Molt Be Blog

Friday, September 28, 2007

Heavy Bologna Users

While over at my teacher's writing studio for the party the other night, one of the other guests noticed a prominently placed book and pointed it out: A Life Style Study of Bologna Users 1980.

"The author?" you ask.

"Union Carbide"


I'll tell you WTF: thirty pages of pure hilarity (ok, maybe ten of thirty). This document appears to be a marketing study on Bologna. Clearly, like most gigantic corporations, Union Carbide had interests other than polluting Indian water supplies and kicking puppies.

I won't go into all of it's contents, but I can't help but post the first two pages from Bertha, the "heavy user" (pages 16 and 17).

Bertha represents the heaviest user of bologna. Members of Bertha's household eat bologna several times a week and together they consume about nine slices during this period. Families like Bertha's make up 30% of the bologna-using households and they account for 48% of the bologna consumed...

Bertha's attitudes toward marriage and family are generally conservative and traditional. She does not think women can successfully combine career, marriage and motherhood. She does agree with her more liberal sisters, however, that men should share household tasks with women...

Bertha has a generally positive self-image, thinking of herself as happy and healthy. However, she may be letting her physical appearance slip somewhat. She does not go to the beauty shop, nor is she an exerciser or jogger.

I never would have guessed any of this information about "Heavy Users" of bologna! Her name is also almost too fitting. "Bertha"? Really? Come on! That just screams "fat bologna eating woman".

If this is what all marketing studies are like, I want more!

Here's the PDF for your full viewing pleasure. (Also available as a 21MB File here that's far more readable...)


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

morbid inspiration

There are moments when I can't stand my job - dealing with tiny nonprofits with no IT budget that want an amazing website with a Google map and integrated social network ("can it be, like, facebook?") - and then there are days like today, days when I realize that (a) things could be so much worse and (b) my lack of pay is actually doing some good.

This morning I checked my outlook calendar before leaving home and realized that I didn't have single internal meeting. I hadn't had a day without an internal meeting in a long time and decided it was a prime opportunity to work from home. One of the great things about the new job is that I don't have to lie when I say I want to work from home. Here's what I wrote:

Looking at my schedule I see my first day with no meetings in quite a while, so I’m taking the chance to work from home. I’ll be on email and cell all day and may get lonely and wander in later.

One of the tasks on my calendar was to follow up with a hospice for the homeless located in Adams Morgan. They'd called about some glitches in an Access Database that someone at the company had built for them back in 2001-02. I called up and arranged to come in to take a look at the issue at 2pm.

The hospice is located in a large old house on a street behind Columbia road. I had a little trouble finding it because the address in our company database was wrong, but called after knocking on the wrong door and was directed by Candice. Once up the steps and through the doorway, I found myself in the foyer of a classic DC corner row-house. A large living room opened up to the left with a rounded window looking out onto the corner of the street. To the right, four people were sitting at a thick wood dining-room table. The youngest (about 14) picked at some food in his hands as he talked to the others and leaned back on the hind legs of his chair.

I'd never been to a hospice before, but had looked at the database on our own servers a little bit before hand. We didn't have any resident information, but we did have lookup lists of the various diagnoses that could be checked off for incoming patients: HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis C, Dementia caused by AIDS...

"Hi!" I said, "is, um, Candice here?"

"She might be in there," the youngest one said, pointing to the doorway straight ahead of me.

I walked around and into a long restaurant-style galley kitchen. Two women there directed me upstairs two flights where I met Candice and had her walk me through the various problems. Most of it was pretty easy stuff and an hour and a cup of coffee later, I had it all wrapped up.

On my way back out the door, I stopped by the kitchen to drop off my empty coffee mug and passed the youngest resident who was on the phone.

As I passed, he put his hand over the receiver and asked, "are you from DC Teen AIDS?"

It took me a minute to process before responding, "No. Sorry. I'm just an IT guy."

I left and the whole way home I couldn't help but think what an asshole I've been for having complained about anything in the past, well... ever. Who cares if I feel busy with trying to balance work and a class and the wedding and everything else? I'd never even considered the idea of seeing a 14 year-old with AIDS... let a lone a 14 year-old in a hospice. I'd expected to see elderly people, but only one of the six residents that I saw there looked to be over the age of 50.

Later this evening, I went to a party to celebrate the end of the small writing class that I took over at the USDA Grad School. Our teacher has a space that he uses for his business and writing classes over on Q street and I made it there only a little late after trying to wedge in some random home improvement tasks after finishing my work stuff.

Shortly after we arrived, someone asked the teacher what classes he was teaching now. Amongst others, he mentioned teaching a class at the University of Maryland which he'd been asked to take over after one of his colleagues, Nick, had died unexpectedly. Nick was only fifty-four and had died of a heart attack with no prior symptoms. The teacher told us a few stories about the funeral (including a priest refusing to stop a Liturgy while a mourner had a stroke and was carried out by EMTs) that lightened the mood a bit.

Later, we were talking about the class at UMD again and I asked what the course title was.

"Technical Writing," he said.

"Oh! I took technical writing when I went there," I said.

"Who was your professor?"

"I can't remember his name," I said, "but I remember that he was really good.... maybe it was Ni... oh shit."

"What was his last name?"

"I don't remember... maybe..."


"Oh yeah," I said. "That was it. Oh my god. It was him?"

And indeed it was. Nick Allocca was one of the few inspirational professors I can remember having at Maryland. He'd given me a recommendation for a temp job when I came back from Spain and had been one of the few professors to tell me that I was doing a good job verbally instead of through a grade, a rare feat in a school as big as Maryland. And now he's gone. There's another service in College Park on Wednesday and I think I'll go.

Some days I might feel like I'm overworked or that I'm not making a difference - not affecting something bigger than myself. Other days I don't consider anything larger than me at all. My day today was full of death - all of it making me feel sad and grateful.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Scotts in the Rockies

Estes Park Long's Peak Scottish/Irish Highland Festival - Drum01
Our visit to the Grandparents' house in Colorado coincided with the annual Long's Peak Scottish/Irish Highland Festival in Estes Park, which is kicked off by a parade on Saturday morning at 9:30am. Granpda talked about it enough on Friday night when we arrived and again on Saturday morning that we figured we'd better go check out the parade to see what all the fuss was about. Given his recommendation, we kind of assumed that Grandpa would go.

"Have you ever seen the parade?" I asked grandpa.

"Oh, about once in the last 20 years."

"Do you want to come with?"

"Oh no! I don't want to see all that!"

The Scottish/Irish parade actually turned out to be a pretty big deal here in Estes, complete with bagpipers from Scotland and loads of Scottish Terriers and Wolfhounds. Tourists and residents crowded the parade route with collapsible chairs, which made viewing easy for us as we waited behind them. Our view was only blocked occasionally as everyone in attendance insisted on standing up every time an American flag came by.

After the parade, we headed over to the Post Office so that I could mail home my house keys before going to Safeway to get some stuff for next week and a short trip to Radio Shack to pick up a DC/AC car attachment that let's you plug in normal appliance (i.e. laptop).

After lunch, we headed back to Safeway with grandpa to pick up the raw materials for making home made ice cream in the evening.

I also got put in charge of making dinner, which went swimmingly until I dumped 2/3 of the pasta I was cooking into the sink as I tried to drain it. Oh well. R came to my aid and helped to finish the recipe (a good thing, too, as I'd missed a crucial instruction that involved taking a sauce off the heat before adding a bunch of ingredients).

This morning, we set out early to climb up to Sky Pond via Lock Vale and the Lake of Glass. A 4.4 mile hike in Rocky Mountain National park with a significant elevation gain that had our feet in pain within the first hour.

We ate lunch next to the Lake of Glass after climbing a massive waterfall (seen in the very back of the picture here). A storm started to roll in as we were finishing our sandwiches, so we had to give up on Sky pond and make our way quickly below tree line.
Waterfall on the way to Sky Pond

The way down seemed to take a lot longer than we'd expected, but we reached the car with only a little bit of rain and whining about our feet hurting. Then it was a 25 minute drive back to the grandparents where R made a delicious lasagna for the six of us. We also got to polish it off with the ice cream that we made last night. A caloric avalanche, but about what I'd expected from a trip to grandparents'.

Tomorrow, we leave early and drive Westward. We haven't really decided where we're going to go for sure, but know that we have to be in Vegas by Friday so that we can check in and appreciate the MGM Grand. I'd like to see the Grand Canyon for a second time along the way as the last time I saw it we were only there for half an hour. We're also planning on spending a day or two around Arches and Canyonlands and another one camping in Glen Canyon near the Utah/Arizona border. In any case, we'll try to head out around 8am tomorrow to drive up over the mountains and down to towards Moab or Mesa Verde.

All for now. More from the road!


Friday, September 07, 2007

Definitely not a vacation from technology

I'm currently waiting for Sis and her boyfriend SG at the Denver airport. Their flight said it was on time on all of the airport signage, but she'd texted from her layover in Detroit to say that they would be an hour late. Had she been wrong or had the airport screwed up the signs. She goes to Cornell. She is smart. The airport clearly attended some unaccredited university run by Jerry Falwell. It is dumb.

Thanks to this handy dandy blackberry bluetooth modem thing I got figured out before we left, I'm able to have free wireless wherever I get a phone data signal and could check the flight online at to see that it was actually scheduled to arrive 45 minutes late. Stupid signs.

Stupid me, too. I remembered shortly after boarding the plane that I totally forgot to turn off my alarm clock before I left. Sorry neighbors! You're going to be waking up to track 5 of Peter, Bjorn and John's Writer's Block for the next two days until I can FedEx a set of keys to our friend CG to have him go over and unplug the thing. That'll teach me to reset it in my sleep every morning.

Once the kid and SG get off the plane and get their bags (she just texted that it arrived) we can go pick up the car and then drive the hour and a half North to Grandpa and Grandma's house in Estes Park.


Thursday, September 06, 2007


I'm taking the first vacation I've had since last July's trip to India that doesn't revolve around a specific event. R and I are off to visit the Gparents in Estes Park, CO and then road tripping to Vegas via Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce, Zion, the Grand Canyon and Death Valley.

I haven't done a Western road trip since 2001 and can't wait to see all that open space again! I thought about trying to ignore the blackberry and the laptop and all that jazz for a week, but I've been ignoring it all for the last two months in preparation for the wedding anyway... so what the hell. I figure I'll try to blog an entry a day from the road and maybe take care of my whole supposed to write for 30 minutes a day thing while I'm at it.

With that said, I'm off to bed. Look forward to a post a day starting tomorrow night from Mountain Time zones (with pictures, I hope).