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Archive for July, 2014

I just finished reading—it took over a month-and-a-half—Stephen E. Ambrose’s D-Day – June 6, 1944 The Battle for the Normandy Beaches. Not counting the index and appendixes, it’s 583 fact-filled pages of narrative. The statistics alone are mind-boggling. This is just packed with them, more so than either Band of Brothers or Citizen Soldiers, both of which I have. Even with all the incorporated facts and figures, it was something of a page-turner. It covers the planning and preparation, as well as the actual 24 hours which were D-Day, incorporating portions of hundreds of oral histories of many veterans who participated, American, British, German, and Russian. It pulls no punches, depicting the things which worked and the things which were abysmal failures. I recommend this book to any student of history, especially that of the “Greatest Generation.”

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Because they’re being squeezed at both ends, by big-box stores and specialty stores, chain grocery stores keep trying new gimmicks to attract customers. Some offer home delivery; they and others also want you to let them do your shopping for you and bring your order to your car when you arrive. Wait. When I was a kid (yes, I was once a kid), my grandfather would phone down to Kiseleff’s, a mom-and-pop store, tell them what he wanted, and they’d have a kid bicycle it up after school. (When I was older, he’d send me after it.) Are we reverting to good ol’ customer service? ‘fraid not. Back then, you could trust the Kiseleffs to know your tastes, your standards, and that bread and tomatoes didn’t go on the bottom. Today, first of all, they’d have someone run through the store, picking up the first tomato, the first pound of bacon, the first and easiest-to-reach of everything. Today, they no longer teach their help how to “bag” properly; it’s just, “Get it in the bag.” That’s why, although I’d prefer dealing with a human, I have begun using self-checkout: so my chips, tomatoes, and bread aren’t in the bottom of the bag. (Speaking of bags, have you ever tried to pack intelligently using those plastic bags? They’re a treehugger abomination!) No thanks. I’ll happily wander through my friendly Harris Teeter, examining the tomatoes, hoping to find some nice ones not from Mexico (I’ve seen how they apply pesticides!), carefully picking my pounds of bacon, taking a sample of my deli selection and approving before adding a little extra to my order. All the while greeting and being greeted by Tony, the Customer Service guy, Mohammad, the deli man, Chris, the meat cutter, and half a dozen other personable individuals. Then, I’ll bag my own order, thank you, while greeting Maria, the self-checkout monitor, who is always “Johnnie-on-the-spot” in the event of a glitch or a question.

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