Friday, October 8, 2010

Back to writing... sort of

Here's a link to the first newspaper editorial I've written in almost a year... Not much time for writing anymore, as I'm sure you've all seen on this blog since there's been NOTHING on it...


Monday, May 31, 2010

Continuing in the kitchen

Home Depot had a sale on glass tiles for the kitchen this weekend. That motivated me to spackle the entire back wall (the yellow glue from the ugly fake wood floor tiles has been showing for months) in preparation of some tiling.

Of course, I don't know how to tile, but at least the walls will be ready soon. I just have to sand and spackle them one more time... And we still have to order and install the counter tops...

But at least this motivated us to get some painting done on the lower cabinets. One step closer to having a completed kitchen...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A wonderful piece of history

Today I navigated to the New Haven Register website to catch up on some local news. Instead, I came across THIS ARTICLE about the famous "Treskilling Yellow" stamp once again going up for auction.

The stamp, known to me as the Treskilling Banco, is of importance because it was postmarked in 1857 in Kopparberg, Sweden - my hometown of 3,100 people (You can see "Kopp" on the postmark). It was a big part of history growing up, and there's a museum in my town dedicated to the stamp.

There's even a celebration on July 13 every year - the day the stamp was postmarked.

The Treskilling Banco stamp is worth more than $2 million, and all because of a mistake. You see, the stamp was supposed to be green, but due to a misprint, it was printed in yellow.

At the time, it was worth 3 shillings - less than a penny. The boy who found it, Georg Wilhelm Backman, sold it to a stamp collector for about $1 in 1886.

Today, it's the most valuable stamp in the world.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

SVT World

I recently saw an ad in Nordstjernan for SVT World, and I’m considering trying it. Through SVT World, you can watch Swedish television in the United States. You basically buy another type of cable box and it lets you watch certain Swedish programs like debates, music and sports as well as children’s shows.

The limitations, however, are that the company is not allowed to air any shows already broadcast in the U.S. I doubt SVT would have been allowed to broadcast the Olympics, for example, since the network NBC owns the rights to those here.

And you can’t watch shows like “Friends” or “Seinfeld” through the Swedish stations. I believe they also edit them and just air certain shows internationally, so you can’t watch the same show as grandma is watching in Sweden at the same time on basically the same channel.

But still, the idea is intriguing. I just haven’t decided yet if I want to pay an extra $25 a month for watching television.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Is that really Swedish?

People ask me about anything, from "Swedish meatballs" to Swedish massage. "Is that REALLY Swedish?" they say. The answer depends on the question.

Swedish meatballs are, of course, just called “meatballs” in Sweden. They are made by mixing ground beef and chopped up onions with bread crumbs soaked in milk. The meatballs are softer and less dense than the larger ones known in America as Italian meatballs.

In the U.S., I think people avoid the onions because so many people don’t like them. But the Swedish meatballs are very popular. So popular, in fact, that there’s a song about them.

But what about Swedish massage? Is that really Swedish?

The Swedish massage if often attributed to Per Henrik Ling, the father of Swedish gymnastics. As it turns out, Ling visited with a Chinese martial artist to improve body treatment. But a Dutch doctor, Johan Georg Mezger, was the man who adopted the basic strokes of massage known as the Swedish massage we know today.

Mezger may have known Ling and called it Swedish massage because of Ling’s influences, but the massage isn’t Swedish at all. Nor is it called “Swedish massage” in Sweden – it’s called “classic massage.”

I can’t find much online about the Swedish braid, but when I first heard a woman’s hair referred to as having Swedish braids, I thought of Pippi Longstocking. I believe Swedish braids are two braids flying freely, one on each side of the head. A French braid, on the other hand, is more complicated since the entire braid is attached to your head.

And finally, the Swedish fish. It is based on the soft, chewy candy made by Malaco, but in Sweden they come in all shapes and colors, not just fish. For some reason, whoever exported it must have decided that red fish would sell the best in the United States.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

More garden pictures

Planted some leftover marigolds in a pot.
Perhaps I stuck too many of them in there,
but we'll see how it goes.

The first lilies, the Stargazers, are starting to poke out
of the ground. I am trying to protect them this year
with bigger rocks, although a termite guy already stomped
on one of them. Don't know if it will recover.

My first batch of "protected" lilies are starting to
come up in a giant pot on the patio. At least the
maintenance guys won't touch these! (I hope)
I planted 10 more in a separate pot this year.

And in the kitchen window, I have strawberry
and tomato seeds growing. They will later be planted
outside in an upside-down topsy-turvy pot,
where they will hopefully grow upside-down.

Spending time in the garden

When I brought home my new plants from the garden store on Wednesday, I couldn't wait to get outside to plant them on my patio. But by the time I got home, it was too dark and too cold, and the plants ended up getting tucked into the garage with the soil and other supplies.

Today I woke up and it was a beautiful day - I also didn't have to go to work, so it was time to plant my petunias and marigolds in a flower box on the front porch.

Then I ventured in the back yard, and it looked like this:

So I spent the afternoon digging up dandelions by the roots. And now it looks like this:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Some energy left over for home improvement

It's always good to set some goals. I have a hard time getting anything done unless I have a deadline - perhaps that's why I work in the newspaper business.

This past week, I decided I would try to get Albie's work area done before his 30th birthday next week. As I'm sure I've told you all before, his area is the hallway - we got stuck on several points there.

First, there was the corner by the stairs which we couldn't reach. One ladder was too tall, the other too short. And it was overall just awkward. So it's been on hold for about a year, with the rest of the wall painted and just a corner and some upper edges near the ceiling left white, framed with blue tape.

Of course, this is the corner I see every morning while waking up, since there's a direct view from the bedroom.

Another corner, directly across from the stairs, features Albie's desk and computer work station. So when we first painted, we went up to the desk from both directions, then we stopped. His actual work corner has been a dirty white, unpainted area for way too long.

The third project is that 1/3 of the rest of the upstairs wall only got one coat of paint - what's the point in continuing when 2 corners still had to be done?

Well, yesterday I finished off all of those "problem areas."

Albie helped me move the desk before he left for work - I did the rest. With a corner pad taped to a pole, I finished most of the top edges by the stairs with minimal stains on the ceiling (a few stains on the rug though as the pad slipped off and bounced down the stairs). With a brush taped to the pole, I the finished the corner. Getting the tape off was the worst part, and it included taping a paper towel to a stick and then taping a paper knife to the same stick to cut slips off that had gotten stuck.

The best part? Hanging the shelf, the curtains and the framed Mets memorabilia that's been tucked away in various nooks and crannies for over a year.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Birthdays galore

I feel like my new job should be to host birthday parties. Or to be involved with them in one way or another.

At work, we've started a Birthday Planning Committee (you fans of "The Office" will know exactly what I'm talking about). Every time it's someone's birthday, we plan a theme and we make that person feel really special.

It really started with a very low attendance at our Christmas party. This inspired us all to plan better and make everyone's day feel special so they would want to help out for all the other birthdays.

In January, we had a Twilight party with vampire cupcakes, bloody drinks and blood-smeared popcorn. February's theme was Polish, since two people in our office both had birthdays close to each other and they are both from Poland. A designer brought in pierogies and we ordered a cake with the Polish flag on it.

For March, we had to keep it simple since everyone was stressed out and I was going out of town the two days before the party. We decorated everything in green in honor of St. Patrick's Day, and I brought in my blender and made non-alcoholic apple martini slushies. Another co-worker baked a green cake.

We won't have another work-related party now until June (unfortunately our boss who got laid off would have been the next one on the list). However, I had a 30th birthday party to attend for a friend today, tomorrow there's a bridal show er for another friend, and in 2 weeks Albie is turning 30. Lots more planning to do!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

More forgetfulness

I've certainly been neglecting friends and relatives this year when it comes to their birthdays.

My friend Carmen, whose birthday was March 3, had to wait until February for her Christmas present and will probably have to wait until June until her birthday card arrives.

You see, I make or buy birthday cards for people. I even address them, but then they get stuck in my car for weeks since I never have time to go to the post office.

Poor grandma, my aunt and my dad. They never got any cards at all. I did remember to call my grandma, though, a day later, but not my dad.

And no, I'm not pregnant.

Today, I was the guest speaker in a journalism class at Middlesex Community College (they had cake and everything!). When I got back to the office, I realized I'd left the power supply to my laptop in the classroom back at the school.

My staff and I scheduled a whole bunch of community meetings for next week, and were just about to publish the schedule in the paper for tomorrow, when - and hour before deadline - I realized Monday is my first wedding anniversary and I'm taking the day off. Whoops.

Oh, and I just pulled into my driveway at home tonight when I remembered I never returned my husband's movie to Blockbuster. It's still in my car.

Can I please order some extra memory for tomorrow? I would only need like 5 gigs or so.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Those were the days

Remember when VHS tapes used to get stuck in your VCR and you had to take a hanger and jam it in there to get the tape out? Those were the days! Apparently, some people still remember how to do this.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Watching a duck die

Just watched a duck die in front of my eyes today on the farm - it was pretty traumatic.

As I got there today, David and Kathleen (farm owners) had just gotten home from the store and they found Buttercup in the pond - lifeless. They pulled her out and put her body on a rock in the sun while they unloaded their stuff.

When I got there, Kathleen just came outside to mourn her baby, saw me, and said "Buttercup just died."

I looked over at the bird on the rock, and she was breathing and moving her head.

"She's moving," I said, and we immediately started getting towels, paper towels and the heat lamp ready so we could dry her off and warm her up - she was soaking, almost dripping, and extremely cold.

Kathleen got her stethoscope and listened to Buttercup's heart - there was a faint pulse!

We sat with the duck for almost an hour, watching her breathe and slowly move her head back and forth.

She kept moving her head around, which gave us hope, and she seemed to like it when I rubbed her chest with a paper towel to get her dry and warm.

We just sat there in the sun, trying to think of what else we could do to help her. Then after a little while, she just stopped moving completely, and she was gone.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I was about half an hour late for work on Tuesday because I made a last-minute stop at the store to pick up some party items.

Tuesday afternoon, I was set to head to Philadelphia for an editor's conference. My first day back to the office - Friday - we're hosting a St. Patrick's Day birthday party for two co-workers and I wanted to be ready.

Dragging along my laptop bag, my lunch and several grocery bags, I stepped off the elevator Tuesday morning to find everyone assembled in the conference room.

"Oh well," I thought as I took a quick peek in there. "Must be just advertising people. They probably don't need me."

I continued to the lunchroom, dumped my bags on the counter, and turned around to find the advertising director right behind me.

"Do I need to be in there?" I asked as I saw his urgent expression.

He nodded.

"Yes, but first I need to tell you that (our publisher) is no longer with us," he said. "Now, come."

I rushed after him into the conference room only to find my former publisher stand there giving out his cell phone number to the staff in case of further questions. In the room was also the director of human resources.

Later that afternoon, we got an e-mail from our new CEO detailing the layoffs in the company. Eight positions in total were cut - four senior officials (3 VPs and 1 corporate human resources director) and four publishers at smaller newspapers.

The scariest thing? They will not be replaced.

Instead of having someone there for us at all hours of the day - someone in charge - we are now left with an empty office and a phone number for our new Connecticut Cluster publisher in New Haven. Of course, he'll only be there for 8 weeks or so, until he moves to his new position in Philadelphia. Then someone else will fill that role, and we have no idea who that person is.

Much to think about at the editorial conference for the past two days, and also much to discuss with the new CEO. He explained the reasoning behind it to me this morning after I confronted him via e-mail about his decision - cutting management in order to put more editorial people on the street, basically trying to undo all the damage the Journal Register Company has done over the past 2 decades.

Will it be that easy? I don't know. But we have been promised at least one new digital reporter in our cluster, and that person will most likely end up in Middletown (as a symbolic gesture since our paper was the one who lost a publisher).

Now I just have to figure out how we go from here. Lot's of new ideas from the conference. I just have to figure out how to get everyone else on board. Before, two of us had a vision. Now, it's just me.

(You can read more about this on my work blog HERE).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Look who's driving

As I stopped at a traffic light on my way home from work Thursday night, I noticed the license plate on the car in front of me. It said "671 GUD." I chuckled and took a photo with my cell phone. "Gud" means "God" in Swedish. You just have to snap a picture when God is out driving around. ;-)


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The smell of grandma's freezer

I pulled a couple of hot dogs out of the freezer when I got home from work today and realized that the plastic bag they were in smelled like my grandmother's house.

I paused and smelled it again. Yup, it smelled just like if I had pulled the bag out of grandma's freezer in Sweden 20 years go.

When I opened up the freezer, I found a bag of dill next to where the hot dogs had been.
"Aha!" I exclaimed to nobody. "That's why!"

You see, my grandmother would always keep dill and parsley in the freezer.
"You never know when you'll need it," she'd say.

Perhaps she still does. All I know is that at her old house where I grew up, she used to have an enormous freezer against the back wall of the kitchen for all her baked goods and some extra meatballs. I didn't realize until today that all those things in there had a very distinctive smell.

It's amazing how such little things can bring so many memories.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The joy of being in charge

As soon as I entered the office this morning, I got pushed into the conference room by our advertising director.

"Great, you're here!" he said with relief and kept directing me away from my office and into teh big room.

He then turned to walk away, a little too quickly, and I could hear him mumble "enjoy" under his breath.

In the conference room were two angry black women and my publisher, all looking a bit distraught.
"I just don't understand," one of the women said. "Why you gotta put my background information in? Why you gotta do that?"

Once we established she was one of the people who had been arrested a few days ago, and was accused of wielding a knife at a young man allegedly smoking crack cocaine outside her building, she claimed she'd never been convicted of anything and that everything about the knife was false.

We calmly told her we could check our facts but that the information came from the local police, and if there was anything wrong, she would have to take it up with them.

The friend said "See, I told you so! Why you gotta come here and yell at them for???" and then the real action took off.

We showed them to the elevator door, but the two women argued louder and louder and were finally screaming at each other "You're not the one who's losing the house - you just shut the (expletive) up!)"

Others in our office were hiding in their cubicles, wondering if they should call the cops.

The elevator finally came and off the women went - with a few faded screams as the elevator took them down 4 floors. It could not leave fast enough.

Of course, once we checked the court records online and her arrest report, the woman was indeed guilty of drug violations and violating a protective order and police did indeed say she threatened a man with a knife over the weekend. It didn't make us feel any better about the situation.

As I made it to my office, I had a call from a reader in Killingworth telling me that apparently said in our paper that the New Haven mayor - an outstanding and friendly man - was being investigated for by federal officials for taking bribes from a developer, when in fact it was the mayor of Shelton who was under investigation.

"How could we do this to such a nice man?" the reader wanted to know.

And finally, someone who was named frequently in the comment section of our web site decided to hit "report abuse" on any comment that mentioned his name, which lead us to a long discussion on what constitutes a public person. Is the man who owns most of the company where six people just died in an explosion considered a public person? The story and all discussions and questions around it are certainly newsworthy and it's in the public's right to know. Does the fact that this man is a former city official still make him a current public person? Can you ever stop being a public person? And will this matter in terms of us removing the comments, that in our view were not threatening or libelous?

Tough day today.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Losing my mind!

The new job is going great, but sometimes I feel like I'm losing my mind.

Yesterday, I lost my wallet. ME. Lost. My. Wallet.

I rarely lose anything - I'm known to be the founder of lost things.

I first realized it around 4 p.m. when I stepped out to grab some dinner and put my hands in the empty pockets of my coat. Hm! I thought. Strange. Must have left it at home.

I searched the office when I got back just in case. Not there.

When I got in my car to go home that night, I searched the car. Not there.

I got so paranoid I called my husband and asked him to log in to my bank account to make sure no big purchases had been made. He confirmed that the last time the card was used was the day before at Dunkin' Donuts.

When I got home, I searched the house. Not there. I called work again and had my co-workers search the entire office. Not there.

Last step was searching the car - again - with a flashlight. Of course, the wallet had slid in between the seat and the door, just where the seat belt comes out of the bottom of the car. Phew!

But if this was the only thing, I would have written it off as just something weird. However, two weeks ago, I blew off a doctor's appointment when I was supposed to have X-rays taken. My doctor drove to a different office and waited for me there for half an hour.

I didn' t have the slightest idea my appointment was even that week. I had no reminders in my calendar. In fact, I couldn't even find the little card with the appointment date and time. Weird!

This is so unlike me. Perhaps I will just write it off as stress. Anyone else have any other suggestions?

Friday, February 5, 2010

New blog for work

I am doing a new blog for work now. You can check it out here. But pretty soon I'm hoping to be able to do both.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bloggpaus/blog break

I should have done this a while back... but I guess it's not too late! I am taking a break from blogging. Too much going on at work and I can't really give this any serious attention.

Stay tuned though as I'll probably be back by the end of February or so.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


First try! And they must be eaten with warm milk!


I have turned on word verification for comments on this blog, because I've been getting a lot of spam comments like "Hello! You may probably be very curious to know how one can make real money on investments."

While it is easy to just delete them on the newer posts, when they pop up on old ones it's a pain to try to find them and remove them.

Hopefully, this won't create a big hassle for any of you real people trying to comment. Let me know if it does, and I will try to figure something else out to block the spam.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Oh, how easy

I saw a friend's blog and realized how easy it is in Sweden to say "no thanks" to spam in the mail.

You simply make a sign or write a note that says "no fliers, please" and the person delivering inserts and such is not supposed to put junk mail in your mailbox.

Mostly, this is made possible because mail is delivered to each and every apartment in Sweden through a small mail slot in the front door. If the sign is on the door, it stops unwanted mail.

It is also possible because companies hire a separate staff to distribute fliers and such, unlike in the United States, where it all has to be sent via the U.S. Postal Service. Here, you have to visit the post office or its web site to stop unwanted mail, but you also run the risk of stopping magazines or free newspapers if you opt out.

And most companies use newspapers to distribute their fliers and inserts, because it's the most convenient way to reach the consumers. Unless you live in a house and has a mailbox by the road, most people's boxes are locked and unaccessible.

I wish I could just put a sign up on our box though that says "stop putting junk in here! Mailman, take that crap back with you when you leave!" but I'm afraid that's not allowed, nor would anyone adhere to it (It is, after all, a federal crime to tamper with anyone else's mail in any way).

No wonder our recycling bin is full before our two weeks are up! And we don't even have a daily newspaper at our house (despite working for newspapers, or perhaps because we both work for newspapers, we do not want one at our house every day).

Outdoor time on the farm




Thursday, January 21, 2010

Vampire cupcakes

It's a co-worker's birthday next week, so we are having a "Twilight" party at the office. Today I started practicing making vampire cupcakes. See all the blood? It's yummy raspberry preserves! They were really supposed to be made with meringue, but I couldn't find any. Instead, I used Fluff. A little stickier, but still good.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pizza - so simple, so good

The best thing about pizza is that you can use pretty much what you have at home. If you don't have pizza dough (I buy mine pre-made for $1.29, much easier than having to make it), you can use a tortilla or a piece of bread.

While mozzarella is the best cheese, I've used cheddar cheese, feta cheese and various Mexican cheeses - sometimes a combination of all of them.

For sauce, I usually throw on a couple of spoonfuls of whatever open jar of pasta sauce I have in the fridge, but sometimes I'll end up with just a can of crushed tomatoes.

For other toppings I use whatever vegetables I have at home, although I sometimes put some ham and pineapple on it.

Today's pizza consists of a Stop & Shop dough with red peppers, onions, fresh tomatoes, feta cheese, mozz, parmesan, Classico sauce and some oregano. Time to dig in!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Another batch of food bread

About a week ago, I made batch of what is in our house called "food bread," a direct translation from the Swedish matbröd. It's basically any bread that you can have cold cuts and cheese on, (so not muffins or pastries).

My grandfather would have called this particular bread siktkakor, and the rye bread recipe is straight from his secret black baking book, via my grandmohter dictating it over the phone.

It was the first time I ever tried it by myself, and all things considered, it came out pretty decent. The best part? If I have half a slice of this for breakfast with some butter and cheese, I am full until lunch.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

WHAT I’M READING: ‘In the Middle of the Night’

When I first picked up the controversial book about the July 2007 murders in Cheshire, I was hoping to learn more details of the actual case. I wanted to read about what had happened that morning as Dr. William Petit became the only survivor in his family of a brutal home invasion that ended with a beautiful New England home going up in flames.

As I started reading “In the Middle of the Night,” however, I quickly realized that Brian McDonald’s book is more a disguised love store with one of the suspects arrested in the case, Joshua Komisarjevsky; it is the story about a homeschooled child raised in a Christian home, who had overcome so much, but still turned to crime at an early age.

I really didn’t want to read about Komisarjevsky’s grandfather renovating his barn in the 1980s, nor did I want to read about his family and what they have accomplished – it is simply irrelevant to this case and I quickly skipped over several pages when his family history came up.

Two men committed this crime and are currently awaiting trial for it, and it is clear that one person is featured in a favorable light (as if the author is saying "I understand why you did this, it's OK") and the other is blamed for most of what happened ("he was a fat, clumsy, not so bright guy from Winsted" - my interpretation of what the author wrote, not actual quotes from the book).

This deadly home invasion happened on a quiet street not more than 15 minutes from where I’ve spent most of my years in Connecticut. It was in a safe neighborhood, where nobody locked their doors, and it happened to an average family, who had no connection to the brutal criminals who broke into their house as they lay safely in their beds.

I want to read THEIR story – the story that Dr. Petit will one day tell, and may have already shared with some of his close friends. I want to know what gave him the courage to keep going after everyone he loved was gone.

What I definitely do not want to read is a glorified version of events from the viewpoint of one of the two criminals currently on trial for the tree deaths, a man who was not supposed to have any contact with anyone on the outside except his lawyer, but someone managed to write pages worth of letters to a mediocre author who wanted to make some money. And, it should be said, the author also managed to lie his way into prison to visit Komisarjevsky, by pretending to be an attorney.

In the town where the crimes happened, many protested as the library was set to buy copies of the book. The library said it is part of the town’s history; residents said nobody should support this book because of the horrible events it portrays and how McDonald went about writing it.

I say, let the library have it – that way, nobody needs to waste any of their money on buying it, and McDonald won’t sell anymore books.

In December, only a little over 21,000 copies of the book had sold on, something a local judge pointed out as he denied an attorney's request to have the triple-murder trial moved to a different court. The defense attorney for Stephen Hayes claims the book blames his client for setting fire to the house and says this is taining the jury pool so it will be impossible for Hayes to get a fair trial. The judge did not agree, and the trial is set to start in New Haven later this year.

I'm glad a review copy of the book landed on my desk - I certainly would have never paid to read it. If anyone else is interested in it, I'll be glad to pass along my copy so you can put your money to a better use.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

WHAT I’M READING: ‘Up for Renewal’

“Up for Renewal” follows writer Cathy Alter as she takes on the task of letting magazines guide her life.

Alter, a divorced Jewish woman living in Washington, D.C., sets out on the task of letting "O," "Cosmopolitan" and "Glamour" teach her about love, sex and starting her life over. And in 12 months, she manages to do just that.

First, she learns how to wrap a sandwich to bring to work using a clingy plastic wrap. Then, she learns how to make a whole meal. She even learns to get rid of her "upper-arm jiggle," to be comfortable with going camping, how to live without washing her hair every day and how to paint her apartment.

One of the reviewers on the back cover of the book said it feels like you’ve made a new friend when you read it, and that’s really how I felt. While I chuckled slightly and felt significantly more domestic than Alter as she stumbled through her sandwich stage, her voice is open and honest and it is very easy to feel sympathy for her many failures.

Of course, the book isn’t for everyone. For one thing, there are several references to Alter and her co-worker having sex at work, which may be too much to handle for some. Others might just not understand Alter’s personality.

I lent “Up for Renewal” to a co-worker who was going through a renewal face, and she hated it.
“This woman can’t even make a sandwich,” was the first thing she said.
“But didn’t you think it was funny?” I asked.
“Not really. She gives all Jewish women from Connecticut a bad name.”

She quickly handed the book back, as if not wanting to be seen with it near her desk. But that’s OK. We can’t all like the same thing. I am currently having my “Monster of Florence” co-worker read it just to see if I’m crazy, or if she likes it too.

I’ll get back to you on how that goes.

Monday, January 11, 2010

WHAT I’M READING: ‘The Monster of Florence’

A co-worker first recommended the book “The Monster of Florence” a month ago. I got it for Christmas from Albie’s mom, and I finished reading it last week.

The book by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi takes you through 14 brutal murders in and around Florence dating back 20 years, and the Italian law enforcement’s search for the killer. But this is also a story of how a local newspaper journalist becomes a monster expert through his own investigations and great reporting, and later a suspect in the murders.

It is a story of how the Italian legal system lacks oversight, how prosecutors tell investigators what to look for (and what to find), and how innocent people can be convicted of heinous crimes with almost no physical evidence to back up the charges.

The story is extremely timely and relevant as 22-year-old American Amanda Knox was just convicted in the killing of a British exchange student in Perugia, Italy, in December.

At the center of both cases is prosecutor Guiliano Mignini. Mignini was indicted and charged with abuse of office in 2006 after he ordered wiretaps on several journalists – especially those who wrote about him critically – and area judges, but he is still allowed to keep working as a prosecutor despite the charges against him. He is expected to stand trial for abuse of office and “abetting” in the Monster of Florence case.

There seems to be a bias in prosecution in both cases. Once the prosecutor made up his mind about who he thought was behind the Monster of Florence crimes, Mignini disregarded not only physical evidence, but also common sense. It seems he has done the same in the Knox case.

According to CBS blog Crimesider, Mignini quietly appeared in court on and off for his own trial since April 2008, while waging a highly publicized prosecution against Knox.

Did Amanda Knox really kill her roommate? I don’t know. But she should at least be allowed a fair trial, and not a trial overseen by a man who is being investigated for not letting people have fair trials.

The Italian justice system does, indeed, seem to be in need of repair.

Let’s just hope Knox gets a chance to appeal her conviction and a separate set of eyes – people who are not on Magnini’s payroll – will re-examine the evidence against her.

Let us also hope that Magnini will be held accountable for his actions if it turns out he made the Italian justice system look worse than it already is.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dear IKEA...

Dear IKEA,

I’ve decided to take a break from coming to your store – perhaps for a year, perhaps forever.

Shopping at your IKEA store in New Haven is very bad for my health. It dramatically increases my stress levels; it makes me angry to the point that I want to hit someone in the parking lot with my car to relieve my frustration of shopping in your store (and I almost did this successfully the last time I was there).

The lack of bags, and the way your staff rudely tells its customers they no longer carry them, is the biggest bogus idea I’ve ever heard of. When I asked why a few months back, an “IKEA co-worker” simply shrugged her shoulders as if to say “that’s not my problem.” She then proceeded to tell me lies about changes in state statutes that would require all stores in Connecticut to stop carrying bags – she was not too pleased when I corrected her, and I still had nothing to put my items in.

As I stood there at the end of the check-out line with dozens of tiny little items piled up on top of each other and nowhere to put them, the co-worker informed me that I could go back inside and grab some giant blue bags that were for sale.

I ended up shoving my stuff back into the cart and wheeling it out to my car, where I quickly threw everything into the trunk higgledy-piggledy – not caring whether anything broke.

At my last visit, the “co-worker” cheerily informed me of the boxes available at the exit – all the way across the bottom floor. So, I am supposed to leave the items I have already paid for, while the cashier piles the next person’s stuff on top of mine, to run across the store and get some boxes? I’m pretty sure most of my stuff would be gone by the time I came back.

Don’t get me wrong – I have no problem paying for bags, or even bringing my own bags from home. But it’s kind of hard to do when you’ve never even told anyone they won’t be available.

If you aren’t going to have bags, and you are doing this for what to you seems like honorable reasons, then put a huge sign up BEFORE people get to the registers saying “We do not offer bags – go grab a box now!” Or offer boxes by the checkouts, instead of leaving your customers stranded with a pile of crap they now wish they had never bought in the first place while the cashier – again – shrugs his shoulders and shakes his head to inform you that this really isn’t his problem. He really just wants you to leave the store, no matter how much crap you have to struggle with.

And don’t even get me started on the quality of the products you sell. As if this isn’t indicative in itself by the amount of recalls your store has due to strangulation hazards and other dangers, let me tell you about some recent problems we’ve experienced.
The Malm bed my husband and I bought last year was missing every single piece required to actually put the bed together. When we called the help center to see how we could get the darn screws or plugs, we were told that we could just drive back down to the store to pick up these parts – 30 miles away. After much hassle, the person at the other end agreed to ship us the items, which came about a week later. In the meantime, we were sleeping on the floor.

The blinds we bought for all our windows include a part you are supposed to attach to cover up the hinges. Since the Velcro included isn’t strong enough, this part has fallen off on every single blind we have bought. Despite using double-sticking tape – and finally, Superglue – the little wooden slip will fall of, mostly in the middle of the night, scaring the crap out of us and the cats.

For Christmas in 2005, I had made a Swedish dish using anchovies bought in the IKEA food market. It gave me food poisoning, and I was throwing up for three days, unable to go to work.

The caviar I bought on my next trip had already expired, and it was oozing some strange-colored material that certainly did not belong in the tube.

And now, your store employees tell me, you don’t even accept batteries for recycling. So what good are you?

You don’t have shopping bags, your staff is rude and uneducated, you sell furniture that’s crap with missing parts, and you try to poison me with your food products.

Perhaps I should have used the blinds to try to strangle myself instead of shopping in your store – it certainly would have been a lot more pleasant.