Service of What Happened to the Word FROM and Other Omissions

March 13th, 2017

Categories: Abbreviations, Communications, Words

Something's missing

There’s a commercial for 1800gotjunk.com that ends, “you never have to take off work.” And for years people have said—and written—“I graduated high school.” So what happened to the missing word FROM? I am far from a perfectionist when it comes to conversation but I miss hearing that word.

Photo: Pinterest

Photo: Pinterest

In a morning show radio discussion of other March blizzards in NYC in anticipation of tomorrow’s storm, the host brought up the “great blizzard of 1888” [that Wikipedia reported dumped some 40 inches of snow in parts of N.Y. and N.J. and up to 58 inches in Mass. and Conn.]. In predicting this week’s expected snowfall the host repeatedly left out the word IN when he said “anticipated precipitation Central Park.” That was the first I heard a missing “IN” and I hope it doesn’t become a habit.

This led to irritating abbreviations. I’ve recently heard on newscasts the word “presser,” short for press conference. Is it too difficult to say “press conference?”

Information technology expert Josh Cintrón shared a contraction he dislikes: “phoner” for phone interview. He admits to being a stickler for word choice and referenced the ridiculous image of someone who had just “caught the train.” He added, “not for nothing,” a phrase that may make some people cringe. But we agreed that we’ve become fond of this typical NYC double negative. [Who said we had to be consistently picky?]

When someone tells actor Daniel McHenry that they are “fixing dinner” he wonders “who broke it?”

Are there any missing or erroneous words or abbreviations that irk you? Do we drop words or parts of them simply out of laziness?

 

Photo: elitereaders.com

Photo: elitereaders.com

 

 

 

 

Service of Indoor Plants

March 9th, 2017

Categories: City Living, Plants

Ficus turned

My father nurtured plants in my parents’ NYC apartment and I’ve welcomed foliage and flowers everywhere I’ve lived. I’ve written before about one of my great aunt’s Ficus trees that I have at the house. I think I successfully propagated a bit of it and the offshoot [photo above] lives on my city living room windowsill. [The tree is too big.] My aunt died in the early 1980s and the plant and its connection to her, [her windowsills were filled with plants as well] have special meaning for me.

Same with my dad’s Dracaena, the mother plant of which dates from the 1960s. I have quite a few of its relatives at the house and one [photo right] seems to thrive in the Manhattan light, dust and irritants where its great grandfather once prospered some two miles north. A clipping of dad’s asparagus fern isn’t as happy in its overheated city digs. I have my fingers crossed it acclimates.

Michael Tortorello wrote: “FOR MANY PEOPLE, houseplants remain stuck in the 1970s, when it was entirely common to macramé a hanger for your 14th Boston fern while listening to Mac Davis 8-tracks and sipping Riunite on ice.” The approach of his Wall Street Journal article irked me. Its title and subtitle were: “Houseplants That Stand in for Art… Indoor greenery can make rooms appear bigger, function like art work, contribute character without adding clutter. Here, house-plant design strategies you’ll want to cultivate.”

I don’t think of plants as art. They’re fun to cultivate; I love it whenDracena plant 2017 turned they grow. The Steinbergs gave me my first orchid six or seven years ago. It thrives and blossoms on and off as do most orchid gifts from my husband and other friends. [I’m still waiting on a few to stop staring back at me with healthy green leaves and no flowers since they arrived in store-perfect blossoming glory.]

My husband isn’t such a plant fan but even he is pleased to detect an orchid bud that promises to open like the collar of an ornate royal brocade jacket, to display enchanting colors, shapes and patterns.

Certain things should not be subject to fashion, like plants, recipes, cats or dogs. You like them or you don’t and trends be dammed! Do you agree?

orchid in bloom feb 2017 turned 

Service of Perseverance Set to Music: A Story That Makes My Heart Sing

March 6th, 2017

Categories: Academia, Education, Music

Tyler Schuster. Photo: Amanda Halak

Tyler Schuster. Photo: Amanda Halak

Once 19th century British philanthropist William Edward Hickson retired he focused on elementary education and popularized the proverb “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” attributed to Thomas H. Palmer’s “Teacher’s Manual” and Frederick Marryat’s “The Children of the New Forest.”

The Facebook post that proud grandmother Judy Schuster sent family and friends–that I’ve copied below–is an inspirational testament to that adage. It’s about the perseverance and grit shown by her musician-grandson, Tyler Schuster, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire [UWEC]. In addition to showing the glorious result of determination and hopefully inspiring others, it says a lot about this young man who proves he will achieve just about anything he sets his mind to.

Kudos as well to Michael Shults, PhD, assistant professor of saxophone at UWEC, a dedicated and caring instructor and skilled, exemplary coach who wrote the post. I can’t think of many in any field who would take the time. Dr. Shults is also an award-winning musician and active jazz and concert saxophonist.

He wrote:

So – I love a good underdog story, and maybe you do too.

Tyler was part of the freshman class my first year at UWEC in 2014. Our first year of lessons was long on constructive criticism and, frankly, short on breakthroughs; a LOT of squeezing and not much juice.

Music education majors at UWEC take one credit, half hour lessons. They are practicing more than ever (which means programming vital foundational muscle memory) and ALL 18-year old saxophonists come in with bad habits. The crucial need to correct these early on, coupled with the time constraints, mean that the ratio of positive-to-constructive feedback I’m able to give in the early going can be a little lopsided. It’s not easy for either party, but it’s much more difficult to correct once that muscle memory is programmed in an imperfect way.

Tyler, in particular, had a lot of things to iron out with his saxophone playing. Lessons were tedious for both parties. But what I could see (and his excellent high school teacher Scott Johnson will attest that this has been present long before I entered the picture) was that Tyler’s instinct when things got tough was to push harder and smarter, instead of shying away from a challenge or being defeatist.

Fall 2015 was really difficult for Tyler as he failed to audition into the Wind Symphony or Symphony Band (I asked him this morning if I could share that publicly, and he said “Of course – that’s an important part of my journey”). It was a really hard dose of reality, I think, but as frustrating as it was, Tyler didn’t challenge the result or place blame. He just put on the hard hat and got in the shed.

I remember a year ago, not too long after that, Tyler sat down in my office and outlined three goals. He wanted to audition into Jazz Ensemble I, Wind Symphony, and, the most ambitious of the three, win the concerto competition and solo with one of the wind bands. At the time I believe Tyler was in Jazz III and, based on the audition results from the fall, would’ve had to leapfrog at least 10 players to audition into Wind Symphony. So – speculative, to say the least.

Then came the fall ensemble auditions. Jazz I: √

Tyler also moved up to playing a principal chair in the Symphony Band (just shy of Wind Symphony).

Then came spring ensemble auditions. Wind Symphony: √

That brings us to last night, when Tyler performed the first movement of the Creston Concerto in our annual wind band concerto competition.

You guessed it: √

Please join me in congratulating Tyler on his incredible progress and for embodying so many of the ideals we preach in music and any other discipline: toughness, hard work, self awareness, ambition, goal-setting, etc. etc. and join us in person or via livestream as he performs as featured soloist with the UWEC Symphony Band – the same ensemble he couldn’t quite make the cut for a year ago – on April 28th.

(But don’t get too comfortable, kid. You have technique juries this week. And a recital next month. And and and…)

Were you—or someone you know–lucky to have a professor, instructor or mentor like Dr. Shults? Do you know young men or women as determined as Tyler Schuster who ignore the odds, carry on and reach their goals?

 

Dr. Michael Shults. Photo: Clint Ashlock

Dr. Michael Shults. Photo: Clint Ashlock

Service of Who Pays When Something Breaks at Home

March 2nd, 2017

Categories: Accident, Breakage, Wineglass

Smashed wine glass

Erica Martell brought one of Philip Galanes’ “Social Q’s” columns to my attention. It involved Sandy’s boyfriend who’d inadvertently broken a bride’s expensive wedding gift wineglass at a dinner the new couple prepared shortly after the nuptials.

Sandy explained to Galanes: “He [the boyfriend] may have said, ‘Let me replace it.’ But my cousin didn’t respond; she was sweeping up the glass. Yesterday, I received an email from her with a little note and a receipt for a new wineglass. Tacky?”

Galanes thought if the receipt came with a gracious note, i.e. “How kind of you to offer to replace the wineglass. We’ve never owned such a fancy set before,” it would not be in bad taste as opposed to “Invoice attached, butterfingers.” And, observed the New York Times columnist, Sandy’s boyfriend apparently did offer to pay. [Remember, Sandy wrote he may have offered to replace the glass.]

Red wine spillRecently someone broke one of a pair of china cups a loved one had given me. [She threw it out so I gather it was in smithereens.] I still can’t look at its partner without wincing and it’s not replaceable. I wouldn’t in a million years suggest the person try. She felt badly. Breakable things break.

Over years, one guest burned a cigarette hole in upholstery and another broke a Sheraton chair’s back by tipping against the wall on the chairs back legs. Nobody offered to pay and I didn’t expect them to. It’s the cost of having guests and living with upholstered furniture and antiques. If red wine spills on a favorite tablecloth I should have served white wine–so it’s my fault. [With today’s spot removers, so far I’ve done a great job in getting out the stains.]

Do you think that the bride should have presented an invoice for the wineglass and that the guest should pay? Has someone accidentally broken or ruined anything of yours? Then what happened?

 Broken china cup

Service of Slow Motion

February 27th, 2017

Categories: Post Office, Shipping

slow motion

I went to a giant US post office in midtown Manhattan last Saturday to ship a package. Watching the postal workers behind the counters was painful. They moved at the speed of a slug on crutches, as though their bodies hurt, not embarrassed that people in the growing line could see their lack of purpose. They all looked to be well under 40.

Valentine cardI thought of this when on February 18 a friend, CG, sent an email thanking us for our Valentine card that just arrived. It was postmarked February 6. At least it arrived! She wrote: “I don’t know what’s happening to the post office. I sent two Valentines to my sister’s house in California–one for my sister and one for Mom. Although I mailed them inside my local [LI] post office about two weeks before V Day, they still haven’t arrived. I even had the postal clerk weigh them to make sure they didn’t require extra postage. So I spent about $12 on cards and postage–for nothing.” She added: “I ordered a book from an Amazon reseller on Nov 30. It never arrived. Where do all these things go???”

Wish I knew.

PackagesI sent three small packages that were promised for February 15 arrival. One reached Westchester on the 16th. By the 18th the ones to Massachusetts and New Hampshire were still in transit with no activity on the USPS tracking site since the 14th. Not fun typing in 22 digits for a few packages every few days.

On the 18th –still no activity on the tracking site–I called customer service and decided not to wait the estimated 29 to 45 minutes to speak with someone who would no doubt reiterate what I already knew: The packages are “in transit.” So I went to the post office and an obliging young woman disappeared to check online as I’d done, learned what I already knew and told me to file a claim online. More work. Joy.

Postal worker Newman on Seinfeld

Postal worker Newman on Seinfeld

I got busy, it was a holiday weekend, and I remembered to look again on February 21. One package arrived in New Hampshire that day; the other arrived at the zip code “hub” where my friend lives. She reported that it also arrived at her apartment.

How is it that LL Bean can get me a package UPS Ground from Maine two days after I order an item—[and doesn’t charge a cent for shipping]?

USPS tracking screen grabHave you noticed that the less business it gets, and the more technical tweaks it adds, the USPS, once an essential, reliable personal and commercial communications partner, increasingly disintegrates? Do you still use it? When you do, how many days/weeks do you give to get a letter or package to someone on time?

Postal worker with packages

Service of Good and Bad Surprises at a Cash Register

February 23rd, 2017

Categories: Cosmetics, Department store, Retail, Service, Supermarket

Rude

You find rudeness and grace in unexpected places.

I giggled at an outrageous comment a friend shared because it caught me by surprise. It was made to her by a snarky makeup sales associate for a major brand at a world-famous department store. She approached her counter with a friend and prospective cosmetics customer. In greeting, the sales woman turned to her and said: “I know you. You buy a lipstick from me once in three years.” It was rude and inappropriate and it sounded so New York-y yet it happened in New England.

Cosmetics in dept storeSeveral years before my friend asked this sales associate for a product she’d run out of. It was part of the brand’s new, luxurious line that she clearly didn’t carry. The saleswoman insisted on arguing that it didn’t exist, insulting her–even screaming. My friend concluded: “And the saleswoman has remained entrenched in her position for years.”

In a far less elegant place dealing with items at much lower price points–a supermarket—I had just the opposite experience. On either shoulder I was balancing two giant tote bags filled with my usual zillion pounds of stuff and my handbag. I’d come in for cider and noticed Bonne Maman jams on sale, two for $6. There was a “Closed” sign at one register so I stood in line at the next counter, juggling my heavy cider container, apricot and blueberry jams with my belongings that began to slide from my shoulders.

supermarket checkoutThe cashier on the “Closed” line, who had just finished with a customer, smiled and waved me over. I thanked her profusely, commenting that she was probably worried I’d drop the juice and jams causing a huge mess. “No,” she said, “I liked your face.” Made my day!

Don’t you wonder how the nasty woman in the department store keeps her job? The cashier at the supermarket had been standing all day in far from glamorous circumstances and was cheery nevertheless. How does she do it? Have you similar experiences to share?

 Gracious

 

Service of Why Don’t You Say So?

February 21st, 2017

Categories: Communications, E-Commerce, E-tailing, Medical Administration, Post Office, Retail, Taxes

Say so

Communications is often not our strong suit. The cost? Customers pay the price in wasted time and/or mistakes.

Taxing

I ordered an item online from a high end men’s store and noticed, in checking out, that I was charged tax. For clothing that costs $110 or less, New York residents don’t pay tax. While it wasn’t much, it irritated me that tax appeared on my bill but because it was the last day of a super sale, I approved the order and wrote customer service [which was closed on the weekend].

TaxFirst thing Monday I got a response telling me that they will charge the correct total {without the tax} “when the order is ready to ship.” I was notified, but the tax was still there. So I whipped out another note–thank goodness for cut and paste and email. The correction was made.

Given that the store has a NY branch and that I assume more than one customer orders from NY, it would have been easier to note on the invoice that NY residents won’t pay tax for items under $110. Staff in billing should be similarly instructed….although I suspect that I may be the only one to care.

Check this out

I was having an annual checkup and on arrival dropped into the ladies room to wash the subway off my hands. There was a note warning patients not to urinate if they were having a sonogram. The office offers sonograms in a few parts of the body so out of curiosity I asked one of the technicians whether this directive applies to all sonograms. She said that it only applies to pelvic ones. So couldn’t that one word have been added to the warning?

Do it yourself and guess

USPS self service and binI used the do-it-yourself package mailing system at the Grand Central post office. One of the questions is “Will your package fit in the bin?” which it would. When done, I tried to open the adjacent bin and it was locked shut. So I had to wait in line anyway to find out where to put the stamped package. An exasperated postal worker, who looked at me as though I was dumb, pointed in the direction of a large canvas container on wheels placed well below the counter where nobody would see it with nobody nearby to secure it, either.

Was there a note stating what to do with a package on the bin parked next to the scale/shipping computer? No. Was there a note above the hidden container that collected packages? No. US Postal Service customers take note: Bring along your ESP next time you drop by.

Cross street please

When a business posts its NYC address on its website, if on an avenue, please note the nearest cross street.  I’ve lived in NYC most of my life and I don’t always know this information. [See 666 Fifth Ave and 546 Broadway, in photo below.]

Have you noticed that increasingly few businesses put themselves in their customer’s shoes in planning websites or procedures by anticipating questions or sharing clear instructions in the first place? Do you have other examples?

 Cross street please turned

 

Service of Discoveries

February 16th, 2017

Categories: Academia, College, Fundraising, Museums, Subway, University

DiscoverySharing a few things I’ve learned or noticed within the last week.

Shoe Shine

The Hudson Yards subway station on the number 7 extension over by the Javits Center is buried deep underground so to reach the street you take Subway escalator Hudson Yardstwo very steep escalators. On either side of the moving stairs are one-inch brushes. If I had on leather shoes–even better with shoe polish handy–I could shine them simply by sidling to the left and then right of the step. I wouldn’t try it on the way down–it’s too steep. No doubt the brushes are on all the subway escalators…but they are not new and clean nor is the ride as long as at Hudson Yards.

If You Have to Ask You Can’t Afford It

I received a request to become a member of an internationally recognized NYC museum on an expensive, color 20″ x 6″ card folded in half. Nowhere were membership rates listed. “Is this the latest trend in fundraising?” I thought as I tossed the card, “or a mistake?” Or perhaps they don’t want members who care about cost.

Oh?

GraduationI graduated from the College of Liberal Arts [CLA] of an east coast University and discovered, when filling out a personal information update, that CLA no longer exists.  It’s called the College of Arts & Sciences these days. I mentioned this to a savvy friend and fellow graduate who keeps up on all things and she wasn’t aware of the change. Suggested to the alumni office that they make clear, when asking “which college did you attend?” that they add “formerly CLA” opposite the arts and sciences reference.

Have you made any surprising discoveries lately?

please join us

Service of Mood Change: NYNow and Then

February 13th, 2017

Categories: Gifts, Home Fashion Trends, Retail, Trade Show

Witloft leather apron

Witloft leather apron

 

What a difference a market—or six months—makes. It’s as though a shade came down over the gift show—called NYNow—my overall impression of exhibited products was such a dramatic gear shift last week from last August.

I’d characterize what I just saw as visually quiet, matte in texture, mostly natural colors—lots of gray–and booths filled with linen, cotton, wood, ceramics, straw or products made to imitate them. Patterns were tribal-inspired. The few vibrant colors, flamboyant patterns and sparkles jarred.

Last week we were at the farm; last summer we prepared for an elegant party.

Walter GWhen I wrote about my last visit in “Service of What You Might Get For Your Birthday,” I was taken by the abundance of shiny things–highly polished stainless steel, aluminum, copper, platinum and some gold and silver tableware.

The reason for the shift could be timing. In August exhibitors/manufacturers are thinking of winter and holiday decor while a winter market dresses stores with summer goods. But glorious hot days can also call for all things sunny, crisp, clean and bright—they weren’t.

As always I warn that my impressions are made from largely visiting the Home section which represents relatively few exhibitors vs the whole, though I cover the same area year after year.

A few examples.

Fog Linen Work’s aprons, table linens and clothing, designed by Yumiko Sekine Farmhouse potteryfrom Lithuanian linen, epitomize the simple, natural style I described above as do Witloft saddle leather aprons from Amsterdam [Photo above] and pieces of Farmhouse Pottery from Vermont [Photo right].

One company, Couleur Nature Paris, true to its name, offered more than earth colors. It looks to the garden for inspiration but there was nothing glossy about its tea towels, tablecloths, market baskets and glassware.

I’ve previously written about washable, resilient, stretched and tanned paper totes and sacks. This market there were several in this category. The ones that caught my eye were by Bsimple Creations [Photo below, center]. An Italian brand, Essent’ial, featured paper slipcovers, an introduction for ecoitalystore.com.

hapticlab-sailing-ship-kite-white_d246919f-094e-4480-abb4-a4bd3ef17de1_grandeI was charmed by the handmade sailing ship kites in the Hapticlab booth [Photo left]. They were made, according to the website, “in collaboration with Balinese artisans exclusively for Haptic Lab from locally-sourced bamboo and nylon.” You can also display them as a mobile.

Some of Middle Kingdom’s porcelain vases at the show appeared to be a departure from the spring colors on their website. Oversized pieces with a tribal, ikat motif—especially the ones in a curry color—commanded the booth. Walter G’s hand block printed indigo and white textiles, cushions and napkins are designed by owners Genevieve Hewson and Lauren Emerson in Australia and made in collaboration with artisans from Rajasthan. [Photo above, left.]

Honest wood bowls, boards and accessories filled much of the Javits real estate. Peterman’s Boards and Bowls was just one.

The exhibitors hail from around the world. To what do you attribute such a change in mood to inspire this drastic shift in style or am I overdramatizing standard seasonal fashion tweaks and trends?

Bsimple CreationsBsimple Creations’ tote in treated paper

 

Service of Too Good to be True

February 9th, 2017

Categories: Quick Fix, Sales, Scams, Shipping Charges

F rated

David Segal, “The Haggler,” wrote in The New York Times about Lola Backlund’s experience with exorbitant shipping and handling fees—almost $50–after purchasing a $10 bottle of furniture scratch remover featured in a late night TV commercial. She estimated that the box might have cost $12 to wrap and send. While the Tarrytown NY marketer of the product claims it will refund money for its products, customers won’t see a cent back for its sky-high shipping charges.

Segal investigated and learned that the Better Business Bureau gave the marketer, SAS Group, an F rating and posted 169 similar grievances. The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office ordered SAS in 2011 “to pay restitution to consumers who said they were overcharged for shipping and handling fees after buying as-seen-on-TV products.” In addition, it “was prohibited from making false and misleading statements in future.” No more promoting a free product when it wasn’t really: Shipping and handling charges count.

SAS returned Ms. Backlund’s money immediately after the Hagglerreturning money intervened. But the point is that they—and others like them—continue to entice gullible viewers with claims of miracle products which may not be [though Ms. Backlund didn’t mention whether the scratches are gone from her furniture] and cheat on the transport charges. By the way, rubbing olive oil into a scratch or stain on wood will often tone down the wound.

We all wish for a phenomenal product that dices and slices, dusts and irons, sews on buttons and makes dinner in 10 minutes for $19.99 and sometimes we fall for the pitch. Have you? Were you sent shipping or other charges that were more than anticipated?

Shipping boxes

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