Saturday, September 29, 2007

The perfect job!

Forget law, I have found the job I was born for - Marketing Manager for M&Ms! Mars (the manufacturer) lists many job requirements, among them:

Consumer Insights (yes indeed, who better to be insightful about their chocolate needs)
Strategy Deployment (well, this seems reasonable for a marketing job but it is one of those trendy phrases that no one can actually define)
Communication - Message Development (this was something that came up frequently in my previous job: sales always thought we drove the message, and marketing always whined and argued that they were doing it. Luckily, the two groups were fairly fond of each other so we rarely came to blows)
Branding (that is something I am very experienced with although M&Ms hardly seems to need it, and those chattering/colorful candies you see in commercials are somewhat annoying)
Developing Strategies (why not?)
Trade & Channel Marketing (certainly the candy needs to be in all appropriate channels - no argument from me there)

but they do not list perhaps the most important qualification - pure love of M&Ms and willingness to eat them 24 hours a day. However, I must admit I am not willing to go live in Hackettstown, NJ just for this job. After all, if I wanted to be in NJ now, I would be at that nice lawfirm where the partners loved BeanyMalone and Georgette Heyer (admittedly, they were only two out of 50 or so).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sleepy at work?

My friend Karen used to take little cat naps at work, and although I think she had persuaded her secretary to prevent anyone bursting into her office unexpectedly, I was sure one day the phone would ring and she'd be calling to say she'd been busted! I was and am horrified at the idea of sleeping in public (or quasi public) but she was very calm about it also napped at the library when we were at Duke. She tells a funny story about a male stranger gently waking her up in Perkins - she thought he was being thoughtful and considerate - but it turned out he needed the reserve book she had fallen asleep upon and was trying to extract it without disturbing her. Waking up suddenly and trying to recover her dignity, she tried to present him with the book graciously, only to discover, quite mortified, that there was a small puddle of drool on the open page.

How do you like the sound of this product to facilitate napping at work? "I came up with the idea for my company while working at Deutsche Bank in New York — I saw colleagues falling asleep at their desks and even sneaking off to the bathroom to take naps," says a rested looking Arshad Chowdhury, founder of New York based MetroNaps, a company that aims to enhance workplace productivity through enabling employees to nap in a futuristic looking device called the Energy Pod.

Back in the day when I took clients to lunch a lot, I was surprised that those who had a glass or two of wine could stay so alert afterwards when we went back to their offices. Or maybe I overestimate my persuasive skills and they were just too tired to negotiate with me! Now, I am happy to say my new office just a few yards away from unlimited hot water and a Coke machine so I can rely on caffeine when needed. They offer what is known as a Flavia Drink Station and all the English Breakfast one can drink... I am curious whether the founder is a fan, like me, of The Prisoner of Zenda but it does not go into detail on the website.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Self Magazine on How to stop a headache before it starts provides 8 drug-free tips to avoid agony and painproof your day. It is no wonder I have such bad headaches since I fail these:

1. Do not press the snooze alarm because it disrupts your sleep/wake cycle (should I be blamed for something I do before I am even awake?)

3. Sit up straight or you will have muscle tension (I am not saying I *want* to slouch)

4. Drink water constantly during the day (lots of tea but I don't think that counts)

5. Avoid lunch of carbs (does it count if you have no time for lunch at all?)

6. Take a time out if you get stressed (but it's because you don't have time for a break that you are stressed)

8. Wind down slowly with calming activities (I can see this is a good idea but very difficult)

I do manage these two!

2. Maintain caffeine if you enjoy it

7. Exercise (although do not walk as much as when I lived in NYC)

Judge makes 'Green Eggs and Ham' ruling

I am certainly hopeful that my legal career will not be devoid of the literary influences that made publishing fun so I was interested to see that a judge had gone to Dr. Seuss for inspiration rather than some dry legal tome:

"I do not like eggs in the file," Judge Muirhead wrote. "I do not like them in any style. I will not take them fried or boiled. I will not take them poached or broiled. I will not take them soft or scrambled/Despite an argument well-rambled." He then ordered the egg destroyed: "No fan I am/Of the egg at hand. Destroy that egg! Today! Today! Today I say! Without delay!" (for more, click here)

In fact, an inmate who did not want to eat hard boiled eggs had sent one to the judge from his prison cell. The inmate (a convicted sex offender) says he cannot tolerate hard-boiled eggs and is suing the state Department of Corrections for $10 million. He does not appear to be getting a lot of sympathy but the judge sounds like a great guy.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Expensive Hobbies

Some people have accused me of collecting random items but at least I have never spent $1.13 million on a decoy duck! And the one pictured is nearly as costly!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Two unrelated thoughts

Here is the view from my new office (the brick building on the left is my old courthouse):

In a completely different vein, I was amused by a Boston Globe article this morning which begins, "Underneath the hoodie of Bill Belichick beats a human heart..." Well, who knew? And I am a little surprised that Tedy Bruschi (author of a great new book) , the soul of integrity and passion, supported his coach so wholeheartedly. One would have thought players like Bruschi and Vrabel would be so offended at any cloud overshadowing their play...

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Pawnshops and moneylenders in fiction are delightfully seedy, and often provide a critical plot element (at least in the sorts of books I enjoy). Think of Beany Malone nervously pawning her engagement ring in Tarry Awhile (and Carlton gallantly retrieving it for her). Another favorite is Sophy Stanton-Lacy's decisive visit to the office of Mr. Goldhanger, the money lender in The Grand Sophy, when she retrieves her cousin's rash pledge. Sophy is the most outrageously assertive heroine of Heyer's and one of my favorites by far. Unlike Beany, she is a brilliant and creative problem solver. Beany is more like the rest of us - she always gets caught.

Edith Layton, an author I have enjoyed since my former boss Brian Heller first handed me one of her novels in 1990, has a short story, The Earl's Nightingale, in one of the Regency Christmas anthologies in which the heroine pawns a music box and it is sold before she can retrieve it (there is a happy ending involving a nobleman who joins with Eliza to recover her precious music box).

In real life, pawnshops are also the background for secrets and stressful situations, and surprisingly the pawnshop continues to be a neighborhood institution in certain areas and is thriving, with about 12,000 in the US currently and there are even tradeshows! As the New York Times states, the pawnshop is a place "[w]here people go to put their jewelry to work for them, sometimes pawning the same item over and over again." It sounded a lot more glamorous in Regency England, alas!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pasta Protest

Italians call for 1-day pasta strike! Don't laugh - while everyone in Boston is worried about Bill Belichick and Tapegate and punishment handed down by Roger Goodell, there is a serious wheat shortage which could send the price of pasta skyrocketing!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle

A lot has been written about Madeleine L'Engle since her death last Thursday, some in appreciation of her children's books and some in appreciation of her more religious or adult work. I was privileged to meet her in 1990 at an autographing for The Glorious Impossible at the old Scribner's, then a Brentano's on Fifth Avenue. She signed the picture book but now I wish I had asked her to sign the beautiful Giotto inspired poster that went with the book, and which I later had framed. There were so many people in line (I remember the group behind me had driven all the way from KY) that we did not get more than a minute or two with the author but it was still very exciting to talk to her. She seemed interested to hear that my favorite book was And Both Were Young, which she said was an unusual choice and was partially based on her own boarding school experience.

A Washington Post writer in a nice tribute implies that we readers love Meg Murry because she is like us: awkward and gangly. That may be true but it ignores two important things - 1) all of L'Engle's heroines are slightly awkward - they are mostly late bloomers, quirky and intelligent, and 2) A Wrinkle in Time is about much more than Meg and her teenage angst. L'Engle wrote about Meg, not so her readers could identify with a heroine but because she saw herself in Meg and because there was a strength in Meg that transcends the science/magic in that novel. Meg's sister Suzy, much prettier and more easily brilliant, is never the heroine (although memorable in her own way; I did quote her feelings about eating pigs in an animal rights paper I wrote several years ago).

Similarly, Flip, in And Both Were Young, at first inarticulate and awkward, eventually blossoms in an alien environment once she gains confidence. Encouraged by a French boy she meets on the mountains and by an art teacher who recognizes her talent, she becomes the means through which all the other characters are fulfilled. She actually changes and matures more than Meg, although less dramatically. Although this book is part of the boarding school genre I love, it is by far one of the best, both in its realistic portrayal of the negative aspects of school life and its cast of diverse and multidimensional characters (including the actual presence of an attractive teenage boy).

One article, written by a family friend, quoted her as saying, "Did you ever realize that if you spell live backwards you come up with the word evil?" she once said with a devilish grin. "To live, you know, you have to be just a teeny bit evil and wicked."

That is my kind of author!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fall TV

This is a fun site discussing the new fall TV shows, with a link to the premiere dates. It also reveals there is going to be a remake of a movie I love, Adventures in Babysitting. There is also an interesting review of the third season DVD of Grey's Anatomy.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Miss Manners

I am addicted to Miss Manners, and today she stuck up for English majors! Or at least told us how to turn the other cheek.

She also offers advice for dealing with friends and colleagues who can't put their Blackberries away (I read this with interest since I believe I will get one for my new job so will likely be an offender soon).

Like my mother, she abhors use of the phrase "you guys."

I like this one too:
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a physics student and aspiring physicist, and when I answer people's questions about my career plans, I often find myself confronted with a conversation-stopping "You must be so smart!" Despite feeling a little marginalized by this common comment, I realize it is usually intended to be flattering. However, agreeing with this declaration makes me sound arrogant, and disagreeing seems unnecessarily self-effacing. Can you offer any suggestions?
GENTLE READER: "No, if I were really smart, I'd find a way to get on the football team."

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Happy Birthday, Phyllis Whitney!

Author Phyllis Whitney turns 104 today, and her website is accepting birthday wishes which will be shared with her (some of these messages are fun to read). She wrote 76 books (some of which I began reading in elementary school), refusing to be limited to one genre or one country but let her love of travel and many interests inspire her to write children's mysteries, adult suspense, books on writing, and juvenile fiction. I remember the dust jackets of her books emphasized the fact that she had grown up overseas, primarily in Japan and China, and her settings ranged from Southern plantations, Norway, Catskill resorts, the Blue Ridge mountains, and more.

My two favorites were The Highest Dream, about a young woman who goes to work as a tour guide at the United Nations, and Mystery on the Isle of Skye, about orphan (of course!) Cathy's trip to meet her new family in Scotland (Whitney was herself of Scottish descent) and the mystery she finds there. I made sure to do the United Nations tour myself once, and thought about Phyllis as I did so.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Back to School with Bully

I had forgotten that my friend Bully shares my love of school stories and PG Wodehouse; he has been reviewing a Wodehouse a week since April without telling me. This week he is reading a book I barely knew existed, Tales of St Austin's, written (or at least published) by old Pelham in 1903. As you can tell from the photo, Bully is a well traveled plush, having been on the Tube as well as the NY subway and Boston MBTA (known to us locals as the T). He was gracious enough to pose with me about 18 months ago, between literary and other endeavors.

Bully describes the collection thusly: "There's twelve short stories here, plus four short essays on boarding school life, and they're all excellent examples of very early Wodehouse gung-ho adventure and good gentle humor. His romances are definitely in the future...there's no sign of a beating heart in these stories, unless it's out of nervousness over an upcoming exam...but there's an easily-recognizable frivolity of language and devil-may-care atmosphere, complete with a handful of genially mild twist endings that are nevertheless the prototypes for his later, more complicated works." I am excited about Bully's plans to share his impressions of every Wodehouse title since I have only read about a third of them (I hate to admit it but many of them have blurred in my mind).

Very foolishly, when I worked at Penguin, and could have got every (in print) Wodehouse for free, I was worried about the inadequate shelf space of my NYC apartment and refrained. Maybe I was also temporarily turned off by the fact that a Lady Constance is both a prominent and villainous character in what seems like many of the books! Now I regret it, and since he wrote 93 books it will take me much longer to collect them than it will take Bully to reread and review them.

Monday, September 3, 2007

So long, farewell!

Friday was the last day of my clerkship, and I was somewhat melancholy at the thought of leaving my judge who has been so much fun to work with over the last year. I was very busy finishing up projects and writing helpful memos to my successor (since he also went to Duke I thoughtfully left him the 07-08 basketball schedule and a picture of Christian Laetner, but he says he has no interest in sports - what a downer for the Judge, who enjoys them very much) but paused to take a few photos of our beautiful courthouse with my friend Felicia, who clerked down the hall.

My favorite security guard snapped our picture in front of the Oliver Wendell Holmes quote, "The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience." (1881)

Life in chambers is not entirely research: there is occasionally time for hoop!

Of course, I am not going far, merely a few blocks away...

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Clueless in South Carolina

Did you hear about the South Carolina contestant for Miss Teen USA? She was asked why 1 in 5 Americans can't find the US on a map, and she replied:

"I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some people out there in our nation don't have maps and, uh, I believe that our, uh, education like such as in, uh, South Africa and, uh, the Iraq and everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future for our children."

I can't help with her incoherence but I do recommend she play the Place the State game! It is quite addictive. When I first read this story, I pitied Appalachian State, where she is about to enroll, for getting bad publicity. But then last night, they had a win for the ages against Michigan! Naturally, as a supporter of Division 1AA football, I rejoice with them but I was not the only one to connect the two events although ESPN's take was a little different from mine...

The co-author of Freakonomics, who attended the rural North Carolina college, had a great essay in the NYT on Monday on how the win was his happiest moment as an alumnus.

Red Sox coloring book

What a great concept, a Red Sox coloring book! It looks very cute, and I know a nephew or two who might enjoy it. I like the fact that this woman couldn't get her heart into sketching the Yankees, once she had been authorized to do one for each MLB team, so had to hire someone.

I had been wondering if children color as much as I did growing up, since I have noticed that Crayola has expanded its product offerings into other areas. However, the recent news that Toys 'r Us was recalling 27000 Chinese imported crayon sets containing lead paint makes it sound as if Crayola has been losing market share. Will Americans be willing to pay more for safer products made domestically? It seems clear they expect the manufacturers or distributors to absorb the expense of product safety inspections.