Not the one McCartney was singing about

Jet is a new Internet startup that has been getting a lot of attention — it’s sort of a cross between Amazon and Costco/Sam’s Club. There will eventually be a membership fee, but right now if you go there you can get a free six-month membership. The six months don’t start until you actually place an order.

The pricing is a little strange — most items have a price but also say that your total order will be discounted by such-and-such, so I suppose the real price is the first number minus the second number. But the discounts are fluid — they go up the more you order. Orders of $35 or more (and that $35 is figured before the discount, which is good) ship for free. Grocery and household items tend to have two-day shipping, and they have other items for sale as well.

You get an additional discount for using Visa or MasterCard instead of AmEx or Discover. The company claims it’s selling you everything at cost and will make its money exclusively from the membership fee.

I just ordered some non-perishable groceries — stuff I would have bought anyway, and just barely enough to cover the free shipping — and once you figure in all the discounts, the prices seem good. My order before the discount was more than $35, so it qualified for free shipping, but after the discounts the total order came in at just under $28.

Jet had been in an invitation-only beta test but is now public. When Amazon did its big “Prime Day” promotion a month ago, some commentators speculated that Amazon was worried about Jet in its rear view mirror and wanted to try to get more people locked in as Amazon Prime subscribers before they got the chance to sign up with Jet.

DISCLOSURE: Like many websites, this blog is part of the Amazon affiliates program, which means I sometimes have product links in blog posts and get revenue when someone buys from them (which does not happen very often). As you can tell from the above, I don’t let this arrangement affect my content.

Harriett and Samantha

It was Harriett Stewart and Samantha Chamblee who, four years ago, first asked me to serve on the American Cancer Society Relay For Life committee in Bedford County. At the time, Harriett was our ACS staff partner and Samantha, a volunteer, was our local committee chair.

Since that time, a lot of things have changed — Harriett was transferred to another job within ACS and then ended up retiring. Samantha, on the other hand, ended up taking a job with ACS, and now she does what Harriett used to do for several counties in the area.

All of this makes it delightful that both women are now involved in Bedford County’s Relay once again. A reorganization of ACS territory means we are now one of Samantha’s counties. (Many thanks to our previous staff partner, Mackenzie Evans, who was also a delight to work with. Mackenzie is still with ACS and will be working with several college-based Relay events.)

Harriett, even though she lives in Lebanon, still has a special place for Bedford County’s Relay in her heart. When several of us from Shelbyville went to her retirement party a year or two ago, as soon as the people from other counties found out where we were from, they noted how often and fondly she spoke of the Bedford County crew. Anyway, Harriett will be working with us as a volunteer this year, helping to recruit sponsors for the Bedford County event.

Here’s Harriett, in the foreground, with Judi Burton, another known troublemaker:

A photo posted by John Carney (@lakeneuron) on

Both of these things were announced Monday night at our first committee meeting to start talking about the 2016 Relay. I think very highly of both these ladies and am looking forward to working with them in the coming year.

Technically, the 2015 Relay year has not ended yet. If you still want to give to this year’s Relay, you can do so between now and the end of the month. I’d be honored if you gave towards my participation.

this was my jam

I’ve enjoyed participating in the music sharing service This Is My Jam, and I always thought it would catch on.

The premise was simple – as often as you liked, but at least once a week, you would pick a song as your current “jam.” You could share your jam over the major social networks, or put a widget displaying it on your web page. You could follow people whose tastes in music you admired, and like or comment on their jams. Or you could just go to the web site and browse to see what jams were popular.

Unfortunately, the site never quite caught on – or maybe they never figured out a good way to monetize it — and they sent out an e-mail a week or two ago saying that they would soon suspend the ability to choose jams. The site will continue as an archive of past jams, but I went ahead and deleted my account, for security reasons, since I don’t see much value in the archive.

I can – and sometimes do – use the share function in Spotify to post a social media link when the mood hits me, but I really liked the concept of This Is My Jam and will miss having to pick a song every week.

how he got in my pajamas, I’ll never know

Well, it was a little over a month ago that I was complaining about never getting to see most of the Paramount Marx Brothers’ films, and now I can’t complain anymore.

This Friday, as part of TCM’s “Summer Under The Stars,” they’ll be doing a day-long tribute to Groucho, which will include all of the Paramount Marx Brothers movies I wanted to see. I have already set my DVR accordingly.

Someday, I’d like to see this fellow, about whom Mark Evanier frequently gushes at his blog:

know your own sin

Mt. Lebanon UMC

August 2, 2015

David was only Israel’s second king, and he is considered its greatest king and the royal ancestor of Jesus. The gospels take great pains to point out that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, David’s home town, and that Jesus was descended from the house of David.

David was praised for his devotion to God, and this simple shepherd boy survived the wrath of Israel’s first king, Saul, and became a powerful and successful king on his own, and the founder of a royal dynasty. Continue reading


I have a lot of lines in “Don’t Drink The Water.” I haven’t counted them; it’s probably not as many lines total as I had a few years ago in “Cash On Delivery.” But it seems like more, and in Act 2 I have several extended speeches. It will all work out, but at this stage of the game it always looks like a mountain to climb.

Monday night’s rehearsal was a table read-through, and I recorded it on my smartphone, making a separate file for each scene. I had to use Audacity on my desktop computer to clean up each file — taking out long stretches in which I have no lines, as well as cutting out parts of the readthrough where we got diverted. (We’ve eliminated a minor character, and so we had to reword a couple of lines referring to that character.) If I started out saying a line the wrong way and then corrected myself, I cut out the bobble (or else I might wind up memorizing the wrong word!).

I got Act 1 finished and loaded onto my phone Monday night, and so I was able to listen to my lines while doing my daily walk yesterday and today. Now, tonight, I’ve finished with Act 2 (and it’s a two-act play, so I’m done). Being able to listen to this recording is part of my strategy, and it’s worked well for the last few plays I’ve been in.

I think we have a really funny cast, and it will be fun to see things come together over the next few weeks. But “hell week,” and the production itself, will be here before we know it. I just hope I’m ready.

Cue at the Trib

From early April until mid-June, I was a temporary fill-in at the Times-Gazette’s sister newspaper, the Marshall County Tribune in Lewisburg. It was a fun experience. I’d worked at the same newspaper for my entire 30-year career (30 years this month, by the way), and so it was a new experience to go into a newsroom and a community where I really didn’t know anyone. The rhythm of a twice-weekly (Lewisburg) is also quite different from the rhythm of a daily (Shelbyville).

The Tribune hired a new editor, and I got transferred back to Shelbyville, during the week I was at Mountain T.O.P., so I never really got to say goodbye to the Tribune staff, all of whom had welcomed me with open arms (and a couple of whom kept making noises about keeping me).

Two of the Tribune’s reporters are about to head off to college. Ivory Riner has been with the paper for a while as she earned her associate’s degree from Columbia State. (Lisa Brown from the Tribune’s front office would sometimes have to remind her it was time to go to class.) Now, she’s getting ready to go west to Arizona State, where she will pursue a degree in broadcast journalism. (Never heard of broadcast journalism, but they tell me it’s a thing.) Madeline Lewis, the paper’s summer intern, will return to Knoxville, where she’s a student at the University of Tennessee. The paper had a farewell luncheon for them today, and it was the perfect time for me to head over and say hello (and goodbye) to everyone.
That’s Ivory in black, Madeline in white. At left is my high school classmate Becky McBee, who serves as business manager for both the T-G and the Tribune. Becky arranged the luncheon, which featured barbecue from Lawler’s. (If you are in Lewisburg, by all means get barbecue from Lawler’s.) She also had the idea for this cake:
It was fun seeing everyone. Jennifer Vendro was showing me photos of the new home she and her husband are buying in Hohenwald. Annie Stokes joined the news staff while I was there, and she’ll have to pick up some of the slack from Ivory and Madeline’s departures. The crowd even included some former staffers — Angela Brown left not long before I did. Jim Ward had already retired as the Tribune’s general manager before my temporary assignment there, but I dealt with him frequently when he was there and was delighted to see him, too.
I’m so glad I went over. It rained while I was there, or else I’d have been tempted to take one last walk on the Rock Creek Greenway, just for old times’ sake.

the new pew review

Last weekend, during worship at Shelbyville First United Methodist Church, the Rev. Lanita Monroe introduced our new minister of children and youth, Alden Procopio. I decided I needed a photo for the church Facebook page and so I got up and scooted down the aisle to take a photo, using the camera in my brand new Lumia 640XL phone.

I got to thinking about that later. I like putting photos like that on the church Facebook page. I wondered if it might be less disruptive if I just sat down front to begin with. We tend to get used to our pew locations, but this morning I wandered down front and sat on the second row, on the left of the aisle. My old regular seat had been about halfway back, on the right side of the aisle. The reason I moved from right to left is because sometimes when the kids have special programs or presentations, they tend to sit in the first couple of rows on the right side.

I asked Donna Brock if anyone regularly sat right in front of her. She said the seat was open, and so I took it. She did warn me that I’d have to crane my neck to look at lyrics and readings on our projection screen, and she was right about that.

Ironically, I didn’t get very good photos this morning, and no video. I had taken one quick test video last weekend, but I hadn’t tried recording any video since I upgraded the phone from Windows Phone 8.1 to Windows 10 for Phone Preview a few days ago. There’s some sort of problem – a glitch I’m sure I’ll figure out eventually, or maybe just a bug in this version of the preview software – which caused the video function to lock up the camera app. I wasted so much time fiddling with this that I missed getting even a still photo of the kids when they were standing up in front of us singing their song from Vacation Bible School. The only photo I got was of them seated on the steps as Lanita spoke.


The fellow on the right was this morning’s guest speaker, the Rev. Dietrich “Deech” Kirk of the Center For Youth Ministry Training, the organization which has placed Alden Procopio at First UMC. Rev. Kirk gave a great message about the state of Christian faith among teenagers and youth, and what we as a Church should do about it.

I did actually get a couple of photos of him in the pulpit. The nice thing about the new phone is that it has such a large image size you can crop in quite a bit and still have a halfway-decent photo:


Anyway, camera problems aside, I liked the results of my pew relocation experiment and think I’ll go back there next week.

distilled vinegar, red pepper, salt

Well, I was looking for something to download for my new Kindle, and a bottle of Tabasco sauce in the kitchen prompted me to see if there was a book about its history. There was; even better, it was on sale for 99 cents, and since I had a credit on my account I didn’t have to pay a thing.

McIlhenny’s Gold by Jeffrey Rothfeder is not an unduly long book, and I finished it quickly.  But it was definitely a good purchase – an illuminating (and unauthorized) look at the McIlhenny family and how it built a hot sauce empire. The book is fair, but it’s a warts-and-all picture of the company’s history. Rothfeder does seem to have strong negative opinions about Paul McIlhenny, who was running the company — badly, Rothfeder believed — at the time of the book’s release in 2007. (McIlhenny died in 2013.) Paul McIlhenny got the post by ousting the only person from outside the McIlhenny family to hold it, an Australian named Vince Pierse. Rothfeder makes no secret of believing Pierse should have been given more time to pursue his aggressive marketing ideas, which might have increased sales without compromising the product itself. By contrast, the options Paul McIlhenny pursued for expanding sales were to introduce other flavors of Tabasco sauce – flavors without the flagship brand’s reputation for long aging and high quality.

The McIlhennys still on Avery Island running the company did not talk to him, although he talked to other members of the extended family, who for the most part did not want to be specifically identified.

The story is a fascinating one – Edmund McIlhenny, a former banker, found himself unable to resume his former success after the Civil War, and so he started a hot sauce business. There was a well-told tale about how he came up with the idea after a Civil War veteran gave him some seeds, but that story appears to have been baloney – another, apparently similar, hot sauce made with peppers from Tabasco, Mexico, was sold prior to the war, and seems to have been McIlhenny’s true inspiration.

Still, McIlhenny came up with a near-perfect three-ingredient recipe of peppers, vinegar and salt. The peppers are aged three years and then combined with vinegar. Since the late 1800s, the pepper mash has been aged in barrels provided to it by the Jack Daniel Distillery a few minutes’ drive south of me. The barrels are used to age whiskey, then sent to Louisiana and used to age the pepper mash.

Edmund McIlhenny’s immediate successor, his son John, was less successful. When John left to join Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, his brother Edward “E.A.” McIlhenny took over, and it’s his story that is really the heart of the book. Edward McIlhenny was a fascinating character and a study in contradictions. He naturalist who nevertheless imagined some dubious ways of cashing in on nature. He was in some ways a product of southern attitudes about race, and there was a definite caste system within the company, and yet on Avery Island he forbade segregated restrooms or other facilities. He created a “company town” on Avery Island which was a mix of good and bad ideas. He was a man of power and influence whose last years were marred by a corruption scandal.

A group from my church goes each year to the United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR) facility in Sager Brown, Louisiana, to do volunteer work, and their schedule usually gives them the chance to go and tour the Tabasco facility on Avery Island, a half hour’s drive away. I would love to do both those things, and will one of these years.

Anyway, this was a fascinating book. It’s a good parallel to another book about the history of a family-owned company, The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World, in that it shows the difficulty of maintaining a family-owned business and its core principles as the generations pass, the world changes, and the ever-expanding circle of heirs demands profits from a company it has no working involvement with.

Highly recommended if, like me, you’re a Tabasco fan, and worth reading even if you’re not.

Happy Prime Day, or, Kindle me this

I am an accidental subscriber to Amazon Prime. When I reviewed Amazon’s Fire Phone for the newspaper a year ago this month, simply signing in to the phone with my Amazon account triggered the free year of Prime that Amazon offers as a benefit to purchasers of the phone. Even though I had not bought the phone — and, in fact, it was just a review model which I had to send back to the carrier after a week of testing — the Prime subscription remained.
It’s been fun to have free shipping and some of the other benefits, although I haven’t watched as many Prime Video offerings as I thought I would.
Fortunately for me, my expiration date isn’t until next week, so I was able to look in on the Black-Friday-like savings for “Prime Day” today.
Three and a half years ago, I bought the entry-level, $79 Kindle e-reader. I’ve gotten a lot of use out of it. I’ve read books — more books than I’d have read in that time without the Kindle — and I also have a couple of simple games on it for when I’m crashed on the couch. I just got through teaching Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality in my Sunday School class, and I had the book on my Kindle. I have several Bibles on my Kindle. I borrow Kindle books through the local library. The Kindle has been showing some signs of wear and tear — nothing bad, and nothing that really gets in the way of book reading, but it’s scuffed up some and the down part of the four-way rocker switch is now difficult to press.

So when I checked Amazon very early this morning (I had to be at the paper at 6 a.m., so this would have been about 5:45) and I saw the current entry-level Kindle on sale for $49, I jumped on it without hesitation. The current entry-level model is nicer than mine. It has touch-screen (something that wasn’t offered on the basic model three years ago), it has more storage, and I think it has higher resolution. Because of the touchscreen, it doesn’t even have or need a four-way rocker button.
Tablets are fine, and I can read books on my big new smartphone using the Kindle app if I need to, but a non-backlit e-ink e-reader is much better on your eyes and feels much more like an actual book. It’s better if you read outside (it doesn’t wash out) and it’s better if you read right before bed (there’s research indicating that backlit screens too close to bedtime can help keep you from falling asleep as quickly). It’s just better for reading all around.
Maybe I shouldn’t have spent the money, but being able to buy a $79 e-reader for $49 was too good a deal to pass up. Who knows when or if they’ll offer it again?