Archive for the ‘Tradition’ Category

Service of Celebrating the Worst of the Past: What’s with Lloyd’s of London?

Monday, March 25th, 2019


Lloyd’s of London Photo:

I was surprised that this behavior survives in a civilized country.

I first heard this story on Bloomberg Radio over the weekend during a review of Bloomberg Businessweek stories. For more I linked to Gavin Finch’s story, “The Old Daytime-Drinking, Sexual-Harassing Ways Are Thriving at Lloyd’s.”

During the radio interview he emphasized the rampant drinking during business hours even more than in the article. It seems that after each insurance deal those involved retire to the local pub to celebrate, often many times a day. Sounded like “Mad Men” and the advertising industry in the 1960s though drinking in the latter took place at lunch while in London the practice seems to happen 9 to 5.

Appalling behavior outweighs the old world traditions that Finch described. He covered the unchecked “deep-seated culture of sexual harassment” for the majority of the article. The drinking makes it a dangerous place for women to work, he wrote.

For almost five years Inga Beale, as CEO, did her best to address “modernization of technology, attitudes, and behaviors—and met resistance at every step.” Currently, women in the industry “fear that Lloyd’s, already a deeply backward-looking institution, might actually be on the verge of regressing.” Finch added: “When she took over, everything was being done on paper, much as it had been for the past three centuries. By the time she stepped down, about 16.5 percent of the market’s business was being placed online.”

Lloyd’s coffee house Photo:

The drinking isn’t the only thing that harkens to the past and some is charming if anachronistic. Finch wrote: “Beyond the quaint nature of the trading, other rites date to the first exchange Edward Lloyd opened in a 1680s London coffee shop. When a ship is lost at sea, the event is recorded with a quill pen in a leather-bound ledger kept near the center of the main trading floor, which Lloyd’s calls the underwriting room. To mark major disasters that yield billions of dollars in claims, such as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, a man in a red tunic and white gloves rings a golden bell.”

And According to Finch “the underwriters and brokers of Lloyd’s mostly do business the old-fashioned way: face-to-face, using rubber stamps, pens, and sheaves of paper. Well-tailored dark blue and gray suits are the norm, often with bold chalk stripes. One does not wear brown shoes. A code mandating suits was lifted last year, but it was clear on several recent tours of the trading floors that almost everyone still adheres to it. Some of the older underwriters wear brightly colored suspenders, or braces. Even by the standards of London’s financial district, the vibe is sartorially conservative.”

Was this news to you as it was for me? How come such behavior is accepted in the global marketplace? Isn’t the contemporary look of the Lloyd’s building in striking contrast to the culture of this company and what goes on inside? Do you think working under the influence impacts the insurance industry?

Lloyd’s lost ship ledger. Photo:

Service of Removing Shoes Indoors for Cleanliness or Health

Thursday, April 20th, 2017




I have always removed my shoes when entering my or anyone else’s home or apartment if I’ve just walked in mud, snow, or if my shoes are rain-soaked. Water and muck don’t mix well with wood floors, clean carpets or fine rugs. If I don’t have a pair of dry shoes with me I’ll walk around in socks or tights.

This practice almost broke the back of an otherwise blossoming relationship. It angered my boyfriend and his visiting family members who thought my request that they do the same when they visited me in inclement weather was irritating, irrational and absurd. I’d been told I couldn’t refinish the floors anymore and was therefore facing an exorbitant cost to replace potentially ruined wood and I didn’t want to accelerate the carpet cleaning schedule. So I put my foot down.

It’s far too late to say “aha!” but it turns out that while my reasons were related only to the health of my apartment and its fine rugs—and not to my wellbeing or that of my family—taking off your shoes when indoors is “good hygiene,” according to Ezequiel Minaya. In his Wall Street Journal article, “Is it Healthier to Remove Your Shoes at Home? It’s considered polite in some households, but are there more practical reasons for going shoeless inside?” turns out the answer is YES.



He wrote: “Shoes are a menagerie of microorganisms, sometimes carrying dangerous bacteria, says Kevin W. Garey, chairman of the department of pharmacy practice and translational research at the University of Houston. Bacteria can be very hardy.”

Unless you’re vulnerable—already ill, very old or young–you probably won’t get sick from the bugs that walk into your home. “But avoiding pathogenic bacteria that can cause illnesses from diarrhea to meningitis is easy, Dr. Garey says. Just take your shoes off. ‘It’s amazing how far humans travel during the day, and all that walking drags in germs and bugs,’ he says.”



Dr. Garey has recently published a study on Clostridium difficile—known as C.diff—that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported caused 29,000 deaths in the US six years ago from almost half a million infections. He found 2,500+ samples in the Houston area alone of which more than 25 percent collected in homes was on the soles of shoes. “And that’s just one bacterium. In an earlier investigation, Dr. Garey examined past studies to learn if ‘shoe soles are a vector for infectious pathogens.’ The answer was a resounding yes,” wrote Minaya.

The reporter added that researchers in other countries found a significant amount of Listeria and E.coli on shoes.

Do you ever take off your shoes when you visit others or when you walk in the door at home? If yes, is it out of tradition—as in Japan or Turkey—or for comfort, cleanliness or health reasons?



Service of Nostalgia II

Monday, July 30th, 2012


Christopher Bonanos wrote in New York Magazine, “When it was removed in 1990, few tears were shed, except maybe at Kodak.” He may have been right. I was the exception to prove the rule.

He referred to the 18 x 60 foot Kodak Coloramas in Grand Central Station. He noted: “…the big glowing billboard came to be seen not as a great piece of Americana but as kitsch unworthy of the terminal’s Beaux-Arts architecture.”

kodaksurfersIn the day, you couldn’t miss the Colorama if you entered the station’s central hall. My dad would let me know when there was a particularly spectacular image I shouldn’t miss, which may be one of the reasons I was particularly fond of the display. A loyal subscriber to National Geographic, he, too, took spectacular photos and appreciated others’ work. My nephew Edward also has a photographer’s eye.

grandcentraloldThe exhibit of prints at the New York Transit Museum annex at the back of Grand Central [open through October] is part of the great station’s 100th anniversary celebration. The prints didn’t grab me, nor did they make me feel nostalgic and I don’t think that they do the Colorama’s images justice. How could they? They aren’t oversize backlit transparencies.

And there was something else I saw in the images selected for the exhibit that I didn’t notice when looking up at the originals from the marble floor or if I did, the detail made so little impression that I don’t recall. In most, there were people taking photos of others. It makes sense as Kodak sold cameras and film. Amateur photographers weren’t in all the shots in the exhibit-there was one of deer on snow where I couldn’t find a shutterbug anywhere, even peeking out from behind a tree.

Photography has made huge strides since Kodak, now defunct, ruled. For most of the Colorama’s 40 years, you wouldn’t see photography sold at art shows and people didn’t collect it. Photoshop didn’t exist for the amateur in the 1950s and I doubt that digital photography was a beam in anyone’s eye.

I’m grateful to the exhibit for reminding me of something I shared with my dad, of my first camera–a simple Kodak box–and how much I, too, still love taking pictures. Do you remember the Kodak Colorama? What exhibits have strummed nostalgic strings for you?


Service of Print

Thursday, June 21st, 2012


I continue to see people on trains, subways, in our apartment house [as evidenced by piles left outside front doors for garbage pickup] and in the library who read magazines and newspapers. There is increasing evidence print-vs-tabletthat while the print patient is sick, not all of it is on life support.

My observations are anecdotal, for sure. But take a gander at some of the things I’ve read lately:

From the Wallets of Billionaires

Warren Buffet told The Daily Beast‘s  Howard Kurtz why he has and continues to buy newspapers: “‘It’s not a soft-headed business decision,’ the 81-year-old investor tells me from his Omaha office.” Kurtz continued: “In putting his considerable money where his mouth is-Buffett’s company is in the process of buying 63 Media General newspapers for $142 million-the chief executive is challenging the widespread belief that the industry is trapped in a death spiral.” The papers he’s after “have to serve smaller markets where there is ‘more of a feeling of community,'” wrote Kurtz.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg reads eight traditional newspapers a day and says “he prefers magazines the old fashioned way, despite having an iPad,” according to news aggregator, covering posts in VentureBeat and FishbowlNY. The news sources remind us that most of Bloomberg’s fortune has been made in the digital news and data service businesses.

Fashion and Beauty’s Youth Appeal

woman-and-magazines1And print isn’t just for old fogies. In Adweek, Emma Bazilian recently covered statistics to prove the point in “Condé Nast Finds Magazine Readership Growing Among Millennials.” Note: I was confused by the word “millennial” in the title as the youngest of the millennials, who can be as old as 37, is 23 yet the article spotlights readers in the 18 to 24 age range.

Nevertheless, “Fashion and beauty magazines attract about 50 percent more young readers than they did in 2001, and while young women typically ‘grew out’ of these titles fairly quickly as they aged, they now read these magazines long after they leave their mid-20s.”

Bazilian continued,  “Men’s magazines also gained ground with the 18-to-24 set, thanks to the addition of lad mags like Maxim and the ‘phenomenal growth’ of male fitness titles such as Men’s Health.” Bazilian was quoting Scott McDonald, svp of market research for the publisher.

Not surprising, the pulse for women’s service and news magazines is increasingly weak. The former, according to the article, didn’t keep up with the fact that most of their readers no longer stay at home and millenials turn to the Internet for news.


sonytabletThen there’s Tracie Powell, in Poynter, who wrote “Consumers aren’t rushing to replace their magazine and newspaper subscriptions with mobile news products, according to a new survey by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.”

Her article, “Survey: Mobile users as likely to be print news subscribers as non-mobile users,” continued “The survey shows that although nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults use at least one mobile device per day, nearly equal percentages of mobile media device users and non-users – 39.8 percent and 40.2 percent respectively–said they still subscribed to at least one newspaper or news magazine, which suggests users of smartphones and tablets aren’t abandoning print media.”

Another of Powell’s points: “The survey shows ‘news consumption ranks fourth among reasons people use mobile devices, behind interpersonal communications, entertainment, and internet usage for information not provided by news organizations.'”

So where are you on the life of print? Am I looking at mortally wounded vehicles of communication and sources of information, placing hope on the thinnest strands of signs of life? Will the publishing industry–and some of the billionaires who continue to enjoy holding paper when they read–find ways to save print?


Service of Buying on Principle

Monday, April 23rd, 2012


The other week, NYC introduced its “Taxi of Tomorrow” and public advocate Bill de Blasio [Photo right, below] howled. I heard him talk about the city’s choice of foreign partner on the radio and on his website he noted that the billion dollar contract for “the exclusive right to manufacture New York’s taxis” is going to a business that operates in Iran. It’s one of a dozen car companies on de Blasio’s “Iran Watch List” that “targets businesses that operate in Iran and undermine economic sanctions.”

bill-de-blasioThe website quotes de Blasio: “You cannot do business with the people of New York City with one hand, and prop up the dangerous regime in Tehran with the other. For our billion dollars, taxpayers and taxi riders deserve a guarantee that ____ will stop selling its vehicles to Iran.” I put the space in the quote although de Blasio identifies the company on his blog.

When I’ve met investment advisors, they’ve asked me if there are any companies or industries I wouldn’t want to support. It’s a good question for many reasons. Some might forget and inadvertantly invest in–and be accused of insider trading–stock in a company the firm they work for advises. Cigarette or arms manufacturers might be on the “no” list for others.

made-in-usaThere’s a side issue to de Blasio’s point that’s worth a mention even if off-topic. I identified the car manufacturer to a friend who observed: “Why didn’t the city pick an American brand?” As I began to write I also remembered a buy American initiative where participating manufacturers hung the red, white and blue “Made in America” tag with logo on clothing, appliances and other products. Would this be unfitting today?

In wartime, many won’t buy anything made by their enemy. Some have longer memories than others and children often keep up their parents’ boycotts. Is such a consideration anti-business and therefore inappropriate in a tight economy? Or do we have no enemies?

Are there things you won’t invest in, buy, attend or support on principle, or is such thinking so yesterday?


Service of Holiday Traditions

Monday, December 12th, 2011


One year I wrote about favorite holiday treats and another, I took the pulse of Christmas.

This year I’m focusing on holiday traditions.

One of my favorites is the gathering of a group of friends, some of whom are pictured above. We meet at a Manhattan restaurant–Circus, a charming Brazilian–to celebrate the season: It’s the company holiday party for the entrepreneurs currently, or at one time, associated with the design/architecture/building industries. Elaine Siegel, PR pro and special events planner extraordinaire, is in charge. We chat and feast by ourselves in the back room with its skylight and cheerful atmosphere.

happy-new-yearLast year we were invited to a wonderful New Years Eve party in Connecticut which we were invited to again. Maybe you could call this a tradition-lette. I have disliked New Years Eve parties my entire life-with the exception of two: that one and one my senior year in high school (but who cares about ancient history). Dinner is fabulous in a house dressed for Christmas and our friend’s friends are interesting and welcoming.

Another tradition that’s also  just two years old for me is a concert, “A Judeo-Latin-Jazz Holiday Adventure with Eugene Marlow’s Heritage Ensemble,” at the Baruch Performing Arts Center. It’s guaranteed to put you in a good mood. It takes place this Thursday, December 15 at the Engelman Recital Hall, 55 Lexington Avenue. If you want to go, let me know and I’ll find out if there are any tickets left.

toytrainsAnd if you know of any toy train exhibits in NYC so that my husband can enjoy one of his traditions–lost since Citibank discontinued their display–let me know.

So as not to be totally Pollyanna, I must add a holiday peeve: Businesses that do silly things to associate the season with what they sell no matter what. I passed a bar with a sign in the window, decorated with candy canes, for “Peppermint Martinis.” Yech. That’s one tradition that stops soon I hope. I have nothing against peppermint. One of my favorite desserts that a now-defunct restaurant in Dover, NY served all year long was peppermint stick ice cream with homemade hot fudge sauce. Sigh.

What are your favorite holiday traditions? Can you also name a few that are real stretches, that seem to fall flat?


Service of Memorials

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010


Many remembered and honored the victims of terrorism on the 9th anniversary of September 11 this weekend. The outpouring of emotion and media coverage in the New York City area was poignant.

A friend asked me, “Why are we making such a big deal over 9/11, when,” he noted, “nobody did or does about World War II where so many more people suffered and died–or over other wars for that matter?”  So I decided to share my point of view.

This memorial recognition, while related to the topic of patriotism that I wrote about  in “Service of Independence Day,” is different. It has to do with respect and gratitude.

Back to my friend’s words: I think his impression depends on how you define “big deal” and “nobody” and how people honored their war dead in the past and are comfortable expressing emotion today.

stvincentdepaul2As a child, I attended a yearly memorial mass with my father at the French church, St. Vincent de Paul in New York City. Dad, a World War II veteran and prisoner of war who escaped, was French. In the back of the church, dressed in military uniform, musicians blew trumpets and horns mid-service, so loud that most jumped in their seats, startled even if they anticipated the alarm. The church was always full.

That was largely the extent to which Dad shared his war experience with me, although it scarred his life and his family’s.

normandy-beach2I visited Normandy a few years ago and couldn’t face the cemeteries with thousands of crosses and stars of David and I didn’t know one of those fallen soldiers. Instead, I marveled at Normandy Beach-so barren with not a bush or tree to hide behind. I was awestruck when I saw, in three dimensions, how exposed those soldiers were. You’ve seen the soldiers jump off the boats into enemy gunfire in movies and vintage newsreels. My husband’s uncle landed at that beach and survived. Just imagine.

There are over 58 thousand names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. Other memorials, such as Holocaust Museums or Anne Frank’s hiding place in Amsterdam, attract millions yearly from around the world.

So why does one horrific event that exterminated a few thousand continue to pull on our heartstrings and how come we recognize these dead, almost a decade later, from what was equivalent to a battle more than a war, with the same fervor as the year after? The raw wound might be because the act broke all rules of war; attackers victimized innocent citizens and involved no military forces. We are more vocal and emotional than our forebears where stiff upper lip was the fashion. And, I think, we are still shocked by the sheer below-the-belt, horrific ramifications of it all.

What do you think?


Service of Old Fashioned Things

Monday, August 30th, 2010


Buggy whips and typewriter ribbons came up in a comment about “Service of Ensuring Work,” inspiring a post about the old fashioned things we continue to use and enjoy, no matter what , such as firewood and knitting needles. In fact, there’s a premium attached to a working fireplace.

babyshoesHand knit sweaters and scarves are extra special. If you know what you are doing, knitting can also be soothing. A friend of mine has carried on her mother’s tradition of knitting a baby hat and sweater set for every infant to join the family. In spite of grueling deadlines and responsibilities, she recently completed two sets for twins.

While I am addicted to solitaire and FreeCell on my computer and no longer use playing cards, haven’t held a print version of a dictionary or phone book in eons, here’s a list of some old fashioned things I love, even if substitutes exist.

**Jigsaw Puzzles: A friend gave my husband one for Christmas a few years ago. We’d forgotten how much fun they are and when people drop in, they can’t stop themselves from adding their pieces.

**Monopoly and watching a child learn-and love-to play, if only for the companionship of adults.

homemadecake**Baking pies and cakes: Time well spent in my opinion.

**Making spaghetti sauce from scratch–or rather, watching my husband make it: Yum

 **Inviting friends over for dinner-we’re trying to do more of this. We so enjoy it when we’re invited to a home, though meeting folks at a restaurant is also nice.

**Mac and cheese: A counter server at the Amish Market, a takeout specialty shop/deli near my office, reminisced about his Mom’s recipe after he described a soup for sale by the same name. He said his Mom made hers from scratch but that he and his sisters and brothers pleaded with her to prepare it the way Aunt Connie made hers. Aunt Connie had Kraft to thank. Kraft still rules!

**Dairy Queen. We found the one in Connecticut we’d not been to in a dog’s age. We were thrilled that it was still there and I was amazed that my husband remembered where it was. I can never decide whether I want a cone with the great hard chocolate cover or a milkshake. I was driving so strawberry milkshake won.

**Listening to the radio in the car, while doing housework and in the middle of the night if I can’t sleep.

And you?


Service of Independence Day

Thursday, July 1st, 2010



The Sunday before I left to live in the Middle East for two years, the final song at church was “God Bless America.” Prone to tear up while watching Hallmark Card Mother’s Day commercials, I burst into tears that morning.

Being chauvinistic implies fanaticism. Being patriotic is considered inappropriate by many, or vulgar, but I am, even when unconditional love is hard to maintain.

rollyoureyesI feel about this country quite like how I feel when someone I love does something I object to or makes me roll my eyes in disbelief. I may wince and speak up with voice and/or vote yet I cringe when the US is accused of doing something wrong even if I agree that it shouldn’t. [You know, the old I-can-say-something-negative-about-my-child, sister, brother or parent-but-God-help-you-if-you-do syndrome]. I also mourn when I notice how America has lost its luster in areas in which it used to shine.

declaration-of-indepI have friends whose pedigrees affiliate them to this country well over a century closer to the signing of the Declaration of Independence 234 years ago than any one of my fattest American bloodlines. They don’t feel the slightest excitement when they see the flag snapping smartly in the wind on top of a building or bridge or watch a small town dressed in flags and families following the town fire engine down Main Street to celebrate the 4th of July. I do. In fact, many don’t “get” me.

Where do you stand on patriotism?

Flag on Mid-Hudson Bridge, shot from the car

Flag on Mid-Hudson Bridge, shot from the car

Service of Seasonal Treats

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

A good friend said that she wasn’t exchanging gifts with family at Christmas this year because “we already have enough stuff.” While some on her list are getting gift cards, for the most part, her family plans to make merry with museum visits, tickets to a play and other special event-sharing.

Last Friday night we were grabbing a bite of pizza in Poughkeepsie. I overheard a conversation in which the father of three boys, [he turned out to be the neighborhood doctor], told the restaurant owner that for Hanukah, his children weren’t getting gifts on every one of the celebration’s eight nights. One night would be game night, another, book night and so forth. It can pay to eavesdrop because we plan to do the same on Christmas Eve this year. Our gathering will include friends and family ranging in age from eight to 70+.

Moving my mind from my Christmas gift list, I thought about some of my favorite holiday treats, the smaller, meaningful indulgences I anticipate or hope for every year.

***While the thumbprint cookies our grandmother made could be eaten at any season, the aroma and taste of the family’s traditional Christmas cookies signals the holidays. We make them with ground almonds (3oz), sweet butter (1/2 lb), flour (2 cups) and powdered sugar (2.5 oz) with red current jelly in each thumbprint. Once baked and cool, we sprinkle confectioner’s sugar on them–it’s reminiscent of snow. My grandmother also made crescent-shapes with the dough, but I love the look and taste of the jelly. I always double the recipe so I have extras to give away.

***Eggnog, with or without extra rum, is so tempting. I haven’t tried the low fat version, though I plan to, with fingers crossed. [I prefer skim milk, so there’s hope the taste will pass, as long as my husband doesn’t see the low fat designation.]

***I discovered Bella’s butter toffee  [photo right] with dark chocolate and nuts at craft fairs. It also comes with milk or white chocolate. There’s only one problem with it: It never lasts as long as I’d wish! Open a box to share with guests and I wager it will be empty before they leave. You can order the toffee [and other goodies] on line.

***Once I ate an unusual ham at a holiday cocktail party. It looked like a regular ham until I saw a slice. [I was told it wasn’t at all pretty before the host removed the maggots.] The meat was translucent–I’d never seen anything like it. It was home-cured, nurtured in an uncle’s barn. It wasn’t like prosciutto, nor was it stringy like Virginia ham. I keep hoping to meet someone with generous southern relatives who share this tradition.

***My nephew’s wife, Annie, makes magnificent rice. When she contributes a platter of it for holiday dinners, I’d be happy to eat nothing but, regardless of what wonderful roast and other veggies are on the menu.

 What are your favorite Christmas and/or Hanukah treats?


Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Clicky Web Analytics