Archive for March, 2017

Service of a Good Appetite: Some People Will Eat No Matter Where or When

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

half eaten apple

When stressed, nervous or sad I find it hard to eat. Everything gets stuck in my throat and I’m not hungry. That’s why my eye caught Michael Wilson’s “Crime Scene” column in The New York Times, “Some Home Burglars Want a Quick Getaway. Others Need a Nosh.”

Regardless, were I in someone’s apartment stealing from them I wouldn’t hesitate for any reason, much less grab a bite. Yet, according to Wilson, this nibbling while on a burglary job is nothing new. The paper wrote about a general’s widow in Poughkeepsie who, in 1886 lost 100 pieces of flatware to robbers who then “went down to the kitchen and brought upstairs to the parlor cooked meats, bread, cake, eggs and milk, and partook of the banquet there and then.”

Wilson reported that the city’s DNA laboratory tests half eated chocolate cakeanything that “can link a suspect to a crime.” He continued, “This is a story about a small and bizarre subset of those objects” some of which include, according to the medical examiner’s office, a “partially eaten apple” as well as “Sunflower seed shells. Half-eaten chocolate cake. Chewed gum…half-eaten biscuit…Chicken bones. Chicken wing. Pizza crust. Fruit pit.” Later in the article Wilson referenced candy wrappers, a lollipop and a bagel.

Police textbooks cover the subject and Brooklyn Detective Anthony Barbee told Wilson “One of the questions we always ask people, ‘Look in your refrigerator. Is there anything open?’” Barbee added that some “make themselves at home. They get comfortable.”

I wasn’t as surprised about those whom Wilson reported took the food or beverage with them. I’d consider that part of the burglary—not an example of eat and run–and not unusual. He wrote about one burglar who took watches and electronics and in a note he left behind he thanked the homeowner for the OJ.

half eaten pizza crustA retired detective, Steve Panagopoulos, told Wilson that the food burglars are junkies. Now that makes sense—though I’m not sure that this would apply to the burglars in the 19th century Poughkeepsie example. “‘They don’t really even care about getting caught. Taking their time, sitting there opening refrigerators, that’s pretty crazy.’ That sort of behavior was the undoing of one serial thief he remembered. ‘He had taken out a thing of cheese, crackers,’ Mr. Panagopoulos said. ‘He left them behind on the table. That was processed for DNA.’”

Can you imagine stopping to snack while doing something illegal and dangerous–when time is of the essence–or do you lean in the direction of Detective Panagopoulos who attributed such behavior, these days in any case, to the conduct of junkies?

chicken bones

 

Service of How Do They Do It: The Do-Nothings Who Land On Top

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Photo: cnafinance.com

Photo: cnafinance.com

I dedicate this post to a friend who works herself to the bone, achieves great things to benefit others both on and off boards of prominent organizations and who coined the name “do-nothings” in a recent conversation about a project we’re both involved with.

I’ve been on and around boards for years, a previous member of co-op, three industry and three not for profit boards and on countless committees that depend on board member support. The do-nothings who are consistently invited back to direct or support projects are the ones that puzzle me because they hold things up. Do-nothings populate them all.

Do nothing 1There are exceptions: Some work smart and hard and do spectacular jobs with miraculous results but frequently it is they who are tossed to the side without a second thought. The do-nothings, with hearty pledges for follow up information and tempting inflated promises that all come to naught are consistently invited back!

In addition to “life isn’t fair,” I know what you’re thinking: The do-nothings have connections or big bucks. Not always so!  In addition to bankrupt elbow grease, some bring to the table neither access to financial support nor prestige. What they do accomplish: They waste other people’s time.

As incoming president I started to attend committee meetings of one organization to see if there were any outstanding people I’d want on my board. This was the suggestion of a past president. I told a trusted colleague that so-and-so stood out with great ideas and energy. The trusted colleague warned, “Hot air. She talks a good game and never comes through.” I realized how easy it is to be duped.

What is the do-nothings’ secret? Why do boards–or managers or bosses–tolerate them especially if they contribute neither stature nor funds, only agita? How do the do-nothings live with themselves and dare to accept responsibilities they never fulfill?

Do nothing 2

 

Service of When Man Worsens the Impact of Nature & the Happy Ending

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Snow March 2017 at RR station 1 turned

It’s bad enough when you’re not on the spot to eradicate damage left by a hefty snowfall while the precipitation is fresh and easier to remove. That can’t be helped when you park your car at an outdoor lot by a railroad station and you’re not planning to return for a few days or more. Best you can do is hope for a few warm, sunny days to melt the damage if you’re lucky.

When the people hired to clear the snow make it harder for customers to extricate their cars from igloo-like conditions they cause by their lazy snow removal strategy, it’s enraging. None of the other lots on the two hour trip north looked anything like ours—see photos above and right–and we’re told that the last lot on the line a few miles farther north—Wassaic, N.Y.–wasn’t nearly as much of a mess.

There is plenty of space in this lot to dedicate an out-of-the-way areaSnow March 2017 at RR station 2 turned for a giant mound of snow which is standard practice in the northeast. The plows at the Dover Plains station clear the roadway by piling snow against the cars as they go past which makes it much easier and quicker for them and much worse for us.

We’d asked one company what they would charge to get us out and were told, “We’ll let you know when we’re done.” Translation: “Open your checkbook and we’ll see how much we’ll charge you.”

Snow Angels

Our friends Bob and John exit the train in Wassaic. Last Friday they took the early train upstate, extricated their car and drove down to free ours. This was a huge gift. Even if we had the tools, we don’t have the strength for this chore.

To make things worse, I’d jumped the gun in anticipation of spring and committed the mortal error of parking nose first. Not only did they remove the snow-turned to ice that was as high as the trunk and halfwayup the doors, [photo below, left] they had to clear the front, the sides, and where the wheels were to go and then they turned around the car so it was facing out. When a few hours later we walked out of the train and into the car we left the station in minutes singing their praises.

We have no control over nature but we can manage how we deal with it. Have you seen sloppy or spectacular cleanup jobs after storms? Can you share examples of friends who donate not only their muscle and know-how but their precious little free time to help others in a pinch?

The Before: Our car is in the middle

The Before: Our car is in the middle

After: Our car ready to roll.

After: Our car ready to roll.

Service of Swindles

Monday, March 20th, 2017

Hang up the phone

This is the 12th post I’ve categorized under “scam.” Here are some more new to me.

Pay to Stay

A reader forwarded news from the MountKiscoDailyvoice.com,State Attorney General Warns of ICE Scam.” Zak Failla and Jon Craig wrote:On the heels of a nationwide sweep by U.S. Immigration and Customs [Enforcement] that led to the arrest of five Hudson Valley residents, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is cautioning residents to be wary of a scam involving unauthorized agents asking for money.”

In addition:According to Schneiderman, the Attorney General’s office has recently received an increased number of reported scams in recent weeks, where agents demand money in exchange for not deporting possible immigrants.

ICE logo“Schneiderman noted that no actual ICE agent would ask for money or threaten detainment or deportation if they are not paid. They also do not have the authority to enter one’s home without a warrant signed by a judge.”

No Information—Hang Up Fast

The next one, a phone swindle, has been around since 2003 and news of it was last updated on www.Snopes.com in April 2015 and yet I’d not heard of it; a friend just sent it to me. The caller identifies him/herself as representing your Visa or Mastercard account’s security/fraud dept. The caller asks if you’ve recently purchased something and notes the amount and knows your credit card number.

The objective is to get you to reveal the pin number on the back of the card. The caller says, ‘I need to verify you are in possession of your card.”  He’ll ask you to “turn your card over and look for some numbers.” Do not provide them. Credit card companies wouldn’t ask you for this information.

Let’s Face It—Is it or Isn’t It?

An email recently arrived from Facebook telling me “The balance on your ad account Jeanne Byington is empty. As a result, any active ads have been turned off. Please add money to turn them on or to create new ads.” The s on Ads in the signoff was a potential tell that this wasn’t from FB: “Thanks, The Facebook Ads Team.” More important, I’ve never bought an ad on Facebook.

I got a second email from the same source a few days later. “Earlier this week, we accidentally sent you an email that said your ad account is empty. Please disregard that message, which was sent by mistake. We’re sorry for sending incorrect information, and we’ve resolved the problem that caused you to receive it.”

If someone from Facebook really sent this, they’d best get another team member to write their emails. They didn’t send me incorrect information about my “ads” account, I don’t have and never had an account. While they’re at it, if real, they should select another name for the team: Facebook Ads Team irritates me.

Have you noticed these or any new scams and swindles lately?

 Is it real

Service of Listening to Your Heart, Social Pressures Be Damned

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Listen to your heart

I kept Lesley M.M. Blume’s article, “The Woman Who Said No,” which was part of the Commitment series—165 Years of Love (and War)–in The New York Times’s wedding announcement section in Sunday Styles, because the woman, Mary Landon Baker, 1900-1961, was a pioneer. She didn’t cave to convention even though she had plenty of opportunities: Sixty five marriage proposals, supposedly, wrote Blume, yet the Chicagoan never married.

In the day, some postulated that she was shy.

She couldn’t have been lonely with all that company. It didn’t hurt that she was an “international catch.” Her father, Alfred Baker who left her a fortune when she was 27, “suggested to a reporter that she was simply having too delectable a time playing the field to settle down.” Baker later “confessed ‘I have never been in love.’”

Leave at the alterBlume listed some of her fiancés as “an English Lord, an Irish prince, a Spaniard of means,” and a Yugoslav diplomat. She left Alistair McCormick at the alter three times. [He ended up marrying someone else in London.]

Blume wrote: “We will probably never know Miss Baker’s motives in marionetting her suitors, but we do know this: She was never in need of spousal support.” Blume was referring to her fortune. “She had security; she had status. Mary Landon Baker wasn’t ‘shy.’ Rather, she was free.”

In “Love and Marriage,” D’Vera Cohn wrote in 2013 on pewsocialtrends.org: “Among married people, 93% say love is a very important reason to get married; 84% of unmarried people say so. Men and women are equally likely to say love is a very important reason to get married.” Other reasons married people say they got married included making a lifelong commitment, 87%; companionship 81% and having children 59%.

Do you think seeking financial security has a lot to do with why people marry in this country today? What priorities do you give love, lifelong commitment, companionship,  having children–or something else?

diamond ring

Service of What Happened to the Word FROM and Other Omissions

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Something's missing

There’s a commercial for 1800gotjunk.com that ends, “you never have to take off work.” And for years people have said—and written—“I graduated high school.” So what happened to the missing word FROM? I am far from a perfectionist when it comes to conversation but I miss hearing that word.

Photo: Pinterest

Photo: Pinterest

In a morning show radio discussion of other March blizzards in NYC in anticipation of tomorrow’s storm, the host brought up the “great blizzard of 1888” [that Wikipedia reported dumped some 40 inches of snow in parts of N.Y. and N.J. and up to 58 inches in Mass. and Conn.]. In predicting this week’s expected snowfall the host repeatedly left out the word IN when he said “anticipated precipitation Central Park.” That was the first I heard a missing “IN” and I hope it doesn’t become a habit.

This led to irritating abbreviations. I’ve recently heard on newscasts the word “presser,” short for press conference. Is it too difficult to say “press conference?”

Information technology expert Josh Cintrón shared a contraction he dislikes: “phoner” for phone interview. He admits to being a stickler for word choice and referenced the ridiculous image of someone who had just “caught the train.” He added, “not for nothing,” a phrase that may make some people cringe. But we agreed that we’ve become fond of this typical NYC double negative. [Who said we had to be consistently picky?]

When someone tells actor Daniel McHenry that they are “fixing dinner” he wonders “who broke it?”

Are there any missing or erroneous words or abbreviations that irk you? Do we drop words or parts of them simply out of laziness?

 

Photo: elitereaders.com

Photo: elitereaders.com

 

 

 

 

Service of Indoor Plants

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Ficus turned

My father nurtured plants in my parents’ NYC apartment and I’ve welcomed foliage and flowers everywhere I’ve lived. I’ve written before about one of my great aunt’s Ficus trees that I have at the house. I think I successfully propagated a bit of it and the offshoot [photo above] lives on my city living room windowsill. [The tree is too big.] My aunt died in the early 1980s and the plant and its connection to her, [her windowsills were filled with plants as well] have special meaning for me.

Same with my dad’s Dracaena, the mother plant of which dates from the 1960s. I have quite a few of its relatives at the house and one [photo right] seems to thrive in the Manhattan light, dust and irritants where its great grandfather once prospered some two miles north. A clipping of dad’s asparagus fern isn’t as happy in its overheated city digs. I have my fingers crossed it acclimates.

Michael Tortorello wrote: “FOR MANY PEOPLE, houseplants remain stuck in the 1970s, when it was entirely common to macramé a hanger for your 14th Boston fern while listening to Mac Davis 8-tracks and sipping Riunite on ice.” The approach of his Wall Street Journal article irked me. Its title and subtitle were: “Houseplants That Stand in for Art… Indoor greenery can make rooms appear bigger, function like art work, contribute character without adding clutter. Here, house-plant design strategies you’ll want to cultivate.”

I don’t think of plants as art. They’re fun to cultivate; I love it whenDracena plant 2017 turned they grow. The Steinbergs gave me my first orchid six or seven years ago. It thrives and blossoms on and off as do most orchid gifts from my husband and other friends. [I’m still waiting on a few to stop staring back at me with healthy green leaves and no flowers since they arrived in store-perfect blossoming glory.]

My husband isn’t such a plant fan but even he is pleased to detect an orchid bud that promises to open like the collar of an ornate royal brocade jacket, to display enchanting colors, shapes and patterns.

Certain things should not be subject to fashion, like plants, recipes, cats or dogs. You like them or you don’t and trends be dammed! Do you agree?

orchid in bloom feb 2017 turned 

Service of Perseverance Set to Music: A Story That Makes My Heart Sing

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Tyler Schuster. Photo: Amanda Halak

Tyler Schuster. Photo: Amanda Halak

Once 19th century British philanthropist William Edward Hickson retired he focused on elementary education and popularized the proverb “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” attributed to Thomas H. Palmer’s “Teacher’s Manual” and Frederick Marryat’s “The Children of the New Forest.”

The Facebook post that proud grandmother Judy Schuster sent family and friends–that I’ve copied below–is an inspirational testament to that adage. It’s about the perseverance and grit shown by her musician-grandson, Tyler Schuster, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire [UWEC]. In addition to showing the glorious result of determination and hopefully inspiring others, it says a lot about this young man who proves he will achieve just about anything he sets his mind to.

Kudos as well to Michael Shults, PhD, assistant professor of saxophone at UWEC, a dedicated and caring instructor and skilled, exemplary coach who wrote the post. I can’t think of many in any field who would take the time. Dr. Shults is also an award-winning musician and active jazz and concert saxophonist.

He wrote:

So – I love a good underdog story, and maybe you do too.

Tyler was part of the freshman class my first year at UWEC in 2014. Our first year of lessons was long on constructive criticism and, frankly, short on breakthroughs; a LOT of squeezing and not much juice.

Music education majors at UWEC take one credit, half hour lessons. They are practicing more than ever (which means programming vital foundational muscle memory) and ALL 18-year old saxophonists come in with bad habits. The crucial need to correct these early on, coupled with the time constraints, mean that the ratio of positive-to-constructive feedback I’m able to give in the early going can be a little lopsided. It’s not easy for either party, but it’s much more difficult to correct once that muscle memory is programmed in an imperfect way.

Tyler, in particular, had a lot of things to iron out with his saxophone playing. Lessons were tedious for both parties. But what I could see (and his excellent high school teacher Scott Johnson will attest that this has been present long before I entered the picture) was that Tyler’s instinct when things got tough was to push harder and smarter, instead of shying away from a challenge or being defeatist.

Fall 2015 was really difficult for Tyler as he failed to audition into the Wind Symphony or Symphony Band (I asked him this morning if I could share that publicly, and he said “Of course – that’s an important part of my journey”). It was a really hard dose of reality, I think, but as frustrating as it was, Tyler didn’t challenge the result or place blame. He just put on the hard hat and got in the shed.

I remember a year ago, not too long after that, Tyler sat down in my office and outlined three goals. He wanted to audition into Jazz Ensemble I, Wind Symphony, and, the most ambitious of the three, win the concerto competition and solo with one of the wind bands. At the time I believe Tyler was in Jazz III and, based on the audition results from the fall, would’ve had to leapfrog at least 10 players to audition into Wind Symphony. So – speculative, to say the least.

Then came the fall ensemble auditions. Jazz I: √

Tyler also moved up to playing a principal chair in the Symphony Band (just shy of Wind Symphony).

Then came spring ensemble auditions. Wind Symphony: √

That brings us to last night, when Tyler performed the first movement of the Creston Concerto in our annual wind band concerto competition.

You guessed it: √

Please join me in congratulating Tyler on his incredible progress and for embodying so many of the ideals we preach in music and any other discipline: toughness, hard work, self awareness, ambition, goal-setting, etc. etc. and join us in person or via livestream as he performs as featured soloist with the UWEC Symphony Band – the same ensemble he couldn’t quite make the cut for a year ago – on April 28th.

(But don’t get too comfortable, kid. You have technique juries this week. And a recital next month. And and and…)

Were you—or someone you know–lucky to have a professor, instructor or mentor like Dr. Shults? Do you know young men or women as determined as Tyler Schuster who ignore the odds, carry on and reach their goals?

 

Dr. Michael Shults. Photo: Clint Ashlock

Dr. Michael Shults. Photo: Clint Ashlock

Service of Who Pays When Something Breaks at Home

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

Smashed wine glass

Erica Martell brought one of Philip Galanes’ “Social Q’s” columns to my attention. It involved Sandy’s boyfriend who’d inadvertently broken a bride’s expensive wedding gift wineglass at a dinner the new couple prepared shortly after the nuptials.

Sandy explained to Galanes: “He [the boyfriend] may have said, ‘Let me replace it.’ But my cousin didn’t respond; she was sweeping up the glass. Yesterday, I received an email from her with a little note and a receipt for a new wineglass. Tacky?”

Galanes thought if the receipt came with a gracious note, i.e. “How kind of you to offer to replace the wineglass. We’ve never owned such a fancy set before,” it would not be in bad taste as opposed to “Invoice attached, butterfingers.” And, observed the New York Times columnist, Sandy’s boyfriend apparently did offer to pay. [Remember, Sandy wrote he may have offered to replace the glass.]

Red wine spillRecently someone broke one of a pair of china cups a loved one had given me. [She threw it out so I gather it was in smithereens.] I still can’t look at its partner without wincing and it’s not replaceable. I wouldn’t in a million years suggest the person try. She felt badly. Breakable things break.

Over years, one guest burned a cigarette hole in upholstery and another broke a Sheraton chair’s back by tipping against the wall on the chairs back legs. Nobody offered to pay and I didn’t expect them to. It’s the cost of having guests and living with upholstered furniture and antiques. If red wine spills on a favorite tablecloth I should have served white wine–so it’s my fault. [With today’s spot removers, so far I’ve done a great job in getting out the stains.]

Do you think that the bride should have presented an invoice for the wineglass and that the guest should pay? Has someone accidentally broken or ruined anything of yours? Then what happened?

 Broken china cup

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