Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The bloom is off the rose (and brand) at Bloom's

Bloom, a relatively new entrant to DC grocery marketing, blossomed in Rockville last year. And blossomed it did: there isn't one department that isn't simply splendid. The store features a good bakery, prodigious produce, delectable meat and seafood, and just about everything else you can imagine. Unlike Safeway or Giant, it is actually fun shopping at Bloom.

Bloom's marketing department created a glorious look and feel for the chain. The corporate palette includes saturated food-based colors, such as avocado, apple red, blueberry, plum, and wheat. While the logo's lower-case lettering conveys a friendly openness, the store's icon seems like it will start to spin any moment, leaving shoppers feeling energized and excited.

All of this sounds great because it is. But Bloom suffers from two enormous problems: ridiculously high prices and virtually zero customer service.

Problem Number 1: Bloom's prices are outrageous. Granted, Bloom is on par with Safeway (which is also obnoxiously overpriced), but unless you're a rich heiress, you'll be planning to live in the gutter by the time you finish your shopping trip. I went to Bloom yesterday to get a halfway-decent deal on New York strip steaks ($5.99/pound) and ended up doing the rest of my shopping there. My goal was to make a ham and veggie fettucine dish for my boyfriend - that doesn't sound particularly expensive, does it? But here's how it added up at Bloom:

  • 1 ham steak $5.29
  • 1 bunch of asparagus $ 3.99
  • 1 yellow pepper $1.76
  • 1 red pepper $1.96
  • 2 tomatoes $3.78
  • 1 package shredded mozzarella $2.99

Grand total? $19.77. For ONE meal! I realize that we're in a recession/depression and that it's the middle of winter and the vegetables are out of season, but c'mon, this is ridiculous. I wasn't making filet mignon, for God's sake. Bloom proves to be simply too expensive for weekly shopping. Next time, I'll go in for the steak sale and leave with one package of meat - that's it, that's all.

Problem Number 2: At Bloom, you get virtually no service. When you first enter the store, you are faced with a huge rack of self-scanning devices. The idea is that you scan products before you place them in your cart. When you are finished shopping, the device calculates your total and allows you to pay via a self-service kiosk when you are finished shopping. I tried this exactly once. It took me at least twice as long to do my grocery shopping using this newfangled pricing gun. Forget it. My time is worth a lot more than that. I want to get in and get out, no matter how pretty the store is.

Bloom's we-offer-no-service pledge goes deeper however. The store's employees routinely badger shoppers into using the self-check out aisles. During a busy shopping day, Bloom opens six self-service lanes and only ONE full-service lane; full-service means you have someone scan and bag your groceries. Not a lot in terms of service, right? Don't you expect your grocery store to provide grocery clerks to ring up your groceries and bag them? At Bloom, the management apparently thinks customer service is a big luxury - one they are are not going to provide if they can possibly help it - even if you are paying through the nose for their products.

I don't think the gas station self-service approach works in a grocery store environment - especially one that charges you a premium price for groceries. America started pumping its own gas during the 1970s gas crisis because it cost us less to fill our tanks. We might consider scanning and bagging our own groceries if it meant we could save some dough - but Bloom is asking us to serve ourselves and pay a higher price to do so.

Bloom's brand suffers greatly under these policies. Bloom could be greatly improved by lowering prices and increasing the number of open full-service lanes. Without these changes, the company will surely wither otherwise.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A dire warning for materialistic women

I just DESPISE those holiday Lexus commercials in which the husband gives the wife the keys to her dream car and then everyone lives happily ever after. Mega blech! (Maybe I hate these ads because I've paid for every penny of every car I've ever owned. I apparently have bad karma in the rich-man-buys-chick-a-fancy-new-automobile department.)

Given this predilection, you'll understand why I love the following video. One of my aunts thinks it's a riot and the other thinks its sexist - and they are both right. Watch.

Impeccably timed, this faux commercial rings true as everyone reconsiders their own accumulated excesses. This video points out what we all know to be true: it is best to appreciate what we have and to always remember what's really important in life.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Living Large

I saw this "Living Large" graphic recently in a magazine (Better Homes & Garden? House Beautiful? Don't remember.) I was struck by how much has changed during my time on the planet - and I'm not talking about the Cold War, global warming, or Richard Simmons either.

Very little has gotten smaller - including ourselves. In 1950, most women wore a size 12; most American women now sport size 16s. (The real question is: why do manufacturers persist in making so many more clothes for skinny chicks if most American women are plus-size?)

After all these years of upsizing, one trend to watch is downsizing. Not just in terms of baby boomers dealing with empty nests, but the reduction of everything we've been overdoing for the past several decades. It will be interesting to do a comparison 50 years from now to see if plate and home sizes have retracted. If our bodies continue to grow, wouldn't you bet that acre-sized bath towels will be all the rage?

Use this posting as a reminder that your marketing and your messaging need to evolve as the world changes. What was right yesterday might not be right for today. As an example, after September 11, the world - and every conceivable product - was adorned in American flags. Now red, white, and blue comes off very gray - especially here in Washington. People aren't less patriotic; they just don't wear the Grand Ole Flag on everything they own anymore. It's a good thing. Let's let the flag wear the flag.

Speaking of living large, I wish you larger-than-life holidays, ones you will remember (in a good way!) forever. Merry whatever! Enjoy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A dolphin daydream

Oh, the weather outside is frightful! It is SO damn cold here today - 22 degrees by my car therometer's count. I'm dreaming not of the white Christmas like the one I used to know, but the tropical, sunny Feliz Navidad that would warm my soul and allow me to relax.

Since I can't escape to the islands, I am daydreaming about dallying with dolphins. Join me. Just watch.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Forget Costco - Get even cheaper funerary products on Ebay!

In the market for a discount funeral? I wrote recently about Costco's foray into the wonderful world of funerals, put today I found a new vendor: eBay.

I was poking around in eBay "Everything Else" category and came across "Funeral and Cemetery." Maybe because I'll soon turn 50 and therefore am facing my inevitable death, I couldn't resist evaluating my options. Here's what I found:

"casket pine jewish green-friendly funeral home hearse - caskets non-imported, built in Missouri pine painted." Let me rewrite this fairly nonsensical auction description for you. The seller represents Missouri Amish craftsmen who make pine caskets because they think Jewish people prefer simple burial devices that rot in an environmentally better way. Selling for $500 to $1000 with free shipping, these caskets are available in the color of your choice. "You may order custom colors for these caskets. We order all of our paint from Sherwin-Williams so that you can go to your local Sherwin-Williams and choose a color that you would like." Wonderful! Now I can match my casket to my plum pumps!

Next up: how about a "VELVET CASKET COFFIN COVER/CHAISE/BEDSPREAD/COUCH COVER"? The seller elaborates, "Here is a dynamite fabulous very old coffin/casket cover in crushed green velvet... There are so many unusual uses, a shawl, a drape, a couch cover {what a great conversation piece}, even a bedspread on a single bed, or a cover for a fainting couch or chaise cover, or use it as a coffin cover for a recently deceased loved one." Uh... I'll pass. Sleeping with an old coffin cover gives me the creeps. But Scarlet O'Hara did make that fab dress out of her mother's velvet drapes - you might give her a call. She could Buy It Now for only $89.99!

For the more stylish, richer corpse, you might consider the "Brushed Lilac/Lilac Shaded Coppertone Finish Casket." This coffin is manufactured by Cornerstone Casket, LLC, a company "well positioned to capitalize on the Asia manufacturing phenomenon now underway, to provide the funeral industry in the North American market the best value caskets available." However, they do admit what all coffin makers must admit: THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC OR OTHER EVIDENCE THAT ANY CASKET WITH SEALING DEVICE WILL PRESERVE HUMAN REMAINS." Well, I was seeking that ashes to ashes, dust to dust thing anyway. And guess what kids? This is the exact same coffin Costco sells for $924! Better comparison shop.

Finally, for the budget-conscious handyman, just DIY! eBay has just the book for you: "Do It Yourself Coffins for Pets and People." The seller states (and I'm not kidding here)that the author "departs from his usual animal carvings, burying himself in a new art form - the manufacture of special boxes for pets and people. Here's one project you won't want to put off until tomorrow... One box design even doubles as a beautiful blanket chest or coffee table!" The seller also reassures shoppers that purchases made by Friday will arrive in time for Christmas and that the company can "ship anywhere - even to your loved ones cross country or overseas."

(Sadly, the funerary product most often sold on eBay is baby caskets, which is far too sad to satirize. I feel terribly for anyone who has to bury a child.)

I could go on, but that's enough of this dead issue. Happy funeral shopping, kids! And Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Last pug post for a while - I promise

No more pug posts after this one, I promise. But my brother sent me this adorable video this morning and I can't resist.

For folks who are unfamiliar with the ubiquitous pug head tilt, let me explain. The head tilt, which occurs when you offer these muzzle-free dogs alluring goods or services, empirically proves that pugs actually have a working brain. This is important because when they're not tilting their heads, they're sleeping. Or eating. Or whining. That's it.

Check out this trifecta of pug head tilts. It's a complete hoot.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Me dog is a lazy wanker

Moose, my beloved pug, spent his childhood with three exceptionally sedentary cats and therefore learned to do little more than sleep and eat. Twice a day, he opens one eye, yawns, stretches, and then asks impolitely to be let out to defecate. If you don't believe me, the following delivers incontrovertible video evidence. Don't worry... it's just the sleeping part of the above equation.

I was okay with my Rip Van Winkle dog until I saw an amazing border collie named Gin compete on Britain's version of "American Isle." Although this pup cannot speak (read my previous post), she certainly gets up and boogies, making herself the British female equivalent of John Travolta. Gin, who is clearly a brilliant dog, was trained by her equally talented and only 16-year-old owner, Kate. You've got to see it. Watch. And smile.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Canine chatter

You thought dogs couldn't talk? Baloney. I present a new talking dogs video, along with my all-time favorite, Odie the Pug, who lovingly squawks "I ruv roo!"

Monday, December 8, 2008

Too broke to croak? Call Costco

Looking for a way to trim funeral expenses this holiday season? Need some serious savings on Fido's urn? Or next-day delivery on that copper-colored casket? Then call Costco.

You know we're in an economic downturn when Costco starts peddling funerals. No, this isn't a joke or a skit from Saturday Live. This is America 2008 where you just can't afford to die.

Like the Washington Post's we-watch-so-you-don't-have-to TV column, I present the bottom line on Costco's funeral supplies:
  • Currently, caskets can only be purchased from and shipped to addresses in the following states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. (Too bad, Marylanders and Virginians - no service for you).

  • A casket ordered for expedited delivery will arrive by 5 p.m. (your local time) the following day (Monday-Friday, excluding holidays). Unfortunately, expedited delivery is NOT available in all areas, so it's best to put Grandma on ice for a few days.

  • Acts of God, weather-related conditions and states of emergencies can delay delivery beyond the stated delivery parameters. In other words, be prepared to keep Grandma on the aforementioned ice for a couple of weeks, just in case.

  • will only accept returns of caskets due to freight or cosmetic damage from shipping. Can't change your mind, kids. Better agree on Mom's casket now because otherwise you've got one huge, creepy coffee table to fight over.

  • Most importantly, Costco wants you to know, and I quote here (including the capital letters): "THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC OR OTHER EVIDENCE THAT ANY CASKET WITH A SEALING DEVICE WILL PRESERVE HUMAN REMAINS." Ashes to ashes, dust to dust - the ultimate act of God. Sorry, Costco offers no guarantee that in 2000 years, some inquisitive antropologist will be able to dig up your sorry ass.

I'm a big proponent of cheap funerals. I'd much rather see all that money go to some good cause - as the case may be.

But when it's time for me to leave this world, I hope my heirs won't be so desperate as to go funeral shopping at Costco. Instead, just give my body to science. It'll save you a pile of dough and hopefully do some good for this world, too.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

It should have been Chuckie T

As a near-constant-devotee of MSNBC, I was devastated when Tim Russert died suddenly in June. My boyfriend called me when he heard the news because he knew I'd be beside myself - and I was. Tim Russert can never be replaced. Ever.

Tim left some very big shoes to fill at NBC News in general and at Meet the Press specifically. There has been much speculation about the heir apparent to the Peacock throne and apparently the king-elect is David Gregory. He is expected to replace guest host Tom Brokaw in the coming weeks.

I like David Gregory. I even met him once at a Rockville restaurant. At that point, he was the White House correspondent who did weekend fill-in gigs on the Today Show. When he and his wife and three young kids came into the crowded cafe. I recognized him immediately. First, he's got that fabulous head of white hair, and secondly, he's about 400-feet tall. You couldn't miss this guy if you tried, which is probably why NBC selected him.

Gregory stood impatiently waiting for a large enough table. Who could blame him - trying to keep three little children happy and quiet is no easy task. I called over my waitress, relinquished my large booth to his family, and moved to a smaller table because it was a nice thing to do. But I was also agog because he was a broadcast news celebrity - literally the top of the gene pool in my little world.

After I moved to the smaller table, David Gregory came over, smiled that huge smile, and thanked me for my generosity. I was transformed instantly into a simpy school girl. Gushing the gushiest gush of all gushes, I exclaimed, "Oh, I just love you on TV!" ACK!!!!! GAG! Going gooey over David Gregory is one of the top five greatest gaffes of my life. I'd do anything to take it back, anything. I was so... nauseating!

So much for my brush with a news celebrity.

But back to my original point. If I was Queen for a Day at NBC News, I would tap Chuck Todd as the next host of Meet The Press. I am a true Chuckolyte (and yes, that's the term - see Viva Chuck Todd and Chuckolyte if you don't believe me).

Andrew Tyndall at the The Huffington Post describes Chuck Todd this way:

NBC's political director is no smooth, sophisticated on-air presence--but neither was Russert when he took the job back in 1991. His call of Campaign 2008 has been exemplary throughout the primary season so he obviously has a spot-on sense of the political pulse. The public policy and foreign policy aspects of Meet the Press would be unchartered territory.

Chuck's down-to-earth, real-guy persona is indeed Russertesque. This explains his appeal. He's not the 6'5 gorgeous and perfectly coiffed David Gregory. Todd is imminently watchable because his love of politics, his zest in being on the ground, in the numbers, figuring it all out - just like Russert. If Chuck Todd whipped out Tim Russert's whiteboard, no one would be surprised. It would just seem right.

Todd presents as an apparent non-partisan, just like Russert. We may guess that these two journalists harbor liberal feelings, but they didn't show. On a network filled with big-personality opinionators like Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, Todd offers balance and needed bipartisanship.

Chuck Todd is young and new, which is why NBC News won't select him. It would take vision and courage to choose this new guy to take that great old guy's place. NBC News once had mucho cajones - that's why they picked Russert. But now they'll take the safe route and crown David Gregory.

What a shame. If Tim were still here, he'd be the leading advocate for Chuck Todd. For this and a million other reasons, it's too bad Russert is gone.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Destiny Calls "Lost"

Destiny calls! Finally!

After spending half of 2008 watching every episode of "Lost" with my boyfriend, Tom and I now breathlessly await the series return on Wednesday, January 21. (ABC, Channel 27 in DC, 8:00 - don't miss it!)

The fifth season sports a new tagline: Destiny Calls. This apparently refers to the Oceanic 6 - Jack, Kate, Hurley, Sayid, Sun, and Aaron - who despite being rescued 108 days after the crash, heed their fate and return to the island. How this is possible, I don't know, because among other things, the island miraculously disappeared last season.

The series trailer also shows Kate and Jack getting engaged (and married?) and raising Claire's son, Aaron. It looks like Jon Locke is alive and well even though he purportedly committed suicide last season (thank God... as a middle aged mamma, that dude is HOT!). And of course, the evil Ben is back another season to torture and manipulate everyone, especially Jack.

Don't know about you, but when destiny calls, I answer. I'm even going to coerce my brother into getting my Tivo working so I don't miss a single episode (why doesn't ABC put Lost on OnDemand?!). When he comes over, maybe he'll lend me his Season 4 CDs - the set goes on sale December 9 just in time for Santa, of course - so I can rewatch last season and remember every significant - and insignificant - detail. Because honestly, how can you tell the difference?

I am certainly glad "Lost" is now found. I'm looking to rediscovering that island - and taking a season-long vacation with the Oceanic 6 and the rest of the gang.

Monday, December 1, 2008

America screams "DUH!"

Word comes today from MSNBC that the United States is now officially in a recession and has been since December 2007. America (or me anyway) wants to scream back DUH!

As I've been saying all year (read My Great Depression about Delusions of Grandeur and Another Great Depression), America has been greatly depressed - not even recessed! - all year. Finally the numbers prove what we've all known for a while: our economy just sucks.

However, despite all the dreariness, there is a bit of good news:
  • This weekend, I spent only $24 to fill up my Beetle. This is a damn sight better than the almost $50 I was spending weekly a few months ago.

  • People went shopping this weekend and spent $25 more this year than last, although I'm sure profits are significantly less. Retailers simply slashed prices. On Black Friday, I spent my morning at Office Depot so I could buy a fabulous HP printer for only $25. Five years ago, I bought a fancy HP color printer and spent nearly $500. Now an even-better printer cost me just 5 percent of the original purchase price. Woo hoo! (But what is ridiculous is that HP charges $35 for just one of the four print cartridges needed to run my printer. We know where HP is making its money - and it ain't in hardware.)

  • My business is busy. I've closed several new clients in the past couple of months - something I feared wouldn't happen in the downturn. But smart business owners recognize that they must spend marketing dollars when times get bad rather than doing what the less informed do: slash marketing budgets. I am grateful for the new business and pray that it lasts.

The stock market is down today by over 650 points, but I'm immune to its fluctuations. We're living in an amusement park (that's not very amusing) with a huge roller coaster. It goes up, it comes down. Whatever. Go find throw a softball at the milk bottles or have the barker guess your weight or buy some cotton candy. Watching that damn roller coaster will make you nauseous.

I'm sure the market tanked today with the official word that we're in recession, but let me say it again: DUH. This isn't remotely news. It's just the angst we live with every day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Arriving Again and Again Without Noticing

A poem of thanksgiving at midlife.

Arriving Again and Again without Noticing

I remember all the different kinds of years.
Angry, or brokenhearted, or afraid.
I remember feeling like that
walking up the mountain along the dirt path
to my broken house on the island.
And long years of waiting in Massachusetts.
The winter walking and hot summer walking.
I finally fell in love with all of it:
dirt, night, rock and far views.
It's strange that my heart is as full
now as my desire was then.

--Linda Gregg

This year, in the midst of financial hardship and two wars and more bad news than we can possibly process, it may be hard to remember how grateful you are for your life. I am grateful for mine. I am thankful for the simple but priceless things in my life: my dog; a good bed; warm clothes; meaningful and creative work; hearty friendships; my brother and his children; and as always, my beloved. I have so much to be happy about regardless of how old I am, how I look, or how much I don't make. You can't buy love nor happiness - and I have both.

What more can I say? Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Wacko Pugs, installment four: albino pugs!

Welcome to Wacko Pugs IV where today we feature albino pugs. Yes, they do exist, as evidenced below:

Look at those sweethearts! You know you want some.

I never thought I'd see a white pug with blue eyes. Kind of strange, but he's still a darn good looking dog. How interesting that the following albino pug gave birth to a fawn pup - evidence of the recessive albino trait.

But a pug is still a pug, and they all sleep their lives away - they're worse than cats. Don't look at this picture too long or you'll starting zzz-ing, too.

To learn more about white pugs, visit the Pugs of Pedroia and And check out my other wacko pug posts: Installments 1, 2, and 3.

Don't miss "A Common Canvas - Pennsylvania's New Deal Post Office Murals"

I got a nice email this morning from Dave Lembeck, a fellow New Deal post office mural lover. (Read my posts about the Rockville and the Silver Spring murals.)

Dave has had the great good fortune to travel around Pennsylvania with Michael Mutmansky photographing the artwork. He writes,

I've been researching PO art for about 14 years and a while ago hooked up with an amazing photographer and we started shooting PO murals and sculptures in PA. I'm a designer and our plan was to do a nice coffee table book... Everything was going fine until last summer when we were told we couldn't shoot anymore, seems the USPS wants to control the use of the images! Anyway, two years ago the State Museum of PA contacted us saying they wanted to do a big exhibit in 2008, the 75th anniversary of the New Deal. We've been working away at it for months and it opens tomorrow.
The exhibit runs from November 23, 2008 through May 17, 2009 at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. I'm definitely going! To learn more about the exhibit, visit the website or view the flyer (which was created by Dave, a professional graphic designer and a man after my own heart).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What I'd do with my last tourniquet

The US automakers' CEOs, otherwise known as America's New Jet Set, winged their way to Washington yesterday to beg Congress for yet another bailout. I won't venture an opinion about the sensibility of this proposed bridge loan because I haven't made up my mind yet. But I will tell you that Rep. Gary Ackerman is my new new hero. As reports, Ackerman performed a superb dressing down of the execs yesterday:

"There is a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hand, saying that they're going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses," Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York, told the chief executive officers of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors at a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee.

"It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. It kind of makes you a little bit suspicious. Couldn't you all have downgraded to first class or jet- pooled or something to get here? It would have at least sent a message that you do get it."
Ackerman went on to say:

"Maybe you can tell us what you're actually going to do to sell cars people want. Somebody heard that we're giving out free money in Washington. They're showing up from all over the place. But you don't want to put your last tourniquet on a dead guy."
You go, Gary! Every once in a while, an elected official speaks the truth. Rep. Ackerman's concise, populist critique of American fat cats underscores the abject hypocrisy inherent in all these economic bailouts. Somehow, the rich stay rich or get even richer while everyone else heads to hell in the proverbial handbasket.

I'm so pleased with Rep. Ackerman that I'd give him my last tourniquet even if ready to gasp his last breath. We need more people like Ackerman looking out for us - and speaking the God's honest truth. Thank you, sir.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Flush Joe the Plumber, Part Deux

Unbeige today reports:

Politics aside, there's one name/phrase we hope to never have to hear or talk about ever again (which will hopefully be the case after this post). That, of course, being "Joe the Plumber," the absurd moniker of one Joe Wurzelbacher, who is a plumber. As you may have heard during the battle for the White House, Joe was busy trying to stretch out his temporary fame by writing a book. Now that book is available for pre-order ..."
The name of this heralded tome? Joe the Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream.

Let me get a few things straight. First, Joe the Plumber isn't really named Joe; his name is Sam. And he didn't write this book either. A "spiritual novelist" named Thomas N. Tabback penned this stinker.

Finally, how exactly has Sam the Perpetual Fame Seeker fought for the American Dream? By creating a truly dreadful website that, for the nominal fee of $14.95, lets you sign up for the "Freedom Membership" which has the following "benefits:"

  • Total Access to "Joe The Forum" where you may chat directly with Joe
  • Subscription to the "Joe The Blog" monthly newsletter
  • Free Shipping on all "Joe The Plumber" merchandise
  • Free Signed Copy of Joe's forthcoming book "Joe The Plumber" - Fighting for the American Dream (Paperback slated for release December 1, 2008)
  • Become an integral part of an American movement to restore our government to the people
Know what I would like to do? Become an integral part of an American movement to restore Samuel Wurzelbacher to complete anonymity. I hate JTP so much, I won't give you the link to his book. And please don't go look it up. I can't take another 15 seconds of this dude's excruciating 15 minutes of fame. As I said in my last JTP rant, it's long past time to flush Joe the Plumber.

Goodbye Cresthaven Elementary

Yesterday, I had the bittersweet pleasure of attending a goodbye party for my elementary school. When I first enrolled in Cresthaven Elementary in 1964, the school resembled a new ranch house with a (what was then) hip, mid-century design; flat roof; multiple rectangular, plate glass windows; and incredibly spare ornamentation.

The school is almost exactly as I remember it, all the way down to the folding lunch tables stored in the front of the all-purpose room. The library found its way down the hall to larger quarters and renamed itself as a "media room" (ack!), but otherwise the school appears to have completely avoided evolution.

Until now. The Montgomery County Public Schools is tearing the building down in January and replacing it with a three-story "green" primary educational facility. That certainly sounds like a MCPS thing to do; in fact, they tore down my junior high school a couple of years ago and now are in the process of rebuilding it. So while my alma mater is still standing, I decided to make one last trip to the school.

When I was a child, Cresthaven sported ubiquitous Maryland landscaping: green grass, misshapen azaleas, and spindly oak trees. Those oaks are now gentle giants who inspired a rush of childhood remembrance: my saddle-shoed feet plowing through ever-abundant brown, brittle oak leaves and their companion acorns. Those sturdy seeds looked like tiny heads just waiting for a face. I liked to play with acorns, popping the woody tan hat to expose the acorn's bald spot and then searched diligently for telltale worm holes. Rolling the acorn around in my palm, I tried in vain to break the shell, settling finally for pressing the pointy neck deep into my thumb. Even then, I marveled that such a tiny seed could one day produce a glorious tree. Thinking back, I realize I was also a resilient, little acorn just waiting to grow.

And grow I did. Under the careful tutelage of my elementary school teachers - Mrs. Ness, Mrs. Bauer, Ms. Cochran, Miss Beasley, and Mr. Ritter - I received a simply stellar education. God bless you all - and thank you. I pray the students who attend the new, improved Cresthaven Elementary get even half the education I did. If they do, they will most certainly grow into mighty oaks themselves.

Monday, November 3, 2008

You know the campaign is almost over when...

... eBay's featured items are Cabbage Patch candidate dolls. I knew something was missing from this big, beautiful world, but I didn't think it was this.

Sarah Palin, the big winner in the auction (but likely not the election), is currently priced at an unbelievable $9,800 - almost the cost of one of her designer suits!

Fortunately, 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. According to the accompanying eBay page, "Each is fashioned in classic ‘Kid™ style to resemble the U.S. Democratic and Republican candidates for President and Vice President. These are the only ones of their kind in existence and are available only on eBay. Own a piece of history!"

Sadly, I'm going to have to pass. Our dire economy leaves me a bit short this month for five-figure, 1980s-throw-back dolls.

But I can't help noticing that while Palin and Obama are very identifiable, McCain and Biden are virtually interchangeable. You know how it is... those old, white, balding guys... they all look alike. ;-)

Happy Election Day Eve, gang. Curl up with your Cabbage Patch doll and get some sleep. Tomorrow night we'll be up late watching campaign results - and truly witnessing history.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Flush Joe the Plumber

On Tuesday, we will vote for our next president. I strongly encourage you to vote for whomever you choose - just be sure to vote.

I also urge you to join me in impeaching Joe the Plumber. We need to unilaterally send this guy back to Ohio to fix toilets. In support of my argument, I present the following evidence:

  • Joe the Plumber lied about his name. His real moniker is not Joe. It is Samuel Wurzelbacher.

  • Joe the Plumber is not, as he lied to Barack Obama, considering buying a plumbing business in Ohio. In fact, he's not even a licensed plumber.

  • Joe the Plumber would not suffer under Obama's tax policy which proposes to raise taxes on those who make over $250,000 a year. In fact, Samuel the Unlicensed Plumber made only $40,000 last year, and the company for which he works made only $100,000. Therefore, both Wurzelbacher and his boss would actually benefit under Obama's tax plan.

  • Joe the Plumber announced that he is considering running for Congress, despite the fact that Ohio has an outstanding lien against him for $1,182.98 in back taxes. (I don't need to state the obvious, but I will: in lacking experience, education, wisdom, good sense, and humility, this would-be emperor is buck-ass naked.)

  • Joe the Plumber, flush with his instant fame, yesterday hired a public relations firm to handle his many requests for interviews. (The real question is: why does the press continue to talk to this nobody?)

  • Joe the Plumber, despite his fervent political aspirations, yesterday announced he is pursuing a country/western music contract. (If he sings as well as he spouts tired Republican talking points, Nashville is in real trouble.)

  • Joe the Plumber today received John McCain's unending gratitude despite the fact that Wurzelbacher stood him up at a campaign event. When Wurzelbacher didn't appear, John McCain urged the crowd to give his favorite plumber a hand "for all that he has done for this country." (WTF?)

  • Joe the Plumber made his presidential endorsement this evening, telling ABC News that in terms of his vote, "It’s going to be for a real American. It’s going to be for a real American, John McCain." (As compared to the real American, Barack Obama, who was born in Hawaii? Perhaps "real Americans" have to be born in the lower 48?)

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case. The fact of the matter is, Joe the Plumber's 15 minutes were up two weeks ago. I urge you to push that lever on Tuesday. Not the lever in the voting booth, but the one that will now and forever flush Joe the Plumber from public consciousness! Or at least mine.

We're definitely not in Kansas anymore...

Nor in Alaska either!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wacko pugs, installment three

It's been a while since I've chronicled God's most creative creatures, which I lovingly call Wacko Pugs. What is a wacko pug? Simply a great dog who is a conglomeration of pug and some other pure-bred canine. The result is truly a one-of-a-kind pup. Of course, all dogs are one-of-a-kind, but these guys are really something else. (Check out Installment 1 and Installment 2 to see other pug mixes.)

Today, let's begin with an unlikely pair: pug and poodle. Pugs are the burly halfbacks of the dog world, even when they're girls. In contrast, poodles are prissy little things who prance. Join the two together, and you have this honey-colored beauty. She looks less prissy and more halfback to me - perhaps she's a quarterback???

Speaking of feminine dogs, how about this little doll? She's a chow chow/pug mix who looks like she belong in Paris Hilton's bag. This one is definitely a girly-girl, red hair bows and all. I'd love to know if she's got a black tongue, one of the chow's distinguishing characteristics.

Next, a shih tzu/pug mix who just begs to be loved. Who could deny this sweet thing whatever he wants? I'd spoil this wacko pug until he was completely insufferable (kind of like my dog!).

And how about this built-in lifeguard of a dog who can signal storm warnings with his contrary ears? He's an Eskimo dog/pug mix, a combo I never thought I'd see.

I can't imagine anyone saying "hit the road, Jack," to this adorable Jack Russell/pug pup. I bet he's nothing but trouble, but he's a real cutie.

And I'll end this installment of Wacko Pugs with the wise, knowing eyes of this pomeranian/pug dog. He is undoubtedly an old soul who would cuddle up with you just to let you know that everything will be okay. Like the rest of these unique creations, what a great dog.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Great Depression about delusions of grandeur

A couple of thoughts today in response to MSNBC and CNBC's insistent and persistent reporting that we MIGHT be in a recession. Excuse me? We MIGHT be in a recession? What are they thinking?

Yes, I know economists technically define recession as two or more consecutive quarters of negative gross domestic product (GDP). The United States of America apparently does not officially qualify for recession status because our GDP was .9 percent in the first quarter and 2.9 percent in the second quarter. And in what can only be seen as completely delusional, the Bureau of Economic Analysis projects that the third quarter GDP will be 3.8 percent.

HUH? The American economy is growing? Are they nuts?

I'm no economist, but defining recession by this measurement is clearly meaningless. We're not only in a recession - we're in a depression, as evidenced by:

Exponentially growing unemployment. As the 760,000 lost jobs this year prove (my brother and ex-husband are among these poor souls), unemployment is staggering - and is likely to only get worse.

Falling house prices. Inman News stated today that home prices have fallen 11.3 percent and that "there's no reason to expect any improvement and, if anything, things could get worse."

Rapidly increasing mortgage defaults. As Bloomberg reports, "U.S. foreclosure filings increased 71 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier to the highest on record as home prices fell and stricter mortgage standards made it harder for homeowners to sell or refinance, RealtyTrac said." Seventy-one percent??? Good God!

The interminable credit crisis in the nation's banks. Even Alan Greenspan said today that he is in "shocking disbelief" that the economy is such a "tsunami." If Greenspan's shocked, what the heck am I supposed to think, do, or feel?

The high cost of gas. Even with the commodity's recent falling price, it still costs $45 to fill up my Beetle. I don't even know what SUV owners do every week. I just couldn't do it.

The astronomical growth in grocery prices. I bought three bags of groceries - on sale - yesterday and still managed to burn through $111.83. Shoot me now.

Clearly, the United States is not in happy financial times simply because the GDP is up. I don't think we're even in a recession. Depression, with all its unfortunate and costly misery, rules. No delusions of grandeur here.

However, speaking of delusions of grandeur, I can't help but mention the GOP's glitzy fashion maven, Sarah Palin. As I'm sure you've already heard, she managed in eight weeks to blow through $150,000 in chi-chi-poo-poo frocks and other accouterment. Listen, it may feel like the woman fell off a snowmobile and into the vice presidential race, but c'mon, she is a governor! How bad could her apparel have possibly been? I understand getting some new duds for a national political contest, but $150,000 in two months? Thank God Obama's in the lead because we can't afford this woman! At the rate she's going, we'd spend nearly a million dollars a year just keeping her clothed!

In this awful, dreadful, miserable, hopeless, horrifying, appalling, atrocious, revolting, and vile economy, the American people don't suffer from a single delusion of grandeur. Instead, we're cowering under a pile of pink slips, past due credit card bills, empty wallets, late mortgage payments, and burgeoning fear.

I wish I had a single delusion of grandeur. If I did, I'd whip out that overburdened credit card and go on a long tropical vacation. Alas, I need to be real - and everyone else does, too. The last things we require right now are confused economists and fancily dressed politicians. And I haven't even mentioned Congress yet...