I Miss White Bread

Photo | Shutterstock.com

Photo | Shutterstock.com

Poor bread.

Nobody wants to eat it anymore. It’s full of carbs. And gluten. It’s made from wheat.

I’m not talking fancy-ass bread, the kind that comes in the extra-cost “bread service” at elite restaurants these days, made from spelt and oats and black rice and seaweed, served with anchovy-tamarind-apricot spread. I’m talking white bread, the fluffy stuff that used to be a given at the start of any meal out and a staple of the home dinner table. That you ate with butter, not a plate of extra virgin olive oil pocked with herbs.

I miss white bread. Read more »

Whoa, Kids! Stop Horsing Around With “Woah”!

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Keanu: Whoa or woah?

So I keep seeing young people spell the word “whoa” as “woah.” And I can’t figure out why this is. It’s not like “wh” is an unusual way for a word to begin. (What? Where? Who?) And it’s not like the word has two syllables when you pronounce it: woe-AHHH. So — why? Before you know it, “woah” will have become a word on its own and “whoa” will be forgotten, kicked to the roadside, left on the dust heap of obscurity along with the distinction between “rein” and “reign,” which is another error that’s a burr under my saddle. But that’s a horse of a different color. And anyway, going against the millennial tide is like beating a dead horse, right? Read more »

Does Handwriting Really Matter?

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

As a product of Catholic school education, it’s hard for me to imagine a world where good penmanship doesn’t matter. In fact, I still remember a day in sixth grade when I was instructed to re-write a cursive letter “D”’again and again because I opted to put my own personal flare on the old-fashioned stencil. Aside from the personal trauma that comes with overzealous instruction from ladies dressed in habits, there’s a different kind of psychology associated with handwriting, according to a piece in the Times.

“Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information,”the story goes. “In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.”

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Which TV Ad Babe Is For You: Progressive’s Flo, Toyota’s Jan, or AT&T’s Lily?

Flo, Jan, Lily.

Flo, Jan, Lily.

First there was Flo, the kooky TV spokeswoman for Progressive Insurance, stuck inside her weird futuristic white sales habitat, bundling things together, demonstrating the Name Your Price tool and monitoring the security cameras.

I didn’t mind Flo. She was different, a little bit Manic Pixie Dream Girl, quirky without being off-putting. Once she headed out of the store, though, Flo began to seem more sinister. She tried to pick up strangers riding motorcycles. She had that bizarre encounter in the rain with a young man. Was he her lover? Her customer? I didn’t want to speculate about Flo’s love life. I liked her because she was flirtatious without flaunting her sexuality — fun and feminine (sort of) and nonthreatening when she popped up in the lulls of college football games.

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Have a Moral Dilemma? There’s an App for That.

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The parking garage I use downtown has a coupon online that makes for a hefty discount. So every day, I make sure I’ve printed out a copy of the coupon to present when I check out. The garage recently switched over to a fancy new automated checkout system that everybody hates, and my printed-out coupons are a wrinkle in that system. Last week, as I settled up, the attendant told me, “You know, you can download that coupon on your phone and then just hold the phone up to the scanner. What kind of phone do you have, an iPhone or an Android?”

I scrambled in my purse. “Um … ” I held up my flip-phone, and his face fell.

“Oh,” he said. “Never mind.”

I read recently that two-thirds of Americans now own smartphones. I’m not sure why. I don’t feel a void in my life because I can’t locate the closest 20 shoe stores or play Angry Birds. I did read about an app the other day, though, that almost seemed useful. Developed by Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, it’s called the Ethical Decision Making app. As described in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “The Ethical Decision Making app is an attempt to bring applied ethics into the 21st century. It is not so much a Magic 8-Ball as a pocket Socrates, which is to say the app asks more questions than it answers. The idea is that someone facing a decision can use it to evaluate each possible option.” Read more »

QUIZ: The Ultimate Guide to Tipping

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Shutterstock.com

To tip or not to tip?  That is the question.

The answer wasn’t a difficult one for one wealthy patron of Rouge in Rittenhouse Square.  Earlier this week, the anonymous eater left the wait staff a $7,000 tip on a $258 bill.  Sadly, not all of us can afford to be so generous. In fact, some proprietors feel that tipping is a broken business model altogether.  This was said by David Jones the proprietor of the Smoke and Water, a 155-seat restaurant located on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia. According to one report, Jones (an admitted neophyte in the hospitality industry) has increased menu prices by about 18 per cent to replace tipping and intends to pay his staff a living wage, which is a business model that is accepted around the world in places such as Japan, New Zealand, Australia and parts of Europe.

Not sure what or who to tip? Don’t worry, I’ve got all the answers for you. Just take this simple quiz.

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25 Years a Mom

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

We’re driving into the city, my husband Doug and I, the car filled with pickaxes and shovels and flats of marigolds and pots of tomatoes. It’s Mother’s Day, and we’re headed to our daughter’s house — well, to her apartment in West Philly. She and her husband Basil have a backyard, and she wants to put in a garden. Somehow, it seems like just the right task for Mother’s Day.

When she and her brother were little, I got to choose an excursion for Mother’s Day. We’d head for the Zoo, or Longwood Gardens; once we went to the Shore. It was windy and cold; we took photos of the kids bundled in blankets on the beach, and ate supper at a Jersey diner. I don’t remember how much fun it was at the time, but now when I look at the photos of that long-ago afternoon, it looks wonderful. Little kids, little problems — isn’t that what they say? Read more »

What If Friends Happened in Philadelphia?

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This week marks the tenth anniversary of the Friends finale, which I remember watching on the night I moved back on with my parents after a failed attempt at dormitory living. Surrounded by a mini-fridge, garbage bags full of West Chester University gear and a crate of Early Childhood Education textbooks that I would later sell on eBay, I bid adieu to Ross, Monica, Rachel, Joey, Chandler and Phoebe.

I wept when Chandler and Monica had their twins. I wept when Ross and Rachel reunited (SPOILER ALERT: She got off the plane), and I wept when Joey and Phoebe bought a chick and a duck for Monica and Chandler. It sounds silly but I was so sad to be losing these characters who I’d come to think of as, well, friends.

Throughout my life — and thanks to the glorious world of syndicated television — these six characters had been constants through high school break-ups, fights with my best girl friends and the beginning of college. They gave me glimpse at what adulthood had to offer — and made me excited about my future (which I presumed would include enormous apartments, endless coffee shop hangs and a lot of baby Ts). I grew up watching them grow up and Friends remains one of the most comforting shows to me. (Thank goodness for the seemingly endless loop of reruns playing on TBS every day.)

The older I get, the more relatable I find Friends. Unlike other zeitgeisty shows like Sex and the City and Dawson’s Creek, which feel dated and immature, Friends is a show that only becomes more relevant to me as I grow older and find myself in situations similar to the characters. Of course, the only problem is that the gang is in New York while I squander my days away in Philadelphia.

What would my beloved friends do in Philadelphia? I have a few thoughts …

Read more »

Filmmaker “Crowdsourcing” Funding for Kermit Gosnell Movie

NBC 10 reports that more than 19,000 people have contributed to the budget of a new movie about vilified “House of Horrors” abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. The filmmakers have raised nearly their entire $2.1 million budget for the project

As of Tuesday, the Gosnell Movie campaign raised $1.9 million of the $2.1 million goal, the most [money] raised for a film on Indiegogo.

“I was thinking we were going to beat the (most money raised) target, but not win and become the most successful failure ever on crowdfunding,” said journalist and filmmaker Phelim McAleer. “But, we should make the fundraising goal. We’re averaging $30,000 per day.”

Gosnell was convicted of threee counts of murdering live born babies, plus more than 200 counts of violting the state’s 24-hour consent law. Steve Volk wrote about the case for Philly Mag.

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“10 Surprising Things Miley Cyrus and the Swiss Cheese Pervert Have in Common”

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Miley Cyrus photo via Shutterstock.com

Every once in awhile, someone asks me how I go about coming up with topics for articles and blog posts. Since the fake, talking-to-college-kids answer (“I just observe the world around me, man”) is much more palatable than the real, depressing answer (criminal caffeine abuse and subhuman sleep deprivation), I never really considered trying to explain the process formally. And now it looks like I’ll never have to, thanks to a new doohickey from web marketing firm HubSpot that’s offered to do all my not-that-critical thinking for me.

The Blog Topic Generator, launched to complement other services offered by the automated marketing platform, almost comes off like a proper clowning of Internet content creation, spitting out a week’s worth of trite “ideas” using nothing more than a few nouns you’re asked to input. But it seems to be positioning itself as a legitimate tool, which means it behooves us to use it legitimately.

While it doesn’t spit out headlines in the infinitely useful “winning a game of Clue” or “babies + Beyoncé” formats, HubStop’s auto-offerings seem to be optimized for maximum web traction and your-mom-on-Facebook shareability. What better way to rack up ideas for the rest of May and test its mettle than to plug in a bunch of Philadelphia-centric terms and see what comes up? Here are 10 of my favorite results from my Philly-fixated time spent with the tool. All these posts are most likely coming to a bereft-of-creativity city blog near you within the hour — and I’ll probably be writing all of them.

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