Saturday, December 30, 2017

In Case You Missed It

Let's face it: this has been an intense year for news. In other annums you could close your eyes, go away for a few days, drink yourself under the table, and not much would have happened when you finally surfaced. This year, if you didn't click on the headlines the second you woke up, you might miss a war or a hurricane or another well-known figure in trouble over sex or money or Russians or all of the above. And that's just before breakfast. 

So as a public service the folks in the GA Newsroom have collected just some of the other important stories you might have missed in the last 12 months. Partisans of both sides, stand down: there's not a Trump among them. 

January 3. Bartell Drugs in Pullman WA issued a recall for an $18 pair of Strideline socks supposedly sporting a Washington State University Cougars theme. However, the logo on the socks was from the school's arch rivals, the University of Washington Huskies. The error was the result of someone on the design team failing to switch out the mascots when the sock design was adapted for the Cougars. "It's pretty unfortunate," co-founder Jake Director told the Seattle Times. 

February 8. Customs officers in Texas examining a shipment of key limes from Mexico discovered nearly 4,000 pounds of marijuana disguised as citrus fruits. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents used a non-intrusive imagining system and canine team and found that 34,764 of the "limes" were actually small packages of weed disguised to blend in with the fruits. They estimated the 3,947.37 pounds of marijuana had an estimated street value of $789,467. The case was turned over to Homeland Security Investigations agents. 

March 17. A Washington state Costco shopper had to shed his pants when his cellphone abruptly caught fire in his pocket. A store manager said the phone's flames had died down by the time employees arrived with a fire extinguisher. He said the man had managed to remove his pants fast enough to avoid being injured. However, the manager did note that the phone left a scorch mark on the floor of the aisle. The shopper was given a new pair of pants. 

May 11. Officials at a Connecticut school said a sign that misspelled "entrance" as "enterance" went unnoticed for several months. North Branford Public Schools Superintendent Scott Schoonmaker said the "North Branford High School Main Enterance" sign was put up in August after being made by an outside company. "I've probably driven by that sign a thousand times," the superintendent said, "but you're not paying attention, you're coming and going." 

August 30. An Indiana couple finally achieved their decades-long quest to eat at all 645 U.S. Cracker Barrel locations. Ray Yoder and his wife Wilma celebrated his 81st birthday by traveling from their 40-acre farm in Goshen, IN to dine at the final location on their list in Tualatin, OR. Most of the couple's Cracker Barrel stops had come by car as part of previously planned vacations, but the restaurant chain decided to fly the couple out to the west coast on an all-expense paid trip for their final stop. The couple enjoyed their favorite meals of blueberry waffles and eggs with sausage. 

October 6. A strange smell that prompted a hazmat response at a Baltimore high school was found to have a seasonal, but not unusual cause: a pumpkin spice air freshener. Officials evacuated Cristo Rey Jesuit High School and summoned emergency personnel including the Baltimore City Fire Department's hazmat team to investigate. "Five members of our community were transported to area hospitals as a precautionary measure," said Baltimore Fire Chief Roman Clark. "After extensive testing, the BCFD determined that the building was safe. It's pumpkin spice. It is not hazardous at all." 

November 20. England's Doncaster Council held a series of Twitter polls to allow the public to name its two new salt-spreading vehicles. They were joining a fleet that included "Mr. Plow," "The Subzero Hero," "Gritney Spears," "Brad Grit" and "Usain Salt." The winners were "David Plowie" and "Gritsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Anti-Slip Machiney." Said Deputy Mayor Glyn Jones, "We look forward to Usain Salt, David Plowie and the rest of the gang keeping our roads safe this winter." 

So now you know.


Marc Wollin of Bedford reads the paper cover to cover. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Under the Radar

The tree at Rockefeller Center. The windows at Lord & Taylor. The Christmas markets in Grand Central and Union Square and Bryant Park. These and a hundred other holiday installations are the usual seasonal manifestations that blossom all over the city. And that's just in the 212 area code. If you call Boston home, it might be the tree on the Commons. In Chicago you could go to watch the carolers at Cloud Gate. And in Dallas you might gather along Commerce Street for the Holiday Parade, this year marking the 30th outing for the dancing elves. 

Change the focus from wide to tight, and you see the same thing on a more granular level. There are holiday displays in stores and shops. In the office buildings uptown and downtown there are huge decorated trees along with collections of toys donated by generous individuals for kids not so fortunate. Add to that a dusting of snow and a snap of cold, and the usual grimy edges of the city turn soft and white like a print by Currier and Ives. 

Yet as often as I was in New York City these past few weeks, I had the impression that the holiday was lying low. True, I made it a point to avoid the big tourist draws, like the main floor at Macy's or the skating rink under the tree. But on several multi-hour walks across different parts of town, and in meetings both business and casual, it seemed like people were going through the motions. They were more caught up with the onslaught of news stories about elections and sexual harassment and tax reform, and less with a spirit of hopefulness and good cheer that suffuses all at this time of year. 

It was that way on a personal level as well. True, it has been several years since we have had little kids in our orbit, either close or extended, and so the wild-eyed wonder of the whole Santa thing was absent. For various reasons, we set up our Christmas tree in another room where it seems we don't go as much, and so on some nights we have even forgotten to turn on the lights. And while we have certainly had the chance to catch up with friends and family, it seems the talk is less about the spirit of the holiday and more about the difficulties of the world. 

It was summed up by a Nativity display I passed in an office building. A beautiful Christmas tree was accompanied by a large creche. Gathered together were Wise Men and Mary and Joseph, along with an assortment of animals and villagers. They were all clustered around, gazing adoringly at the center of the circle. But whether because of religious sensitivities or fear of theft or just because someone lost it in the storeroom where it was crammed between the Halloween and Easter decorations, the focal point was empty. Rather than staring at a baby Jesus, the figures were admiring an empty floor. In the world at large, as in that display, something appears to be missing. 

Regardless of your religion and what you observe, this time of year has always been about a spirit of hopefulness and possibility. To be sure, it is a holiday because of what it commemorates, the birth of Christ, and not because of a sale at Saks. A recent survey found that more than half of the country celebrates it as a religious observance. But the rest don't ignore it, as if it were some festival recognized only by true believers. It is celebrated as a cultural holiday, with its themes of new beginnings, possibility and the joy of being together. But this year? It seems presumptuous for me, a non-Christian, to lament the diminishment of the holiday, but it feels that way.

Mind you, I'm not saying there's no recognition of that Christmas feeling, be it religious or secular. It's rather that the real world seems to have put its thumb on the scale. People aren't afraid to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays," but there are so many distractions that are competing for attention, and sadly winning. Put another way, regardless of your political persuasion, it would have been more in keeping with the spirit of the holiday to look under the tree and find socks versus a reduction in the corporate tax rate.


Marc Wollin of Bedford is hoping for a quiet holiday. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down?

If you go online to buy a product or look for a restaurant or select a movie, odds are you read the reviews. Maybe not every one, but you likely glance at those at the top, scroll down a bit to see what's buried in the list, and maybe punch to the next page to see if the sentiment holds. Russians not withstanding, it's almost like judging an Olympic figure skating competition: you throw out the high and the low, and average those remaining to get a sense of how good or bad something is. 

Taken together, those reviews give you a reasonable sense of what you're looking at. After all, they are truly random: they can come from any place, person, age, gender or race. Sure, there are shills in there from friends, employees, paid endorsers or even reviewing "mills" in Asia. But the sheer number in and of itself can be a defense against fraud. For the top-rated items in question, an awful lot of people weigh in with their opinions and experiences, meaning it takes a lot of fakes to overwhelm the legit ones. Looking for pots and pans? Amazon's featured set has over 1700 reviews. Need running shoes? The best selling ones on Zappos have about 2500 positive and negative impressions. Want to see the latest superhero saga? "Justice League" garnered over 114,000 posts on Rotten Tomatoes. Spoiler alert: it was mostly splats. 

But for many products, the sample size can be surprisingly small. That's because there are so many products and outlets, fragmenting the consumer universe. After all, once you get off the well-worn path of 50" flat screen TV's at Best Buy, the possibilities are basically limitless. The result is that the top rated bread maker at has just 90 reviews. A top rated coffee maker at Bed Bath And Beyond clocks in with just 61 reviews. And maybe it's just that Santa hasn't made his rounds yet, but even at Walmart the Barbie Fashionistas Style So Sweet Petite Body Doll, as of this writing, has just 3 reviews. Now is Ken's chance. 

All of that means that your opinion of a less trafficked item can really count for something. Take something as pedestrian and unsexy as a name badge. For many of the events I deal with there are a lot of people swirling about, both staff and guests. It's not uncommon to for the client to provide some variation of a "Hello My Name Is" placard. But often we're on site and busy working long before the name badge machine shows up. And so I wanted a generic one to throw in my bag should the need arise. 

A quick scan online brought me to Better Badges, a small company in California.  For less than eight bucks delivered, I could have a pair (one to use, one as a spare) of a basic engraved plastic plate with my name. I filled out the order form, typed in my credit card info and hit send. A few days later, a small package showed up. I opened it to find my badges: simple, clean, just want I needed. Packed alongside was a note thanking me for my order, and asking me to leave a positive review, or to contact them if I couldn't. 

Well, I couldn't. While the physical quality of the product was fine, the spacing on the printing was not. There was slightly more space between some letters than others. So I wrote them a note, saying that it was not the "5-star quality" they promised. They quickly wrote back and said they would remake and resend. A week or so later I got 4 replacements with a note apologizing for the error, asking me not to mention the first screw-up, and to leave a positive review this time around. 

All this for a minuscule order where the postage and replacements probably cost more than the total sale. But with such a small pool of customers, every opinion carries a lot of weight. I could be a giant maker, or a giant killer (badge division). I thought about what to write so as not to be misleading to another buyer. I settled on "Good price, good service." All true. I just hope their next customer has that exact experience, only the first time around.


Marc Wollin of Bedford usually doesn't write reviews, he just reads them. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

No, This Way

In June of 1989 during the protests in Tiananmen Square in China, a single man stood in front of a column of rolling tanks, forcing it to stop. The footage of Tank Man, as he became known, ricocheted around the world, and became a symbol of what one person can do in the face of authority. And this in China, a country and a culture where individual shows of defiance are few and far between. 

It's a bit of a stretch to draw a direct ink between Tank Man and 28-year-old Xiao-Cai who lives in the city of Lianyungang in that country, but then again maybe not. While the identity of the man from 1989 has never been definitively established, we do know some things about both individuals. Both are Chinese males who saw an injustice and were willing to stand up to it. Both took matters into their own hands. Both were willing to risk their lives to accomplish their goals. But while Tank Man was trying to stop a potential massacre, Mr Cai was just trying to get home from work on time. 

At least that's what he told police after they tracked him down. Actually, "tracking him down" was pretty easy, as he was still on the site of his act of defiance, identified easily by the paintbrush in his hand. Seems that Mr.Cai took a bus to work each day, and was constantly bottle-necked and delayed at the intersection of Keyuan and Cangwu on his way home. While he was sitting there looking out the window and not moving, he noted that there were open lanes for left turns, while his lanes for going straight were jammed. Depending on where you live, think 5PM and the Holland Tunnel in New York, the I5 between the 710 and 605 in Los Angeles, or Interstate 35 virtually anywhere in Austin. 

If you conjure up your own local road-rage locale, you know how Cai felt. But while there are those among us that would just keep reading our books or listening to our tunes or napping, he had had enough. So one day he decided to make things better, at least for his particular situation. As you can plainly see on the surveillance footage, he showed up at the offending intersection with a ruler, a bucket of paint, some professional reflective finishing sand, and the aforementioned brush. 

In plain sight as traffic swirled around him and pedestrians walked by, he very carefully added a "straight ahead" arrow to the (in his estimation) under-utilized left-hand turn lane. Not wanting to inconvenience those who did indeed need to go that direction, he also added a "waiting area" to some shorter stretches of pavement further down the road. No stick figures here, the arrows are in the same style as the official markings, and other than their newness, blended in with the existing symbols. 

In fact, so perfectly did he create his little revolutionary modification that had the cops not caught him in the act, it's possible that the markings would have completely escaped detection until some traffic engineer stumbled upon them. As it was, either someone glanced at the surveillance camera monitor, the cops happened to drive by or someone called it in. No matter: there was Cai, paintbrush in hand and unapologetic. According to the police, he "acted ignorant" when questioned. But the tape left little doubt. And so they hauled him in, fined him 1000 yuan, or about $151, and painted over his handiwork. 

One wonders if Cai was just improving upon the exploits a deliveryman in the city of Jinhua from earlier in the year. There, officers walking patrol were baffled by a series of strange markings on the pavement. After viewing surveillance footage, they found that the man had pulled his van over in an area where there was no parking, then got out of the vehicle and drew his own space with chalk. However, his lines were incomplete and easily identifiable. In that respect Cai was an evolutionary step up. 

Small chafes against authority, to be sure. But you gotta admire Cai's inventiveness. After all, who among us hasn't tried to buck the man, and brought 13 items to the empty 10-item-only express checkout lane? It might not be a tank, but sometimes the situation requires you to take matters into your own hands.


Marc Wollin of Bedford takes deeps breathes when he gets to toll booths. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Size Matters

No, it's not about that. 

It's about a place to sleep. Specifically, one of the several lightly used bedrooms in our house now that we are empty nesters. It's not a new state of affairs for us: our kids have been out of the house and on their own for a number of years. Like many parents, when they first moved out we kept their rooms pretty much as they left them. It was partly sentimental, partly bait, partly inertia. Why changed what worked for so many years, especially when it might induce them to visit, and no one was forcing us to change anything? 

Not surprisingly, they preferred their new lives and digs, and came back to stay infrequently. Their rooms started to look more like museums, with old trophies and certificates gathering dust, and cracked and peeling paint. All in all, it was time to clean them out and up, throwing away boxes of school projects ("The History of the Submarine") and awards ("Music Student of the Month/January"). We gave them a fresh coat of paint and shuffled the furniture around to make them more inviting to potential visitors, even if they hadn't earned a Third Place Youth Soccer trophy. 

The one upgrade we didn't deal with was the beds themselves. The existing singles had been purchased originally as big-boy beds. At the time those mattresses seemed so large for little kids. But life happened, along with innumerable growth spurts, and they were never replaced as the boys grew older. Their feet might hang off the end a bit, or they would sleep with their knees bent, but no one thought to complain (much). Until they went away to college and experienced extra-long twins, it never even seemed worthy of a discussion. And when they finally came home after school, it wasn't to stay, so those potential user-driven requests for an upgrade never happened. 

But with our DIY makeover, I became one of those users. More and more as we are getting older, our nighttime schedules are shifting. Our asynchronous body clocks meant that my wife and I evolved a habit of reading in different rooms and drifting off separately. She took our queen bed, while I squatted elsewhere on an easy chair or one of the twins, eventually returning to our room late at night. And yes, those singles were uncomfortable: my feet hung over the edge, and my knees hurt from bending. It's amazing the boys hadn't had us hauled up on charges of child abuse. 

We had an old double in the (official) guest room, but it was really not much better. Wider, yes, but not longer. It was OK for an occasional visitor or if you were under five and a half feet. I found myself going bed to bed in search of the perfect fit, though it wasn't firmness I craved but size. Nothing felt right. The result was that when I came down in the morning I more resembled Papa Bear as opposed to Goldilocks. 

We talked about it and considered our options. We looked at catalogs and surfed online. We decided to add to our sleeping inventory, but were overwhelmed with all the possibilities. Then one night on my way home from a meeting in Philadelphia, I found myself passing Ikea. Enough talking. With 40 minutes left till closing, I swung in and raced to the bedroom display area to find a simple frame and mattress. I flopped around on several models like a fish, then scribbled down the unpronounceable all-in-capital names and part locations. I flew to the open warehouse, grabbed a cart and loaded it up with a KOPARDAL frame, LÖNSET base and MORGEDAL mattress. Some Tetris-esque maneuvering got it all in the car, as long I drove slowly and didn't hit the brakes too hard. 

The next day we spent several hours hopscotching furniture from one room to the next, then several more with the hieroglyphic directions to put the new queen together. Eventually we finished it off with a SÖTVEDEL comforter, the VÅRÄRT cover and the NATTJASMIN sheets. Exhausted from text-screaming in Swedish, I couldn't wait for bedtime. When it came, I anxiously slipped between the sheets with my book. It was warm. My legs were straight. And I fell asleep and never made it back to our own bed. 

Not too long, not too short: just right.


Marc Wollin of Bedford sometimes takes a nap before bedtime. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Tis The Season

It was the first week of November, and I had just landed in Florida after a job in Texas. I checked into my hotel, unpacked my suitcase and called home. By the time I was done, it was getting dark and I was getting hungry, so I walked up the main street to get a bite. The first few blocks were residential, but I could see a business district up ahead. This being a Wednesday night the storefronts were pretty quiet, with a just a few restaurants still open, and some late diners lingering at streetside tables. But a crew of guys and trucks was busy on both sides of the avenue, blocking traffic and scurrying this way and that. Seeing it as better amusement than anything on my phone, I grabbed a table next to a bunch of Hasidim at a Kosher tapas and sushi restaurant to have some ceviche while watching the gang from Miami Christmas Lights wrap the palm trees for the holiday. Only in America.

Yes, it's that time of year again, when retailers thoughts turn from red to black, when "Carol of the Bells" reappears on iTunes' "Most Downloaded" list and when you convince yourself that your significant other really would enjoy a Himalayan Salt BBQ Plank or a pair of Michael Jackson socks. It seems to come earlier and earlier, but make no mistake: this day, the Friday after Thanksgiving, is the official start of the seasonal madness known as the Christmas shopping season.

As always, the search is on to find that special something that for that special someone. And it's no slam dunk: every year it gets harder and harder for Santa to impress. Socks and ties and pajamas are so boring. You did the scented candle and cute coffee mug thing a while back. And they still haven't opened up that jar of plum marmalade from last year that was under the tree. It's a conundrum, to be sure: after all, how many Astroturf iPhone cases does a person need? 

Depending on your constituency, the experts try and help. Cosmo says that guys really want hot sauce. They suggest Senor Lechuga's collection, a trio of hand-made small batch toppings, available in flavors like Pineapple Garlic Reapers, Chipotle Salt Reapers and Habanero Onion Reapers. Esquire has an idea for a "Game of Thrones" fan, a mug with Tyrion Lannister's favorite saying, "That's what I do, I drink and I know things." Toy Insider says that "Kids are once again interested in slime" and recommends Make Your Own Unicorn SLIMYGLOOP. And Etsy's resident trend expert Isom Johnson says without equivocation, "One of the most exciting gifting trends this year is personalized presents for your pet." Water bowls with my name doesn't do it for me, but then again I'm not a schnauzer named George.

So what do you get the person who has everything? The feature list is very specific: you want unique, you want distinctive, you want easy, you want something they wouldn't buy for themselves. Oh, and you want all that for under fifty bucks. Not an easy list to check off every box. But I did find one: ice.

Not just any ice, but crystal clear ice. Both complex and simple, the True Cubes tray makes just 4 ice cubes at a time. But to call them regular "ice cubes" is an insult. These are indeed frozen water, but perfectly clear, with no bubbles or cracks. You fill the three-tiered silicone tray with regular tap water (hot is recommended), slide it into your freezer, and remove it 18 to 22 hours later. Remove the topmost tray, give it a gentle twist, and four glass like sub-zero (centigrade) blocks are ready. Your Pappy Van Winkle deserves nothing less. (Sorry, I know that's sacrilege: Pappy should only be served neat. But you get the idea.)

Beyond that, there are other ideas. A French Press in the shape of R2D2. A section of flatbreads from around the world. A Nerf Doomlands Impact Zone Desolator (OK, it's just this year's version of a Nerf gun with a weird name.) The point is that if you look around, there's something for everyone. True, not everyone wants the Ultimate Tassel Earrings set featuring over 100 possibilities, but that just might be the thing to light up mom's face.


Marc Wollin of Bedford wants to start and finish Xmas shopping this week. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Brain Nap

Thank you Itzhak Fried of UCLA. Thank you Yuval Nir of Tel Aviv University. Thank you Chiara Cirelli and Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. And thank you unnamed epileptic persons who stayed up all night with electrodes stuck in their heads. Those brave souls allowed the aforementioned researchers to record their brain activity as part of a newly released study. The patients had not responded to traditional drug therapies, and were admitted to the hospital and wired up to see if they could be helped. The idea was to keep them up all night, making them sleep deprived with the goal of forcing a seizure. And since they would be hooked up to recorders when that seizure came, the researchers hoped to be able to pinpoint the spot in their noggins that caused the problem, and then be able to surgically fix it. Fun way to spend the night, huh? 

But you don't just ask someone to pull an all-nighter unless they're a college student, and not expect them to nod off. So the researchers kept them awake and focused with memory games, face matching exercises and the like. Not surprisingly, the longer the subjects stayed awake, the less sharp they were. Their responses slowed and got sloppier. None of that was unexpected. The researchers point out that the changes in cognitive performance that come with sleep deprivation are quite similar to the decline that comes from drinking alcohol. 

What was surprising was that as the night wore on, parts of the brain didn't just slow down, they turned off. As Dr. Nir put it, "Most of the brain was up and running, but temporal lobe neurons happened to be in slumber, and behavioral lapses subsequently followed. As the pressure for sleep mounted, specific regions of the brain caught some sleep." Or in layman's terms, you may be awake, but parts of your brain are taking a nap. 

Finally, vindication: I do with my entire body what my brain is doing naturally to itself. 

For so many, myself included, sleep deprivation has become more than just a grumbling point. Lack of a good night's rest has been cited as a contributing factor in everything from hypertension to diabetes, obesity, heart attack, and stroke, not to mention vehicle accidents and medical errors. The causes of insomnia are many, from physical ones like age and anxiety, to environmental culprits, including overstimulation from all our devices. But regardless of the root cause, a whole body of work says that if you can't fix the underlying problem, then a patch might be order. And that patch may be taking a few moments to purposely shut down. 

Most recently, a study by Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found a short sleep in the afternoon improves people's thinking and memory skills, and makes the brain perform as if it were five years younger. The team studied 3,000 elderly Chinese people and looked at whether those who frequently took afternoon naps performed better on mental ability tests. Scientists found people who took a nap after lunch did better on the tests than those who did not sleep in the middle of the day. They also made it through Monday Night Football.

It doesn't work for everyone, and it's not always possible. Personally speaking, if I'm busy I'm fine. But if I'm just sitting at my desk and grinding out proposals and budgets, a little shut-eye helps. In light of the studies above, rather than let selective areas of my brain shut down on their own, the smart move is to shut it all down for some recharging. More than once that short interruption has gotten me to the end of the task at hand, columns included. 

Best of all, I know I have company at the highest levels. Pope Francis recently told CathloficTV2000 that "When I pray, sometimes I fall asleep." His explanation is that in prayer Christians feel like children lying in their fathers' arms – a place conducive to napping. He said that the Lord actually likes when that happens, as it indicates how at peace they are. And he cites historical precedent as well: "Saint Therese did it too." 

So to summarize: my brain is going to do it whether I want it to or not. Napping will make it perform as if its five years younger. And the Pope assures me it's OK with God. I don't need any more encouragement: wake me in an hour.


Marc Wollin of Bedford loves to take naps. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Name Game

The album is called "Melodrama," and has already spawned four singles, "Green Light," "Liability," "Perfect Places" and "Sober." It's Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor's long-awaited sophomore effort, and she is touring and promoting it heavily, performing on "Saturday Night Live," at the Billboard Music Awards and on BBC Radio 1, as well as doing interviews on outlets from Billboard to NPR. If you've never heard of the artist and wondering how your musical radar missed her, not to worry: you probably have listened to her stuff and might even have her first CD. It's just that you don't know her by her birth name, but rather as Lorde. 

Having the right name counts for a lot. While the underlying product will rise or fall on its own, a good moniker makes it easier to promote and for fans to remember. Lorde had ample precedent in coming up with a catchy nom-de-star, as many artists have taken on pithier stage names, including Demetria Guynes (Demi Moore), Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra (Meg Ryan) and Krishna Pandit Bhanji (Ben Kingsley). (By the way, Lorde chose her stage name because she was fascinated with royals and aristocracy. However, she felt the name "Lord" was too masculine, and so added an "e" to make it more feminine.) 

And it's not just people. Companies do it: Philip Morris became Altria, and Andersen Consulting became Accenture. Products as well: Opal Fruits became Starburst, and Prilosec switched to Nexium. It even happened to Girl Scout Cookies. For contractual reason the Scouts had to switch bakers in certain parts of the country, and that meant names as well. And so depending on where you live, Trefoils might be known as Shortbread, while Tagalongs go by Peanut Butter Patties . Not to worry: Thin Mints are known as Thin Mints from Brownie to shining Brownie. 

Even cities can make the change. Saigon was the capital of French Indochina, until the south lost the war. Then the victorious north renamed it Ho Chi Minh City after their revolutionary leader. Constantinople was originally named in honor of Constantine, a Christian. In 1930, in recognition of the Islamic nature of Turkey, it was renamed Istanbul. And it has happened on these shores as well or else the Bronx Bombers would be known as the New Amsterdam Yankees. 

Countries are not immune either. Persia became Iran, Siam became Thailand, Ceylon became Sri Lanka. In each case, the name change was to better acknowledge the local culture and history as opposed to that of a former colonial or conquering power. And that's what sort of happened this week in Kazakhstan. 

I say "sort of" because the country didn't actually change its name. What President Nursultan Nazarbayev did do was to sign papers that changed his country's official alphabet from Cyrillic to Latin. It's supposed to be gradual process, with the full changeover not expected until 2025, when all official papers will be in the new alphabet. But it's not going to be easy. The Kazakh version of Cyrillic has 33 Russian letters and 9 unique Kazakh ones, while the Latin equivalent has 26. That means when you text your local sweet shop to deliver some "йогурт бар Құлпынай," you better write it as "yogurt with strawberries" in Kazak Modern or you'll go hungry. 

Indeed, while one of the reasons for the change is to assert the country's independence from the Russian sphere, it's also about modernization. Those 42 letters don't fit well on a modern electronic device, forcing users to use every key on the keyboard to just to get in all the letters. After all, how can a country expect to be a player on the world stage if you can't use an iPhone to order from Amazon while sitting in the stands watching kokpar, the traditional nomadic game of goat polo. 

So what does all this have to do with the name of the country? Well, in Kazakh Cyrillic, Kazakhstan is spelled Қазақстан. In the new official spelling system the letter "Қ" with a descender doesn't exist, and will be replaced with a "Q." That means that the country's name will then be rendered as Qazaqstan. It means map makers will have to produce a new edition. It means a change in marching order at the Olympics. And perhaps most importantly, it means that the Kazak Krusher's team jerseys will indeed become collector's items.


Marc Wollin of Bedford has always been known as "Marc." His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Text of Record

I recall almost nothing from the one law class I took in college. I probably have as much legal knowledge from that single semester as I do from three seasons of watching "Law and Order." But I do remember the difference between libel and slander (writing that a person is an idiot vs. saying it). Also, you can't be placed in double jeopardy (you can't be tried twice for being an idiot, unless you are stupid on different occasions). And that even if you are an idiot, your word is your bond. Or in more formal language, a verbal contract is as good as a written one. 

Those among you with esquire after your name will tell me there are all kinds of caveats and qualifiers and exceptions to that last rule. But what I took away from it is that form is less important than intent. Indeed, it seems that in many legal issues, while the letter of the law is a significant factor, what is actually more important is the underlying driver behind the action. 

Fortunately I've never had to test that understanding in court. Still, the concept came to me as I read of the ruling of a judge from Down Under. In the case of Nichol vs. Nichol, the Honourable Justice Susan (Sue) Brown had to grapple with just such an issue, though one more unique to our times. The fact that it surfaced in Australia as opposed to on these shores does nothing to diminish the significance of the case. Indeed, it is likely only a matter of time before something similar pops up in Duluth or Abilene or Katonah. 

It's all about the last wishes of Mark Nichol. Nichol took his own life in Queensland about a year ago at the too-young age of 54. A man of modest means, he had struggled with depression, and indeed had attempted suicide in the past. This time he succeeded, leaving behind his wife Julie, brother David and nephew Jack. Also left behind was a note: "Dave Nic you and Jack keep all that I have house and superannuation, put my ashes in the back garden. Julie will take her stuff only she's OK gone back to her ex AGAIN I'm beaten. A bit of cash behind TV and a bit in the bank. 10/10/2016 My will." It also included directions as to where his wallet was located and his bank PIN number. 

By itself, nothing remarkable. A direction as to disposition of assets. A personal comment. A date. A declaration of the document's purpose. All common attributes of final directions. There was just one small wrinkle: it was an unsent text message. 

His wife Julie and her nephew contended that the form itself invalidated the product. By law, a will usually has to be in writing, signed by the person making it and witnessed by two people. Except for the writing, none of that applied in this case. But judges in Oz are given discretion in the form of "remedial" power over documents, including electronic ones, that don't meet older standards. The Court can take into account evidence related to the way the document was executed, as well as a person's intentions and other factors. 

And so when brother David and nephew Jack took it to court, Judge Brown took it all into consideration. After thinking it through, she was satisfied that the message was admissible as a last well and testament. Indeed, the fact that it was not sent was not persuasive against it, as wife Julie contended, but rather a factor for it. the judge ruled that since the phone was with him when he took his own life, and the message had not been sent, it indicated that he was of sound mind. Sending it would have alerted his brother of his intention to commit suicide. Not sending it and allowing it to be found later showed forethought and planning, all marks of an effective testamentary document.

Legal purists might scoff at this, saying a text message can hardly be taken as a formal document. It'll never happen here, they might say: we take our jurisprudence much more seriously. Then again, look at Washington, where the President makes foreign policy via Twitter. In that light, how long before we do jury service via Skype? As Dylan said, the times they are a changin'.


Marc Wollin of Bedford knows just enough law to be dangerous. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

What's Love Got To Do With It?

I love Triscuit crackers. They are salty and crunchy, break easily in half and have enough tensile strength to handle peanut butter. Like many products, they've been gussied up over time, adding line extensions like smoked gouda, and balsamic vinegar and basil. But I'm talking the original here. In that varietal, the list of ingredients runs to just three: wheat, salt and oil.

It's not that I'm a purist. Quite the contrary: I like Italian heroes and chocolate peanut butter ice cream and hot dogs. In none of those goodies is there any pretext of "back to nature." To be clear, it's not that I seek out foods with ammonium sulfate (stabilizing the yeast to make a better sandwich) or xanthan gum (an emulsifier that keeps my sundae creamy). Given the option, perhaps I might pass on those and other additives. It's just that I've made it this far, so the chances of getting hit by a bus are at last as high as succumbing to an overdose of potassium nitrate. Still, to be safe, I'll just keep driving myself to Nathan's.

That said, I do appreciate that the FDA is ever vigilant on my behalf. In that mission, they are constantly checking on the makers of foodstuffs, assuring that the ingredients they are using will do me no harm, or at least only one in 10 million parts of harm. Which is why they went after the Nashoba Brook Bakery.

NBB is an artisanal bakery in West Concord MA that started in 1998. They call themselves a "slow rise" bakery, eschewing artificial ingredients and creating their goods by hand. They produce 6000 loaves a day including your standard sourdough, rye and whole wheat, as well as specialty products such as Pugliese and Pepper Jack Bread. They distribute to restaurants and caterers in eastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, as well as serving and selling sandwiches, soups and whole loaves in their own on-site café.

The bakery recently received a notice about their facilities from the FDA which warned about products that had been "prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby they may have been rendered injurious to heath". The note detailed a variety of conditions wherein the FDA inspector listed conditions which were not up to standards for the handling and preparation of food for human consumption. Good. That's what we want: government watchdogs watching and then dogging when appropriate.

Included in that warning letter was also a section on "Misbranded Foods." In that list of transgressions was a flag that their whole wheat bread also had some corn meal in it, as well as other items which didn't have the proper nutrition labeling. Again, all well and good. There are regulations for all this, and there's no reason not to follow them: every other manufacture has to as well.

But then there's this: "Your Nashoba Granola label lists ingredient 'Love.' Ingredients required to be declared on the label or labeling of food must be listed by their common or usual name. 'Love' is not a common or usual name of an ingredient, and is considered to be intervening material because it is not part of the common or usual name of the ingredient." To be clear: if they wanted to, they could include sodium stearoyl lactylate or azodicarbonamide or calcium propionate in their bread, all of which are approved by the FDA, as long as they are listed on the label. But making their product with "love" is illegal, whether listed or not. By law they could make it with "heart," though regulations require manufacturers to state the origin of a product, so adding "human" might cause its own set of problems.

It's good that NBB got called on the carpet for unsanitary conditions. It's not so good that they can't make their product anymore with love. CEO John Gates told the Associated Press that "The idea that we have to take the word 'love' off of the ingredient list for our granola feels a little silly." Still, a law is a law. Just be happy the FDA doesn't regulate kids. With little girls, sugar might be fine, but what spice are we talking about? And as for little boys? I shudder to think about what's in puppy dog tails.


Marc Wollin of Bedford eats most things without looking at the labels. 
His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Don't E Me

As was typical these days, I was putting together an entire project across the country without ever  speaking to a single person. Everything was being done online using the full range of electronic options. The initial approaches to suppliers was via email, with links to web sites to see and show relevant examples of workmanship, followed by texts to follow-up on little details and outstanding questions. I guess I really shouldn't have been surprised if the company in LA turned out to be a robot or a Russian hacker. After all, as Peter Steiner's prophetic New Yorker cartoon pointed out in 1993, on the internet no one knows you're a dog.

That's how we do things these days. It's not that we can't talk to people, but rather that we choose not to. Sure, sometimes a conversation is more expeditious and cuts out a bunch of back and forth. But that also leads many times to comments such as "You know, let me think about it and get back to you." As a practical matter, often it's easier to conduct communications in an asynchronous style. It lets you read and respond when you're ready, able to write and edit as you see fit and not be put on the spot with a response. Shooting from the lip is a thing of the past, unless you live in the White House.

So if this is how we roll, why make any distinction between methods? The interaction is the same, agnostic as to channel. If it's the first time I call you on the phone, or meet you at a party, or connect with you via an email, the logical thing to say is some variation of "Nice to meet you." The method doesn't change the sentiment, nor does it require any explanation. I don't say "Nice to hear that you can talk" or "A pleasure to see you in the flesh." And yet one individual who was referred to me started off with "Nice to e-meet you." 

E-meet: is that to differentiate it from "p-meet" as in by phone or "r-meet" as in real life? I mean, we've been using email for how long? Depending on when you first plunked that AOL disc in your computer, you've heard some variation of "You've Got Mail!" for over 30 years. It's woven into our everyday life, hardly something worth calling attention to. It's not like when you first got a mobile phone and started off every call with "You're not gonna believe this, but I'm calling you from the grocery store!" If it comes by email, is really necessary to say we're e-meeting? That's roughly analogous to saying "I'm car-driving over to meet you." 

That's not to say that we don't make distinctions as to the form and format. In Facebook, the operative verb is that you "friend" someone, even if you are not really friendly. And when texting a person, it's likely to be reduced beyond words to a scrunchy face emoticon, wherein you have to decipher the message as if you're in a Dan Brown novel and you're scanning a Pharaoh's tomb. But I've never F-met someone on Facebook, nor T-met them on text. 

The point is that even an extra letter detracts from the story line of what you are trying to say. Lincoln famously said that he thought no one would remember his remarks at Gettysburg. Yet his 272 word address has been enshrined as one of the most amazing pieces of rhetoric in history. He trimmed the extra words and qualifiers to be just the essence, a technique described in the TV show Dragnet years later as "just the facts, ma'am." Kurt Vonnegut's fifth rule of writing was to "start as close to the end as possible." And it was Shakespeare who wrote in Hamlet that "since brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief." The point is to cut the extra stuff you don't need, and leave the stuff you do. My own personal goal is in the form of an admonition I clipped from a long ago ad for USA today, one which sums up what I try and do whenever I put fingers to keys: "Not the most words, just the right ones."


Marc Wollin of Bedford believes editing is at least as important as writing. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

What to Wear?

Packing for any trip is as much art as science. There's the obvious stuff: toiletries, enough underwear and socks for the time away, exercise gear if the schedule allows. But beyond that, it's a matter seeing of into the future, coordinating colors and outfits so they play together nicely, and trying to carry the least amount of stuff. My personal best was two weeks on the road with only one carryon suitcase and my backpack. True, it was only possible because I had back-to-back projects that required the same outfit, which made me the Henry Ford of traveling: any outfit as long as it was black. 

Usually it's not that hard: you take a look at what your schedule is and figure out what you'll need. If it's a holiday or vacation, you have a little more flexibility. But if it's business, you have to consider with whom you will be interacting. If there are client meetings or presentations, you might need a suit or a dress. Other than that, unless you're in the world of finance, business casual is pretty much the norm almost everywhere. If you are lucky enough to have some down time, you might add a pair of jeans or tee shirt, maybe some shorts or even a bathing suit if the hotel has a pool. But to paraphrase Wimpy, regardless of the type of trip, as long as you can plan that you will wear on Tuesday a striped shirt today, it's not a problem. 

The trouble comes when you don't know what the dress code is. I work with many clients in many environments. Some are more formal, others more casual. Whatever it is, I want to blend in and be as much a part of the gang as possible. But when you're wearing a suit and the crowd is in golf shirts, you look like an undertaker. Conversely, if they're all in ties and you have a tee shirt, they don't take you too seriously. Or as Jean Shepherd wrote so memorably in "The Endless Streetcar Ride into the Night and the Tinfoil Noose," there is that sudden realization that not only don't you fit in, but you are in fact the blind date. 

Working a recent gig brought me just that level of insecurity. Not about my skills: in that area I'm pretty comfortable. Rather, I didn't know what to wear. I have been burned before, bringing what I thought was the right stuff, only to be asked if I had a jacket or tie so I blended in with the others. It's not like I didn't ask; it's that either the person hiring me didn't explain themselves completely or correctly, or I misunderstood their request. I, of course, prefer the former interpretation. 

And so in this case I asked very specifically what was preferred. The word came back "Business Smart." Well, I guess I'm not very, because I didn't have a clear fix on it. So I googled it, and found what I'll call the "Hierarchy of the Collars." At the bottom is the tee shirt of tech, or maybe a polo shirt or Henley. Next up is Business Casual, a structured collar on a buttoned shirt. Keep climbing to Smart Casual, which adds a jacket and its associated collar to the above. Business tops it off, which pairs the former with a suit and tie. And yes, those are basically male choices. My heads hurts even trying to convert that to female. 

But note the request was for "Business Smart." Seemed like a hybrid of the above. I took it to mean a suit and business shirt, but with no tie. I wrote back to confirm, but two words came back: "tie, please." Giving up, I choose not to try to understand, but to conform as requested. And in fact, once I got to the site, I blended in if because of the non-conformity. Some had no jackets, some had no ties, some wore golf shirts, and some had on sweaters. It was attire bedlam. 

The fact is, as one recent study pointed out, usually no one cares. Unless it is egregious, most time people don't react negatively or even notice as much as you think they might. With one exception. In the immortal words of Mark Twain, "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society."


Marc Wollin of Bedford loves wearing show blacks because it's easy. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Top and Center

I'd been fighting something for a week. The doctor agreed, and put me on some antibiotics which seemed to do the trick. But while the underlying germ was vanquished, some of the attendant symptoms were slower to depart. I was left with a cough that was unpleasant not only to me, but to those nearby. It caused me to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to hold it in, looking like I'm trying to impersonate jazz great Dizzy Gillespie. And I seem to have an ongoing snootful, making me wish I had purchased stock options in tissues.

There's a box by the bed, a box by my desk and one in the family room. They are within reach in the kitchen, in each bathroom and in my car. Before I walk out of the house I grab a "pocket pack" for my pocket and toss another into my backpack. In the beginning of the week I was a chain sneezer, with mere minutes going by between uses. Mercifully the tide has turned, and the intervals are lengthening. Still, spend that much time with a particular product, and it leads one to contemplate it in ways that I can only describe as mildly obsessive, or alternatively, with a Seinfeld-esque focus on nothing.

First, in the heat of the moment, brand doesn't matter. To be sure, Kimberly Clark's "Kleenex" brand owns the market with a nearly 50% share, and so statistically I used a lot of their products. But when you feel that itch in the back of your nose, and you start reaching around like a rat on crack for something to absorb the oncoming convulsion, a Puffs or a Scottie is just fine. In that same vein, color or pattern doesn't matter. White is traditional, but designer shades or styling are fine as well. If possession is nine tenths of the law, when a sneeze is imminent proximity to said tissue is ten tenths.

Only one thing makes a difference and it's not the tissue itself. Yes, some cheaper products are a bit rougher, but any port in a storm. Some try to distinguish themselves with a fresher scent, others with aloe to sooth your nose, still others with antibacterial chemicals to help prevent the spread of germs. You may like one variation or another; for me it matters not. What I have come to appreciate is the genius that is realized in a feature that was enshrined in one of the original patents, and rolled out to the public in 1928. It has been copied endlessly and improved upon, but never bettered: the center-slot pop-up box.

A Kleenex innovation, it was a system for folding subsequent sheets one upon one another in a manner so they when you take one, another pops up cleanly in its place. It has been adapted, and become the defacto-standard for not only tissues but napkins, paper towels and rolling papers. In terms of standards in their respective spaces, it ranks up there with shoelaces, forks or number 2 pencils.

I speak from experience. As noted we have numerous tissue boxes in various places around the house. Randomly it seems that some are the direct descendants of that center pop-up box, while others have a side cutaway revealing a stack of tissues. Reach for one from the pop-up box, and another takes its place immediately. Reach for one from the side saddle vehicle, and you're apt to leave a trail of paper behind. Or get three when one will do. Or not be able to get one quickly and individually. And so you grab a handful, slap them to your face and explode, and wind up throwing out a stack. You can almost feel a tree leprechaun die every time it happens.

Because patents expire after 20 years, Kleenex no longer has the exclusive hold on this innovation. And so you find the same delivery system in other brands, be they major label or discounted store. Which makes it even more puzzling why some choose not to take this approach. I suppose if your goal is to grab a stack to use for later, the side opening makes sense. But otherwise, for the use that they were intended, as a disposable alternative to handkerchiefs, the top center dispenser is the standard. Put another way, it is the iPhone of tissue world.


Marc Wollin of Bedford is feeling better, thank you. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Onion Ash and Burnt Corn

Sometimes, all you want are some noodles.

Like many, we enjoy eating out. And while we have our favorites, in general we're pretty open. Chinese or Japanese, Indian or Italian, Greek or even Peruvian, if it has a menu (or even if it doesn't) we're gonna be just fine. Add in the old standbys of burgers, pizza, salads and sandwiches, and the one thing we won't do is starve.

That said, the hottest trend in restaurants is to push the envelope, along with the commensurate price. On the surface I'm fine with that; I enjoy trying new things in new ways, and don't mind paying for something that's demonstrably better. But we're talking about culinary sleights of hand that go well beyond a little extra spice here, or a new way of using cheese. Chefs are taking the building blocks of food, reducing them to their essence and even creating something from nothing. Or in the case we came across, nothing from something.

The restaurant that managed this feat was one of a bunch that served the "New Nordic" style of cooking. I guess that was to be expected, as we were in Copenhagen on holiday, and eating was one of our major activities. The city is full of these high-end inventive and expensive places, partly as an outgrowth of the Noma diaspora. That restaurant was ranked as the "best restaurant in the world" by Restaurant Magazine four times. And while it closed earlier this year, the chefs and staffers who worked there over the years have fanned out and tied to rekindle that same magic under new names.

On top of that, the aforementioned New Nordic manifesto turns out not to be an appellation bestowed by a critic, but an actual thing. In 2004, Claus Meyer, one of the founders of Noma and a sort of Danish James Beard crossed with Bobbie Flay, gathered together some top Scandinavian chefs. They penned a guide to raise the visibility and level of cuisine from their home countries, emphasizing local ingredients and traditional flavors in new ways, with an emphasis on "purity, simplicity & freshness." And so Noma began and begat Amass and Sletten and Barr and a hundred others, and has even landed on these shores with Meyer's own Agern and the Great Northern Food Hall at Grand Central.

But back to the food. Of those three guiding principles, I can most readily corroborate the last. Everything we tried was fresh, like it had just been made, baked, caught, dug up or plucked. As to purity, there were certainly no processed ingredients that stood out: the beef was beef, the chicken chicken and the grilled duck hearts were - well - we didn't try those, so can't say. But I would bet they were the real thing.

It's that last focal point with which I would take issue. To me, simplicity means just that: taking the component part as it is and, well, that's it. Yet these folks seemed to go out of their way to turn that on its head. For instance, the turkey with risotto and mushrooms was fine. It was the garnish of burnt corn that threw us. And not kennels, but popped, like you would find at the bottom of the Jiffy pan. Or the tuna with apple and – wait for it - elderflower & grilled kale. Yes, edible flowers and crispy leaves. And the aforementioned headturner for us, the grilled pork cheeks (don't ask) were topped with onion ash. Not onion itself, but the same roasted for hours until it turned black, then pulverized, turning to ash. Then again, I guess when you can order a dish described as "Bonito, Salted Turnip, Black Garlic, Dried Lambs Heart" you can't really act surprised when that's what they give you.

While all were interesting, and some better than others, dinner was somewhat exhausting. We tried to keep track and discern the various flavors and techniques, but it got to be overwhelming. And so one night we opted out and found a small Thai place. While the menu was in Danish, the owner was only too happy to help us translate it into English. And there we found red and green curries and noodles like we were used to.  Unless you're from Bangkok, what does it say about your choices when Pad Thai turns out to be comfort food?


Marc Wollin of Bedford loves to try new restaurants. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, September 23, 2017


You have to be of a certain age and have a geeky technical bent to know what "07734" means. At first glance it would seem to be a zip code, specifically the one for Keansburg, NJ. And while that is indeed the case, if you type the number into a calculator that has an old 7-segment numeric display, and turn it upside down, it will spell out "hello." Yes, a stupid pet trick, but it might light up a few memory neurons in your brain if you ever had a pager.

For most, pagers are a technological horse and buggy. Invented in 1921, they spread slowly till the mid-eighties, and were mostly confined to health care workers and first responders. But once the range increased and alphanumeric readouts were added, usage exploded, and suddenly 60 million units were in use. No longer was it just doctors and firemen who had a little black box on their belts, but plumbers, reporters and expectant fathers.

In the 1990's cell phones started to proliferate, and the era of instant personal two-way point-to-point communication was upon us. As cost came down and coverage went up, their usage spread. Smarter phones started to emerge, to the point we're now marking the tenth anniversary of the iPhone. Today's mini computers in our pockets and purses can do everything a pager does in at least ten different ways and more. And so if you open my bedside table and dig to the back, behind the old wallets and leftover foreign currency you'll find a scuffed up Motorola Bravo Beeper, good for nothing.

Nothing, that is, unless you are in Britain. Turns out that the National Health Service is one of the last bastions in the world of pager use. According to estimates, more than one in ten of the world's beepers are being used in the NHS. The given reason is that while those little black boxes are limited in what they do, they do that very well. When cellular service is spotty, like deep in the bowels of a hospital, calls get dropped or texts don't always go through. But pagers, with their relatively low-tech quick, short bursts of data running on their own network generally connect. Add to that the fact that a single AA battery powers them for a month or more, and they have a place in an environment that requires can't-miss communication.

To be sure, the Brits could replace their nearly 130,000 pagers with newer mobile software, and save an estimated $3.5 million. But consider the comments made by the city manager in Key West, Florida. In the aftermath of Irma slapping the state silly, he talked about the devastation to almost every physical structure that existed. He extolled the soundness of their recently completed high school which was used as a shelter and refuge for those who stayed behind. And he talked about how while their communication infrastructure was decimated, at least they still had a working POTS line.

POTS, which is an acronym for Plain Old Telephone Service, is a throwback to the early days of the Bell system. Like a scene from an old World War II movie, it was real copper wire strung from point to point which carried not only voice but power, making it a self-standing system. Plug in a phone at each end, dial the other, and you were connected. It wasn't sexy or multi-functional or feature rich. But it was also not dependent on internet or cell towers or computers. And so when everything else went down, it stayed up.

Like the Key West POTS lines, those antiquated pagers might someday be of value when a technological tsunami hits. To be fair, they do require some infrastructure beyond a roll of copper. But compared to the 4G networks and fiber optics and touch screens that we access hundreds of time a day, they are tanks compared to the Porsches in our pockets today. As it is there are lots of places I can't get a solid signal on a bright and sunny day while riding the train to work, less than 50 miles from one of most connected cities on the planet. I shudder to think what would happen if Irma or her siblings trained their eye on the Empire State Building. Maybe the pager in my drawer deserves a second chance.


Marc Wollin of Bedford is trying to clear out old things with plugs. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Credit Scoring

Seems that the Equifax data hack may affect your ability find a mate.

First, the background. As widely reported, the company said it was hacked in the spring and that the personal data of 143 million people was siphoned off. This follows other notable breaks at companies as diverse as Anthem Health, Home Depot and JP Morgan, plus a host of others including the IRS. In short, unless you have never used a credit card, registered at a web site or paid taxes, odds are that some part of your identity is sitting in a file on a computer in Estonia owned by a guy named Mikhel.

While nearly a 150 million record sets is no small haul, it pales in comparison to the nearly 1 billion Yahoo users hit in 2015. Yet this theft could potentially be the most damaging of them all. That's because Equifax, along with its cousins TransUnion and Experian, are the agencies of record when it comes to our financial lives. They have the most detailed data on each person because they use it to research and issue reports on the credit worthiness of any individual. And that means, as put most succinctly by security Analyst Avivah Litan, "In terms of identity theft, on a scale of one to ten, this is a ten."

That data helps them ferret out every aspect of our financial movements, especially how much we owe and how we handle that debt, which in turn leads to judgements as to how good a credit risk we are. That is used in determining the fabled FICO score, which was created by engineer William Fair and mathematician Earl Isaac in 1956 and named after the first letters of their firm, the Fair Isaac Corporation. FICO scores are, as one scholar put it, "the wizard behind the curtain of the economy." They help companies to determine everything from if we get a car loan, a mortgage, a new credit card or even a job.

But how do they go from influencing things behind the curtain to having an effect between the sheets? Well, according to a study by Discover Financial Services and Match Media Group, more than looks, wit or clothes, your FICO score turns out to be a serious determinant of desirability. True, it's not news that wealth can factor into attraction. But this isn't about wealth per se; rather, it's the ability to manage your finances responsibly as determined by a third party that makes you more or less a catch.

The companies surveyed 2000 online daters, and found that good credit scores are sexier than any other characteristic or virtue you may have. In the study, 69% of respondents rated financial responsibility as an extremely important quality in a potential lover, followed by sense of humor at 67%, attractiveness at 51%, ambition with 50%, courage with 42% percent, and lastly, modesty with just with 39%. And both genders felt the same: 77% of females and 61% percent of men valued financial responsibility highly. And since the FICO score is the most accepted measure of financial responsibility, it seems that a higher score will count more than washboard abs or a little black bikini.

Some have already figured this out. Just like there are dating sites for farmers, Jewish singles or seniors, seeks to pair like-minded individuals who view personal financial metrics the same way others consider attraction to dogs. Under the slogan "Where Good Credit is Sexy," you sign up and can be matched with others of the same stripe, be it those who are credit challenged ("Credit Clinic") or those who strive for higher levels of perfection ("The 700 Club").

But back to data theft and getting a date. The kind of info stolen from Equifax will make it easier for thieves to open new accounts in your name, take loans without paying them back, and generally create financial havoc to your financial profile. All that could trigger potential downgrades in your FICO score. And that in turn could make you look less desirable to a potential match, causing them to swipe left when before they might have swiped right. That means that the next time you're find yourself sitting home on a Saturday night with the clicker and a quart of Hagen Daz, don't blame yourself. Blame Mikhel.


Marc Wollin of Bedford has had his data compromised in at least half a dozen hacks. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

To Seal or Not To Seal

I have scoured the web sites of home and kitchen doyens like Martha and Rachel. I have checked out the literature posted by the FDA, the CDC and an alphabet soup of other agencies. I have Googled and Safaried and Firefoxed endlessly through the views of self-proclaimed experts with handles like FreshGuy and SafetySal. And while I find opinions, musings, ramblings, cautionary tales, anecdotes, admonitions and more, I can find no definitive information one way or the other.

The conundrum goes like this. Open up a new container of some foodstuff, and when you take off the topmost closure you will find another one underneath. It might be foil or some kind of stiff paper or a type of plastic. These generally serve one of two functions, and sometimes both. The first is as a safety seal. Ever since the Tylenol incident in the 1980's where bottles of painkiller were laced with cyanide, killing a number of people, manufacturers have used these to guarantee the purity of their product. The second function is to maintain the freshness of the product. Doesn't matter if it's cottage cheese or vitamins, the only way to insure that the stuff inside makes it from the manufacturing plant to your house still creamy or potent is to stop air from getting in. And that's where the seal comes in.

In the first case, once you break it, the jig is up. One and done, the telltale has done its job, proving that you were first and only user. Feel free to dig into that jar of coffee or tub of crumbled feta cheese and enjoy with abandon. You can consume the contents knowing that no one was there before you (or at least since it has left the factory).

And since its mission here on this green earth has been fulfilled, you can most assuredly get rid of the detritus. Whether it comes off as a single piece, or you have to tear it out bit by bit like old flocked wallpaper that's been there for 20 years (sorry, homeowner flashback), it has no need to exist anymore. All it's doing is getting in your way when you go back for a second helping. Unless you want to be use it as some sort of, say, single peanut dispenser as a way of limiting your legume intake, just rip that sucker off like a Band-Aid.

But in the second instance, while the seal has served a useful function up to the moment you open the product, what then? Here's where the research is sketchy at best. Common sense would seem to say that once you let the air into the can or jar or tub or whatever, the damage has been done. From then on it's only a matter of time until all that icky stuff floating in the air takes hold and that cottage cheese goes from pearly white to slimy green.

And yet many carefully peel the seal up on one side, and smooth it back over the cream cheese or margarine when done before replacing the outer cover. They feel that it helps to keeps the contents fresher, or at the very least, makes the outer lid fit tighter. It might not be a Tupperware or Zip-Loc level barrier, but the logic is that that little extra bit of snugness will keep the cream cheese creamier longer.

There are strong feelings on both sides. Similar to debates as to which is the correct way to hang toilet paper, it has a lot to do with what your folks did when you were a kid. And devotees on both sides are passionate about their positions and reasons. Add this to gun control, abortion rights and school prayer as an area where we are divided as a nation.

So in that spirit, while I doubt I will change any minds, here's what I've gleaned from my surfing. 1) Once you break the seal, the damage is done. Air is part of the equation, and no good can come from that. Take it off. 2) By keeping the plastic on, you might actually be making it worse, as every time you have to peel it back you are touching it, introducing another possible source of contamination. 3) If we're talking Pringles, just eat the whole damn can at one sitting, and then there's no issue.


Marc Wollin of Bedford is seal agnostic. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Hello, It's Not Me

I wouldn't say I'm anti-social, but I rarely answer the phone. Unless I recognize the number that pops up on my caller ID as a client, one of our kids or my mother, I generally let it go to voicemail. Probably 75% of the time there is no message because it's a telemarketer of some kind. Maybe 20% of the time there is a message, but it's either a public service announcement ("this is a reminder that the county mobile shredder will be in your area on Tuesday") or a less-sophisticated robocaller that seems to be in continuous looping mode("-gage rates, press 1. For auto rates, press 2. Hello! Are you paying more for cred-"). As to the remainder that are real people with whom I'm happy to talk, my apologies: leave a message and I promise to call you back.

It used to be the simple way to parse that remaining 5% was to look at the first six digits of the incoming number. That's because among the things that you used to be able to count on (like death, taxes, an insulting tweet from the President) was that when the area code and exchange was the same as yours, with only the last four digits differing, it was likely someone local was trying to reach you. Might be your pharmacist verifying a prescription, the class mom making sure you knew about the bake sale or your pal down the street seeing if there's any chance you had any fresh limes for gin and tonics.

Not so much anymore. The latest phone scam, up over 1500% this year, is called "neighbor spoofing." Numbers used to be assigned by a phone company, and that was the readout that came up on your caller ID. But since the growth of Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VOIP, software has enabled users to enter any number they want to appear as the originating caller. And some hacker figured out that calls appearing to come from your hood were far more likely to be answered than those from an area code in Slovenia.

And so that call that looks like it is coming from down the block could certainly be from Sally asking you if you want to take a walk. But it could just as easily be from Serge who says he works for Hilton and is telling you have just won an all-expenses paid vacation to Disney World if you'll only just give him your credit card number to cover a few miscellaneous incidentals. Sally, Serge: easy to get them confused.

But even the best scams are not perfect. After all, there are only so many combinations of 4 randomized digits available to plug into that final position (9999 to be precise if you throw out the obvious faker of 0000). And so some consumers have reported hearing the phone ring and looking at the readout to see that they are calling themselves. You can almost hear the horror movie voiceover: "The call was coming from INSIDE the house. NOOOOOO!"

Experts say that if you get a call that is not from who you think it should be, just hang up. Any interaction only confirms that there is a human there that might be scammable. In the meantime, the FCC is working on the problem, helped along by the fact that Chairman Ajit Pai has been spoofed himself. As he related in a recent interview, "Oh, yeah. It'll seem to be coming from the 202 area code, which is here in Washington, and then our prefix for these BlackBerries. And I know for a fact that it's probably not someone calling from the office. I know most of the folks who would be calling. And sometimes, I answer just for the heck of it. And lo and behold, I've won a vacation from Marriott."  

Chairman Pai says the fix would be to embed some sort of a digital footprint into every number so you know from where it originates. But that tweak is likely years away. Until that time, the agency is also trying enforcement to cow the callers. In June they recommended a $120 million fine against a robocaller who made 96 million spoofed calls.  

Just one problem: they have to get him on the phone to collect.


Marc Wollin of Bedford usually emails or texts before he tries calling. 
His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

No Speak Emojish

If this weekly outing doesn't make it crystal clear, I'm a word person. Ever since I was a kid I've been collecting passages, phrases, novels, articles, columns, snippets, ads – the format doesn't matter – that catch my eye. Indeed, on a shelf above my desk is a loose-leaf binder I started in the 1960's, a sort of my own version of Bartlett's Quotations. On those pages are quotes attributed to everyone from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Janis Joplin, from Shakespeare to Peanuts, from Mark Twain to Louis Armstrong.  

To be fair, pasted into those pages there are also a number of cartoons, pictures and drawings that struck my fancy. But by and large they did so not because of the image, but because of the supporting text. The time-lapse exposure of a gymnast is indeed striking, but all the more so because of the legend at the bottom: "The trick is to keep moving." Overall my fascination can best be summed up by a comment from the playwright Tom Stoppard that I keep on my desk: "Words are innocent, neutral, precise. But if you get the right ones in the right order you can nudge the world a little."

That said, my focus is very provincial: I have no ear for anything other than my native speech. Other that a few pleasantries in Portuguese or Spanish or Italian that I've picked up as a consequence of traveling, I am tone deaf in any other language. Mind you, I'm not proud of it, it's just a fact. Thankfully, in spite of my tin tongue, I've been able to muddle through places like Tokyo, Stockholm and Sao Paulo using English, the lingua franca of the world.

But lately I seem to be at a loss closer to home. It's not because I have a new neighbor from Malaysia, or a coworker hails from Pakistan. Actually, people from places such as those and many others are often fluent not only in their native language, but English and several others as well, making me feel even more inadequate in the communications department. No, my linguistic isolation is because my penchant to use words of any sort is fast being eclipsed by the fastest spreading language the world has ever seen, that of emojis.

While the term itself was chosen as the 2015 "Word of the Year" by the Oxford Dictionaries, their usage since then has only accelerated. While the exact figures vary study to study, the conclusions are all the same: the growth of these little graphic symbols has been meteoric. One says that a third of all users include them in their messages. Another notes that they were used in 777% more marketing campaigns in 2016 than the prior year. And still a third tabulates that use of emojis in email increased in 2016 over 7100% year over year. Any way you look at, that little smiley face is taking over.

Purists debate whether these graphics are symbols, slang or an actual tongue; after all, no one speaks emoji. On the other hand, we talk about computer languages like Java or Ruby or Python, and I've never heard anyone say, "SongType = if song.mp3Type == MP3::Jazz." In that light, it's hard to argue that we're not taking about a complete communication ecosystem when I get a message that consists entirely of a happy face, a thumbs ups, a sailboat and a pizza.

But it's meaning? Ah, therein is where I have issues. Take one I got that was a sad face and a plane. Does it mean it was a bad flight? A broken plane? A missed connection? Looked at another way, the Egyptians created hieroglyphics. And while it enabled them to leave a record, it wasn't an alphabet. It took the Greeks to come up with that, enabling more nuanced messaging. Perhaps that's one reason there is no Egyptian Iliad or Odyssey.  

I get this all sounds a little like "These kids today and their rock and roll music!" And don't get me wrong: I love pictures and visuals. I make my living from them, and revel in their power. As tools for communicating emotions and feelings, they are superb. It's just that they do have their limits. Or perhaps as put best by the author Paul Thereaux, "A picture is only worth a thousand or so words, and for a writer, that's the problem."


Marc Wollin of Bedford loves words. And sentences. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


You just knew it was going to happen in the middle of the summer when everyone let their guard down and had hoped to catch a breather. In retrospect, however, it's not surprising that it finally came to pass. After years of incremental advances, the escalation finally came, and an international line was crossed. Of course, by any objective measure, it makes no sense. One would have hoped that cooler heads would have looked at the consequences, prevailed upon those in positions of power, and convinced them of the wisdom of backing down. But that's not the case, and now we have to live with the consequences.

North Korea? Oh, yeah, I hear there's some brinkmanship going on there as well, something about a nuclear device. No, the line I'm referring to is at the International House of Pancakes, known far and wide as IHOP, and their announcement on July 31 that they were introducing French Toasted Donuts.

I mean, we've been blindsided before by over the top creations. But we're not talking about your one-off Texas State Fair concoctions like the fried cheesecake-stuffed apple sundae, or the funnel cake bacon queso burger or Oreo beer. Rather, every now and again one of the big chains introduces something nationwide that sounds for a brief second like it might be worth trying. But then common sense kicks in, and we wonder "what where they thinking?"

Take Taco Bell's croissant tacos. I like croissants. I like tacos. So together they are – what? Light and flavorful? Not so much. Think for just a minute of the combination. Flaky crust. Heavy beans, beef and sauce. What could possibly go wrong? In describing it, "messy" is probably the best adjective, though "unwieldy" and "disgusting" also come to mind.

Or how about Pizza Hut's Hot Dog Bites Pizza, which wraps a peperoni pie with Pigs in Blankets. Again, separately, a pair of winners. But together? And in that category also goes Carl's Jr's Most American Thickburger. A cheeseburger. Fine. Topped with a hot dog. Uh oh. And because that's not enough, it's garnished with - wait for it - potato chips. As one reviewer said, too often "Most American" and "revolting" are synonymous, and this is no exception.  

So in a land where sometimes the sum of the parts is not only greater than the whole but makes a mockery of the components themselves, should we be surprised that Frankenfoods have come to the breakfast table? It just proves that in a world where we have lost the ability to shock there are still bridges to cross. Or in corporate speak from Alisa Gmelich, VP of Marketing at IHOP, "We really felt like we had the opportunity to be bolder in our product innovation and really push forward in the breakfast leadership space." Like I said.

Ergo, the French Toasted Donut. And per the press release, there are not one, not two, but three variations. First, "A cream-filled eclair is dunked in vanilla French toast batter, then griddled, then showered in macerated strawberries, strawberry glaze, and powdered sugar." But, as the commercials say, wait, there's more: "Vanilla French toast batter gives a warm apple fritter its top coat before sizzling on the griddle. When it's done cooking, it gets loaded with cinnamon-sugar apples, powdered sugar, and whipped cream." And because, well, at this point, why not? Because what could be better than all that than that with bacon? "A Bavarian cream-filled eclair-style yeast donut gets dipped in IHOP's vanilla French toast batter before getting griddled. Once golden and crisp, it gets topped with chopped hickory-smoked bacon and a maple glaze."  Just reading them makes my insulin production ratchet up to DefCon 4 levels.

What's curious is that in the world I inhabit the talk is of of whole grains, of more fish and less red meat, of leafy green vegetables and fresh fruits. Yet, IHOP says it got its inspiration for the new products by feedback the brand received on social media channels and from monitoring food trends. Said Gmelich, "We pay very close attention, especially in the breakfast space, to what is really going to resonate with our guests and what is going to motivate them to come in more often." Meaning for every recipe out there for Quinoa Beet salad in "Healthy Living Weekly," there's one for Deep Fried Cherry Taco Pancake in "High Cholesterol Monthly."

Alternate facts, indeed.


Marc Wollin of Bedford does like a good fried onion ring. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Wrong Side

I stuck the key card into the lock, and pushed the door open to find yet another hotel room, my third in as many weeks. It wasn't as well-appointed as the one in Las Vegas, nor as spacious as the one in Kansas City. But it was certainly big enough, containing a couch and a desk along with the usual other stuff. All in all, it was fine. I like to think that as a traveler I'm pretty easy: give me a clean place and hot water in the morning, and I'm basically happy.

Then I saw the bed. It was crisply made and had plenty of pillows. And it was a king, more than ample for the single me that would be spending two nights. No, the problem wasn't the furniture itself, but rather how it was placed. The head was against the wall to my right, with the desk and couch to my left and bathroom behind me. As it sat, the other side was within a foot or so of the opposite wall. The obvious thing was to sleep on this side, the left side, closest to all that was needed.

But I sleep on the right.

Ever since my wife and I have been married, my piece of real estate in our bedroom has been on the right. Like most people, my side is my side. I would no sooner climb in and curl up on hers than I would use her toothbrush. I mean, I suppose I could do it, but it would feel weird, like driving on the wrong side of the road.

And so when I travel I sleep on the right. No one makes me: I could sleep on the right or left or even diagonal. But it would be disconcerting. The right is my home turf. However, in this particular room in this particular city it probably didn't make a lot of sense. I would have to shimmy past the dresser at the foot, and squeeze in against the far wall to get in or out. In the middle of the night, if I wanted to go the bathroom, I would have to circumnavigate the entire mattress and hope I didn't slam my toes into unfamiliar furniture, a journey Francis Drake himself would find daunting.

Let me be clear: I sleep on that side because, well, I sleep on that side. It's not like I really planned it. Research is hard to come by, but what little there is suggests that a variety of factors come into play when couples stake out their turf. These include who needs to be closest to the bathroom, or who gets up for child care, or even security, as the person closest to the door can protect the other (traditionally this would be the male, but then again he's likely to be snoring loudly and wouldn't hear an intruder until awoken by his wife's screams). But there are also factors such as one side being warmer or brighter or softer. Bottom line: no one knows why one side is the wrong side and one side is the right side.

And then there's the UK study done by mattress maker Sealy that says that those who get out of bed on the left are more likely to be in a better mood that those on the right. According to a survey of 1000 adults, lefties were found to have more friends and enjoy their job by a small margin over their mates. Meanwhile those on the other side of the pillow admitted to preferring their own company, being pessimistic, and generally being in a bad mood in the morning. Then again, about a third preferred to sleep alone, with almost half attempting to escape snoring, and a fifth simply admitting they prefer to have the bed to themselves.

But back to my latest hotel room. At bedtime, I gave in to expediency and crawled in on the left. I admit it took me a bit to figure out how the covers worked. But eventually I fell asleep and made it through the night. And the following day I made a new friend and had a good day at work. So maybe there's something to it after all, and left is indeed right. But in our house that's her side, and possession is 9/10's of the law. I have a feeling my future is indeed right.


Marc Wollin of Bedford sleeps on his side on his side. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Count Steps or Else

It's one of the great names in one of the best bad movies of our time: Snake Plisken in "Escape from New York." If you don't know the 1981 film, it takes place in a then distant 1997, when the President's plane crashes into a Manhattan which has been turned into a maximum security prison controlled by violent gangs. Kurt Russell, as Snake, a "scruffy, one-eyed, famous special-forces-soldier-turned-convicted-armed-robber," is tasked with rescuing him in exchange for a pardon. As an extra added incentive, Plisken is injected with an explosive device that will only be defused if he completes the task. It's not too much of a spoiler to say he succeeds and lives, and is so successful that he is tasked several years later with rescuing the President's daughter from a similar hell in "Escape from LA" or he will not be given the antidote to the virus with which he was infected that time. Thankfully, the fictional president's family was not as large as the size of current occupant of the White House, or Plisken would still be making milk runs.

And what brings this current random bit of movie nostalgia to mind? It's the tale of Dina Mitchell and her activity tracker. Next to smartphones, activity trackers, of which Fitbit is the most ubiquitous, have become the must-have electronic accessory of the moment. At their simplest they have an accelerometer and so are able to measure movement, which they display as steps. The more advanced models can also record vertical changes as in climbing stairs, and even your sleep patterns. For most, the reports they offer are a mere curiosity, good as a gentle form of encouragement, coaching and prodding to get you up off the couch. Others are so obsessed with the readouts that you'd think they were training for the Olympics, and need to know their pulse-oxygen ratio at any given moment.

Still, few would argue that any movement is good movement, and if making the little flower bloom on the face of the device by hitting your target step count does it for you, then go for it. After all, what's the worst that could happen? The flower doesn't grow, that's all. Wake up the next day, and the whole thing resets and you go again. Even if you sync it with your computer, and you've linked it to a support group, it's not like you will be getting hate texts from your pals excoriating you for falling short of your goal. Odds of a Jeff Sessions-like public tweet-shaming are pretty low.

Which brings us back to Dina. Mitchell was a Fitbit user, and wore a Flex 2, given to her a few weeks before as a birthday present. Little is reported about her personal habits, whether she was a casual user or a serious physical fitness aficionado. What is known is that she was sitting quietly and reading a book when the device strapped to her wrist "exploded." She went to a local urgent care facility, where doctors removed small pieces of rubber and plastic from her arm left by the melting device, leaving behind second degree burns.

Fitbit said they were investigating the issue and issued a statement: "We are extremely concerned about Ms. Mitchell's report regarding her Flex 2 and take it very seriously, as the health and safety of our customers is our top priority." They said they have had no other reports similar to this, see no reason for people to stop wearing their Flex 2's, and offered Dina a new device to replace her old one.

You can look at this two ways. Taken at face value, it is a random accident to a poor woman, and it ends there. Nothing more. Or what they're NOT telling us is that this was a next generation device that they were field testing surreptitiously. In that scenario, it goes something like this: Dina's step count was low. Dina should have been up and moving. Dina decided that rather than go to the gym, she would sit in a comfy chair and read a book. Not on my watch, said the Flex 2. And BOOM! Just a little behavioral conditioning. You gotta believe that the next time Dina has a choice between getting on the treadmill, or sitting down and paging through Vogue, she'll think twice.

Just remember what could have happened to Snake.


Marc Wollin of Bedford refuses to count his steps. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.