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The Reductress on Magical Thinking

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This Reductress article about magical thinking is good.

The intro:

I’m a mom, a wife, a doula, an urban chicken farmer, a life coach, an extended breast-feeder, a weaver, a kombucha brewer, a yogini, and a Therapeutic Healing Touch practitioner. But most importantly, I’m a mom. And as a mom, I know what’s best for the health of my family: magical thinking.

I’m not stupid. I went to college. I took science classes. So I know about microbiology, infection control, anatomy, physiology, and all that. I am fully aware that the scientific method – including use of a control group, randomization, double-blind studies, and the peer review method – is the best tool we humans have of unlocking the secrets of the natural world to find ways of curing disease.

Science is great. It’s done a lot of good for the world, to be sure. It’s just not right for me or my family.

Read the whole thing here.

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On the 20th Anniversary of the final Calvin and Hobbes

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I have a soft spot for Calvin and Hobbes, which along with The Far Side is one of my favorite comics. So I highly recommend this appreciation of Bill Watterson and Calvin and Hobbes, which we published on Playboy.com, almost 20 years to the day after the final Calvin and Hobbes comic appeared in newspapers.

Scott Adams (of Dilbert) told reporter David Hillier:

Calvin and Hobbes will probably be remembered as the best comic strip of all time. It was a perfect combination of characters, art and writing. But I can’t say I was personally influenced by it, other than feeling sad that I couldn’t draw that well. I was a big fan, and the strip was great in its time. And while comics are generally not timeless, he owned his era, plus some.

Read the rest here.

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Mayfield Mattress Store Mystery Update

mattress-store-mayfield

A while back I wrote a very important blog post asking why there are so many mattress stores in my hometown of Mayfield Heights, Ohio. Since then some clues have emerged, and I want to give those of you who are deeply invested in this crucial story an update.

Some people commented that they thought the stores might be fronts for organized crime, as Mayfield has been home to some colorful characters in the past. And lo and behold, supporting that theory, a Mayfield mattress store employee recently was charged with embezzling $675,000 from a local retail mattress and bedding company.

While I’m tickled by the idea of a new generation of pezzonovante greenlighting a series of illicit mattress joints, that explanation does not seem plausible. Opening a very public and very visible business concern takes some doing, and the preponderance of such stores draws attention to them. To what? Launder money? Move stolen goods? In this day and age when there is more money to be made by stealing online or through drugs? Does not seem worth it, unless the mafia is less ambitious than it used to be, opting for a more locavore criminal experience.

As it turns out, Mayfield is not the only city in America experiencing an explosion in sleep stores. Houston, Charlotte, Boise, Tucson, New Lenox, Ill., Schererville, Ind. and Chicago, to name a few, are also experiencing a boom.  People are noticing.

“Seriously New Lenox…how many mattress stores do we need?!?!?! There are 5 within 1 mile of one another,” wrote one New Lenox Patch FB commenter. “Can we get some other shops or restaurants please???”

So, what’s with all the mattress stores?

Over at The Straight Dope, Cecil Adams answered a reader question about my favorite business topic of mattress store clusters.

His responses, in a nutshell:

  • The Internet has not disrupted mattress sales. (People still shop for them in person, so brick and mortar stores are viable in a way bookstores are not.)
  • Running a mattress store does not cost much. (Ever been in a mattress store? It’s a big room with some lights and a desk. That’s it. It’s what the Apple store would look like if the Soviets won the Cold War.)
  • Mattress purchases are proof that we are coming out of the recession. (Mattress sales dipped when the economy tanked.)
  • The markup is insane. (Profit margins on a mattress run a whopping 30-60 percent.)

There are other theories floating about as well.

  • We notice mattress stores in a way we don’t notice other stores because their signs are huge.
  • Wave after wave of research has confirmed the importance of sleep for good health, so people are making good sleep a priority.
  • Mattress stores cluster near pedestrian foot and auto traffic, near a Wal-Mart or other large store or row of shops, so it makes sense that so many of them would be located in the same space.

Sorry to spoil everyone’s dream of a Sotto Capo di Serta running card games and stolen minks out of the back of a Mayfield mattress store, but it looks more like some heady entrepreneurs have gone to the mattresses.


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A History of the Past: Life Reeked with Joy

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I would link to this bit of hilarity, but the link is not working. It’s one of the funniest things I have read in a while. This essay is called History of the Past: Life Reeked with Joy, and it was published in Wilson Quarterly and authored by Anders Henriksson.

The subhead:

One of the most popular WQ essays ever (and by far the funniest) was Anders Henriksson’s brief history of Europe as told through the peculiar observations he had culled from papers written by college freshmen he had taught in Canada. As we wrote in introducing the piece in the Spring 1983 issue, paraphrasing George Santayana, ‘Those who forget history are condemned to mangle it.’

Read it.

You will not be disappointed.

PDF here: Life-Reeked-With- Joy

(If you’re the author or the publisher of this piece, and there is a reason the link is inactive, and you’d like me to take it down, email me at contactjoed (at) gmail.com.)

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The Baby Classes Have Begun

With twins on the way, we’re attending baby classes, which are designed to help new parents prepare for the rigors of childrearing. And, bless it, they’re already helping. The classes are expensive as hell and generally located far from your house during rush hour, leaving you broker and more stressed than before. Oh, you are a clever metaphor, aren’t you, baby classes? Next time just have the staff puke on my face and make it less subtle.

Our most recent baby class was for twins, and it was led by a woman who gave birth to twins and who had four kids in a 28-month span and six children total. Which, in LA, is just insane. In Los Angeles one dog = one child anywhere else in America. Two LA kids = four somewhere else kids. Three LA kids = six normal kids. Six LA kids = eighteen Ohio children. It’s the rare parent in LA who births half a dozen humans, but our teacher was able to do it, and she was able to do it because she’s Mary Poppins.

I’m not exaggerating. Her speech and mannerisms were proper. Intentional. Intelligent. She had a foreign accent—from South Africa. She had strong opinions that she was able to express with a single arched eyebrow. She laughed the laugh of a woman who’s been inside a drawing room before. Of course she has six kids. She has a flying umbrella in her closet.

MARY POPPINS, Julie Andrews, 1964

MARY POPPINS

The class was on the second floor of a strip mall, in a playroom for babies. There were a dozen other couples present, all of them expecting twins. One guy arrived 20 minutes before his wife did, and I wanted to point and say, “Hey, look at this guy. The Peyton Manning of dads right here. Early. Good attitude. No complaints. Looks good in chinos. Puts team above self. How about a round of applause?” But I did not, and I am glad I did not because I would have been thrown to the parking lot from the second floor of a strip mall.

We sat on a padded carpet in floor chairs, surrounded by toys and photos of proud graduate babies whose class pictures were thematically organized as TMZ posts and Facebook pages and other clever groupings. Mary Poppins’ job was to walk us through a list of recommended products and practices. For example, she let us know that in the early going we’d be ripping through 160 diapers a week, like we were Congress or something. She was there to both advise and to warn.

“I want to tell you it will all be easy and fun, but that would be a lie,” she said at the top of the two-hour class.

At this point we’ve been warned by friends and loved ones: your old life where you traveled and wore unstained clothes and slept like a normal human being is over. Your new life of deprivation and arguing over whose turn it is to clean the humidifier is just beginning.

I didn’t know if I was going to like her, but Mary Poppins won me over early. When the discussion turned to washing the baby clothes, one woman raised her hand and said, “We live in a condo. It’s nice. But we share a washing machine with our neighbors. I have no idea what they wash in there. Should we run the washing once empty before we wash our baby’s clothes?”

Even I knew the answer to that one. You are going to be so tired you’re going to forget your baby even has clothes. You won’t care what your neighbors wash in the machine before you do. Our neighbors were washing spent uranium rods? Well, are there any rods in there NOW? No? Throw a load in.

The expectant mother who asked seemed very nice and genuinely wanted only the best for her kids. I hoped, for her sake, that Mary Poppins would gently break into song: If it’s a dirty washing machine you fear/Give a wink and tug your ear! But instead, and this was just as effective, she looked at the washing machine woman with the look of “You’ve never been around new parents before, have you?” and smiled and said, “No.”

(And yeah, I get that you should wash a newborn’s clothes with special baby soap, so don’t email me telling me I’m history’s greatest monster for not mentioning that all babies need special soaps that have been approved by Jessica Alba. I sat by Mary Poppins’ knee for two hours. I know some baby stuff.)

When the discussion turned to washing baby bottles, Mary Poppins elicited a few surprised looks when she said, “After a few months, you can just wash the bottles in the dishwasher.” Some of the parents looked at her like, “Oh, no, you didn’t. We registered for the $250 Philip Avent Electric Steam Sterilizer, and we are going to use it until our kids are at least in college.” My wife and me, however, were relieved to hear this, and my own mother later told me, “Yeah, by kid three you just run the bottle under some warm water for a few seconds.”

The most important topic for parents in Los Angeles, though, more so than the fanatical eradication of all germs from planet earth, is hired help. Nannies. Babysitters. Night nurses. Sleep coaches. We were informed that Jamaican nurses flown in from New York City are all the rage in Los Angeles right now.

Apparently Jamaicans are so much cheaper than the local help that the airfare is offset by the low hourly rate. You have to lock them down months in advance, they’re in such high demand. Mary Poppins told us to run any hires by her, because she keeps a list, and we don’t want to hire any of the nannies that “really scare” her. So, apparently, there are nannies out there who scare a woman who birthed four kids in a 28-month span. Great.

We will be getting help from siblings and parents, all of whom we’ll run by Mary Poppins, to make sure they’re not on her list.

@joedonatelli

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