Service of Surveillance Galore: Where/How to Remove the Worm from the Fruit

September 16th, 2021

Categories: Phones, Smartphones, Spy, Spyware, Surveillance


Image by Pit Saaler from Pixabay

I wrote two summers ago about people who welcome surveillance devices into their homes and hotel rooms with Alexa and similar gadgets. It’s easy to avoid such intrusion: Don’t buy into the trend.

Sometimes, however, we are dupes.

Early in August we learned about Apple’s “ability to scan iPhone photos and alert the authorities if any of them contain child sexual abuse material (CSAM),” Sara Morrison reported on vox.com. “While fighting against child sexual abuse is objectively a good thing, privacy experts aren’t thrilled about how Apple is choosing to do it,”.

The 20-something who first told me about this development replied “precisely” when I commented that this isn’t good news for couples who don’t want strangers reviewing their photo albums.

Morrison wrote: “Apple’s new ‘expanded protections for children’ might not be as bad as it seems if the company keeps its promises. But it’s also yet another reminder that we don’t own our data or devices, even the ones we physically possess. You can buy an iPhone for a considerable sum, take a photo with it, and put it in your pocket. And then Apple can figuratively reach into that pocket and into that iPhone to make sure your photo is legal.”

But that’s not all.

Nicole Perlroth covered the latest intrusion in her New York Times article “Apple Issues Emergency Security Updates to Close a Spyware Flaw.”

She reported that “Apple issued emergency software updates for a critical vulnerability in its products on Monday after security researchers uncovered a flaw that allows highly invasive spyware from Israel’s NSO Group to infect anyone’s iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch or Mac computer without so much as a click.”

Called Pegasus, nobody knows that a criminal or government is inspecting their devices.

The spyware “can turn on a user’s camera and microphone, record messages, texts, emails, calls — even those sent via encrypted messaging and phone apps like Signal — and send them back to NSO’s clients at governments around the world.”

In her article Perlroth provides the easy step-by-step to protect your devices by security update that you must initiate: It doesn’t happen automatically.

Even if you don’t own an Apple device–oops, I mean use–are you concerned about the potential accessibility to strangers of part if not much of your life? Has it always been like this only before citizens didn’t hand it to others on silver platters?


Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Service of Internet Shopping 2021 Style

September 13th, 2021

Categories: E-Commerce, Mistakes, Questions, Sales, Scams, Theft


Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

Because most of my favorite haunts are out of business or their Manhattan branches don’t measure up to the quality I was used to in their upstate stores, much of my shopping has moved online.

Here are a few things that e-commerce vendors might easily change and should consider doing.

Don’t ask stupid questions

I didn’t want to lug home a large package of paper towels so I bought one online. Next I was asked to review my recent purchase. Paper towels? Really?

Know when to stop knocking on my door

A woman’s clothing store sends daily emails about intros or discounts, sometimes multiple times a day. At end-of-season sales time they up their emails. Eventually, the prices were so favorable and thinking ahead to next summer I bit, ordering a few gifts too. The next day they sent an email saying that one of the items is no longer available as there were too many orders for it. Note: They clearly show you which sizes are in stock when you make your selections.

OK, those are the breaks. However, two weeks later I get one of the remaining three items ordered with an invoice that indicates that two were oversold so you won’t get them. I was irritated as I might have found similar on sale elsewhere and wonder why the inventory department can’t communicate more efficiently with the website but worse, I’m still getting notices about that sale.

Get rid of the crooks

And what did I see again on Facebook? The sponsored rip-off promo that I fell for early in summer and I wrote about in “Service of Always Buy from a Website Not a Social Media Advert Link.” The first comment was written by someone who declared it a scam. I may have gotten off easy from the looks of it. But Facebook should remove creeps like this from its site so as not to entrap other suckers.

When a mistake causes customers too much work

I ordered one item from a topnotch vendor but never got a confirmation email for the online purchase. Thinking I had again ordered from a fake site I called. There was no record of my purchase so I bought one from the customer service rep. Next I checked my credit card and there were two entries for the item so I called again and got the same customer service rep who promised to cancel one order. But I received two of the same item in separate packages. I called and was promised not to be charged for returning the duplicate as it was their mistake. I’m sure I’ll eventually be credited for the full amount but I wasted a lot of time turning things right.

I appreciate the convenience of ordering things at any time of day or night but miss walking into a store, choosing just what I want and walking out with it. I suspect under-staffing is the cause of most of the problems I’ve encountered.

Have your internet purchases been seamless? Are there some irritations that could easily be remedied?



Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Service of Not as Good as It Used to Be or Is it Me?

September 9th, 2021

Categories: Chocolate, Cookies, Farmers Market, Food, Fruit, Sandwich

My taste buds have changed. I’ve noticed that some standbys are not as good as they were.

Take Häagen-Dazs, the example that inspired this post. I buy it from different stores thinking maybe it’s the way it’s stored that renders it bland–melted and re-frozen perhaps? In any case, it isn’t creamy and flavorful anymore and while Talenti is thick and smooth and its gelato has zip it doesn’t come in the flavors I like.

I don’t order hamburgers much these days. Unless I’m in a steakhouse they are bland and disappointing. If I cook one at home it is a combo of short rib and steak and/or a zillion dollars a pound. Otherwise it’s best used in meatloaf with lots of condiment support or as meatballs.

I had a yen for an Oreo cookie but didn’t want a large quantity. When I finally found a boxed single row, I grabbed it. I haven’t had this cookie in years so my memory might be faulty. It was good–I ate it with milk, an essential combination. I loved breaking it apart, as before, and I ate some whole. I’m not sure if the treat had as much chocolate punch as in days of yore.

We’ve had crazy weather and I think it has impacted the fruits and vegetables I’ve bought at the farmer’s market. Corn was good this year but not great. Maybe I got to the market too late so the ears had already cooked in the heat. Too many peaches were mushy. Tomatoes were so-so. Sweeter and toothsome year ’round are the tomatoes in between cherry and standard size [photo right]. If bought at Trader Joe’s, they are startlingly less expensive.

I haven’t bought a corned beef or pastrami sandwich for over two years because I’ve not craved one. Between NYC rents and diet-conscious New Yorkers there are very few iconic delis to tempt as there were once. The last super fat sandwich I bought at one of the oft touted holdouts cost $20 and it was only OK and astonishingly anemic in size.

Have you noticed changes in some of your much-loved foods–or have you changed as have new favorites?



Image by afridayinapril from Pixabay

Service of Ambiance to Enhance a Mood, a Meal–Even Health

September 7th, 2021

Categories: Ambiance, Atmosphere, Museums, Restaurant



Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Two recent articles reminded me how important ambiance is.

Visit a Museum and Call Me in the Morning

Artnet.com‘s Caroline Goldstein wrote “In Brussels, Doctors Are Literally Prescribing People Trips to Museums to Help Them Cope With Pandemic-Related Stress.” She reported “The scheme is part of a three-month trial carried out by doctors at Brugmann hospital, one of the largest hospitals in Brussels, to treat in-patient residents as well as other individuals suffering from stress. Those who are deemed eligible for the program will have the opportunity to visit five public art institutions across the city free of charge. The institutions include some quirkier offerings, like the Sewer Museum and Mennekin-Pis’s Wardrobe—which holds more than 1,000 costumes—as well as the Contemporary Art Center.” Results of the study will be shared next year.

The Brussels program is modeled after one at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts conducted three years ago. Wrote Goldstein: “The Quebec-based program offered patients and caregivers or family members free admission to the MMFA as an extension of the museum’s Art and Health Committee, which it founded in 2017 to study the effects of art on patients suffering from a range of conditions including eating disorders, mental illness, breast cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Homer at the Metropolitan Museum NYC

Anecdotally, a visit to a museum always cheered my husband when he was quite ill.

Ambiance and Food in Equal Parts

Pete Wells in his New York Times review of Vallata, “Searching for Italy at Tom Colicchio’s New Restaurant,” loved the food but he had a lot of trouble with the ambiance and design. He described the restaurant’s decor as “an awkward pastiche of bland, vaguely corporate design and odd decorative hand-me-downs that have served time in other Colicchio restaurants.”

Referring to a cliché I’ve often used, “I thought I was in Italy or France,” after eating in certain restaurants, Wells wrote: “You don’t believe for a second that you’ve left New York, but you do start to think the restaurant itself could use a vacation.”

Colicchio’s heart doesn’t seem to be in it by Wells’ observations. The Vallata sign on the door is hard to find he wrote and the cooks “look like contestants on a game show set in the breakfast-buffet area of an upscale chain hotel” because of where they are stationed in the room in sight of customers. He described the music is “as if Mr. Colicchio had brought in a mix tape he found inside an old Walkman in his basement.” The “playlist,”reported Wells, “shambles from Paul Simon to Billy Joel to Echo and the Bunnymen to David Bowie.”

Back in 2015 I wrote about a restaurant ‘s decor that “sported hints of Asian décor mixed with cheap eclectic and leftover bistro. In short, it had no personality.” There were many other reasons than decor for which we couldn’t wait to leave the place, even though the overpriced food tasted good. The post’s title was “Service of Atmosphere: What Your Instincts Tell You When Entering a Restaurant.”

Do you visit museums or other places because they cheer you when you feel down and/or ill? If the food is good do you care about a restaurant’s ambiance?



Image by Divily from Pixabay

Service of Who Are You Fooling?

September 2nd, 2021

Categories: Fooling, Health, Medical Care, Medical Records, Medicine, Politicians, Scams



Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Astonishing how some are willing to harm themselves, and others in some cases, believing harum-scarum theories over science or thinking they are clever to cut a crucial corner and cheat at their own and others’ peril.

Don’t Horse Around

A Facebook posting this week made me laugh: “Anti-vaxxers who ingest horse dewormer Ivermectin shall hereby be referred to as neighsayers.”

But it’s not funny especially because politicians have given the dewormer credibility as a potential cure for Covid-19 in spite of FDA warnings. According to Dominick Mastrangelo on thehill.com: “Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) suggested researchers are not pursuing ivermectin as a possible COVID-19 treatment because of their disdain for former President Trump.” Reminder: Sen. Paul is a physician who should know that when it is prescribed for humans, it’s often in a head lice lotion.

Steve Benen wrote on msnbc.com: “Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas also pushed ivermectin at an event late last week.” He quoted a CDC health advisory: “Clinical effects of ivermectin overdose include gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Overdoses are associated with hypotension and neurologic effects such as decreased consciousness, confusion, hallucinations, seizures, coma and death.”

Wrote Mastrangelo: “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned Americans last week not to take ivermectin….. “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,’ the FDA said in a widely shared tweet.”

Dangerous Fake ID
What about the essential workers who populate hospitals, nursing homes and schools who endangered those they are entrusted to care for as well as themselves? They–some 250 in all–paid $200 to Jasmine Clifford for fake Covid-19 vaccine documents. Molly Crane-Newman wrote about this bunch in The Daily News in “13 charged with paying ‘AntiVaxMomma’ for fake documents to avoid free vaccine, say Manhattan prosecutors.” The “AntiVaxMomma is Clifford’s Instagram pseudonym.  She promoted her scam on this social media platform.

For $250 more, reported Crane-Newman,  a collaborator who worked at a medical clinic entered false proofs-of-vaccine into New York State’s official Excelsior Pass database system, the smartphone passport to enter New York restaurants, sporting events, gyms and the like. They found 10 of these.  

“The DA charged the 13 essential workers with felony criminal possession of a forged instrument and conspiracy, a misdemeanor,” she wrote. “Prosecutors also accused one of the 13 with offering a false instrument for filing, for paying the extra $250 to be entered in the Excelsior Pass database.”

Manhattan DA Cy Vance, Jr said “We need companies like Facebook to take action to prevent the fraud happening on their platforms. Making, selling and purchasing forged vaccination cards are serious crimes with serious public safety consequences. This investigation is ongoing.”

What makes people believe in untested ivermectin and not the Covid-19 vaccine vetted by scientists and taken safely by millions?

What twisted minds think they are getting away with anything by cheating about having taken a life-saving vaccine? More important, have they harmed their charges?




Image by Katja Fuhlert from Pixabay

Service of Here We Go Again: Phone Snubbing

August 30th, 2021

Categories: Emails, Etiquette, Manners, Mobile Phones, Phones, Restaurant, Texting


Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

At lunch with three friends last week my phone pinged a few times signaling the arrival of a text. One pal repeatedly asked if it was my phone. It was, but I didn’t look. We were eating.

Dan Ariely just covered the subject of “Why We Ignore Friends to Look at Our Phones” in his Wall Street Journal advice column “Ask Ariely.” The subject falls in my “Plus ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose” series. When mobile phones were new, some diners chatted incessantly even when facing a date or friend across a restaurant table, often disturbing neighboring diners while disrespecting their dinner companion.

Ariely responded to reader Alan who asked him why people “engage in such rude behavior,” that the columnist called phone snubbing or “phubbing” which he claimed could impact “the level of satisfaction in a friendship.” He attributed it not to lack of interest in the dialogue as much as to the personality of the phubber.

Ariely reported: “In a 2021 study of young adults, the authors found that depressed and socially anxious people are more likely to phub their friends. This is likely explained by the fact that people with social anxiety find online communication less uncomfortable than in-person conversations.”

He continued, “On the other hand, phubbing is less common among people who score high on ‘agreeableness,’ which psychologists define as striving to avoid conflict. Agreeable people make an effort to be polite and friendly in order to maintain social harmony.”

His suggestions for those who can’t stop looking at their phones is to disengage text and email message notices or to put the phone on airplane mode. That switches off the phone’s connection to Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

There are exceptions when being a phubber is legit but I think you should announce your reason when you sit down. If you’re expecting to hear from a client, customer, sick friend or relative or colleague about a deadline-driven project say so.

Do you care if your dining companion keeps checking his/her phone? Do you apologize if/when you do it?


Image by Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay

Service of the Best Way to Say ……

August 26th, 2021

Categories: Bad News, Firing, Job Hunt, Jobs, Quit, Words

You don’t have good news to share and you want to say something positive but the bottom line is that there’s nothing upbeat or cheerful about the conversation. How do you best construct your words?

For example:

You accept a job with a dream position in the wings that finally comes through after a few weeks. How do you word your exit?

A longtime advisor at a prestigious company moves to a tiny unknown firm and you have solid reasons not to follow. What do you say to her/him?

The chef comes over to your table and asks “how is dinner?” and it’s barely OK. You smile and respond what?

A tech person at a doctor’s office is nice but subpar. How do you tell the doctor so that the person doesn’t retaliate the next time you go?

Can you add other scenarios in which you want to carefully choose you words? How would you address some of the ones in this post?


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Service of a Summer Saturday in New York

August 23rd, 2021

Categories: Chocolate, Church, Construction, Restaurant, Retail

This door was open at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Saturday
Cosmetic Market wasn’t open even though the sign says it should be

On a short walk this Saturday I found one door open–that hasn’t always been lately–and one closed, that shouldn’t have been; an empty space where there had been a building last I looked; a Swiss chocolatier with enormous slabs of candy and an outdoor restaurant that looked like it had been transplanted to Manhattan from Europe decades ago.

I don’t blame Cosmetic Market, [photo top left], for being closed until noon on a summer Saturday. Who is in the city anyway? However it might have noted the revised schedule on the website.

I’ve tried to drop in to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the afternoon during the week and its doors have been locked. As with Cosmetic Market, there is no information on the website or posted outside the cathedral about the hours it is open. However I could enter when I passed by two days ago and a security guard told me it shuts weekdays around 1:40 pm but should increase hours after Labor Day.

Läderach chocolatier

There’s a huge amount of construction going on in the city yet it’s always a surprise to come upon a cavernous hole on a major artery, this time on Fifth Avenue and 46th Street [photo bottom, left].

I’ve passed branches of Läderach chocolatier before. The slabs of sweets always catch my eye. I wonder if anyone buys an entire block, how it would be packaged and if they’d ever finish it.

I love walking past Avra Estiatorio restaurant on East 48th Street. The lush landscaping on both the restaurant and curb sides make it one of the most appealing sidewalk eateries I’ve seen. Management pays equal attention to the trees and flowers next to the street in view of diners as they do to the immediate surround. The sidewalk in between is immaculate.

In August folks expect to see photos of ocean, lake, or mountain views–all wonderful. My city escapades are fun too.

What has caught your eye this summer as you took a stroll or a ride either near home or on vacation?

Avra Estiatorio restaurant
Fifth Avenue and 46th Street where a building used to be

Service of Change

August 19th, 2021

Categories: Change, Doctors, Hair Salon, Lawyers, Pandemic

I passed a deli with signs on the door: “To Dine-in Proof of Covid-19 Vaccination Required.” It surprised me because the place didn’t look like a restaurant but there must be a few tables and chairs inside. This requirement is a change for New Yorkers who won’t fully feel the brunt until the winds of fall make outdoor dining less appealing. I signed up for an Excelsior Pass so that proof of my vaccines are accessible by clicking on an icon, with me when my phone is. In addition to my driver’s license, I’m set to enter any place proof is required.



Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

I get attached to people. A few months ago my hair stylist of years retired. I’m still adjusting though we’re in touch as friends. I envy women who are comfortable going to a range of hair salons. Not me.

My investment advisor also just retired. Wow! Will the roof fall in? No spring chicken, she was entitled years ago. But still: Couldn’t she hang on a little longer for me? A person’s doctor, accountant or lawyer can have the same impact when they leave the scene. Two years ago my eye doctor moved his practice out of NYC. Calamity! I miss him.

A friend suggested that Virgos don’t handle change well which is why, she explained, I find these changes disturbing. I’d be curious to know if others–born under other astrological signs–feel as I do over a change of doctor, hair stylist, stock broker, lawyer, accountant or other key person. Do you?

Service of Channeling Proust: Memories of Mom’s Cooking

August 16th, 2021

Categories: Cooking, Food, Memories, Recipes

Marcel Proust wrote about how eating a madeleine triggered childhood memories in “A la Recherche du Temps Perdu,” (“In Search of Lost Time”). We all have our madeleine equivalents.

HW shared a loving memory of her Mom’s Sunday family chicken dinners. The poultry started in the oven, on the road to developing a characteristic golden hue, but then she’d add water, cover and cook it some more for a very long time. As a result the bird’s complexion turned gray. She did this so as not to poison the family with under-cooked chicken–her concern. Today HW’s cousins reminisce about those renowned dinners and her mom’s legendary gray chicken.

My mom could transform a disappointing, tasteless store-bought pound or other cake into a scrumptious trifle-like concoction or whip up floating island or enliven leftovers so they’d be toothsome. But I always think of her when I see “French toast” on a menu or on the rare occasion I make it for myself.

She would be surprised I chose her French toast for this post as in addition to the above her lamb chops and chocolate brownies and birthday cakes were also to die. I’m sure she thought that by the time I rescued and devoured it the French toast was within an inch of the garbage.

French toast was a Sunday morning staple in our home. Like many a teen, I lingered in bed long after I was asked to wake up and eat breakfast. To keep it warm mom left my portion on an extremely low flame. By the time I’d get to it, the toast was cooked through, not a smidgen of egg taste remained and it was cracker-hard–on the cusp of burnt. As a result, that’s the only way I’ll eat French toast! I cannot order it in a restaurant.

By the way, French toast in France is called le pain du pauvre–bread of the poor–or pain perdu, lost bread. Fresh bread was a crucial element in French homes. A cook gave day old bread another life by dipping it in egg and milk before cooking it.

When I was a kid my dad didn’t cook. Later he made a serious oil and vinegar salad dressing and cucumber salad.

What childhood foods do you remember?



Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
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