Service of a Mistake You Wish Hadn’t Happened

December 18th, 2014

Categories: Education, Mistakes, School

oops 2

My senior year in high school was one of the most stressful of my life. That’s why this mistake caught my attention. Someone in the admissions department of Johns Hopkins sent an email with the subject line, “Embrace the Yes,” to 294 students telling them that they had been accepted when, in fact, they had been rejected.

EraseAccording to coverage in, in an article by Jonathan Ernst for Reuters, the college immediately admitted its mistake and apologized. “Admissions decisions days are stressful enough. We very much regret having added to the disappointment felt by a group of very capable and hardworking students, especially ones who were so committed to the idea of attending Johns Hopkins that they applied early decision,” Ernst quoted David Phillips, vice provost for admissions and financial aid at the University.

Mistakes happen. The university did what it could to address the matter and with speed. But oh, gosh! In this discussion I’m not including fatal mistakes by physicians, surgeons or parachute folders. Have you made such an error, been the recipient of one or heard of slip-ups with no happy ending that make you slap your head and exclaim, “Oh no!”

slap head

Service of Being Out of It: Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year

December 15th, 2014

Categories: English, Slang, Uncategorized, Words

words 4

Nobody ever called me hip but I try to keep up to date on words. I must have been wearing earplugs this year.

I became aware of how out of it I am when I heard on NPR that “Vape” is the word of the year according to The Oxford Dictionaries. According to NPR, “In case you’ve never frequented a vape shop, the word can apply both to breathing an e-cigarette’s vapor and to an e-cigarette device.”

I could have guessed what vape means but not the contenders: “bae” and “normcore.” NPR defined the noun “bae,” as a term of endearment for one’s romantic partner and “normcore,” as “a trend in which ordinary, unfashionable clothing is worn as a deliberate fashion statement.”

Some other words you may not know as defined by NPR: words 1

budtender, noun:
A person whose job is to serve customers in a cannabis dispensary or shop.

contactless, adjective:
Relating to or involving technologies that allow a smart card, mobile phone, etc. to contact wirelessly to an electronic reader, typically in order to make a payment.

indyref, noun:
The referendum on Scottish independence, held in Scotland on 18 September 2014, in which voters were asked to answer yes or no to the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

slacktivism, noun, informal:
Actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, e.g. signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on a social media website.

Are you familiar with these words? Do you plan to add them to your vocabulary? Can you list other English words that I or others may not know?

words 3



Service of Mix and Match–or Not

December 11th, 2014

Categories: Uncategorized


"The Reader," 1896, by Jean-Edouard Vuillard

“The Reader,” 1896, by Jean-Edouard Vuillard

For years I wrote about pattern mixing in home décor and I have always admired how Jean-Édouard Vuillard mastered the technique in his pictures of interiors. The rules are the same for fashion: A foolproof way to successfully mix patterns is for colors to match and pattern scales not to.

Sophisticated interior designers and fashion stylists can break the rules and the effect can be great–but not always. I noticed one jarring example in last month’s issue of WSJ Magazine. Most people don’t look like the model Ben Weller photographed in “Street Style,” [photo below, right]  for a Market Report. She could wear anything and look OK but most of us wouldn’t.

Ben Weller photo for The Wall Street Journal

Ben Weller photo for The Wall Street Journal

I wonder why the stylist put together the blue and white polka dot dress with natural colored animal print boots. The photo caption refers to the punch achieved by the “unexpected pairing.” I got the feeling that somebody didn’t acquire everything needed for the photo shoot and someone else said, “Make it work.”

And while I’m picking apart the photo, I’m not sure why you’d want to wear boots up to your kneecaps on a day warm enough to warrant a sleeveless crepe de chine dress. Maybe that’s why the model looks so sad. [I've seen women wear boots in summer and I think they must be nuts.]

Along with Vuillard, some people know how to do it right. Marlene Housner, CUT and PASTE ARTwear, Foxboro, Mass., one of the exhibitors at the American Fine Craft Show at Brooklyn Museum last month, is comfortable mixing patterns and does so with ease and flair in the jackets, vests, tunics, satchels and pouches she makes and in the clothes she combines. For the first day of the show she chose a vintage patterned dress to enhance the vest she designed and made—that sold immediately [photo below]. No surprise at her success at pattern mixing: Housner is also an artist.

Do you like mixing patterns in decorating or dressing? Do you notice when something doesn’t coordinate in the slightest? When that happens do you consider a mismatch gives “punch” in a positive sense to each piece as the caption writer put it?

Marlene Housner for blog

Service of Cash or Credit

December 8th, 2014

Categories: Cash, Credit Card, Money

Credit cards

I used to pay cash for most things when someone pointed out that the most accurate way to track monthly expenses is to pay with credit cards. It’s all on the bill: Food, gas, clothing or gifts. Spend cash and it’s too easy to forget small and scattered purchases.

I’ve only been sorry when a retail operation I frequented was hacked.

I never thought of cash vs. credit/debit cards from a businesses’ point of view and was fascinated to read **Vipal Monga’s story, “Reports of Cash’s Death Are Premature,” in The Wall Street Journal. **The online version of this story is credited to Bruno Mallart, but for the purposes of this article I will quote Monga as I read the newspaper version first.

What was amazing to me was how much it costs a business that deals with the public to get their money no matter how customers choose to pay.

control spendingMonga wrote that customers who prefer cash do so because of convenience, avoidance of cyber hackers and to control spending. I would add that some are paid under the table and would rather not alert the IRS by depositing cash in a bank.

Monga continued: “Paper bills and coins remain the No.1 choice for payments, used in 40% of all transactions in October 2012, according to the most recent study by Federal Reserve banks in Boston, Richmond and San Francisco. Debit cards were used in a quarter of all transactions and credit cards in 17%. Checks and all other electronic-payment techniques made up the rest.” If they spend more than $21–the average cash transaction–most opt to use checks or electronic payments.

CashIt costs $millions for a company to handle cash or credit. Where cash is concerned, costly challenges range “from transportation and storage to theft and loss.” According to a Tufts University 2013 study about companies, they “pay about $55 billion a year to manage currency….Most of it–$40 billion—was due to theft and loss.”

Some banks no longer maintain vaults for cash, wrote Monga, and they “outsource cash storage and use technology to count cash and credit their accounts.”

Pilot Flying JMore than half of the $2.5 billion the 500 Pilot Flying J truck stops pull in is in cash. It costs the company $20 million to manage the cash vs. $100 million for credit card fees that average 2 percent of each transaction. Costs to handle cash includes “the time employees spend reconciling accounts, depositing the money, and performing tasks such as getting change from the in-store safe. The company also pays fees to banks and armored-car companies,” wrote Monga.

Do you prefer to pay by credit or debit card, check or cash? Did you realize how expensive it is for a business to be paid for goods and services?

Pay cash

Service of Challenging Jobs

December 4th, 2014

Categories: Jobs, Work

Photo: Yahoo

Photo: Yahoo


The story of the window washers dangling from a collapsed scaffolding on the 69th floor of the World Trade Center recently reinforced my admiration for those who do these jobs. Too bad there are no self-wash windows or windows that you could swing inside safely in skyscrapers and not be sucked out by the draft.

I couldn’t do this job nor would I want to learn how. Heights are scary.

Next my thoughts jumped to a list of so many other essential jobs that I’d not do well but wish I could such as statistician; hospice care staffer; electrician; plumber; surgeon; clinician; artist; computer/tech guru; carpenter; furniture maker; handyman; dentist and pharmacist–for starters. I can’t look when I get a shot and if I had to give one as pharmacists do these days, my eyes would have to be open.

Are there jobs you admire, could never do but wish you could and others you wouldn’t want to try?



Service of Secure Shoppers

December 1st, 2014

Categories: Art, Arts & Crafts, Craft Show, Uncategorized

NYCreates Post Card 2MB

A Michigan State University marketing study published by Psychology & Marketing reported by Henri Neuendorf in artnet showed that “men are more likely to positively evaluate an artwork based on the artist’s brand. On the other hand, whilst women also took the artists’ brand into account, they based their evaluation more heavily on the artwork itself.”

While fashion isn’t usually considered art–unless at couture level or made by hand–I know plenty of women who come off more like the men in the study. They will only buy name brands favoring easily identifiable textiles that may even feature recognizable logos. If not, and you admire what they have on, they rarely say, “Thanks,” as they are bursting to share who designed what they’re wearing. They want you to know they’ve spent plenty.

One of the ornaments in the Bird series by Jacobson & Doniger, a collaboration between husband and wife artist/illustrator Nancy Doniger and sculptor Eric Jacobson

One of the ornaments in the Bird series by Jacobson & Doniger, a collaboration between husband and wife artist/illustrator Nancy Doniger and sculptor Eric Jacobson

However if you know where to go, you can come upon treasures painted by unknown artists and remarkable crafts designed and executed by creative, talented artisans. The work you buy can achieve an electrifying impact on your interior design or wardrobe.

Here’s an example:

This weekend–December 6-7–at the Brooklyn Historical Society, NYCreates is producing its 11th annual Holiday Craft Fair. A hop and a skip from Manhattan, in Brooklyn Heights at the Brooklyn Historical Society, some 40 artisans, a photographer and artists will sell their best. NYCreates is a non-profit organization [501c3] founded in 2003 and committed to expand opportunities, visibility and marketability of NYC’s crafts artists and artisans. I’m helping to promote the fair.

Ceramist Alyssa Ettinger’s sweater-patterned porcelain salt cellar is rimmed in 24 carat gold lustre.

Ceramist Alyssa Ettinger’s sweater-patterned porcelain salt cellar is rimmed in 24 carat gold lustre.

You’ll meet ceramist Alyssa Ettinger who knows her way around interior design having pursued a career in magazine publishing for 20 years writing, editing and styling photo shoots covering home design, new products, decor and lifestyle. She threw her first pot at summer camp when she was 14 and today works exclusively in porcelain, a medium she says is “difficult and unforgiving” yet clearly worth the challenge. She describes the material as “translucent when it’s thin enough, letting light shine through.”

You might recognize the work of illustrator Nancy Doniger as it has been published in the New York Times as well as to enhance books both for children and adults. At the craft fair she is collaborating with her husband Eric Jacobsen, a sculptor, selling ornaments from their Bird collection [see photo above right]. Jacobsen creates the birds from metal and Doniger paints them. On her website she writes that her style is “bold with a quirky edge.” Doniger also draws, paints and is a printmaker.

Ceramic Egyptian figure napkin rings by Judith Eloise Hooper.

Ceramic Egyptian figure napkin rings by Judith Eloise Hooper.

NYCreates executive director Judith Eloise Hooper is also a ceramist. She describes herself as “an artist who just likes making things.” She’s been a successful fashion and children’s book illustrator and most recently has designed tabletop collections and ceramic landscapes in her Brooklyn studio. She also manages the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition gallery.

“View from Brooklyn Bridge Park,” watercolor on paper, 12” x 18,” by Alicia Degener

“View from Brooklyn Bridge Park,” watercolor on paper, 12” x 18,” by Alicia Degener

Another artist with a business brain is Brooklyn-based urban landscape artist Alicia Degener who finds the borough is a visual feast and the subject of most of her watercolors, pastels, acrylics and drawings. She co-manages this fair with Hooper. On her website, she writes that “Color and pattern work together combined with odd angles to create landscapes that juxtapose realistic and abstract elements. Strong linear elements and patterns creating movement give the landscapes a rich visual workout.”

Earrings by Bilyana Tosic Petino for Falcon Feather Jewelry.

Earrings by Bilyana Tosic Petino for Falcon Feather Jewelry.

Bilyana Tosic Petino of Falcon Feather Jewelry, attributes the style of her work to her Mediterranean upbringing. She says that her simple organic jewelry is made with a few basic materials, primarily sterling silver, soft leather cords, and semiprecious stones and makes pieces that adapt to the natural contours of a woman’s body. Her philosophy: “Jewelry should not call attention to itself or overshadow the wearer.”  

"Bird Abstractions," a photograph by Peter Houts, taken of gulls flying over The Pond in Central Park.

“Bird Abstractions,” a photograph by Peter Houts, taken of gulls flying over The Pond in Central Park.

Photographer Peter Houts chose the subject of his work because of what he said is “My love of birds which came from living on a farm in Pennsylvania for 40 years.” He continued: “Photographing these beautiful creatures became an absorbing, challenging, and rewarding hobby.” He moved to Brooklyn four years ago and joined the New York City Audubon Photography Club, meeting Johann Schumacher, an accomplished bird photographer, who used slow shutter speeds to create beautiful abstract patterns of flying birds. This is a technque Houts has perfected.

Do you care if the artisan or artist from whom you buy a gift or something for yourself represents a well known brand? Do brands matter for more than prestige? Is their value everlasting?


“A Painter in Their Mist,” by Janie Samuels, colored pencil, digital drawing on paper, 4 x 6 inches--11 x 14 inches, framed. The image’s line and color work both as a narrative and abstractly, giving the canvas intrinsic balance.

“A Painter in Their Mist,” by Janie Samuels, colored pencil, digital drawing on paper, 4 x 6 inches–11 x 14 inches, framed. The image’s line and color work both as a narrative and abstractly, giving the canvas intrinsic balance.


Service of Coming Clean: Verizon and Laundry Card Supplier Make it Impossible

November 24th, 2014

Categories: Phones, Service, Smartcards, Training

 smart card in machine

Lots of apartment houses have laundry rooms and before the washing machines were retrofit to accept cards–a blessing–we had to collect countless quarters to wash and dry. It was nerve-racking.

It’s easy to fill the cards. You slip a credit card in a terminal on the laundry room wall, type in the amount of money you want to add to the laundry card and you’ve fed it.

This works if there’s telephone service.

Verizon has been unable to fix the building’s telephone since October 17. On that date building management was told it would be up and running by November 8. Now the fix date is November 20-something. Today is November 24–the building still has no phone service.

laundry smartcardAs my laundry card had run out of funds I explained this no-phone situation to someone at the laundry card company and asked them to take my credit card number and whisk me another card with $25 on it. A very polite person told me she couldn’t take this info over the phone. She said to mail my card to them with a check for the amount of money I wanted on the card, with a letter telling them what to do. Tick, tick, tick [will they wait for the check to clear or until they have 20 cards to make before cutting mine?] and the pile of laundry is mounting.

I know what you’re thinking: “So go to a Laundromat!” There isn’t one in our neighborhood anymore. There’s a restaurant where one used to be.

laundry smartcard 2You might wonder what happened: Did we get back the card? Yes.

Does it work? No. Calling it a smartcard is a misnomer.

We discovered this with three week’s laundry distributed in three washing machines. More phone calls. More time wasted. When I called for the second time on Friday, the voice on the phone told me that they don’t take checks and asked why I didn’t give my credit card.

And now we’re out the money that was left on the card that we sent for refill plus the $25 on the check.

In this day of high speed everything, I find this snail’s pace Verizon performance to repair a commercial line and the confusion, lack of training and inefficiency of the laundry card company incredible. [Do they realize that they are losing money if people can't store money on their cards and use their washing machines?]

Have you been inconvenienced or flummoxed lately by technology you can’t access?

 piles of laundry




Service of Good Sportsmanship vs. Winning School Sports

November 20th, 2014

Categories: Good Samaritan, Good Sportsmanship, Sports, Winning

cross country fallen 2

The intransigence of Minnesota state officials about an incident involving the “no help” rule in a recent cross country race inspired the conversation on Rick Wolff’s “Sports Edge,” his sports parenting program on WFAN radio one recent Sunday morning. Two girls who stopped to assist another runner were disqualified and were not credited with finishing the race.

Wolff explained the reason behind the rule: Should a Good Samaritan move an injured cross country fallenrunner, more damage than good might result. At the same time he thought that being disqualified is a big price to pay for doing the right thing. In a typical cross country course there are plenty of tripping hazards–tree roots and such. Each case should be taken up on an ad hoc basis.

Before Wolff asked his audience what they thought he shared a few other examples in which, unlike in Minnesota, the officials bent the rule.

  • In Memphis, runner Seth Goldstein noticed that a fallen competitor’s lips were turning blue and his eyes were slipping up into his head. Though runners ahead of him kept going, Goldstein stopped. Goldstein knew CPR from his lifeguard job and saved the other man’s life. He was pronounced a hero. Tennessee officials recognized the run.
  • In Ohio crowds encouraged officials to change their decision to disqualify after cheering two girls who had stopped to help a competitor. 

cross country 2And Wolff’s callers?

  • Some felt that the difference between the Tennessee, Ohio and Minnesota incidents was crucial: There was an adult by the side of the runner in Minnesota who told the girls to keep going and they chose not to. The callers felt that because an adult was alerted and on top of the accident, there was no need for the girls to stop.
  • Others said that our litigious society was at the bottom of the rule in the first place. If a do-gooder caused a fellow runner to require knee replacement surgery, for example, because he/she helped up the competitor prematurely, lawsuits might ensue.
  • Another said that he didn’t consider helping a fallen fellow competitor was good sportsmanship but rather, good “humanship,” and should be encouraged. Yet another said he would hire the Minnesota girls who helped over the winner of a race any time as he appreciated their attitude.

Should student athletes be encouraged to consider the greater good over winning? Would that make them misfits in today’s society? Should sports officials stick by the rules no matter what as the Minnesota officials did?  

cross country 4

Service of a Famous Name: 21st Century Fundraising & Avery Fisher

November 17th, 2014

Categories: Fundraising, Lawyers, Music, Uncategorized

Avery Fisher

Avery Fisher

I’m terrible at remembering names of people and places although those I’ve heard for eons–like Avery Fisher Hall [photo right, below]–fall off my tongue. When I read about how Lincoln Center was planning to attract the mega funds it feels it needs to update the hall my keyboard beckoned.

avery fisher hallThe Broadway World news desk wrote: “In a milestone philanthropic agreement that will help ensure the future of one of the world’s iconic performing arts spaces, the children of the late Avery Fisher – Nancy Fisher, Charles Avery Fisher and Barbara Fisher Snow – today joined with the leadership of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts to announce that they have entered into an agreement to enable the renaming of Avery Fisher Hall.”

Danika Fears wrote in the New York Post: “After threatening to sue, Avery Fisher’s heirs agreed to let the performing-arts organization drop his name in exchange for $4.5 million more than the original $10.5 million the Fisher Electronics founder donated back in 1973.”

Some colorful example of inflation, no?

fundraise 2Fears continued: “Now Lincoln Center can tempt another well-to-do donor willing to sink serious money into a planned $500 million overhaul in exchange for their name being emblazoned on the building.”

I wish someone with that kind of money would give it, ask the Fisher children to return the $15 million to Lincoln Center and leave the name as-is.

I have issues with the concept that to attract big bucks an institution must offer the naming option, though this is beside the point and a distraction to the current situation.

I wasn’t tickled with Avery’s children for accepting money in this regard. Plus I’m surprised that the Fisher lawyers didn’t make it clear, when the original donation was made, how long the hall would sport Avery’s name and/or under what circumstances it could be erased. This move doesn’t seem like such a great precedent for attracting the next big donor: “Give us multi-millions and we’ll chip off your name when we need another injection of cash.” And what about the loss of branding and cost of new stationery, new domain name and so on?

I like the idea of donating money in the name of someone else–a deceased relative, a good friend. I’ve done this myself.

How do you feel about Lincoln Center’s fundraising techniques? If you had the money, would you name an institution after yourself or, in the example of a performance space, the name of a worthy industry celebrity or maybe someone who isn’t famous like your wonderful Uncle Joe?

fundraise 1

Service of Crafts Worthy of the Name

November 13th, 2014

Categories: Arts & Crafts, Color, Creativity, Simplicity, Uncategorized

Modern American Table by William Robbins,

Modern American Table by William Robbins,

Craft show aficionados know what to expect when they visit a great one—fashion, jewelry, textiles, woodcraft, glass and ceramics for starters. What they don’t know is how the artisans and artists they meet will translate their visions, skill and creativity into their specialties. These surprises make a visit—and purchases–worthwhile.

“Woman, Head on Knee,” by Bob Clyatt, Raku-fired stoneware.

“Woman, Head on Knee,” by Bob Clyatt, Raku-fired stoneware.

It’s time for my client’s American Fine Craft Show Brooklyn, November 22-23, the weekend before Thanksgiving. For the second year the show, in a borough increasingly recognized for its artistic talent, is at Brooklyn Museum.

Spoiler alert: I have illustrated this post with some of those surprises.

The Brooklyn Museum show inspired a museum series—the Art of American Craft–that provides the appropriate showcase for the master crafts my clients, Joanna and Richard Rothbard, select for their shows. Next year they’re adding two additional events, one with the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford Conn. in April and the other at the Monmouth Museum, Lincroft, NJ, in October.

Beth Farber, Elizabeth Farber Designs,

Beth Farber, Elizabeth Farber Designs,

Museum series and craft show co-founder/director Richard Rothbard asks: “How many museum visitors make the connection that what they see in exhibitions found its origins in the work of artisanal craftsmen like the ones in our shows–designers of ceramics, jewelry, furniture, glass and fashion?” Coincidentally, concurrent with the craft show, Brooklyn Museum is running an exhibition “Crossing Brooklyn: Art from Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, and Beyond,” featuring 35 artists who live or work in the borough, on view through January 4, 2015.

If you visit the craft show, your fee will cover general admission to the museum and its exhibitions which is a lovely gift. 

Do you own/hold precious a handmade fashion, table accessory, cabinet, table, sculpture or handmade decorative object that you’ve bought or that someone’s given you? To what museum exhibitions do you gravitate: Fine art, posters, drawings, fashion, decorative arts, jewelry, sculpture or what?


Andrea Geer, Andrea Geer designs,

Andrea Geer, Andrea Geer designs,

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