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Taking Back Free Play

I do feel sorry for children today who’re over-programmed from an early age. I believe in organized activities and loved girl scouts, band, art classes and all, but I was also able to imagine, play with friends with little supervision and roam the neighborhood To Kill a Mockingbird style.

Now kids can’t roam.

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Vie Restaurant

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Salmon Amuse-Bouche

In October I visited the award winning Vie Restaurant twice – once for my aunt’s 80th birthday party and last night after attending a wake for my father’s best friend.

The food at the birthday party was terrific. Perhaps I just chose really well. The salad, gnocchi and beef with mashed potatoes and squash I had were terrific. The appetizer selection of cheeses and sausages was also superb.

But last night’s meal, which I went to with my parents and their friends wasn’t as on the mark. Part of the problem was sticker shock. We probably should have expected high prices given the awards the chef has won, but we didn’t. We probably should have figured that the grey book on the table was the drink menu, but we didn’t look at it. So we were shocked to see that the chardonnay my mother ordered was $20 and my red wine, which I didn’t love, was $16 for a glass.

The menu showed the entree prices and described the artistic offerings. The problem was each item had something that needed an explanation. Will I like “sweet potato-tofu hash”? Probably not. What is blueberry aigre doux or pickled ramp remoulade or tatsoi? It took our party a long time to order because the menu was so gourmet.

It’s not like we’re bumpkins, but none of us was up on all the trends.

After our drinks arrived we were given some bread, which was a lovely sour dough and butter. Then we got an amuse-bouche, salmon with a tomato mayonnaise.

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I played it safe and ordered the shaved asian pears, mesclun, pancetta, giardiniera vinaigrette, crispy sauerkraut salad and the hamburger.

It took quite a while for our food to come. The pacing this night was off.

If I’d known my wine would be so pricey, I would not have ordered the salad, which for all the flowery description, wasn’t as good as what I can make myself. The pears sure were shaved, so much so that they didn’t add much flavor. The grilled sauerkraut sounded exotic, but tasted like just thinly julienned fried anything. The salad wasn’t bad and the portion was big enough to share, but I wasn’t blown away.

 

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The hamburger was fine too. Not the best I’ve had, but not the worst. It was alright, but for $19, I expect wonderful. The french fries weren’t at all good. They were shorter than usual, greasier and too salty. A lot of fast food establishments do better with fries. I just ate half the burger and fewer than half the fries and the doggy bag is stored in the fridge. Typically, a good burger will be my first choice for lunch the next day, but I figured I can wait as it wasn’t spectacular. I’ll probably throw out the fries.

The other members of the party had the white fish or the black fish. They were satisfied but not blown away.

The service was fine, but nothing special. I think the waitress was tentative because she got off to a poor start by asking, “Are you celebrating anything tonight?” We let her know we’d just come from a wake.  She was nice, but a bit aloof. My father asked for recommendations and hers seemed contrived.

Banning Best Friends?

I heard that some Chicago schools have banned best friends, but I had to discover if that’s true.

Sadly, it is. The practice isn’t universal but it’s not new. In 2010 the New York Times reported about this trend.

Some teachers and schools ban or try to discourage best friends to shield children from the hurt when there’s a disagreement with a friend or the loss of a best friend.

I couldn’t disagree more. Yes, friendship features hurt, but it also offers joy. Children can learn to be loyal, forgiving, helpful, honest, giving and responsible from having a best friend. Also, is it the school’s job to protect students from the pain inherent in life?

It seems schools and teachers should offer wise counsel on dealing with all facets of friendships as they impact a class and the individuals in it. These lessons are as important as anything in school. As an adult, I have had to work in more small groups than those of 10 or more.

I have been blessed with close friendships that started in school. I’m in contact with many of my close friends from high school. I’ve lost touch with those from grade school, but I still reap benefits of lessons learned from having and even losing those relationships. An article in Business Insider validated my belief in having close friends stating:

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The whole idea of No Best Friends, smacks of a dystopia like WE or 1984 where society dominates individual choice. If teachers don’t like dealing with social issues, they probably should find other work. It is part of child development, which is a class required for teacher education. There are plenty of books and films on friendship, which aid teachers in addressing the problems of friendship.

I think schools should allow students as much freedom as possible. A day at school, of necessity, requires a lot of rules: Don’t run in the hall, Don’t fight, Listen to the teacher, etc. There should be an area where children are free. You can’t legislate every facet of life. Children should learn to manage their social lives.

I’m wondering if children are getting punished for having best friends in these schools.

Share Your World

Cee has an interesting Blogging Challenge she’s named Share Your World. To participate, you look at her questions for the week posted on her blog and answer them on your blog. I’m going to give this a try.

What do you consider is the most perfect food for you? (It can be your favorite food to something extremely healthy.)

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My perfect food would be chocolate, dark chocolate. It’s not the healthiest, but it does contain magnesium. I do wish it were healthier. I am mindful of not partaking too much, but I love the full taste you get in each bite of dark chocolate.

Are you focused on today or tomorrow?

I have to say tomorrow as I’m job hunting and doing a lot of planning. I do spend a lot of time wondering if I’m doing as much today to move forward and I guess I make myself tense and stressed when something derails my plan for the day.

If you could interview one of your great-great-great grandparents, who would it be (if you know their name) and what would you ask?

I don’t know their names. I suppose I’d interview my the great-great-great grandmother on my father’s side to find out what life was like in Ireland in the 19th century.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week? Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.

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I appreciated the Open House Chicago event that allowed me to explore buildings in the city that are often closed to the public. A lot of planning and work had to have gone into making this free event succeed. I wish I had gotten to go today as well as tomorrow.

Mr Weinstein, et al

Ahh! Harvey Weinstein has been in the news so much. His behavior towards women appalls me, but I’m not surprised. It’s amazing that it took so long for his misdeeds to come to light, but it was the same with Bill Cosby.

What the news hasn’t said though and I suppose they can’t without proof, is that this is common in the entertainment business, and has been for years. Some famous cases involve Fatty Arbuckle, whose victim died, Errol Flynn, Louis Meyer who lusted after and groped Judy Garland in her teens, studio heads who lusted after Shirley Temple, and countless others whose victims probably never became famous and were too afraid to speak out.

As distasteful as this news story is, it’s good that it’s come to light again. From working in Hollywood, though never directly experiencing sexual harassment, I did routinely hear of horrid behavior. Most television writers’ rooms are despicable, i.e. very much like what was presented on The Comeback. Churlish writers will spew all kinds of disgusting talk like jokes about how many abortions they think a particular performer has had. Some secretaries, who had to work amidst profanity and vicious talk, sued Friends because it was a hostile work environment, but lost because the judge figured that kind of talk was necessary for creativity. (I disagree.)

I remember being asked in an interview for an assistant position if I would mind if the producers swore a lot or swore at me. Why would they have to? Note – the producers were women. I remember temping at a studio and hearing violent threats and horrible profanity spewing from more than one executive. When I was working in the human resources office, I remember a secretary calling in fear. She had run out of her office when her boss started throwing staplers and ash trays at her. He frequently used cocaine at work.

I’ve been told that secretaries in some offices are expected to schedule prostitutes for their bosses.

This problem goes way beyond one man. It’s the work culture and civil behavior is the exception.

I hope more people come forward and the business cleans up its act. This behavior should not be tolerated. Is it any wonder how much swearing, violence and salacious sexual relationships feature so much in today’s films and shows? I realize this dates back to the 1920s, when films were innocent by comparison, but do we need brutes deciding what films are made and what aren’t?

I think Harvey won’t be back in the States till whatever statute of limitations passes. His seeking help seems insincere and I hope he’s extradited if charges are made.

I do hope this emboldens women to speak up. I understand how hard that is, but if a man knows what he does will become public, perhaps he’ll act more civilly. Let’s stop this harassment.

Radio Lab: Parasites and More

If you like to learn, even if you’re not particularly scientific, give Radio Lab from NPR a try. Today, like any that I listen, I learned heaps about a topic I’d never even think of. This time that topic was — parasites.

Yes, parasites. Not something we hear about on the daily news or in school or in conversation.

Listening to Radio Lab today, I came to respect, yes, respect parasites and the scientists who study them.

Here’s a bit that I learned that parasites like hookworm caused lethargy in the 19th Century South, which is said to explain in large measure economic slow down, that blood flukes can live in your system for 40+ years and eventually make you sick, and they’re monogamous. And that a parasite that thrives in cats can brainwash a rat it might have wound up in driving rats to fall in love with cats and as a result most likely wind up eaten so that the parasite is back at home in a cat. These parasites can also get in people and cause havoc. Some think there’s a relationship between schizophrenia and cats because after people started keeping cats as pets, schizophrenia became more common.

Parasites can be good. Good parasites are getting wiped out, and new diseases like Crohn’s disease have become common as sanitation has wiped out both good and bad parasites.

I’m not making this up. I came away thinking that nature is just astounding.

You can try Radio Lab here and choose a podcast on such topics as: color, synchronicity, time, God and many more. The tone, music and narrative used in these programs makes it fascinating.

Virgin Atlantic

From the creative safety video to the actually yummy food, Virgin Atlantic was a joy to fly. I don’t know how I’ll manage with lesser airlines. The crew was genuinely polite and at the end of the flight they thanked us for letting them take care of us.

Amazing. I’ve never felt that American crews enjoyed that. I’ve felt that they put up with the passengers and I cringe when they sharply direct non-English speakers to “Stow your bags!” They don’t seem to realize the problem might be that they use uncommon words like “stow.”

The entertainment selection was vast and there was something for everyone to enjoy. The food, especially the mini strawberry popsicles were tasty.

I definitely aim to be a regular on Virgin.

Good Customer Service

Alas, it’s easy to come across bad customer service in the US. I abhor the automated phone (“Press 1 if you want our address, Press 2 if you want your balance,” etc.) service. I dread calling about problems. When I can, I’ve gone back to writing actual letters to companies. More and more, that’s not even allowed. O, mores! O, tempora!

Today, I called to ask American Express if they’d remove a late charge I incurred because I didn’t get home and see a bill till the day after it was due. Although the service could be better by eliminating the raft of “choices” callers are given and the request for a “security code” which isn’t a password or digits from your social security number so I don’t think I have one so that results in a loop that’s low grade frustrating.

Yet once I got a real live operator the conversation was almost ridiculously positive. Since I was an “outstanding” customer with an “amazing record for paying on time,”   they would wipe away the late fee. The operator could not praise me more for my excellence. It was over the top, but it made the call pleasant rather than a fight.


Another satisfying customer service was with Apple’s telephone service.  I chose the option to have them call me. There was a bit of a fail there as someone else answered the phone and though I hurried, by the time I got to the phone, the robot operator decided no one was there and  didn’t hear me so it hung up. Then I called them back rather than wait 10 minutes.

Apple makes you call them back when they call you, which is somewhat odd. I had to wait for assistance, but Apple gives you a choice of three types of music to listen to as you wait. That’s fairly good. (Though why did you call me, but not have a technician ready?)

The guy who helped me did a stellar job. His communication skills were top notch as he was knowledgeable, patient and sympathetic. We went through some processes with the Disk Utility feature and found out that the El Capitan operating system I’d recently downloaded was corrupted. Before fixing the problem, I had to back up all my files so I had to get a new external hard drive. (My current one had gone kaput.)

Saturday I called Apple back again and the customer service was mediocre. This clerk didn’t have the same communication skills and didn’t listen well so she had me do some of the same time consuming procedures I’d already done. She was reluctant to trust the first guy. She just wound up making a reservation at a Genius Bar where they did fix my computer by uploading El Capitan again.  The “Genius” I spoke with today was as good as good as the first Apple employee I spoke with. They all get extensive training, but the second person didn’t take it to heart the same way.

If you communicate clearly, treat me with respect and do what you say you’ll do, you’re well on your way to good customer service.

 

For College Success

Joan Keem offers good advice for advice for new and continuing college students.

Novotel Blackfriars, London

I just stayed one night at the Novotel Blackfriars in London, but I’d definitely go back. Though small, my room was nicely decorated and the bed was so comfy that I felt like a princess, like the princess in “Princess and the Pea.” The small bathroom was stylish with slate floors and chic toiletries.

Best of all, the location was great. I could walk to the London Eye in 10 minutes and to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey in 15 minutes. It’s half a block from a tube station.

Of course, there’s free wifi and a fitness center, which looked clean and up to date.

As a gold level member, I usually get a plate of fruit and an upgrade. On my stay I didn’t get either. Perhaps there were no bigger rooms available. As for the fruit, which I missed, I got a free drink voucher. I’d hoped for fresh orange juice at the adjacent restaurant, but all they had was standard concentrate. Novotel should just get some fruit to welcome us.

I didn’t eat any meals there. They have a breakfast buffet for $13, but there were several other choices where I could get a good breakfast for less.

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