Archive for December, 2020

Service of Looking on the Bright Side II

Monday, December 28th, 2020

Photo: notsalmon.com

It almost feels out of place, with so many friends suffering, to list some bright spots as I look back on this year. I worry that my list might ring a sour note against the backdrop of recent loss–some sorely and freshly missing their loved ones–while others are fighting challenging diseases or conditions, and several are exhaustively looking for jobs. Out of my circle, millions are hungry and/or are about to be evicted from their homes or are recovering from Covid-19–or not. Carcasses of businesses are on every commercial street in Manhattan and in most cities. And this is for starters.

Cheery observations at the end of 2020 might be reminiscent of the Christmas letters of old that often arrived as life imploded. The writers boasted about a kid’s early admission to Harvard, the First Class trip the family of eight took in Tuscany all of August and the sale of the family business for a gazillion dollars. [I don’t get these letters anymore because Facebook boasting took the pressure off.]

Nevertheless, I nod to a few things that brightened my year:

  • I moved my office home in June. By July all the others in the shared space were also permanently working remotely. It wasn’t the lifestyle jolt I’d have expected under normal circumstances because I’d already been home for four months and had adjusted to the lack of companionship.
  • Envisioning the reaction of recipients of the handwritten postcards I sent to support candidates around the country made me smile. Did they think, “Who is Jeanne?” Did they vote?
  • My friends are blessings. I appreciated all their invitations even though I accepted so few.
  • Normally not fond of shots I look forward to receiving the vaccine–the ray of hope.
  • I splurged–and love–my iPad and the New York Public Library e-book collection.
  • YouTube and WMNR [through my laptop] are lifesavers. So is Netflix.
  • I feel safe in my apartment.
  • I enjoy my own company.

If you suffered a loss or are ill, I am so sorry. I rejoice with friends who have battled and won over serious conditions. I trust those looking for work will find promising opportunities early in the new year. And I hope that you, too, can think of a few bright spots as you review this horrific year. Happy New Year.

We hope they will.

Service of Holiday Memories II

Monday, December 21st, 2020

Since 2008, when I launched my blog, I’ve occasionally written about holiday memories. As many will be spending this season without loved ones–Dr. Fauci said it’s the first year since his daughters were born that he won’t be with them at Christmas–I suspect that those who do gather will be saying, “Do you remember the year…..?” Others will recollect quietly.

Photo: pinterest.com

As I draft this post salt-free butter is reaching room temperature in the kitchen. I plan to make the Christmas cookies I’ve baked–or helped make–since childhood [photo above]. I shared the recipe in 2009 in “Season of Seasonal Treats.” One year my mother and I made hundreds which we gave as gifts. Together, on her last Christmas, we baked them so she could enjoy the familiar fragrance in her apartment.

I remember a Christmas Eve my oldest nephews, in their late teens, carved the turkey for the extended family sit-down dinner celebration for 30 I hosted alone. I dipped into the kitchen to check on progress and saw them dusting off soil from the bird. I never asked how they knocked over a plant that hung well above the counter on which they were working, nor did I acknowledge the accident at the time. I was most grateful that everyone pitched in that year.

Were or will your 2020 Hanukah or Christmas gatherings be different? Have you thought of past celebrations more than usual? At every fête, before we dig in, our family toasts “les absents,” those missing from our holiday table. This Christmas I will raise a glass to all of you.

Photo: howtomakedo.net

Service of Terrible Decisions: Pay Bills or Buy Gifts for the Children?

Thursday, December 17th, 2020

Photo: lifelessons.co

I saw a Facebook posting in which a single mother grieved that she was overwhelmed by debt with no end in sight. She was jobless. She worried that she didn’t know how she’d manage to buy Christmas gifts for her children.

One comment caught my eye. The writer reprimanded the mother for thinking about gifts when she owed money. She should pay her bills and forget presents, she scolded.

I empathize with the mother. Imagine if you’re faced with eviction, starvation, and possibly illness without medical care for you and your family. The looks of disappointed children who may understand what’s going on at home but nevertheless hope for a surprise would add to an already astronomical heartache. [I am sorry I rushed by the post at the time and didn’t track down the mother.]

Photo: worldvision.org

Churches, organizations and clubs around the country traditionally had giving trees this time of year, all cancelled now, while at the same time the need for basics by millions has exploded. There was nothing frivolous about the wishes I took from such trees. Written on paper ornaments or tags were requests for a warm coat for an infant; a housecoat for a senior. Real estate companies at some of the larger buildings in NYC showed off the bicycles, games and dolls slated for children associated with a charity.

Not this Christmas.

The economy isn’t going to snap back even after 70 percent of us are vaccinated. Millions will continue to suffer.

Photo: johnmini.com

As I pass residential and commercial lobbies in Manhattan I see gargantuan Christmas trees decorated to death. They cheer for the moment tenants and guests dash by. What if co-op and condo boards and tenants in rentals voted to skip the trees and donate the budgeted money for food, warm clothing or gifts for little ones? There might be a collection in each building to buy a few poinsettia plants for a lobby instead.

But such efforts are miniscule potatoes.

All around the country small businesses have crumbled and with them the hopes and savings of the owners. Thousands have been let go by giant corporations. I fear another stimulus check–$3,600 for a couple with two children–while better than nothing won’t make much of a dent on past due rent, electric, phone and credit card bills.

I’ve written before about the thrill of sending a surprise to a child through the Letters to Santa program. This year the link is https://about.usps.com/holidaynews/operation-santa.htm. The site reported that 23,244 letters have been adopted so far! In addition, when I looked early this morning I read: “There are none left now, but check back later. We add more every day.” Aren’t Americans wonderful?

There are 630 $billionaires in the US according to cnbc.com. It would help if each tossed in one of those billions to pay the rent and essential bills of the unemployed. A compensation lawyer such as Kenneth Feinberg who deftly handled the 9/11 and BP cases, among many, could organize and direct the distribution.

What might non-billionaires do?  What choice should a mother in such a predicament make?

 

Service of Pandemic-Caused Rigmarole That’s Hard on City Seniors & the Time-Pressed

Monday, December 14th, 2020

Block long line to be tested for Covid-19, 8:30 a.m.

The pandemic is hard on everyone. Here are a few things I noticed about getting things done in the city that impact seniors, those with disabilities and the time-pressed.

It’s ironic because a city like New York allows seniors to be independent with its myriad transportation options, nearby watering holes and entertainment opportunities.

Standing for Service

Photo: iphoneroot.com

I needed a battery for my iPhone. The Apple staff at the store at Grand Central Terminal couldn’t have been nicer. But there was a lot of standing around waiting: to go upstairs after being checked in; on a line upstairs properly socially distanced–and then hanging out in the station for an hour while the phone was fixed. My appointment was in early evening so the few stores that remain in business at the station were shut. There were neither seats nor distractions.

Standing for Testing

We’re encouraged to be tested for Covid-19. The procedure at urgent care locations in Manhattan is daunting I’m told. You must have an appointment and can only sign up for one the same day. At certain hours I pass long lines outdoors, some with people better socially distanced than others, on cold, rainy and mild fall days [photo above].

I wonder, as I head for the gutter to keep more than a 6-foot distance, why are these people in line? Have they been exposed to Covid-19? Are they feeling ill?

Photo: statnews.com

One friend found a place that had no line. She made an appointment and they called her when they had a free time-frame which gave her 30 minutes to get back. Best that you live very near this place and choose a day with no appointments because you don’t know when you’ll get the call.

Goodness only knows what the rollout to get a vaccine will be like.

A benefit of the suburbs is that you can wait for a test in your car.

Pin the Tail on a Bank: Three’s a Charm

I needed to have a document notarized and was told by my bank that every branch had notaries. No longer accurate. I asked a customer service staffer at the first branch to call another one to confirm that they had a notary. Nobody picked up so I walked there. That customer service man disappeared in a back office.

After I waited the length of time in which three people could have had their signatures notarized he returned and told me I needed an appointment for the next day. At least this customer service person knew of a branch that had a few notaries so off I raced.

I appreciated the mileage I’d covered–recorded on my iPhone–but not the stress and I couldn’t help wonder what if I was unable to hotfoot it around town?

Just Sayin’

I love Trader Joe’s but notice that many shelves are empty during early senior hours no doubt because there hasn’t been time, at 8 a.m., to restock them.

Have you noticed other topsy-turvy situations during the pandemic that have impacted the way/how quickly you do business and/or conduct your life? Do you observe situations that especially impact seniors and the time-pressed?

Photo: liveoak.net

Service of Who Cares About the Customer?

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

Photo: worldnationaldays.com

What happened to “the customer is always right?” Here are three examples that illustrate the opposite. One is of a chronic nature; the other two are impacted by or are a result of the pandemic. There are simple solutions to all three.

Rethinking Hospital Tradition

Photo: mddionline.com

There may be a million good reasons for it but patients suffer because of a tradition by hospitals, in these parts, to notify a patient the day before an operation–sometimes late in the day–about the timing of the procedure and when to show up. Some patients need to arrange for a friend or relative to pick them up if they are an outpatient. Not knowing the time until the last minute ties up the friend’s schedule and adds needless anxiety for the patient.

There must be a way to program operations a few days ahead of time.

Unemployment

I’ve quoted this former boss before. He’d say, “How come you don’t have time to do it right the first time but you have time to do it again?”

Photo: pdxmonthly.com

A friend has spent hours getting through to unemployment on the phone, waiting on hold for as long as 90 minutes once she succeeds only to have the employee say they’ve solved the problem when they haven’t. This has gone on week after week and the latest glitch is always something simple to fix such as checking a box. The result: Still no money.

With the crush of people needing help due to the furloughs and layoffs resulting from the pandemic, there must be a way to simplify the procedure and to decrease the number of errors that add to the lineup of phone calls.

Weighty Decision

Photo: weightwatchers.com

A friend continues to pay full fee to Weight Watchers for the virtual meeting she now attends with a group in which she’s participated for eight + years. The studios are closed due to the pandemic. She is comfortable with the participants/support group she knows and the time for the weekly Zoom appointment fits her schedule.

The company notified the team leader it was cancelling the meeting at her time because they considered 15 to 20 participants too few and offered her other inconvenient times–with strangers. She says she will miss the collegiality of the group–essential for a program like this.

You would think that a big business could operate with a bit more heart during the pandemic, especially since clients are paying full freight while not attending in person meetings.

Why must patients be notified of the time of their operations at the last minute? How come the directors of unemployment haven’t simplified the application process to cut down mistakes relieving the clog in the system? Should a corporation like Weight Watchers, with a mission that involves support, be flexible in its bean counting during an especially stressful time for its clients?

Photo: wisegeek.com

Service of Need to Know: If You’re in the Covid Trial Placebo Group, Do You Get a Vaccine ASAP?

Monday, December 7th, 2020

Photo: newatlas.com

I admire anyone who volunteers to test a potentially lifesaving drug. I was curious as to why piling on $billions from the US Government and Bill Gates Foundation, among many, helped speed up discovery of a vaccine by over three years. I guess it’s because the human guinea pigs are paid and to have the numbers injected to ensure efficacy and safety at $250 or more a pop requires deep pockets on the spot.

Carl Zimmer and Noah Weiland pose a dilemma in their New York Times article, “Many Trial Volunteers Got Placebo Vaccines. Do They Now Deserve the Real Ones?”  Seems it’s not an easy “yes” or “no.”   The tens of thousands injected with the placebo who thought they’d get a real shot in the arm after the vaccine was approved may wait as long as two years they reported.

Photo: savethestudent.org

Some scientists think these volunteers “should be moved toward the front of the line in exchange for [her] service for the greater good.” Last week “18 leading vaccine experts — including a top regulator at the Food and Drug Administration — argued that vaccinating placebo groups early would be disastrous for the integrity of the trials. If all of the volunteers who received placebo shots were to suddenly get vaccinated, scientists would no longer be able to compare the health of those who were vaccinated with those who were not.”

As background they explain that “It’s vital that neither the volunteers nor the staff running the trial know who is randomly assigned to get the vaccine or the placebo. This ‘blinding,’ as it’s called, eliminates the chance that people will behave differently depending on which treatment they get, potentially skewing the trial’s results.”

Pfizer “said it would propose to the F.D.A. that volunteers who got the placebo could get the real vaccine.” Richard Peto, a medical statistician at the University of Oxford and his colleagues argue that “once a placebo group disappears from a clinical trial, the chance to collect rigorous data about a coronavirus vaccine will vanish.”

Researchers claim they need to keep secret the placebo group to learn about how long the vaccine protects the recipients, how many get sick in subsequent months as compared to the placebo group.

Dr. Anthony Fauci Photo: businessinsider.com

Zimmer and Weiland reported that “If the companies were to encourage unblinding their trials, that could also harm their chances of receiving the F.D.A.’s full stamp of approval — a license. And allowing a trial to continue may also be good for their bottom line, because knowing when immunity from a vaccine begins to wane will dictate how frequently people will need their product.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci had a great solution: everyone gets an injection in reverse: Those who received the vaccine get a placebo and vice versa. Secret is preserved.

Assuming that there are fixed costs to discovering a vaccine and putting it through its approval paces, why else, other than the cost of assembling and paying sufficient numbers of human volunteer guinea pigs, would money be the answer to the record breaking time it took for discovery? Why wasn’t money used before to attack such pestilence as polio, cholera and AIDS? Do you know anyone who has volunteered to take a drug during a trial period? Do you agree that Dr. Fauci’s compromise, while costly, would be the solution to protecting the volunteers who received the placebo? Are you planning to be vaccinated?

Photo: theconversation.com

 

Service of Shopping Without Your Reading Glasses

Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

Even before the pandemic I’d find myself in a grocery or drugstore without my reading glasses. While then it was only occasionally because I’d drag pounds of belongings with me, because I carry almost nothing now I leave my glasses at home.

I can see sell-by dates on milk and other crucial info without specs but lately, because I want to get in and out of any business in a flash, I have made a few irritating errors.

Photo: smithsonianmag.com

Have you noticed the baffling number of toothpaste choices at any standard drugstore? I opened a new tube last week and without paying attention placed some toothpaste on my brush. Turns out I bought Colgate Zero, one with no taste. While I prefer seltzer, coffee, and most everything in its original state, without embellishment, I like my toothpaste minty. I’m trying to think of other things I can do with Zero Colgate as I dread using it and dislike waste so I hesitate tossing it.

I had a battle bringing home the correct yogurt: I prefer the gutsier Greek style. Recognizing the brand I grabbed what turned out to be a giant container of standard yogurt which I find slimy. I was more careful the next time only to discover I’d bought vanilla flavor Greek style, not the plain. Not good.

Any ideas for what else to do with toothpaste? Have you made mistakes choosing products when distracted, rushed or without your specs? Do we really need all those choices of toothpaste and for that matter, yogurt?

Photo: wbur.com

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