy – I feel like I’ve been spied upon. I’m sure you can all relate similar happenings.

Oxford’s definition of social media reads:  “Social media is computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts, and information through the building of virtual networks and communities. … Users engage with social media via computer, tablet or smartphone via web-based software or web application, often utilizing it for messaging.”

I got on Facebook years ago so I could see photos of far flung relatives, especially the little kids who are growing up so fast. Lately I find myself getting on sporadically, but once I’m on I seem to be addicted for days. I have also been addicted at times to msn.com’s news feed (which is full of junk), and of course I find myself checking emails – and this blog – multiple times on days when I’m home. And I’m starting to play Spider Solitaire more often… Who knows what I’d do if I had a smart phone!

Are you comfortable with your level of involvement on social media?

If not, what would you like to change?

Auto Update

Finally – some science I can completely get behind! An article last week declared that drivers of expensive cars are jerks.

One study measured this by clocking vehicles at various crossroads. It found that drivers of more “flashy vehicles” are less likely to stop for pedestrians.  And not just that, but as the cost of the car goes up, the likelihood that the driver will even slow down decreases.  The researchers speculate that luxury car owners “feel a sense of superiority over other road users” and were thus less able to empathize with lowly sidewalk-dwellers.  And I’m sure no one will be surprised that the race and gender of the pedestrian matters as well.

Apparently this discovery of a car-value-to-jerkish-behavior correlation isn’t new; The Journal of Transport and Health, backed up a Finnish study published in January found that men who own flashy vehicles are more likely to be “argumentative, stubborn, disagreeable and unempathetic.” According to the study “these personality traits explain the desire to own high-status products, and the same traits also explain why such people break traffic regulations more frequently than others.”

Obviously no one wants to tar every single luxury-car owner with one broad brush, but the generalities don’t look good. We just have to worry about how all the small, cheap, beater car owners will now feel smug!

What’s one extra component you’d like to have on your car? Extra smugness points to anybody who doesn’t have a car!!

My London Jumper

Last week, on what may very well have been the last below-freezing day we have this winter, I pulled what I lovingly refer to as “my London jumper” out of my closet. I bought this sweater over 30 years ago; it is black with various bright-colored threads woven through out – yellow, turquoise, red and blue.  It is a turtle neck and very warm so doesn’t get worn too often each winter.

When I went to London about 5 years back, I packed the sweater, thinking it might be a good thing for a chilly British evening (and, of course, it goes with anything). I did end up wearing it on the evening we visited the Aqua Shard, a restaurant on the 34th and 35th floor of The Shard, the tallest building in the U.K.   The group I was with had a few drinks and were coming down in the elevator when a young man (probably in his early 30s) noticed my sweater, or “jumper” as they say across the pond.  He gushed over my sweater, made sure everyone in the elevator noticed it and eventually put his arms around me and asked if I wanted to join his little group.  Obviously there was some alcohol involved.  I said no and at the end of the elevator ride, his group and mine went our separate ways.

I’ve told this story to a few folks over the years but last week, when someone asked me about it, they were horrified about the fact that I was “assaulted” (their word) on a work trip. Had I reported it in London?  Did I report it at work once I got home?  I feel strongly about the MeToo movement but I don’t believe that every time one person touches another, it is “assault”.  I was in a large group of people in the elevator, some of whom were with me, the young man was not aggressive, his hug did not include any kind of groping and importantly, when we got to the ground floor, he didn’t make any attempt to force me to go with his group.  I didn’t feel a moment of anxiety and I actually laughed at the time – not out of nervousness, but because I genuinely found the whole scenario funny.

So I still think of this sweater fondly as my “London jumper” as it reminds me of an amusing experience on a nice trip.

Does any of your clothing have a backstory?