Service of the Legacy of Passionate Hobbies

May 23rd, 2019

Categories: Flowers, Games, Gardening, Hobby, Plants

 

Photo: nytimes.com

My family was besotted by The New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle and bridge. I was interested in neither and that’s never changed. I’d cringe when someone would ask: “What’s a five letter word for X?”

However, I have always had plants, like my dad. In fact, I have a third cousin of a dracaena that he nurtured since the 1960s and an asparagus fern that was his. [He died in 1985.] The fern thrived in the country. I had to split it in two for the move and I’m resuscitating it in its new home. I also play a lot of solitaire on my computer either during long conference calls or as a quick break. My dad played with cards almost every night.

When I recently asked a friend, who lives in a house in the suburbs, what flowers she’d planted in her garden this spring she said “none.” Her mother was a zealous gardener. She thought her lack of interest in flowers may have been related. She works on the Times‘ Sunday puzzle, she said, something her father also finished weekly.

I mentioned all this to another friend who shared a different twist. Her mother was an expert knitter who made countless magnificent, complicated Irish knit baby sweaters. After her husband–my friend’s father–died she stopped cold. Eventually my friend asked her why she didn’t knit anymore and her mother replied, “I don’t know how.”

Are hobby choices as much psychological as they are related to a person’s druthers and abilities? Do you share hobbies with a parent? Have you turned away from or added a hobby?

Service of Why Pick on Computer Science Types? Inappropriate Stereotyping

May 20th, 2019

Categories: Communications, Computer Science, Education

Photo: collegeexpress.com

Have you ever met a doctor, executive, middle manager, social worker, nurse, PR or advertising exec, engineer or instructor with poor empathy and/or crummy communications skills? I have.

Photo: bw.edu

This is why I want to know why Northeastern University picks on “Computer science types” in this regard. Sara Castellanos wrote that to graduate, these students have been required to take an “Eloquent Presenter” class. I maintain that any student would benefit from such a requirement and that the university is inappropriately typecasting its computer science students–and people in this line of work.

In her Wall Street Journal article, “A Tech Nerd Walks Into a Bar…” Castellanos wrote: “The class is a way to ‘robot-proof’ computer-science majors, helping them sharpen uniquely human skills, said Joseph E. Aoun, the university president. Empathy, creativity and teamwork help students exercise their competitive advantage over machines in the era of artificial intelligence, according to Mr. Aoun, who wrote a book about it.”

Photo: thebalancecareers.com

How many people do you know who aren’t glued to their devices regardless of their profession or industry? Even the UPS delivery person carries a device. And of these, do all have “human skills?” Some five years ago a friend in the nonprofit world, who worked in a one-room office with the boss and another person, was irritated that this manager insisted she email everything. She was forbidden to cross the room to ask the simplest question.

 

Castellanos reported these reasons to justify the class:

 

  • “Many computer-science types say they would rather work at a screen than chat face to face.” I don’t think that they are alone!
  • “Others hate drawing attention to themselves.” Ditto.
  • “In the improv class….computer-science majors not only cozy up with peers, but work in groups and take turns in the spotlight.” Don’t groups like Toastmasters address this kind of thing? They wouldn’t be so popular if participants didn’t feel the need.

 

The jury’s still out about the success of office concepts adopted by companies like GitLab, a company that “offers tools for software developers.” The startup employs 600 over the world, continued Agam Shah in The Wall Street Journal, and has no headquarters. All employees work remotely which seems to be a trend with some working from home at least a few days a week. I have my opinion about the negative impact on the quality of work with little face-to-face but the point for this post is that if this is the way things are going, why bother with being an “Eloquent Presenter?” Or, is the CEO, Sid Sijbrandij, and his clients the result of people who missed taking such a class and feel no need to converse/empathize?

Speech was a gut course when I went to college. Turns out it would have been helpful in my career and in the professions of most of the people I know. Had computer science been around in the day, I wouldn’t have been able to pass a course. Nevertheless, “Eloquent Presenter” should have been right up my alley as a government/history major—yours too? Your thoughts about Northeastern typecasting computer science majors?

Photo: towson.edu

Service of Fur Clothing and Accessories: To Ban or Not

May 16th, 2019

Categories: Bans, Fashion, Fur

NYC Crest–Note beavers. Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Sales figures don’t lie. Suzanne Kapner reported that compared to the low in 2009 [reflecting recovery from the mini crash of 2008 no doubt?] fur sales more than doubled in 2018, reaching their “highest level in 17 years, according to Euromonitor International.” The all time high was in 1999.

In her Wall Street Journal article, “Bans on Fur threaten a Resurgence,” Kapner wrote that in spite of brands such as Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren and Gucci which no longer use fur and others, such as Coach, that won’t as of fall, others add it everywhere. “Once mainly used in coats, fur is now used to adorn everything from sneakers to pillows to purses. Sales at Canada Goose Holdings Inc., known for its down parkas trimmed in coyote fur, jumped 50% in the most recent quarter from a year ago. Macy’s Inc., which sells a number of fur products including mink coats and rabbit-fur keychains, has said fur sales are ‘fairly strong.’” Kapner noted fur lined gloves and loafers as well and don’t forget hats and scarves.

Photo: friendsoranimals.org

The impact of those who support the fur ban is powerful. The Federal Trade Commission, according to Kapner, “settled charges against Neiman Marcus and several other retailers that were accused of selling real fur labeled as fake.” Imagine that!

LA and San Francisco already have banned sales and New York City, California and New York State are considering doing so.

About New York City, CBS News reported yesterday: “The council’s Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business licensing will consider the fur ban which would prohibit the sale of fur apparel in the city except for fur that is worn for religious reasons.” Fines would range from $500 to as much as $1,500.

WCBS Newsradio 880 morning show’s Wayne Cabot tweeted: “Notice two beavers on the official crest of NYC, which was built on fur and remains the USA’s fur capitol. A city council bill to ban sales has fur flying.” Reporter Alice Stockton-Rossini responded: “Thanks for the Beaver update! Not sure you can ban fur w/o banning leather and eating meat! Can we be humane to animals and still wear and eat them?”

Photo: couponsforbloggers.com

CBS news: “Members of the fur industry say such bans could put 1,100 people out of a job in the city alone. Supporters dismiss that and emphasize that the wearing of fur is barbaric and inhumane.”

Kapner “‘Fake fur is made from petrochemicals and plastic, which is very harmful for the environment,’ said Nancy Daigneault, a vice president at the International Fur Federation, a trade group. ‘It will end up in a landfill and is not biodegradable. Real fur will decompose naturally.’”

Kapner added: “‘Virtually all legislatures that have banned fur—or are considering doing so—have exempted sheepskin,’ said Tom Garcia, the general counsel for Deckers Outdoors Corp., which owns Ugg. ‘They recognize that, unlike luxury furs, sheepskin is a byproduct of food like leather.’”

Back to CBS: “The furriers cast the argument in stark economic terms, pointing out that 98 percent of the industry business owners said they would move out of New York City if the ban were to go into effect…… costing New York City $3.3 billion in revenue in the next decade and leaving lots of empty storefronts.”

Should fur be banned in NYC and everywhere? If you own a fur coat or hat, will you continue to wear it if fur is banned in your city? What will furriers do to make a living? Will the public’s hunger for fur stay steady or be influenced by the bans? How will prices be impacted? If you’ve always wanted a fur coat and couldn’t afford one, will this be your chance to buy one or as contraband will they be even more expensive? Faux fur looks real: Won’t wearers be in danger of protester ire if they wear it?

Faux fur–Photo: dhgate.com

Service of Subscription Services

May 13th, 2019

Categories: Subscriptions

Photo: nytimes.com

Tempted to sign up online for the $2.00/week New York Times digital subscription or The New Yorker Magazine’s 12 issues for $12 but haven’t fallen for either yet because you may end up paying for them for the rest of your life or spend half that time shaking them off? I’m afraid of subscription services because I suspect that they are impossible and/or time-consuming to shed.

When we moved we got a year of Netflix for free with my FIOS bundle–internet, TV, phone. I love it. Goodness knows what the additional charge will be–in February 2020–to my super hefty FIOS bill. I’ve marked my calendar for January to remember to find out what the damage will be and to take appropriate steps.

Joanna Stern reported in The Wall Street Journal‘s Personal Technology column that she’d paid $540—or $15/month for three years—for an electronic fax service she used twice. “The charges regularly hitting our credit cards have expanded far beyond video and music-streaming services and, yes, newspapers. The average American pays $237 a month for subscription services, according to a July 2018 report from West Monroe Partners.”

She added: “The technology industry loves the term SaaS, or Software as a Service. It’s the idea that software isn’t just bought once and installed, but rather is subscribed to and always updating. Microsoft Office 365? SaaS. Google Drive? SaaS. Your kid’s coding app? SaaS again.

“There’s also CaaS, Content as a Service. Netflix ? Hulu? Spotify? Apple News+? All CaaS. And then there’s HaaS, hardware as a service. Your connected door lock, thermostat, security camera, maybe even your car or your toothbrush, now come with subscriptions.” I did NOT sign up for Onstar emergency services that came free for a few months with my GM car. The company never had my credit card number.

Do you have so many subscription services you can’t keep count? How do you keep track of them all? How long does it take you to notify them of your new number if you lose your credit card? Have you had trouble ridding yourself of any?

Photo: creditcards.com

Service of Little Things Mean A Lot

May 9th, 2019

Categories: Lazy, Merchandising, Retail, Simple Things

Like a paper cut the tiniest thing can irritate big time. The fix is often so simple as to be ridiculous. Yet it can take time to face.

The bathtub in my new apartment needs a stopper. When we first moved in I bought the wrong size and for two months I’ve annoyed myself every day by having to adjust the thing several times to fill one tub. The stopper would slip out of place with the force of the water hitting it so the water leaked out.

For $1.49 at a full-price midtown NYC hardware store two blocks from my office and a proper measurement of the bathtub drain I solved the problem in seconds. Such relief! And it took me weeks to attend to this simple chore.

In another instance I was at CVS Drug Store looking for an item. As I scrunched to the ground and up again several times in front of a brand I heard a voice on the loud speaker: “Customer in the makeup department.” I was the only one there! I wondered if I’d touched a button—I hadn’t.

An employee appeared [spooky] and asked if she could help. I told her what I was looking for. They had split the brand so that half of its products were on one side of the aisle and the other across the aisle! I’d never have figured that out. Amazing! She apologized and admitted that the placement could be confusing.

Are there little things that get on your nerves in your home or office that would take little to fix and would make a big difference? Do you attend to them immediately or drag your feet? Has obscure merchandising in a store tripped you up? Do you think CVS has lost sales by splitting a brand’s beauty products across an aisle?

Photo: cvshealth.com

Service of That’s Horse Racing–The 2019 Kentucky Derby Outcome a Metaphor for Life

May 6th, 2019

Categories: Collaboration, Loser, Sports, Winning

Photo: kentuckyderby.com

I always watch the Kentucky Derby though I don’t follow the sport and choose my favorite by name–a sure path to failure. I rooted for Plus Que Parfait this Saturday.

As I watched on Saturday I was reporting developments by text to friends who were in a bus. I couldn’t believe it when Maximum Security, who won by many lengths, faced 20+ minutes of limbo while stewards–horse racing referees–studied the videotapes.

Photo: Kentucky.com

When one of the stewards reported the Commission’s unanimous decision to the press–that Maximum Security was out and Country House was the official winner–she took no questions.

The odds for Country House were 65 to one and the payout $132.40. Imagine the chaos at the betting windows in those edge-of-their-seats 20 minutes.

Photo: footwearnews.com

The metaphor to life of the outcome was gut wrenching, reminding me of the times I was the unlikely winner–my boutique PR agency selected to represent brands at a Fortune 50 company for example or me chosen by awards committees to receive recognition–and the times I could almost taste a positive outcome that didn’t happen and the subsequent sickening sinking feeling of disappointment: All that work and elation leading to failure.

I am on the side of Maximum Security. And you? Do you agree with the Maximum Security team that is appealing the decision to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission?

 

Photo: Kentucky.com

 

Service of Adults Competing in Games That Children Play

May 2nd, 2019

Categories: Competition, Games, Tournament, Toys

Photo: calendarclub.ca

Many sports are played by kids which adults adopt and turn into big stakes competitions–think basketball, soccer, baseball, hockey, football, skiing or skating. We don’t think of table games as making such a transition but Scott Simon on “Weekend Edition Saturday” addressed one. He interviewed two men–Larry Kahn and David Lockwood for the segment “Not Just Child’s Play: World Tiddlywinks Champions Reclaim Their Glory.”

Lockwood told Simon “‘Tiddlywinks is not what you did when you were 5 years old. Tournament tiddlywinks is a fascinating combination of physical skill at a micro level and positional strategy.’

“Probability, physics and dexterity rule the game.”

Photo: raggedclown.com

Simon reported that the 19th century game, launched in England as an adult parlor game, got its own tournament at Cambridge University in 1955. In addition to Cambridge University, the professional tournament players hail mostly from MIT and Oxford. Lockwood and Kahn were at MIT in the 1970s where they joined their college team.

One of the challenges for the players today is that the winks are hard if not impossible to come by. Manufacturers aren’t making them. These players fashion their own by sanding down spice jar lids. They pin their hopes on 3-D printing that, once affordable, they anticipate will streamline the process.

Photo: alum.mit.edu

So what happened: Did the Lockwood-Kahn team win in Cambridge? If you paid attention to the title of the article in the first paragraph you’d know that they are this year’s champions! While the two like to win they claim that the friendships they make at the tournaments are most important to them.

Lockwood said: “If you get a modicum of success, you’re more frequently willing to continue to play, but it’s also a very frustrating game because you miss these things that you’ve made so many times in the past.”

I’ve heard people say the same thing about all sorts of sports from golf to basketball—haven’t you? Aren’t most sports—with exceptions such as golf, which is expensive, and curling, which isn’t readily available–first played by children? Do you play traditional board or table games anymore? Are the friends you’ve made at your sport as important to you as winning? Do you play computer games? Are the benefits the same?

Photo: tiddlywinks.org

Service of Screen Time for Toddlers & Children: None to Little is Best

April 29th, 2019

Categories: Kids, Reading, Technology

Photo: verywellphone.com

I was on a Manhattan bus stuck in traffic last Saturday. Just outside my window was a fascinating feat of construction dexterity. Sitting across from me was a little boy glued to his phone as his parents were to theirs. He missed the giant beams balanced in the teeth of a construction truck inching to their temporary resting place inches away.

Photo: pcworld.com

Countless toddlers similarly stare at phone and tablet screens while the person pushing their strollers chats on the phone. Both miss opportunities to communicate as well as fun things to see from dogs and store windows to characters on the city streets they pass in a place like Manhattan.

Photo: psychologytoday.com

Turns out the children are doing more harm to themselves than substituting one dimensional scenes for the world around them. According to mayoclinic.org, “The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use, except for video-chatting, by children younger than 18 to 24 months. If you want to introduce digital media to children ages 18 to 24 months, make sure it’s high quality and avoid solo media use. For children ages 2 to 5, limit screen time to one hour a day of high-quality programming.”

The Mayo reported that “too much poor quality screen time has been linked to: obesity, violence, loss of social skills, irregular sleep schedules and shorter duration of sleep and behavioral problems.”

Photo: livescience.com

New World Health Organization guidelines used even stronger language. The title of Jen Juneau’s article in People is “World Health Organization Now Recommends No Screen Time for Children Age 1 and Younger.” Instead, parents and caregivers should do what many have done for decades: read and tell stories to their children. For children up to two, WHO doesn’t recommend they watch TV or videos or play computer games either.

Juneau wrote: “With children aged 2 to 4, ‘sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better.’” She added that some experts disagree. “The WHO’s advice ‘focuses on quantity of screen time and fails to consider the content and context of use.’” said the director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford.

“The new WHO guidelines come almost three months after a study published in JAMA Pediatrics that found that ‘Excessive screen time has been associated with various negative outcomes, including cognitive delays and poorer academic performance’ in children,” Juneau reported.

According to the study on Mayo.com, “children younger than age 2 are more likely to learn and remember information from a live presentation than they are from a video.”

I conjecture that plenty of parents think they are giving their children a leg up by starting them on computers as young as possible. Others may appreciate quiet time when a little one is absorbed by colors and movements on a screen. Publicity about the WHO’s recommendations came out last week and yet I still see countless toddlers in strollers staring at phone screens. Goodness knows what’s happening at home. What will it take for caregivers to get the message about the dangers of screen time for young children? Do you see benefits for little ones to be conversant with the latest gadgets since babyhood? Is reading and telling stories to little ones out of style?

Photo: parents.com

 

Service of Tricked Out Chocolate: Strange Concoctions for an Old Favorite

April 25th, 2019

Categories: Chocolate, Retail

The real thing: Some Easter treats I received as gifts.

New things in fashion or interior design have always intrigued me but not tricked out food favorites. I am not a fussy eater but I don’t care for anything I eat or drink that has been fiddled with such as flavored. Take seltzer. If I want a taste of lime I’ll squeeze in juice from fresh citrus. So the likelihood is slim to none that I will want a favorite cookie—Oreos—in any but the time-honored version: two chocolate wafers with a plain cream concoction inside. Add a glass of milk and I’m in heaven.

Photo: pinterest.com

Carol Ryan wrote about the popularity of hot-chicken-wing and wasabi-flavored Oreos in a recent Wall Street Journal article. China and the U.S. are the two biggest markets for this twist.

I also learned in this article, “Chocolate Has a Sweet and Spicy Growth Mix,” that if the FDA approves it, there will be a ruby-pink chocolate in our futures to add to white, milk and dark. Ryan reported that it would be the first new chocolate in eight decades. I’ll give pink a try as long as some poisonous coloring isn’t in the recipe. I remember how Red Dye No. 2 was banned because of a plausible link to cancer.

Hot-chicken-wing and wasabi-flavored Oreos Photo: delish.com

According to Ryan the chocolate industry is bracing for trouble here because impulse purchases at endangered cash registers impact sales. Should “New retail formats like Amazon Go’s cashierless shops” take off, she predicted that a cash cow for chocolate will run dry. In cashierless shops customers walk in and out passing neither registers nor checkout counters, hence no waiting in line by merchandisers filled with tempting treats. [I wrote previously about cashless retail in Service of the Honor System.]

I understand the need for an industry to innovate to keep dollars flowing as traditional shopping patterns change. And clearly there’s a hearty market for unusual versions of old favorites. But I’m not tempted by most, especially where chocolate is concerned. Are you? Are there unusual taste sensations that appeal to you?

Ruby chocolate Photo: craftsense.co

Service of Death by Selfie: Another Call for Moderation

April 22nd, 2019

Categories: Danger, Daredevil, Selfies

Photo: bgr.in

I was always reluctant to ask strangers to take our photo when traveling and most of the photos my husband and I took on our trips here and abroad featured one or the other of us. I loved the few shots of us together and understand the benefits of selfies. They are also ideal for those who travel alone and want to capture a memory of visits to landmarks.

But as with so many things, some take the concept too far leading to death. It’s nothing new. You may remember that Auntie Mame’s husband died in the Alps trying to get a fantastic picture of her from above. The temptation seems to be more compelling these days with the draw of social media.

Recently two tourists died after falling at Yosemite trying to get the most outrageous shot. Selfie photographers compete by posting the most awe-inspiring images hoping to get the most viewers, likes or shares.

Photo: selfieliciousphotos.com

Google “selfie deaths” and read: “A 2018 study of news reports showed that between October 2011 to November 2017, there were 259 selfie deaths in 137 incidents reported globally, with the highest occurrences in India followed by Russia, United States, and Pakistan.” Men die in these accidents 72 percent of the time

A bbc.com Newsbeat article, “Selfie deaths: 259 people reported dead seeking the perfect picture,” noted “Researchers at the US National Library of Medicine recommend that ‘no selfie zones’ should be introduced at dangerous spots to reduce deaths.

“These would include the tops of mountains, tall buildings and lakes, where many of the deaths occurred.

Photo: kiwireport.com

“Drowning, transport accidents and falling were found to be the most common cause of death.

“But death by animals, electrocution, fire and firearms also appeared frequently in reports from around the world.”

And, adds the article, the number may be much larger as selfies are not reported as causes of death.

Do you take selfies? Do you think warning signs in temptingly dangerous places would discourage daredevil photo-seekers?  The first amendment probably wouldn’t allow social media venues to refuse to post such photos but doing so would put an end to many adventure seeking photographers, don’t you think?

Photo: news.com.au

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