Tag Archives: BOLLI Monthly Features

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.  

 

 

WHAT’S ON MY MIND? INSPIRATION

INSPIRATION

by Sue Wurster

I realize that this might come as something of a surprise, but I’m not exactly known for my athletic prowess.   That lack of prowess, in fact, had much to do with my transferring from Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio to Ohio University in Athens, Ohio at the end of my junior year.   At Otterbein, I was facing a 5-term PE requirement and had already failed badminton, fencing, folk dance, bowling, skiing, horseback riding — as well as folk dance for a second time.   (I had an attendance issue — getting up for an 8 or even 9 am PE course was just not my cup of energy drink.)  Not only did OU have no PE requirement, but it also happened to have the top speech team in the country.   I’m not really sure which was the bigger draw.

BUT — despite my virtual disdain for all things athletic, I’ve always loved tennis.  Not playing it, of course.  Watching it.   Billie Jean won my heart in the 60s and has been there ever since.    Her pioneering efforts helped women get paid their due–as athletes, as professionals, and as partners.  Her strength and courage–in tennis and in life–have inspired me and countless women for fifty years.

And at 73, she’s still at it — playing some tennis, coaching some tennis, mentoring tennis players,  organizing and administering tennis events,  and using her influence to work, wherever possible, for social justice causes — gender equality, social inclusion, “fair play.”

So, on a balmy Saturday in August of 2016,  I was happily ensconced, once again, at the Hotel Lucerne on West 79th Street in New York City.   This is a favorite located in my old neighborhood.   It welcomes me when I need a Broadway fix or the company of old and dear friends and can pretty much always be counted on to provide another round of the perennial NYC pastime known as “star sighting.”   My old friend Susan and I had just sat down at Nice Matin located just outside the hotel door.  It is one of those good neighborhood restaurants you used to be able to find all over the city.  We had met for an early lunch.

I had just been introduced to Susan’s beautiful new granddaughter (whose mother I had taught) when two women walked into the small, uncrowded space.   I could feel the adrenalin rushing to every corpuscle as  I leaned across the table to tell Susan who had just arrived in the restaurant.  And then,  I froze.  The hostess was leading Billie Jean and her friend to the table next to us.  Right next to us.  Oh, my God!  My heart lurched.  She’s coming this way!

And the next thing I knew, Billie Jean King was sitting on the banquette seat.  Right next to me.  Like, maybe, an arm’s-length away.   I had never been so completely starstruck.    But, I realized, so was her friend — with the baby.  She oohed, aahed, cooed, and asked all the right questions about this sweet little girl.   At that point, the waiter arrived.

“Are you ready to order, ladies?” he asked, his gaze sweeping all of us, as if we were a party of four.   And, suddenly, we were exactly that: a party of four.  Talking, laughing, sighing — as if we had known each other for twenty years and hadn’t seen each other for ten.

I had been one of Billie Jean’s most loyal fans for fifty years.  But now, I found myself looking at her in a completely different way.  What a warm, gracious, totally accessible woman–who seems to actually enjoy meeting her fans.   Well, actually, she seems to just enjoy meeting and talking to people in general–of all stripes.  She is genuinely interested in others and what they do, think, and feel.  She’s just…well, totally down to earth–real.  And a lot of fun.

The time came for me to get myself moving toward the matinee I was to see, but while I didn’t want this time to end, departing gave me the opportunity to say something I’d always wanted to say to my idol who has done so much for so many–just “Thank you.”

“Want a picture?” she asked.  Oh, be still my beating heart…

So,  when I heard that a new movie was coming out about Billie Jean in her legendary Battle of the Sexes match with that obnoxious little troll, Bobby Riggs, I headed for the internet to figure out when it would be coming to a theatre near me–so I could be first in line for my  discounted senior ticket.   (Oh, I’m sorry.  I guess my comment about Riggs could be considered disrespectful…sorry, trolls.)   No movie can possibly  do justice to either that event or Billie Jean herself.  But I’m applauding–for all that she has done and continues to do for sports, for women, and social justice.

Okay, Billie Jean, if you can say that it was your respect for Riggs that led to your being able to beat him, I guess I can “go high” myself.  Sorry, Bobby.

Click on this green phrase for Billie Jean’s Ted Talk–and enjoy!  

BOLL Matters editor Sue Wurster

Sue has enjoyed collecting and sharing BOLLI Matters for the past two years and hopes that BOLLI readers are finding our items to be both interesting and entertaining.  

Let us know what you think!

 

 

 

 

 

TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: SMART DEVICES

SMART DEVICES

By John Rudy

A new term is The Internet of Things.  Many years ago when the internet first appeared. it was a means of connecting computers.  What is now changing is that computers are being embedded in everyday objects.  Your car has dozens of them, and even your thermostat has them.  As computers become less and less expensive, it becomes easier to install them in refrigerators or washer/dryers– maybe even in light bulbs.  But the latest in technology isn’t just about computers.  It is about sensors gathering data which can be analyzed by a central computer and accessed over the internet.

Let’s take a simple example.  Last April, I took advantage of MassSave and had three new replacement thermostats installed.  The thermostats were wired to a hub and then connected to my router–that meant they could be found on the internet.  I could install an application on my cell phone that let me remotely view and control them.  Most thermostats allow one to program them these days, but with these, I can turn up my heat on my way home so that the house is warm when I get there.  That is the good news.  The bad news is that the thermostats may have inter-connection problems and shut down as they did when we were in Jamaica.  That particular problem required that I physically disconnect and reconnect them, so even though I knew there was a problem, I couldn’t resolve it.  This never happened with the old thermostats.

But there is a bigger fear, and that is that bad people are increasingly getting into the many systems on the internet.  Would you want someone to turn your thermostat off?  Of course, there is a password, but we know that passwords have been stolen.

In a few years, expect to see internet controlled door locks or ovens that you can control from a distance.  A few years ago on Showtime’s Homeland, a piece of the plot revolved around a pacemaker that was hooked to a computer.  The bad guys used this to kill the vice president.   Insulin pumps are already connected to computers.

Your car hosts dozens of computers that manage everything from ignition to gas mixture to steering.  There were some stories about a year ago about hackers taking over a car.  It was overblown and not totally accurate, but in a couple of years, it just might be possible.

Now, let’s look at some really positive things learned from an article in Wired magazine.   “When we rebuild bridges, we can use smart cement: cement equipped with sensors to monitor stresses, cracks, and warpage.  This is cement that alerts us to the need to problems before they can cause catastrophes.  And these technologies aren’t limited to the bridge’s structure.

If there’s ice on the bridge, the same sensors in the concrete will detect it and communicate the information via the wireless internet to your car.  Once your car knows there’s a hazard ahead, it will instruct the driver to slow down, and if the driver doesn’t, then the car will slow down for him.  This is just one of the ways that sensor-to-machine and machine-to-machine communication can take place. Sensors on the bridge connect to machines in the car: we turn information into action.”

Amazon Echo is already with us–and more is on the way.

“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)

 

 

 

 

SEPTEMBER’S SR. MOMENT WITH LIZ DAVID: LEARNING TO FALL

LEARNING TO FALL

By Liz David

I was six years old when my family moved to a two-family home on Athelstane Road in Newton Center. A few years later, my Father bought me a blue and white Schwinn two-wheeler.  I learned to ride quickly, never fell, and was allowed to ride all over the neighborhood,  including all the way into town.

Over the years, Barry and I rode bikes locally as well as on the streets and trails of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.  After we built a summer home on the South Shore, we and our children all biked the Cape Cod Canal.  By then, I had taken up jogging and spent much of my time running and preparing for running events like the then Bonne Bell 10K for Women now sponsored by Tuft’s Health Care.  My bicycle took a back seat.

At 80, I decided to take up biking again.  At the bike shop, I insisted that it had to be one that was small enough and with a seat low enough that I could put my feet on the ground when I stopped.  We bought a state-of-the-art Trek bike.  Helmet and all, I rode up and down the driveway.  Then, we drove the bike to Lincoln Sudbury High School where I rode around the parking lot until I thought I was comfortable.

But, since then, my beautiful bike has been sitting in the shed.  Why?  I’M AFRAID OF FALLING!  At age 81, our orders are clear:  DON’T FALL.

SWITCHING GEARS

And yet, on a more serious note, I realized that being afraid to fall doesn’t preclude learning to fall.

Philip Simmons, in his book, Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life, describes how he thought he had to learn the art of dying after he was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 35.  What he really ended up learning was the art of living until his death ten years later at 45.

The book is written, in his words, “with the urgency of a man whose days are numbered.”

Simmons writes, in the context of dealing with loss, “Life, after all, is a terminal condition. Each individual soul is, as the poet William Butler Yeats says, “fastened to a dying animal.”  We’re all engaged in the business of dying, whether consciously or not, slowly or not.”

Simmons writes that the work of learning to live richly in the face of loss, such as we elders experience every day, whether consciously or not, is the work that he calls “learning to fall.”

He states that his book’s central theme is “born out of a paradox: that we deal most fruitfully with loss by accepting the fact that we will one day lose everything.”

Here are some quotes from his book that move me as I hope they move you.

“Think of falling as a figure of speech. We fall on our faces, we fall for a joke, we fall for someone, we fall in love. We fall from ego, we fall from our carefully constructed identities, our reputations, our precious selves. We fall from ambition, we fall from grasping, we fall, at least temporarily, from reason.  And what do we fall into? We fall into passion, into terror, into unreasoning joy. We fall into humility, into compassion, into emptiness, into oneness with forces larger than ourselves, into oneness with others whom we realize are likewise falling. We fall, at last, into the presence of the sacred, into godliness, into mystery, into our better, diviner natures.”

“In the act of letting go of our lives, we return more fully to them.”

“As I see it, we know we’re fully grown up when we stop trying to fix people. All we can really do for people is love them and treat them with kindness.”

“If we can’t laugh, we can’t properly be serious.”

“Life is both more or less than we hoped for, both more comic and tragic than we knew. Comedy ends in happiness, while tragedy yields wisdom.”

“We have all suffered, and will suffer, our own falls. The fall from youthful ideals, the waning of physical strength, the failure of a cherished hope, the loss of our near and dear, the fall into injury or sickness, and late or soon, the fall to our certain ends. We have no choice but to fall and little say as to the time or the means.”

“In fact, I would have it that in the way of our falling we have the opportunity to express our essential humanity.”

“When we learn to fall we learn to accept the vulnerability that is our human endowment, the cost of walking upright on the earth.”

SWITCHING GEARS AGAIN

In the final chapter of Simmons’ book, he takes us even farther.  “We all have within us this capacity for wonder,” he says, “this ability to break the bonds of ordinary awareness and sense that, though our lives are fleeting and transitory, we are part of something larger, eternal and unchanging.”

“You see, we really are all in this together.  There are times when the fact that we are in different bodies, or have lived in different centuries, or that some of us have died while others live on or are yet to be born, seems a trivial difference compared to what unites us and abides.  Our journey takes us to suffering and sorrow, but there is a way through suffering to something like redemption, something like joy, to that larger version of ourselves that lives outside of time.”

TRAIL’S END:  The last paragraph of the last chapter includes this passage…

“Some of us go willingly to the edge, some of us are driven to it, some of us find ourselves there by grace.  But all of us get there at some time in our lives, when through the gateway of the present moment we glimpse something beyond.  And when we do, may we open ourselves to wonder, may we surrender to the mystery that passes understanding, may we find ourselves at the threshold of this eternal life.”

So, I’ve decided that, at my age, it’s time to let go of trying to ride my bike and risk falling–physically.   Instead, paying attention to the words of wisdom that Phillip Simmons has to offer, I’ve committed myself to something much more important:  “learning to fall” into the life I have left.

Metta, Elizabeth David

“Senior Moment” feature writers Eleanor Jaffe, left, and Liz David, right.

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.”

Share your comments with Liz–and fellow BOLLI members–below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MINING MARILYN’S MYSTERY “OLDIES”: LINDSEY DAVIS

Mining Marilyn Brooks’ popular blog, Marilyn’s Mystery Reads, for some of her past reviews yielded another gem:   Lindsay Davis.  As a longtime fan of novels taking place in ancient Greece and Rome, I was, for some time, very much caught up by Davis’ host of mysteries featuring “detective” Marcus Didius Falco (of which there are 20).  Davis’ books are well-written, featuring inventive situations, engaging characters, and good, solid suspense.  Somehow, though, I missed the fact that she eventually provided Falco and wife Helena Justina with an adoptive daughter who is carrying on in the family tradition–so glad to have a new “old” favorite to follow.  She reviewed this one in March of 2014.

THE IDES OF APRIL  – by Lindsey Davis

                                             A Review by Marilyn Brooks

 “The glory that was Greece, and the grandeur that was Rome” are the lines that Edgar Allan Poe wrote in 1845.  There is grandeur in Lindsey Davis’ The Ides of April, and there are also appealing characters, great writing, and a terrific plot.

Flavia Albia, the heroine of the story, is a private informer, what today we would call a private eye.  She is the adopted daughter of the well-known Roman informer Marcus Didius Falco.  Abandoned as an infant, Flavia knows nothing of her biological family.  Marcus and his wife Helena Justina found her wandering the streets of Londinium, Britannia, and brought her to civilization, to Rome.  Flavia is now twenty-nine, a full Roman citizen, a widow, and following in her father’s business.

What brings Flavia into the case at the center of the book is the tragic death of a three-year-old boy who was run over by a builder’s cart.  Flavia is hired by the owner of the building company to thwart the boy’s mother’s demand for compensatory payment.  Although unsympathetic to the owner Salvidia, a female informer can’t be too choosy when it comes to jobs, so Flavia takes the case.

After doing so, she reads a notice asking any witnesses to the accident to come forward.  Intrigued, Flavia goes to the Temple of Ceres, the headquarters of Manlius Faustus, the aedile (magistrate) for this area of Rome, to get more information.  Not having any luck at the Temple, she goes to his office where she meets Andronicus, the aedile’s clerk, and sexual sparks fly between them.  Andronicus tells her the aedile won’t assist her, but he lets her know that he’ll keep his eyes open to try to help.

Not having gained any insight into the case and disliking her client more and more, Flavia returns to the construction company to tell Salvidia that she is quitting.  When she gets there, she is told by the woman’s servant that Salvidia is dead, having come home from the market, gone to bed, and then stopped breathing.  Looking at the corpse, the only unusual thing the informer can see is a slight scratch on one of her arms, certainly nothing to cause death.

At Salvidia’s funeral the next day, Flavia meets the deceased’s neighbor, an elderly woman who concludes their conversation by saying, “You do what you can for her, dearie,” a statement Flavia interprets as the neighbor thinking that Savlidia died under suspicious circumstances.  And the following day, the neighbor is dead.

The writing in The Ides of April is excellent, always told in Flavia’s voice.  She can be empathic, as when she meets the family of another possible murder victim.  “Lupus the oyster-shucker would not easily be forgotten; I thought never,” she says to herself as she sees the family’s grief.  She can also be wry.  “…and (the man) could only come if his son was not using the false leg that day.  Assume I’m joking, if that comforts you.”

The Ides of April is the first in the Flavia Albia series.  The Marcus Falco series by this author is twenty novels long, and I’m hoping for at least that many for Flavia.  She’s a delight.  Hopefully, she’ll keep poking her nose into Rome’s secrets.

You can read more about Lindsey Davis at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads blog at her web site

Our MYSTERY MAVEN Marilyn Brooks

I’ve always been a reader and, starting with Nancy Drew (my favorite, of course), I became a mystery fan.  I think I find mysteries so satisfying because there’s a definite plot to follow, a storyline that has to make sense to be successful.  And, of course, there’s always the fun of trying to guess the ending.  My blog, published every Saturday,  can be found at www.marilynsmysteryreads.com.

AUGUST’S CHEF’S CORNER WITH JOHN RUDY: STUFFED CABBAGE

STUFFED CABBAGE – GERMAN STYLE

There are many recipes for stuffed cabbage.  This is the Rudy-version.  This recipe came from my mother-in-law, Lillian Weil, and probably came from a previous generation.  The details of the recipe were never written down and so what is here is “best recollection” plus the result of some experimentation.  Since everyone likes it, apparently the experimentation worked!  It makes enough for at least 10 servings and I usually split it up into ½ gallon plastic containers and freeze the ones that will not be immediately eaten.

No quantity in this recipe is exact; all should be played with to get the taste that you like.  More rice?  More meat?  More sauce? Go for it!

1               Cabbage (medium size)

1½ lbs    85% Hamburger.  Don’t use too lean, it loses taste

1             Large onion, diced

¾ cup     Spaghetti sauce (has more flavor than plain tomato  sauce)

¾ cup     Rice.  Not Minute Rice. Measure after cooking.

¾ cup     Spaghetti sauce (this is not an error)

24 oz      Stewed tomatoes, diced (could use more; like 2 large cans)

2 cans     Sauerkraut, large cans or 4 medium cans.  DO NOT DRAIN.

1 cup      Spaghetti sauce  (this is not an error either)

1½ Tbs   Brown sugar

1½ Tbs   Granulated sugar

Cut the center out of the cabbage and pull off some of the outer leaves if they are not crisp. Boil the cabbage at least 60 minutes (longer if really large) until the leaves pull off fairly easily.  But don’t cook so long that it is mushy.  Let it cool by soaking in cold water. Note:  if it is not cooked enough, the leaves break when you try to wrap the meat.

  1. Cook the rice.
  2. Sauté the onions. Slightly under-cook.
  3. Mix the raw hamburger, rice, onions and ¾ cup of the sauce. This will become the filling of the cabbage
  4. Gently remove the leaves from the cabbage. It will not be easy to do, and some of the leaves are very large.  You may have to recut the hole in the cabbage.
  5. Combine the sauerkraut, another ¾ cup of the sauce, sugars, and stewed tomatoes in the bottom of a large pot. Mix together.  This will provide the base to the stuffed leaves.
  6. Put the meat mix into the leaves, fold over, and place on top of the sauerkraut mixture, open side down. The amount you use depends on the size of the leaf.  As you make them, lay them on top of the sauerkraut base.
  7. Pour the last cup of sauce on top of the filled leaves, along with leftover cabbage.
  8. Here is where you have two options, and my preference is to use the oven. (1) Bring the pot SLOWLY to a boil (be careful; you may have to add some water so that it doesn’t burn), and then let it simmer for 45 minutes.  (2) Alternatively, it can be put in the oven, covered, at 350o to 375o for about an hour.  The problem with the first option is that it is really easy to burn the bottom of the pan.
  9. This makes a lot. It can be separated and frozen, even in plastic bags.
  10. OPTIONAL: cook up another pound of hamburger and add sauce. This can be added to the top of the cabbage mixture to give it even more protein.
  11. NOTE: everything is cooked before being put in the oven, so the baking period is really for everything to mix together.

Enjoy!

“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.)

AUGUST TECH TALK: NET NEUTRALITY

NET NEUTRALITY

by John Rudy

For a few years, there has been a fair amount of coverage regarding what is called “net neutrality.”  Unless you tend to pay close attention to the computer world, you may be unaware of what this is or how it matters to you.  The Obama administration took a position on NN two years ago, and the Trump Administration has already announced that they are going to reverse it (presumably after the community has an opportunity to provide comments).  But this is something that is important to you, so here is some information that should enable you to follow net neutrality issues in the press.

What is Net Neutrality?  The principle that Internet Service Providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.  Some governments regulate Internet services in the same ways that their public utilities (electricity, gas, and water) are regulated.  This also involves limiting providers and regulating the options they can offer.

The Issues: Can a service provider slow down or speed up your service because it is better for them or because you pay them to do it?

Some Examples:

  • Could Netflix pay Verizon to provide more bandwidth to their movies?
  • Could Verizon give more bandwidth to a service they provide compared to what is being made available to a competitor?
  • A widely-cited example of a violation of net neutrality principles was when Comcastwas secretly slowing (“throttling”) certain uploads. Comcast didn’t stop blocking these protocols until the FCC ordered them to do so.

2014 Obama decision

For three months, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received 3.7 million comments to change the Internet to a telecommunications service, which would allow the FCC to uphold net neutrality.  In February of 2015, the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality by reclassifying broadband access as a telecommunications service applying Title II (common carrier) of the Communications Act of 1934 as well as section 706 of the Telecommunications act of 1996 to Internet service providers.  In April of 2015, the FCC published the final rule on its new regulations which took effect on June 12, 2015.   

What is the FCC Doing Now?

FCC Chairman Pai claims he wants to end the “utility-style regulatory approach” to the Internet and “re-establish” the power of market forces in regulating the Internet. Details of his proposal include the reclassification of broadband access as an information service and a decrease in legal regulations on Internet service providers.

Pai says the reversal will increase infrastructure investment and innovation among broadband companies. In his proposal, he also suggests redirecting authority from the FCC to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to oversee privacy practices. Pai advocates ending the broad Internet conduct standard that allows the FCC to intervene if they deem that a broadband provider either acts in a harmful fashion or is anticipated to do so.

In a 2-1 decision on May 18th, the current FCC voted to proceed with the motion to scale back the net neutrality protections put in place in 2015.

Bottom Line

  • In April 2017, an attempt to compromise net neutrality in the United Statesis being considered by the newly appointed FCC chairman, Ajit Varadaraj Pai. In  May, a process began to roll back Open Internet rules that had been in place since 2015.
  • A decision will be made soon and whether or not the FCC takes the millions of comments seriously will be known in time.
  • See https://www.aclu.org/feature/what-net-neutrality for a lot of information favoring net neutrality.
  • Who wants net neutrality? Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Netflix
  • Who is opposed to net neutrality? National Cable and Telecomm Association, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast

My opinion

I don’t trust the cable providers.  If they think that they can make more money by selectively providing better service to someone who will pay them more, they will.  The FCC can’t wait until there is a violation and then spend months, or years, to address it.  Then if Comcast, say, takes money from Netflix to move their movies faster than, say, Hulu, will you switch your service to Netflix?  Netflix doesn’t want to be put in the position where they have to pay off the many service providers.  See the names above for who is pro and who is against the change.

Our “Tech Talker” 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 .

 

 

 

AUGUST SENIOR MOMENT WITH ELEANOR JAFFE: Do You Plan on Growing Old?

This month, Eleanor muses on the recent “skinny repeal” Senate vote, and her thoughts remind all of us, regardless of our politics, to be extremely mindful–even vigilant–in terms of how our health care might be affected by changes to our current system.  Thank you, Eleanor!

DO YOU PLAN ON GROWING OLD?

Information about Medicaid and what it provides to so many of our citizens emerged in recent weeks as the revisions to Obamacare or its potential cancellation bubbled to the surface in the Senate.  In a July 1st NY Times article by Ron Lieber, I read that:  “One in three people who turn 65 end up in a nursing home at some time.”  And, “62% of those people cannot pay the bill on their own.”

We cannot predict our own futures.  We cannot know whether we will need nursing care over a longer period than we can afford to pay.  Even when we have planned for a financially solvent old age, unexpected illnesses and costs may develop.  Even long term care insurance may be insufficient.  We cannot know how long we will live (my mother, for example, is now 104 years old) nor who will be there to care for us.  Family members often live great distances from one another and cannot disrupt their lives to sufficiently care for their elders. This creates a lot of uncertainty, many “unknowns.”  We like to think that we will be healthy and self-sufficient until our deaths, but that is often not the case – as we know, as we can see around us.

Medicaid is our safety net.  It is the same Medicaid that cares for the young, the poor and sick, and those with disabilities.   Medicaid still supports the elderly in nursing homes who need assistance.  I read that, on average, the annual cost of a semiprivate room in a nursing home is $82,128.  Medicaid also currently pays for home and community based care for older adults.  Most people cannot afford the high nursing home costs, especially if their retirement funds have already been reduced by the protracted illness of one of the partners in a marriage, leaving the widowed (usually woman) with insufficient capital for their own care.

This fact (and the multitude of safeguards provided by The Affordable Care Act for most of us in the U.S.) is why we all probably breathed a great sign of relief when the Republican Senate plan to wipe it off the books was defeated.  People all over the country had rallied to support the admittedly imperfect Obamacare, but most Republican Senators turned deaf ears to their activist constituents.  Only three: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and John McCain were able to hold the line against the attackers.  Good thing for us!  Great thing for us — to date!

I learned that each state has its own requirements to determine qualifications for Medicaid.  Lieber recommends a “plain-spoken guide,” How to Protect Your Family’s Assets from Devastating Nursing Home Costs. He also writes that many people hire elder-law attorneys to help them navigate state Medicaid rules.

The proposed Republican changes to health care legislation that would have affected us directly as we age and possibly become infirm are real and very, very significant.  This recently defeated plan to eradicate Obamacare would have directly affected all of us seniors, some in devastating ways.  We need to stay alert to possible/probable further actions which could significantly alter health care benefits.  We all need to be vigilant.  We need protect our self interests by advocating for universal health care in whatever forms appeals to us–but certainly not by eliminating it.  Become an advocate!  Your health care–and mine–may depend on it.

BOLLI Matters “Senior Moments” writers Eleanor Jaffe (left) and Liz David (right).

As I grow older, I am more interested in the conditions, changes, services, culture, and even politics affecting me, my husband of over 50 years, my friends — and my 104 year old mother.  What does it mean to be growing older in today’s society?  Please share your thoughts below!

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