6

Do I Know You?

I decided to get back on Facebook. This is my third attempt. The first time a few years ago resulted in a serious addiction to Farmville and its various relatives. I was away for eight months and came back “clean”. I lasted a couple of months and got bored. So I went away again. I started feeling  bad about asking people to read the blog without showing any interest in what they were doing. I thought it might help if I went back and started reading their posts.

It wasn’t difficult getting back it. I’d been getting emails every day (it seemed) that I had “notifications” waiting. The notifications usually seemed to be someone inviting me to a game I had never heard of.  After going cold turkey a couple of years ago, I’m afraid to even look at another game. What if I fall prey to a dancing cookie or something?

The other type of notification was someone asking me to “like” some obscure page. While I have no issue with the “Don’t Bludgeon Baby Animals” type, I have no appetite for the “Like Dr. Smith. He Has the Answer to All of Life’s Questions.” From what I can tell, if I like something it goes up on my wall for everyone to see. It also goes on that crawl on the right side of the screen, although things pass through there fairly quickly. What if the world knows that Dr. Smith has just been arrested for fraud? Will my “friends” still “like” me? Will they respect me in the morning?

About those “friends”. I forget how I originally started, but a lot of my first friends were people I had known in high school. The last time I was back, my daughter taught me how to “un-follow” people without “un-friending” them. It worked really well. When I came back there were only a couple of people in the feed who I really didn’t know. One of them, I have no idea whatsoever who she is or where she came from.

The last time I was on, I got a feed question from someone thinking it would be interesting to find out where she met her “friends”. Oddly enough, I had been trying to figure out who she was for a couple of weeks. I responded with that answer. I don’t think we’re friends anymore. (Am I missing the point of Facebook in only connecting with people I actually recognize?)

Now that I have winnowed my feed to the people I actually know, I have discovered that the vast majority of my feed is from the same few people. Some of them have lives that are interesting enough to fill the space. A few search the web for pictures and quotations they like. A few seem to use it as a way to share every thought they have.

I don’t have a problem with any of that. I just don’t know how to join. My life is not that interesting, and I really don’t have any fun pictures to share. Does anyone really care that I almost ran over a bunny yesterday morning (not really)? Or that the cats have caught three mice in the last week (really)? Things that would be a throwaway in person seem to have an increased sense of importance when you write it down.

Worse yet, I really don’t get the “liking” idea (I have the same problem on WordPress). I haven’t fully accepted the concept that people have no idea whether or not I have read what they have written. “Liking” is not required to avoid hurting their feelings. Conversely, I guess I could write whatever I want since very few of my “friends” would see it anyway.

When you “like” someone’s post, do you actually have to like it? Is it like nodding your head to indicate that you are paying attention to what the person is saying? Or is it full buy-in for whatever they are talking about?

If someone “likes” my comment does it mean that they agree with me? Or do they just like the way I said it?

How many cute pictures of their families do people really think everyone wants to look at? On a daily basis? Do people ever think about their audience?

If someone sends me a link that doesn’t work, do I tell them? One guy sent me a link to like his company. When I followed the link it took me to a page for something else with a pop-up to go to the page to like his company. I didn’t like the company that much and left.

I didn’t give them much personal history to use for advertising. My location matches the information I gave them for high school and college. So I’m not really getting personalized ads companies want. I’m just getting a lot of them scattered all over the place. My friends and likes are pretty esoteric too. I am not a marketers dream. I’m guessing that the longer I’m on, the more the ads will standardize. I can hardly wait.

The one thing I do like about Facebook is the chatting. It’s great to be able to actually “talk” to people I never get to see. However, being on at 3a seems to have cut down on the number of people I can find to chat with. I need to get some friends overseas.

So I’m friends with people I don’t know and like things that are merely statements of fact. No wonder they call it virtual reality.

 

2

Attention Velveetistas!

At work, we have been getting callers anxiously wondering whether we still have any Velveeta left. As you may be aware, Kraft is warning that there have been production problems which may create a shortage of the pseudo-cheese affecting Super Bowl parties. No problem, you think, I’ll switch to guacamole. Wrong. Avocado shortage due to drought in California. Maybe I’ll go retro with a fondue theme. Wrong again. Cacao bean shortage due to poor growing conditions in Africa. It’s starting to sound like a crisis.

My first instinct was to send you to Facebook. You may not be aware, but you can “friend” Velveeta. It has thousands of “friends”, and I am sure that some chat group has addressed the possibility of a Velveeta-free Super Bowl party. They might also point out that there is something called Queso Blanco Velveeta. You might consider making your queso dip out of Queso Velveeta which does not enjoy the popularity of “real” Velveeta and is still plentiful.

However, I have a better idea. Why don’t you use the opportunity to try out something really unique? I have done a little rooting around and come up with some foods that should make your party the talk of the water-cooler (or ER) for days. I’m not really sure where to get some of this stuff, although I would guess that most of it can be found for sale on the Internet. I found the foods at BootsnAll.com, a travel site. It’s too late to make most of them at home, so try a sampler before you plan for next year. And don’t forget the beer. Lots and lots of beer.

We can start with the insects. We all have bugs flying around. Why not make them useful? In Southeast Asia, you can get silkworms, grasshoppers or water bugs fried, roasted or toasted. Since it’s been so cold and snowy this winter, I would recommend ordering out, but you can probably go to the pet-food store and have a do-it-yourself kind of thing during halftime.

Staying in the Far East, you may want to try the Cambodian treat of deep-fried tarantula. You need to keep them in the deep-fryer until the legs are stiff. You may season them however you wish. Although obviously you cannot dip them in Velveeta this year. You probably stand the best chance of getting fresh tarantula in the Southwest this time of year. Do not use your room-mate’s pet.

Korea is the home of the next dish. Sannakji is made by chopping a live baby octopus into several pieces, seasoning it with sesame seeds and oil, and serving it immediately. If prepared and presented correctly, the parts will still be wriggling on the plate. This dish is properly served with chopsticks. The suction cups on the tentacles are still active and will stick in your mouth or throat until thoroughly chewed. If a tentacle gets caught in someone’s throat, it may very well choke them. Please watch your guests closely if you serve this dish.

If you want to wash your Asian foods down with an authentic beverage, you could try some Vietnamese snake wine. A venomous snake is left to steep in rice wine for many months to let the poison dissolve in the wine. The ethanol makes the venom inactive, and the snake is said to have significant medicinal value. The wine may be classified as a rose due to the snake blood imparting an attractive pink color. There are variations on this wine across Southeast Asia, including one where the belly of the snake is sliced open to let the blood drain into the wine and served immediately. Of course you could also try some plain rice wine. Some folks will still opt for Coors (especially the Denver fans).

Lest you think I am fixated on the Asians, I will move on to Europe. Sweden gives us surstomming, fermented Baltic herring. The herring is caught just prior to spawning and fermented in barrels. After a couple of months, the fermentation continues in the can. You may want to open it outside or the house will smell like fermented fish. It can be eaten with flat crispy bread and boiled potatoes. Ritz crackers would probably work. It is popular with beer, so it is the perfect Super Bowl treat.

The Ukraine brings us salo. It is a slab of cured fatback sliced and served on a piece of bread. Once again Ritz is an option. It is generally served with vodka. But it sounds pretty close to some of the things my grandma ate in upper Michigan, so I imagine it would go just fine with beer.

Here’s something that may not taste any better than it sounds: lutefisk. It’s from Norway and Sweden, and is very popular there. I’m told they also eat a lot of it in Minnesota and the upper Midwest. Must have something to do with being in the snow so much of the year. Fish, traditionally cod, is aged in lye for several months. I have heard that it has a strong odor, but have never heard the odor described. It becomes gelatinous in the lye (so you may be able to eat it on a Ritz with some effort).

Still looking? Let’s go back to insects. Or insect larvae. In more proof that we really are a global village, I have larvae snacks from both the Old World and the New. First, from Sardinia we have casu marzu, also known as maggot cheese. The farmer introduces the larvae of the cheese fly to the sheep’s milk cheese. Fermentation is caused by the larvae digesting the cheese fats. It must be eaten while the maggots are alive or it becomes toxic. The EU has banned casu marzu, but you can still get it on the black market in Sardinia and Italy. We do have an extradition agreement with the EU which could be an added cost.

On this side of the Pond, we have Mexican escamoles. Escarmoles are ant larvae which are eaten in tacos with guacamole. They are said to taste nutty and buttery. Since guacamole may also be pricey this year, you would be serving a true delicacy.

My next three foods are found in the U.S., so they may already be known to you. We have scorpion suckers, Rocky Mountain Oysters, and pickled pigs feet. Scorpion suckers are exactly that: scorpions in candy on a stick. Pickled pigs’ feet are pork bits in brine. And Rocky Mountain Oysters are a type of seafood.

Not so fast. To make the oysters, you take the testicles of bulls and peel them. Coat them in flour and seasonings; deep fry them. Then serve them up with dipping sauce. It sounds like the perfect macho snack for the Super Bowl. You can follow them up with fish and chips gelato from Australia, which is what it sounds like: ice cream flavored as fish and chips.

After all these choices, you’re gonna sound kinda lame if you opt for cut-up vegetables or chips and dip.

5

What is Your Pet Wearing This Halloween?

Our cats haven’t been invited to any Halloween parties this year. Probably because we took away their Facebook pages. They were using them to lure unsuspecting mice over for “parties”. Now we’ve “ruined their lives forever”.

(Important Note: I am obviously a cat lover. Before we go any further, I should also mention that I would never own a dog under 40 lbs and prefer them larger than that.)

Everyday at work, I walk past the pet supplies (it’s on the way to the breakroom). For the past few weeks I have been noticing the pet costumes. Valuing my blood, I have never considered putting a costume on any cat who’s owned me. It seems that in the cat world, kittens are cute and cats are elegant. And elegant does not want to dress up like a banana. I thought our assortment was rather far-ranging with animals (tigers, sharks, pigs, lions), food (hot dogs, pumpkins, bananas), and other (bees, convicts, college team jerseys). Little did I know.

I went online to see what else was available, just in case. The first thing I learned was that cat costumes are significantly different than dog costumes. Apparently I am not the only one with a fear of pushing feline feet into a clown costume. With one exception, they were all hats or things that go around the cat’s waist (do cats have waists?). I found tutus, wings, a clown ruffle and hat, a devil hood (stop the jokes dog lovers), a princess hat (obvious choice), and a cowboy hat with bandana. I did not find a cat looking amused in any of the pictures.

The same site had over 300 costumes for dogs. I think my favorite was the movie starlet: satiny dress, blonde wig, and fake boobs. It seems that it would give the dog body image issues. A couple of the others I thought were a little unusual were the watermelon fairy, the flower fairy, the woopie cushion, the mermaid, and the putter pup (tam, shirt, and pants). The cave dog was adorable. I’m not really sure how the dog picks out the costume he/she wants to wear. There must be some kind of system though: some of the dogs looked pretty happy and some looked miserable (they could have been channeling the cats, I suppose). Maybe it depends on whether “Mommy” listened to what the dog wanted or picked out something she thought was cute, but in reality the other dogs would laugh at. These costumes were all in the 415 – $45 range, but on sale at 20% off.

Another mistake I made was assuming that costumes were all for small dogs. There is also a site that caters to large dogs (shepherds and retrievers not mastiffs and newfies). I discovered that large dogs prefer to wear uniforms – police, fire, vets. There was also a devil outfit. I really liked the grrrroovy dog (looked like Jimi Hendrix) and the pop king dog (looked like Howard Stern). These dogs all looked pretty content. Guess it’s easier when no one’s trying to get you to wear tulle.

Of course I had to look at clearance. That section was almost entirely NFL-related. The dog could get sweaters, cheerleader uniforms, jerseys, and/or t-shirts. I noticed there wasn’t anything for my team, the Detroit Lions. I would like to think that it’s because there is no market, not because I am going to be seeing lots of dogs in ill-fitting clothes all over the state.

Since things are already on mark-down and clearance, it won’t be long before they start to run out of the favorites. Be sure to pick up something soon, even if it’s just for the picture on your Halloween cards (if you procrastinate like I do, you can use it for Christmas). If you wait too long you will have to use the hair dye gels and go as Nicki Minaj or Lady Gaga or go retro as a ghost in a pillow case

1

The Peasants are Rioting in the Streets

It is doubtful that Marie Antoinette ever said, “Let them eat cake.” For one thing, by the time things were quiet enough to write things down, everyone who would have been present had been separated from his/her head and was unable to verify the quote. It’s too bad they didn’t have Facebook (the Queen sounds like the type who would have loved tagging pictures). It appears that things stay on there forever.

The exchange kept coming to mind last week at work. You may recall me talking about a woman who was told that she couldn’t take a vacation because they are too short-staffed in the deli. She has chosen to retire at the beginning of December. She’s decided that if they are that short-staffed, once winter arrives she’ll be stuck by herself on the days when everyone else is either sick or staying home because of the snow . I’m guessing that was not the company’s goal when they denied the vacation.

I learned that a couple of Saturdays ago, they were short-staffed (surprise!!), There were only three people on the counter, scheduled in such a way that one person would be alone at the end of her shift. It was so busy, that they weren’t able to take their breaks. When they called management to say they needed coverage for lunch, management told them to stay on the counter. The best part was that the team leader left before noon because she had to go to a birthday party. (They probably ate cake.)

The union steward reprimanded the team leader and manager. I’m sure the employees felt much better knowing that management is now aware that employees should be allowed to go to lunch. Apparently, Ralph’s does not know that the Department of Labor also has an issue with making people work for 8 hours without a break. (I think France had indentured servants prior to the Revolution, so we’re still on track).

Moving on to Tuesday, one of the male stockers came in and said he needed the rest of the week off because his grandmother was having surgery (that’s more time than he would have gotten if she died). The team leader said he would have to tell the manager, apparently thinking this would dissuade him from leaving. The manager looked at him in disbelief and let him go. I guess the way to get time off is just to say you are going.

He decided that he could be back on Friday.  The team leader switched the other stocker’s day off from Wednesday to Friday to cover. When the first stocker came back, he was angry because he didn’t have any help on his busiest day. Guess he didn’t get the message about being short-staffed. He lost all sympathy when we discovered that the surgery was for a knee infection, not something life-threatening. The team leader lost all sympathy when she welcomed him back like a returning hero.

One of the people who needs to keep filling the staffing holes has a job similar to mine, except in the “fine” cheese (you can pronounce all the ingredients, but not the names of the cheeses). The team leader kept asking for “favors”. Finally the woman ignored one of the “requests”. The team leader told her she had to see the manager NOW. I guess it’s like being sent to the principal’s office.

Finally, I was sick on Thursday (one point on my record, no pay). Of course, no one could cover. On Friday, the manager comes by and says that the vice-president is expected and I need to fill in the holes before I do anything else. I’m not sure what he meant – the whole section was holes. Not that it matters. In the (almost) two years I’ve been there, she has never even looked in my direction on one of her tours. And she didn’t look this time either.

I really think all we need is a leader and something to tear down.