Service of Subscription Services

May 13th, 2019

Categories: Subscriptions

Photo: nytimes.com

Tempted to sign up online for the $2.00/week New York Times digital subscription or The New Yorker Magazine’s 12 issues for $12 but haven’t fallen for either yet because you may end up paying for them for the rest of your life or spend half that time shaking them off? I’m afraid of subscription services because I suspect that they are impossible and/or time-consuming to shed.

When we moved we got a year of Netflix for free with my FIOS bundle–internet, TV, phone. I love it. Goodness knows what the additional charge will be–in February 2020–to my super hefty FIOS bill. I’ve marked my calendar for January to remember to find out what the damage will be and to take appropriate steps.

Joanna Stern reported in The Wall Street Journal‘s Personal Technology column that she’d paid $540—or $15/month for three years—for an electronic fax service she used twice. “The charges regularly hitting our credit cards have expanded far beyond video and music-streaming services and, yes, newspapers. The average American pays $237 a month for subscription services, according to a July 2018 report from West Monroe Partners.”

She added: “The technology industry loves the term SaaS, or Software as a Service. It’s the idea that software isn’t just bought once and installed, but rather is subscribed to and always updating. Microsoft Office 365? SaaS. Google Drive? SaaS. Your kid’s coding app? SaaS again.

“There’s also CaaS, Content as a Service. Netflix ? Hulu? Spotify? Apple News+? All CaaS. And then there’s HaaS, hardware as a service. Your connected door lock, thermostat, security camera, maybe even your car or your toothbrush, now come with subscriptions.” I did NOT sign up for Onstar emergency services that came free for a few months with my GM car. The company never had my credit card number.

Do you have so many subscription services you can’t keep count? How do you keep track of them all? How long does it take you to notify them of your new number if you lose your credit card? Have you had trouble ridding yourself of any?

Photo: creditcards.com

Service of Little Things Mean A Lot

May 9th, 2019

Categories: Lazy, Merchandising, Retail, Simple Things

Like a paper cut the tiniest thing can irritate big time. The fix is often so simple as to be ridiculous. Yet it can take time to face.

The bathtub in my new apartment needs a stopper. When we first moved in I bought the wrong size and for two months I’ve annoyed myself every day by having to adjust the thing several times to fill one tub. The stopper would slip out of place with the force of the water hitting it so the water leaked out.

For $1.49 at a full-price midtown NYC hardware store two blocks from my office and a proper measurement of the bathtub drain I solved the problem in seconds. Such relief! And it took me weeks to attend to this simple chore.

In another instance I was at CVS Drug Store looking for an item. As I scrunched to the ground and up again several times in front of a brand I heard a voice on the loud speaker: “Customer in the makeup department.” I was the only one there! I wondered if I’d touched a button—I hadn’t.

An employee appeared [spooky] and asked if she could help. I told her what I was looking for. They had split the brand so that half of its products were on one side of the aisle and the other across the aisle! I’d never have figured that out. Amazing! She apologized and admitted that the placement could be confusing.

Are there little things that get on your nerves in your home or office that would take little to fix and would make a big difference? Do you attend to them immediately or drag your feet? Has obscure merchandising in a store tripped you up? Do you think CVS has lost sales by splitting a brand’s beauty products across an aisle?

Photo: cvshealth.com

Service of That’s Horse Racing–The 2019 Kentucky Derby Outcome a Metaphor for Life

May 6th, 2019

Categories: Collaboration, Loser, Sports, Winning

Photo: kentuckyderby.com

I always watch the Kentucky Derby though I don’t follow the sport and choose my favorite by name–a sure path to failure. I rooted for Plus Que Parfait this Saturday.

As I watched on Saturday I was reporting developments by text to friends who were in a bus. I couldn’t believe it when Maximum Security, who won by many lengths, faced 20+ minutes of limbo while stewards–horse racing referees–studied the videotapes.

Photo: Kentucky.com

When one of the stewards reported the Commission’s unanimous decision to the press–that Maximum Security was out and Country House was the official winner–she took no questions.

The odds for Country House were 65 to one and the payout $132.40. Imagine the chaos at the betting windows in those edge-of-their-seats 20 minutes.

Photo: footwearnews.com

The metaphor to life of the outcome was gut wrenching, reminding me of the times I was the unlikely winner–my boutique PR agency selected to represent brands at a Fortune 50 company for example or me chosen by awards committees to receive recognition–and the times I could almost taste a positive outcome that didn’t happen and the subsequent sickening sinking feeling of disappointment: All that work and elation leading to failure.

I am on the side of Maximum Security. And you? Do you agree with the Maximum Security team that is appealing the decision to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission?

 

Photo: Kentucky.com

 

Service of Adults Competing in Games That Children Play

May 2nd, 2019

Categories: Competition, Games, Tournament, Toys

Photo: calendarclub.ca

Many sports are played by kids which adults adopt and turn into big stakes competitions–think basketball, soccer, baseball, hockey, football, skiing or skating. We don’t think of table games as making such a transition but Scott Simon on “Weekend Edition Saturday” addressed one. He interviewed two men–Larry Kahn and David Lockwood for the segment “Not Just Child’s Play: World Tiddlywinks Champions Reclaim Their Glory.”

Lockwood told Simon “‘Tiddlywinks is not what you did when you were 5 years old. Tournament tiddlywinks is a fascinating combination of physical skill at a micro level and positional strategy.’

“Probability, physics and dexterity rule the game.”

Photo: raggedclown.com

Simon reported that the 19th century game, launched in England as an adult parlor game, got its own tournament at Cambridge University in 1955. In addition to Cambridge University, the professional tournament players hail mostly from MIT and Oxford. Lockwood and Kahn were at MIT in the 1970s where they joined their college team.

One of the challenges for the players today is that the winks are hard if not impossible to come by. Manufacturers aren’t making them. These players fashion their own by sanding down spice jar lids. They pin their hopes on 3-D printing that, once affordable, they anticipate will streamline the process.

Photo: alum.mit.edu

So what happened: Did the Lockwood-Kahn team win in Cambridge? If you paid attention to the title of the article in the first paragraph you’d know that they are this year’s champions! While the two like to win they claim that the friendships they make at the tournaments are most important to them.

Lockwood said: “If you get a modicum of success, you’re more frequently willing to continue to play, but it’s also a very frustrating game because you miss these things that you’ve made so many times in the past.”

I’ve heard people say the same thing about all sorts of sports from golf to basketball—haven’t you? Aren’t most sports—with exceptions such as golf, which is expensive, and curling, which isn’t readily available–first played by children? Do you play traditional board or table games anymore? Are the friends you’ve made at your sport as important to you as winning? Do you play computer games? Are the benefits the same?

Photo: tiddlywinks.org

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

April 29th, 2019

Categories: Kids, Reading, Technology

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

April 25th, 2019

Categories: Chocolate, Retail

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

April 22nd, 2019

Categories: Danger, Daredevil, Selfies

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

April 18th, 2019

Categories: Age, Dogs, Pets, Politicians, Politics, Second Chance, Sports

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?

April 15th, 2019

Categories: Fire, Firing, Jobs, Kindness

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

April 11th, 2019

Categories: Animals, Cats

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

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