Archive for February, 2018

Service of Cutting Corners for Efficiency and to Slash Costs

Monday, February 26th, 2018

Photo: ablueribbonresume.com

In a recent episode of “Call the Midwife” on PBS, Sister Ursula, new to running things at Nonnatus House, insisted that the home visits to newborns and patients who had recently given birth could be no longer than 10 minutes in the interest of efficiency. Each midwife should be able to add to her daily load as a result.

Sister Ursula, right. Photo: pbs.org

The staff tried to tell her that their work [in the east end of London in the 1950s], bore no relationship to postnatal care in a hospital setting but she was adamant.  As a result, one of the midwives, who had been reprimanded severely for staying longer with a patient than ordered a day before, left a mother and newborn promptly, not realizing that they were exposed to carbon monoxide in their overheated bedroom and the infant almost died. At the end the baby lived and Sister Ursula, recognizing that super-efficiency wasn’t always the answer, quit her job.

I thought of this fictitious episode when I read Benjamin Parkin and Patrick McGroarty’s Wall Street Journal article, “A Rush to Slaughter Provokes Opposition.” It’s another example of removing government oversight on a source of food, letting an industry oversee itself. “Proposed rules allowing meatpackers to slaughter hogs faster and play a bigger role in policing food safety are intended to free up government inspectors while making plants more efficient. But the rules, which could take effect this year, have drawn criticism.

“Consumer advocates question whether companies can guarantee the cleanliness of their pork while workers take on some tasks previously reserved for U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors. Meanwhile, worker-rights groups say speeding up slaughter lines would strain workers whose jobs are already difficult and dangerous.”

“Paul Kiecker, acting administrator of the USDA’s food-safety branch [said the] moves would let inspectors perform other duties such as checking on plant sanitation, which the agency deems a better way to promote food safety than having an inspector posted only to monitor specific points in the slaughtering process.”

According to the USDA “Diseases such as tuberculosis that an inspector can identify by sight are less common in livestock today, they say, while more pressing threats such as bacterial contamination are detected through laboratory tests. They say plant workers can be trained to perform tasks, such as preliminary health checks on glands and organs in slaughtered animals, that were previously performed by inspectors.”

Sure, the workers can be trained, but will they be? Doesn’t that cost money which clearly is not the objective. I am suspicious of the negative impact on citizens of cutbacks in government oversight on food production [beef is next] so I don’t know whom to believe. I fear the excessive profit motive pervasive today may affect us all adversely. Do you?

Photo: mirror.co.uk

Service of Crying

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

Photo: avmedia.info

Crying was the subject of Maria Hinojosa’s NPR’s Latino USA program the other week. The focus was the role of crying in Latino life and the discussion focused on whether Latinos cry more than others.

Photo: psychologytoday.com

I didn’t hear the whole show, got lost in a description of a microscopic survey to analyze the number of times Latino men and women cried over a period of weeks, and assume the point of the program was to illustrate that tears come fast and furious for Latinos.

More importantly, it got me to thinking about crying.

Photo: askmen.com

One of the guests on Hinojosa’s show mentioned that crying is the pressure cooker for the soul, that it’s comforting and nice. I disagree. I’m the family weeper, doubt there’s an ounce of Latino blood in me and I’ve always hated not being able to control my tears. I envy people who can and those who never feel like crying. Only an actor in a role that requires tears would find that troublesome.

I don’t mind when other people cry and think it’s healthy that American men feel more comfortable crying these days.

Do you think that certain nationalities are more prone to tears? Is yelling a form of crying? Do you have techniques to stop yourself from crying when you don’t want to? Do you cry easily? What turns on your tear faucet?

Photo: shinemagazine.co.uk

Service of Pick Yourself Up & Dust Yourself Off: Olympic Figure Skaters Rule

Monday, February 19th, 2018

Photo: twitter

Facebook and our email boxes are filled with posters, famous sayings and real life examples to encourage us, foment hope and inspire us with a spirit of never giving up. One of my favorite sayings, attributed to Winston Churchill, is “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Photo: kxan.com

There are few more vivid instances of “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” than the Olympic figure skaters. With the world watching, if they fall in the middle of a routine, after thousands if not millions of hours of practice, whether alone or with a partner, they pick themselves up and keep going as though nothing happened—or so it seems on the outside. They are marvels.

My father, for years an avid Olympics watcher and supporter, reminded us during each winter and summer game that even the “worst” of the participants are outstanding athletes. It’s easy to forget sometimes when listening to the coverage of the announcers, often past athletes themselves, criticizing a tiny twitch of a knee or microscopic landing quiver.

Photo: Goldenskate.com

Erica Martell described a nail-biting competition for gold during the Olympic Pairs Figure Skating finale that I’d missed. It involved many falls and a juggling for the three spots on the podium. Going into the competition in fourth place were the eventual gold winners, Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot. It was Savchenko’s fifth Olympics and first gold medal. She’d previously won two bronze. Born in the Ukraine and competing for that country until, with her German partner, in 2003, they competed under his native flag, the 34 year old won for Germany. Her partner is from France.

In the men’s figure skating competition a few days later, Shoma Uno, who received the silver medal for Japan, fell right out of the box in the final round. He picked himself up and proceeded to astonish with the rest of his performance.

Do you watch the Olympics? Do the commentators add or detract from the coverage? What other vivid examples of pick yourself up and keep going, athletic or otherwise, can you share? Are there more athletes than before who compete for one country when they are citizens of another or has this always been the case?

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Service of Going Too Far: L.L. Bean Puts its Boot Down

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

Some customers take advantage of businesses—we’ve all seen the type and I’ve written about this before. I have 32 posts under “cheating,” though admittedly in most cases, the swindler was a company.

Photo: firewireblog.com

An e-letter to consumers signed by L.L. Bean’s executive chairman, Shawn O. Gorman, has put the brakes on some of the nonsense. He wrote: “a small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guarantee well beyond its original intent. Some view it as a lifetime product replacement program, expecting refunds for heavily worn products used over many years. Others seek refunds for products that have been purchased through third parties, such as at yard sales.”

I don’t know if Brooks Brothers still has its policy but I knew a successful PR man in the day who wore a necktie for a few years and returned it, no questions asked, leaving the store with a new one. There was nothing wrong with the tie. He simply wanted a new one.

According to the new L.L. Bean policy, you’ll have one year to return an item which must be accompanied by proof of purchase. If a product is defective, they’ll work with you “to reach a fair solution.” The letter included a link to the full return policy, at llbean.com.

The letter ended: “Thank you for being a loyal customer and we look forward to continuing to inspire and enable you to Be an Outsider.”

Do you know what Gorman’s reference to “Be an Outsider” means? Do you agree with the step Mr. Gorman took? Can you blame him? Do you wonder why it has taken so long? Don’t most stores have a similar policy?

 

Service of You Can’t Give It Away: Restrictions Make it Hard to Donate Goods to Major Charities

Monday, February 12th, 2018

Friends live in two places: An oversized Manhattan studio apartment and a New England home on the top of a mountain. They often update their wardrobes so their apartment closet became overwhelmed with clothing. Fred, [not his real name], spent one Saturday in the city cleaning and reorganizing. The result: Seven 30-gallon garbage bags filled with clean, ironed shirts, jackets, slacks and sweaters, some never worn.

Fred’s hallway with bags.

Fred called, among others, the Salvation Army, Good Will Industries and Outofthecloset.org, that supports HIV research. He wanted to donate the clothing.

What he learned was an eye-opener:

  • “The Good Will store doesn’t pick up,” he wrote me. “I would have to hire a large cab and deliver the bags myself. The Good Will general pick-up online is a joke.” Note: Both friends work crazy hours and scoot to their weekend retreat to catch their respective breaths on Friday. There would be no time on weekdays for them to deliver the bags.
  • “The Salvation Army wouldn’t be able to pick up until mid March,” Fred continued. Living with bags clogging the entrance to the apartment for over a month was not an option.
  • “Outofthecloset.org won’t pick up anything less than 20 13 gallon-size plastic bags which must be filled to the top. In any case, they can’t come by for several weeks.
  • “Another organization wanted items packed in a certain kind of box and required a sticker from UPS.”

I was sad to read that Fred is “tossing good clothes in the garbage little by little because charity has such strict rules.” He added: “Beggars are choosers indeed!”

Perhaps this is only a big city issue: Average NYC apartments usually don’t have space to store giveaway items for a month or more and most people don’t have cars in town which would make drop-offs easier. [Who wants to risk getting a ticket as you load the car in front of your apartment?] In any case, Fred’s cars stay at his house or at the train station parking lot.

Have you run into such roadblocks to giving? Is the glitch because charities don’t have the volunteers they may once have had to pick up goods or that their budgets are so squeezed that they can’t afford a sufficient number of drivers and vans to do the pickups?

Service of Cooking Under Pressure: The Instant Pot

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Photo: instantpot.com

The burns on my mother’s hands from an exploding pressure cooker—and going with her to the doctor who was caring for the injury–are among my earliest memories. While I love time-saving cooking appliances and gadgets, I’ve never once been tempted to go near anything that operates like that.

I was drawn to Ellen Byron’s Wall Street Journal article, “Why Is America’s Anxiety Rising? The Instant Pot,” to read what, if anything was new about this new iteration. Seems the Instant Pot does everything: steams, slow-cooks, sautés, pressure cooks and makes yogurt, rice, cakes and preserves. According to Byron, last year Amazon “delivered Instant Pots to 27,000 U.S. Zip Codes.”

Photo: successfulhomemakers.com

Byron’s title alludes to something else it does: It makes its owners nervous—for good reason– even though she said the pot comes with 10 safety mechanisms.

“Double Insight Inc., the company that makes Instant Pot, says common mishaps include overfilling the machine or releasing the pressure too quickly when cooking foods that expand,” wrote Byron. The company recommends that owners read the manual.

Her first story confirmed my apprehension: This pot is not for me. She wrote about an IT specialist who tried to clean the pot he burned while cooking spaghetti. He followed instructions to add water, put the pot on “pressure cooker high” but when he “did a quick release,” hot red sauce splashed all around from ceiling to cabinets, on him and the floor.

Photo: kittydeschanel.com

Another Instant Pot owner in Byron’s article was afraid to open the box because the gadget has so many buttons and returned the item. She eventually bought another one and went through trauma before making stew with it for the first time. She was petrified to release the pressure valve and even though nothing happened when she did, and the stew was “pretty good,” she felt “overwhelmed” and hadn’t used it again. And after all that, is “pretty good” worth all the sweat?

A retired chef who for years used a traditional pressure cooker ended up with Thai coconut shrimp bisque that “resembled cheese curds.”

There are “200 groups devoted to the device.” The largest one includes 1.2 million people in the company’s Facebook group. After yogurt boiled into the machine, another user asked her fellow groupies what to do and was advised to clean with Q-tips. Her pot works “though it smells like burned milk.”

Photo: presurecookrecipes.com

Another owner was intimidated by the manual and took a few days to recover. “There were triumphs: hard-boiled eggs, chicken, pork carnitas and chocolate cheesecake—as well as two pots of burned rice, an overcooked pork butt, a sour Key Lime cheesecake and a Christmas Day crème brûlée that looked more like a side of cottage cheese.” One said a prayer after assembling the ingredients for beef barley soup. When she “turned the quick-release valve, soup shot across her kitchen, hitting the cupboards, curtains and window.” She returned her pot.

Do you have an Instant Pot? Are you tempted to get one? Do you think the gizmo may be too good to be true? What’s wrong with pots and pans?

Photo: simplyhappyfoodie.com

Service of Both Sides of a Coin: To Sell Art or Not–the Berkshire Museum’s

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Photo: dailykos.com

When Detroit was having its financial crisis four years ago, I shared the opinion of an economics professor who felt the Detroit Institute of Arts should sell its work by big name artists to the mega-rich and instead, opt to own the pictures of emerging talent. The new owners could lend their Picassos, Rembrandts, Gauguins and Bruegels to museums as needed and the museum would have such a huge endowment that the interest alone would pay to run the place.

Money is part of the reason the Berkshire Museum wants to sell some 40 paintings. The other is a change of focus. The sale has landed it in a legal tangle.

Photo: artnews.com

An article in ArtfixDaily, “Massachusetts AG Seeks to Extend Berkshire Museum Injunction,” reported that the “Berkshire Museum, in Pittsfield, Mass., announced in July 2017 that it would sell 40 artworks from its collections to generate about $50 million, to help fund a New Vision plan to refocus the museum on science and history, and build an endowment.”

It continued, “A November auction of the museum’s art at Sotheby’s was stopped pending legal wrangles and opposition from Rockwell’s family and others.

“‘We are hopeful that a brief extension will allow us to fully analyze the information we have received in our investigation in the hope of finding a way forward to secure the future of the Museum, and ensure it is able to thrive in the years to come,’ said Emily Snyder, a spokeswoman for Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.”

Photo: artnews.com

Back in November, Larry Parness, the Berkshire Eagle, quoted museum directors who warned that without the proceeds of a sale, the 115 year old museum, founded by Zenas Crane, “could close within eight years” because of a yearly deficit of some $1million. “After working with a consultant, museum trustees decided to sell works from their collection and apply the proceeds to a capital project and to expand its endowment to roughly $40 million.

“The case has drawn national attention and is considered precedent-setting because it may be the largest such deaccession to date in the museum world in which proceeds would be applied in large part to operational expenses.”

The opposition, some 2,000 members of Save the Art-Save the Museum, on two Facebook pages according to Parness, raised money to pay for legal help to fight the sale and garnered 1,700 online signatures.

The museum has apparently softened its message about change-in-direction and added the word ART in a reaction to the stay by the AG. According to Adam Frenier on nepr.net “‘The museum accepts the attorney general’s request for a brief postponement, but remains eager to see these issues resolved to secure the future of the Berkshire Museum for all it provides its visitors, young and old, in art, history, and science,’ a museum spokeswoman said Monday.”

Do you think the museum directors should have kept separate any discussion of change in direction and first focused on the financial aspects of selling the art to help the museum survive or doesn’t that matter? Should the directors seek other ways of generating income before selling their legacy?

Berkshire Museum Photo: news10.com

Service of Typos That Can Hurt

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Photo: techslides.com

Not all typos are equal, some being more high profile than others.

In spite of best efforts I’ve made typos here since I launched the blog in 2008: Readers Lucrezia, ASK and CG can tell you as they’ve rescued me [no surprise as they were a reporter and two magazine editors, respectively]. I am super careful with the work I do for clients. I re-read my material countless times if there is time. Some clients have eagle-eyes but I’m especially careful with the copy I use for those I detect don’t pay much attention to what they approve. I’m also good at catching errors in others’ copy.

White Out for the White House

Photo: adage.com

Guests to this year’s State of the Union address received a ticket to the “State of the Uniom.” Printed by the Office of the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper, this isn’t the first high profile typo on behalf of an administration for whom details don’t much matter.

Jason Silverstein at the New York Daily News reminded us of the Trump inauguration poster “No dream is too big, no challenge is to great…..”

Photo: thehrdigest.com

In addition to countless errors by the First Tweeter, Silverstein listed a White House public schedule which spelled the British Prime Minister’s name three times “Teresa May,” instead of Theresa May. Silverstein took delight in noting that the Teresa version is the name of a porn star. The White House Snapchat account referred to “Secretary of Educatuon Betsy DeVos” and a press release about Israel and Palestine referred to “lasting peach.”

Staff is loosey goosey about spelling names: Schaub instead of Walter Shaub; John instead of Jon Huntsman; Human instead of Humane Society; Once instead of Air Force One.

Clean Up Your Act

Photo: ragan.com

At Home Depot last Saturday I pulled over a very nice associate to confirm what I saw on a sign printed on copy paper taped to a giant pile of 8-Pack double rolls of Bounty: “was $14.97,” in small type and in giant type “now 16.97.”

We joked about it —“oh good!” I said; “I get to pay $2 more!!”—and after speaking with his supervisor on the phone to report the goof he walked me to the cashier to get me the $14.97 price because the barcode was set at the higher amount. I was there late afternoon and wonder how many hours or days the sign was there before someone noticed!

Skin in the Game

Photo: pophangover.com

According to statisticbrain.com, 14 percent of Americans—45 million—have at least one tattoo, the largest percentage falling in the 26 to 40 age range. A small one costs $45 on average and a large one, $150/hour. Annually, we spend $1,650,500,000.

The important statistics for this post are the percentage of people with tattoos who have covered up one with another–5 percent—and the 11 percent who are either getting or have already had one removed. The website doesn’t conjecture the reasons but my guess is either a girlfriend/boyfriend name change or an irritating typo.

In a skip though Google, there’s plenty of coverage of the latter. These are just a few of 38 posted in one site:

  • “Only God will juge me”
  • “You only life once”
  • “Believe Achive”
  • “My mom is my angle”

Have you made—or seen—glaring typos? Do you think that technology—auto-correct or overly complicated templates, for example—is to blame? Do you see more mistakes today than in the last 10+ years?

Photo: blog.hubspot.com

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