Thursday, November 29, 2012

LOFT LIFE: We have the Willys

Jay and I decided it was time to explore some more New England history for our long Thanksgiving weekend. So we decided on Sturbridge Village.   
Well, actually, we didn’t exactly decide it that way. I had a Groupon for a hotel in Sturbridge, which I remembered as Stockbridge (I do get these easily confused). So after explaining to Jay that we would be staying at the Red Lion Hotel, then go to Norman Rockwell (which frankly we have done enough that there’s not much left for us to see there), he agreed.

Then I looked at the Groupon, the address, and the MAP (which I had earlier claimed to be an expert at), I realized it was NOT Stockbridge or the Norman Rockwell area at all. Whew. That prevented spending another $300 at the Lee Outlets too.

It was Sturbridge, in the Sturbridge Village area, which we have never been to. The hotel was not the Red Lion of dim memory (mine) at all, but the Sturbridge Host Hotel and Conference Center. A good deal all around with discounted tickets to the historic village.

But, it wasn’t until we were walking around the rustic, historic Massachusetts site that we realized why we felt so at home there: we both have ancestors from Massachusetts.

Jay’s more famous relative is Willy Dawes, 

the one who got through the lines to warn that “the British are coming.” Family lore has it that Longfellow knew it was Dawes, not Revere who made it through, but that Paul Revere sounded better in a poem. Hmm. Also the family says Willy pretended to be drunk, so got through--but that he probably didn’t really need to pretend. Jay’s Granny Mac, recently died at 101, and was the oldest living Dawes, of the William Dawes Who Rode legacy. Quite a family history, Dawes is, including the VP under Coolidge, Charles Dawes. 

Charles Dawes

Anyway, that is Jay’s Willy.
Mine, who may or may not have as illustrious a claim to fame, was Willy Russell, a Massachusetts farmer from Cambridge, born in the 17th century, who lived in Concord, and decided to go to medical school and become a doctor. He was a handsome chap, the family says, and the women in the town would feign illnesses so they could get in to see the tall, dark doc. He ended up saying this was a lot of hooey, and went back to farming.

So we have Willy’s from Massachusetts, and felt that explained our at home feeling when we are in a historic Mass. locale.

We enjoyed many facts of our visit, including standing to watch the Shooting Match with those flint muskets, with costumed men shooting at targets for prizes of sheep and such. I was standing next to Mike, from Torrington, and we had a lively conversation about his being a practicing Puritan. Fun.

We had our pork loin with apples and pomegranate at the OxHead Tavern, on the hotel premises, a homey establishment with an illustrious history of its own. We loved the crackling fireplace, good service, good values and friendly people there, including a table visit by the manager, the aproned-Giuseppe Fasulo, who couldn’t have been more cordial.

The Sturbridge Coffee House (The Fireside Inn) in Fiskdale, up the road on Main Street, was also a real treat. Though perhaps not historic in its current form, we loved the coffee and treats, and had two breakfast there, wishing they were closer to us in CT.

All in all, we felt like we had returned to our history, and atThanksgiving, the perfect time to visit Mass. as descendants of the Mass. SOR (Sons of the Revolution) Willys.

Friday, November 2, 2012

LOFT LIFE: Changing my reality

My husband and I finally worked out our decision to replace our T-Mobile serviced- non-Internet touch phones with AT&T service for the iPhone. This was a huge decision really, because we are of an age group that still thinks a phone is a phone, and that paying more than $150 per month, not to mention hundreds for the phone itself, is just not within the realm of practicality.

I have many friends who brag that they are not on Facebook, not using the Internet except for an occasional email, and not spending their time in technology. They read, they garden, they visit grandchildren, they travel, they watch television, and they talk on their land-line phones.

I, on the other hand, am not such an anti-tech-y. I actually pride myself on thinking young, keeping up with technology relatively speaking, and enjoying the benefits of international communication, free calls to Spain through SKYPE, Face-timing my L.A. daughter, syncing my MacBookPro, my iPad and my new iPhone.

But I do confess, even with my somewhat savvy approach, I was hit with a blow to the gut, when the AT&T salesperson, Oliver, suggested 1G would not be enough to share with two phones, and also that I could actually save money by including my iPad in the data plan we were purchasing, which would only add $50 a month. The iPad data plan by itself would cost $30 for every month in which we were traveling and wanting 3G of data capacity. Whereas including it with the phones would only add $10 per month and with the 4G for the 3 devices, should be adequate, since we don’t use our phones for movies, TV shows or other data rich media. I am considering, however, podcasting from my iPad, and that might change the game radically. For now though, we email pictures, use GPS app maps, and browse the Web for news, travel info and other practicalities when we travel. The rest of the time we are on Wi-Fi. (Anybody lost yet?)    

Oliver made a throwaway statement, when I balked at spending more than $150 for a phone bill, that maybe we all need to change our “reality.” That got me thinking.

Truly, I am willing to examine my reality. I depend on technology. I used my old phone for calls, message texting, viewing the date and time, setting an alarm now and then, maybe using the tools (calculator and stopwatch) and not much else. 

But with an iPhone, things have, in reality, changed dramatically. Now my phone is synced to my MacBookPro and my iPad, and I can quickly get a message, check weather (more extensively with an app than with just seeing the daily temperatures on my old, non-Internet, phone). I can show my FB pictures to friends without having to load in my iPhotos, I can listen to music, I can have retailers scan purchases, I can Face-time my daughter and others, and on and on and on. If I wish to, which I don’t at present, I can watch a movie or a TV show, I can purchase things, read my Kindle, my Nook, my eReader, I can sync my calendars and appointments, and on and on.
                    So my new reality: this is not a phone. This is a mobile media center. Yes, so is my iPad, and in some ways they are redundant. But, having that choice of screen size is also a benefit. I can travel with both, and use whichever is more convenient. For instance, the iPad was really handy in viewing maps on the GPS app as we traveled from Princeton, N.J. to Connecticut on a route that was altered from our original plan, for which we had printed maps. Using the GPS on the larger screen, that turned to a black screen with lighted maps for night driving, was amazing. I don’t want a GPS that is stuck to the windshield with adhesive, partly because it is a common cause of auto break-ins and theft. This GPS goes with me not my car.

If I want to get a list of local restaurants when we travel, the smaller iPhone screen in just fine. If I want to get on a plane, my iPhone has my boarding pass, so no more paper. I can load my Starbucks card, I can transfer funds from bank to bank, and I can take really good pictures and email them to my laptop. 

As I adapt my life around new technology, I have to think that perhaps the money I am saving from the new way of living, equals if not surpasses the increase in my phone bill. For instance, I seldom use my printer, when I have a screen to view, which saves on printer toner and paper. I no longer need to buy checks, because I only use bill pay. This has the added advantage of my not having to shred bank statements, etc. constantly, because I am on paperless systems. I seldom mail a letter, because my friends mostly seem to enjoy texting, emailing, and calling. Really even emailing is becoming far less common, since texting is shorter and faster. That distresses my two or three friends who like the snail mail thing, but I try to accommodate them, even though my letters and notes are far fewer than if they would allow for technology.

OK, so what is the point here? I am changing my reality. I am going to enjoy the benefits of iPhone and not feel bad about paying for it. I will readjust our budget to accommodate more than doubling our phone bill. In the end, I actually expect to save money. I will not be buying paper books, CD music, or software for most things. I will use my free Kindle books, the occasional Kindle or Nook purchase, the library, and use Pandora and my vast collection of already purchased iTunes and CDs. I will not be purchasing any DVD’s, since Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, You Tube and other streaming sources fill that need just fine. Those things alone will save hundreds per year over what we used to spend. (We can’t find those diamond needles for the stereo anymore.) 

I can compare purchasing many things--for instance the Amazon screen shields, which are incredibly cheaper than those at the AT&T store. I had instant confirmation of that online and so could easily pass up impulse buying of a screen shield at $25 instead of $6. Two day free shipping makes the Amazon purchase very convenient.

I also noticed my new MacBookPro does not have an internal DVD/CD drive. I found that curious at first until I realized the rationale. It is thin and the drive takes up space. And, I have not had much reason to insert a CD or DVD lately, since most of my viewing and listening is from streaming, as mentioned above, and most software is downloadable from the Internet. 

Life is changing. We must decide whether to go with it, even stay ahead of it a little on the cutting edge, or to dig in our heels and insist on the “good old days,” which, frankly, weren’t always so good.

That reality shift actually began some time ago, without my realizing it, and is why I started this blog. I am a journalist. Newspapers are dying. I don’t want to die with them. 

Thanks for reading. As usual, would love your comments on your realities concerning the new world of technology.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

LOFT LIFE: September

I come alive in September. It restores me in so many ways:  the humidity and heat of summer are waning and the crisp, cool air of fall enters into my being, invigorating everything in me.

I do not do well in summer, with weeks of high humidity. In fact, this summer, I sat by our apartment poolside for hours with my sun-loving friends, visiting from more overcast sections of the country. This, for me, was a sacrifice of love, because besides this year’s very high humidity, I do not usually enjoy sitting for hours with sun beating down on my head, neck, face and limbs.

I could cover myself up more, block the sun, in addition to my SPF 45, but then I remind myself of the grotesque picture of (me) in Dan Greenburg’s (meant to be) hilarious book, How to Be a Jewish Mother, where (his) mother is seated on her chaise at the beach under her umbrella, clothed, hat-ed, and covered-up at a level that clearly cries out: I am not, nor will I ever be, a beach sort of gal. That’s me. But, I try to pretend, so as not to resemble me too much.

In any case, I did do the sun thing several days this summer, resulting in what I thought was sun-heat-induced eczema, breaking out all over my neck and scalp. Very depressing.  

I looked up the condition online (always a mistake) and decided it must be seborrhea. I have a good friend at church who is a dermatologist, and I knew I should be going to him professionally to get the real diagnosis, but I resisted, because I don’t like medication and   online it said it would be steroids.

So I bought some cortisone cream, which worked somewhat, but what really did well was the concoction my herb-wise friend Linda, who, when I told her I had eczema, put together for me, a salve of olive oil, comfrey and arbor vitae. She’s my herb-mountain lady. She got the recipe from her own herb-wise friend.

A few days later, I ran smack into my dermatologist friend at a church barbecue; so what was I to do? Even though I had decided it would be wrong to ask him for a diagnosis outside of his professional office, here he was, right in front of me. I told him about my self-diagnosed eczema; he took a look at the blotches on my neck and informed me it was not eczema. “You have polymorphous light eruption,” he said, with a straight face, which amazed me. I love having a disease no one has ever heard of, if it’s not terminal or lethal. Ha, Ha. He referred me to a dermatological website written by New Zealand doctors, where I read all about my ailment. My doc friend told me women from places like Norway get this skin condition when they holiday at the Mediterranean and sit in the sun and are not used to sun. So, here I got this European woman disease right here in Connecticut, and didn’t even get to go to the Mediterranean. 

Linda’s salve did work on this, as well, even though we had believed it was for eczema. (Linda also warned that some think arbor vitae can be poisonous, so the recipe is important.)

In any case, September rolled around, bringing cooler temperatures, fresh air, lower humidity, and with those, the real cure for my polymorphous light eruption: September. The P.L.E. is gone.

Besides better skin, in September, I think better, feel better, walk more, and generally feel energized. I start to believe again, as I do every fall, that I can do almost anything--even live longer. I get more creative, do more for my businesses, feel more inspired. September is my tonic.

I love September.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

LOFT LIFE: Really?

You guys know I used to be a food critic, right? True. In California, I was invited into the inner sanctum of the California Restaurant Writers Association. They audition you--I mean you have to go through an interview, screening and acceptance, and then you have to follow a set of guidelines, one of which is that you never trade your review for any goods or services. They want to make sure you are incognito, that you are truly giving an opinion not traded for gain, and that you are a real critic, not an advertiser. It is really quite an honor.
I say all that to let you know that I passed! That means my food reviews have some credibility. Oh, don’t start laughing. 

This is just to introduce to you how much I love food, talking about food, eating food, criticizing food, etc. I also subscribe to a few food sites, where they send me recipes. The best of these is where they have formed a truly meaningful community around sharing food stories, recipes, and even blogs. (My Spinning blog is on there.)

Today I received a recipe from Cooking Light, the magazine of which I used to read. Today’s recipe was for, get this, Cobb salad pizza. The name screams, “What?”

                          PhotoCredit: John Autry, styling, Mindi Shapiro

Maybe it’s just me, but that strikes me as hilarious. I mean, if you want a salad, why add bread underneath it, and frozen pizza dough bread even? Wouldn’t you want a nice, crusty whole grain aside your Cobb so you can enjoy the salad, fresh and cold without the baked white bread?

It also calls for mixed baby greens. So I had to do this research in order not to lose what of my mind I may still have left. Here’s what wikipedia says:

Various stories of how the salad was invented exist. One says that it came about in the 1930s at the Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant, where it became a signature dish. It is named for the restaurant's owner, Robert Howard Cobb.[1] Stories vary as to whether the salad was invented by Cobb or by his chef, Chuck Wilson. The legend is that Cobb had not eaten until near midnight, and so he mixed together leftovers he found in the kitchen, along with some bacon cooked by the line cook, and tossed it with their French dressing.[2] This version of the story (dated to 1937) is retold in episode 3, season 2, of comedy series Curb Your Enthusiasm, when Larry David searches for evidence to prove that another character has falsely claimed that his grandfather invented the salad.
Another version of the creation is that Robert Kreis, executive chef at the restaurant, created the salad in 1929 and named it in honor of Bob Cobb, the owner.[3] The same source confirms that 1937 was the reported date of the version noted above, with Cobb making the salad.
And here is what the original ingredients supposedly were:
iceberg lettuce, watercress, endive, Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, chicken breast, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, chives, Roquefort cheese, red-wine vinaigrette.

  Does this scream, please put frozen pizza dough under me?
The pizza Cobb deletes the original kinds of greens, substitutes the more trendy “mixed baby greens,” deletes the hard-boiled egg, substitutes blue cheese for Roquefort, which is not the same, and drizzles the whole mess with a white-, not red-wine vinaigrette, and the pizza salad version includes Dijon mustard.
Now I’m not saying you can’t adapt a recipe. I’m not even saying some might not find this pizza thing tasty. I’m just saying, it’s not a Cobb. Now, I ask you? And, Why? 

Now your turn to opine.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

LOFT LIFE: I'll trade you 3 Tweets for 1 blog comment

Remember when you used to while away your free time writing a letter, playing a board game, chatting on the phone, or maybe reading a book? Ah, those were the days.

Forgive me if you are a reader here under 30 or a tech savvy senior even, and this next bit of info is obvious. But those days are gone for a lot of us. 

It’s not that we don’t have choice in how we spend our free time, or even our revenue-producing time, for that matter. We do.

But, it is the age-old dilemma of whether we will choose to be dinosaurs and luddites (The Luddites were a social movement of 19th-century English textile artisans who protested—often by destroying mechanized looms—against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution...), or whether we will step into the “new world” and learn new things.

Such a dilemma is challenging me lately, namely, “to Tweet or not to Tweet.”
   I have elected to Tweet. That has taken on far greater dimensions than I expected.

Some of you will just say, “I don’t want any part of that waste of time. Others will say, “Duh, why not! How hard can it be?” And, still others, my dear friend, will say, “I don’t want to lose the old-fashioned art of real, personal, communication.

Those may all be valid concerns, but here is my dilemma:

I do marketing, advertising. I claim to have expertise in communications. So doesn’t it “behoove” me to include every efficient, effective form of communication for what I do for my clientele?  I think it does. (Don’t worry, I still know words like behoove. lol)

So lately, I have begun to explore other people’s blogs--younger people--who know the Twitter game, and other social networking, social marketing tools.

Let me tell you, this is VERY time consuming. I can attest that in my practice tries, over the past few days, I have become better and better at this.

Twittering requires spending a lot of time checking and rechecking your Tweets and responses. That is OK, because to do my job, I have to be online most of the time, and the checking is a few seconds, or maybe a couple of minutes if a response is called for.

But, the element of giving exposure on Twitter I didn’t count on, is how reciprocal this communication needs to be.

In other words, if I ask you to read and share my Tweets, and then forward you on to my blog, for instance, I am feeling really obligated to read your stuff and comment as well. Getting my “followers” and “comments” to increase, requires a certain amount of trading with those from whom I am seeing follow me and make comments. This can become as time-consuming as I wish it to be, or maybe more. 

One rule-of-thumb I am learning from other marketers, is that over-Tweeting is a no-no. Whew. That’s a relief. Wouldn’t want to over-Tweet.

Like anything we learn to do, eventually, we get better at it, and learn to discriminate, to select the good input, and leave the fluff. But, in that learning period, there is a lot of information overload. Big time!

I remember where I was when I first looked at a PC and a monitor, and wondered whether I would ever learn to use this new medium effectively. That was in 1981. Today, I can’t imagine life without my MacBook Pro, my IPad and my Kindle, email, texting, and now Tweets. (Haven’t succumbed to a smart phone yet, but I know it is in the cards, because the culture is USING these for things we need to do, like buying things. Is this the mark of the beast some ask?)

Bottom line: I have to learn new media, new networking and marketing techniques, if I expect people to pay me for my expertise. I have to keep up, become savvy about social networking and marketing with these tools. So even though I might prefer relaxing more, leaving technology for a few hours every day, the truth is, it fascinates me to see how quickly these new modes have taken over, and it is amazing to experience their power.

For instance, I Tweeted teasers for my blog (this is my test to see how it works for my clients before I do it wrong on their stuff), and I increased my readership more than SIX times what it has been in ONE DAY. That is incredible to me.

Do you know there are Tweeters who specialize in re-Tweeting? I follow one such person, and she faithfully re-Tweets my posts. 


In all sales, if you develop third party resources who will multiply your efforts by promoting your services to their networks, you are way ahead of the game.

The downside: I still wonder about negative responses where you multiply complaints. For my clients in small towns, that could become serious. I have avoided creating Facebook pages for them for just this reason. I know I can monitor and moderate these comments, but that requires daily perusal to make things current.

I am still learning. I need to get better at this. I need experts and experienced social media people to tell me what pitfalls to avoid. 

Since there is no dearth of help on these questions for the avid, consistent researcher, I am sure by next month, I will find answers to these. One of the new market niches is obviously people to help us newbies navigate it all.

Please let me know what your thoughts are and your experiences with using social media for business.

Friday, August 10, 2012

LOFT LIFE: Maps and me

I have made a big point of telling you all how bad my visual skills are. But, when it comes to maps, I am really good at them. I am the navigator on all of our road trips. On foot, my brother always said I can’t find my way to the back door, but in the car, I seem to have a natural sense of direction, especially when there is sun.

When I lived in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, I traveled completely without maps or directions, and since everything looks the same--farmlands, barns, crops, etc., that wasn’t easy. But I followed the sun and knew if I were heading west, for instance, any road west should take me close to my destination.

This method of farmland navigation was really tested in Illinois, when I transversed Boone County looking for the food pantry to volunteer. I finally called the director for help. She asked me where I was, and all I had was a name on a mailbox. On hold, while she called her husband who grew up around there, she got back to me and directed me out of the maze with only that mailbox name. Amazing.

As you know, I don’t do Interstates, so this is all on surface, smaller roads, I am talking.

All was well until I moved to New England, where I opine frequently that they do not have enough money to pay for signs. Maps seem almost irrelevant in Massachusetts, where you could literally travel for 10 miles or more without knowing if you are 1) on the right route, 2) the name of the street. They do have street names at the perpendiculars, but that does you no good if you made a wrong turn five miles back--which I do often because the roads don’t really seem to match up to the map.

I map out a route ahead of time, study the names of streets, and still have no idea where I am on the actual road because it doesn’t make sense. And, I tell you, I am good at maps. 

My friends suggest I get GPS, which really raises hackles, because I AM the GPS system for my family. Also, I hate that smug woman’s voice telling me what to do. I feel like screaming at her and throwing the little device through the windshield. OK, maybe a slight overreaction, but I feel she is encroaching on my territory and she isn’t always right anyway. Then my friend suggested GPS’s have a choice of voices. Didn’t know that. I could get a friendly Australian male voice, which I might like.

Recently, on my way to a friend’s house, I was happily following my map to her place, 15 miles from my home, when I slammed into a snag--road construction. Pretty typical in New England summers.The police officers were re-routing people so I didn’t know the area well enough to navigate this well. Where I was supposed to turn left, after a right, I did that, and then asked the officer if I was on the road I thought I should be on--and I was not. Had I turned right there, as I found out later, I would have been two blocks from her house. As it turned out, I meandered northwest and ended up at the very intersection I had mapped out to avoid. Geesh. This was not good. Now I was late, and still had no idea where I was. Correction. I knew where I was. I just didn’t know where I was going. 

I called my friend, and she stayed on her cell to direct me back to within two blocks of where I had made the wrong turn.

Suffice to say, now I know how to map around the detour. 


But, really, even though I do pay my fair share and much more, I am willing to donate some tax money for Massachusetts to put up a few signs in my area. 

But, my Mass. friends tell me they don’t repost them when they are vandalized because they will just be lifted again by those hoodlums. Oh dear.

So, do you think I should break down and get that Aussie to help me? But, then there is the risk of my car being vandalized to get the GPS. An officer patrolling a shopping center parking lot even told me once that thieves break into cars even if they see the adhesive remnants on the windshield. So other than my protective feelings about my role as navigator-in-chief, since I cannot be pilot-in-chief, I do not need to worry about someone breaking my car windows.

What’s a navigator to do?

Monday, July 9, 2012

LOFT LIFE: It's not easy being green, or I can even kill dirt!

I’ve always been into chopping. (See March 2009 post: Food). But, what I am chopping these days has become life changing.
I owe a great debt to Victoria Boutenko and her book, Green for Life. It’s rare that a book truly changes lives--thinking, beliefs, behavior, which of course is always changed by beliefs and thinking.
Victoria starts by explaining that greens and vegetables are not synonymous. I know this it seems obvious, but getting my 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, the prescription for health, was not mostly greens up until now, and very difficult to achieve. I would get a head of lettuce and see it as three or four salad sides to accompany larger portions of meat and starch. 
Now I see a head of lettuce and wonder whether I will need a second one to make my breakfast and lunch quart plus green smoothie, along with cucumber, berries, wheat grass, flax seeds, coconut juice, lemon (with rind) and maybe mint and ginger. And, that’s just Monday. I vary the greens, as Victoria suggests, sometimes adding a whole apple, orange (with rind) or a whole pear instead of berries--making green smoothies more green than purple. 

Wheat grass. OK, how many of you say to your friends, I need some wheat grass, then find them scurrying back to their kitchens to get you wheat berries and potting soil they have hanging around, so you can grow your own? I have friends like that. 
I did tell you in my Feng Shui post (January 2012) that I tend to kill green things. This time I killed dirt! This is not easy. It was one of those muggy days, when I thought I was literally dying. My heart was skipping beats; I was listless, drained. My husband came home and suggested maybe I turn on the air conditioning. I said, “You think that could be it?” It was. 
I didn’t die, but the dirt Barb gave me in plastic containers with lids, did. Humidity created awful mold, so I had to throw the soil out and start again. I’m happy to report my wheat grass is growing, however timidly, and isn’t dead yet.
Barb has also introduced me to sorrel, French breakfast radishes, with their greens, and bloody baron with golden beets. These exotic greens add wonderful flavor and color to smoothies, and sometimes I just enjoy them by themselves with some citrus and balsamic dressing, red onions, and tomatoes.
In addition to being grateful to Barb, I’m grateful to Linda and Rainbow. They’ve known about the healing properties of greens way longer than I have. I did have to back off the spirulina Linda gave me, because in my usual zeal for new discoveries, I put a heaping tablespoon of the really, really green stuff, into my blender--which did I mention is a BlendTec ($350 on sale at Costco)--and that was not wise. I broke out in a horrible eczema which still hasn’t healed. The consensus is that I created a giant detox, which, along with my pound plus of greens, my body reacted to suddenly. So caution: go easy at first.
I realize I’m not sounding like an advertisement for the green smoothie life, but really, I am completely sold on it. My body now craves greens, as though I had not been giving her enough of this “live” food. My cravings for other foods--chips, bread, potatoes, meat, has seriously diminished. Unless I begin to eat these items, I don’t want them. It’s as though my body literally cries out for real food with a desperation that warns me never to return to my old food desert ways.
I am losing weight, I am feeling healthy, my skin is glowing and I am sleeping through the night most of the time--all because I have turned over breakfast and lunch to the greens. I usually eat a regular dinner with my husband, but my portions are less, because I’m just not hungry. 
I know we all age and die eventually, but we can stem some of the worst effects of aging with nutrients that our bodies need to fight off free radicals, oxidation, and other environmental enemies of living a ripe old age with robust health. (Have you seen the YouTube Salsa video of Ginger Rogers dancing, at 92, with her grandson? I’ll bet she does the greens.)
As a testimony to my enthusiasm, other friends are trying green smoothies, and liking them. Some need their smoothies colder, some more reddish or purple, and one claimed she does better if her glass isn’t clear, so she won’t see the green. But, if they can heal asthma and allergies, and other life-threatening diseases, I will feel so happy to have had an influence.
This lifestyle isn’t simple. Unless you’re in California or Manhattan, you’re not likely to find wheat grass-, flax seed-supplemented green smoothies on the menu when you’re out of your own kitchen.
The minute I leave for two days, go back to the highly salted, oiled and processed foods out there, I gain weight back. The good news, and I believe a testimony to the power of greens, when I return to a quart of smoothie per day, I lose it again. 
It took 15 years to break the weight barrier I’ve now pushed through in four weeks. I love these smoothies, delicious and filling. With their miraculous healing power--who wouldn’t want them?
Hey, don’t knock ‘em until you’ve tried ‘em!

Monday, June 4, 2012

LOFT LIFE: Soon every day will be a Monday

Once upon a time, I did consulting for a workers’ compensation (no it’s not workman’s anymore) insurance company on Wall Street. I was marketing safety services to the utility industry, who were the clients of this insurance company.
I learned that in terms of safety, Mondays were the days when most accidents happened, and during a crisis, where there was high alert, few accidents happened.
Of course, my plan of action was to make the workers aware that Mondays WERE the crisis days to be aware of.
Recently, one of my print ad sales people sent me an email, which I misread, so my reply was not making sense. He resent the email in large, bold, RED letters. This was on a Monday. That time I got it. More recently, I sent a question, which he thought should have had an attachment, but didn’t. His humor to ask for the attachment was: “Aren’t Mondays wonderful!” There really wasn’t supposed to be an attachment, so it was Monday for him too.
That reminded me of a trip to Panera Bread where they employ a lot of seniors. Now, I like seniors--usually. After all, I ARE one.
But, this was beyond funny: The older female was literally steering the patron to more healthful choices with, “You want the turkey with....” just like your mom would. An older gentleman cashier was taking an order for something another patron wanted “on the side,” which he heard as a “side” salad. When the patron received the wrong order, the order taker cheerfully corrected it. But I had to chuckle that this was all about hearing impairment, and I was imagining the collection of order humor we are about to experience as seniors multiply and hearing diminishes.
So, just think. With the economy tanking, and retirement savings interest and dividends dwindling, these Baby Boomers who already resist aging and the term senior, are all going to be staying in the work force for another 30 years or so.
Imagine those customer service phone calls you now make being answered by older, wiser folks, if not the off-shore folks; your sandwiches being prepared by good old Mom--now good old Grandma too; and your goods and services being made and provided by this older generation. 
Add to that most commercials for almost everything are being written and produced by 20-somethings who do not really speak the same language as the Boomers, and you can expect to experience a sense of the surreal when you try to match up the ads to the in-store, online or on-the-phone experience you have.

Humorous as this sounds, I predict we will all be having a lot of Mondays. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

LOFT LIFE: Culture rant

I arrived at the Post Office yesterday, happy to be mailing a package to my son in California, containing: books, a CD, photographs in an envelope, a work of art created for him personally on a T-shirt, and a note describing the contents of the box. Perhaps the shirt was stretching my definition of media a bit, but it was the art, not the shirt, that mattered. It was not any old t-shirt. It was a shirt that had a caricature cartoon of him, done by an actual artist, at a classmate's birthday party. The family also had a home with about eight garages, and an elevator in the house. I don’t think the garage had an elevator, but I could be wrong.
Anyway, I considered the shirt to contain printed art.
So when I addressed the postal worker that my package was media, I foolishly described the content as books, a CD and art.
“Art! she exclaimed as though I had just confessed to being a serial killer. What kind of art?
“Printed art,” I answered, and photographs.”
“Oh, and photographs. No, no. Those are not media. So your two choices are....”
“In what way are photographs not media?” I asked, incredulous. Books have photographs.”
“Would you like a copy of our rules?” she asked, smugly.
“I am sure you know the rules,” I continued, “however, I do not agree with your (the post office) definition of media.”
“Photographs are not media.”
I sighed, realizing that if she decided to examine the contents and found a t-shirt, explaining how this was a form of printed art would be futile.
I complied, of course, and paid the $12. But, I wasn’t happy.
I am, by trade, a media specialist. That means I buy media for clients. So I know what media is. Maybe that’s why I frosted over when the post office told me I could not mail my package media rate, because it contained photographs and printed art.
I have experienced this in the past when I enclosed a note, which the postal worker claimed was not permitted in media mail.
OK. I know my definition may not line up with the USPS’s definition, but on what planet are photographs not part of printed material? I am sure they have the right to define media any way they wish to, and do. But, it just seems so unreasonable.
So is it just loose photographs? Or, are picture books not part of the “books” they include in media?
I didn’t take her printed rules--i don’t want more paper to shred. But, I did look this up online. In case you need this:
Content Standards for Media Mail
Qualified Items
Only these items may be mailed at the Media Mail prices:
Books, including books issued to supplement other books, of at least eight printed pages, consisting wholly of reading matter or scholarly bibliography, or reading matter with incidental blank spaces for notations and containing no advertising matter other than incidental announcements of books. Advertising includes paid advertising and the publishers' own advertising in display, classified, or editorial style.
16-millimeter or narrower width films, which must be positive prints in final form for viewing, and catalogs of such films of 24 pages or more (at least 22 of which are printed). Films and film catalogs sent to or from commercial theaters do not qualify for the Media Mail price.
Printed music, whether in bound or sheet form.
Printed objective test materials and their accessories used by or on behalf of educational institutions to test ability, aptitude, achievement, interests, and other mental and personal qualities with or without answers, test scores, or identifying information recorded thereon in writing or by mark.
Sound recordings, including incidental announcements of recordings and guides or scripts prepared solely for use with such recordings. Video recordings and player piano rolls are classified as sound recordings.
Playscripts and manuscripts for books, periodicals, and music.
Printed educational reference charts designed to instruct or train individuals for improving or developing their capabilities. Each chart must be a single printed sheet of information designed for educational reference. The information on the chart, which may be printed on one or both sides of the sheet, must be conveyed primarily by graphs, diagrams, tables, or other nonnarrative matter. An educational reference chart is normally but not necessarily devoted to one subject. A chart on which the information is conveyed primarily by textual matter in a narrative form does not qualify as a printed educational reference chart for mailing at the Media Mail prices even if it includes graphs, diagrams, or tables. Examples of qualifying charts include maps produced primarily for educational reference, tables of mathematical or scientific equations, noun declensions or verb conjugations used in the study of languages, periodic table of elements, botanical or zoological tables, and other tables used in the study of science.
Loose-leaf pages and their binders consisting of medical information for distribution to doctors, hospitals, medical schools, and medical students.
Computer-readable media containing prerecorded information and guides or scripts prepared solely for use with such media.
I see it doesn’t specifically mention photographs, but neither does it exclude them, or art impressed t-shirts, unless the hand-stamped imprint on the shirt counts, but then it won't because the imprint is a picture of my son, which makes it personal--see below.
Then there is the card describing the contents (it did also contain an “I love you.”) Here are the USPS rule for enclosures:
Enclosures and Attachments for both Media Mail and Library Mail
Loose Enclosures
In addition to the enclosures and additions listed in 4.2 for Media Mail and 5.4 for Library Mail, any printed matter that is mailable as Standard Mail may be included loose with any qualifying material mailed at the Media Mail or Library Mail prices.
Written Additions
Markings that have the character of personal correspondence require, with certain exceptions, additional postage at the First-Class Mail prices. The following written additions and enclosures do not require additional First-Class Mail postage:
The sender's and the addressee's names, occupations, and addresses, preceded by “From” or “To,” and directions for handling.
Marks, numbers, names, or letters describing the contents.
Words or phrases such as “Do Not Open Until Christmas” and “Happy Birthday, Mother.”
Instructions and directions for the use of the item mailed.
A manuscript dedication or inscription not having the nature of personal correspondence.
Marks to call attention to words or passages in the text.
Corrections of typographical errors in printed matter.
Manuscripts accompanying related proof sheets and corrections of proof sheets including corrections of typographical and other errors, changes in the text, insertions of new text, marginal instructions to the printer, and corrective rewrites of parts.
Hand-stamped imprints, unless the added material is in itself personal or converts the original matter to a personal communication.
Matter mailable separately as Standard Mail printed on the wrapper, envelope, tag, or label.
OK, so I traded an I love you for a Happy Birthday or a Do not open until Christmas. Big deal. And, just so the record is clear, my enclosure that was refused previously did not contain a description of the package contents, as this one DID. So score one for USPS. Hey, I’m fair and balanced (usually).
We have, at present, a whole culture of whiners and complainers, of which I truly wish not to be included, and try really hard not to make myself a participant. But, when the rate for mailing “my media” jumps from $3 to $12, I have to tell you, I feel a little disgruntled.
Ah, the Internet, the epitome of cultural complaint confabulation. I let out some of my steam (why do frosty and steamy mean the same thing in emotional terms?). That I even found a discussion, specifically regarding the USPS media rate, was downright astounding. I thought I would share some of the comments with you, in case you, as with so many, have encountered the ire of a postal worker who seems to be personally offended that you should consider yourself eligible to ship media rate. I mean, who do they think should use this rate? It’s almost as if they want you to show your badge or ID that you have some legitimate reason, other than shipping books, cd’s and printed art to your son. 
Yep, they do it around me too. Last time I shipped some textbooks by Media Mail, the employees were grilling me on the contents and telling me that my package WILL be opened. It got pretty ridiculous, because they kept repeating it over and over like I was lying to them.
Yes Miss C….Book rate was expanded to apply to video tapes,films and computer disks
It’s all so post modern.
We recently had to pay because we received a package mailed as Media Mail, which got opened and declared not media mail.
Here’s the thing, though — the sender had the post office she sent the package from inspect the content before sealing the package, because it wasn’t clear to her what the rules allowed. They said it was fine. A different post office seemed to disagree.
So, at least based on this example, the rules are far from clear. If they’re going to crack down on this, they need to be crystal clear about what’s allowed.
Anyway, you get the idea. There were many more comments on this one site, and most of them were grateful for the media mail option, and no one was trying to “scam” the system.
In the last analysis, I suppose photographs, since not listed, are not considered part of the list--even though I believe they are as much media as a DVD or CD are. 
And, finally, as a word of caution, it is clearly in the rules that they do not guarantee delivery. Media mail may be “deferred” or delayed. Maybe that explains the $500 of art books we mailed getting “lost” and we were not refunded the $50 media rate fee to ship them. *sigh*
I guess I need to just pay the regular rate, stop complaining, and get a life. But, ranting is so much more fun. As usual, I need to know what you think.