Archive for April, 2019

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

Monday, April 29th, 2019

Photo: verywellphone.com

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

Photo: pcworld.com

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

Photo: psychologytoday.com

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

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

Photo: livescience.com

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: parents.com

 

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

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

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

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

Photo: pinterest.com

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

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

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

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

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

Ruby chocolate Photo: craftsense.co

Service of Death by Selfie: Another Call for Moderation

Monday, April 22nd, 2019

Photo: bgr.in

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

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

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

Photo: selfieliciousphotos.com

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

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

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

Photo: kiwireport.com

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

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

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

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

Photo: news.com.au

Service of Second Chances for People and Pets

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Photo: toolshero.com

It’s Easter, Passover and spring, a good time to celebrate second chances.

Photo: youtube.com

I saw two Chihuahuas get one. They were on the Furry Friend Finder segment on CBS 2 Weekend, a local NYC metro news show. The dogs were 14 and 15 years old and needed a home–a difficult ask.  They’d been in a previous weekly segment in which the hosts introduce the audience to dogs in search of a forever family. A New Jersey family adopted the two elderly pups—they had a 14 year old pooch to welcome the others.

I’ve written previously about my sister and a friend each of whom adopted ancient orphaned cats, giving the felines a second chance at loving homes.

Photo: golfdigest

The odds that Tiger Woods, 43, would ever again win a major golf tournament seemed slim due to a series of back operations and psychological issues that appeared to send him off his game. Yet last weekend he walked off with yet another green jacket at the Masters Golf Tournament and he was no spring chicken–three years younger than Jack Nicklaus, the oldest player to don the trademark jacket.

Photo: facebook.com

And then there’s Bill Weld, 73, former Governor of Massachusetts, who is running for president on the Republican ticket taking on a 72 year old incumbent. There was a time when septuagenarians would not be fighting over one of the most difficult and stressful jobs on the planet.

And what about Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris? It is slated for another chance.

I’ve been blessed by second chances, have you? Please share examples.

Blog Service of Firing Employees: Is There a Good Way?

Monday, April 15th, 2019

Photo: caravandaily.com

There’s no perfect way to pull the plug on any relationship–personal or professional. Chip Cutter wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the impetus these days to find the best way to fire employees is to avoid “the potential for a conflict—or even violence.” He referenced the five killed by a crazed ex-employee in an Aurora, Ill. factory two months ago.

I like to think that kindness and empathy may help–figuring out the humane way to behave is best. It also reflects well on a company that, in turn, impacts the remaining employees, unless company culture is to keep employees on tenterhooks. I don’t do well in that environment.

Photo: firedbread.com

I’ve always heard that Friday is the worst day to fire someone because the person is left in the lurch with a weekend to stew and stress and yet Cutter reported that conventional wisdom has chosen it these days because it often coincided with the end of a pay period. This strategy clearly reflects a focus on the employer, not on the people losing their path to survival.

“Letting a person go on a Wednesday gives them time to contact other employers and look for work during business hours the following days,” Bubba Fatula, a former law-enforcement official who is director of threat preparedness at Gittings Protective Security Inc. told Cutter.

Photo: thebalancecareers.com

Tuesdays through Thursdays “allow terminated employees to follow up during business hours with questions about benefits after the job loss and give remaining staffers who may be worried about their own roles time to ask questions and get reassurance” said Rachel Bitte, chief people officer at recruiting software company Jobvite Inc.

“Unless someone is fired for egregious conduct, Suzanne Gleason, division director of staffing firm Global Employment Solutions, said she asks employees how she can assist them in finding another job.”

And “In contentious situations, [Beth] Steinberg will give her phone number to employees and encourage them to call or text with questions. If she fears there may be mental health or anger issues, she uses language such as ‘I can imagine this might be difficult for you,’ and refers them to resources still covered by their health benefits, such as an employee assistance program.’ She’s chief people officer at Zenefits.

Several HR execs recommended extending benefits like health insurance.

“Team Fireball Inc., in the Chicago area, offers training on how to keep firings from going awry. It coaches companies to conduct terminations near an exit and in a quieter part of the office to prevent a ‘walk of shame’ by the worker who has been let go, said Debbie Pickus, chief executive. The training also teaches HR staffers in basic self-defense and how to move their body to create a barrier between them and the employee, if needed.”

For those who are fired, executive coach Roberta Matuson suggests the ex employee learn details about why they are fired; take their time before signing anything; negotiate severance pay, health insurance etc.; never fume on social media and focus on the job search.

Is it better to be downsized than fired? Have you heard of a humane way to be fired or is there no such thing? If an employer takes the blame for hiring someone that wasn’t fit for the job would this help the morale of the person let go? Do you feel that a corporate environment based on fear of being fired has the best results? Do you know successful people like Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Steve Jobs who were once famously fired?

Photo: deviantart.com

Service of Cats

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

Caramelli Cat

I’m no cat expert. Only two have lived with me–I was a dog only person for years–and while adored and spoiled, my felines hardly amounted to a significant case study. However, I’ve lived next door to, observed and cat sat for indoor/outdoor cats and have had countess cat nieces, nephews, step children and friends.

Which is why I am chiming in on the findings Brianna Abbott reported in her Wall Street Journal article, “There Is Now Scientific Proof Your Cat Is Ignoring You –New study finds felines can distinguish their names, even if they don’t come when called; twitching ears.

Josette

Abbott wrote: “At the risk of dashing the hopes of owners who put their hearts into coming up with the perfect name, it is unlikely cats associate the call with a sense of self, researchers say. More likely, cats associate that specific sound with some sort of reward, like food or petting or playing, and come to learn that the reward will follow the sound. That is how most species, like dogs, learn how to assign meaning to specific sounds.”

The researches in the “Scientific Reports” journal study Abbott highlighted hadn’t met Cibier the cat, who lives in Millbrook, N.Y. When he was my neighbor and out and about on our 10 acres, only once when called did he not come bounding over to his housemate, Gerald. That was when he was sick and hiding in the woods. Cats often hide when they don’t feel well. Otherwise no matter what rodent he was stalking or scent he was following, he’d race back home when summoned.

Cibier

“Past research has shown dogs can recognize humans’ emotional states, and the pitch of a human voice can affect dog behavior and how they follow commands. Highly trained dogs can even distinguish between over 1,000 different words or symbols, according to one 2011 study.”

I maintain that cats can as well. A friend rescued a mature cat when its human had died and nobody in the family could take it home due to allergies. My friend was warned that the cat didn’t cuddle and never sat on laps but otherwise was good company. Not long after the cat joined her household she broke a limb and was forced to stay home with leg propped up on pillows for weeks. One day, early in her convalescence, who jumped on the bed and into her lap? This cat.

“ ‘Cats are just as good at learning,’” says John Bradshaw, an anthrozoologist at the University of Bristol, who wasn’t involved in the study. ‘They’re just not as keen to show their owners what they’ve learned.’”

Georgie, a friend’s cat, shook paws with his humans every time they asked him to–in front of me at least.

Abbott also wrote: “There is also research showing that when given the choice between food, toys and human interaction, the majority of cats actually choose human interaction.” They hadn’t studied my Caramelli Cat. Cara was hungry 24/7 and if you put the right food in her bowl, the best toy or softest lap would come in second or third every time.

How did this dog enthusiast become a cat fan? We bought a house that came with a cat who purred and hugged her way into our hearts and the rest is history. This once feral cat turned out to be the Perle Mesta of felines. Mesta, 1889-1975, a socialite and ambassador, was known as a great hostess. I had a houseful of friends one weekend when my husband was abroad. After dinner one night Cat–his name–made it his business to sit on the lap of each friend. I am convinced that as a host, he wanted them to feel at home.

Have you known a cat that displayed atypical cat behavior? Do cats get bad publicity for the most part? Are you a dog person who couldn’t contemplate loving a cat or vice versa?

Oliver

Service of Storage: Good or Bad Idea?

Monday, April 8th, 2019

Photo: movinginsider.com

I heard David Levine interview author Gretchen Rubin about her new book, “Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter and Organize to Make More Room for Happiness,” at a Science Writers in New York event. Levine is co-chair. During the Q and A, the topic of storage–that I mentioned in passing in a recent post on moving–came up.

Photo: everettdowntownstorage.com

As I wrote, I’ve moved from substantial to small spaces. To counter my groaning about giving away, selling or tossing yet more stuff friends and family have suggested storage. Figuring that it’s doubtful that I’ll be moving to larger apartments or homes anytime soon, I resisted tucking away things in a storage unit. It didn’t make sense, unless the bin was in the basement of the apartment as at times it has been.

I’m either in the minority or folks conducting the storage industry’s forecasts are off. SpareFoot, reporting on the self storage industry, calculates that the US has 50,000+ self storage facilities or 2.322 billion square feet of rentable space.

As I’ve written previously, I believe in storing winter or summer clothes at a dry cleaner’s to address miniscule closet space. Some dry cleaners store suitcases. That makes sense if you own a large one and live in a diminutive studio.

Do you store things? What? Is it expensive? How often do you visit your belongings? What do you expect to do with them eventually?

Photo: 140mini.com

Service of Congestion Pricing: Positive or Negative Impact on NY Metro Area?

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

NYC traffic Photo: nyc.gov

Michael Riedel declared on the radio yesterday morning that he doesn’t care about the impending congestion pricing initiative slated for high traffic zones in Manhattan because he won’t be impacted by it as his colleagues might. He lives in the Village and often rides his bicycle to work. He’s half the WOR Radio 710 morning team. Len Berman, the other half, drives in from Long Island and the other key players are news director Joe Bartlett and executive producer Natalie Batos-Vacca. They hail from New Jersey. The latter three are currently less enthusiastic.

London traffic Photo standard.co.uk

The system that state legislators approved in concept on Monday might start as early as the end of 2020. A network of license plate readers would bill vehicles south of Central Park. The money would supplement the tolls on seven bridges and tunnels around the city that charge between $9.50 and $15.

According to an Associated Press [AP] article that appeared in USA Today, some 717,000 vehicles daily enter the high traffic zone in question. With a toll of say $11.52, [which is being considered] proponents estimate a 13 percent reduction in traffic and $1.1 billion/year in revenues. After expenses, the money would go to trains and buses. Pollution should also be less.

Stockholm rush hour Photo: thelocal.se

The scheme has been in place in London [since 2003], Stockholm [since 2007] and Singapore [since the 1070s]. At first the effect was positively felt in London but congestion has increased lately because of businesses like Uber that were exempt from the toll. That changes on April 8.

The AP asked, as do I, if there is sufficient alternate transportation for those who give up their cars. What happens to taxis, delivery trucks, and ride-hail cars that might go in and out of the zone multiple times a day? Will excessive exemptions weaken the effect of the initiative? One pundit predicted that people “aren’t going to abandon their cars to get into the subway.”

“Asked about concerns over whether such a beleaguered transit system could even handle more riders if people decided not to drive into Manhattan, [Kate] Slevin pointed out that transit officials have almost two years to take steps that will help, like redoing bus routes.” Slevin is with an advocacy organization that supports the congestion toll.

Singapore traffic Photo: technocracy.news

How come we hear nothing about measures taken to belt-tighten at the MTA? Anyone review the budget for pork and ways for efficiency to lower the cost of doing business? The organization might find more than enough money for repairs were these steps taken.

Is Riedel right: That because he doesn’t live or work in the high traffic zone congestion pricing won’t impact him in any way? Do you think New York City’s limping transportation system can withstand an increased passenger load until the money kicks in to improve things? Aren’t the exorbitant fees in high traffic zones that are already added to the cost of yellow taxi rides—onerous for citizens and a death knell for the taxi owners–enough? Might the new tolls impact the value of residential real estate in the boroughs and NY Metro area?

NYC traffic Photo: nypost.com

Service of Billboards in the Right Places

Monday, April 1st, 2019

Photo: neogaf.com

I first heard about a ban on billboards when driving through Vermont decades ago. According to vnrc.org, “Vermont was the first of four states, along with Maine, Hawaii and Alaska to ban billboards. In their place, Vermont uses travel information signs along state highway corridors to guide residents and visitors to destinations that are located off those highways. Typically these smaller, standard format signs are clustered together to further reduce their visual effect. Businesses with frontage on state roads and highways may install signs that conform to local sign regulations.”

Now New York City is fighting digital billboards on barges on Hudson and East Rivers. According to Katie Honan in The Wall Street Journal, “Zoning regulations prohibit advertising on waterways throughout most of the city, including along residential and commercial zones and in view of highways and bridges, according to city officials.”

Photo: billboardinsider.com

She reported “‘Our waterways aren’t Times Square,’ Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said in a statement. ‘These floating eyesores have no place on them.'”

A Ballyhoo Media boat “carries 20-foot-tall and 60-foot-long TV screens displaying digital ads. It usually begins its routes on the Hudson River in Midtown, then heads south around Battery Park, continuing north up the East River to Roosevelt Island. The ads are visible to motorists driving on two waterfront roadways in Manhattan, the FDR Drive and the West Side Highway.”

If the judge favors the plaintiffs, each violation would be subject to a $25,000 a day fine. Two councilmen want the fee to be $100,000/day and are introducing a bill according to Honan.

What do you think about billboards: Should municipalities be even more particular about where they go? Do you find the information on them useful or distracting when you drive? Do you object to seeing floating billboards on New York City’s waterways?

Photo: timesquarenyc.org

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