Archive for November, 2020

Chocolate Ice Box Pie

27 November 2020 at 9:58 am
by Jonah

Just like the Toddle House used to make!

Chocolate Ice Box Pie
Southern Sideboards
1981, Junior League of Jackson, Mississippi
Mrs. Wilfred Cole

“An adaptation of Toddle House Chocolate Pie.
Remember how good it was?”

A 9-inch pie shell, baked
A 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whipping cream, whipped

Prepare baked pie shell. Cook condensed milk, chocolate and salt in
top of double boiler over hot water until thick. Add water slowly and
let thicken again. Stir in vanilla. Pour into pie shell; refrigerate. Serve
cold with whipped cream on top.

I only use 1/4 cup water and whiz the filling in a food processor before dumping it into the crust. I also use double the vanilla at our altitude. You want to make sure the filling is super thick.

Berck has demanded I make this every Thanksgiving since the first time I made it. It takes all day, but, boy, is it good.

Safeway is still the worst

25 November 2020 at 8:14 pm
by Jonah

About a year ago we employees found out that the three partners in our little law firm had agreed to merge with the largest personal injury law firm in the state. Since then, we have been nearly overwhelmed with new clients because this firm is the one that advertises non-stop. Being super busy and having someone else worry about paying our salaries is the good part; becoming a cog in a giant bureaucratic wheel has been the challenging part. But I still work with the people I have loved working with for years, which is definitely the best part.

Working for a big firm has other benefits, like free T-shirts with our firm’s logo, free hand sanitizer, and free logoed chapstick. I don’t have to worry about having Napoleon Dynamite’s problem, because there are literally hundreds of chapsticks in bins at the office. I’m not sure why we have them, but the marketing department seems to think it’s important that we do.

The marketing department put out a call for volunteers for their latest venture, buying 30 turkeys at Safeway using the firm’s owner’s credit card and delivering them to Care and Share for their annual turkey drive. I have a truck, so I volunteered, along with a guy named Chris from the other of the firm’s offices in town. He and I exchanged phone numbers and agreed to meet at the Safeway at 11:30. We were instructed to arrive at Care and Share at noon sharp so the media could watch us delivering the turkeys.

Now half an hour to buy 30 turkeys that the supermarket has ready for us and transporting them a couple blocks away seems like plenty of time.

Except the supermarket in question is Safeway.

For the second time two days in a row I found myself inside a Safeway waiting at a customer service desk when I really didn’t want to be. The place was packed, and Chris and I tried to stand away from everyone else while we watched the customer service clerk spend about ten minutes working on a money order for a customer. Finally, it was our turn, and I told the clerk we were there to pick the thirty turkeys for the law firm and tried to hand her the firm’s credit card. The clerk called back to the meat department and then told us someone was bringing them up to the front. We waited for another five minutes for the meat department guy to appear, and then I tried to hand the credit card to the clerk again. “We have to ring all of these up,” the meat department guy announced.

At this point, Chris said, “We’re kinda on a tight schedule here and have to get these somewhere in 15 minutes.” The clerk and meat department guy raised their eyebrows, and it seemed like they were each showing signs of urgency behind their masks as they started rummaging through the cardboard boxes of birds. I handed Chris the credit card and told him I’d move my truck over next to his SUV to see if that would save time. Mostly I wanted to get the hell out of the Safeway.

I got out of the truck after moving it across the parking lot and saw Chris hauling a flat cart stacked with the boxes of turkeys as fast he could across the asphalt. “They’re still ringing up the tags, but they’re letting us go ahead and load the turkeys,” he said.

“You’d think they could have had them ready to go if they knew we were picking them up at 11:30,” I griped as we stacked the boxes in the back of my truck. “Should I go ahead and take these?”

“Yes,” Chris answered. “Go, go. I have to go back in and finish paying.” I slammed the tailgate closed and then zoomed out of the parking lot.

I found the Share and Care on the other side of the highway and pulled into their lot. I had five minutes to spare but still had to figure out where to unload the truck. There was a long line of cars, so I drove around all of them up to some volunteers standing out in the lot. They told me to drive all the way around the building so that I would end up back at the front of the other end of building and to unload there. I zoomed around the the side of the building and then hit the brakes when I encountered a semi that was attempting to back into a slot between two other semis, an activity which ate up my remaining five minutes. As soon as the semi backed up enough for me to squeeze by, I zoomed past it before it could think about shifting back out of reverse to reposition. I pulled up to the unloading area right at 12:00 noon at the front of a line of vehicles that were also donating food that had formed behind me as we had all waited for the reversing semi.

“I’m dropping off turkeys!” I announced to the volunteers, “Thirty of them!”

The volunteers had pushed some shopping buggies up to the back of my truck. “Oh, that’s a lot of turkeys!” One of them went to get a flat cart so they could stack the boxes on it instead of pulling the birds out one by one and into the buggies. Right then Chris ran up with one last turkey that hadn’t made it into my truck bed. I didn’t see any news cameras, but later the firm posted a video of the volunteers unloading my truck with me watching on. The local TV station had been there after all.

When the last turkey had been unloaded, Chris and I breathed a sigh of relief. “We did it!” I said.

“Teamwork!” he added and held up his hand to offer me a high five. I offered him an elbow in lieu. “Yeah, an elbow bump probably a better idea,” he said.

In spite of Safeway’s best efforts, we had accomplished our mission right on time. And I’ve got a new co-worker that I feel lucky to work with.

Safeway is the worst – part 1

24 November 2020 at 9:23 pm
by Jonah

We live a 10 minute drive from the nearest town, which has a post office, a liquor store, three restaurants (although one of them has announced it is closing for good on Sunday), and a grocery store that’s more of a bodega and is definitely not a supermarket. Being Colorado, the town also boasts a brewery.

None of them deliver to our house.

If you drive another five minutes further, you get to the biggest town in the county, which is still not very big, but has two supermarkets and a Wal-mart. Nothing in the bigger town will deliver to our house either, unless it’s via UPS, FedEx, or the Post Office, which only delivers as far as the cluster of mailboxes at the end of the road.

When we went into lock-down, I set about trying to figure out how to procure groceries without going shopping alongside all the panic buying hoarders. I don’t patronize Wal-mart, so that eliminated that option. The other two stores are Safeway and Kroger (here in Colorado, Kroger absorbed two existing chains, King Soopers, which has bigger stores in the big cities on the plains, and City Market, which has smaller stores in the mountain towns). Our closest City Market had curbside pick-up, which had just dropped their service charge to the low, low price of free. The other store, a much larger Safeway, let me fill up my online cart and then informed me there were no pick-up times available for any dates for the next week. I kept going back to the site, each day, seeing if there any pick-up times available. After about a week of this, I finally realized that our local Safeway just simply didn’t have curb-side pick-up.

This should have been my first clue.

When I started going back to work, I found that a Safeway down in the big city where I work (the next county over) did have curbside pick-up, and it was along my commute. So I tried it a couple of times.

Here are the pros and cons of Kroger vs Safeway curbside pick-up:



Coupons accepted.

You can choose if you want a substitution for each item and type in specific instructions.

You get a text asking about specific substitutions which you can approve or not.

NEW, you can modify your order up until midnight the night before your pick-up day


You can only reserve to pick up during a one hour slot.

If you reserve a slot from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., you might get a phone call at 5:30 a.m. saying they’re running late and won’t have your order ready for another hour.

You might have to wait an hour for someone to bring out your groceries.

The website is atrocious. It is literally easier to Google the item names and the word “Kroger” than to use the website’s search.



I reserved a time and then got a text saying I could do my pick up during a 6 hour window.

I got a call asking detailed questions about substitutions (the first time).

The website is much easier at finding items.

I was able to call the store and change the date of my pick-up.


Lack of photos of products so you think you’re ordering one piece of produce when in fact you’re ordering a carton-full.

For substitutions, you only have three options: None, Same brand different size, Same size different brand.

Every year I get a flu shot at Safeway for free, and in exchange they give me a coupon for 10% off a grocery purchase, up to $20. Every year I use my coupon for my Thanksgiving shopping, and I add up my purchases to make sure I have at least $200 worth of groceries so I get the most out of my 10% coupon.

So this year I put in my online grocery order, making sure I had at least $200 in purchases. I selected “Same brand, different size” as my substitution option. I checked out and reserved a time slot for after work so I could stop by on my way home. After the Safeway employee had loaded up my trunk, I said, “And I have a coupon.” That’s when she told me that I had to use my coupon “inside”. At least my $20 coupon expires at the end of 2021, so maybe there will be a vaccine by then.

When I got home and unloaded the car, I found I now possessed all sorts of items I didn’t order. Most of them were apparently attempts at substitutions. But I ended up with half a dozen Safeway brand canned goods, which I was either going to have to attempt to return or donate to a food pantry, because we certainly weren’t going to consume them.

So my attempt at using Safeway’s curbside pick-up to safely stay outside the store completely backfired. Early the next morning I was back at the Safeway to return the unwanted canned goods, as well as a package of nuts that had been given to me sliced open. Of course, I had to go inside to make the return. The store was fortunately mostly empty, but the customer service desk was empty too. I approached a checker and bagger who were awaiting customers and asked where customer service was because I had a curbside pick-up the night before and received a bunch of items I hadn’t ordered. “I am SHOCKED,” the checker responded. It was at that moment the single bag, I had unwisely loaded with all the canned goods I didn’t want, broke, and the checker jumped to help me try to juggle all the cans trying to keep them from falling to the ground. The checker said that customer service didn’t open until 8 but that he knew who would know something about curbside pick-up. He picked up the phone by his register and paged someone to come to the front.

I am angry, and I want to speak to the manager. But I’m not going to say that. Instead I am going to act confused. If I am accusatory, you’re going to get defensive. But if I am helpless, you are going to try to help me. This works especially well with men, who can’t help but try to be a knight in shining armor to this poor damsel. Inside I am a Karen, but I am going to try to appear to be an Amelia.

After a couple of minutes, the clerk again paged someone to come to the front, and man in a buttoned-up shirt and khakis that screamed “assistant manager” emerged from a door. He approached me, and I took a step back. I explained that I’d been given a bunch of items that I didn’t order, and he explained that he didn’t know how to process a return. Then he offered to let me replace the items with items I wanted. I tried explaining that the whole point in me using curbside pick-up was to avoid wandering around the store exposing myself to everyone inside. “I don’t even want to be here right now!” I exclaimed. Amelia was showing signs of starting to have a panic attack.

“Okay, okay,” he said, taking another step toward me. I took another step backwards, and he realized his social-distancing mistake and stepped back again. “I’ll try to find someone to process the return.” He stepped behind the customer service desk and disappeared behind another door, then re-emerged with a woman. I couldn’t see her legs from behind the counter, but I’m pretty sure she was not wearing khakis. “I know it’s early,” he said to her, “but can you process this return?”

“I’ve only done returns a couple of times,” replied the woman, but the two of them took turns pointing at the other side of a register screen and pushing buttons. Finally, triumphantly, the man wearing khakis instructed me to insert my credit card into the reader on my side of the customer service desk and sign a receipt. It isn’t completely clear to me if I received a return for the unwanted Safeway brand canned goods or paid for them a second time, but I thanked the man wearing khakis and the woman who I’m pretty sure wasn’t, and all but ran out of the front door.

To be continued…

COVID updates

12 November 2020 at 6:13 pm
by Berck

I think I can say with reasonable confidence that I was wrong in my prior estimations of a super-low herd immunity threshold. Things are not looking good for COVID in most of the world. Colorado is seeing 10 times as many daily new cases as in the summer, and the United States as a whole is looking almost as bad. Colorado was barely untouched, so that doesn’t say much about the herd immunity claims, but then there’s Europe.

Europe looks so much worse than it did in the Spring. The UK, Spain, France and even Italy. The daily new case rate is hard to compare since we maxed out on testing capacity in March, pretty much all over the world. But the deaths do not lie, and they’re ramping up on a curve that looks like it’s going to match Spring. These are hard-hit places I’d expect to see showing some signs of immunity in this wave, but it’s not showing up anywhere I can see it.

But… why? The common claim is behavior has been returning back to normal. That’s maybe true, but what about Sweden? As far as I can tell Sweden has been fairly consistent in their response and they are seeing an enormous uptick in cases that I think we’d be hard-pressed to explain away with behavior changes.

Weather is starting to seem a likely culprit. I think it better explains the rise in the autumn than behavior shifts–the behavior shifts started in early summer and if that were the driving force, I’d have expected the uptick in cases to start way earlier than it did.

Where do we go from here? As long as we’re able to stay under capacity in hospitals, I think that full-scale lockdowns like we saw in the Spring continue to be unwarranted, and probably impossible anyway. But for those of us who can stay at home, now is the time to do it. It’s probably more important now than it was when everyone did it, and furthermore there’s an end in sight. In March, it was ridiculous to suggest that the majority of the world stay at home until there’s a vaccine, but given that we’re close now, this seems a more reasonable request now.

Stay safe and stay at home if you can.