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    Published on: May 8, 2020

    Breaking news from the Washington Post:

    "The U.S. unemployment rate jumped to 14.7 percent in April, the highest level since the Great Depression, as most businesses shut down or severely curtailed operations to fight the deadly coronavirus.

    "Over 20 million people lost their jobs in April, the Labor Department said Friday, wiping out a decade of job gains in a single month. The staggering losses are roughly double what the nation experienced during the 2007-09 crisis, which used to be described as the harshest economic situation most people ever confronted. Now that has been quickly dwarfed by the fallout from the global pandemic … Analysts warn it could take many years to return to the 3.5 percent unemployment rate the nation experienced in February."

    The Post goes on:  "The sudden economic contraction has forced millions of Americans to turn to food banks and seek government aid for the first time or stop paying rent and other bills.  As they go without paychecks for weeks, some have also lost healthy insurance and even put their homes up for sale."

    And it gets worse:  "As horrific as the April unemployment figure, economists say the official government rate almost certainly underestimates the extent of the job losses. The Labor Department collected the data in mid-April. Layoffs have continued to mount since then, and the unemployment rate only measures people actively searching for a job, which is difficult during an era when Americans are being encouraged to stay at home."

    Published on: May 8, 2020

    The Washington Post this morning reports that "the vast majority of laid-off or furloughed workers - 77 percent - expect to be rehired by their previous employer once the stay-at-home orders in their area are lifted, according to a nationwide Washington Post-Ipsos poll.

    "Nearly 6 in 10 say it is 'very likely' they will get their old job back, according to the poll, which was conducted April 27-May 4 among 928 workers who were laid off or furloughed since the outbreak began. But there’s concern that many of these workers are too optimistic about being rehired given how much uncertainty remains about health and business conditions in the year ahead."

    KC's View:

    Forget about how long it takes for the economy to come back.  

    What would worry me about this is that companies start to figure out how they can get more done with fewer people … how they can use technology to replace flesh-and-blood workers … and will put efficiency above effectiveness.

    If that happens - and history suggests it will - then I think these folks may end up being sorely disappointed.

    Published on: May 8, 2020

    From the New York Times:

    "Democratic senators Thursday questioned whether Amazon retaliated against whistleblowers when it fired four employees who raised concerns about the spread of coronavirus in the company’s warehouses.

    In a letter sent to Amazon, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a frequent critic of the e-commerce giant, and the eight other senators asked Amazon to provide more information about its policies for firing employees … The letter was also signed by Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, as well as Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, Kirsten Gillibrand, Edward J. Markey, Richard Blumenthal, Kamala Harris and Tammy Baldwin. It asked Amazon if it tracked unionization efforts in its warehouses and whether it tracked employees who participated in protests or spoke to the news media."

    The Times continues:  "The letter increased pressure on Amazon and its chief executive, Jeff Bezos, who has been called to testify before Congress in an antitrust investigation and has been a frequent target for criticism from President Donald Trump. A number of senators and representatives have already written to Bezos, expressing concern about warehouse safety."

    KC's View:

    Schedule that hearing.  Get out the popcorn.   I am ready right now.

    I want to raise a possibility here that makes me a little uncomfortable, but I think ought to be mentioned.

    Jeff Bezos' first wife, MacKenzie Scott Bezos, is a novelist … a person of the arts … and people like that (forgive me for painting with a broad brush) tend to be more intuitive about how people feel and how to tell a compelling story.  I find myself wondering if since their 2019 divorce, Jeff Bezos may have lost an important sounding board, someone who because of shared history - she knew him before he was the world's richest man, before he hobnobbed with the rich, famous and powerful, before his company won three Oscars, and before he had muscles - might have been able to talk to him about priorities and remind him that whistleblowers inherently tend to care deeply about the thing they are criticizing.  And care can be a powerful weapon for good and positive change.

    Like I said, this observation makes me a little uncomfortable.  I don't know Jeff Bezos, don't know MacKenzie Scott Bezos, don't know anything about their marriage or individual priorities.  But I do know who can most easily and accurately look at me and call "B.S."  

    Published on: May 8, 2020

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  In the US, there have been 1,292,879 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 76,942 deaths and 217,251 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been almost four million coronavirus cases - 3,933,097, with 271,031 fatalities and 1,349,822 reported recoveries.

    •  Politico reports that "President Donald Trump said on Thursday that both he and Vice President Mike Pence tested negative for coronavirus after they were informed that a member of the U.S. military who works at the White House had tested positive.

    "The president told reporters in the Oval Office that he had 'very little contact, personal contact' with the person, who a White House official told Politico was one of the president’s personal valets."

    Politico writes that "the president has two valets in the Oval Office and three in the residence, according to a former White House official. Valets who work in the Oval provide anything Trump requests, such as coffee, food or whatever else he might need during the day. The president can call this valet whenever he wants using a button, making frequent daily interaction common.  The valets in the residence do his laundry, iron his attire for the day and pack his suitcases, the former official said. These employees also interact regularly with the president, delivering his newspaper or any other messages he might need. The valets are told to give him his space and not touch him since he doesn’t like that, according to the official."

    •  Fox News reports that Costco is facing some backlash against its new policy requiring shoppers to wear masks in its stores.

    According to the story, "Costco created the new rule as a way to slow the spread of the coronavirus in its stores. The rule also aligns with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that say people should cover their mouth and nose in public settings.

    "However, Costco has faced backlash from customers on social media who are saying they plan to cancel their memberships and boycott the company."

    Here's one typical posting:  "You have hit a new low... you are an American corporation with an obligation to support our American values, dictating face mask for your workers is one thing but forcing this on your loyal members who paid for a membership is a complete abuse of power."

    Not everyone felt that way, though, with one consumer writing:  "Thank you @Costco for making masks mandatory.  Sure you're going to lose some people, but you're also going to gain some people too. I want to support businesses who care about their employees as well as their customers!!!"

    I recommended here back on April 7 that retailers ought to require employees and customers to wear masks, so my opinion on this is unambiguous.  The people who are making this nonsensical "abuse of power" argument are missing the point - that masks basically are a way of protecting other people, not yourself, from being infected.  Wearing one is an act of giving … and refusing to wear one is an act of selfishness.  Put another way, wearing a mask is an act of patriotism at a time when the nation is under siege.

    •  The Washington Post has the story of an Oklahoma City McDonald's where the dining area was closed because of pandemic-related restrictions.  "But when a customer entered Wednesday evening and was informed of the rules, things got violent," the story says.

    "A woman authorities identified Thursday as Gloricia Woody got into a physical confrontation with an employee after being told to leave, police said in a statement. Employees forced the 32-year-old out of the restaurant, but she returned with a handgun.

    "She allegedly fired about three rounds. One employee was hit in the arm, while shrapnel struck two others. The employee involved in the initial encounter with Woody had a head injury. Three of the four employees were taken to a hospital, but all were expected to recover, police said."

    The Post writes that "the incident was the latest in a growing trend of violence directed at employees of businesses trying to enforce social distancing measures. Last week, a Family Dollar security guard was fatally shot in Flint, Mich., after telling a customer that her child had to wear a face mask to enter the store."

    It isn't a short leap from yelling on social media about having to wear a mask to unloading a handgun on a bunch of McDonald's employees just trying to do their freakin' jobs, but it certainly is part of the same continuum.

    John F. Kennedy said it under vastly different circumstances, but I think the spirit is right:  "You cannot negotiate with people who say what's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable." 

    These people, whether they are tapping on their smart phones or holding a gun, are unable to look past their own desires.

    •  From the Washington Post:

    "One-quarter of Americans say they are not likely to get vaccinated, even if a safe and effective vaccine is developed to counter the novel coronavirus, according to a new poll.

    "The finding from an ABC News-Ipsos survey released Friday comes as health experts say the nation is not likely to fully recover from the outbreak until treatments and a vaccine are developed.

    "According to the poll, 74 percent of U.S. adults say they would probably get vaccinated, while 25 percent say they would not. About equal proportions of Democrats and Republicans say they are likely to get the vaccine.

    "More broadly, confidence in vaccines in the United States has been on the decline. A Gallup survey from December found that 84 percent of Americans say it is extremely or very important to vaccinate their children. That is down from 94 percent in 2001."

    Just great.  Let's just bring back smallpox and measles and mumps and tetanus and maybe, if we're really freakin' ambitious, polio.

    •  CNet reports that "Facebook and Google told employees Thursday they'll allow most of their employees to work from home through the end of this year. 

    "Facebook said it doesn't plan to reopen most of its offices until July 6 at the earliest. The company will consider various factors such as "public health data, government guidance and local nuances" when deciding whether to reopen its offices, said a spokeswoman.

    "Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees at a company all-hands meeting Thursday that they'll likely work remotely for the rest of 2020, the company confirmed."

    The story says that "as has been the case with most companies, Facebook and Google employees have been working from home to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The announcements by two of the largest companies in Silicon Valley gives a glimpse into how the rest of the tech industry may plan to reopen in the coming months."

    •  Fox Business reports that Costco saw something happen in April that it had not seen since July 2009 - a monthly sales decrease.  April sales were down 1.8 percent compared to the same month a year earlier, but in this case there may be a glimmer of good news in the numbers, since it could reflect some level of normalized purchasing habits after weeks of panic buying.

    For its part, Costco attributed the decline to "limited service in Travel and our Food Courts; closures of most of our Optical, Hearing Aid and Photo departments, and lower volume and price deflation in our gasoline business," all of which occurred because social distancing policies and stay-at-home policies.

    •  CNN reports that Tyson Foods is reopening its largest US pork plant "after a major coronavirus outbreak forced the company to shut down the facility two weeks ago.  The plant in Waterloo, Iowa, which employs about 3,000 people, was one of several major meat processing plants to close its doors in recent weeks because of a Covid-19 outbreak among staff members. The closures have led to meat shortage forecasts and purchase limits at some grocery store chains."

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that Neiman Marcus, as has been widely expected, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

    “We had a business that was on track prior to Covid-19,” Neiman Marcus Chief Executive Geoffroy van Raemdonck said in an interview. “Everything was going well in our transformation, but we had massive interest payments. Covid threw everything off track. This is an opportunity to reset our financial structure.”

    Did Neiman Marcus just need to restructure its financial structure?  Or was it just out of touch with 21st century retailing, and about to be even more out of touch in an era where we may be racing an extended recession?

    •  From the Los Angeles Times:

    "Souplantation, the popular buffet-style dining brand founded in San Diego 42 years ago, is closing all of its restaurants permanently, a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic that is likely to be the death knell for all self-serve eateries.

    "The permanent closing of the 97 restaurants, including 44 in California, was announced Thursday after weeks of efforts to salvage San Diego-based Garden Fresh Restaurants, the parent company of Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes. The closing will mean lost jobs for 4,400 employees."

    •  The New York Times reports on how the pandemic has "gutted the so-called sharing economy."

    An excerpt:

    "It is not likely to return anytime soon.

    "In earnings reports this week, Uber and Lyft disclosed the depth of the financial damage. The companies said their ride-hailing businesses all but collapsed in March, the last month of the first quarter, as shelter-in-place orders spread through Europe and the United States … The red ink extends beyond ride hailing. The home-sharing company Airbnb, which investors valued at $31 billion, had planned to go public this year. Instead, the company has slashed costs and raised emergency funding, and on Tuesday it laid off 1,900 employees, about 25 percent of its staff."

    These companies, the Times writes, "founded on the notion that they should become as big as possible as quickly as possible and worry about making a profit somewhere down the line, now face an uncertain future. And their timelines for turning a profit appear — for now — to have been tossed aside."

    •  The Washington Post reports on an unexpected result of the pandemic and the impact it has had on airline travel.

    People unable to travel actually are missing airline food.

    The result:  "Imperfect Foods, an online surplus-stock grocery delivery company operating in the West Coast, the Midwest and the Northeast aimed at eliminating food waste, can help with that. This week it is offering JetBlue airline cheese and snack trays, $2.99 for three ounces of mixed cheeses, dried cherries and crackers."

    The story notes that "JetBlue is not the only airline to have to find new outlets for its in-flight overflow. Delta has had to unload its Biscoff cookies — and it serves between 80 million and 85 million of these spiced shortbread favorites each year. At United, the Dutch stroopwafels have been piling up."

    Which means that "Delta has donated 500,000 pounds of food around the world in the past six weeks. Front-line workers and hospitals get the Biscoff cookies along with coffee and other in-flight beverages, while other perishable food has gone to Feeding America’s partner agencies, such as Georgia Food & Resource Center and Missouri’s Carthage Crisis Center.  And United has donated 173,000 pounds of food to food banks and charities, pulling from airport lounges and catering kitchens. United volunteers have also processed more than 428,000 pounds of food and household goods for the Houston Food Bank."

    I'd kill for a stroopwafel right now … but I have no desire to eat one at home.  I want to eat one while sitting in 12C or 12 D on a flight to the west coast, after having gone through TSA Pre-Check and waited on line to get on the plane and stuffed my carryon into a too-small overhead compartment.  All things that I took for granted before, but miss so much right now that it makes my heart hurt a bit.

    •  TechCrunch reports that the Alamo Drafthouse boutique movie theater chain, still closed because of the impact of the pandemic, has decided to launch a movie streaming service called Alamo On Demand.

    According to the story, "Building an on-demand video platform is quite the technical challenge… and, well, not exactly something that a relatively small theater chain (roughly around 40 locations) should probably tackle on its own. So Alamo is building this in partnership with ScreenPlus.

    "Alamo will be handling the curation and movie selection, while ScreenPlus is handling most of the technical stuff — things like DRM, geoblocking, etc. Most films on the platform are available to rent or buy, with prices varying by title.

    "Alamo isn’t looking to take on the Google Plays and Amazons of the world here by striving for a daunting, bottomless selection of movies; instead, each film they’re offering is personally nominated by at least one member of their team. If it’s on there, it has Alamo’s stamp of approval."

    One of the great pleasures of my time in college during the mid-seventies - I was a film student at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles - was having access to all the art films and offbeat double and triple features that were on the constantly changing schedules of places like the Fox Venice theater and, if I recall correctly, the Nuart.  (These were the kinds of places where one could see a triple bill of "The Maltese Falcon," "Treasure of the Sierra Madre," and "Casablanca."  In other words, heaven.)

    Well, the Alamo On Demand site looks like an online version of those theaters … it has a great vibe … and is an example of how businesses are adapting to pandemic-imposed realities.  It is all about curation and customer connection, and not just offering what everybody else is offering.

    Published on: May 8, 2020

    The Associated Press this morning that Google parent company Alphabet is pulling out of the smart city project in Toronto on which it has been working for more than two years, saying that it no longer is financially viable.

    “As unprecedented economic uncertainty has set in around the world and in the Toronto real estate market, it has become too difficult to make the project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan,” Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff said in a prepared statement.

    The AP writes that "Sidewalk Labs had partnered with a government agency known as Waterfront Toronto with plans to erect mid-rise apartments, offices, shops and a school on a 12-acre (4.9-hectare) site — a first step toward what it hoped would eventually be a 800-acre (325-hectare) development.

    "Among other things, the development planned to have heated streets to melt ice and snow on contact, as well as sensors that would monitor traffic and protect pedestrians … Doctoroff had said the company was not looking to monetize people’s personal information in the way that Google does now with search information. He had said the plan was to invent so-far-undefined products and services that Sidewalk Labs could market elsewhere."

    But not everyone believed him.  Some wanted the city to get a cut of any profits from products developed on the project, and some "balked at the privacy implications of giving one of the most data-hungry companies on the planet the means to wire up everything from street lights to pavement. Changes were since made to make it more palatable but some celebrated Google’s decision to scrap it."

    KC's View:
      I actually had the opportunity to see the project in its early stages a couple of years ago while visiting Toronto for a Retail Tomorrow immersion conference, and reported on it for MNB.

    Among my observations then:

    "Toronto was chosen by Alphabet to be the focus of this project in part because officials here were willing to engage in a public-private partnership.

    "The project has some ambitious goals for the area - a 14 percent decrease in the cost of living, 30 percent more green space, a 67 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, even zero traffic fatalities.  If these goals can be achieved on a small scale, the idea is that on a larger scale, the positive impact can be enormous.  And Toronto, in many ways, seems like just the place to see if this can work.

    "Toronto is a truly international city - more than half of the people who live here weren’t even born in Canada, much less locally, but the city has embraced this phenomenon as a source of diversity and strength as opposed to weakness.   It also is a city facing its own infrastructure issues - specifically stress on its housing and transportation systems.

    "What they’re trying to do here is approach these issues from a bottom up approach … designing a corner of the city as if they are designing a city from scratch.  The digital component of this is critical, because the Sidewalk Labs have been developed with an internet-up approach;  it is baked into the city’s DNA, as opposed to being retrofitted."

    I think it is a shame that this all couldn't be worked out, because I really think that this could have been something really important.  The notion of being able to build a city - or at least a small corner of it - from scratch is a fascinating one.  The last two months have revealed that, even as the pandemic kills hundreds of thousands of people and throws the global economy into disarray, a shutdown of what we think of as essential services can do things like clear the air, give technological connectivity greater relevance than ever, and even put a a great emphasis on things like family dinners.  In small and large ways, we are being required to reconstruct out lives … and the Toronto project was an opportunity to it in a planned and nuanced way that did not depend on medical and economic upheaval.

    Like I said, it is a shame.  Pioneers, as they say, are the ones who get the arrows in their backs.  But they also point the way, and show us the frontiers and their possibilities.

    Published on: May 8, 2020

    Excellent interview in The New Yorker with Tom Colicchio, the chef and restaurateur, who, as he tries to figure out the future of his restaurant group, also is one of the founding chefs of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, a new lobbying group designed as an alternative to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), and more focused on the nuances and cultural impact of food policy.

    An excerpt:

    "What we’re now asking for is something we’re calling a restaurant-stabilization package," Colicchio says.  "We saw that the N.R.A. was asking for a two-hundred-and-forty-billion-dollar package, and we said, 'All right, we think that the independent restaurants should get a hundred and twenty billion of that.' Independent restaurants employ eleven or so million people. When you factor in our supply chains, like fishermen and winemakers and farmers, we indirectly employ probably another six, seven, ten million. For the most part, with restaurants, every dollar we take in, ninety-five cents of that goes out the door again. So we feel that we’re in a unique position to push as much of that federal relief money through the system—it’s really stimulus, because it’s getting spent."

    It is an interesting view of the food world, and worth reading here.

    Published on: May 8, 2020

    •  Hy-Vee, Inc. announced yesterday that "it is now offering a two-hour express pickup option as part of its Hy-Vee Aisles Online grocery ordering service, allowing customers to pay a fee to pick up their order faster.

    "Customers will see a 'Get It Faster' option on Aisles Online time slots where the two-hour pickup option is available. A limited number of two-hour pickup orders will be available for $9.95, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily, at all Hy-Vee store locations offering Aisles Online services. Customers will receive the same email and text notifications as they do for regular pickup orders."

    “Hy-Vee’s new two-hour pickup option will give Hy-Vee customers a chance to get the grocery items they need faster than ever before,” said Tom Crocker, senior vice president of e-commerce at Hy-Vee. “This option, along with increasing our number of available Aisles Online time slots, will only continue to add to the exceptional level of customer service we’re able to provide.”

    Published on: May 8, 2020

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  MarketWatch reports that JC Penney and Sephora have "reaffirmed their partnership," with Sephora agreeing to leave its existing cosmetics boutiques in 600 JC Penney stores.  The agreement follows a spat in which Sephora wanted to pull out of the troubled department store chain, but the story says that the two companies made "mutually beneficial revisions" to their contract that brought some measure of peace.

    The concern at JC Penney was that if Sephora pulled out of its stores, it would make those already troubled units even more problematic at a time when the retailer is struggling to stay in business.  So it looks like JC Penney was willing to give Sephora some relief … though, if you ask me, all Sephora has to do is wait a little while for JCP to go belly-up.

    Published on: May 8, 2020

    •  Wakefern Food Corp. announced that Laura Kind, the company's director of Own Brands Marketing and Packaging, has been promoted to the role of vice president of brand strategy.

    At the same time, Wakefern has hired Ranjana Choudhry, most recently director of brand at Walmart-owned Jet, to be its  vice president of advertising and social media.

    Published on: May 8, 2020

    The New York Post reports that Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez … better known in the tabloids as J-Rod … have abandoned their effort to buy the New York Mets.

    While the decision is said in part to be because of financing issues, there also are two other problems that could impact any potential sale of the Mets.

    One is the fact that it is hard to put a valuation on any professional sports team when most leagues have been shut down by the coronavirus pandemic and face uncertain futures.

    The other problem is that the Wilpon family, which owns the team, reportedly does not want to include SNY, the lucrative sports cable network that carries Mets games, in any sale.  (The Wilpons have long had money issues related to their investments with Bernard Madoff.)  But experts say that it is unlikely that anyone will want to buy the team, which currently is said to be "hemorrhaging money," without the network being included.

    Published on: May 8, 2020

    …will return next week.

    Published on: May 8, 2020

    Mike Lupica, who reputation as a sportswriter seems to have been superseded by the enormous success that his many young adult novels have achieved, is out with his second effort to continue the Sunny Randall mystery series begun by Robert B. Parker with "Family Honor" back in 1999.  The somewhat cumbersomely titled "Robert B. Parker's Grudge Match" is, I think, better than his first go - "Robert B. Parker's Blood Feud," which came out a couple of years ago - it may be that Lupica is a little bit more comfortable writing a first-person novel as a female private detective.

    This isn't new territory for Lupica.  He wrote three excellent mystery novels back in the late eighties - "Dead Air," "Extra Credits," and "Limited Partner" - and I was a big fan of his 'Too Far," which came out in 2004.  Plus, he was a longtime friend of Robert B. Parker's, as well as of journalist Pete Hamill (another newspaper columnist who moonlighted as a mystery novelist) and the great Elmore Leonard.  So he gets the genre.

    "Grudge Match" demonstrates Lupica's mastery of the Parker oeuvre, with many references not just to the Sunny Randall novels that he wrote, but also to Spenser and Jesse Stone, protagonists in better-known Parker series that exist in the same fictional universe.  Sunny Randall is persuaded by Tony Marcus, a Boston pimp of some renown, to take on a missing person case;  she has no intention of taking his money, but she is intrigued that someone who started out as a call girl and then worked her way up to management managed to get under Marcus's skin.  And she worries - as Parker's heroes and heroines often do - that if she doesn't find and rescue the woman from whatever trouble she's in, the job will fall to someone who does not have her best interests in mind.

    Lupica, who went to Boston College, knows the lay of the land, and captures the geography, demography and psychology of the city with pithy descriptions and sardonic dialogue that captures Parker's spirit without seeming overly imitative.  It works, and is a fun, breezy read;  the best thing about it is that it keeps Parker's world alive, which is no small gift.

    Lupica's next adult novel will be a continuation of the Jesse Stone series with "Robert B. Parker's Fool's Paradise," and it inevitably will be different.  The Stone books are written in the third person, and the protagonist is a) male, and b) a former baseball player … two things with which Lupica has got to be more familiar than the internal life of a female detective.

    I came to the season premiere of "Billions" on Showtime last weekend with mild trepidation.  I simply was not sure how the series - which revels in its portrayal of the rich and powerful trying to get even more rich and powerful while stabbing each other in the back (and often, the front) against the backdrop of a glittery New York City - would play during a pandemic and recession in which except for the hospitals, Manhattan is pretty quiet these days.

    I shouldn't have worried.  "Billions" is first-class escapism, and this is a time when we can all use whatever our version of that happens to be.  Stylishly written and impeccably cast, the new season reignites the intense rivalry between now-New York Attorney General Chuck Rhoades (the amazing Paul Giamatti) and hedge fund billionaire Bobby Axelrod (Damien Lewis at his feral best).  It is all treachery and jealousy and double crosses and triple crosses … and enormous fun.

    "Westworld" ended its third season on HBO last weekend, and I still have no idea what is going on.  I think it is a meditation on free will and the essence of humanity - using robots that veer back and forth between being victims and predators as both metaphors and provocateurs.  It is fascinating, hypnotic, perplexing, oddly elliptical … and I can't wait until season four.  (Which, because of an extended production schedule and shutdowns caused by the pandemic, probably won't be until 2022.  If we're lucky.)

    My daughter Allison and I have informally decided that each week we're going to make something new - not necessarily something wildly ambitious, but something we've never made before that can serve as comfort food even while testing our skills a bit.  (My skills are modest at best.  She is a lot more accomplished than I am.)

    This week, we made a lamb ragu … and I think I can say with confidence that it was amazing.  And then, Ali had a brainstorm - the next day, she made grilled cheese sandwiches, and added just a bit of the ragu to the cheese.  And it may have been even better than the night before.


    When we served the ragu, we also poured the 2018 Castiglioni Chianti, made from Sangiovese and a splash of Merlot, which is a little lighter than some chianti but utterly satisfying with the lamb.  It was a very good dinner.

    That's it for this week.  Have a great weekend … and I'll be back Monday.

    Stay safe.  Stay healthy.

    Published on: May 8, 2020

    I'm happy to announce that at 8 pm EDT / 5 pm PDT tonight, we're going to do it again … our third MNB Virtual Happy Hour.

    I've scheduling this one a little later in the day to make it easier for west coast readers to join us.  (You can, of course, join in no matter where you live.)

    The folks at GMDC have once again agreed to sponsor and host it, and here's the link.

    Hopefully, you can put it on your calendar … choose a libation for Happy Hour … and then prop up your laptop or warm up your computer on Friday for a conversation and a drink.  (You don't have to tell me you're coming, but it would be nice to know.)

    See you tonight!