February 28, 2003

I just had the most disappointing soup experience of my life.

They call it "Campbell's® Chunky Soup Cheese Tortellini with Chicken and Vegetables."

Allow me to tell you there is nothing, absolutely nothing, chunky about this soup. Oliver Twist was served more substantive meals.

Hell, there's nothing tortellini about this soup. In all "18.80 ounces" -- Where did they come up with that amount? -- there were three, Count 'em! Three!, tortellini.

And chicken? Pshaw! Four sorry little hunks.

Vegetables? Sure, if you count celery as a full-fledged vegetable, which I don't.

Mr. Dorrance would be ashamed.

February 27, 2003

I am, at this very moment, holding the latest issue of Philadelphia Weekly, one of several "street papers" available in this city.

There are, in this particular issue, 13 -- count 'em, 13! -- pages of listings and advertisements (most of the latter quite small in size) for music concerts and night-club shows.

The vast majority of these listings and ads are for contemporary, rock, folk, and jazz performances, and most of those list and advertise performers, bands, and acts that I can't imagine even the most avid of scenesters could recognize by name.

I have just one question: Who goes to all these things?

I realize Philadelphia is the fifth-largest city in the U.S. and that, as such, a vibrant nightlife is to be expected -- in fact, welcomed. But are there really that many devoted music fans in this city? Is music really so central to the lives of so many (mostly young) people?

Some day I will have to decide -- or have someone tell me -- whether I've missed out on a great thing or on nothing at all.

February 25, 2003

Who The Hell Does Neil Stein Think He Is?

Last week an envelope arrived in the mail bearing the return address of the Internal Revenue Service.

I still haven't opened it.

Why not? Because I'm afraid to.

You see, I've been self-employed for almost a year now and I'm still getting my bearings, not only with respect to generating income but also to paying the requisite taxes when due.

Regardless of my worries and insecurity, I'm certain that even the most cursory examination of my records would reveal that I have no cause for concern. I try, as best I can, to pay all taxes due to federal, state, and city -- yes, Philadelphia has its own income tax, believe it or not -- authorities in the amounts expected and on time.

And I do that not only because I am generally a law-abiding guy, the laws of certain backward Southern and Midwestern states notwithstanding, but because I don't like getting in trouble and I don't like getting yelled at, even by way of a form letter. Hence the still-unopened envelope.

So when I read an article like this one -- "Restaurateur Has Tough Tax Bill to Swallow," by Sono Motoyama in today's Philadelphia Daily News -- I wonder: What the hell is wrong with me? Why should I care?

According to the article, restaurateur Neil Stein, proprietor of Philadelphia's Striped Bass, Avenue B, Bleu, Rouge, and the defunct Fishmarket, is behind in paying his taxes. Behind to the tune of an estimated $1,360,000.00.

And that's just taxes owed to the city. The article makes no mention of his status with state and federal authorities.

And so again I wonder: "How does this happen?" "Why do people do this?" And, more important, "Why do some people get away with it for so long?"

Stein is, best I can tell, a happy man. Striped Bass, which is packed every night of the week, will celebrate its 10th anniversary next month. And despite a slow start, Avenue B, just blocks from my home, appears to be doing well.

Of course, Stein has leverage: his restaurants employ 400 people, a number that obviously impresses Philadelphia officials, even though most of those employed by Stein's firm -- the aptly named Meal Ticket Inc. -- are probably making less than ten dollars an hour.

According to the PDN's Motoyama, Stein says he has "received numerous expressions of support." To which Stein himself added, "I have all the confidence we'll get through this thing."

Well, good for you, Neil Stein! But who the hell do you think you are? Leona Helmsley?

In a city hell-bent on keeping 400 mostly at-best minimum-wage jobs, I'll bet you're feeling pretty high and mighty. Congratulations on your obvious amorality and complete lack of civic responsbility.

Me? I'm nobody. I don't have a payroll. It's just me and my Bulldog here. But you know what, Neil Stein? I'm not stepping foot in any of your restaurants again -- and I have visited three of your four restaurants currently in operation in just the last few months -- until your tax bill is paid in full.

[Note: This article also appeared today at The Rittenhouse Review.]

[Post-publication addendum (February 26): Atrios has signed on to the boycott. Blogroots activism at its best.]

[Post-publication addendum (February 26): Contact information.

Meal Ticket Inc.: Phone: (215) 732-6560; Fax: (215) 732-6863; Neil Stein, owner.

Striped Bass: Phone: (215) 732-4444; Fax: (215) 732-4433; Ed Murray, general manager.

Avenue B: Phone: (215) 790-0705; Fax: (215) 790-0688; Gabe Marabella, co-owner; Keren Ini, general manager.

Rouge: Phone: (215) 732-6622; Fax: (215) 732-0561; Jan Bass, general manager.

Bleu: Phone (215) 545-0342; Fax: (215) 545-9318; Seth Biederman, general manager.]


A friend sent along a link to a recent piece in The Atlantic -- a magazine I was quite happy not so long ago to stop seeing appear in my mailbox -- by Jonathan Rauch, entitled "Caring for Your Introvert."

I guess my friend thinks I'm an introvert.

I should be so outgoing.

February 22, 2003

The great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, also known as the "Keystone State," the loss of which, presumably, would send the Union into disarray not seen in more than 140 years, has -- believe it or not -- at least a few claims that rank it above many other states: Specifically, the "Do Not Call" law, which allows Pennsylvania residents to register with the state attorney general to block most unsolicited telephone calls.

Despite its seeming simplicity, this law is sheer genius. And it's working. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania, and other states that have adopted similar measures, deserve to be commended for enacting it into law.

Oh, your state doesn't have a similar law?

Don't blame me. Start making calls and writing letters.


Neal Pollack is a fascinating man, a genuine Renaissance man for our times. Who knew this sublime writer was also a documentary filmmaker? I know I didn't.

If you watched the recent documentary on Michael Jackson, produced by the BBC and Martin Bashir, especially if you watched it twice (like I did, though I missed large segments each time), you will want to read the excerpts Pollack has published from his own film about Jackson, pulled from more than 10,000 hours of videotape.

Herewith what is called in the media business, a tease:

Pollack: So now, I have to ask you, about the plastic surgery: Are you some kind of freak or something?

Jackson: I'm pained that the world commits me to its prurient gaze as if I were a collectively-owned object. What is a face, after all, but a reflection of the soul? I urge people to look into my eyes and see themselves. They will behold a beautiful man, albeit one with acid burns and a nose that appears to have been sliced to bits by a carrot peeler.

Pollack: How profound.

Jackson: Yes. And I also wanted to add that I collect all the discarded skin after my surgeries.

Pollack: Is that so?

Jackson: Yes. And I eat it.

I wonder if I should call my lawyer now.

February 20, 2003

Yep, I'm crabby as all get out right now, but allow me to set out for you a hypothetical -- dreamed up out of my head, I assure you -- so that you might determine how you would respond in a similar situation.

You awake to find your eyes, or at least one of your eyes, extremely red, dry, and painful. You are unable, without the assistance of your hands, to open said eye. Said eye is excruciatingly sensitive to light. You are unable to function as a normal human being.

With this in mind, you make an appointment to see an ophthalmologist at one of the nation's most prestigious ophthalmic hospitals.

You see an ophthalmologist at said hospital. The ophthalmologist diagnoses anterior uveitis.

After the appointment the ophthalmologist writes prescriptions for three different types of eye-drops.

You leave said hospital with said prescriptions in hand and check not just the nearest pharmacy, but the nearest four pharmacies, all of which are located within three city blocks of said prestigious ophthalmic hospital.

You find that two of said pharmacies have none -- not one -- of the three prescribed medications in stock, and that the other two pharmacies have only one of the three prescribed medications.

Faced with this conundrum, do you:

(a) Ask the pharmacist to order the missing prescriptions and wait patiently, as long as two business days, until they are delivered;

(b) Search for another pharmacy where you might perhaps find all three medications in stock;

(c) Call the ophthalmologist and ask him to secure supplies for each of the three medications; or

(d) Go home and blog about it?


Today I finally completed my duty as civic-and-arts man-about-town, signing up for what may or, more likely, may not be the last of my memberships to various artistic, historic, and other organizations in the Philadelphia area.

So, as of today, or the day on which my membership cards arrive, count me among the members of: the Academy of Natural Sciences, the American-Swedish Historical Museum, the Atwater-Kent Museum of Philadelphia, the Barnes Collection, the Franklin Institute, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Zoo, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. (Actually, I already was a member of several of these institutions. I just rounded out the list today.)

I trust you have long since done the same in your own community. [Post-publication insertion (February 21): You wouldn't want this to happen in your hometown, would you?]

Oh, and on Saturday night, I'm going to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra and the much ballyhooed violinist Midori.


I wonder if I'll ever be known by just a one-word name. Jim. Doesn't really cut it, does it? I'm open to suggestions.


They're free! Well, really only the catalog is free, but still.

"The Blessings Doll Collection was created as a way to carry on and promote the memories of the virtuous Sisters and Nuns who sacrificed so much so we all could have a better life. They educated us, prayed for us, and kept us in their hearts. They've cared for the sick, the dying, the poor, and the homeless, as they still do today. The goal of Blessings is to keep the Nuns and Sisters in our hearts, in return for what they've done for us.

"The meticulously crafted dolls in their solemn traditional dress, along with all of their spiritual products, are available through their catalog. They make perfect gifts for birthdays, Baptisms, Communions, Confirmations, weddings, Easter, Christmas, Mother's Day, or any other special gift-giving occasion. Make your memories and reverence for the past come alive. Collect something so special you'll treasure it forever.

"The free Blessings catalog features Nun dolls that are available in the habits of 300 religious communities. Also in the catalog are Angels Among Us art (firefighters [Peggy Noonan, please call your office!], medics, teachers, and many more), Communion and Catholic School dolls (choose from their collection, or create your own collectible doll), and Nun figurines (beautifully sculptured, individually hand-painted).

"Get the free Blessings catalog today."

Yes, please do.

February 18, 2003

The travesty being wrought upon Independence Hall and Independence National Park by the National Park Service, joined, at least initially, by the administration of Mayor John F. Street (D), is beginning to draw attention beyond Philadelphia.

"Independence Behind Bars in Philly," by Robert Strauss, in Monday's edition of the Washington Post, is the first article I've seen about the controversy in that newspaper or in any major newspaper outside this city. (Unfortunately, the photo that accompanies the article barely hints at the mess the Park Service has made.)

A few excerpts:

"The shrine of liberty and freedom [Independence Hall], and it looks like Beirut in the Lebanese civil war," said Maria Butler, a retired history teacher from Indiana who returned to Philadelphia expressly to see the historic area. "What are they thinking?"

It is not only visitors to Independence Hall, but also neighbors and politicians in the crowded area surrounding it, who are upset by Mayor Street's decision last December to close the block of Chestnut Street between Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Pavilion to all motor and foot traffic.

That decision came at the behest of the National Park Service, which administers Independence Hall and historic buildings around it as Independence National Historical Park. The Park Service said a security analysis had determined that a car bomb detonated on the street would cause "heavy to severe damage [and] significant loss of life."

But those protesting the move say that the mayor and Park Service may have slightly different agendas and that, at any rate, the metal and concrete barriers hardly enhance the security of the historic building where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were debated and signed.

"Functionally, what they have done is shut down the most important symbol of freedom we have for no good reason," said Judge Edward R. Becker, chief of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, whose office a block away overlooks Independence Hall. "Tourists think it looks awful. Locals think it is scary. . . ."

Although Washingtonians may debate the closing of 16th Street N.W., at least the White House lies outside major commercial or residential neighborhoods and is near other wide avenues.

But Center City Philadelphia, where Independence National Historical Park lies, is a warren of narrow streets and narrower alleys. Thousands of people live and work in the area surrounding the park. The one-way traffic patterns and the streets that stop for a block and then pick up again are baffling enough for locals, let alone visitors, and the closing of that block of Chestnut Street has been a nightmare for business owners, residents and even the city transit system.

Ann Meredith, a local businesswoman interviewed by the Post, notes the ironies: Philadelphia recently spent $14 million to improve traffic on Chestnut Street, and both Fifth and Sixth Streets, on the east and west sides, respectively, of Independence Hall and only a few yards from the building, remain open to traffic, leaving the site equally vulnerable to an attack as it would be from the closed section of Chestnut Street.

Many Philadelphians wonder whether closing Chestnut Street is part of a larger agenda of the National Park Service, which has advocated closing all streets surrounding Independence Park. "But this isn't Yellowstone. It's a real city. That's what the charm of it is. I don't think the Park Service understands that," the Post quotes Kevin Meeker, a local restauranteur.

Mayor Street last week visited the neighborhood for the first time since September 11, 2001. (Yes, for the first time, and it's all of eight blocks from his office.) Some local residents and business owners who spoke with Mayor Street during his tour believe he was swayed by their arguments in favor of reopening Chestnut Street.

"It is the mayor's decision whether to close the street," the Post notes, "and he is being urged to overturn it by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who lives in the city, and Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D), a former Philadelphia mayor who said of the barriers: 'It looks like we are cowering in dread. It looks like al Qaeda has won.'"

Hell, the place looks so bad, I'd almost say it looks like Al Qaeda has come and gone.

Contact information:

Mayor John Street: (215) 686-2181; e-mail

Sen. Arlen Specter: (202) 224-4254; e-mail

Gov. Edward G. Rendell: (717) 787-5962; e-mail

[Thanks to Julia of Sisyphus Shrugged for bringing the Post article to my attention.]

[Note: This article was published earlier today at The Rittenhouse Review.]

February 17, 2003

"The Hottest `Hood."

That's how the blazing headline of Friday's Philadelphia Daily News referred to my neighborhood, a section of Center City the paper has begun calling Chestnut East, while noting others call it East of Broad or B3, for "Blocks Below Broad." (The latter designation doesn't make sense since Broad Street runs on a north-south axis; perhaps it's "Blocks Beside Broad"?)

Yep. That's me. Urban hipster.

February 14, 2003

I recently hired a consulting firm to evaluate and offer advice on my current blogging ventures.

After paying the firm $30,000, the best, and only useful, recommendation was that I change the name of this site from |||trr||| to TRR: The Lighter Side of Rittenhouse.

It took the consultants eight jargon-laden pages to outline and explain the rationale underlying this recommendation, more than 5,000 words that I can sum up in two words: "better branding."

I guess they have to justify their fee somehow.

[I'm kidding. I didn't hire consultants. I came up with the idea all by myself. I wonder if I should start a weblog consulting firm?]


Netgrocer: It's not for everyone, but it's definitely for me.

There are few tasks I despise more than grocery shopping. I avoid this task like the plague, or anthrax, or smallpox, or whatever is the hysteria of the day.

And when I finally force myself to do it, I find myself desperately missing Martha, my former maid.

Martha not only cleaned my apartment and did my laundry, but also walked the dog, went grocery shopping, cooked, and made flower arrangements that would make the other Martha proud.

Martha, the maid, not the mogul, seemed to find her maternal instincts in shopping for me, occasionally sneaking in foods she thought I should eat more of and somehow forgetting to buy things I distinctly recalled putting on the list.

Of course, I'll never forget how grateful I was when Martha bought a toilet plunger for me. (Look, there was just no way in hell I was going to walk down Eighth Ave. in Chelsea carrying a plunger.)

So, where was I? Oh, I hate grocery shopping, all the more so since moving to my current home in Philadelphia.

As a somewhat recently transplanted New Yorker, I'm now living without a car. I'm actually doing okay with that, since Philadelphia is one of only a handful of American cities where turning one's back on the robber barons of Houston, Kennebunkport, and greater Araby doesn't require a psychotic change in one's day-to-day routine. (Well, to be honest, I'm doing okay with it for now. I know I eventually will succumb to the lure of something like this or maybe something like that.)

As my broker was only too enthusiastic to point out, there are two large supermarkets within "walking" distance of my home -- strangely enough, directly across the street from one another. She neglected to mention that said walk is a bit of a hike, particularly on the return trip as the loops of those damned plastic bags magically convert themselves into straight edge razors.

I tried. I really tried. I hailed cabs for the return trip, enduring unbearably long waits amid a humbling pile of ramshackle sacks. I cajoled friends into driving me there and back. I even -- gasp! -- once took a bus. Enough. I'd had it. Actually, I'd more than had it as it became apparent that the winter of 2002-2003 was going to be a complete bitch. No more.

I wasn't even sure anyone was still pursuing the sell-groceries-on-the-web business model, but one night last week I checked into it anyway. Hey! Netgrocer is still around! What the hell, I'll give it a shot.

A godsend. Truly a godsend. The prices are, as best I could tell, the same as what I've been paying (I wish Martha had been sitting next to me! Something she would happily do, the coupons she clipped on my behalf no doubt in hand.); the site is easy to navigate; and the selection encompasses everything a typical shopper needs and then some.

Maybe I went a little crazy running through Netgrocer's virtual aisles: It's pretty easy to fill multiple shopping carts when you don't actually have to push them around. I racked up a tally much higher than I expected and had second thoughts as I approached the "cash register."

But I'm glad I pressed on, for the abundance that arrived -- by Federal Express Ground -- just two days later is equivalent to what I could have foraged from eight trips on foot and four by cab, making the delivery charge, which seemed a little steep, worth every penny.

February 12, 2003

The Best and Worst of the City of Brotherly Love

Arranged in Thoroughly Random and Unrelated Pairings

PHILADELPHIA - LOVE IT: Rittenhouse Square. Located within the greater Center City district but sometimes seemingly a world apart, Rittenhouse Square, originally called "Southwest Square," is one of five such spaces William Penn laid out in his vision for Philadelphia.

The square, bounded on the east by 18th St., the west by 19th St., the north by Walnut St., and the south by Locust St. (sort of), in 1825 was renamed in honor of David Rittenhouse, professor of astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania, inventor of the collimating telescope, president of the American Philosophical Society, and the first director of the U.S. Mint.

Rittenhouse Square is a small but charming urban park, perfectly situated near the heart of the city though sufficiently off to side, shall we say, to serve as a much-needed refuge or respite from the daily pressures of city life. Sure, it's in need of a little help -- and what isn't in Philadelphia? -- but thanks to Hadia Lefavre and her former employer, the Scotts Co., the park was reseeded last fall, the results of which should be apparent within a few months.

Surrounding Rittenhouse Square are, among other sites of interest, the Church of the Holy Trinity; Rensselaer House, the former home of Alexander Van Rensselaer; the Alison Building, the offices of the Presbyterian Ministers' Fund, the oldest life insurance company in the world; the Rittenhouse Club, the membership of which once included Henry James; the Philadelphia Art Alliance; the Barclay Hotel; and the Philadelphia Ethical Society.

Nearby one finds the Curtis Institute of Music, attended by, among others, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg; St. Mark's Episcopal Church; the Print Club, a nearly century-old institution devoted to supporting prints as an artistic medium; the Cosmopolitan Club of Philadelphia; the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America; Tenth Presbyterian Church; First Church of Christ, Scientist, Philadelphia; Thaw House, once the residence of Harry K. Thaw -- you know, of Evelyn Nesbit / Stanford White love-triangle fame (Over to you, E.L.); the Civil War Library and Museum; and the Rosenbach Museum and Library.

PHILADELPHIA - HATE IT: Incompetent and secretive local government. The administration of Mayor John Street (D) has made some strides in maintaining the positive momentum achieved during the administration of former mayor Ed Rendell (D) (now governor of Pennsylvania), but Street obviously lacks the ability, interest, energy, and enthusiasm to bring the city to the next level.

The situation at the Convention Center, about which Street seems incapable of doing anything, is a mess and a genuine threat to the city's economy.

Mayor Street holds news conferences with a frequency that makes President Bush look forthcoming.

The decision to close a critical block of Chestnut St., a subject about which I have commented in the past, here at |||trr||| and at The Rittenhouse Review, was not only ridiculous, it was made in secret and not announced until months later.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, Mayor Street is so inept and so incompetent that I've begun calling him the David Dinkins of the 21st century. And if you don't know what I mean by that, consider yourself very fortunate.


I love dogs. I'm crazy about them. Most of them anyway. But I could never be a "dog person," at least not the type that shows them. Those people, well, they're a different breed entirely.

My aversion to the dog show crowd, which, I should add, includes scores of pleasant people, some of whom I've come to know over the years, is compounded by what are to me the inexplicable results of the major dog shows.

If you pay even passing attention to these events you likely already have noticed that the judges have an enduring and unshakable bias in favor of certain breeds: Terriers, Poodles, Retrievers, Labradors, and lap dogs of the most annoying sort.

The Bulldog, also known as the English Bulldog, which happens to be my favorite breed, and by a long shot, always gets stiffed in these competitions.

Case in point: This year's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which ended yesterday.

The winner? A terrier, of course. Specifically, Torums Scarf Michael, a Kerry Blue Terrier.

Bulldogs are shown in the non-sporting group, which is as good a place as any since the category's name befits the lazy easy-going character of the Bulldog. In this group the Bulldog goes up against some of the judges' favorite breeds, breeds that once again finished higher at Westminster this year.

First place in the non-sporting group went to a Standard Poodle named Ale Kai Mikimoto On Fifth, a dog named after a Japanese jewelry store for crying out loud. Second place was awarded to Paray's I Told You So, a Bichon Frise, which is sort of like a little noisy poodle. In third place, Northwind Stormy Night, a Lhasa Apso, a breed about which I think I need say nothing at all. And fourth place was occupied by DeLamer's Fire Island Fox, a Schipperke, a deservedly little-known breed that looks like something time forgot on the island of Tasmania.

I encourage you to take a look at the photos of the non-sporting group's award winners. Unfortunately, Westminster hasn't published photos of the highest-rated Bulldogs (best of breed went to DiToro's Showbiz Kander and Ebb), so we can't do a direct comparison. Instead, look at those photos and tell me whether you would pick any of them over my beloved Mildred, who wasn't even in the show.


I think this picture speaks for itself.

[Post-publication addendum (February 13): The inimitable voice at TBogg agrees. Well, except for that stuff about Basset Hounds, my third favorite breed of dog.]

[Post-publication addendum (February 13): Reader N.T. writes:

"Good points -- it is always the 'fru-fru' dogs that seem to win. But I must take issue with your assessment of the Schipperke. This is no poofy, fru-fru dog. They were bred as barge dogs and sheepherders in Belgium, and are starting to be used for search and rescue, to go where larger scenting dogs can't.

"I have one. This dog plays with kids, runs down squirrels at 20 yards, herds our cats (a whole new level of indignity for them), and has a four-foot standing vertical jump. No 'fru' here. One solid dog, close to indestructible.

"Of course, when the Westminster judges find that out, (plus find out that their coats look that good naturally -- they have a water-resistant dual coat similar to otters) they'll never place that high again.

"And Mildred should definitely win something."]

February 11, 2003

Dude, no way you're surprised by this.

February 10, 2003

Maybe it's because I live in Pennsylvania, one of just a handful of states experiencing a decline in population and one dotted by all too many cities decades past their Elvis years, that a story like this one -- "Even Games Are Awash With Worry," about the possible demise of the Johnstown Chiefs of the East Coast Hockey League -- really tugs at what's left of my heartstrings.

Please. Support your local sports teams, museums, libraries, orchestras, theaters, schools, parks, historic sites, charities . . . everything, really. You'll be sorry when they're gone.

[Post-publication addendum (February 21): You wouldn't want this to happen in your community, would you?]

February 05, 2003

Do you need a hug?

Do you really, really, badly need a hug?

So badly you would accept one from a stranger?

If so, point yourself to the southeast corner of Walnut and S. 12th Streets, Philadelphia, and head there forthwith because just a few moments ago there was at that intersection a pair of twentysomethings, one male and one female, enthusiastically offering "free hugs" to passersby.

No, I'm sorry. I have no idea. A class project, perhaps?

And, of course, it will come as no surprise that I declined the offer.


Neiman-Marcus today announced the availability of a wider assortment of Gucci apparel and accessories for sale through the specialty retailer's web site, NeimanMarcus.com.

It appears that if Gucci's Tom Ford has his way, men's shoes are going less "chunky."

This is not a good thing. For those of you who don't get it -- shoes, I mean -- just trust me. This is not good.

What's worse, though, even abominable, is Gucci's collection of "resort men's footwear." Don't look. I'm telling you: Don't look!

I told you not to. You'll listen next time, won't you?

One last comment. For years I've been saying, "Flip-flops . . . Always the wrong choice." Is any more confirmation necessary?


For years I heard people -- or saw tabloids -- call Michael Jackson "Wacko Jacko" and never fully understood why, celebrity gazing not being my kind of thing. But I did take the time to read today's article in the Philadelphia Daily News, "He's Jacko, Star of the Man-Boy Show," by Don Russell, and, well, gee whiz, I'm no psychiatrist, nor am I a lawyer, but Jackson seems to be to be both dangerously insane and habitually criminal.

A few snippets, but there's much more in the article:

"[J]ackson writes his best songs while sitting on the branches of a magic tree on his Neverland Ranch."

"[Jackson] vows to adopt two kids -- a boy and a girl -- from each continent."

Asked if he thinks it's appropriate to share his bed with a child, Jackson responded, "Why can't you share your bed? The most loving thing to do is to share your bed with someone. It's a beautiful thing. It's very right, it's very loving. Because what's wrong with sharing a love?"

Okay, just a little bit more:

"Whenever kids come here, they always want to stay with me . . . so I go, 'If it's OK with your parents, then yes, you can.' That includes his 'best friend,' Gavin, a 12-year-old with whom he is shown holding hands. The youngster met Jackson two years ago, after he was told he was dying of cancer. Jackson believes the cozy nights they spent together helped cure the boy. 'I am Peter Pan,' he crows. 'He represents youth, childhood, never growing up, magic, flying.'"

Enough already. Send in the straitjacket and the handcuffs.

February 04, 2003

Yesterday I gave |||trr||| readers a little quiz asking them when they might have expected to be paid for the work they performed for an employer in January 2003 assuming they had been told the company's policy was to pay employees once a month on the first of the month for work performed during the preceding month, assuming the employee had established a direct-deposit relationship several months prior to the pay day under consideration and given that February 1, 2003 fell on a Saturday.

I tried to keep the quiz relatively painless by posing the question in a multiple-choice format, offering five possible answers labeled A through E, with the suggested paydays ranging from Friday, January 31, 2003 through Tuesday, February 4, 2003.

Now for the results.

The "correct" answer to yesterday's quiz, at least according to my employer, is "E": Tuesday, February 4, 2003.

Did you get it wrong?

So did I! Or at least I would have had I merely been taking the quiz and not living its circumstances from day to day.

You see, I would have selected "A": Friday, January 31, 2003.

Stupid me. Stupid, stupid me.

I've come to learn that when my employer says employees are paid on "the first of the month" what they really mean -- if you ask them -- is that employees are paid on "the first business day of the month," which, in the case of February 2003, is not Saturday, February 1, but Monday, February 3.

Hey, news to me!

And so I learned that all of my past experience -- anticipating payment on "the first of the month" meant the first of the month, and, when "the first of the month" fell on a weekend, that payday would shift to the first prior weekday -- was groundless in my present circumstances.

And this policy, i.e., not moving the payday into January, I've been told, "is firm," because "if the checks are authorized before the first of the month it affects the bank statements in a way that's too confusing."

Uh-huh. So now I learn I'm working for a company at which the accountants find a typical monthly checking account statement to be "too confusing"? Great. I can't wait to see what these numbskulls do with my tax forms.

"But," you ask, "why Tuesday, February 4? If your employer pays on the first business day of the subsequent month why weren't you paid on Monday, February 3?"

I'm so glad you asked!

You see, when they say -- but only after you ask -- that employees are paid on "the first business day of the subsequent month," what they mean is that "the first business day of the subsequent month" is the date on which they "aim" to pay employees.

However, they add, again only after you ask, depending upon the situation in the payroll department -- situations about which they are decidedly vague -- employees might not be paid until the second business day of the month, which, in the case of February 2003, is Tuesday, February 4.

Thus, employees of my employer who expected to be paid for the work they performed for the company in January 2003 on February 1, 2003, the first calendar day of the subsequent month, or, God forbid, those greedy ones, like me, on January 31, 2003, the first business day preceding the first calendar day of the subsequent month, or even on February 3, 2003, the first business day of the month, had no right to expect to have been paid, assuming, of course, they asked the right questions to the right people -- until February 4, 2003.

Just one more question, I promise!

Can you guess at which time of day on said date, February 4, 2003, my employer's employees were paid? That is, at the beginning of the day or at the close of business, in other words, after 5:00 p.m. Eastern time?

If you guessed at the end of the day and, better yet, were thoroughly unfazed by the implications of this decision and all of those discussed above upon the company's employees -- and cared not one bit about their complaints thereon -- you should consider a new career in human resources, payroll accounting, or management.

And when, after adopting this new career path, you learn that all of the company's employees look down upon you with revulsion and disgust, don't blame me. You brought this upon yourself with your own stupidity. No worry, though: that same stupidity will mark you as a stellar employee in any of those departments.

February 03, 2003

If your employer told you the company's policy was to pay employees once a month on the first of the month for the previous month, and assuming you had established a direct-deposit relationship with your employer several months prior to the pay day under consideration, when would you expect to be paid, i.e., to receive the appropriate funds in your bank account, for the work you performed for said company in January 2003, given that February 1, 2003 fell on a Saturday, assuming none of the days in question are holidays?

(A) Friday, January 31, 2003

(B) Saturday, February 1, 2003

(C) Sunday, February 2, 2003

(D) Monday, February 3, 2003

(E) Tuesday, February 4, 2003

|||trr||| will provide readers with the "correct" answer tomorrow.