Ikea Hospitality

photo by Joseaperez

Ikea, the Swedish based furniture chain that sells cheap but “stylish” kit furniture plans to start a chain of budget hotels in Europe.  I don’t know if you have an Ikea in your area, but if you do and have been there, you know that all the furniture sold requires assembly, or most of it anyway.  And you probably also know that Swedish names adorn the labels of their products which often sound quite silly to a monolingual English only ear.   The Raskog kitchen trolley, bedroom furniture by Rast and Odda, and of course the Skruvsta swivel chair.  I recently bought an Orgel floor lamp and some frozen Swedish meatballs with gravy.

I’m not very good at assembling things actually, and find the illustrations make the task even more confusing.  I just look at the finished product on the box and try to reconstruct it as best I can.  Now this new hotel chain launch intrigues me.  I wonder if the pricing structure will be based on assembled and unassembled rooms?  Imagine checking into your room to find a stack of plywood on the floor with a hex key and some nuts and bolts.  I’d be ok as long as  my room came with complimentary bags of Swedish meatballs, Swedish fish and Anna’s ginger thins.  Ah, Swedish hospitality.

San Fran Bottled Water Ban

San Francisco is leading the fight against plastic bottled water.  Now they haven’t banned the stuff yet, but have drafted an ordinance that would require the owners of new and rehabbed buildings with water fountains to install bottle filling taps. The theory is that the taps would encourage people to refill BPA free bottles with water rather than reach for another plastic store bought bottled water.

You know, when I was a kid, I would have thought the idea of buying water to be positively preposterous.  Still do, but I do buy bottled water now and again, despite the fact that I have a Brita container and a BPA Free Camelbak bottle.  My beef with the Camelbak is that it’s a little too fat at the base to fit into my car’s cupholders; an annoying design flaw by both the auto and bottle maker. With climate change bringing about catastrophic droughts, and with the constant polluting of groundwater via the frackers, water truly is a much more precious commodity…but back in the day, and I’m talking some 40 odd years ago, I was drinking water from those porcelain fountains at school and garden houses.  And it was a real treat to visit the fancy places and drink water out of a glass bubbler in those funny paper cups that looked like tiny dunce hats.

Anyway, I do applaud San Francisco for their intentions.  Those non-biodegradable plastic bottles require too much energy to produce and recycle.  And all too often, they end up in landfills or floating around in the oceans causing harm to marine life.  And who ever heard of a message in a plastic bottle?

The tap proposal is a good thing really, but I, being predisposed to exaggeration, would go several steps further.  I would only allow the city to sell plastic bottled water to tourists who presented a valid tourist visa.  Canadians would only have to prove a Canadian accent by pronouncing the words out, house or about.

As I was writing this post about water, some great songs came to mind.  If you have a Spotify account, groove on; if not, give it a Spin.

Water of Love – Dire Straits.  After all, San Fran was once known as the city of free love with all the hippies.

Black Water – Doobie Brothers.  A California band.  I’ve always liked this song.

Slow Water – Brian Eno.  This is an ambient songs, but not cheesy like those relaxation tapes the old hippies now listen to while doing yoga and eating hemp cereal and free trade Trader Joe’s mushrooms.

Sound of Water – Pat Metheny/Brad Mehldau.  Just a very cool song by two master musicians.

Puff Adder and Teva Sandals

I was scanning my news feed and came across this headline: FDA Warns of Teva’s Adderall Fakes. My brain skipped over the all in Adder which conjured up an image of a puff adder striking a nerdy Teva sandal wearing hiker.  Now I consider myself to be a good reader, one who previews headlines and other cues to predict what a reading might be about, and to decide whether I want to read it, bringing to the process my own knowledge and experiences.  So I thought the FDA must be concerned about fake antivenom for puff adder bite victims.  I’m no herpetologist, but I know the puff adder is one mean venomous snake.

I do get a little excited sometimes and jump to conclusions.  I wanted the article to be about a sandal wearing puff adder bite victim who was almost treated with fake antivenom.  I envisioned some serpent loving medic saving the day at the last second.

To my disappointment, the article had nothing to do with snakes, or sandals.  Fake Adderall is interesting, but not nearly as interesting as my imagination.  But wait, I wonder how a snake would respond to Adderall injections?  I wonder if they would neutralize the snake’s venom so that if it bit a person, he’d be injected with a drug rather than a poison.  It might just do the puff adder and the bite victim some good.

Stolen Dali Painting Returned

A few weeks back, this guy walks into a new New York gallery, snatches a Dali off the wall, puts it into a shopping bag and walks out in full view of cameras.  A few weeks letter, the gallery gets an e-mail from someone in Europe saying that the painting is on its way back to the gallery.  Indeed, the painting arrived, neatly packed and unscathed. That it was returned, in my view, is a bit of an insult.

Strange, but given that the painting in question is a Dali original, the original Surrealist, whose paintings are bizarre, yet soothingly familiar to us all, strange is what we would expect and want.  Ok, I’m speaking for myself, but when I see some of his paintings, I think – that’s it, that captures what I feel inside.  Not all of his paintings resonate with me.  The stolen work in question, Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio is surely one of his lesser works that could have been by Panbanisha, the painting bonobo.  There’s speculation that the painting didn’t sell because of all the news surrounding the theft; that no one in their right mind would purchase a recently lifted Dali.  But I don’t think that’s the reason.  I think the reason no art dealer bought the painting  was that it sucks.  It does.  The work is not up to the Dali standard.  People want the melting clocks, or something colorfully bizarre.  Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio is neither colorful nor bizarre; it’s just boring.  It looks like something Cro-Magnon man might have carved onto a cave wall with the blood of a man he had just clubbed.  It’s that bad.

Swarming Homeless Honeybees Hunt Hives and Higher Education

A  swarm of homeless bees attacked a Volvo station wagon as a horrified family of three looked on helplessly from the comfort of the cabin.  One theory for the attack (mine) is that the safe and roomy Volvo provides the perfect home for a swarm of upwardly mobile bees, SUMBs for short.  I imagine this ambitious family of honeybees have their sites on college in upstate New York and may very well have noticed the Bard College sticker on the back glass of the car.  I suspect that these are the same progressive swarm of bees that have taken to the streets to protest the lack of environmental regulations that have given rise to climate change.  These bees, though not aggressive by nature, do intimidate by swarming science deniers and plan to disrupt the GOP convention this summer.  Actually, Bard College is the perfect school for them – progressive with a campus full of smokers, which would help calm the bees at night.  And Bard has a wonderful new science facility where the bees might lend their expertise on pollination, hive making and honey production.  Should Bard move to admit bees, I would think they would soon follow with a Bee Keeping major.

Another Frank Gehry masterpiece

Ideas to Get the MBTA Out of the Red

Boston’s MBTA, the transit system I frequently use, is a 159 million in the hole, prompting officials to raise fares and cut back on services beginning July of 2012. I don’t know what that means for my commute, but with my luck, the local bus I sometimes ride to work will run every other day as opposed to every 20 minutes.

There have been reports that the MBTA, or the T as we call it in Beantowne, will begin selling naming rights to subway stations.  Why not rename North Station, TD Bank North, or rename the Airport Stop, Lufthansa, though that might confuse some people. The Subway sub shop ought to get in on the action, and Dunkin Donuts too for underground coffee.   For the bus lines, well, that is going to take some serious creative thinking.

All MBTA buses could be wrapped in vinyl advertising.  They’ve done that on a few buses already.  If memory serves, and it often does not, the MFA had dressed a bus with images from the King Tut exhibit.  But I’d like to see a Red Bull bus, where the bus driver wears a Red Bull racing jacket.  Riders would get free Red Bull shots and mothers with newborns, given out Red Bull pacifers, baby bottles and teething rings.

I like the idea of the driver dressed up in racing garb full of ads like Nascar drivers.  And maybe the uniform would make them drive faster and even more aggressively than they already do to ensure that all riders make it to their destinations on time and hopefully in one piece.

I’m also thinking that the fare box on the buses could have multiple uses.  One idea I have is to retrofit it to be a music controller.  Riders could access it on a mobile app, for a couple of bucks and send a playlist that would blast out over the PA system installed by Bose or Polk Audio, for example.  What I would give to play my Spotify playlist of the 40 worst songs ever to captive commuters. And the MBTA might as well make some money off music because riders blast their own anyway on their headphoneless smartphones.  A Bose blast would drown out those tinny speakers and maybe even reach the ears of commuters with Bose noise cancelling headphones.

Swiss Weed Killer Company Settles for 105 million


The Swiss are known for their banking system, chocolate, “neutrality”, yodeling, Ovaltine, infant formula and chemicals.  Syngenta, the Swiss based makers of the popular herbicide that contains the chemical atrazine, just settled a lawsuit in the United States filed by states and municipalities in the Midwest where the chemical has been found in public water systems. They sued to recover the costs of filtering the weed killer out of the water supply.  Without admitting any wrongdoing, Syngenta settles for 105 million U.S.

Atrazine has been used the world over by farmers to kill weeds that harm crops.  In the U.S., the herbicide has been used for years by corn farmers.  Syngenta claims that there is no evidence that humans have been harmed by the chemical.  Interestingly, atrazine is sold in 60 countries but has been banned by the European Union.

I just returned from Illinois and drank quite a bit of water from my sisters refrigerator, a refrigerator that generates 14 gallons of ice a day, and I must say, the water tasted fortified, with what I don’t know.  I don’t think there are any corn fields in or near her small suburban Chicago town.  I don’t think it is one of the municipalities in question, but the well-manicured lawns and gardens in the town clearly have benefited from herbicides, pesticides and chemically enhanced fertilizers.  And the bag of carrots she bought at a local supermarket had the markings of genetic tampering.

Research indicates that atrazine causes reproductive distress in frogs and could cause birth defects in humans.  I like corn, but if I were thinking of starting a family, I might think twice about drinking tap water or eating corn.  And given my love for corn on the cob, corn dogs, cornbread and grits, this would be a near impossible sacrifice.

Ethiopian Quiz

I was scanning my news feeds this morning and ran across this headline: Ethiopia detains and quizzes U.S. journalists.  Interesting.  I haven’t read the article, and will, of course, but I am trying to imagine what questions the Ethiopians might pose and wonder whether the journalists are up to the task. I am no expert on Ethiopian history and as I’m writing this, I have done no research on the country. I haven’t Googled anything or looked up interesting facts on the African country, but I know enough to compose a quiz, one in which I doubt few Americans could answer without the assistance of Google, or Wikipedia.

Here’s my quiz.  I would hope that the detained journalist could answer at least the first few questions.  If they can’t, perhaps their detention could be understood, although for the record, I am against restrictions on speech and the press and would urge the Ethiopian government to free the journalists.

1.  What is the capital of Ethiopia?

2.  What is the main language of Ethiopia?

3.  What is Ethiopia’s major export?

4.  Name one Ethiopian album?

5.  Which European country occupied and oppressed Ethiopia?

6.  What is the name of the bread which accompanies many Ethiopian dishes?

7.  Ethiopia feuds with which bordering country?

5-7 – Good

3-4 – Fair

0-2 – Sad

Answer Key:

1.  Addis Ababa 2. Amharic 3. coffee 4. Ethiopiques 5. Italy 6. Injera 7. Eritrea

Nuclear Sub Catches Fire

A nuclear sub in dry dock in Portsmouth, Maine caught fire injuring 7, including some firefighters.  The fire started in the front of the ship where, according to reports,there are some tight spaces including a torpedo bay.  Fortunately, the fire is now out and no torpedoes where inadvertently launched.  The nuclear reactor that powers the ship was never at risk and the sub, though damaged, is now in stable condition.  Clearly, a catastrophe was averted.

But how does a fire start on a sub in dry dock?  The ship was being “worked on”, which I presume required the use of power tools that might have sparked the blaze.  What if one of the workers was taking a smoke break and left the cigarette unattended, or simply flicked it carelessly to go out on its own?  I doubt the ship is equipped with ashtrays and I would guess that no smoking signs are posted throughout.  I bet, though, that back in the day, there was a lot of smoking going on on these vessels. During World War II, soldiers were actually issued cigarettes.

Firefighters heroically contained the blaze.  Imagine being dispatched to put out a fire on an armed nuclear sub.  Which leads me to the question of whether we really need a nuclear sub prowling the seas.  Like cigarette smoking, it seems the risks outweigh the benefits.

Why not build a clean and safer energy sub?  Solar is probably not the best way to go in a sub,  but couldn’t we power the thing with peanut oil, jelly fish, electric eel or just plain ole seaweed?  I think we could and should.

Sleep Aids More Dangerous Than You May Know

Dry mouth, drowsiness, dizziness, headache, cold symptoms, abnormal thoughts and behavior including confusion, hallucinations, worsening depression, suicidal thoughts or actions, memory loss, anxiety, swelling of the tongue or throat, trouble breathing, nausea and vomiting. Can you guess from what?  No, not heroin. These are symptoms associated with the common sleep aid Lunesta.  I pulled them right off the Lunesta website.  And now, according to the latest study from a British Medical Journal, the side-effects list could legitimately include cancer and premature death.  Imagine getting a good night sleep, and awakening grasping for air with a swollen tongue, hallucinations and cancer.  Or imagine not waking up at all from a restful sleep. Quite a price to pay for a little insomnia.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ll be asking my doctor if Lunesta is right for me.