Tag Archives: BOLLI Monthly Features

TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: A LITTLE TECH HUMOR

There is only so much technical advice that I can give and that you will accept.  So, for a change of pace, I’m providing material in part provided by Ron Levy and Mike Segal.  But who knows where jokes come from?  Even those which show attribution might well be taken from elsewhere.  So my apologies in advance.  And if anyone is easily insulted, this is a good place to stop.

A LITTLE TECH HUMOR

We had a power cut at our house this morning, and my PC, laptop, TV, DVD, iPad & my new-surround sound music system were all shut down.

Then I discovered that my mobile phone battery was dead, and to top it off, it was raining outside, so I couldn’t play golf.

I went into the kitchen to make coffee, and then I remembered that this also needs power, so I sat and talked with my wife for a couple of hours.

She seems like a nice person.

*

Many computer problems are rather easily resolved.  Have you ever done something and got a Microsoft error message like this?

*

An email arrives one morning:

Hi, Chris, this is Alan from next door.  I have a confession to make.I’ve been riddled with guilt these past few months and have been trying to pluck up the courage to tell you to your face, but I am at least now telling you in text as I can’t live with myself a moment longer without you knowing.

The truth is – I’ve been sharing your wife, day and night, a lot lately. In fact, probably more than you. I haven’t been getting it at home recently, but that’s no excuse, I know. The temptation was just too much. I can no longer live with the guilt, and I hope you will accept my sincerest apologies and forgive me. It won’t happen again.
Please suggest a fee for usage and I’ll pay you.

Regards, Alan


Chris, feeling insulted and betrayed, grabs his gun and shoots his neighbor dead.  He returns home, pours himself a stiff drink, and sits down on the sofa.  Taking out his phone, he sees a subsequent message from his neighbor:

Hi, Chris, this is Alan again from next door.  Sorry about that typo on my last text. But I expect you figured it out anyway and that you noticed that the darned Auto Correct changed “WiFi” to “Wife.”

Regards, Alan

*

And then, there’s the doctor…

A man walks into an optician’s office.

“Doctor,” he says, “I’m having real trouble using my computer.  Unless I’m looking right at my keyboard, mouse, or printer, I just can’t see any of them.”

“Ah”, said the optician, “I know what’s wrong. You’ve got a problem with your peripheral vision.”

*

Need a password?

I needed a password eight characters long so I picked “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”

*

And now for the final one…

Three engineers were riding in a car: a mechanical engineer, a chemical engineer, and a Microsoft software engineer. The car stalled, and they rolled it to the side of the road.

The mechanical engineer popped the hood, looked in, and said, “Look. The drive belt is loose. All we have to do is tighten it up, and the car will work just fine.”

The chemical engineer replied, “No, that’s all wrong. The problem is fuel contamination. We have to drain the fuel, filter it, and then everything will be A-OK.”

The Microsoft software engineer told the other two, “No, I’ve seen this problem before. We have to get back in the car, close all the windows, shut down the car, get out, get back in, start up the car, open all the windows, and then it will run.”

Back to important stuff next month.

BOLLI Matters “Tech Talk” writer John Rudy

A long-time computer expert and guide,  John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions or comments for John on any computer/tech topic .

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402)

 

DECEMBER’S SENIOR MOMENT WITH ELEANOR JAFFE: THE NIGHT THE LAST CLASS ENDED

“POST MORTEM”

By Eleanor Jaffee

How do you know when to throw in the towel?  When is “enough” really “enough”?  What are the signs that tell you, “You know, honey/mister, this job/project/course is taking too much out of you”?

On the other hand…a good challenge is hard to discard.  A well-honed skill or series of skills may be a treasured part of your repertoire, and if you give that up, then what?

Most of us experienced this internal dialogue when we retired from our paying careers: teacher, engineer, physician, or business person.  These occupations were relentlessly full-time—week, month, and year in and out.  As a bridging activity after retirement, and perhaps forever after, until the inevitable end of the road, some of us become SGLs who create, plan, revise, and then lead courses for our fellow BOLLI members.  I recommend this undertaking, but it can be a real challenge!

I have created and led about ten courses, always building on old knowledge and experience but adding new challenges and new learning along the way.  It’s much like adding new wings or extensions to an existing building.  In this way, I have taught four different courses about immigration to the U.S., three different courses about aspects of aging, and one course on the history of marriage (co-led) through fiction.  And most recently, this one just past:  “Resistance and Resilience in Politics and In Life.”

This year, I literally outdid myself.  So riled up was I, so upset about our current political morass and its potential for real harm to our country and beyond, that I created a course about politics and the necessity for resilience and resistance in these perilous times.  I was satisfied with my goals (although they were perhaps too far-reaching), but keeping up with the daily political changes, mis-steps, crises, and mind-blowing emergencies in daily news coverage was a huge challenge.  Between scandalous, heartbreaking and frightening “breaking news,” “fake news,” and tweets, I was constantly updating and revising plans for each class.  How much could I include and still make sense of it all?  How much of what was going on in Washington and around our country (and the world) could we discuss in one class?  My brain was on overload as I read and clipped newspaper and magazine articles and tried to stuff new information into my brain.

If I am giving the impression that I was on overload, that is true.  I forgot some important things like hearing aid batteries one day, and on another day, I actually left all my teaching materials at home.  Two successive week called for two nervous and hurried trips home to get essential materials that had been forgotten.  And then, I rose to the occasion, and the class went well.

The class and I concluded our studies, mutually pleased with our learning and camaraderie.  I hope I met my goal of encouraging more informed political activism whether in the form of marches, contacting elected officials, making crucial phone calls, writing letters to the editor, or supporting worthwhile organizations.  Our participation is crucial if we are to turn this mess around!

I look forward to a good rest.   But during a much needed swim this morning (where I do some of my best and most creative thinking),  I swam into a new possibility for a course, one I know something about.  “Swan Songs” — Creativity and Resourcefulness in Seniors!  Now, let’s see.  Where did I leave my towel?

“Senior Moments” writers Eleanor Jaffe and Liz David

As I grow older, I am more interested in the conditions, changes, services, culture, and even politics affecting me, my husband of 53 years, my friends — and my 104 year old mother.  What does it mean to be growing older in today’s society?  

 

DECEMBER “BOOK NOOK” WITH ABBY PINARD: MANHATTAN BEACH

MANHATTAN BEACH

By Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan’s previous novel, the Pulitzer-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad, was a dazzling, post-modern high-wire act. What would she do next? Too smart to try to outdo herself, she did research — lots and lots of research — mostly revolving around the mysteries of the deep. At every turn, there is water and the people who make their living and support a war on and in it: longshoremen, divers, merchant marine, sailors, the women who do the jobs left by the men who’ve gone to war, the men who stoke the boiler, and the men who know where the bodies are buried.

At heart, Manhattan Beach is a book about a girl and her father, 11-year-old Anna and Eddie Kerrigan, trying to keep his head above water and his family afloat on the fringes of the New York underworld in the 1930s. Ten years later, the country is at war, Eddie has disappeared, and Anna works in the Brooklyn Naval Yard and yearns to be the first woman to be a diver, doing underwater repairs to the great ships that she sees in the newsreels.

This is a coming-of-age novel, a crime novel, a war novel, a New York novel, and that all-too-rare phenomenon, a literary page-turner. Jennifer Egan doesn’t let her research overwhelm her literary skills and doesn’t let her story overwhelm her characters. Highly recommended.

“Book Nook” writer Abby Pinard

A lifelong book nut, Abby retired from a forty-year computer software career and ticked an item off her bucket list by going to work in a bookstore.  A native New Yorker, she moved to Boston to be among her people:  family and Red Sox fans.  She is a music lover, crossword puzzler, baseball fan, and political junkie who flunked Halloween costumes but can debug her daughter’s wifi.

DECEMBER “CHEF’S CORNER” WITH JOHN RUDY: CHICKEN FRICASSEE

CHICKEN  FRICASSEE

This recipe, before changes, came from the McCall’s Cooking School.  It serves 6-8.  The dumplings are a nice touch and differentiate this recipe from others you might know.  Because of the dumplings, this is not served over noodles or rice.  The original recipe, in my opinion, had insufficient chicken, and I also switched from white to dark meat as the dark meat is more forgiving and can survive over-cooking (who would do that?).

This recipe has a lot of vegetables, and I have put in what I like.  You can certainly change them.  Some Chicken Fricassee recipes call for wine.  You can replace some of the water with red wine if you wish.  I also make it a bit spicy, and this, too, can be adjusted.

Many will toss the chicken in flour.  I prefer to use pancake mix which contains some other ingredients.  I use the same strategy when pan-frying fish.

Ingredients

4 lbs       chicken legs and thighs with skin on

4 Tbs      butter (add more if necessary)

1 tsp       salt

1/3 cup   Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix

1/8 tsp    red pepper powder  (adjust to your taste)

1 cup    chicken stock

1 cup   water

2      medium onions cut ¼ inch thick

25+   baby carrots or cut up larger carrots

1 can   artichoke hearts

6   whole cloves

15   whole peppers, crushed

8   stalks   Celery, cut thick

10  Mushrooms (large), halved

1½  cup  Bisquick

1       egg

¼ cup     milk

remaining flour

½ cup   light cream

Instructions

  • Toss the chicken in the flour, salt, pepper mixture. Dry the chicken first, and don’t put it all in the bag at the same time.  If you are very calorie conscious, you can remove the chicken skin.
  • Brown the chicken, skin side down first, in the butter in a dutch oven.  You will not be able to fit all the pieces in the pot at the same time.  Make sure that the skin is quite brown.  Remove the pieces to a side dish with paper towel to drip.
  • Put the cloves, peppers, onions, and baby carrots into the butter, and sauté about 5 mins. Stir occasionally, and deglaze the bottom of the pot with some of the water.
  • Add the soup and the remaining water; bring to a boil; and add the chicken back. Cook, covered, on low about 30 minutes.
  • Add the celery and mushrooms, and cook an additional 5 minutes. (If they are added early, they will become soggy.)
  • Mix the Bisquick, egg, and milk, and put tablespoons full (there will be about 6) onto the chicken above the liquid. Cook uncovered 10 minutes.
  • Cover, and cook an additional 10 minutes.
  • Gently remove the dumplings, and thicken with the remaining flour which has been mixed with the light cream. Remember–flour can only be mixed with cold liquid.
  • Return the dumplings to the pot for serving.
  • If this recipe is done with boneless chicken breasts, reduce cooking by ~10 minutes.
“Chef’s Corner” writer John Rudy

John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age.  (She cooked vegetables in boil-able packages.)

DECEMBER TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: SOME INTERESTING WEBSITES

Some Interesting Websites

I always enjoy being educated and amused.  Here are a few websites that you should be aware of due to their huge amount of interesting data.  My favorite is Netflix, but that costs about $10/month, and I’ll only discuss free items here.

  1. Stumble Upon https://www.stumbleupon.com/

When you first go to this site, it asks if you want to become a member and then gives you a wide variety of subject areas to choose that represent your interests.  It asks for 10, but you can provide fewer, and the list of options is enormous.  Don’t worry about picking them perfectly; they are easy to change.  Once you provide some other information, like your name, you are ready to go.  A few times a week, you’ll receive email with links to about four articles that are chosen because StumbleUpon thinks you will find them interesting.  There are thumbs-up and thumbs-down icons on each article, and if you click on one, you are telling the system that, in fact, you enjoyed (or did not enjoy) what it provided.  This will further identify your interests.  I find that about 50% of what it now sends me is very interesting.  Articles are short, usually about 2 pages.

2.  IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. These two sites provide insight into movies and TV. Rotten Tomatoes https://www.rottentomatoes.com/ aggregate reviews, categorizes them as positive or negative, and then averages them.  They provide two scores: one based on general viewers, and the other bsed on professional reviewers.  I have learned that my preferences frequently do not align well with the professionals.  The site also allows you to purchase tickets.

IMDB is similar though it has a lot more information on the movie and links to all the directors, cast, etc.  I always check both when considering whether to watch a movie on TV. http://www.imdb.com/  IMDb also provides, if available, show times and the ability to purchase tickets.

  1. Youtube is one of my favorite sites and I use it all the time. I decided to see if he movie Gladiator was available there for free.  Frequently movies are noyt, but in this case it was https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwEWOro5o7Y.   Last year I considered buying tickets for a concert and there was a piece of modern music on the program.  I suspected that I wouldn’t like it and worried that it was going to be long.  So I did a YouTube search, found it was 7 minutes, listened to it and enjoyed it, and bought the tickets’

I love the old tap dancing movies of Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell, etc.  When you search for something on youtube, it then provides a set of links to similar material so that I can watch this for hours.  See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T45iRSvxaVM .

Then if you follow the links, you can find The Nicholas Brothers who I suspect most of you are not familiar with.  Here is a spectacular number of theirs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNKRm6H-qOU&index=2&list=RDEBqSBVxUKM4 .

Or see the Clark Brothers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNVDBH_z8VA&index=5&list=RDEBqSBVxUKM4

And I’ll leave this section with my favorite Triplets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjW_yvrC0cE .  This looks impossible but how did they do it? By balancing on artificial legs strapped to their knees, Fabray reports; they fell dozens of times before getting it right and relied on pain-killers.

  1. Find the best price for something. PriceGrabber http://www.pricegrabber.com/ and Google Shopping https://www.google.com/shopping .  Both sites look at hundreds of places to purchase a particular item and tell you the best on-line or brick-and-mortar location.  Obviously do this when you have decided what you want.  Using Price Grabber I did a search for a ream of copy paper and got back a pretty good deal.

Let me finish with something a bit creepy.   https://www.deadmansswitch.net/.   You write emails and store them.  Periodically the system will send you an email asking if you are alive.  If you do not respond then the system will send the emails.  Batter be careful if you change your email address, though!

“Tech Talk” writer John Rud

A long-time computer expert and guide, John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions or comments for John on any computer/tech topic .

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402)

NOVEMBER’S SENIOR MOMENT WITH LIZ DAVID: WHAT DO WE BECOME?

WHAT DO WE BECOME?

by Liz David

I have been “downsizing” my closets and dresser drawers–giving away coats, scarves, gloves, hats, sweaters.  I’ve been trying things on and then attempting to decide whether or not I will continue wearing that skirt, top, pant, sock, jacket, or shoe.  I have a medium-sized box stationed against the wall for objects that were on the bathroom window sill and around the Jacuzzi.  I’m eying things in our bedroom but haven’t made decisions yet.

Believe me, that doesn’t even touch the downsizing challenge.  The house is full of stuff that we’ve collected over the 45+ years we’ve lived here.  I’ve been told one has to be brutal about this process, and I’m trying.

Gradually, I’ve started cleaning kitchen cabinets, starting with the one under the sink and the rotating one next to it.  Eventually, I’ll get to the drawers.  The silverware drawer and the one that holds the “wraps” and “plastic bags” are okay, but don’t ask about the 3 junk drawers!   And now, I’m procrastinating about cleaning the oven.  Even with a self-cleaning model, the door has to be done manually.  Why bother? It just gets dirty again.  The carpets need cleaning, except for the one in the family room which should just be replaced.  The inside walls need painting.  Door knobs need scrubbing.  The dishwasher works but only runs the regular and heavy cycles.  Who needs light and china cycles anyway?  The clothes washer and dryer are fine, but don’t forget to turn the water faucet off when not in use.  I could go on and on, but you get the point. Oops!  I forgot to mention my precious books, Native American artifacts, and jewelry.

The exterior of the house is well maintained, thanks to the love of my life. It’s a “stately” looking house, gray with black shutters and a warm barn-red door which welcomes family, friends, pets, trick or treaters, and the occasional door-to-door salesperson. The lawn is a challenge. Some of the abundant trees have been cut down so they won’t fall onto the house in a hurricane or high wind storm.  Sad. I mourn when a tree is fallen.  Our back yard is bordered by acres of conservation land. I call it my emerald forest in Summer; glorious multi-colors in Autumn; newly fallen snow, fresh and clean, in Winter; Spring, well you know Spring buds–the world is born anew.

So, what does all this mean?  What do our possessions, our well-tended homes, and lawns become?  When we downsize, pare things down to a minimum, our abundance becomes the stuff of memory. When we move to a townhouse, condo, or lifelong living community, are we diminished?  What do we become?   What else is there to give away before we take up our final residence in a coffin or urn?

Ourselves!

We give generously of our wisdom, thoughts, feelings; we mentor the younger generation and our contemporaries. We argue, offer opinions, and listen attentively.  We volunteer.  We march for just causes. We meditate and pray.  We cry for and with our friends. We accompany them until they are no more. We love, and love, and love some more.

We give of ourselves to others and allow others to give of themselves  to us as we age, decline, and eventually melt back into the Universe from where we came.

Safe travels.

“Senior Moment” feature writers Eleanor Jaffe and Liz David

My passion is to help others to gain deeper understanding of themselves and the changes, losses, gains, and glories of aging. So, “grow old along with me–the best is yet to be.”

NOVEMBER CHEF’S CORNER WITH JOHN RUDY: THE TURKEY!

ROAST TURKEY

by John Rudy

This recipe, with some adjustments, came from Sally and Jimmy Weiner ~1985.  I believe it came to them from  WBZ daytime personality Dave Maynard.  The teaching lesson here is that, if any meat is cooked at too high a temperature, all the juices evaporate and the meat dries out.  (The same is true, by the way, for Prime Rib which I cook at 250° until the last 20 minutes.)

Use an 18-20# Turkey for ~ 12 hungry people which, depending on the amount of appetizers, may end up about half eaten.  I have very successfully used frozen turkey, and the closer to the holiday, the lower the price.  It takes about 5 days to thaw and might be more of the refrigerator is particularly cold.  They can be kept a few days in the refrigerator in the vacuum wrapping, so leaving more days for thawing is best.  I prefer to cook the stuffing outside the turkey though others like the turkey juice to infiltrate the stuffing.  The decision affects the cooking time.

  1. Season the turkey, inside and out, 24 hours in advance, and keep it in the refrigerator. I use salt, pepper and Lawry’s Season Salt.  Put 8-10 stalks of celery into the turkey cavity to provide extra moisture.  These will be discarded at the end of the cooking.
  2. Take out the neck, gizzard, liver and heart (and anything else they stuff in) and add another 2# package of gizzards. Boil them with salt and a chicken cube or two for at least 2 hours to make chicken stock. Remove the meat and boil it down by 50%.  This will be added to the pan stickings to make the gravy.  It is even better if you have left-over (frozen) gravy from a previous chicken or two. Put aside the liver for making paté. Pull the meat from the neck and cut the grizzle from the gizzard.  Chop everything finely and it can be added both to the stuffing and the gravy.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450°. Turn to 325° when you put the bird into the oven.  If you have a new oven it will cool down too slowly so you might have to help by opening the oven door for a minute.
  4. Put cold butter slices inside the skin of the breast, if you can. Don’t cut the skin.  VERY IMPORTANT: cook breast side down for about 1.5 hours.  This is best done on a small cooking rack to keep the breast skin off of the bottom of the tray.
  5. Turn the turkey over. The easiest way to do this is by wearing rubber gloves.  Put aluminum foil over wings and drumsticks so that they don’t dry.
  6. Baste regularly (every ~20 mins) by ladling pan drippings onto the cheesecloth. It takes ~15 minutes /per pound to cook.  Remove the cheesecloth for the last 30 minutes to crisp the skin.
  7. Turkey is best if left to its final cooking with the oven turned off. Can be put back in for 20 minutes just before slicing, if it has been removed from the oven to bake other things.
  8. These times below are based on placing the whole turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, and into a preheated 325 degree
 Weight of Bird  Roasting Time (Unstuffed)  Roasting Time (Stuffed)
10 to 18 pounds 3 to 3-1/2 hours 3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours
18 to 22 pounds 3-1/2 to 4 hours 4-1/2 to 5 hours
22 to 24 pounds 4 to 4-1/2 hours 5 to 5-1/2 hours
24 to 29 pounds  4-1/2 to 5 hours 5-1/2 to 6-1/4 hours

Stuffing

  • I prefer a combination of regular and cornbread stuffing. I use 1 bag (Pepperidge Farm) of each.  It requires about 30% more water than called for.  Make at very last minute so that it doesn’t have to be heated.  If absolutely necessary to heat, use the microwave so that the pan doesn’t burn!
  • Add pan-fried onions, pieces of celery (10-15 stalks chopped), and fresh mushrooms. The pieces of giblet (grizzle removed) and neck meat can be put through the grinder or can be chopped up and added to the stuffing.
  • I sometimes make oyster stuffing with about 1/3rd of the stuffing, by cutting up 4 to 8 oz of oysters and gently, VERY quickly pan-frying them in butter before adding them to the stuffing.

Gravy

  • Thicken the soup that was made with the giblets with roué. Roué: Take ¾ stick of butter and melt it and add ½ cup of flour while whisking.  Continue whisking for 2-3 minutes until the mixture starts turning a light brown.  Then whisk the gravy into the roue.  Whisk continuously and bring to a boil.
  • Add the pan droppings after removing all of the fat. Add water to the pan, if necessary, to remove any pan stickings that are burned into the pan.
  • Bring mixture to a boil to thicken the gravy. Adjust the flour to the quantity of gravy.  I sometimes supplement the gravy with gravy from Boston Market or Neillios (Lexington), the only decent commercial gravies I have found.  I also save gravy from roast chickens (and freeze) for a month.

If all this is too much effort, and if you are the only one for Thanksgiving, an alternative is to make an origami turkey.  Here, thanks to MIT, is the method:

https://slice.mit.edu/2016/11/23/turkey/

Chef’s Corner feature writer John Rudy

 

John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age.  (She cooked vegetables in boil-able packages.)

NOVEMBER TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

by John Rudy

Artificial Intelligence has been around for 50 years and describes the environment where computers are able to do things that one normally associates with humans.  Years ago, there were computer programs that could easily beat most folks at backgammon, checkers and chess.  More recently the chess programs have become so good that they can routinely beat even the best players, and just this year, a Go master repeatedly lost to a computer.  But these are games.  Where does this technology apply to us?  And should we be worried?  There are many examples of how artificial intelligence can be beneficial to us.  Here are just four that can help to better understand the field.

  1. Language translation. A number of companies provide language translation, but the consensus is that the free Google software has recently become excellent.  https://translate.google.com/   I know this is a little hard to read, but on the left you can specify a language (there are about 100 available) or even let Google guess the language from the vocabulary.  On the right, you specify the language you want it translated into.  In addition to providing text as input, you can provide a URL (a web page) and it will translate that.  Try it out, you’ll be amazed.  Note that if your computer is set to receive voice input, you can do it that way too.  The translations are not perfect, but they are pretty good.

  1. Smart phone translation. There are many programs available on smart phones to provide instantaneous translation into other spoken languages.  So, you can go to a restaurant in Albania and talk onto your phone and it will speak to the waiter in Albanian.  This is truly amazing!  I’ve seen these products work but do not own this capability.  Here are some ratings of available products.

For iphones see:  http://www.macworld.co.uk/feature/iphone/best-translation-apps-for-iphone-2017-3599462/

For Android phones see:  http://thedroidguy.com/2017/03/5-best-android-translation-app-for-your-next-foreign-business-or-vacation-travel-1067355

  1. Robot companions. The last few years have seen the emergence of “robots” that can be your companions, scan peak to you, answer questions, and perform tasks.  Once again, this has its plusses and minuses as revealed when one of these units placed online orders for a child and charged the costs to the adult-provided credit card.  The Amazon Echo starts as low as $50 though there are higher priced, more functional versions. Check which of these functionalities below are available on the unit you are investigating.  Google and others have competitive products, but Amazon currently has 70% of the market.
  • Plays all your music from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, etc as requested by your voice
  • Ask Alexa to call or message anyone with an Echo, Echo Dot, or the Alexa App.
  • It can hear you from across a room with far-field voice recognition, even while music is playing
  • Answers questions, reads the news, reports traffic and weather, reads audiobooks from Audible, gives info on local businesses, provides sports scores and schedules, controls Amazon Video on Fire TV, and more using the Alexa Voice Service
  • Controls lights, fans, TVs, switches, thermostats, garage doors, sprinklers, locks, and more with compatible connected devices from WeMo, Philips Hue, Sony, Samsung SmartThings, Nest, and others
  • And whatever it doesn’t do now–just wait a year or two.
  1. Pattern Recognition. For many years, it was assumed that humans were particularly adept at pattern recognition.  Recently, though, it has been shown that this is not the case.  Let’s take the example of mammograms.  Computers were taught (“machine learning”) by being given thousands of x-rays and told which ones had tumors.  When the computer made a mistake on a new picture, the correct answer was provided which further refined the database.  https://www.sciencealert.com/ai-analyses-mammograms-30-times-faster-and-20-more-accurately-than-doctors  The machines are getting better and better.  There are many objectives: to catch more real tumors, avoid false positives (with attendant biopsies), read them faster and for less cost.
  2. Many companies are using AI to refine their marketing and help consumers. Here is one I like.  Netflix asks me to rate, on a 1-5 scale, how I like a movie.  Further, it asks how frequently I view movies of that genre (I might have loved Still Alice, but hate movies of that type).  Subsequently, it gives me a Rudy-score when I consider another movie.  This is much better than IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes which knows nothing about my personal likes and dislikes.  Other companies, like Amazon, provide a similar ability to rate what I get.

To conclude, let’s briefly discuss the Singularity.  This is the point at which computers become smarter than humans and are able to take advantage of it.  Think The Terminator.  Some very smart people like Steven Hawking and Elon Musk are worried.  See http://time.com/3614349/artificial-intelligence-singularity-stephen-hawking-elon-musk/  Musk recently called for the establishment of national or international regulations on the development of AI.  In some ways, this is like the limitations placed on cloning, yet the Chinese and others are violating those rules.  I don’t expect that advances in AI will slow down, and the implications are as great as those resulting from the Industrial Revolution.

In this blog, I’ve provided links to a number of articles on elated subjects.  Let me know if this is useful.

BOLLI Matters blogger on all things tech-related and food-centered, John Rudy

A long-time computer expert and guide, John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, please provide questions or comments for John on any computer/tech topic . 

HAVE YOU FROZEN YOUR CREDIT?

HAVE YOU FROZEN YOUR CREDIT?

A “Tech Talk” Extra from John Rudy

No doubt, everyone has heard by now of the 143 million accounts (or more) that were compromised by Equifax.  And Equifax’s standing with account holders has taken a massive plunge of more than 35% since the announcement.  But have you taken steps to freeze your credit?

It’s important that you make sure that you understand what Credit Freezes are and how they might apply to you.

  1. Here is useful information from Kim Komando’s blog.  See: https://www.komando.com/happening-now/418908/dont-sign-up-for-equifaxs-free-credit-monitoring-heres-what-to-do-insteadutm_medium=nl&utm_source=notd&utm_content=2017-09-11-article-b
  2. The article noted above (read and print the first 4 pages) explains the situation, and this is MUST reading.  This article then references a second article which tells you the steps to follow.  Read and print pages 1-2:  https://www.komando.com/tips/409259/one-essential-step-to-prevent-identity-theft
  3. An interesting editorial in the Globe can be found at: https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/editorials/2017/09/12/equifax-messed-now-consumers-have-pay/y4wc8cHVI7MHm4KW99KTfN/story.html

I’ve compiled some information here which may prove helpful in understanding this situation.

The FICO Score  

The FICO score was first introduced in 1989 by FICO, then called Fair, Isaac, and Company. The FICO model is used by the vast majority of banks and credit grantors and is based on the consumer credit files of the three national credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Because a consumer’s credit file may contain different information at each of the bureaus, FICO scores can vary depending on which bureau provides the information.

Credit scores are designed to measure the risk of default by taking into account various factors in a person’s financial history. Although the exact formulas for calculating credit scores are secret, FICO has disclosed the following components:

  • 35%: payment history: This is best described as the presence or lack of derogatory information. Bankruptcy, liens, judgments, settlements, charge-offs, repossessions, foreclosures, and late payments can cause a FICO score to drop.
  • 30%: debt burden: This category considers a number of debt specific measurements. According to FICO, there are some six different metrics in the debt category including the debt to limit ratio, number of accounts with balances, amount owed across different types of accounts, and the amount paid down on installment loans.
  • 15%: length of credit history: As a credit history ages it can have a positive impact on its FICO score. There are two metrics in this category: the average age of the accounts on your report and the age of the oldest account.
  • 10%: types of credit used (installmentrevolvingconsumer financemortgage): Consumers can benefit by having a history of managing different types of credit.
  • 10%: recent searches for credit: hard credit inquiries, which occur when consumers apply for a credit card or loan (revolving or otherwise), can hurt scores, especially if done in great numbers. Individuals who are “rate shopping” for a mortgage, auto loan, or student loan over a short period (two weeks or 45 days, depending on the generation of FICO score used) will likely not experience a meaningful decrease in their scores as a result of these types of inquiries, as the FICO scoring model considers all of those types of hard inquiries that occur within 14 or 45 days of each other as only one. Further, mortgage, auto, and student loan inquiries do not count at all in a FICO score if they are less than 30 days old. While all credit inquiries are recorded and displayed on personal credit reports for two years, they have no effect after the first year because FICO’s scoring system ignores them after 12 months. Credit inquiries that were made by the consumer (such as pulling a credit report for personal use), by an employer (for employee verification), or by companies initiating pre-screened offers of credit or insurance do not have any impact on a credit score: these are called “soft inquiries” or “soft pulls” and do not appear on a credit report used by lenders, only on personal reports. Soft inquires are not considered by credit scoring systems.
Credit Bureaus

In the United States, there is no legal term for a credit bureau under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). A consumer reporting agency is often abbreviated in the industry as CRA.

In this country, two government bodies share responsibility for the oversight of consumer reporting agencies and those that furnish data to them. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has oversight for the consumer reporting agencies. And the Office of the Controller of the Currency (OCC) charters, regulates, and supervises all national banks with regard to the data they furnish consumer reporting agencies.

Most U.S. consumer credit information is collected and kept by the four national traditional consumer reporting agencies: Experian (formerly TRW Information Systems & Services and the CCN Group), EquifaxTransUnion, and Innovis (which was purchased from First Data Corporation in 1999 by CBC Companies). These organizations are for-profit businesses and have no government affiliation. Though they are competitors, they are all members of a trade organization called the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA) to establish reporting standards and lobby on behalf of their industry in Washington. Current reporting standards accepted by the four U.S. CRAs are Metro and Metro2. The Metro2 standard is defined in the annual CDIA publication, the Credit Reporting Resource Guide. Consumers are entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Consumers can go to annualcreditreport.com, the Internet site maintained by the three companies, to get their free reports.

Equifax Inc. is a consumer credit reporting agency. Equifax collects and aggregates information on over 800 million individual consumers and more than 88 million businesses worldwide. Founded in 1899 and based in AtlantaGeorgia, it is the oldest of the three largest American credit agencies. Equifax has US$ 3.1 billion in annual revenue and 9,000+ employees in 14 countries. It is listed on the NYSE as EFX.

In September 2017, Equifax announced a cyber-security breach, which it claims to have occurred between mid-May and July 2017 where hackers accessed more than 143 million U.S. Equifax consumers’ personal data, including their full names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and, in some cases, drivers license numbers. Equifax also confirmed at least 209,000 consumers’ credit card credentials were taken in the attack. The company claims to have discovered the hack on July 29, 2017. Residents in the United Kingdom and Canada were also impacted.

“Tech Talk” feature writer John Rudy

A long-time computer expert and guide, John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions or comments for John on any computer/tech topic .

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402)

OCTOBER CHEF’S CORNER WITH JOHN RUDY: CHEESECAKE!

CHEESECAKE —  RICH AND CREAMY

(Serves 8 or more)

This recipe, originally from p. 466 of The Best Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, gives a detailed explanation of the cream cheese/sugar/egg/cream/sour-cream ratios and discusses the effect of changing each.  The texture of the cake changes considerably as one adjusts the amounts, and these are the amounts I like.  Make it a half dozen times in slightly different ways to see what you like.  It also describes the difference between the various cooking processes.  We first made it in 2005.  All agreed that this was the best cheesecake ever.  The water bath really makes a difference.  50 minutes for prep and clean-up.

“Crust” (more like a dusting)  OR use a full crust

2 tsp          Butter, melted

2 Tbs         Vanilla Wafer or Graham Cracker crumbs  —  very fine.  ~7 vanilla wafers.

Cheese Filling

32 oz         Cream cheese at room temperature  (“lite” cheese is NOT                         acceptable).  4 pkgs.

1¼ cup      Sugar

¼ cup        Heavy Cream or Whipping Cream  (I use whipping cream)

¼ cup        Sour Cream

2 tsp          Vanilla extract

4                Eggs at room temperature

9″              Springform pan

2 sheets     Aluminum foil (one extra wide and extra heavy).

Use an outer pan large enough to easily seat the 9” pan, like a Lobster Pot bottom or the pan you roast your turkey in.

Optional: strawberries, cherries or chocolate fudge sauce for the topping.

  1. A Springform is made of two pieces: the side (with the spring) and the round bottom. Line the bottom of the pan with foil and put the base back with the foil hanging outside the pan and coming UP the side of the pan.  This is the second line of protection if the outer foil layer fails.  Bring the 2nd heavy, wide foil up the side of the pan, and put on tightly so water doesn’t enter. See the picture.  Set oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Brush the bottom and the sides with butter, and sprinkle the crumbs over the bottom. Tilt the pan in all directions to have the crumbs go up the sides.  Pour out excess.  Alternatively,  you can also make a bread crust for the bottom.  I prefer the dusting.
  3. Boil enough water for the water bath. About 4 cups should be sufficient, but check during cooking that it hasn’t boiled off.
  4. Beat the room temperature cream cheese until smooth, and then beat in the sugar for about 3 minutes on medium until fully incorporated.
  5. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the side of the bowl after each one. Do not over beat.  Add vanilla and beat until just incorporated.  Add the cream and sour cream, and beat in at very low speed, until smooth.
  6. Pour mixture into the pan, and set into the larger pan. THEN pour in enough boiling water to go halfway up the side of the pan.  DON’T go above the aluminum foil protection.
  7. Bake at 325 degrees for about 55-60 minutes until the perimeter of the cake is just slightly set and the center jiggles like jello.
  8. Turn off the heat and open the oven door slightly.  Leave for 1 hour longer.  Very carefully remove the cheesecake from the water bath and set on a wire rack until it reaches room temperature.  This takes another hour.  Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.  If covered when warm, water will form on the cover and drip into the cheesecake!!
  9. Sometimes, I top this with sliced fresh strawberries, or a combination of strawberries and blueberries.
“Chef’s Corner” (and “Tech Talk”) feature writer John Rudy

John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age.  (She cooked vegetables in boil-able packages.)