Archive for June, 2019

Service of Leave it Alone, Already II: Why Buy a Landmark if You’re Going to Destroy It?

Thursday, June 27th, 2019

Booth Cottage Photo: chicago.curbed.com

I complained, in the 2016 iteration of this title, about the person who bought a Brooklyn brownstone I once coveted that had all of the original plasterwork that they tore out. “Couldn’t they have bought another house?” I thought after I visited the remodeled, stripped down atrocity on a house tour. That post addressed physical attacks on public buildings—The Waldorf Astoria and Grand Central Terminal.

Photo: curbed.com

I had a similar sinking feeling when reading Michael J. Lewis’s article, “Bulldozing a Modernist Landmark” with subhead “The looming demolition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Booth cottage is the latest example in a long history of our culture’s disregard for its architectural past.” The owner’s complaint about the Glencoe, Ill. property: it’s a small house on a big lot. So pick on another property!

Lewis wrote: “People are usually surprised to learn that America’s historic buildings, no matter how significant, go unprotected unless there is a local preservation ordinance. Even those ordinances are typically toothless, since they can be overruled for reasons of ‘hardship,’ a category so elastic that the inability to maximize the profit potential of your property can count.

Photo: 6sqft.com

“As it happens,” Lewis continued, “there is a preservation ordinance in Glencoe, but the Sherman M. Booth cottage has been given only ‘honorary’ landmark status. That means that demolition can occur, but the town can mandate a 180-day stay of execution. For the moment, the cottage still stands; behind-the-scenes negotiations might save it yet.”

Lewis cited statistics kept by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy which report that only two of Wright’s structures have been demolished with 380 existing, so losing a third may not be the big deal I think it is. Your thoughts? Why are Americans so blasé about their architectural history?

Photo: travelandleisure.com

Service of Goodbye II: Nurses and Teachers Saying Adios to Children

Monday, June 24th, 2019

Photo: jobs.ac.uk

Goodbyes are one of my least favorite things which is why I’ve broached the subject head-on only twice in the 11 years I’ve written this blog.

Photo: americannursetoday.com

I marvel at the glowing faces of hospital nurses as they wave goodbye to children leaving for home. I’ve seen this in news clips or documentaries. Many of the nurses have helped bring the tots, some under their care for months if not years, back from the brink of death. Yet they also don’t want to see their patients return to the hospital for treatment.

I’ve thought: “How do they feel losing contact with the little ones they must have become attached to?”

You can’t know the emotions of a stranger you’ve never spoken with, but Leanne Sowul‘s blog post, “The Perpetual Goodbye,” shares a glimpse at how others, who share the lives of children, feel when the kids move on.

She wrote about this year’s au revoir to the fifth graders she taught in band for two years in 60 small group lessons and 85 rehearsals. “I’ve gotten to know many of them quite well, and I’m going to miss them very much.”

Photo: teacher.org

She continued: “It’s something that isn’t discussed much in teaching circles: the perpetual need to say goodbye. We talk about the stress of the end of the year, how crazy the students get when the weather turns warm, and how much we can’t wait to relax. Sometimes we say, ‘This was a good group of kids. I’m going to miss them.’ But we don’t really talk about the deep loss we feel. We swallow it and move on. It’s the nature of the job.”

My first grade teacher, Miss Woods, would look right through you if you saw her in the hall once you moved to second grade and beyond. I was told that she had lost her own child which is why she did that–she didn’t want deep connection with her students.

Sowul continued: “That’s how it is when you’re a teacher: the students move on, and you’re supposed to stay the same. But you’re not the same. You’re different, because they’ve changed you.

“It’s like having your kids grow up and move away every single year. It’s not something that gets easier with time. In some ways, as you become a better teacher and learn to connect better with kids, it gets harder.”

It’s not just children that nurses and teachers miss nor are these two professions exclusive in this aspect of a job. What are some others? Why don’t teachers address and admit the loss among themselves?

Photo: northwestschool.org

Service of an Obnoxious Co-Worker

Thursday, June 20th, 2019

Photo: npr.org.

A friend who directed a large department at a major corporation advised her staff about dealing with difficult people at the office. “They are like mosquitoes,” she said, “they can’t hurt you; they are just mindless irritations that you can swat away.”

Photo: youtube.com

At least one insufferable person works in almost every office, organization or business. Most of us have faced or observed them. “They’re the people who demean and disrespect you. They might steal credit for your successes, blame you for their failures, invade your privacy or break their promises, or bad-mouth you, scream at you and belittle you. As the organizational psychologist Bob Sutton puts it, they treat you like dirt, and either they don’t know it or they don’t care.” Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton, wrote this and shared his tips on how to best endure in a New York Times article, “How to Deal with a Certified Jerk at Work.”

Photo: mindsight.clinic

Becoming defensive isn’t the solution, wrote Grant. He approached a heckler in the audience of one of his presentations. He called for a time out, approached the offender and said “You’re welcome to disagree with the data, but I don’t think that’s a respectful way to express your opinion. It’s not how I was trained to have an intellectual debate. Were you?” The critic had called him ignorant and said Grant didn’t know what he was talking about. After Grant sent him backup data, the fellow apologized. Dr. Sutton calls a person like this “a temporary jerk.”

Grant reported: “Research on the psychology of certified jerks reveals that they have a habit of rationalizing aggression. They’ve convinced themselves that they have to act that way to get the results they want.” The way conflict mediation expert Sheila Heen told Grant that she might respond to an aggressive person is by saying “Really? It was my impression that you were smarter than that, and more creative than that — so I bet you could come up with some other ways to be just as clear without having to actually rip somebody else apart.”

You might not be able to speak with a boss or manager this way so Grant suggested decreasing your independence and minimizing your interaction with the chief while at the same time increasing his/her dependence on you. Dr. Sutton had a different idea: consider the person a “spectacular, amazing specimen” for your study of jerks to change “your attitude toward the situation.”

How have you dealt with an obnoxious creature at work? What do you think the inspiration is for a person to act this way? To use my friend’s analogy of treating work jerks like a mosquitos, what repellant do you use to divert their attention? Are there any positive outcomes of surviving the negative dynamic?

Photo: wikihow.com

Service of Mi Casa es Tu Casa–Come on In!

Monday, June 17th, 2019

Photo: tierrafina.com

Daily we hear of hacking that’s happened either to a friend, big corporation or organization. It’s a form of break-in. I think it may have inured the public to the normalcy of loss of privacy that gorges on volunteer personal intrusions. Think such smart speakers like Alexa and Amazon Echo.

Photo: wired.com

Maybe that’s why Walmart and Amazon have or are about to introduce a new wrinkle to their delivery services. In select markets, both will or do arrange for access to a customer’s home to put food in the fridges of the former and leave packages in a home, garage or car trunk in the latter.

Citizens of Kansas City, Mo., Pittsburgh and Vero Beach will be the first to officially invite Walmart delivery staff to put perishables in their refrigerators through a program slated for a fall launch called Walmart InHome. [The system was tested in New Jersey.]

Photo: commons.wikipedia.org

In “Walmart Wants to Put Groceries Into Your Fridge,” Sarah Nassauer wrote “The workers will wear a body cameras [sic] clipped to their chests, allowing customers to watch live streams of deliveries being made while they aren’t home.” She reported in her Wall Street Journal article that they’ll have access to homes via a smart lock that connects to the Internet allowing a door to unlock remotely. Wallmart sells the device.

Delivery staff for the service must have worked for the company for at minimum a year. “Not everyone embraces the concept at first, but just as people have gradually accepted renting out rooms in their homes through services like Airbnb Inc, ‘people are very quickly comfortable with it,’ said Marc Lore, head of Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce business.”

Photo: gate labs

The Amazon service, Key by Amazon, wrote Nassauer, is for Prime members in 50 cities. Fresh groceries aren’t involved. In another program Via Prime Now customers get orders from Amazon’s Whole Foods division on doorsteps.

Not every delivery business received the mega company’s stamp of approval. Sebastian Herrera reported last week in the Journal that Amazon is deep sixing its restaurant delivery service.

Would you be comfortable inviting strangers into your kitchen or your home, garage or car trunk when you’re not home? Do you think comfort level for this kind of trust may be higher in some parts of the country than others? Have privacy-breaking services like Alexa and Amazon Echo paved the way? What if you’re in a meeting or otherwise inaccessible when you need to unlock your front door remotely with no time to watch while the delivery person with body camera drops off your perishables? Do you think that this person—or the staffer who packs the order–will be trained to leave foods like tomatoes and bananas out of the refrigerator and on the counter?

Photo: orchardestates.com

 

Service of Whose Job is it Anyway? Fact Checking a Nonfiction Book

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

Photo: arstechnica.com

Writing a book is daunting. Grasping the tremendous amount of information often gathered over many years and then wrapping it in the coherent and engaging form of a nonfiction book leaves me in awe and admiration of authors. Writing is just the second of many essential steps.

Lynn Neary wrote “Checking Facts in NonFiction,” a transcript of an NPR program I heard on Weekend Edition Saturday. “Authors, not publishers, are responsible for the accuracy of nonfiction books. Every now and then a controversy over a high-profile book provokes discussion about whether that policy should change.” Fact checking is in an author’s contract with the publisher.

Photo: phys.org.

The controversy Neary mentioned involved feminist author Naomi Wolf’s latest book Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love. Matthew Sweet, the host of a BBC 3 podcast “Free Thinking,” said in an interview “I don’t think any of the executions you’ve identified here actually happened.” According to Neary, The New York Times joined the fray adding that she’d also made errors in previous books.

An author/journalist friend wrote me in an email: “It’s a privilege to be an author and it’s also a responsibility. We’re human and mistakes are unavoidable…and it sure would be nice if publishers were willing to pick up the tab for fact-checking. But at this point, they’re not, and I think there is a level of due diligence where you are responsible for either hiring a fact-checker or putting in the long, tedious hours to do it yourself.”

Photo: phys.org

Neary reported that Maryn McKenna “paid $10,000 to have someone check the facts in her last book ‘Big Chicken.’” McKenna concentrates on science and health. Best-selling authors like Wolf– and another author caught with errors, Jared Diamond who wrote “Upheaval”–can afford to pay fact checkers McKenna told Neary.

McKenna said “It really makes one wonder whether accuracy, as a value, is something that’s really top of mind for publishers or whether there’s a separate calculation going on about sales volume that accuracy and veracity doesn’t really intersect with.”

My author/journalist friend, who did her own fact checking for her fifth book—it was nonfiction–added: “I also asked a leading neonatologist to read the whole manuscript so he could tell me what I got wrong, and he very generously pointed out my errors so I could correct them before the book went to press. I’m sure there are still mistakes in there somewhere–there was so much conflicting source material and as a journalist there’s also a point where you need to make your best judgment. (For instance, newspaper eyewitness accounts of the same event on the same day conflicted, which I explained in the end notes.)”

The author/journalist added: “I was terrified of making mistakes and agonized over details. So while this opinion might come back to bite me, my feeling is that there was a level of sloppiness in Wolf’s book that’s troubling.”

Photo: pediaa.com

Neary wrote: “Money, says literary agent Chris Parris-Lamb, is the main reason writers don’t get their books fact-checked.” Parris-Lamb told her “I would like to see every book fact-checked, and I want to see publishers provide the resources for authors to hire fact-checkers.” Neary said: “Parris-Lamb sympathizes with writers, but he doesn’t expect publishers will start paying for fact-checking anytime soon because, in the end, he says, the author has more to lose than the publisher.”

Do you read nonfiction? Do you assume the information in the biographies, history, memoirs, journals and commentary you read is accurate? Does a sloppy research job feed the fake news monster? Given the state of book publishing today, what if anything do you think will inspire publishers to step up and pay for fact checking?

Photo: prowritingaid.com

Service of Digital Receipts Going Astray: Can Square Fix the Glitch?

Monday, June 10th, 2019

Photo: samsclub.com

It’s bad enough when you’re not paying attention and you email James Doe instead of James Doener because you let auto suggest have its way with you. Most people have done this or received correspondence for someone because of it. I cringe at a few of my bloopers.

Now it turns out that a record of your purchases could possibly be shared with others. Peter Rudegeair wrote about it in “Square Sends Millions of Digital Receipts, Sometimes to the Wrong Person From surprise gifts to pending divorces, misdirected notifications result in spilled secrets.” Square is a service that allows companies to accept mobile credit card payments via a gizmo inserted into the port of a phone.

In one example Rudegeair wrote about a friend who learned that the credit card owner was getting a divorce because she received a copy of a detailed lawyer’s receipt for the retainer.

Photo: westminsterpc.ca

In another a spouse received a detailed digital receipt, before Christmas, of gifts that were supposed to be a surprise. Because she was getting the blame–and had never before had so many complaints for her service–the local retailer asked Square to disable the automated digital receipt function two years ago.

Rudegeair reported that if a spouse signs up for a digital receipt program for a card they share, they both get them. The partner may not realize this. A florist “has gotten calls from spouses who had surprise gifts spoiled by an errant receipt,” he wrote. The florist added “God forbid anyone was having an affair. You’d see everything.”

Photo: posapps.io

Rudegear wrote: “Square has forwarded receipts documenting transactions as mundane as a cup of coffee and as sensitive as an obstetrician’s visit to people who were uninvolved in the purchases, according to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. In some cases, neither the purchaser nor the recipient could say why Square sent receipts to the people it did.”

According to a Square spokesperson “digital receipts could be received by the wrong person for a variety of reasons, including consumers sharing a credit-card number, accidentally sending the receipt to a recycled phone number or seller or buyer error.”

Customers signing up for digital receipts is a profitable sideline for Square, Rudegear reported: “Square has a window into spending patterns that few other tech companies can match. By supplementing that data with contact details that shoppers provide to Square for the purpose of getting digital receipts, the company is able to assemble expansive profiles of consumer behavior that it can use to run marketing and loyalty programs for its small-business customers.”

Have any of your digital receipts gone rogue? Are you concerned that they might? Now that you know a glitch like this is possible, would you cancel the digital receipt option on your credit card?

Photo: floranext.com

Service of Prepping the Boss: Why are Shoes Dropped?

Thursday, June 6th, 2019

Photo: lovethispic.com

Employees have their bosses’ back–or should–and do what they can to make the woman or man look good. When he/she trips up in public it’s often hard to tell whether the advisor poorly prepped the chief or if the boss neglected to pay attention.

Photo: ascensioncathedral.com

The Clintons once received Holy Communion when Bill was President. Their advisors should have told them that Catholics don’t welcome non-Catholics to the Communion rail. They no doubt meant well yet the blunder was so easily avoided.

Speaking of Presidents, the advance team of a Presidential visit to any city foreign or domestic should know what is to happen every minute. This week in London the president failed to recognize the gift he had given to the Queen on his last visit–a pewter horse [photo below, center]. She’s a well known breeder and lover of horses so it was an apt gift. His wife had either read the cliff notes or perhaps she remembered. People magazine’s Adam Carlson, quoting the Royal Collection’s curator Tim Knox, wrote: “We just asked him whether he recognized it and he said no but the first lady did recognize it, which is rather nice.” While insignificant, a boss should never be blindsided like this.

Once my job was to listen carefully to what the boss said at new business meetings. Take the number of employees at the place: I ensured that proposals matched his claims. If a prospect wanted a company with 20 people, that’s the number he’d declare. Next time it could be 30. Almost every proposal was different in this regard.

Photo: infofilm.org

A friend researched and informed the chairman of the large corporation he worked for with the names of wives and children of those who shared his table at the many events he attended. Remember the scene in “The Devil Wears Prada” where Anne Hathaway, playing Andy, [photo above, left] is similarly advising Meryl Streep, as Miranda, at Runway magazines’ yearly bash?

Have you ever had such a responsibility? Can you recall gaffes at high levels because of insufficient research and/or shoddy boss-prep?

Photo: metro.co.uk

Service of How Sweet it Is: Honey, Ever More Precious and Expensive

Monday, June 3rd, 2019

Photo: farmandfleet.com

Whether or not the new tariff against Mexico causes the cost of tomatoes and avocados to increase, we’ll be paying more for honey regardless of where it’s from if we’re not already doing so according to Lucy Craymer of The Wall Street Journal. She wrote “Global honey prices are at their highest levels in years, due to a new wave of consumer demand for natural sweeteners and declining bee populations that are hampering mass production.”

In addition to a delicious topping on toast or a tea sweetner, honey is used, she reported, in commercial food and drink and in beauty products such as shampoo and moisturizer.

Photo: sciencenewsforstudents.com

“Prices have climbed about 25% since 2013, while the cost of sugar has fallen around 30% over the same time frame,” she wrote. The National Honey board data reflects a nine percent increase in price for a pound of honey in just the last year. “Those prices have risen by about two-thirds in the last decade, according to a survey of more than 150 retailers nationwide by Bee Culture magazine, a publication for American beekeepers.”

Photo: serenataflowers.com

Premium honeys have tipped the price scales. According to Craymer a pound jar of Manuka from New Zealand costs $26.49 at Target when its house brand, Simply Balanced organic honey, costs $6.39 for the same size.

Craymer reported that production has been “relatively” stable for the last five years but increasing production is still a challenge between increased beehive colony collapses, a disease that the Varroa mite causes, pesticides, death in winter and “The conversion of large swaths of land to industrial crop farms,” she wrote, that “has also reduced the amount of food—pollen—that is available for bees.”

Photo: iHerb

Bees can’t thrive in any old place. They need wild forage to hunt for pollen. Nearby fields of cotton, corn or soybeans won’t hack it. That’s why Catherine Wolkom takes advantage of every blossom. She owns The Humble Bee Honey Co. in Watertown, Conn. She  won’t mow dandelions which drives her landscape designer husband nuts. [I actually love the shot of yellow dandelions add to a spring lawn.] In addition to dandelions, the nectar from her bees comes from flower, vegetable garden and fruit tree pollen.

Do you substitute honey for sugar? What’s your favorite way to eat honey? Has your consumption increased? Do you try to buy local honey? Are there other foods that may be endangered so that many will no longer be able to afford and enjoy them?

Photo: almanac.com

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