Get back to work!

Holiday’s over. Happy Monday.


Some people go all out for July 4th. I was not one of them.

I spent it away from social media as much as possible. I needed a break.

Hope you had a fun time if you were in this country and celebrated Independence Day in some form.

I noticed something interesting the day of the observed holiday. It wasn’t so terribly long ago that you would find that most stores were not open on Christmas, Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July,

July 4th was one of those days where most everyone had it off because it made sense to not do business that day. Why open any store that didn’t primarily sell booze, junk food or fireworks on a day when everyone is at the beach, picnics and cookouts and nobody wants to shop anyway?

Not only that, but the People Who Ran Things Then, often business people and considerate human beings occupying the same body, also thought it was nice that their employees could celebrate a  day that, more so than any other major holiday, means being active with friends or family because it’s in the middle of chronological summer.

Yay! A reason to not work and to get out in the warm outdoors for a while

I called my local Target and Sears stores July 3 to ask what days over the holiday weekend they were open. The nice but clearly younger employees who answered the phones at both places acted as if it was a stupid consideration that their store would not be open the entire weekend. Nor would their hours be truncated on any of the three days.

It didn’t use to be a silly question to ask. But I guess is it now.

They’ll force you to work every major holiday, but won’t give you enough hours at shitty pay to make up for that fact.

What is it about rich people and the ease with which they swindle their workers?

Back when I worked as a food server, as so many of us have done — and I worked at couple of very nice white-linen, waiters-in-tuxes kinds of places — I remember having a couple of bosses/owners who were certainly tough in the sense that they expected you to show up for your shifts, pay attention to your work, know what you were doing and be mature enough to understand that whatever day-to-day problems you might carry in from the outside, you were there to cater to people who were there spending hard-earned dollars.

But as much as it was drudge work, at times, it was often lucrative and the friendships and laughs I shared with my co-workers will stay with me forever. You felt like you were part of a team. When someone was in the weeds and you had time to help, you did so without hesitation. At the end of your shift you tipped out service bartenders and the bus staff generously if they did a good job for you.

These were people you gladly hung out with after work.

The owners/managers I dealt with cultivated this kind of atmosphere by being, without fail in my experience, fair and genuinely caring when it came to their employees.

Which is why the seeming pervasiveness these days of restaurateurs who fuck over the little guys in their employ seems so foreign to me. Especially in high-end restaurants in places like New York City and San Francisco where so many of the service staff must live hand-to-mouth anyway.

Take the scumbags who run this place in Manhattan:

Celebrity chef Thomas Keller’s Per Se restaurant in Manhattan is one of the world’s most expensive eateries, with diners paying a minimum prix fixe of $310 each for dinner.

And yet the restaurant has been caught charging certain customers for “service charges” that didn’t go to pay the people performing that service.

Now it faces having to pay $500,000 in restitution to employees who should have received this money.

In 2011, the New York State Department of Labor enacted a new Hospitality Wage Order (HWO), which clarified that any mandatory surcharge like a service or “food service” fee would be treated as a gratuity to be distributed to tipped employees. Restaurants can have surcharges that aren’t treated like tips, but the customer must be made aware that the mandatory charge is not going to be used as gratuity.

According to a settlement agreement [PDF] with the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the state began investigating Per Se two years ago over allegations that the restaurant was tacking on 20% service charges for banquet and private dining customers. Rather than distribute this fee as tips to wait staff, Per Se was using the 20% surcharge to pay for the general operating expenses of the business without revealing this fact to customers.

In fact, AG’s investigation found that Per Se was allegedly misleading guests into believing that the 20% surcharges were indeed being treated like tips, with statements like “[K]indly note that service/gratuity is certainly included in the pricing.”

What lowlifes.

Not paying legally sufficient wages or paying overtime is bad enough, but to make customers believe the wait staff was being tipped when the money was going into the pockets of the owners — it’s just so scummy and underhanded and cruel.

I am not a white-linen restaurant kind of person. Even if I could afford to eat there, I would not. But if I was so inclined I certainly wouldn’t eat there now until I had proof of some kind they had changed their ways — all of them.

Source: One Of World’s Most Expensive Restaurants Caught Keeping Tips From Waiters – Consumerist



The Atlantic magazine tries (sort of) to add voice of reason to growing national guacamole unrest

As you may be aware, the New York Times created an online firestorm among, of all people, guacamole aficionados when it posted a tweet linked to an article that suggests people use snap peas in addition to avocados in a guacamole recipe.

The original tweet:

Trust us?

Ha! That line might just as well have been delivered by some oily leisure-suited salesman trying to sell bogus home repairs to your addled grandmother.

Some of the funnier tweets in response:

The issue reached such crisis proportions even President Obama and Jeb Bush weighed in, adding to our political dialogue the gravitas that only social media can offer.

Deciding that perhaps the impartiality of a journalist (lol!) might quell the mounting furor,  The Atlantic’s Olga Khazan decided she would act as guinea pig and make the recipe herself to see what all the fuss is about.

Although,  judging from the excerpt below, Khazan did not start with the most open of minds:

As a journalist, I knew I had to investigate for myself, and as a Texan, I knew my findings were fixin’ to rile me up.

I tried to follow Melissa Clark’s recipe exactly, but I had to make a few modifications. First, I made a much smaller batch, because I don’t believe in wasting avocados on an abomination. Second, I didn’t have time to roast my jalapeno, though I doubt that would have improved things. Finally, I did not sprinkle any sunflower seeds over the top; I don’t have those on hand because I’m not some kind of socialist.

But I endeavored to follow the rest as closely as I could—even the parts that strongly contradict modern-day guac science. Most recipes use onions, but Clark uses scallions, so I did too. She added lime zest for some reason, so I fished out my microplane and started grating. And yes, I took a bag of fresh snap peas* and shucked them. Like you do.

* We couldn’t get the regular kind. However, in a 1992 article titled “There’s No Substitute” for fresh green peas, The Times recommended shelled sugar snap peas as “the best substitute for them.” And you thought accurate headlines were a casualty of the social-media age.

You’ll not be surprised to learn that her verdict is not a good one, with her boyfriend noting disapprovingly that the pea guacamole tasted “like a chicken McNugget versus a chicken wing. The only reason to add peas would be if you had a pea surplus at the same time as a guac surplus.”

Score one for all that is good and pure in guacamole land.

As for me, it is not my place to judge that which I have not tried. First rule of impartiality, right?

Except: WTF?

You can read Khazan’s entire article here.

Yes, it’s that day again

Model Fail Friday!

Watch out. The music is loud on this one.

Is this the world’s most painful wasp sting?

Another reason to not live in the Southwest:

JUSTIN SCHMIDT IS an entomologist, and has accordingly been stung by a lot of bugs.

So he invented something called the Schmidt sting pain index (named after some guy called Schmidt, apparently), which ranks the pain of insect stings from one to four.

Down at one is something like the fire ant, which is so named for a reason, while up at four is the bullet ant, which is so called for a very, very good reason.Joining the bullet ant at four is a critter that lives right here in the southwestern US: the tarantula hawk. It’s actually a kind of solitary wasp with a sting whose resulting pain only lasts three seconds, but it’s so fiercely electric that could only be described as totally unacceptable.

“There are some vivid descriptions of people getting stung by these things,” says invertebrate biologist Ben Hutchins of Texas Parks and Wildlife, “and their recommendation—and this was actually in a peer-reviewed journal—was to just lie down and start screaming, because few if any people could maintain verbal and physical coordination after getting stung by one of these things. You’re likely to just run off and hurt yourself. So just lie down and start yelling.”

No, thank you.

Source: Absurd Creature of the Week: If This Wasp Stings You, ‘Just Lie Down and Start Screaming’ | WIRED

NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade’s board decides it has had enough of homophobic leader

Good news regarding a battle that could have always been, had it been handled differently, much do over nothing:

The longtime chairman of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been ousted over his hard-line opposition to gay groups marching in the iconic procession.

John Dunleavy was replaced by a board member who was instrumental in winning a spot this year for a gay group tied to official broadcaster WNBC, according to a statement Wednesday from the organization behind the annual March 17 march up Fifth Avenue.

New Chairman John Lahey was elected “with the authorization to add a second lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender group to the parade,” the statement added.

Tuesday’s decision by the parade’s board of directors came five days after the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was a right protected by the US Constitution, and followed a May referendum approving gay marriage in Ireland.

With Ireland itself having voted so decisively in favor of equality, I’m sure the entire facade looked unsustainable.

So much time and energy homophobia took away from what was always just supposed to be a celebration of Irish pride.

Good riddance.

Source: St. Patrick’s Day Parade chair booted over anti-gay stance | New York Post

John Dunleavy in, er. um. happier times. (NY Post)

A frightening attack on reporters and camera people in San Francisco

These are tough times to be a reporter in some cities:

An NBC Bay Area news crew was attacked early Thursday morning while reporting a story in a mugging that injured the photographer, whose camera gear was also stolen.

A second station was also robbed of its gear.The brazen attack occurred just before 6 a.m. at Pier 14 in San Francisco, where the reporter and photographer – along with several other news stations – were covering a story about a woman who had been shot to death there the night before. NBC Bay Area is not identifying any victims of the attack.

As the two were about to go on air, a man pulled up to the curb in a black four-door BMW, approached the photographer and pistol-whipped him with a gun then shoved him to the ground, the photographer and reporter said. The man then grabbed the photographer’s camera gear, and as he was struggling to get it inside his getaway car, returned to pistol whip the photographer again, the news crew reported.

Wow. All those cameras and reporters and nobody got a shot of the perp or his getaway car. That is too bad.

Not sure I’d risk raising a camera with a guy who has a gun.

Source: News Crew Mugged, Cameras Stolen at San Francisco Pier | NBC Bay Area

Real-life wine labels

You can see all 26 labels at this link.

My two favorites below.

Label on the right: I have one friend who was drinking at karaoke. Drinking a lot. Big guy. Tough-looking. Imposing. Covered in tattoos. And after the rest of the people who were singing Britney or Mariah or Beyonce sat down, he got up and sang at the top of his lungs the most awful depressing Irish dirge you’ve ever heard.

Talk about bringing a room down.

As for the other label, I have a needy-when-drunk friend whom I keep telling: I go bed between 10 and 11 p.m. No matter how many times I say this, I inevitably will get something like this going from him:

  • 1:00 AM: Hey, are you up?
  • 1:30 AM: You awake?
  • 1:45 AM: I could use someone to talk to.
  • 1:47 AM: This is bullshit.
  • 1:50 AM: I’m so fucking tired of being there for other people and them not being there for me.
  • 1:55 AM: Fuck you, asshole.
  • 2:00 AM: You awake?

He’s harmless. And a really great guy.


How to not get eaten by sharks

Or bears. Or something like that.

Her name is Veronica Pooh Nash Poleate and she posted this video on her Facebook account.

So that all you non-Facebookers can enjoy it, I post it here.

If this is an act of some kind, she is brilliant.

If this is just Veronica Pooh Nash Poleate free associating and being plain ol’ Veronica Pooh Nash Poleate she’s just awesome.

Shark bait! That all any of you are! Shark bait!

Also: meat ministry?

No, it’s Meet Ministry. Or I think it is. I’m still not sure whether she says at one point that she will “rejoice and eat meat.” If she does say that, I’m sure it’s mentioned in Leviticus somewhere. They cover in that book of the Bible all the pervy or offbeat stuff that make The Gay look like choir practice.

According to Google there is a Meat Ministry somewhere that hands out food to the poor, the name of which I’m sure drives PETA to distraction.

“Welcome to the Flesh Of The Lamb BBQ, Butcher Shop and Anointment Church of God In Christ.”


President Obama moves to stop for-profit college scams

The rules took effect yesterday, so adjust tenses accordingly, but if all of this survives further court challenges that are surely to come it could change the higher education game for untold numbers of lower-income Americans — many of them combat veterans — fleeced and left jobless or underemployed by a financially rapacious industry more interested in Wall Street profits than in preparing students to compete in today’s job

On Wednesday, the Obama administration will begin choking off the financial lifeline of for-profit colleges whose graduates can’t find well-paying jobs — and the move is likely to accelerate a wave of shutdowns for an industry taking assaults from all sides.

Reining in the multibillion-dollar industry has been the administration’s goal for most of President Barack Obama’s term in office, fueled by complaints that for-profit colleges lure students with misleading promises, then saddle them with debts they can’t pay back despite their newly granted degrees.

Its latest tool is the Education Department’s long-debated “gainful employment” rule, which requires colleges to track their graduates’ performance in the workforce and eventually will cut off funding for career training programs that fall short.

The rule — upheld by a court ruling last week and set to take effect Wednesday — will trigger the closure of 1,400 programs that together enroll 840,000 students, the department has estimated. Ninety-nine percent of those students attend for-profits.

The regulation is part of a broader series of crackdowns on the industry by agencies including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission, along with investigations, lawsuits and fines from states and blistering criticism from Democrats like Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Dick Durbin. Some major college operators have begun closing or selling campuses under the onslaught.

I have a friend, a very savvy guy, who says that when some friends find out about his degree from the University of Phoenix, they ask snarkily, “What’s wrong? Couldn’t get into Devry?”

That is beyond cruel and focuses the blame on the scam victims: students promised better lives by these schools’ flashy marketing campaigns who instead got worthless degrees.

These schools have advertisements all over the country on TV, radio, the internet and public transportation, and they are slick offers of the kinds of fulfilled dreams and financial payoffs these degrees almost never provide. Chances are, if you were a dishwasher before your for-profit college degree, you will be one after you get it. The job placement offices of these schools, if they have one at all, are jokes.

Campaign cash

This industry has had the support (and the campaign wallets) of a few unscrupulous Democrats, but mostly it has been Republicans on Capitol Hill who have blocked any legislative efforts to stop an industry that gives heavily to GOP candidates and essentially steals money from U.S. taxpayers (through defaulted student loans) just as it does from its hapless students .

Once again it has been the President, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and our own Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) leading the charge, along with Warren’s brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an agency that Republicans will gut if they ever again control both houses of Congress and/or the White House.

One suspects the for-profit education industry and its GOP supporters will now stage without a hint of shame a public relations effort focusing on the millions of “poor students” left adrift with only a partial education as these for-profit schools close. Don’t believe them. Those students are better off, and your tax dollars are better spent, on not-for-profit community colleges.

Vote accordingly in the next election.

(And, yes, the Politico reporter who wrote the referenced story has the entirely appropriate name of Allie Grasgreen.)

Source: Barack Obama pushes for-profit colleges to the brink – Allie Grasgreen – POLITICO

An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all. — Oscar Wilde