Service of Forgiveness

September 15th, 2014

Categories: Forgiveness


Yesterday on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” substitute host Martha Raddatz acknowledged that the Ray Rice domestic violence case brought the topic of abuse out in the open. Wasn’t everyone aware of it before?

Co-hosts Rabbi Joseph Potasnik and Deacon Kevin McCormack, on their WABC Radio program “Religion on the Line” on Sunday, also covered the topic. The discussion started with Rice, who knocked out his then fiancée, [wife now], and dragged her out of an elevator, and moved to the impact on others of how such a high profile case is treated.

Their conversation took a twist. 

The Deacon wanted to know how much an abuser had to do to make things right and the Rabbi said being banned from football, starting to attend domestic violence classes and joining a church wasn’t enough. The Rabbi pointed out that thieves get bigger punishments than Rice did.

The Deacon asked what the advantage is to a family if the bread winner loses his ability to support it. He was concerned that a spouse might not report an abusive partner for fear of jeopardizing the family’s livelihood which is what was done to the football player. The Rabbi responded that those in jail face this outcome. The Deacon asked “Doesn’t Rice’s wife have something to say?”

After a commercial break the Deacon said that he’d heard from his wife and listeners who vociferously disagreed with him. At the end of the program the co-hosts discussed forgiveness.

Why does it take celebrity involvement to give credence to a topic such as abuse? Do you think that an abused man or woman would be fearful of reporting the situation because of anticipated loss of family income? What role does forgiveness play in horrific acts like this?

domestic violence

Service of Bigger is Better

September 11th, 2014

Categories: Architects, Big, Museums

Bigger better

I don’t believe institutions need to occupy more space to be better, and see few benefits apart from the jobs expansion generates.

The private school I attended has hired a company to find it a larger building. It currently inhabits a big and several smaller ones. With so many talented architects and interior designers who know how to squeeze the most out of space, getting something bigger seems like a waste of money. Spending the money on teacher salaries, scholarships and upgraded computer capabilities would be a better plan. My checkbook will remain closed when I receive the anticipated requests to support a bigger and better building.

Delaware Art MuseumThen there’s the Frick that’s about to swell and the Delaware Art Museum [photo right] that felt forced to sell artwork to pay for its expansion that, in the end, didn’t positively affect attendance. The latter museum’s administration is being scolded by its peers for selling its treasure, a stopgap measure at best. Deborah Solomonaug covered the intrigue in The New York Times in “Censured Delaware Art Museum Plans to Divest More Works.

Adding to the debate, here are highlights of our recent visit to a bigger–so it must be better–museum.

Guides directed us to a parking lot at the expanded, new and improved Clark Museum in Williamstown, Mass. [photos below left and right] which we’ve visited many times before. Formerly we parked outside the main entrance where the admissions booth was. Where we parked last week clearly wasn’t the main lot. As a result, we began a preposterous trek that helped accentuate the ungainly plan of the  new place.

Clark MuseumWe followed a path to the closest entrance which landed us in museum offices. A helpful administrator jumped up and showed us to a door which led us through a research library. They were expecting company: At the end of the library’s main aisle was a guard stationed to wave us forward and no doubt to watch that we didn’t take a detour through the stacks.

As we left the library he pointed to our next door, which took us outside again. He told us to be sure to admire the new water pools—where the original parking lot was. He mentioned the number of doors we should bypass to get to the cashier. Off we went on another stroll. I couldn’t help think what such a ramble in and out would be like in bitter heat or cold, rain or snow. The guard said we could take a golf cart back to the parking lot. I saw one wandering around the property carrying a large family. The kids enjoyed the ride. It didn’t seem efficient.

We entered the correct door but still no admissions desk in sight. Following an arrow we walked down a long hall passing the gift store and finally, to a gracious foyer at the back of which were information and admissions desks. This was the new part of the museum where additional special exhibition spaces are.

However, to visit the main museum, our old friend, off we went again past the gift shop, down the long hall and into another entrance where, that day, you couldn’t buy a ticket.

Clark museum 2Critics gave the expansion rave reviews. Evidently the media didn’t zigzag as we did. The addition is attractive yet the architect had a lapse when joining the old with the new.

More to the point: Was the expansion practical or necessary? How many people will be able to avail themselves of exhibits in the expanded space? Williamstown is charming but inaccessible by public transportation, though as we left town, we saw a Peter Pan bus parked outside the local inn.

Do you think that institutions must increase their footprints for survival or in some cases, is such expenditure the first step towards doom? What is really behind such expansion: ego and folly perhaps?

Big floorplan

Service of a Divine Location

September 8th, 2014

Categories: Location, Real Estate


St. Mary's Cathedral, Hamburg. Photo: Wikipedia

St. Mary’s Cathedral, Hamburg. Photo: Wikipedia

If you’ve glanced at real estate sections over the years you’ll have seen advice against buying a house too close to the road, how a swimming pool lowers a property’s value and so on. Since hurricanes and oil leaks have more frequently had their way with beachfront properties, many are taking a second look at oceanside homes, once coveted by me especially.

On the brighter side Stefanos Chen shared highlights of a German study on the benefits of owning a condo near–though at the right distance from–a place of worship. It doesn’t matter what religion. He wrote “A study of the housing market in Hamburg, Germany, found that condos located between 100 to 200 meters, or 109 to 219 yards, away from a place of worship listed for an average 4.8% more than other homes. The effect was similar across all religious buildings studied, including churches, mosques and temples.” 

Temple Emanu-El. Photo nycago

Temple Emanu-El. Photo nycago

Continued Chen, “But live too close to the religious building—within 100 meters—and the premium is erased, they found. Sounds associated with houses of worship are only part of the problem. The effect of bell ringing, for example, wasn’t statistically significant, he said.” The “he” is Wolfgang Maennig a German professor in the University of Hamburg’s economics and social sciences department who co-authored the journal report that appeared in Growth and Change.

Maennig told Chen that being close to transportation and sports arenas also adds value. I’d question the latter. Surefire gridlock when the local team was playing at home would make me want to rent or buy far, far away.

The jury is still out as to whether the divine proximity phenomenon affects US real estate. Can you conjecture? When moving to a condo, co-op or house, what do you look for in the location?






Service of Listening to Your Mother

September 4th, 2014

Categories: Automobiles, Listen, Theft

listen to your mother

NPR’s David Greene interviewed a VP of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Roger Morris, who explained how the auto industry has taken a big bite out of car theft through technology. In 1991, at the peak, there were 1.6 million car thefts a year vs. 700,000 in 2013 according to FBI stats, said Morris.

key in auto doorHow did this happen? Morris said: “Well, they put a code in the key that matches up with the ignition that says, you know, unless this key is in this ignition, it won’t start. So it basically stopped the hot wiring and, you know, the joy riding, so to speak.”

Apart from the models on the road made before this technology was built in, what’s the main cause of car thefts these days? Morris says it’s because people leave keys in unlocked cars when they dash into a store.

Clearly these drivers didn’t use common sense or heed their mother or father’s warning never to do this. Have you wanted to kick yourself when something’s happened because you’ve not followed time-tested, sage advice?

Parking at store

Service of the Counterintuitive Part II

September 2nd, 2014

Categories: Bad Publicity, Counterintuitive, Public Opinion, Retail, Unresponsive



In Part II, I continue to feature observations or news items that surprise.

Showing Spine

SeaWorld Hit by Bad Press: Stock Off 33%” was the headline on Michael Calia’s story. “Media debate about its treatment of captive orcas” hurt attendance. It’s good to see that some pay attention to where they cast their money unlike so many who exhibit a disconnect in recognizing bad behavior and performance when they cast their votes for investments or candidates.

Free is First

Geoffrey A. Fowler reports in The Wall Street Journal that the best place to download e-books is the public library, for free. Libraries have more than any of the fee-based sources like Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited and, newer to the industry, Oyster or Scribd. He gave examples. “Of the Journal’s 20 most recent best-selling e-books in fiction and nonfiction, Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited has none—no ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ no ‘The in Our Stars.’ Scribd and Oyster each have a paltry three. But the San Francisco library has 15, and my South Carolina library has 11.

ebook“From Amazon’s own top-20 Kindle best-seller lists from 2013, 2012 and 2011, Kindle Unlimited has no more than five titles a year, while the San Francisco library has at least 16.”

Comfortable with Bad Publicity

David Segal, “The Haggler,” continues to try to communicate with an executive of a Houston, Texas appliance store chain about a reader’s complaint. The New York Times columnist wrote in July that “he’d spent two months trying to get a rep from Conn’s on the phone to discuss a complaint from Grace Bunmi Salako Smith, who bought a computer and a refrigerator from the company last year for a total of $2,587. To enhance her credit score, she financed the purchase, using a program under which she’d pay no interest as long as her monthly installments were on time.”

She withheld payment when her fridge broke and for weeks nobody from the chain would come to fix it. Then she was told she owed over $700 in interest.

blocking earsThe only communication Segal received from the company was from a spokesperson who said she couldn’t comment. Meanwhile his readers Tweeted about the situation, so many that local Texas TV station KPRC covered the story. Still nothing, even when Segal approached members of the chains’ board of directors. He didn’t get far with them, either, and asked “Is Conn’s, and everyone around it, obtuse or just really, really shy? The second seems unlikely.”

Segal mentioned this unresolved situation again in a mid-August column in which he addressed another consumer problem. How can a company survive when it acts this way? Who would buy a computer cartridge much less from such a place?

In today’s environment, where so many tend to ignore the reality of corruption or greed, are you surprised that a significant number of people boycotted a business that reportedly was careless in its care of animals? Would you have guessed that the largest resource of e-books is free and that a retail operation is perfectly comfortable playing possum, ignoring major knocks in both traditional and social media?

playing possum

Service of the Counterintuitive Part I

August 28th, 2014

Categories: Counterintuitive, Economy, Hunger, Restaurant, Sports



I’ve collected examples of situations that caused me to wonder. I found so many that I broke the list into two posts.

Starving the Victims

basket of rollsA friend told me about a 20-course dinner that cost $350 pp. The only reason that she and the other participants didn’t leave hungry was because they asked for baskets of additional rolls that had accompanied one of the microscopic, uber-trendy dishes. She described the portions as the size of bottle caps. This was in the US. Another friend who eats like a sparrow left a similar restaurant in London feeling hungry after finishing a pricey appetizer and entree.

Where’s the Sport?

Ask Google to “define game” and the first you see is: “a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.”

So what’s with this horrendous knockout game that Wikipedia notes is “one of many names given by American news media to assaults in which, purportedly, one or more assailants attempt to knock out an unsuspecting victim, often with a single sucker punch, all for the amusement of the attacker(s) and their accomplice(s).”

Police think that a recent victim of this game was a pregnant woman–in her seventh month–who was knocked unconscious and to the ground after her assailant hit her in the head, according to coverage in The Daily News. Doctors say both she and the baby are OK.

Conflicting Reports

empty storefrontI read everywhere how the economy has improved, the stock market is flourishing, salaries and employment are up and yet I continue to see newly empty storefronts and increasing numbers of beggars in a city that we’re told is doing better than other places. In addition, I read reports by companies that cater to the middle class, such as Macy’s, that are lowering their outlook for the year’s sales. For what reason? Because of the “sluggish demand plaguing the broader retail industry,” according to Suzanne Kapner and Shelly Banjo in The Wall Street Journal.

I don’t like feeling stuffed when I leave a restaurant, but what about the trend to pay a fortune to leave hungry? What horrible mind came up with the knockout game where the sport is picking on a defenseless person and what about the people who play? So what’s true about the economy—is it as great as some say or not?

up and down indicator

Service of Discounts

August 25th, 2014

Categories: Discounts, Prayer, Restaurant

15 percent off

Business must be brisk at Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, N.C. as so many have now heard of the place thanks to interference from an organization some 850 miles away.

The diner has been in the news first for offering a 15 percent discount to customers who said grace before eating and then for dropping the offer because Mary Haglund, one of the owners, feared being sued.

Grace before eatingThe restaurant was approached by Elizabeth Cavell, lawyer for the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis. The foundation’s complaint: “Offering this discount violates the federal Civil Rights Act,” reported Hannah Bae in “Your restaurant’s restrictive promotional practice favors religious customers, and denies customers who do not pray.”

Red Valentine shirtNext will a restaurant or bowling alley that offers a discount to anyone who wears a red shirt on Valentine’s Day be warned because it discriminates against those who don’t believe in either the saint or the love celebration?

In this climate how does a credit union like Oceanside Christopher conduct business without being hounded? With branches in both Oceanside and Seaford, LI, it bills itself as the “Catholic Credit Union” and promotes free checking and low interest rates. There are funeral parlors that advertise their services to care for the deceased of certain religions. Should they expect to be threatened?

Anyone could have been eligible for Mary’s discount: It didn’t require a feat of physical dexterity eliminating the disabled, clumsy, the very young or old. Should a business’s hands be tied/held hostage for such a reason?

High jump

Service of Freebies

August 21st, 2014

Categories: Ethics, Freebies, Politicians, Taxes


In one of my first real jobs after college the policy was clear: If you interview someone who works for a match manufacturer, don’t let anyone even light your cigarette and don’t accept a book of them. I subscribe to this philosophy for myself today although I’m not always book of matchesas strict when observing others’ behavior.

Standing in line at a service station to pay for milk and a lotto ticket last week the cashier waved at a State Trooper, who’d made himself a cup of coffee, and called out, “Go on!” He did, without paying. Didn’t bother me. My husband thought he should have paid.

In “P.R. pros evaluate mayor’s free rides,” on, Andrew J. Hawkins reported that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio doesn’t pay for his subway rides. I don’t think that police staff or MTA workers do either. So that didn’t bother me.

ItalyWhat did was when I read Michael Howard Saul’s article in The Wall Street Journal that taxpayers covered the cost of his white Mercedes and driver during his vacation in Italy, [his spokesperson wouldn't tell Saul what it cost]; his travel expenses to a family funeral in Massachusetts last weekend and to Atlantic City for non-work related reasons in May.

I thought of the matches when I read earlier that his children were given coveted City Hall internships–a leg up on any young person’s resume even if unpaid. The Mayor got the OK from the conflict of interest board. Legality isn’t the issue.

Back to Hawkins who wrote: “Other elected officials said they reimbursed the city for non-official travel, but the mayor’s office pointed to a ruling that allows him to travel on the public’s dime.” I wonder if employers/clients would welcome taxi/car rental charges from employees/consultant’s vacations on expense/out of pocket reports? Sure it happens. But should it? Remember the matches.

Where do you draw the line? Should public officials be models of behavior? Am I too straight-laced on the subject?

draw the line

Service of Call Me Crazy

August 18th, 2014

Categories: Instructions, Signage

pin the tail on donkey

After reading her post on Facebook I asked Jackie Herships if I might use her tale here. Jackie is a writer and marketing guru who co-founded Professionals in Media PIM, a LinkedIn Group, with Michele Hollow, a writer/editor/author. Her story is an example of how a local authority can make a person feel like they’re in a game of pin the tail on the donkey. The mask or scarf is in place, the next player has been spun around and is sent off to hit the target with arms outstretched.

Jackie Herships

Jackie Herships

The authority in Jackie’s instance was sharp and eagle-eyed to begin with and in follow-through became inefficient and unclear, creating a setup-to-fail dynamic.

This is Jackie’s story:

On my way to Healthy Bones, my Senior Exercise Class at the Millburn Library [in New Jersey], I parked in a handicapped spot – had a senior moment – and forgot to put up my handicapped placard. So, of course I got a Ticket! Bummer.

But Millburn, bless its heart, didn’t charge.

However, they did want to get their chance at dressing me down. So I dutifully went to plead guilty of forgetting, which I found, they’re pretty good at, too. That is to say, they put an address on the Ticket which appeared NOWHERE on the building, where there was also no mention of its being a COURTHOUSE.

Handicapped parkingIn addition, there was nowhere to park for more than 15 minutes in front or in the Wells Fargo lot across the street which has multiple signs threatening towing. The sign warned “This lot is for Wells Fargo Customers only.  All others will be towed,”

I lurked inside the entrance to the Wells Fargo lot until I saw another woman drive in, park, and walk across the road to the Courthouse.  I parked in a spot near one of the signs, figuratively crossed my fingers, and walked across to the Courthouse where I was questioned loudly by the metal detector attendant…”why are you here?” “I parked in a handicapped spot but forgot to put up my handicapped placard.” “Oh, what happened…did you drop it?” “No, I had a Senior Moment.  Are you the judge?”  “Nope – and he waved me in.”

When it was my turn, I held up my placard and my handicapped citizens card.  Judge looking at the clerk:  “Are those hers?”  Clerk: “Yes, they’re hers – I checked…They’re good.”  And that was that. 

The ticket itself called for a date and time – as did a computer generated reminder which declared that my court date had been rescheduled for the same date and time, leaving me to conclude that confusion and lack of clarity are not specifically senior conditions, but begin in early adulthood and get embedded into the system where they tend to remain until and only when they are blasted out by someone so frustrated that he/she is willing to storm the barricades. Would it be so difficult to call the Courthouse a Courthouse?

Have you been confounded by poorly written instructions either by the government or other entity adding insult to injury in your attempt to fix things according to Hoyle?

dade county courthouse


Service of Words II

August 14th, 2014

Categories: Education, Interior Design, Words


In an article, “The Friendliest Place in the House,” Amy Gamerman advised Wall Street Journal readers not to call a porch a deck. She wrote: “As porches have grown in popularity, ‘deck’ has become the new four-letter word of high-end home design. ‘We never use the word deck, it’s a pejorative term; we always use the word porch. It could be any covered outdoor space,’ said Stephen Vanze, a partner in Barnes Vanze Architects in Washington, D.C.”

deckArrogance aside, what puzzled me was that to me a porch doesn’t resemble a deck, a covered deck is just that, so why use the wrong word for the sake of fashion or to confuse?

I take words literally. I was studying the online catalog of a prominent NYC continuing education venue to promote appropriate classes to members of New York Women in Communications. I noticed that the prices were listed “From $385” or adult education class“From $485,” or “From $Something” so I called customer service. In that context, “from” meant that the prices started at $385 or $485 and I wanted to learn what might cause them to fluctuate upwards. The customer service person confirmed that these were the prices. I suggested he ask someone to delete the confusing word in every course description and he giggled and asked why—“if they have a question they can call customer service,” he said.

Do you change terminology after reading an article like the one about porches/decks? Have you questioned a word in instructions, regarding prices or a procedure enough to have to call someone about it?


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