Service of Keeping the Best we Have: Why the Drive to Erase the Past?

February 20th, 2020

Categories: Historic, Restaurant, Retail, Travel

Eddies Sweet Shop

Driving through France one summer years ago we were starving as we entered a tiny town. Not a soul was on the street–it was lunchtime so schools and businesses were closed–but we found someone inside the otherwise empty local cafe. She said she was désolé, but she had no bread and couldn’t make us a sandwich. Our faces fell. Knowing we’d find the same situation in town after town she said to wait–she had some fresh bread at home. We sipped a drink and sat at a table outside the cafe which was on the main drag–as no cars drove by–and were entertained by Muscat, the dog. She returned with magnificent ham sandwiches which also pleased Muscat, the recipient of welcome snacks.

Schmidts Candy Shop

I haven’t been to France in years and was sad to read the headline of Noemie Bisserbe’s Wall Street Journal article, “France Says Au Revoir to the Cafe,” which I hope is an exaggeration. [The photos in the online story are wonderful–take a look.]

We’re not so good at keeping the best/most charming elements of our neighborhoods either. I’ve been to American cities that have decimated any architecture of interest. Here’s an exception. A friend took me on a tour of favorite haunts from her childhood in Queens where I saw many wonderful landmarks–architectural, restaurant and retail. Our adventure began with a visit to Rudy’s Pastry Shop where we had blueberry coffee cake and I a cafe latte–scrumptious.

The Lemon Ice King of Corona

The photos here feature:

  • Schmidts Candy where the proprietor apologized many times because the shop was recovering from Valentine’s Day. I sampled a divine homemade dark chocolate treat with orange filling.

    Eddies Sweet Shop

  • Eddie’s Sweet Shop. My choice was a scoop of banana ice cream with caramel sauce. Can’t wait to return on an empty stomach.
  • Lemon Ice King of Corona is featured in the intro to the TV program “The King of Queens,” in re-runs. We had no more room for sweets but I’m planning a reprise in summer.

Something striking about Queens: 98 percent of retail space appeared to be full unlike Manhattan which has an alarming number of empty storefronts.

What neighborhood favorites do you remember from your childhood and how many of them remain? Which do you miss?

 

Service of Who Gives Someone the Right to Criticize Your Design Choices?

February 17th, 2020

Categories: Criticism, Décor, Interior Design

Photo: functionalley.com

The headline “Are Taxidermy Animals Distasteful?” in a recent Wall Street Journal sparked another question from me: “Who gives someone the right to tell another person yea or nay about their interior decorating?

The threat of being criticized or laughed at is why beige on beige has consistently been America’s color of choice for homes and apartments. It’s safe. What mother-in-law or know-it-all acquaintance would comment “This room is boring?” but they might assess with a crack and a wrinkled nose a space dressed in peacock blue or tangerine.

Photo: ibelieve.com

The subhead of Allison Duncan’s Taxidermy Journal article reveals that the subject is more than one of taste: “Interior designers lock horns over using mounted beasts in décor. Some see them as celebrating the natural world, others see them as violating it.”

Even so, is it up to family and friends to lecture about the suitability of a person’s mounted moose head any more than share comments about food choices?

Editors, reporters and bloggers writing about color and home fashion trends as well as the plethora of TV design shows with the same purpose leave design decisions up to the home decorator. A good interior decorator works with clients but doesn’t dictate.

Has anyone made negative comments about your décor? Is there any instance in which it’s appropriate to critique someone else’s design choices?

Photo: thebalancecareers.com

 

Service of a Marketing Idea with Legs

February 13th, 2020

Categories: Greeting Cards, Marketing, Romance, Valentine's Day

Flamboyant expressions of love associated with Valentine’s Day today were initially ignited by Hallmark which early in the 20th Century was the first to mass-produce Valentine’s cards. Up until then lovers made cards by hand according to Sam Becker in usatoday.com. Other symbols of affection in the day were generally low-key.

Sellers of candy, flowers, perfume and jewelry jumped on the bandwagon and amplified the holiday which ratcheted the expectations of some in relationships. No doubt the pressure to show amour in the appropriate way–$100+ rose bouquets and even engagement rings–when feelings of affection by one of the parties are tepid at best, is the cause of the breakups that happen the week before February 14, more than at any other time of year. [The runners up: the weeks before Christmas according to bustle.com.]

I’ve loved Valentine’s day for as long as I can remember. When I was very young my parents would hide their initials on cards–they were my secret admirers. It was fun to find the RKR and GBR hidden in the illustrations. In the early grades–I went to an all-girls school–we deposited cards in a big box and they’d be distributed by a few of the kids. I still exchange cards with some friends. As fewer people send cards today Hallmark is keeping up its brand’s flame through romantic films on the Hallmark Channel.

Don’t you love the giant red hearts that decorate store and restaurant windows and cheer February’s gloomy gray days? I’m also very fond of the iconic heart shape.

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Does a favorite one stand out? What’s the most outrageous example of devotion on February 14 that you’ve ever heard of?

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Service of Looking for Trouble

February 10th, 2020

Categories: Movies, Restaurant, Retail, Trouble

Photo: open.spotify.com

Some people look for trouble usually, but not always, to benefit themselves.

Photo: patch.com

Folks in retail have many tales to tell. Yesterday there was a kerfuffle at a Manhattan chain drugstore. One of the employees, planted to escort customers to the aisle and product they need and to keep an eye on things had apparently accused a woman of stealing. She responded by screaming at the top of her lungs. I moved to another part of the store pronto.

A friend who works in a boutique has too many stories of customers who try to pull one over on the business. At the slightest hint that they won’t get their way these shady customers also yell and scream. This is a good strategy because they know that no retailer wants to discourage other customers who are uncomfortable with a fight. While infuriated, my friend is forced to give them what they want.

Photo: rewardsnetwork.com

I’ve written before about the woman who sat behind me at a restaurant. The place was  having a bad staff day. I’d been there many times and service was prompt but something had happened–most likely a chunk of waiters had called in sick. The remaining ones were scrambling, apologizing profusely along the way. This customer wanted a free meal and ratcheted up her negative claims escalating from “You are discriminating against me because I’m a woman eating alone!” which was unlikely as the restaurant was in Grand Central Terminal where lots of women travel and eat alone to “I’m a cancer victim. I want to see the manager!”

Maurice Chevalier in Gigi. Photo: Photo: insidehook.com

More recently a friend and I were listing our favorite movies. We agreed on Gigi. She told me about an acquaintance, perhaps inspired by the Me-Too movement, who claimed that the song “Thank Goodness for Little Girls” was disgusting and smacked of something dark.  You be the judge. Think 1958 when the movie premiered.

The words Maurice Chevalier sang:

“Each time I see a little girl
Of five or six or seven
I can’t resist a joyous urge
To smile and say
Thank heaven for little girls
For little girls get
Bigger every day
Thank heaven for little girls
They grow up in
The most delightful way.
Those little eyes
So helpless and appealing
When they were flashing
Send you crashing
Through the ceiling”

This reminded me of the woman who threatened to sue a former wallpaper client because she claimed that the pattern–letters of the alphabet sprinkled in all directions–spelled nasty words inappropriate for a child’s room. Sure, all the letters for millions of words were in that wallcovering but really, talk about a stretch.

Do you have examples of people who look for trouble because that’s just how they are or because they want something for free? Is it valid to rip into vintage films, songs or books and measure them by today’s sensibilities and contemporary word usage thereby placing them in a cultural or entertainment dustbin?

Photo: 12rf.com

 

 

Service of Protecting Your Personal Data

February 6th, 2020

Categories: Data, DNA, Health Insurance, Healthcare

Fitness trackers Photo: sundried.com

I’m suspicious of any and all data sharing about my health, my DNA–you name it. Today’s protections can be gone in a flick of a pen with a law change or the information exposed to all as a result of a data breach. Lemmings happily line up to learn about their ancestry and I’m dead-set against that, as I’ve written in this blog, as I’m sure that information won’t be used solely to determine that great grandma came from Minsk.

Thorin Klosowski’s New York Times article, “What to Consider Before Trading Your Health Data for Cash–Don’t trade away your health data without considering the potential issues first” cemented my feelings on the subject.

Photo: healthdata.gov

Some are tempted by discounts, gift cards or financial rewards by an employer, HMO, health care plan or insurance company–or they are pressured by an employer or their team–to enroll in a wellness program involving a phone or fitness tracker. The idea: a healthy lifestyle will lessen the cost of health care.

The tracking device must be covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA] or you are unprotected.

Klosowski wrote: “If a program or wearable tracking device is covered by HIPAA, your employer will never have access to the data collected, but if HIPAA doesn’t apply, you’re trusting those entities to not share the data with your employer, third-party ad agencies, or anyone else. Without HIPAA, a wellness program (or, more accurately, the operator or administrator behind it) may sell the health information it collects, which could put you at risk of having your data used against you or unlawfully in some way.”

You are not protected if the device is only HIPPA compliant.

compliancy-group.com

In addition “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also adds this distinction,” Klosowski wrote: “If a wellness program is offered as part of a group health plan, your information is protected by HIPAA rules; if the wellness program is offered directly by an employer, the information is not protected.”

In addition, warned Klosowski, you may be asked to answer survey questions you don’t want to, such as whether you plan on becoming pregnant in the next few years. You might now want your employer to know this. Also avoid programs that ask for genetic test results, he suggested.

You may be fine today and diagnosed with something dicey tomorrow that you’d prefer be kept under wraps. When Nora Ephron died her closest friends were shocked, some angry that she hadn’t shared that she had acute myeloid leukemia. She knew if the news was well known she wouldn’t be insured to work on big film productions. She was right.

With an administration that flirts with removing insurance protection for preexisting conditions or a promotion at work in the balance, it would seem that people should take extra care before enrolling in anything they might later regret. Would you be tempted to take money to wear a tracking device?

Photo: npr.org

 

Service of Should Transgressions Go Unmentioned After Someone Dies?

February 3rd, 2020

Categories: Uncategorized

Photo: gatewayfh.com

A Washington Post reporter was immediately suspended–and later reinstated from the punishment of administrative leave–for tweeting, after his death, about Kobe Bryant’s sexual assault charge 17 years ago. Bryant had said he thought the encounter was consensual but according to New York Times** reporters Rachel Abrams and Marc Tracy, “he had come to understand that she did not see it in the same way.” She was a 19 year old Colorado hotel front desk clerk. The case was eventually dropped after an undisclosed settlement.

The reporter, Felicia Sonmez, received death threats and online abuse as tributes by politicians and celebrities praised Bryant. She linked to 2016 Daily Beast coverage of the case in her tweet.

Three hundred + fellow Post reporters protested Sonmez’s suspension. Abrams and Tracy wrote that “The Post’s social media guidelines ask journalists to be informative and factual in their online posts.”

the spruce.com

Martin Baron, the paper’s executive editor, sent her an email last Sunday. He wrote that she showed “a real lack of judgment to tweet this. Please stop. You’re hurting this institution by doing this.”

Two days later the paper stated that Sonmez “was not in clear and direct violation of our social media policy.” The New York Times reporters wrote “The Post’s statement also referred to her tweets as ‘ill-timed’ and continued: ‘We consistently urge restraint which is particularly important when there are tragic deaths.'”

Sonmez wasn’t the only one who remembered the sexual assault charge. Len Berman, morning host on WOR 710 Radio’s morning show–and a former TV sports reporter–mentioned it observing that Bryant’s record wasn’t unblemished as implied by most media.

Photo: aarp.org

**Something curious: I looked on line for the article I read in the print New York Times story “At Post, Another Round of Dissent Over Bryant” [photo below]. The facts and quotes in this post come from it. It wasn’t on the paper’s website nor could I find it via Google. Other articles on the subject by reporters Abrams and Tracy are online but not that one.

Are there different rules for public figures when it comes to mentioning a hiccup in a person’s life after they die? For example you wouldn’t mention your Cousin Nigel’s misbehavior at his funeral or in his obituary, would you? Are rules of behavior different if a celebrity dies in a horrendous accident? Should a reporter be reprimanded for tweeting the truth about a beloved public figure? What if such a person is disliked–would a tweet like Felicia Sonmez’s have gone unnoticed?

I couldn’t find a digital version of the NY Times article at the bottom of the page.

 

Service of Hints of Swindle: 148 Luxury Cars a Clue?

January 30th, 2020

Categories: Uncategorized

Photo: thebalance.com

I wonder how Joe and Jane Citizen get by unscathed when Jeff Bezos’s phone is hacked and Warren Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, falls for a Ponzi scheme to the tune of $340 million.

“Jeff and Paulette Carpoff, who began raising money in 2011, admitted to a scam that involved swindling sophisticated corporate investors who earned valuable federal tax credits for helping finance a renewable-energy business. Authorities seized and auctioned off 148 luxury vehicles owned by the Carpoffs, including a 1978 Pontiac Firebird once owned by Burt Reynolds.” Dave Michaels wrote this in “Owners of Solar Company That Swindled Berkshire Hathaway Admit to Running Ponzi Scheme,” in The Wall Street Journal. The Carpoffs company: DC Solar Solutions Inc.

The attractive tax credit promised in the deal–30 percent–almost covered the initial investment. “The investors generally assumed an obligation to contribute millions more to the business through promissory notes, the SEC’s lawsuit says,” according to Michaels. Berkshire Hathaway “reversed income tax benefits it had earlier recognized.”

Photo: gr.pinterest.com

“’By all outer appearances this was a legitimate and successful company,’ said Kareem Carter, special agent in charge of IRS criminal investigation in Northern California. “But in reality it was all just smoke and mirrors—a Ponzi scheme touting tax benefits to the tune of over $900 million.’”

The Carpoff’s attorney said that they turned to the dark side–doing illegal things–to save the company. It started out legit.

“The Securities and Exchange Commission also sued the Carpoffs in a civil complaint filed in Sacramento. The SEC said the couple, whose business is in bankruptcy, siphoned off at least $140 million of investor funds to pay for their personal expenses, which included the sports cars, dozens of properties, and a share in a private jet service.”

Have you fallen for something that’s too good to be true? [My medicine chest is filled with face creams that promise to remove wrinkles.] Do you think that investors should look into the private lives of management which, in this case, would have revealed a spendthrift lifestyle which is the opposite of Warren Buffett’s.  Buffett still lives in the home he bought in the 1960s.

Photo: pymnts.com

Service of Complaining: It Can Feel Good But Does It Do Any Good?

January 27th, 2020

Categories: Complaints, Conversation, Friendship

Photo: thebosshow.com

I love to complain which no doubt is why I’ve written this blog twice a week for a dozen years. Once I’ve identified what’s really bothering me, which often happens after griping about it, I usually move on. No goody-goody two shoes here: I’ve carried some big injuries or affronts for years but as for the day-to-day grumps I can shed most and move on using my mother’s mantra: “Bury the bone but remember where you’ve buried it.” [After I’d produced a string of gripes she’d ask, with a tone of irritation: “anything else?” I often ask the same question to myself today.]

Micaela Marini Higgs lined up a bunch of evidence on the subject in her New York Times article, “Go Ahead and Complain. It Might Be Good for You.” The operative word is might. “Constantly complaining can be an easy way to frustrate our confidantes, but there is research that shows it can also be a useful tool in bonding and helping us process emotions like stress and frustration.” Higgs quoted Robin Kowalski, a professor of psychology at Clemson University: “In short: Yes, it’s good to complain, yes, it’s bad to complain, and yes, there’s a right way to do it.”

Photo: thebalancingcareers.com

Higgs described three varieties of complaint: venting, problem solving and ruminating/dwelling. She reported: “Knowing which behavior you’re engaging in, and with what purpose, can help you put in place habits that will not only make your complaining much more strategic, but also help improve your emotional health and build stronger relationships with the people around you.”

Warned Margot Bastin at the department of School Psychology and Development in Context at the Belgian university KU Leuven, “Making complaining the primary focus in our relationships can make us dwell on our problems for longer, triggering a stress response. Bonds built over mutual dissatisfaction can also prove brittle once one person’s problem has been resolved.”

It’s normal to complain because, as Higgs observes, life isn’t perfect. Kowalski said “Inhibiting the disclosure of our dissatisfaction ‘can produce a negative effect,’ because it not only stops us from naming our problem but also prevents us from getting to the root of it.”

Higgs quoted Tina Gilbertson, a psychotherapist and the author of “Constructive Wallowing.” She said: “complaining is, ideally, totally solutions focused.” Quoting Dr. Grice Higgs continued “Though venting is not as focused on solving problems, ‘there are also really positive benefits,’ because it allows us ‘to get things out in the open and get our feelings heard so they don’t build up and cause stress.’” Angela Grice is a speech language pathologist specializing in the use of mindfulness-based practices. She “previously researched executive functions and neuroscience at Howard University and the Neurocognition of Language Lab at Columbia University.”

Photo: crosswalk.com

Other benefits of blowing off steam Higgs noted in her article include helping put the gripe in perspective and “words to our feelings;” it’s good both psychologically and emotionally; feedback helps gain perspective and the hope is that you’ll do something about the situation.

According to the experts in the article you want to avoid “always find[ing] something to complain about. The same goes with rehashing a problem over and over again, whether with friends or in the echo chamber of the internet.” Keeping a journal helps blow off steam about smaller complaints.

Has anyone stopped you from venting or criticized you for doing so? Do you find complaining constructive in getting over irritations and finding solutions to them? Is there a difference between a complaint and a critique or review of a restaurant experience or seminar for example?

Photo: verywellmind.com

Service of Delight in a Low Tech, Effective Invention

January 23rd, 2020

Categories: Dogs, Low Tech, Search and Rescue

Photo: deerfieldvet.com

A friend whose husband had dementia described a harrowing moment when he disappeared one afternoon on their walk home from the grocery store. Her arms were full of parcels so she wasn’t holding on to him and it started raining so she’d pulled up her hoodie, partially covering her vision. She was distracted for only a moment and when she turned around her husband was gone. That day she found him. Similar incidents happen daily to adults and children whose caretakers must call the police to help find them.

Photo: pinterest.com

“About 613,000 people were reported missing in 2018 to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Crime Information Center. About two-thirds of them were children,” reported Leslie Brody in her Wall Street Journal article, “Scent Kits Aid Tail-Wagging Detectives in Search for Missing People.” The kit is a simple tool to help bloodhounds find anyone who is lost.

Brody wrote: “Detective Christopher Nichols of Maywood’s K-9 Unit said he hopes the kits will be useful for finding people who tend to wander off, including the elderly with dementia and children with autism. It is urgent to give a search dog something with a unique scent to trace, but in some cases none can be found, he said: The missing person’s dirty socks, for example, may have been contaminated by mingling with other people’s laundry.” Maywood is in New Jersey.

Photo: anythingpawsable.com

The kit, Find ’em Scent Safe, that costs about $20, was developed by a police captain, Coby Webb, who is also treasurer of the National Police Bloodhound Association. “The kit has gloves and gauze for pressing on the user’s neck or armpit to pick up odor. The gauze goes into a plastic bag and then a small gray box that goes into the user’s freezer. In an emergency, the family can hand it to investigators. Police don’t store it.”

Brody reported that some families monitor people who tend to wander with GPS devices but that batteries could die, the wanderer could enter an area with no cell service or they might remove the device. Find ’em’s box design “helps protect it from tampering,” while dirty socks stored in the freezer can be tinkered with.

Citizens of Maywood–where Detective Nichols works–can get a free kit. “The police are promoting their offer…..at senior centers and schools for students with disabilities.”

What other simple tools like the scent kit have you heard of that can turn around a dangerous situation? Are there other preventative measures people can take to control the outcome of an emergency?

Photo: pethealthnetwork.com

Service of When a Headline Underplays Scary News

January 20th, 2020

Categories: Economy, Headline, Newspapers, Tariff

Photo: thoughtco.com

I’ve mentioned here before that I passed college economics by figuring out the answers to exam questions and writing the opposite. Economic theories made no sense. I’m not comfortable writing about the economy but this post is also about the delivery of news which is something I’ve studied.

The headlines to Josh Zumbrun and Anthony DeBarros’ Wall Street Journal article soft-sold some daunting repercussions of the administration’s tariff war with China. The online headline was “Trade War With China Took Toll on U.S., but Not Big One,” and the print version was “Trade War Takes a Muted Toll on U.S. Economy.” The words I focused on were “but Not Big One” and “Muted Toll.”

Photo: rfdtv.com

Readers don’t have far to read before alarms ring. Following are the first two paragraphs:

  • “Farmers took a big hit. Importers of auto parts, furniture and machinery choked down punishing tariffs. Investment between the world’s two largest economies dropped.
  • “Much of the U.S. economy is largely unscathed by two turbulent years of trade war with China, economic indicators show. Yet economic growth is trending near 2% in 2019, well short of the Trump administration’s goal of 3%.”

According to Zumbrun and DeBarros the administration says the war is worth it. “The deal ‘protects American innovation and creates a level playing field for our great farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and entrepreneurs,’ said Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, adding, ‘President Trump protected the American worker and fundamentally changed our relationship with China.'”

Photo: focusmagazine.org

The reporters wrote that Benn Steil, who directs international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, claimed that the president could have achieved the same deal without side effects two years ago. Economists predict years may go by before we can realize the actual repercussions.

Zumbrun and DeBarros subsequently reported in detail on the impact of the tariffs on agriculture, inflation and prices, bilateral trade, investment and economic growth. A few excerpts:

  • Agriculture: “Annual S. farm exports to China plunged from nearly $25 billion in recent years to below $7 billion at its low point in the 12 months through April 2019.”
  • Inflation and Prices: “While Mr. Trump frequently claimed China would pay the tariffs, they have been paid by S. importers.”
  • Bilateral Trade: “After decades of surging commerce between the world’s two largest economies, trade took a sharp step back. S. exports to China dropped by nearly $30 billion, while imports from China fell by over $70 billion, for a decline of over $100 billion in trade.”
  • Investment: “Investment in the S. economy slumped. Foreign direct investment slowed to nearly a halt in the early part of 2018, and was weak again in mid-2019.” Nancy McLernon, president of the Organization for International Investment, pointed to trade tensions as the cause.
  • Photo: vox.com

    Economic Growth: In early 2018, the Trump administration celebrated 3 percent growth and forecast the same through 2019 along with a prediction that the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates. “Instead, as the trade war wore on, the administration began imploring the Fed to slash interest rates to bolster the economy. The Fed cut rates three times. Even so, the economy has cooled toward 2%.” In addition, “the boost from the 2017 tax overhaul was beginning to fade” wrote  Zumbrun and DeBarros and last, the reporters ID’d the impact of uncertainty–“the constant unpredictability of what happens next,” said Ayhan Kose, director of the World Bank’s global macroeconomic outlook.

Do you think the gap between the news in the article and the headline occurred because the headline writers hadn’t read the article or because the facts don’t match the philosophy of the Wall Street Journal‘s publisher and the staff wanted to be sure that the story ran? Do tariffs worry or impact you?

Photo: 123rf.com

 

 

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