Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I just cannot continue to listen to the news without commenting on the sheer stupidity of some of what I hear. The UAW seems to think that the entire country will roll over and play dead. You REFUSE to take wage cuts? Hmmm... What are the choices again? Let me see.... Wage cuts, or... UNEMPLOYMENT! Don't they get it? The reason why Toyota and Honda are kicking their asses is because they are union free, and have learned how to make cars that the public actually wants. The Aztek should have been a cry for help in my opinion, by the way. How do you produce something so completely off the mark?

I wouldn't hesitate to guess that if you asked the Toyota and Honda US factory workers how they felt about their jobs that they would probably complain a whole lot less than their UAW counterparts too. You stubborn dinosaurs need to understand: Unions made sense back when you were fighting the sweat shops and other labor atrocities. These days all you are doing is ensuring out of proportion salaries, and over the top benefits for workers that are sucking one of our great industries dry.

Shame on Detroit for not getting tough and pushing back long ago. They should have threatened to take the plants to the same states that allow the Japanese to compete so well. Shame on Detroit for being so blind about the state of the word that they continued to market gas guzzlers to the public when we need to slow down and think about what we buy. Shame on Detroit for missing the mark so many times. Saturn was a great idea until they lost their autonomy and became like every other GM division, but then again, I look at all of this and think: Those who do not learn from their mistakes are condemned to repeat them. Bye Bye folks.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Good, The Bad, and The Just Too Big For Their Corporate Britches

I've been having issues with retailers lately. Is there a point where your company gets so big that you completely detach yourself from any sign of intelligent decisions? I'm speaking of the Arkansas Death Star of course. Our friends at WalMart managed to get me a bit upset, and a lot confused recently.

Most large retailers have a web site where you can place orders. Most of them synchronize their pricing with their websites, or at least have a large disclaimer on an item stating WEB SPECIAL ONLY. Not WalMart! They have a website, with many of the same items you will find in the store, but it seems to be run as a separate entity. There is a disclaimer about this, but you have to dig to find it.

Ashley asked me to recommend a new digital camera for her before heading back to school recently. Amy, and I looked online and chose a Canon model we liked. WalMart had the best price (or so it seemed) of all of the retailers in the area. I printed the page out, and headed off to the store with Ashley. They had them in stock, but the price was $50 higher.

When I showed the printout to the clerk, she said "we don't match online prices".

I was confused. "This is YOUR online price", I said.

"Yes, I understand that sir. WalMart dot com is a separate entity and we don't match their prices", she said.

"That's crazy! What if I ordered it on the website to pick up here?" (which is an option) I asked.

"Then they would send one here for you to pick up", she answered.

She then added something to further confuse the situation. "We will match a local retailer, but no online companies."

Ohhh kayyyy.... "So you'll match a competitor but not your own website?"

"Yes sir"


We ended up paying full price for the camera, simply because she wanted it for a trip the next day, and by this time, all of the other stores were closed. I found the disclaimer on WalMart.com. You have to order the item to be picked up at a store, and then it tells you about pricing policy. That's just bad business. When I sent a comment in explaining that competing with yourself is a bad idea, I got a canned response which was just a re-hash of what the clerk had said. Idiots!

So, that same weekend, I had received a promotional email from Big Lots for a Sunday night sale. The deal was 20% off my purchases, and they would be open until 9 PM. The exact wording stated that stores normally open till 6 on Sunday would be open to 9, and stores that were open to 7 or 8 would close at 10. I got to the Newburgh store at about 7:40 and shopped while I heard them announcing the store was closing. I went up to ask if the announcements were for everyone or were they staying open for the sale. I was told that they weren't staying open. I showed them the email flier, but I was told that their manager said they didn't have to stay. The woman behind me took it a step further by explaining that her flier had been handed to her IN THE STORE the previous weekend. Didn't matter, and they closed, and we all left.

I sent a comment in on the corporate website the same night I sent the Walmart one. The NEXT DAY, I received a call from the Northeast district manager for Big Lots. He wanted to personally apologize for the mistake, and offer me another 20% off coupon to make up for it. He said he had been on the phone all morning apologizing to people. Are you listening WalMart? are you reading this? Probably not.

On the upside, I also had a fantastic shopping experience with no reason to complain recently. The store was DSW. It's not easy for me to buy shoes, and takes awhile. The clerk, Sarah, was friendly, helpful, patient, and I love my shoes. Nice job DSW. You should open a school for the other ones.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Goodbye to a Friend

I've been putting off writing this for a few days. This past week, I said goodbye to a loyal friend. Sammi came to our family as a rescued dog, by way of the Dutchess County SPCA and Ashley's boyfriend. She was a large lab-mix who never seemed to understand that she wasn't a lap dog. Sammi showed an extreme level of affection to my family and was always protective of us. At times, her anxieties got the better of her, and she would become hard to handle, even scratching us, or once or twice, biting someone in the process. Still, she knew when she had done something wrong, and showed us how sorry she was. She always knew when I was upset and cuddled close to try to help, and did the same with the kids. As bad as she jumped on us, she never jumped on Alec when he was small, somehow knowing that he was more fragile.

We were told once by the vet that Sammi was a very visual dog. Most dogs recognize by scent first and sight last. Sammi used her sight more he had said. This became apparent about a year ago when my brother Paul came by to visit. Paul had just gone through extensive chemo-therapy, and radiation treatment. Sammi and our Cocker Spaniel, Obi, Always loved Paul, and would go wild when he came by to visit. They say that your scent changes when you go through treatments like Paul did. Obi didn't know who he was and growled at him the whole night. Sammi, however was confused for a few seconds and then recognized him. She was so happy to see him, but was also a little more gentle that night and very clingy to him, somehow knowing what he was going through I guess. She was always such a perceptive animal.

Unfortunately, her mind started to go this year. After she had bitten a pedestrian last year, we started to get a bit nervous, but got even more nervous as she started repeatedly jumping the fence in the backyard and getting loose. this led to constant chaining or leashing when outside. You could tell she hated it, but we had no choice. Then the anxieties started. She was always nervous when there were loud noises. She would pace around during thunderstorms before, but now she started to shake, and lose control. This got so bad that I was quite sure she was going to have a heart attack one night. You could see the terror in her eyes. Convulsing, and jaw chattering. I held her most of the night, trying to calm her down, but it didn't help.

Marti had told me how bad this was, but it was hard to believe until I saw it myself. Through all of this she developed other phobias. One where she started refusing to go to the bathroom outside. Something behind the garage scared her into not wanting to go back there anymore. When Obi would cough, she would get nervous. When we dropped something on the floor she would run and hide. It was getting worse.

Marti is alone during the week and can't handle an animal like this. I can't have her in Jersey City, and Ashley can't take her to college. We can't give her to anyone because I won't lie! I have to admit that she bit two people, unprovoked, and the anxiety issues have to be revealed too. There was a farm in the country that rehabilitated animals and people together, but they would not take her either. After watching her almost die from her own terror that night, we knew there was only one thing to do.

Sammi left us quietly and peacefully this past week at the vets office. Ashley held her while she slept. Stephanie and Davey were there for support. I hope Ashley never has to do that again, but I have told her that she did the right thing. I kept telling myself that there was something else we could have done, but it kept coming back to the look in her eyes the other night, and knowing that it would be the end of her.

She left with her loved ones there. Free of anxiety and pain. I will miss her. Goodbye Sammi. Please say hi to your Uncle Paul, and keep him company. I know how much you always loved him. I know he felt the same way.

Can we go a whole year without losing someone we love now? Please?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Spam Spasms

I really like a few of these. There are two trends here. One is a shocking subject line. I love they way they have two disasters, and a new Nokia phone. Is the other kind of subject I highlighted here supposed to intrigue me? NO Mr. Spammer.... I believe YOU have the stupid face. No, YOU DO! No, YOU DO!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Welcome to visitors from Slashfood

I recently became a regular contributor over at Slashfood. Feel free to go check out my posts (many of which are already here, but not all of them). This has been a great adventure. I can't wait to see where it's all going.>

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I thought today would be easier than this. I mean, I'm OK, right? Today would have been Paul's fiftieth birthday. Birthdays in our family were never a huge deal as we got older, but I'm sure I would have found some funny little gadget for him, and bought him dinner somewhere in the city. I know that Lee is having a rough day too. He mentioned to me yesterday that the period between Paul's birthday and his birthday was always a special time for him. For 3 weeks every year they were the same age. His friend Sue sent me a letter via email last night to post on the website paulgoldstein.org. Please check it out, and feel free to email me messages for him. We miss you Paul. Happy Birthday.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Marti Visits Her Adopted Lambs

If you remember back earlier this year, I wrote about the lambs in my kitchen. Marti went to visit them the other day at the farm. One of them was unavailable for a photo, but the one she called 'Fusser' stopped to say hello when he noticed her. I guess he remebers his M A A A A A! Here he is on our kitchen floor, and now at 4 months. We're told that he might become a stud. That's my boy!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Unexplainable, and Uncomfortable

I've received numerous emails over the years with a link to something uncomfortable, or unexplainable, but this is by far the tops!
Bathing John Malkovich

Got Any Cannonball-Wound Creme?

Brian Regan is my favorite comedian, by a wide margin!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Waiter, There's An Apple In My Kimchi, and Feeding The Squirrels

One of my favorite places to visit in Manhattan after work is the Eldridge Street Dumpling House, which is located on Eldridge Street (duh?) in Chinatown. The Dumpling House used to be a little hole-in-the-wall place where you had to almost fight to get your order placed. There was no place to eat, except for a small counter with stools, so I would exit and enjoy my meals in a nearby park (and watch the squirrels beg, more on that later), or carry it home on the bus and watch the reactions from other commuters to the vapors emanating from the bags. Recently the Dumpling House has undergone an extensive renovation which more than doubled its size, added tables, and even a numbered ordering system. It still gets pretty hectic, but is much more pleasant a visit. The price of the dumplings went up slightly, but is still an incredible bargain at four-for-a-dollar! Other items of interest are the stuffed sesame pancakes, and the soups, specifically the hot-and-sour which is the best I have found.

This last visit, I ordered 4 dumplings, a roast pork sesame pancake, and an order of kimchi. I have developed a liking for kimchi ever since being introduced to it by a former employer at one of his favorite Korean restaurants. This kimchi was a bit watery, but had an interesting sweet-hot flavor. As I worked through the top layer I ran in to something white, and wedge-shaped. At first I was thinking cucumber, but as I bit into the mystery chunk, I couldn't mistake the texture. It was an apple slice. There were five or six total in the whole container, and it added a nice twist to a classic dish. The dumplings and the pancake were excellent as always.

Which leads me to the squirrels. Back in the fall, I grabbed some dumplings-to-go one night and looked on Google Maps on my Blackberry for a park somewhere nearby to sit and eat them. Seward Park looked good. It was at the corner of Essex and Canal, and next to the East Broadway "F" station. I walked down and found that the main portion of the park closes at dusk, but there were stone benches surrounding it. I sat down and started to eat.

I noticed some wildlife scurrying around at a distance, and didn't think much of it. There was a little bit of light from the streetlights. Just enough to see my food, and the scurrying squirrels. As I ate the squirrels got a little braver and came closer. I figured they were used to people throwing bits of bread from sandwiches and other things, so they expected me to drop something. As I continued to eat, and the squirrels got even closer, I noticed that they were a little smaller than the grey squirrels I was used to from upstate. They were more the size of a red squirrel. Then they started to come right up to me. I was about to see if they liked dumpling dough when I noticed that they all had hairless tails! I gathered what was left of my food and left quickly, a little creeped out, but mostly laughing at my "city squirrels".

Since that night, I stick to better lighted areas, and I have also gotten new glasses.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Fast, but WRONG Food

I went to a local convenience store chain recently that had a computer-driven self ordering kiosk. You punch the buttons on the touchscreen for the type of food (sandwich, burger, hot dog, angiogram etc..) and add toppings, and side orders, and pay. Then a clerk brings the order by number to the counter for you to pick up.

I think a few years ago I would have voiced concern for this trend, thinking that it would eliminate jobs in our fast food restaurants once the idea spreads to the big chains.

I saw an article recently that one of the larger Hardee's franchisees was installing these kiosks in their restaurants, and these days I think it might actually be a good idea. You see, my experiences lately in these places have been awful. I order and get the deer in the headlights look if I ask a question, or try to make a special order.

I had an experience at a Wendy's drive-thru, where I had ordered a baked potato and hadn't received a fork. I realized this after I had driven a mile down the road to a store I needed to go to, and attempted to eat my food in the parking lot before shopping. I stashed the food back in the bag, thinking that I would just swing back through the drive-thru to grab a Frosty. It was hot after all. I ordered my Frosty and this is how the conversation went:

Speaker: Welcome to Wendy's, may I take your order
Me: Yes, I would like a small frosty
Speaker: Would you like anything else?
Me: Yes, I ordered a baked potato before and didn't get a fork. May I have a fork?
Speaker: You want baked potato?
Me: No, I need a fork
Speaker: Frosty come with spoon
Me: I know that, but I ordered a potato before and didn't get a fork so I need a fork
Speaker: So you want potato?
Me: No, just the Frosty, with a spoon, and a fork!
Speaker: We don't give forks with Frostys
Me: Fine, I'll drive up!
(I drove up to the window where she was and held up the potato)
Me: Remember me? CAN I HAVE A FORK NOW?!?!
Speaker: Oh, OK.
Me: Can you call me an ambulance now, because this little exchange we have had seems to have caused me to have a stroke

On a side note, KFC feels that this whole exchange can be solved by merging the fork and spoon into one completely fucking useless object: THE SPORK! Why do people accept this useless invention without rebellion? Great, a fork with tines too-short to spear anything and hold on to it, and a spoon with damned holes in it!

I was at another fast food place recently for breakfast, and stood at the front counter for 5 minutes waiting for someone to help me. There were two people working in the kitchen, and they looked at me with some vague form of acknowledgment, but still nothing. Finally a manger-looking type came out and said, "I'm sorry, I was busy, and we're very short handed. No one showed up today". The man behind me said, "Then why are you OPEN?" Upon ordering my food, I watched as he tried then to explain to one of the kitchen-workers how to make my food. This exchange went back and forth between them, with him even yelling at her once in front of me. Finally, she asked him to look over the final product. He looked at it, and ROLLED HIS EYES! And then, wait for it.... GAVE IT TO ME ANYWAY!!! Needless to say, it wasn't what I wanted, but had taken so long that as long as it was edible I didn't care.

Maybe I'm being picky, expecting perfection from minimum wage earners? Or maybe I'm just being punished for even considering to eat this shit. I think if I ever attempted to make a movie like Supersize Me, I would end up being hauled away for stabbing someone to death with a fucking spork long before the food had an effect on my health. Oh, wait.. you can't do that with a spork either!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Wild Relatives Of Our Supermarket Favorites

Many of the plants I've sampled from the wild have analogues in the produce isle. Of course, there are a couple of plant families that dominate here, but I won't stretch that far and try to compare sunflower seeds to dandelion greens, even though they are members of the same family.

Carrots have a wild version. We know the plant as queen anne's lace. Tall flat white lace-like flowers. Don't believe me? Dig a root and give a smell. Carrot for sure, but a bit spicier smelling. Do yourself a favor though and don't eat the ones that are flowering. You won't like the dry, woody results. Instead, try to find some of the first year plants near these that haven't flowered yet. Queen anne's lace is a biennial, producing the flower in its second year.

Sweet potatoes, which are sometimes mistakenly called yams, are actually not related to potatoes. Real potatoes are members of the nightshade family, along with tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Sweet potatoes are related to the morning glory vine. There are wild versions of sweet potatoes, but I have yet to find them here. Instead, work your way to the nearest wetland (p. c. speak for swamp) and look for arrowheads.
These water-loving plants produce tubers along their roots that cook up much like potatoes. Also water lilies produce the same down along the roots at the bottom of your favorite pond. Most of these wild potatoes are best before the plant blooms, or late in the fall long after the flowers have gone.

For you spinach lovers, there are several wild alternatives, but lambs quarters by far is the easiest to find. Once you see it here in the photo I am sure you are trying to remember all of the places you have seen it before. The youngest leaves are the best. Cooks just like spinach, which means it shrinks up a bit, so pick a lot.

One of my favorite ornamental trees, is also a source of a great substitute for snow peas. The redbud tree, as some of you may know, produces a pod that looks much like a pea pod, or small locust pod. If you pick these while they're young, they are great used like snow peas anywhere you would use the commercial variety. The flowers by the way, are also edible and although not very interesting in the flavor department, they look great on top of a salad.

Salsify, is one of those items in the produce market that you may not have tried yet. Commonly called oyster plant, it has an oyster-like flavor when cooked. The plant produces a carrot-like taproot which is what you see in the market. Salsify's other name is purple goatsbeard. There is a local wild relative of this in our area called yellow goatsbeard. Looking much like a tall and larger version of a dandelion, it has the same uses as the purple variety.

As always, be smart and know your plants, and keep away from polluted areas when foraging for goodies. Now why can't we have a northeastern wild coconut?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fofio Gibbons

I was encouraged by some folks at AOL, specifically Kat Kinsman, to write a piece on wild foods. I thought I would post it here first, so here it goes....

I don't know how old I was when I started having a fascination for wild foods, but I can point to a few family activities that caused it. As far back as I remember we used to go pick apples every year at an orchard near Stone Ridge, New York. Always fun, except of course for the inevitable case of poison ivy that followed a few days later. The apples weren't wild, but still the idea of picking something from a tree, and eating it right there got to me.

Another major influence were the wild strawberries and blueberries we picked as kids. The strawberries grew near our home in Woodstock. There were several places where you could pick a dozen or two small wild strawberries quickly with little effort, but a short bike ride away was a meadow that my older brothers Lee and Paul called Sergeant's Field. You could pick a few quarts of the local delicacy there.

The blueberries came from Ice Caves Mountain, near Ellenville in the Shawangunk Mountains. Ice Caves used to be a privately-owned mountain top tourist-trap, but has since become a forest preserve, similar to other Shawangunk Mountain preserves Mohonk, and Minnewaska. Huge blueberry bushes were there. Or, at least they seemed that way to a little kid. Even though I picked the berries with the rest of the family, I never really developed a love for them. I will eat them in muffins and pancakes, but rarely just plain. Still, I was amazed that something that everyone craved came from the wild, and not a store.

It was then that I started to notice the foliage around our house. We had both woods, and a lawn, and something in-between. Wild blueberries, black raspberries, rose hips, beech nuts, wintergreen, wild carrot, spearmint, chives, milkweed, these were some of the plants that I learned to recognize with some help from my mother.

When I was 16 I think, I was away at scout camp one summer and decided to take a wilderness survival course. We learned many of the plants that I already recognized and a few more. solomon's seal, arrowhead, and groundnut to name a few. We lived for two days on wild plants, hand-caught trout, and frogs legs. From that point on, any time I saw a wild plant I didn't recognize, I had to know what it was, and what it was used for, if anything. Even the inedible ones fascinate me sometimes.

So, let's get seasonal! First though, a disclaimer: I don't recommend eating anything without checking a good field-guide, or other reliable resource. A good book for beginners is Peterson's Guide to Edible Wild Plants. Also, the Euell Gibbons books are a good read, but a little dated. Be smart! Start with the easiest to identify. With mushrooms for example, the easiest to start with are varieties that can almost never be mistaken for anything else, like puffballs, chicken mushrooms, or morels. Read about dangerous plants in the guide, and learn to recognize them. Also, plants that grow near toxins, tend to absorb them. Try to pick well away from busy roads, and other areas where the hustle and bustle of our day to day lives has had a negative effect on the soil, groundwater, and air.

This time of year, foraging is still possible. Mostly though, finding wild edibles in the winter depends on knowing where the remaining dead stalks of the plants from the fall are. Jerusalem Artichoke is a good example, as many of us will recognize the plant from the picture here, and know where some dried up stalks are this time of year.

Looking in the late summer, early fall, like a small headed sunflower, the Jerusalem Artichoke actually has nothing at all to do with Jerusalem. The name Jerusalem is believed to be a corruption of the word Girasole, which is the Italian word for sunflower, and although it is in the same general plant family as the Artichoke, it isn't anything like it. What is eaten on the Jerusalem Artichoke is the underground tuber. Looking like a long, thin, irregular potato, they can be eaten raw or cooked. If you want a good look at the commercial variety for identification, look for them in the supermarket where they may also be referred to as Sun Chokes. Raw, they can be sliced into salads. They have a crunchy texture, and nutty flavor, similar to a water chestnut. Cooked, they can be used like potatoes, either sliced thin and fried like potato chips, or peeled, and roasted whole like a potato. They don't take well to mashing though, as they end up with a lumpy, watery texture.

Nutritionally, they hold up too. Jerusalem artichokes have 650 mg. potassium per 1 cup (150g) serving. They are also high in iron, and contain 10-12% of the RDA of fiber, niacin, thiamine, phosphorus and copper (USDA Agricultural Research Service)

Also, Jerusalem Artichokes contain a starch known as Inulin. Inulin is not digested like ordinary starch by most people, making it a good choice for people who have trouble with carbohydrates.

My only warning about these tubers is to resist the temptation to bring them home and plant them in your own garden. They will take over rapidly, and are almost impossible to eradicate once they do. Maybe that's another source of the name artichoke, since they tend to choke-off any other plants they compete with.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Captain.... There be lambs here!!

Female sheep (ewes) usually have one or two baby lambs at a time. Sometimes however they are known to have more. Usually the extra ones do not get taken care of. Natural selection will find the smallest lamb being abandoned by its mother. So, sheep farms will raise these orphans themselves by bottle feeding them, hence they are referred to as bottle lambs.

Marti was offered a chance to be a foster mom to a pair of abandoned lambs last Thursday. She bottle feeds them every four hours, and keeps them entertained and clean. I have to say, its not an activity for just anyone. Its a lot of work! These two will be with her for two weeks.

I couldn't help though as I got to the house Friday night, recalling the line from Star Trek Four, when Scotty successfully beams the whales into the ship, Captain... There be whales here!!

Strange, yes... but overwhelmingly cute! M a a a a a a a a a !!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It's been a long time......

I haven't posted in a very long time. I apologize to all three of my regular readers! To anyone that stumbled here that doesn't know me, the main reason for my absence was the passing of my older brother Paul in December after a fight with cancer. More information about him, and the amazing support from all of his friends can be read here at a website I set up for him: http://www.paulgoldstein.org

As for me, I am still working for AOL in Manhattan. I will try to post a bit more now, and there is always something to write about. Same thing with my freeware blog (link on the sidebar). Bye for now. See y'all soon!