Tag Archives: BOLLI Monthly Features

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.)

OCTOBER’S “BOOK NOOK” WITH ABBY PINARD: DEFECTORS

There’s nothing like a good thriller once in a while. But the qualifier matters. Cardboard characters, contrived suspense, and Hollywood cliff-hangers won’t cut it. But an espionage novel that hinges on character rather than non-stop action and that provides glimpses of an unfamiliar or exotic world is a great treat. Joseph Kanon’s latest, Defectors, fits the bill nicely.

In 1970, I traveled to Scandinavia and the Soviet Union with a group sponsored by a left-wing lawyers’ association.  After stops in Stockholm, Helsinki, Leningrad, and Moscow, we flew to Central Asia, where we visited Tashkent, Samarkand, and Bukhara. A lovely, radical sixty-ish couple wasn’t on the plane to Uzbekistan with us and didn’t rejoin the group when we returned to Moscow before flying home.  We were told there was a medical issue although both had seemed hale and hearty in the early going.  Knowing their background, I couldn’t help but wonder if they had defected.  Is that how it would have been done in 1970?  I have no idea.  But I have thought about them occasionally and tried to imagine what it might have been like for them if they had indeed stayed in the Soviet Union.  It’s safe to say that their lives would not have been like those of the defectors in this gripping novel.

Frank Weeks wasn’t an ordinary American Communist when he and his wife fled to Moscow in 1949. He had been a high-ranking intelligence officer about to be exposed as a spy for the Soviet Union after an operation that went disastrously wrong. Twelve years later, still working for the KGB, Frank has written a memoir that “the Service” will allow to be published, and his brother Simon has been approved to come to Moscow to edit the book, only to learn on arrival that Frank has an ulterior motive for this visit. There will be plenty of thriller-worthy action to come – deception, murder, betrayal, CIA and KGB operations and counter-operations – but the real pleasures of the novel are in the lives of Frank and Jo Weeks and their “friends” – the community of former British and American spies who are spared the privation of ordinary Russians but not the grim reality of the workers’ paradise they believed in…the spacious but threadbare apartment, the musty dacha, the faded elegance of the Bolshoi, the privileged access to groceries, the vodka-soaked nights at the bar in the Metropol, the ever-present KGB minder…

Frank and Simon were close as boys and followed similar career paths, Frank into the CIA, Simon into the State Department. But was Frank using his brother, extracting valuable bits of information in casual conversation over their regular dinners? After Frank’s betrayal and twelve years apart, the relationship between the brothers is tense but still intimate as Simon vacillates between trusting and being wary of his charming brother, and he is still drawn to Jo, with whom he had a brief dalliance before she met and married Frank. The fine supporting cast features a woman who once smuggled atomic secrets over a border in her hat, the lonely widow of a brilliant scientist, assorted Brits with assorted motives (including a couple of real-life spies), and Boris – the factotum who is always on hand and always listening.

Defectors is Kanon’s eighth novel. The others are similarly satisfying, particularly his first, Los  Alamos. It’s a murder mystery with a compelling historical overlay as J. Robert Oppenheimer and his team of scientists in New Mexico race to develop the atomic bomb in the final days of World War II. There’s no better way to lose sleep and absorb some modern history than a Joseph Kanon novel.

“Book Nook” feature writer Abby Pinard\

Abby is a lifelong book nut who retired from a forty-year computer software career in 2007 and ticked an item off her bucket list by going to work in a bookstore. She is a native New Yorker who moved to Boston recently 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.

Your comments are deeply appreciated–leave word for Abby below.

OCTOBER’S SENIOR MOMENT WITH ELEANOR JAFFEE: TAKE YOUR PICK!

TAKE YOUR PICK!

by Eleanor Jaffe

 I am looking at two articles from the NY Times printed this past August whose subjects both have to do with aging.  There cannot be two more different articles than these two.  One of them, published in the business section on August 19th, is entitled, “Coping with the Dread of Inching Toward Oblivion.”  The second, published on August 13 on a page called “Vows,” concerns a wedding:  “She’s 98. He’s 94. They Met at the Gym,.”  Each piece reflects a truly real aspect and possibility about aging, albeit 180 degrees different from one another.  TAKE YOUR PICK!

The first article, written by economist Ron Lieber, was prompted by the near collapse of Medicaid, a logical outcome if Obamacare had been nullified by Congress this past summer.  Fortunately, and for the moment, Medicaid stands–a bulwark for seniors who cannot afford long-term nursing care either in a facility or at home.  This care becomes a necessity when elders are faced with diseases like Alzheimer’s or any serious degenerative disease necessitating round the clock supervision and monitoring.   Lieber reviews several books written by caretakers and recommends them.  You may want to consult them:  The 36 Hour Day by N.L.Mace and P. Rabins;   A Bittersweet Season by Jane Gross, and Being My Mom’s Mom by Loretta A.W. Veneer.

A number of us are all too familiar with the subject of long-term care.  We have nursed our husbands or wives  or parents through long, painful demises and know what it is like to have our loved ones change and diminish before our eyes.  There are compensations for care-taking, and  mixed blessings do accompany caring for a beloved one during a downhill course, but care-taking, nevertheless, is one of life’s heaviest burdens.

AND ON THE OTHER HAND!  Here’s a vibrant story of a lively romance between two fit 90-year-olds (she’s almost 100).  Their courtship and marriage makes me smile and gives me hope that life can continue to bring joyfulness, unexpected good times, true companionship, and even romantic love – no matter what your age.  (We have even seen some of these romances at BOLLI!)

IS THERE A COMMONALITY HERE?  I have searched my mind for one,  and this is what I think:  we have a lot of love to give.  And we also have a great need to be needed and loved.  Caring for your loved one, no matter what degree of pain or suffering we may experience as the caretaker, certainly lets us know that we are needed at the most fundamental of all levels.  At the other end of the spectrum, romantic love allows us the full expression of our desires.  We are needed.  We are loved.  We are fully alive,  giving and receiving.

It is one of life’s great puzzles that some of us are given heavy burdens to carry, sometimes over long periods of time.  Others of us seem to dodge the bullets of protracted illnesses, hurricanes (of all sorts), financial trials, and losses of many kinds. 

If only we could TAKE OUR PICK!

“Senior Moment” writers Eleanor Jaffe and Liz David

As I grow older, I am more interested in the conditions, changes, culture, and even politics affecting me, my husband of 53 years, my friends–and my 104 year old mother.  What does it mean to grow older in today’s society?  My experiences as a social worker, as a high school English teacher, doing a lot of reading about aging and loss, and living to 80 (so far) have prepared me to write this blog.

Leave comments, more suggestions for further reading, etc. in the box below!  Our writers so appreciate knowing that you’re out there!

 

OCTOBER TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: MORE ON DATA SEARCHING…

Some Additional Thoughts on Data Searching, and its Implications

Back in November or December, I wrote an article regarding computer searching, starting off by defining web browsers (I recommend Chrome as Edge is not yet really ready and Chrome has half the market) and Google as the search engine because they represent 75% of the market.  My opinion has not changed despite Microsoft’s advertising

The first thing you quickly learn about Google is that it is able to make a lot of intelligent assumptions about what you want.  There are two reasons for this.  First, it can work around your mistyping or misspelling.  Second, it remembers (unless you instruct it not to remember) what you have looked for in the past.  This is a mixed blessing, mostly good.  But here are a few reasons that it could turn out to be a problem.

  • If an account is used by multiple family members, then the other person knows what you looked for. Like the birthday gift that you found and bought.  Or the porn you viewed.  Or the hotel room or jewelry you bought for the girlfriend.  Or things you don’t want the grandkids to see when they are using your computer.
  • Google uses the information in your previous searches to direct advertising towards you. So if you bought a cane, do not be surprised if you get ads for a wheelchair or another cane.  If you booked a room in Newport, do not be surprised if you get ads from other Newport attractions.  This is viewed by many as a feature, but I find it irritating.  Each of the browsers gives you an option to delete the list of searches you have made.  I do this frequently.
  • If you are doing a BOLLI paper on bombs and go to dozens of sites on bomb-making, do not be surprised if you receive a visit from Homeland Security. They and NSA have the ability to watch internet and phone traffic (do they utilize it???).  The problem, of course, is that, though your search history may have been deleted from YOUR files, it doesn’t mean that GOOGLE or Comcast doesn’t have the data on its servers.  Each year, Google gets many warrants for data and, for the moment, rejects most of them.  That may well change.

Let’s take a simple example.  You get onto the Amazon website to see if you want to purchase some shorts.  You’ve used this site before and have set up shipping addresses for a number of members of your family.  What might happen next?

  1. Amazon and other on-line purchase sites know about ALL your previous purchases AND those things you have merely looked at. They will use this data to recommend other things for you to purchase, either during this browsing session or in subsequent ones.  But Amazon and other companies have Artificial Intelligent systems studying your purchases, trying to further understand what makes you tick.  A few years ago, there was a story about a woman who made a bunch of purchases, and the company (Target) calculated that she was pregnant (she didn’t know) and started sending her baby things.  That surprised her father who was upset.  See https://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/02/16/how-target-figured-out-a-teen-girl-was-pregnant-before-her-father-did/#78ba7db16668

“As Target’s computers crawled through the data, it was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed it to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score.  More important, it could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.”

This is pretty scary!  If you buy a swimsuit in April, should you be targeted with ads for sunscreen in July?  I’ll have an article on Artificial Intelligence and machine learning soon.

  1. Don’t be surprised if company A sells its purchase data to company B. I do not believe that Amazon sells their data.
  2. Your browser knows where you have been, unless you delete the entries.
  3. Your provider (like Comcast) is collecting this data.  AND, they might be selling it.  There is a lot of money available for buying focused lists.  The Obama administration tried to put in legislation to stop the selling of private data.  The Trump Administration plans to roll that back.  (See my past article on Net Neutrality for more information on this subject.)
  4. The government can request access to this data though it involves multiple legal issues. Remember a year ago when the government tried to get access to a protected Apple phone and Apple refused to provide the access?

Bottom Line: forget about privacy.  It is a myth.  Sorry.

“Tech Talk” and “Chef’s Corner” 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

 

 

Leave a comment for John below–

 

 

OCTOBER LINES FROM LYDIA: OUR MASSACHUSETTS MARINES

All of the episodes of the Ken Burns documentary about Vietnam are on my DVR, and I will watch them one piece at a time — some other day.  Here is the story of two Massachusetts boys who grew up in the jungles of Vietnam and found new jungles waiting for them at home.

A TALE OF TWO MARINES

by Lydia Bogar

They walked and ran the tangled path to maturity in the jungles of Vietnam. Although born and raised in the same state, the culture and strata of their parentage were many miles apart. That is the way life was in the 60s.  And yet, both fate and the Marine Corps brought them to the same place.

The war was never kind, and the mission was not to come home intact. The smell of blood and mud stayed in their memories for decades.  The black silhouetted flag was a hallmark of their survival.

Initially, their post-military careers brought them together. They continued to live and train as Marines for law enforcement careers in the Massachusetts State Police, always crisp and ramrod straight in uniform.  Their personal lives took similar paths, predictable for baby boomers.  Love and marriage brought them to the same area code, the same assignment, and many of the same friends.  As the devil cancer took some of those friends, they again stood crisp and ramrod straight at burials that shook the sky with rifle rounds and blurred the eyes around them. They were still Marines.  Every minute of their lives, they were Marines.

Their first painful loss was another Marine, the perennial altar boy with the leprechaun’s smile. His death devastated friends and families, as he had beaten the devil cancer for almost ten years. Leaving his wife and son behind was a failure he could not discuss. The poison in his veins took all choice out of his hands. The walk from the church to the cemetery left even the strongest in tears. The flyover and hole in the ground sent others to their knees.

The second burial came along more rapidly, during a very cold, yet starlit night. The former combat medic had worked hard to progress through the ranks but was always within the devil’s grasp. The poison in his veins choked his heart and brought unforgiving grief to his wife and daughters.  Generous benefits were no match for the three daughters who would later walk down the aisle without their daddy. When you see every member of a Marine Corps honor guard in tears, you know that you have seen it all.

I write of these two Marines as co-workers and friends of long standing. Twenty plus years seemed to fly by, and they both faced mandatory retirement at age 55. With that roadblock in sight, their career paths diverted. One lost a child, a precious son, a loss that compelled him to take on more hours at work, more overtime shifts as he sought something. Anything to be away from the small cottage in the small town with the small empty room. The marriage became a farce. He worked days and nights, seemingly without end, and advanced through the ranks. We will not discuss the women in whose arms he found momentary comfort, only that those diversions did not heal him.

The bald Marine discarded first one marriage and then another. His work hours also increased, yet neither rank nor assignment ever filled his void. He remained on the job long past the 55-speed limit, defying gravity and modern medicine with the daily grind of a much younger man. His jungle became the streets, and he knew each cluster of villages as well as the age spots on the back of his hands. His rank remained the same, even when his pay grade maxed out. He ignored the urges of supervisors to take promotional exams. In the place of rank and money, he got a good lawyer, another Marine of course, and sued to stay on the job he loved.  He was content with his portable life, taking assignments that he liked, and travelling abroad when the spirit moved him.

His personal vehicles were the same make and model as the Ford Crown Vic that he drove behind the badge. His large frame knew the seat and the dashboard as well as the gun at his waist. His strength and courage never wavered, and his quest to understand the minds of his brother officers was a thirst never fully quenched.  When the towers fell in New York, he responded with the speed and determination of a Marine fresh out of Parris Island. He was in New York by noon that day, not knowing who the enemy was, only that it was his.

His current vocation is to talk with and listen to the troops coming back from the hellish sandbox. He continues to defy the usual parameters of age and agility. This past summer, while others bought retirement homes and cuddled grandchildren, he ignored his 70th birthday and went to Canada to support a brother officer.

His quiet, pale brother went uptown and worked in a skyscraper overlooking the harbor. His new uniform was an expensive suit, a starched white shirt, and ready-for-inspection wingtips. His knowledge expanded in different ways–away from physical harm and into the detection of fraud and deceit.  His daily routine remained intact, unmoved by age or circumstance. It was that routine and a daily dose or two of Jack Daniels kept him alive, or so he thought. His life ended quietly in an elevator, going out to lunch on a beautiful spring day.  He would be with his son again.

None of these Marines of a certain age need to watch the Ken Burns documentary. The original script remains in their hearts and minds.

Semper Fi.

Frequent BOLLI blogger, Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  We’re lucky to have her volunteering, these days, to help with BOLLI Matters!

SEPTEMBER CHEF’S CORNER WITH JOHN RUDY: THUMBPRINT COOKIES

THUMBPRINT COOKIES

(One and a Half Recipes Makes about 45 Small Ones)

I was given this recipe in the 4th grade (1954) and have been using it, with no changes, ever since.  I have tried to fill the thumbprint with Nestles chocolate or with M&Ms but it never seems just right.  The best chocolate is the Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chips which, when warm (after baking), can be flattened with a spoon.  My favorite filing is apricot preserves.  The preserves must be thick, not runny.

See this before you cook to get into the mood.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye8mB6VsUHw&feature=youtu.be

I usually make 1½ recipes.

2 sticks   Butter (at room temperature)

3            Egg yolks

¾ cup     Sugar, granulated

¼ tsp     Salt

2¾ cup   Flour   (sift after measuring)

1 tsp      Vanilla

Preserves (strawberry, raspberry or apricot).  Don’t use anything too “liquidy.”

You could use a chocolate that re-hardens.  Or M&Ms.

*

Cream butter. NOTE: I use my normal, salted butter.  If you choose to use unsalted butter, add another ¼ tsp of salt.

  1. Beat in the sugar until it is totally absorbed by the butter.
  2. Beat in the yolks, salt and vanilla (find something useful for the whites).
  3. Slowly beat in the flour. The last flour may be hard to add, as the mixture gets crumbly. If you beat the flour too quickly there will be flour all over the kitchen.
  4. Roll the batter into balls, about 1″ in diameter, flatten slightly, and place on un-greased cookie pan, separated by about 2″. They will enlarge when baked.  The easiest way to do this is to take a spoonful and roll it in your hands.  24 will fit in a pan (4×6).  There is a lot of butter in the recipe so you do not need to grease the pan
  5. Flatten each cookie a bit and put a thumbprint in the middle. The thumbprint must be deep enough to hold the preserve.  The sides of the cookie may crack a bit as you push down but you can hold them together with your left hand when making the thumbprint with the right.
  6. Fill the thumbprint with preserve. An alternative to the preserve is a chocolate Candy Kiss or other chocolate.
  7. Cook at 375ofor 12 to 15 minutes.  DON’T overcook.  Undercook slightly as they continue to cook when removed from the pan.  DO NOT USE A DARK COLORED PAN, they cook too fast and burn on the bottom.  Under-cooking is fine.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven when the tops of the cookies are just beginning to get brown. It may look too early but it is not.  They will harden as they cool; otherwise they are overcooked and hard.  You can also check the underside for browning.  Note that when cooking two pans simultaneously, they bake at different rates even if they are on the same level.  When you have one pan on top of the other the air flow in the oven is disrupted
  9. Remove cookies immediately to wire racks to cool, and they then can be stored in a tin. If they are at all warm when they are put in the tin the steam will turn to water and you will be unhappy.
  10. Cookies can be made in advance and frozen (and I like them when they are frozen).
  11. As I said earlier I started making these cookies in the 4th grade.This is the perfect first cookie recipe to teach the grandkids.
Chef 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.) John also provides our monthly “BOLLI Matters Tech Talk” feature.