Service of What You Think of When You Walk Alone

September 21st, 2020

Categories: Automatic Actions, Charity, Generosity, Mask, Politics, Restaurant, Stingy, Walking

Photo: flickr.com

I was on a quick 20 block walk on Friday and jotted down a few of the things I thought of on my way.

Does the UN clean the flags outside?

photo: sites.google.com

As I passed the flags outside the UN I noticed that they looked shabby and needed to be cleaned. The UN General Assembly, in its 75th year, is largely virtual this September which may be one reason. Staff is no doubt busy cleaning the inside of the building to meet pandemic standards for those who are at work and will be attending meetings in person.

When I got home I Googled the question and while I didn’t learn the answer I saw that there are 193 flags arranged alphabetically–Afghanistan to Zimbabwe–from North to South and that staff raises and lowers them Monday through Friday at 8 am and 4 pm respectively.

Remembering automatic things

Waiting in line to enter Trader Joe’s earlier in the day I struck up a conversation with the woman ahead of me who said she couldn’t believe that she’d left her apartment without her mask. She was so lucky, she said, because a store across the street from TJ’s sold them. She’d forgotten three times, she said. I suggested she carry an extra as I do.

I’ve had trouble remembering whether I’ve fulfilled routine actions as long as I can remember. As a child I’d sometime get a sinking feeling if I was the last one out of the family apartment when I’d think, “Did I double lock the front door?” It was something I’d done countless times without focusing.

Restaurants open at 4 pm in Manhattan

As I passed by restaurants on First Avenue it took me a second to realize why so many serious ones are open from 4 pm-9 pm during the week: They must not attract a sufficient lunchtime crowd to pay for a second shift of wait and kitchen staff. We continue to have only outdoor dining in NYC.

Some affluent people are stingy and some of modest means are generous

I think about this a few times a year and haven’t found a valid explanation. What triggered my thoughts last Friday was how a friend said he’d donated to political candidates through ActBlue well over 100 times since the political campaigns began last June.  I know people who work hard and do well but are not affluent–they carefully pick and choose where they spend their money–yet they are munificent in their donations to charities and causes. Others with deep pockets, who donate neither time nor treasure, spend plenty on themselves but not others. They would time donations only if theirs was loudly acknowledged.

What do you think about when alone running errands, taking a walk or out and about in the car? Do you know how often the UN cleans or changes its flags? How do you ensure you’ve satisfied actions you should make automatically? Are the restaurants–not takeout–where you live open for lunch and dinner during the week? What’s the deal about stingy wealthy people and generous people of modest means?

Angelletto Restaurant NYC Photo: tripadvisor.com

Service of Let Me Talk

September 17th, 2020

Categories: Compassion, Conversation, Depression, Listen, Stress, Worry

Photo: recoupera.com

Sometimes friends repeat a story, describe an incident, share a worry or anticipated stressful encounter again but not because they forgot they’d already told you. She may be trying to get something out of her system or find a solution by speaking out loud or he may wish you to hold his hand and reassure him virtually, if not actually.

The trick, if you’re the listener, is to know when your friend is in a rut, or has changed the conversation or their actions even just a bit to stimulate change. I knew a woman who went over precisely the same ground when complaining about her husband never altering her behavior or approach yet expecting a different outcome. She listened to nobody, including her psychiatrist. Her complaints became tedious because she refused to try another tactic to improve the dynamic with her spouse. Sad ending to the story: She divorced him to live with a much younger man who soon left her and her ex died suddenly. Only then did she realize what she’d lost.

Photo: fluxmagazine.com

Staying silent about a pal’s repetition can also be a matter of manners or compassion. A friend posted information on social media about a suicide hotline. The first comment written by an angry woman who usually put him down was “This has been around before.” In my response to her comment I asked if she’d noticed the same TV commercials about a car, medicine or flooring company ad nauseam and noted that marketers pay for such repetition for good reason. Similarly, I continued, you couldn’t publish the number of a suicide hotline often enough so in addition to a “like” and a comment, I shared his post.

For a listener, the 60 seconds it takes to hear something again isn’t going to ruin your day. Cutting off someone with  “I know, I know,” when they are trying to work out an emotional kink isn’t necessary, unless it’s the same old same old over months or years.

Have you felt frustrated if a friend has stopped you when you wanted to vent?  For a more satisfactory outcome should you preface your vent with “I know I’ve said this before but hear me just one more time please…..?”

Photo: insidesmallbusiness.com.au

Service of Losing Retail Friends: Century 21, Maison Kayser & Lord & Taylor

September 14th, 2020

Categories: Bakery, Bankruptcy, Discounts, Pandemic, Retail

Photo: ny.curbed.com

When I heard last week that we were losing to bankruptcy a favorite discount store of mine–Century21–my heart sank. I have been a customer since the 1980’s when the Gindi family owned one small store in Manhattan’s financial district. In the early days along with drastic discounts for top of the line products the personal service by caring sales staff was equal to what customers received from expensive boutiques.

Since then the east coast discounter, a destination of tourists from around the world, expanded to 13 locations and its flagship quadrupled [my estimate] in size. The shoe departments alone seemed almost as big as the original store. It was no longer like its early self but was still a great place to find shoes, luggage, basic undergarments for men and women, handbags, towels and sheets at reduced prices.

Lord & Taylor NYC Photo: ny.curbed.com

Many years ago a friend called me in a panic. It was two days before Christmas and she’d not bought a single gift for her brother and members of his big family and she was going to his house for the celebration. We met at Century 21 and within an hour–that’s all I had as I was preparing for our large family Christmas Eve gathering the next night–she was well on her way to checking off everyone on her list with great presents for each. She was smiling when we waved goodbye.

I’ve had a yen for Maison Kayser baguettes, sandwiches, and pastries for months and I’d make a point to frequently walk by the bakery/takeout nearest my apartment to see if it had reopened. No luck. The US branches have filed for bankruptcy. According to Bloomberg, the owner of Pain Quotidien and other food franchises–Aurify Brands–will buy it if nobody else offers a higher price. I hope whomever acquires it employs some of the gifted bakers. According to Claire Boston and Steven Church, “Maison Kayser has around 150 locations in 22 countries, with the U.S. bankruptcy action covering just the restaurants owned by Cosmoledo.”

Friends who mourn the liquidation of Century 21 also mention the loss of Lord & Taylor. We aren’t going to events requiring new clothes right now and many are not traveling so with the exception of buying for growing children most won’t feel the impact of these losses right away.

This is just the beginning. Where will the manufacturers sell their goods if there are no retailers? It’s scary to predict where the unraveling will end up.

Have you lost any of your favorite retail haunts? How have you replaced them? Any fond memories?

Maison Kayser’s goodies Photo: pinterest.com

Service of Fingers Crossed: When to Believe Thieves

September 10th, 2020

Categories: Charity, Cyber Security, Donations, Hospitals, Museums, Theft, University

Photo: smithsonianmag.com

When you comply to a ransom demand you’re not in the driver’s seat. You must hope that the thieves are honorable. If you watch “Law and Order” or its offshoots,  you’re familiar with the concept even if you’ve not yourself been plagued by such a horrifying theft.

The cyberthieves Sarah Cascone wrote about on artnet.com hadn’t absconded with a relative. Her article was: “Hackers Have Stolen Private Information From Donor Lists to 200 Institutions, Including the Smithsonian and the UK’s National Trust.” The subhead was: “The Parrish Art Museum and the Corning Museum of Glass were also hit by ransomware.” In addition to museums, data from hospitals, 16 US universities and 33 UK charities was lifted.

Photo: parrishart.org

According to Cascone, the attack on Blackbaud–“a third-party cloud software company”–happened in May. Blackbaud told its clients a month later. They said that “the compromised data was limited to demographic information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, and donation summaries, and did not include credit card information, bank account information, or social security numbers.” We hope.

Cascone reported that the Corning Museum said it doesn’t “keep credit cards, bank accounts, or social security numbers in the system hosted by Blackbaud.” One wonders where do they keep it and is it safe?

Photo: credibly.com

Blackbaud said it paid the cybercriminals and confirmed that they had destroyed what they’d stolen, according to Cascone. They paid in Bitcoin. “’What I find unsettling about Blackbaud’s situation is that they just took the hackers at their word that the stolen data was destroyed. In my experience, hackers almost always leave behind hard-to-find malware so that they can still access the system,’ said Wood.” Tyler Cohen Wood is a cyber-security consultant and the former cyber deputy chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Cascone continued: “She advises that museums employing third-party providers familiarize themselves with the company’s procedures for handling ransomware attacks and to have secure data backups, even if that means paying extra.”

If you were notified by an organization that such a breach had occurred, would you get a new credit card or bank account number even if you were told the cybercriminals had no access to–or had destroyed–that information? Have you ever asked an organization to which you donate money how they protect your financial and personal information? Is cash the only secure way to donate?

Photo: passwordboss.com

Service of Trust III

September 8th, 2020

Categories: Hope, Immigration, Trust

Over centuries there have been millions of examples of King Solomon’s choice where mothers give up their children to save them. Nine year old Gittel’s mother did. The character of a prize-winning book, Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story, written for children six years old and up, Gittel’s experience was inspired by the flight of author Lesléa Newman’s grandmother who also escaped her homeland alone.

In the book Gittel’s mother was refused entry to the ship that was scheduled to take them both to America to flee Nazi Germany. She didn’t pass the health inspection so Gittel made the long journey by herself.

Imagine never seeing your parents again. Gittel did but Newman’s grandmother didn’t.  The tragedy of this loss resonates with many families. “All of my grandparents came through Ellis Island in the very early 1900s,” said David Reich. “Some came with a sibling, but none came with their parents and none of them ever saw or even spoke with their parents after they left Russia, Hungary and Poland, other than by letters.”

Lesléa Newman, author, Gittel’s Journey

At that time, author Newman told Bill Newman last week on WHMP Radio, Northhampton, Mass., “Gittel found her family [in New York] because many people were kind to her on the boat, they created makeshift families and she was taken care of on Ellis Island until her family could be found.”

Nurturing strangers, typical of the period, “stands in such stark contrast to the way the US is reacting to and treating immigrants seeking asylum from Central America and Mexico today,” said Newman, which is what motivated her to write the book to show children–and to remind all her readers–that “there are other choices when a stranger comes to your land.”

“Gittel’s Journey,” magnificently illustrated by Amy June Bates, won a 2020 Christopher Award because it exemplifies The Christophers’ motto, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Like the other celebrated authors, illustrators, writers, producers, and directors of 20 winning feature films, TV programs and books for adults and young people the book also “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.”

Would you be able to let go of your child to save him/her? Is there a valid rationale for mistreating innocent children or anyone escaping danger? Will we again return to a caring culture that proudly and aggressively protects the innocent and fragile?

Photo: thechristophersblog.org

Service of Changing Your Mind IV

September 3rd, 2020

Categories: Apology, Changing Your Mind, Flip Flopping, Forgiveness, Political Campaign, Politicians, Politics, Vote

Photo: careersingovernment.com

I’ve written here about this subject covering an organization that disinvited a celebrity speaker to politicians flip-flopping about policies or giving the go-ahead for a public event and then cancelling it in the end. Apology and forgiveness are cousins to changing one’s mind and I’ve written about these as well.

Photo: yahoo.com

What, if anything, does it take to change a voter’s mind? The people who run political campaigns must think it can be done or they wouldn’t throw mud and innuendo at one another and plant rumors. Has Trump had a stroke or Covid-19? Is Melania steadying him as he walks which is why she holds his hand these days?  Does Biden have dementia? Why is he hiding in his basement?

Every time I enter a room to get something and I can’t recall why, I remember I’ve been doing this since college when I’d arrive in a friend’s dorm room and go blank. Lucky I’ve not run for office all these years as I’d already be institutionalized by the media. I’ve never remembered movie or book titles, hotel or restaurant names. I’m ashamed. My husband enabled me as he always came up with the info I’d forgotten.

I marvel at actors who remember a book’s length of lines and friends who always dig up the title or name I’m groping for. Google is a godsend, but I digress.

Are people who turn a blind eye to a politician’s transgressions as easy on their spouses, siblings and children? What filter do voters use to determine truth from fiction? Do we believe only what we want to hear? What does it take for a politician on one side of the aisle to compromise or change his/her mind or is that out of the question these days? Have you ever changed your mind about anything?

Photo: Scienceabc.com

Service of Value Added: Postcards to Support a Political Party

August 31st, 2020

Categories: Political Campaign, Politics, Post Office, Value Added

Photo: theqnote.com

I found a good way to support my political party: Through a postcard writing initiative. I increase a modest $X donation that probably wouldn’t pay for two words in a radio commercial in Punxsutawney, Pa. by adding elbow grease. And I’m not finished: At the same time I’m supporting the United States Postal Service. How great is that?

There is a tiny snag: My handwriting. The formidable Miss Means in middle school did her best to correct my undecipherable scrawl. It didn’t work. My parents pleaded with me to type letters home when I lived in Turkey for two years. These days when I handwrite thank you notes to one far too generous friend he asks me to translate the missives. Frankly, I’m out of practice as, like everyone else, I’ve increased my speed on the keyboard at the expense of my writing. My grocery lists are a challenge to me.

But I will take my time writing the postcards because it’s important.

I passed the test required by what appears to be a smart, efficient operation https://postcardstovoters.org/. For approval they asked me to photograph a sample card with copy,  based on easy-to-follow guidelines, and email it to them.

Photo: commonwealthy.com

Volunteers pay for the postcards and stamps and receive addresses–with no names–digitally. Instead of a name we’re asked to select “ONE of these or something similarly neutral/positive/encouraging: Important Voter, VIP Voter, Best Voter Ever, Valued Voter, Essential Voter, Esteemed Voter, Terrific Voter, Awesome Voter, Patriotic Voter, Super Voter, Serious Voter, Winning Voter.”

We sign the cards with first name or initials and do not add a return address.

I am doing this alone during the pandemic while others with backyards may gather a stack of friends socially distanced on TV tables. The initiative boasts “over 76,000 grassroots volunteers in every state (including Alaska and Hawaii) who have written to voters in over 200 key, close elections since March 2017.”

Some friends make phone calls for their candidate or political party and report about one in 25 pick up. That doesn’t surprise me as calls go unanswered if I don’t recognize a number. My cards might never arrive or be tossed, unread, though it’s fun to imagine what the recipient must think about a handwritten card in an otherwise pretty empty mailbox.

Is it significant or coincidental that I’ve not identified the value added category in the posts since July 2015? [I wrote the first of five posts in April 2010.] Have you noticed or experienced examples of value added?

Service of Little Things Mean A Lot III

August 27th, 2020

Categories: Books, Pandemic, Plants, TV, Vote

Money plant cutting

Since the pandemic began, I’ve written two previous Service of Little Things posts. Two of the following four little things may really be big.

My vote counts

I’m grateful for the link a friend sent me for the skinny on which exemption to check to legitimately send for an absentee ballot in New York State. https://www.nbcnews.com/specials/plan-your-vote-state-by-state-guide-voting-by-mail-early-in-person-voting-election/.

When I drilled down to New York, https://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingAbsentee.html I learned which option to check: “Unable to appear at the polls due to temporary or permanent illness or disability (temporary illness includes being unable to appear due to risk of contracting or spreading a communicable disease like COVID-19).

Queries to the NY Board of Elections and to one of my senators had gone unanswered.

 A tree grows in a NYC high-rise

I was thrilled that a cutting from a money tree, aka Pachira aquatica, Malabar chestnut or Saba nut–seems to have taken root. This baby [photo above] is two months old. I feel joy watching it grow.

E-book heaven

And while this isn’t little–I splurged and bought myself an iPad and I’m thrilled with it–the book world is my oyster thanks to the New York Public Library’s e-book collection. Some books I’ve reserved, photo right. I’d never wanted to read a book on a gadget but the library is still closed and in any case I am uncomfortable borrowing a book during the pandemic. Like any convert, I’m taken with this space saver that almost everyone else has owned for years.

Talent to Amuse

I learned that a wonderful series on Netflix–“Call My Agent”–is in production for another year. In French with subtitles, it’s a well done, funny show that takes place mostly in Paris. It’s about a quirky collection of talent agents and their famous clients.

Do you increasingly appreciate little things in these unsettling times? For what are you grateful?

“Call My Agent” cast. Photo: Netflix

Service of Character in the News

August 24th, 2020

Categories: Character, Vote

Photo: areyoulivingwell.com

“Character is on the ballot,” sneered a radio newsman on Friday, the morning after the conclusion of the Democratic convention.

Shouldn’t such a “report,” delivered with a sarcastic intonation, have been presented in a vanilla voice, as a quote, not as a news headline?

I miss the day when you could only guess the politics of those who deliver the news or more likely you wouldn’t think about it. There still are 24 hour radio news programs where efficient newscasters reiterate highlights, traffic and weather reports. Otherwise, nonpartisan has been hard to find for years.

Doris Kearns Goodwin Photo: aarp.org

Some of my favorite reporters, such as Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd, have tipped their hands. Like historians Jon Meacham, Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, whom I don’t recall before speaking up against or in favor of one or another politician, they’ve taken sides. Is their speaking up and out appropriate?

Even in the old days editorializing happened, if subtly, by the stories covered and those given no air time. Today if we tune into MSNBC or FOX we get an unrealistic analysis, a security blanket of analysis or finger-pointing that affirms what most of their viewers already think. On air personalities on both reflect their own realities.

Is character so bad a trait for a politician? Does this kind of coverage encourage extreme behavior by politicians? Can we expect nonpartisan news in our futures? If so, what will it take to revert?  Was news really impartial in the day?

Photo: orlandoweekly.com

Service of While You Were Distracted by the Pandemic & Election, Environmental Protection Initiatives Were Seeping Under the Radar

August 20th, 2020

Categories: Climate Change, Elections, Environment, Pandemic, Politics, Pollution

Photo: azocleantech.com

Millions are focused these days on ducking the dreaded virus, deciding whether or not to send their children back to school, looking for a job, figuring out how to balance job deadlines with childcare, flinching at diminished savings and/or following their candidate for the upcoming election.

Photo: reynolds.k12.or.us.

Meanwhile the administration is at work dismantling environmental protections. Two headlines in The New York Times this week tell the story: “Trump Administration Finalizes Plan to Open Arctic Refuge to Drilling,” and “Trump Eliminates Major Methane Rule, Even as Leaks Are Worsening.”

Brad Plumer and Henry Fountain reported: “The Trump administration on Monday finalized its plan to open up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas development, a move that overturns six decades of protections for the largest remaining stretch of wilderness in the United States.”

Millenials
Photo: travel.earth

Carol Davenport wrote: “The Trump administration formally weakened a major climate-change regulation on Thursday — effectively freeing oil and gas companies from the need to detect and repair methane leaks — even as new research shows that far more of the potent greenhouse gas is seeping into the atmosphere than previously known.”

Who cares? I’ll tell you. In addition to me and most of my friends and acquaintances, I’d wager millennials and Gen-Zers too. There are some 83.1 million of the former–aged 22-38–and 74 million of the latter, aged 5 to 25.

A hint: “When it comes to dating 20-somethings, there are few bigger turnoffs than putting refuse in the wrong receptacle, according to a new survey by Cluttr, which found that millennials and Gen-Zers prefer dating someone who regularly recycles,” reported Ben Cost in The New York Post. Cluttr is an “unwanted item bazaar.”

Regarding the survey of 1,332 young Americans Cost continued “a whopping 69% of youths would boycott a brand for not adhering to green business practices, while 67% believed that global warming is a serious man-made threat. In fact, 71% even felt that the environment warranted more concern than the economy, which recently suffered its worst blow since the Great Depression amid the coronavirus pandemic.”

Can these harmful actions against the environment be put back in the bottle? What else has happened while we’ve been distracted? Are you watching out for other issues at risk?

Slipping under the radar. Photo: dancelovetoknow.com

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