Service of Why Must I Pay for This?

April 11th, 2022

Categories: Sports, Taxes

What am I grousing about today? The $660,000 that New York State tax payers are forking over for a new Buffalo Bills stadium.

I’m not a sports fan. And friends shrug when I grumble about this saying “This is the way it has always been,” or “If New York doesn’t pay they’ll go somewhere else” and “the Governor, Kathy Hochul, who hails from upstate NY, is watching the back of her core constituents.”

I get it but I still say “Bon Voyage–let the Bills owner pick up the full cost of construction or go elsewhere.”

Does someone who decides to add a greenhouse to their home to grow plants for sale get such support from the state? Will they even have an easy time getting a loan unless they have deep pockets and don’t really need one?

The team owner, Terry Pegula, is said to be worth $5.1 billion. The $660 big ones is a drop in three buckets to him but could help out countless homeless/starving individuals in New York. In radio interviews last week, deli and souvenir shop owners around Yankee Stadium in the Bronx that have barely survived the pandemic said they’d not received stimulus/paycheck protection program money. That money was from the Federal purse. But is anyone lobbying the State to help them?

The money isn’t to support a home for refugees or to house the helpless. Tickets, boxes and NFL brand paraphernalia will generate plenty of money. Why doesn’t Pegula launch a GoFundMe page so fans can help him pay the bill?

I’m letting off steam–what’s done is done. Do you think $600,000 too little to worry about in a $220 billion New York State budget? That it’s fruitless to mention when this happens all the time?

Service of Where’s the Boss?

April 7th, 2022

Categories: Boss, Cheating, Stealing, University, Workplace Disputes

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I once shared here my wonder as to why resort hotel gift shops carried some of the things they do in addition to basic makeup, candy, snacks and local souvenirs. I soon figured it out when I learned of an employee who bought a set of luggage from one, charged it to his room and submitted it as a business expense. He was caught and fired.

Haven’t you been given a wad of receipt forms from a parking lot attendant when you needed only one to declare the parking fee on your trip expense report? These are petty workplace thefts that take place routinely.

Yet we hear of people who get away with $millions for long periods of time and think “who is watching the store?

Image by Firmbee from Pixabay

Here’s a vivid example that Neil Vigdor described in his New York Times article “Former Yale Official Admits to $40 Million Fraud Scheme.” The subhead: “For a decade, a Yale School of Medicine administrator used university funds to buy computer equipment, which she resold to pay for luxury cars, real estate and vacations, the authorities said.” She bought three homes in Connecticut, and a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon, Range Rover and Cadillac Escalade, the latter three of which she returned once caught.

A friend to whom I sent the article wrote: “Does not say much for her superiors to have missed the fact that the equipment was not there.” Didn’t someone notice the thousands of purchase orders she submitted for “computer devices and tablets that included Microsoft Surface Pros and iPads under the pretense that they were for medical studies.” She bought 8,000 iPads and Surface Pro tablets in 2021 and kept the purchase orders under $10 thousand to avoid scrutiny.

Yale spokesperson Karen N. Peart told Vigdor: “Since the incident, Yale has worked to identify and correct gaps in its internal financial controls.”  I’ll say! I once had a micro-managing client who argued with me over the rationale for a single FedEx charge.

According to her plea agreement the administrator is to return $40 million to Yale and owes $6 million in Federal taxes. Vigdor reported that “she faces a maximum sentence of 23 years in prison. Based on federal sentencing guidelines, her sentence is more likely to be in the range of eight to 10 years, with a fine of $30,000 to $300,000, according to the plea agreement.”

I wonder if anyone is held culpable at the University? Are there no budgets to adhere to? Do you know of similar rip-offs perpetuated because nobody is watching?

Service of Sense of Direction

April 4th, 2022

Categories: Driving, Navigate, Sense of Direction

Looking south on First Avenue, Manhattan

I’ve always wondered what was wrong with me because of my lack of navigational skills. I figured it had something to do with the fact that I grew up in Manhattan where I went up or downtown on the east or west side. Turns out I might be right!

Here’s an example of my clueless direction sense. I was visiting a relative who lived in a typical Florida development that reminded me of the Air Force bases I’d lived on before. All the houses, landscaping–and streets–looked alike. I got lost trying to run an errand one day and finally gave up. My husband had no difficulty finding the correct exit to a choice of main roads. It didn’t help me out of my directional slump that he was an excellent navigator so I let him do it. I panicked when alone in a rented car on business trips.

Nobody gives directions in NYC the way they do in the country. If I’m lost out of town and a well-meaning soul tells me to “drive five miles north then two east, followed by three miles south,” I’m a goner. I get easily lost when way downtown or in the Village in Manhattan known for tangled streets. Speak with me in terms of city blocks, please. No question: My sense of direction is critically flawed. I know: You use Waze or a GPS tracker. I’m talking about before or now without a smartphone and no doubt would end up in a dead end with this assistance.

If I drop into a department store in a strange city, I take note of the department I first passed on entering so that I’m sure to leave by the same door by men’s shirts or women’s handbags or I’ll never find my way back to the hotel or convention center.

NYC avenue–a straight line

Imagine my relief when I read Benjamin Mueller’s New York Times article “Keep Getting Lost? Maybe You Grew Up on the Grid.” Part of the subhead: “Childhood environments shape people’s navigational skills, researchers reported.”

According to a study published in Nature, wrote Mueller, “Much like language, navigation is a skill that appears to be most malleable when people’s brains are developing, the researchers concluded.”

Researchers are looking at this phenomenon hoping “navigation-based tests” help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease because often getting lost happens to patients before memory loss. They developed games that in some cases millions or in others hundreds of thousands  played. In addition players provided personal information.

Mueller wrote: “’If you grew up in a city like Chicago or Buenos Aires or Montreal — cities that are very grid-like — you don’t train as much your navigation skills as if you grew up in a more complex city, like London or Paris, where the streets are much more convoluted,’ said Antoine Coutrot, a scientist at the French National Center for Scientific Research and another lead author of the paper.”

Mueller continued:”’Does this mean we should design environments that should be more cognitively challenging?’ Dr. Watts said. ‘If I went to an urban planner and said make it as confusing as possible to get around a city, that’s probably not going to sell well.’” Amber Watts is associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas.

I think that there might be another reason for weak navigational development of people brought up in cities like Manhattan. There is so much public transportation that we often don’t drive until we’re in our 20s, [like me], if at all. You learn to pay more attention to where you’re going if you’ve got to drive somewhere. For 20 some years I was on automatic after I entered a bus, subway, or taxi.

How is your sense of direction? Do you navigate well? Were you brought up in a city with tangled streets, or the suburbs or countryside? Did you learn to drive at an early age?

Road in Dutchess County, NY

Service of Reviews II

March 31st, 2022

Categories: Food, Restaurant, Reviews

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I met a friend at a restaurant another friend had recommended. We both liked it a lot. My lunch companion admitted she rarely tries new places. I love to.

One of this blog’s stringers recently wrote: “My family always hated when I would insist we try places I read about in a review and had to go!” She continued “In AMNY I learned about a pizzeria in Troy, N.Y. Hilary said it was a favorite. When my daughter lived in Albany we went. It was in a sketchy neighborhood, was a dirty joint and the pizza was only OK.…I’ve not followed the reporter’s food reviews since!”

Image by Nenad Maric from Pixabay

I covered the subject of misleading reviews in a 2011 post so who will remember? The New York Times ran an article about a restaurant/gift shop in what turned out to be a nondescript residential Paris neighborhood. After I figured out my metro travel strategy I went. As I strolled the unremarkable quartier, I came upon a tiny dump. A few people were eating seated on pillows on the floor. The so-called “charming” gift shop included a few commonplace items on a small shelf. I wondered if the reporter was trying to help out the owner–a friend or relative perhaps. The article was a disservice to tourist readers.

Then there was the restaurant in Spain that a major food magazine covered with plentiful vivid color photos accompanying pages of compliments. We went out of our way to try it one night and were treated as though we were contagious. The vast dining room was empty and we were placed as far as possible from the few tables that had guests. Once the order was taken and the food delivered we never again saw the waiter until it was time to pay. There’s more but you get the picture. Why the place sought out publicity when it didn’t want foreign customers was a mystery.

Once in Venice we were looking for a place to have a spot of lunch. After peeking into countless windows and studying menus we chose a restaurant. We had one of the best meals of our stay in this favorite city.

More recently helped me identify some toothsome choices for lunch and dinner in Connecticut. All but one of five were good.

Do you rely on reviews or friends to ID new restaurants? Do you prefer to return to old favorites? Or do you like to drop in on a place that looks inviting?

Image by SSidde from Pixabay

Service of When You Thought You’d Seen Everything

March 28th, 2022

Categories: Bakery, Cooking, Food, Ice Cream

I’m an eat-it-the-old-fashioned-way person [although I can’t deny enjoying some three star meals with refreshing interpretations of food which were even better than what mother used to make]. I like pancakes and waffles with maple syrup, not a sweetened hazelnut cocoa spread–Nutella [which I don’t like]–or whipped cream [which I do but on strawberry shortcake]. I question people who put salt on grapefruit or who drown a magnificent steak in ketchup. I like food as-is. Same with seltzer. Plain please. If I have a yen for a taste of lime, orange or lemon, I’ll squeeze in some fresh juice.

There’s little as divine as a lightly toasted bagel with butter or cream cheese. My favorites are poppy seed and plain. Again the outlier, I’ve never been tempted to try the most popular everything bagel topped by poppy seeds, sesame seeds, onion flakes, garlic powder, and sea salt. Why disguise a perfectly delicious bagel with so much stuff?

Yet the everything bagel has inspired marketers in all sorts of ways.

Charles Passy wrote in about the everything bagel seasoning mix which, he reported, is in the top five at Trader Joe’s [which calls it Everything but the Bagel…”.] The store recommends using it in waffle mix or on pizza. According to Passy a chef at Spiceology likes the mix on avocado toast, roasted sweet potato and popcorn. The reporter has seen it in or on cottage cheese, croissants and ice cream.

Jeni brand ice cream chose a cream cheese flavor as its base for the everything bagel option wrote Passy. The reporter doesn’t mind the taste but concluded: “Still, part of me objects to an everything bagel ice cream — mostly because it speaks to the worst traits of American food marketing. It’s never enough to have a good idea and leave it at that. Instead, we must take that idea and spin a gazillion products off it — for better or worse.”

To further prove the point Passy mentioned all the iterations of Oreo cookies. “I have trouble finding the original version since the supermarket shelves are filled with flavors from carrot-cake to peanut-butter Oreos. Could an everything-bagel Oreo be far behind?”

Do you like everything bagels? The seasoning mix? Would you give everything bagel ice cream a whirl? What unusual combinations do you create or buy? Is it only in food marketing that a good idea is copied all over the place and at all price points?

Service of “I Wonder What Happened to…..”

March 24th, 2022

Categories: Children, Memory

I’ve rarely played this mind game. A recent conversation reminded me of a baby I once knew and I wondered what had become of him.

I babysat for him for a month in Boston the summer after my sophomore year. His parents lived in a beautiful home. I never saw his mother, a natural beauty, touch him. I’d arrive at my scheduled time–10:00 a.m.–and he’d be in his playpen wearing diapers from the night before. You can imagine the raw condition of his skin. Milk that had dribbled from his cup had begun to sour in the heat. She’d tell me to warm and feed him the same food for lunch day after day, usually leftover from a dinner party. He’d eat it, unless she came into the kitchen where his highchair was, and then he’d stop eating. She’d complain that he wouldn’t eat. He was an intelligent child but at two didn’t utter a word.

She’d reprimand me if I changed his damp clothes after his afternoon nap, before going to the park again. She didn’t like dealing with all that laundry even though I folded it while he slept. I’d bathe him before I left for the day unless his father came home early as he liked to give him his bath. The little one would run, joyfully, into his father’s arms when he opened the door.

She asked me to join them for a month where they were going to vacation. I used the excuse that I couldn’t leave the city. On my last day she told me she was pregnant.

I don’t remember their names or I’d look for him on Google.

Do you ever wonder what happened to someone?

Image by rafael1979 from Pixabay

Service of Pop-In Visits

March 21st, 2022

Categories: Family, Friends, Pop In, Welcome

Frank Morano asked his overnight radio audience how they felt about pop-in visits. He loves them but his wife, Rachel, doesn’t. The host of “The Other Side of Midnight” said his uncle frequently drops in unannounced and he welcomes the interruptions. He felt it was an old fashioned custom people no longer do and he was sorry.

One caller noted that with the advent of cell phones there’s no excuse to arrive by surprise because it’s so easy to give someone a warning. Another observed that social media and technology keep us in touch in so many ways that we no longer need to drop in to be in close touch.

When I was an Air Force wife based in North Dakota many decades ago a civilian friend, Mr. McNabb, who lived north of Minot in a farming community, Glenburn, popped in all the time when he had a delivery to make on the base. He refinished furniture. His visit usually happened as we were sitting down to dinner. He had five children and it didn’t occur to him that a newlywed on a tight budget didn’t make enough dinner for a gang. Somehow we’d stretch the fixings so he too had a plate as he settled into a kitchen chair. I loved him but not always his timing. I like my guests to leave with leftovers.

Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

Our tenants upstate lived over the garage some 50 steps away from our front door but we didn’t drop in on one another. We’d call first. As a renter myself at various times I honor the privacy of a renter.

Plus I don’t drop in. It’s presumptuous to think others want to see me at any old time. My father sounded surprised when once I called him from the payphone across the street from his Manhattan apartment to see if I might come upstairs. I lived in Brooklyn then and happened to be in his neighborhood.

To pop in on someone implies that they have nothing better to do than to entertain you or at the least stop what they were doing to speak with you. Some may be self conscious about their messy home or apartment and resent pop-in guests. If unwell, a person might not want you to see them pale or unkempt. Or perhaps they may be so busy with a ten mile long to-do list that any interruption would upset the rhythm of chores and errands and knock their day on its ear.

I love to see close friends and family who are welcome anytime as are children. If the door staff in my building is doing its job I should have 3 minutes to comb my hair, fluff up a pillow or wash a few dishes before a surprise visitor makes it upstairs. It has never happened.

Where do you stand: Pop-in guests yes or no? Do you pop in?

Image by Robert Fotograf from Pixabay

Service of Formal Entertaining: In Fashion or Wishful Thinking?

March 17th, 2022

Categories: Brides, Cooking, Entertaining, Formal Decor, Holidays, Manufacturing, Marketing, Retail, Tableware

We're breaking out of pandemic mode, some more gingerly than others, into unprecedented inflation, a zigzagging stock market with war on the wings. When, last week, I passed these Bloomingdale's windows dressed for spring I had, simultaneously, contradictory reactions. One was a flashback to a time people gave formal dinner parties not associated with Thanksgiving and other traditional gatherings--me included. Perhaps the store's tabletop team had hopes of inspiring Easter and Passover celebrations, the next ones up. St. Patrick's Day's corned beef and cabbage, as yummy as it is, doesn't evoke gold rimmed plates.

So who would buy these elegant dishes and wine glasses? Young people aren’t interested in things much less luxurious ones, and many older people, who might want them, already own them. Friends tell me that they have a hard time passing on family heirlooms to their offspring.

I asked Google for the items that top bridal registries and for March 2022 they are, in this order: Cookware (nonstick skillet, sauté pan, pasta pot, saucepan, etc.); Bakeware (roasting pan, casserole dish, baking sheets, loaf pans, muffin tins, etc.); Knives (serrated knife, paring knife, chef’s knife, etc.); Cutting boards; Dutch oven; Cast iron skillet; Stand mixer and Food processor.

I thought “that can’t be right! Not a plate?” and hit “more” which led me to Sarah Zlotnick’s article in, “The Ultimate Wedding Registry Checklist.” Under “Dining and Entertaining Registry Ideas” she lists: Everyday dishware (eight to 12 settings—dinner plates, dessert and/or salad plates, bowls); Everyday drinking glasses (eight to 12); Mugs (eight to 12); Flatware (eight to 12 settings); Steak knives (eight to 12); Wine glasses (red and white); Champagne flutes; Salad bowl and serving utensils

Serving bowls, platters, and trays jump in at the end and the Specialty glassware (margarita glasses, martini glasses, rocks glasses) and Colored Stemware.

I loved to dress a table because it was fun, I liked to look at something pretty and I felt that it said to my guests, “I wanted to honor/please you.” I think that I should invite over some friends and do a table up round even if I’m ordering in Chinese, Mexican or pizza. Maybe manufacturers should promote their products this way rather than in the same old same old. The market has been stagnant for them since well before the pandemic. I wonder if, like changing dress and skirt hem lengths, the fashion for formal entertaining will ever return just for the fun of it.

Service of Packaging VI

March 14th, 2022

Categories: Packaging, Recycling

Though I often think of it when irritated opening most products I haven’t written about packaging since 2013, the first post on the subject in 2009. It’s no surprise that toothpaste tubes have found a place in a few. Thirteen years ago I wrote: “So that toothpaste can no longer be accused of breaking up marriages, i.e. “You never put the top back on the toothpaste tube!”–some manufacturers attach the top to the tube. In my experience, those tops usually don’t stay closed, making me want to divorce the manufacturer.”

Four years later  I complained about the heavier than standard tubes with silver finish that cost more but suffered from the same fault: they soon didn’t close, the paste dried up requiring a thin wood shish kebab stick to reach and extract usable product.

This time toothpaste tubes are in the news for being recyclable. Kate Betrand Connolly wrote in “Demonstrating its continued commitment to increasing packaging sustainability, Colgate-Palmolive Co. is launching its new Smile for Good toothpaste brand in the recyclable high-density polyethylene (HDPE) tube the company introduced last year.” She continued: “The tube reboots toothpaste packaging design by replacing non-recyclable laminate materials with a squeezable material made entirely from HDPE—which is, of course, readily recyclable.”

Elizabeth Segran wrote in “Colgate’s designers have spent more than five years redesigning the brand’s toothpaste tubes so they can be recycled in curbside bins…….But the big question is whether consumers will be able to change their behavior and recycle their old tubes after decades of throwing them in the trash.”

The toothpaste tube’s journey gives me an excuse to gripe about some recent battles with packaging.

  • I adore all things L’Occitane but had to use brute strength to dislodge the entire top of this cream to get at it. Otherwise, no amount of shaking and squeezing, even after leaving it upside down overnight, encouraged the cream to leave its container through the too-narrow hole topping the container.
  • Same with the shampoo bottle. To get all of it out, the only way is to remove the top.
  • That I didn’t need stitches after opening the packaging protecting a mouse–using scissors and a variety of knives including utility–is a miracle. Maybe Colgate Palmolive can encourage electronics manufacturers to figure out a less dangerous and more environmentally conscientious way of shipping its goods.

More and more wine bottles have deep-sixed corks or cork substitutes for twist off tops. These are a cinch to open. Why can’t seltzer bottles be made easier to open too?

Will you have trouble remembering to put your retrofit Colgate toothpaste tube in the recycling bin? Have you done battle with packaging lately? Have some manufacturers greatly improved how to access their products?

Service of Above and Beyond

March 10th, 2022

Categories: Museums, Pandemic, Retail, Technology

Image by marekr from Pixabay

Though service sometimes seems to have its dry spells, lately I’ve experienced a riches of the best, even if I had to nudge one instance along.

Old Fashioned Service

As you could tell from my last post I’m not thrilled with the lifting of pandemic mandates with so many unanswered questions and inconsistencies. For example, if the pandemic is over and face coverings useless why are they required anywhere? Which businesses and organizations plan to continue to check vaccine status?

To find out I left a message at the Metropolitan Museum of Art members department last week to learn if the organization was still asking for proof of vaccines. I never expected to hear from anyone. I’ve left messages on voicemail at other places before, such as on my councilman Keith Powers’ [followed, in his case, by an e-mail], and never heard back. Hence the surprise when a cheerful woman called Tuesday to tell me the vaccine restriction at the Met is gone. Oh well.

White Glove Service 1

I just came from Staples looking to replace the mouse for my laptop. I know, I know–I should use the touchpad like 99.9% of the world but I don’t. The young man I lucked into tested the mouse I brought–extremely polite asking if it was OK before heading to the back. He thought it was fine yet I still wanted to buy a backup and I said that it would be worth $20 to me. “Oh, you don’t have to pay that much!” he said handing me one for $13.99. He wished me good luck, hoping there wasn’t something wrong with the laptop portal [me too] and we had a brief discussion about the beauty of old gadgets that work perfectly well. He was in his 20s, hip enough with his long hair, and yet an old soul in this regard who gets five gold stars for service.

White Glove Service 2

Where I live, once a year handymen check the 510 apartments to change AC filters, confirm that smoke detectors work and so forth. All tenants know is that the inspections will take place between certain hours over a matter of weeks. That didn’t suit me. I wanted to know the day they’d come to my apartment, at the least.

I make use of every surface including the AC/heating element covers where plants sit so I planned to move them–but when? The staff slide open the covers to switch out the filters. And for countless other reasons, with advance notice, I could be sure to be home.

So I found out who was on the inspection team and tracked one of them down, asking him for a heads up the day before they’d land on my floor. I handed him a note with my phone and apartment numbers. They warned me and more, giving me a choice of times and they arrived on the dot! I was prepared, they were in and out in short order and everyone–especially me–was happy.

Have you enjoyed service that was above and beyond lately?

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