Last week, 23-year-old Margaret Koch started as Anthony's nanny. She'll be living in her own room in the Gladwyne house, and works every weekday from 9AM to 8PM. She arrived last weekend with her parents, packing a roomful of borrowed furniture and a brand-new car.
Margaret is the first one in her family to venture so far from home. "You're my Christopher Columbus," said her mother. Margaret has six brothers and sisters - she is the second youngest - and all the rest still live in Indiana. We met Margaret through America's Nannies, a national nanny placement agency.
Anthony loves playing with her. Each day, she brings him on walks in the neighborhood and plays with him in his toyroom. His favorite game is to play peek-a-boo with Margaret, which he can do forever. "Peek!" says Margaret; Anthony bubbles with giggles and laughs, "Kchyaa haa haa!" She is also expert at baby-feeding, and Anthony has been getting bigger and bigger every day. ("Nommy nommy in your tummy", she tells him.)
Margaret has started to explore the area in her time off. She is trying out different churches. ("One was really small", she says, "the Sunday evening service had nine people!") And she has discovered the King of Prussia mall. "I love malls," she says, "I think I'm going to spend all my free time there."
Before working for us as a nanny, Margaret was a nursing student. She took a break from her studies to do something different: "too stressful," she explains. She plans to look for evening or weekend classes she can take while in the area. "Maybe I'll be a nanny forever," she says. "Hoowayy!" says Anthony.
Senor Kevin Goes To Madrid
Kevin has decided to learn some serious Spanish by enrolling in an intense language course at a Spanish language school (you can read more about this in the pink side bar of this issue, but in Spanish) for 5 weeks this summer. The school, Elemadrid is located next to Retiro Park in the heart of Spain's capital. Kevin will live with a Spanish family in the nearby suburbs and use local public transportation to get to school everyday. This is known as a "home stay" and he will be provided a private room and two meals a day, five days a week.
In addition to language, Kevin is planning on picking up knowledge on Spanish culture and history by taking supplementary weekend tours of nearby towns and sites. He might go to Segovia, Toledo, Sevilla, or other cities he's not yet been to. Of course, the capital itself is loaded with exciting destinations that will be easy for him to access.
How many pesetas to the US Dollar? How many Rueben's are in the Prado Museuem? What are the health concerns of an American tourist staying in Madrid? When can one use a Euro to purchase items in Spain? Quien sabe?
Online Shopping Tips
A tip for anybody shopping online: use a shopping bot.
Today I needed a technical text that explained Tarjan and Sleator's "splay tree" algorithm. Infoseek lead me to Sleator's own web site, where he listed three books that explained his invention. But which one to buy?
Amazon was a good place to go to decide. One of their features is a monstrous bestseller ranking that ranks every book they sell - millions. One of Sleator's recommended books was by Mark Weiss and was ranked number 8,190 on that list. That's pretty good for this topic. Another one on Sleator's list was ranked 352,212.
Checking your book's Amazon rank as it changes minute-to-minute is a new recreation for authors. Books are ranked as orders come in, even if the book is not yet in print, and the ranking includes just about every book you can think of. (I just looked up my own book - we're at 127,368.) But Amazon's cool service comes at a price: they were selling on Mark Weiss' book for $62.25, well above the list price of $51.75.
In search of a better deal, I clicked to the "shopping bot" site My Simon. A shopping bot is a program that will automatically search and compare prices of multiple vendors on the web for you. You can use a bot to compare prices of anything from lobster tails to digital cameras. Best of all, a bot does comparison shopping a lot faster than a human being can. Within a few seconds, My Simon searched 26 stores and found five vendors who stocked my book.
The results: I could get the book for $24 from Powell's books, but it was a used copy of an old edition. My favorite discounter, buy.com, was listed, and they had the newest edition for $44.95. But selling the newest edition for $39.96 was a store I'd never heard of: Spree.com. Interestingly, the list also included an unpriced entry from Borders. Turns out Borders priced the book at $36.23, but they didn't have it in stock, so I'd have to wait a month. I bought the book from Spree, saving myself a cool $26 off of Amazon's price.
Curiously, shopping bots are not heavily promoted on the Internet. But as people spend more dollars on the web, they promise to gain in popularity. What does this mean for Amazon?
Heidi has learned an important fact this month: 50% or more of the Spam eaten in the United States is eaten in Hawaii!
In an effort to recreate that tropical paradise in rainy Philadelphia, Heidi and David had a good old-fashioned Spam and rice breakfast. Straight from a cooking magazine from the 1970's, they discovered an interesting recipe:
1 can Spam
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1. Layer brown sugar on the bottom of large frying pan
2. Pour soy sauce over brown sugar.
3. Heat mixture over low heat to melt into syrup
4. Lay 1/4 inch slices if Spam in syrup
5. Increase heat to medium high and cook until syrup dries
6. Serve with warm rice
They even managed to find the exact can of Spam that was pictured with the recipe! "Maybe we can join the official spam fan club," suggested David.
What's just about the longest airplane ride one can take from Boston to anywhere in the world? Yep! That's where Paul and Rachel are making plans to take a vacation. Along with the Tans of Rochester, the Baus are studying books and surfing the internet for a summer trip to the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney, New Zealand and ....
Australia and New Zealand are Down Under the Equator, so of course Summer to them is the Winter in the USA. Koala bears amd Kangaroos, coral reefs and colorful tropical fish, lush landscapes and desert beauty are all on the upcoming itinerry. The travelers want to learn a lot before boarding their Quantas flight to Queenland in order to experience some of the top attractions during their 3 week trip.
Paul's 4th job at Xerox in the 1960's (Xerox was growing so fast that Paul, like many other professionals, changed jobs and got promoted every 9 months) was that of Product Manager for the Supply Products Business Center in Rochester, N.Y. He as responsible for Toners (powdered inks used in copy machines) and Developers (the carriers of the inks) product lines in the USA. Unlike paper products which carried gross profit margins of 20 to 25%, toners carried profit margins of more than 90%. It's an interesting business model just how Xerox made all it's money in the early days, but selling toners at 90% gross margins did not hurt.
Today we own a couple of Hewlett Packard printers. The Desk Jet 695C used two ink cartridges that cost $35 for color and $17 for B&W, little cartridges not much bigger than a large bottle of nail polish. The older printer is our Laser Printer IIIp whose toner cartridge is priced at $69.95 at Staples. Paul is sure that the toner inside the cartridge costs less than $5 to manufacture. It's a beautiul business.
For those of you interested in international business, did Paul have a counterpart as product manager (a marketing position) outside the USA? No. And why not? In Europe, our second largest market at the time, Xerox did not sell Toners and Developers.... they "bundled" them in the price of leasing the copiers. In the USA with the FTC and a different set of business rules, we were forced to sell our supplies separately (or unbundled) to allow competitive suppliers a chance at winning business from Xerox's copier customers. This just reminds us that doing business in Germany or Argentina, is not the same as doing business in the USA.
Paul Goes to School
Paul was called by Rachel, the personnel coordinator for the Weston Public Schools, to act as a substitute teacher at the Weston Middle School. Seems most of the teachers were going to a teachers' conference/workshop and they just couldn't find "subs".
Wheeee! Whoooo! Swisssh! These young junior high school kids will try and run amuck and show off if they can get away with it. Paul told Rachel to send the Weston Police to check on him a couple of times a day.
With the melting snow, the Handyman's thoughts turn to clearing up the fallen branches from all the winter's storms. He'll gather the branches and burn them in his 50 gallon barrel. Then, he'll apply lime to the lawn to take down the acid level.
Next on the agenda, open the swimming pool. Rachel will surely start to plant her flowers. The Spring ritual begins anew in Weston. Perhaps in Pennsylvania too?
Kevin Va A Hablar Espanol
Kevin ha alistado en un programa en Madrid para estudiar el español por cinco semanas este verano después de que él deje a J.P. Morgan y antes de que él comienza la escuela. Será Kevin fluido en español cuando él vuelve? Lista Madrid para alguien tan salvaje y loco como Kevin? Los padres de Kevin venidos lo visitarán en España? Sí, sí, y no, pero no necesariamente en ese orden.
Life is Beautiful
The Italian movie "Life is Beautiful" is a disturbing and very different movie. Nominated for 7 Academy Awards, and already winner of the "Best Film" award at this years Cannes Film Festival, it's sure to attract a wide audience.
It is indeed a film with great directing, wonderful sets, and excellent acting. However, the father who makes a game out of everything in order to keep his young son in the dark about the attrocities going on around them as prisoners in a WW II concentration has humor, but not nearly enough to mask the tragedy of what is going on. The subject matter is most depressing. It is an unusual film, and it is executed with great sensitivity.
Chomp, chomp, chomp...
Chomp is the sound of overeating at the all you can eat Dim-Sum weekend buffet of the Ming Garden in Brookline. The quality and choices are great and all for only $8.95 per person. Our favorates were the sweet soy bean milk, the shui long bao ( not nearly as good as Joe's Shanghai in NYC), the ha gao, and the sea weed salad.
Rachel and Paul along with two other guest ate (over ate actually) even though we limited ourselves to two trips to the buffet table. Lots of fun, but not good for the waist line. Well, we'll go extra light at dinner time. Who need any dinner at all, adds Rachel!
The Ming Garden that we like the most is located on Boylston Street, rght across the street from the Chestnut Hill General Cinema Movie Theater.
Baus to wire Weston House
With all the new communications options coming, the Baus will need cable, more telephone lines, faster conduits and faster ports. It's relatively easy and cheap to get a cable company or telephone company to bring these lines into your house. Except of course if you want all the wiring to go underground.
So far all the utilities at the Weston house are underground. This avoids the overhead wires that we find most unattractive. The contractor, who's making the water connection in March, wanted $1000 to bring in an underground cable conduit. Seems a bit steep. We'll try and coordinate it with the cable company and see if we can't drop that price by at least half.
It's amazing! The Weston house is only a bit over ten years old and it already needs new utilities to be ready for the 21st Century.