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MEMOIR from Susan Bradford

Mendel, Fruit Flies, and Me  

by Susan Bradford

             At Paul D. Schreiber High School in 1960, each person in Mr. Martinson’s biology class had to do a big project or research paper in the spring.  This project had to be ongoing, in-depth, and would count for a large part of our grade.  Somehow, I decided it would be interesting to “prove” Mendel’s laws of genetics.[1] Actually, I was going to try to replicate some of the patterns Gregor Mendel had predicted would occur in pea varieties.

I ordered various strains of drosophila, fruit flies, from the Cold Spring Harbor Lab[2] where my good friend Betsy’s sister worked.  I decided upon ordering three varieties:  regular red-eyed fruit flies, white-eyed fruit flies, and dumpies (fruit flies with very short wings) because I thought those varying characteristics would make it fairly easy to distinguish one from the other.

             I visited neighbors who had babies in order to collect a lot of glass baby food jars to hold the assorted groups of flies and their food.  I used instructions to mix up an agar and fruit medium as food to put in the bottles.  Then I put fruit flies with one pure type into certain bottles, and each of the other types in other bottles, and counted what I had.  In the days to follow, I would keep track of each generation.  I used a plan about crossing the strains in certain ways. Then I had to observe and count the first generation of flies produced and, after that, the second and third generations of flies to see which and how many inherited the red eyes, white eyes, short wings or long wings.

It was fascinating, but counting them was difficult and involved using liquid ether to put the flies temporarily to sleep.  Once etherized, I could empty the flies onto a piece of white paper in order to closely observe the characteristics, separate the flies into groups, and count them.  From our local pharmacy, I purchased a can of ether that my mother made me store in our garage since it was so volatile.

Ether has a very strong and distinctive, rather sweet and sickly smell that I may never forget. I actually became light-headed sometimes as I bent over to count the flies. The counting was tricky because you had to use enough ether to put the flies to sleep for the entire time it took to count and sort them but not so much that it would kill them. I knew this was important but had no idea of the amounts to use.  Naturally, several weeks into this project, I did not use enough ether, and after carefully counting and sorting the tiny fruit flies, hundreds of them woke up and flew off.  We had fruit flies everywhere in the house for a long time.  Sitting down to dinner, in the living room, or taking a bath, my family and I would be besieged by tiny black spots before our eyes.  But the worst part was that I had to begin my experiment all over again.

Luckily, I had set aside enough of the “pure” flies of each variety that I was able to begin again without delay.   Not surprisingly, the next time, as I emptied the etherized flies onto the paper, I noticed that their little wings were at right angles, which was not good.  I had killed that entire batch because I wanted to be certain they would not wake up in the middle of counting again.  Finally, I figured it out and was able to etherize them properly.  Over the next several generations of flies, I was able to do it correctly and ended up with a very successful project.  My numbers came out very close to what would have been predicted using Mendel’s laws.

My teacher was pleased and gave me a good grade.

I was happy because I felt as if I were a real scientist, and I have memories I will keep.

My parents were probably just glad I did not knock myself out or blow up the house.

 [1] Mendelian inheritance is a set of primary tenets relating to the transmission of hereditary characteristics from parent organisms to their children;The laws of inheritance were derived by Gregor Mendel, a 19th century monk conducting hybridization experiments in garden peas. Between 1856 and 1863, he cultivated and tested some 29,000 pea plants. From these experiments he deduced two generalizations which later became known as Mendel’s Laws of Heredity or Mendelian inheritance. He described these laws in a two part paper, Experiments on Plant Hybridization that he read to the Natural History Society of Brno on February 8 and March 8, 1865, and which was published in 1866.   Wikipedia

[2] Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) is a private, not-for-profit research and education institution at the forefront of efforts in molecular biology and genetics to generate knowledge that will yield better diagnostics and treatments for cancer, neurological diseases and other major causes of human suffering.  Home to seven Nobelists, the laboratory was founded in 1890 as one of the first
Home to seven Nobelists, the Laboratory was founded in 1890 as institutions in the world to specialize in genetics research. CSHL has played a pivotal role in the emergence of molecular genetics, the scientific foundation of the contemporary revolution in biology and biotechnology. At CSHL in 1953, James D. Watson presented his first public lecture on his and Francis Crick’s discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA, for which each later won a Nobel Prize. As director and then president of the Laboratory from 1968 to 2003, Watson was instrumental in developing CSHL into one of the world’s most influential cancer research centers. www.cshl.ed

BOLI member and SGL Susan Bradford

Susan Bradford was a teacher and administrator who retired from Maimonides School in Brookline and has been a longtime BOLLI member since then.   She has led several history related courses and been active on various BOLLI committees. This piece was first written in a BOLLI writing class led by Ruth Harriet Jacobs.

 

 

PANDEMIC DAYS: Let’s Share…

PANDEMIC DAYS:  LET’S SHARE

From Fran Feldman:  “I do think about writing at this particular time, and your line about managing this pandemic struck a chord.”  She went on to offer a fine suggestion for us.
“I wonder if it wouldn’t be valuable to pose one question we could answer in a short paragraph; then we could publish them in the blog. Something like:
1. What has the pandemic taught you about yourself that you didn’t already know?
2. What new ways to manage stress have you devised over the past many months?
3. What’s been positive about the social isolation and change of routine you’ve had to adapt to during the pandemic?”
I think Fran has provided us with a great idea, so I have included all three of her prompts here in an effort to jog your thinking.  (You need not, of course, respond to all of them!)
Send me a paragraph (or so) about what you’ve learned during this strange time in our lives.  Don’t worry about writing a “formal” item as this isn’t really about writing.   It’s about sharing with our fellow BOLLI members/friends.  I will compile responses and publish them together.   (Send to susanlwurster@gmail.com)
Thank you, Fran–and BOLLI!

HMMM…

HMMM…

Well, BOLLI friends, it’s time, once again, to ask for your help.  The most challenging part of managing our blog is getting enough material to post on a regular basis, which is, at least in part, why we’ve had fewer and fewer posts over the course of the past several months.   And so, I am appealing to you.

Please contribute to this publication which is, in essence, a venture all about US–who we are, what interests us, concerns us, moves us, inspires us, and more.  Your contribution does not need to be a formal item–you can share ANYTHING you like!  And, in fact, as we have all been more “sequestered” in the past several months than we had been accustomed to prior to this pandemic, our blog offers us a chance to tell each other how we’ve been managing this time.  Think about sharing–

  • ideas or questions you’ve been considering
  • books, tv shows, or movies you’ve enjoyed during this time
  • crafts, hobbies, pastimes you’ve returned to or begun to explore
  • walks, hiking trails, beautiful spots you’ve discovered or rediscovered
  • new year’s resolutions? old year’s farewells?
  • photography, poetry, prose, etc.
  • interviews of fellow BOLLI members for “Meet Our Members” features (if you like, you can just send me information about members you’d like to see featured, and I’ll take it from there)

There’s really no limit to the possibilities here.  So, please send material!

BOLLI Matters editor Sue Wurster

Send material, suggestions, ideas, etc. to susanlwurster@gmail.com or use the comment box here to share with all.

Thank you!

 

The Chef’s Corner: SOUP

Both Brenda Gleckman and Joan Thormann came up with soup recipes for us for the new year… Sweet and Sour Cabbage soup and Mushroom soup.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup from Brenda Gleckman

Filling, warming, richly flavorful, almost a meal by itself is this old school Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup.This recipe is healthy, low fat, and perfect for a cold winter day.

For those of us lucky enough to remember our Eastern European mothers’ and grandmothers’ delicious Sweet and Sour Stuffed Cabbage, that recipe, in soup form, will elicit a flood of wonderful food memories. It may permanently erase from your minds those dull, tasteless diet cabbage soup recipes that circulated among diet conscious friends decades ago before the internet.

Ingredients

1 pound lean or extra lean ground beef

2 TBS olive oil

6 cups of water

4 cups reduced sodium beef stock or broth

2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes, undrained

1 medium head cabbage sliced in one inch slices

2 cups onion, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

1 cup carrots, chopped

3/4 cup ketchup

1/2 cup brown sugar or 12 packets sugar substitute

1/3 cup cider vinegar

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions
  1. Brown beef in a very large soup pot in 2TBS of olive oil.Add all the ingredients.
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Cover and turn heat down to simmer for 30 minutes or until cabbage has softened but is not mushy.

Makes about 22 cups of soup

Mushroom Soup from Joan Thormann

Cold weather is here, so it’s time for comforting soup. I found this delicious easy made-from-scratch recipe in a low-fat recipe book.  I modified the recipe, and whoever I serve it to loves it.

One fall day, our Brookline condo association had a get together.  People brought soup, bread, or dessert. I brought my mushroom soup.  Present at our potluck were a number of residents who had emigrated from Russia, including Yuriv, the building manager.  He took one cup of mushroom soup and then finished a second one.  After he had enough soup for the time being, he circulated around the room asking who made the mushroom soup.  Yuriv finally found me and said, “I must to have this recipe.”  I don’t know if he or his wife ever made the soup but I did give him the recipe.

Ingredients

10 oz. sliced mushrooms

1/4 cup chopped onion or chopped scallions

2 Tablespoons butter or margarine

3 Tablespoons flour

2 1/2 to 3 cups 1% or 2% milk

2 chicken bouillon cubes or 2 porcini mushroom boullion cubes

1/2 cup light sour cream or nonfat yogurt

5 Tablespoons sherry

Directions 
  1. Heat about a teaspoon of olive oil in a frying pan.  Stir the onions or scallions in the pan, cook until they wilt about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms and stir.  Cook until the mushrooms are brown and about half their original size. Add 2 tablespoons sherry if mushrooms stick. Set aside when done.
  2. Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Stir in the flour quickly to make a roux.
  3. Slowly pour in the milk, stirring as you  pour it in, to get rid of lumps of flour.
  4. Add the bouillon cubes and continue to stir the milk mixture until it thickens to your taste.  Sprinkle in more flour or add more milk as necessary.
  5. Stir the onion mushroom mixture into the saucepan.
  6. Remove sauce pan from the stove and stir in the sour cream or yogurt.
  7. Stir in sherry to taste, and serve.

Makes four or five servings.

Note: For those who are not concerned about calories, you can use full fat milk, sour cream, or yogurt.  You may also enjoy using cream for some of the milk.

 

Brenda Gleckman

Retired psychotherapist and medical school educator, Brenda has been a BOLLI member since 2004 and a “foodie” all her adult life. She made her first attempt at cooking in August 1960 when she was a  new mother living in a third floor walk-up in Washington DC without air conditioning. She was determined to make a pot roast for her husband, a sleep deprived intern at Walter Reed.  When the roast she was searing slipped off the fork into the pot and the hot oil jumped onto her nearly bare chest, she ended up in the ER. But that did not deter her,  an early and avid follower of Julia Child, and she collected and cooked recipes from every ethnicity. Her recipe for guacamole has gone “viral” and has bestowed upon  her the title of “Guacamole Queen.”  She cringes when occasionally someone asks if she gives out her recipes.  “Why wouldn’t I?” she answers. “It gives me great pleasure to share recipes for good food.”

Joan Thormann
During her last five years before retiring from Lesley, Joan ended up teaching teachers to teach online–by actually teaching them online.  If you know people who need help in this area, she shamelessly asks you to let them know they can find her book on Amazon. 
When Joan isn’t occupied with life maintenance, she paints watercolors, makes quilt tops, and listens to audiobooks. Two years ago, she started taking classes at BOLLI and enjoys learning from the SGLs and classmates.

 

 

POP CULTURE WITH DENNIS GREENE–STAR TREK: PICARD

Star Trek:  Picard – The Journey Continues

by Dennis Greene

I became sentient in 1966, a little too late to have it help me as an undergraduate student but just in time to ship out with James T. Kirk, the 35-year-old Captain of the starship Enterprise. I journeyed with Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhura, Scotty, and the rest of the crew for 79 imaginative adventures from 1966 to 1969 when NBC abruptly cancelled the Star Trek series. Just when mankind took its first step into space with Apollo 11, some short-sighted executives at NBC decided to go in the opposite direction. Seven years later, in a memorable 1976 SNL sketch, John Belushi portrayed Captain Kirk eviscerating the NBC top brass for this ill-advised decision to cancel the show. Every time I hear Belushi utter those final words, “We have tried to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before, and except for one television network, we have found intelligence everywhere in the galaxy,” I vividly re-experience that loss.

It was another eleven years until CBS–evidently a more evolved and intelligent network than NBC–decided, in 1987, to continue the journeys of the Enterprise, this time set 78 years after the original series. It was a more lavish production, with advanced special effects, a larger budget, and a more seasoned cast. Patrick Stewart, a celebrated stage actor, was cast as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. But I was still mourning the loss of the original series and refused to accept Star Trek: The Next Generation in its place. Nothing could replace my beloved original version.

Over the next seven seasons, I caught an episode of TNG now and then, and heard nothing but praise for series.  TNG continued for 178 episodes. Several years after it ended, I finally swallowed my pride and binge-watched the entire series. I discovered that TNG had stayed true to the essence of the original series and built upon it to offer an imaginative, well-constructed, and thought-provoking collection of stories which explored all aspects of the human condition. Star Trek: TNG dealt with many of the “big” questions of human existence including politics, race, religion, artificial-intelligence, xenophobia, conflict, nationalism, isolationism, Shakespeare, sex, loyalty, and diversity. You name it, Star Trek TNG examined it.   Sir Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean Luc Picard, with his wit, wisdom, compassion, courage, and unflinching morality, seemed to personify everything a leader should be.  Our world could use someone like him now.

Since TNG ended over 25 years ago, there have been numerous TV series and full-length films expanding the Star Trek universe, and most of them have been very successful. I have watched and enjoyed most of them, as well as two humorous parodies, Tim Allen’s Galaxy Quest and Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville. But nothing in the Star Trek franchise during the past 20 years has gotten me really excited until now. I just watched the first episode of Star Trek: Picard, a new series developed for CBS All Access.

The cold open of Episode 1 shows Captain Picard and Commander Data playing poker in the Ten Forward lounge, a setting familiar to all TNG fans. In the background, Bing Crosby’s version of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” is playing. This is the song Mr. Data sang at the wedding of Commander Riker and Deana Troi, shortly before Data sacrificed his life to save the crew of the Enterprise in the last TNG movie, Star Trek: Nemesis. Both Patrick Stewart and Brent Spinner stepped back into their roles perfectly, as if the eighteen-year hiatus didn’t exist. To old TNG fans, it almost appears that nothing much had changed. Data still displays his intelligence, humanity, and naivete, and Picard is still the witty, wise, and thoughtful Captain we remember. But this is a dream sequence to snare past viewers, and, of course, things have changed.

We learn that Picard has been retired from Star Fleet for more than a decade and is living at Chateau Picard, his large and thriving vineyard in France. He is  now over 90 and is assisted by his loyal house staff, a Romulan man and woman. This immediately caught my attention, since when we last saw Picard in Nemesis, there was only a tentative truce between the Federation and its long time enemy, the Romulan Empire.  There is much to catch up on.

The new series represents a major commitment by CBS All Access to establish a strong foothold in the Star Trek universe. It is the creation of Kristen Beyer, Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, and Alex Kurtzman. Patrick Stewart, Goldsman, Kurtzman, and Chabon are among the show’s strong executive production team, which also includes Rod Roddenberry, the son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.  Michael Chabon,  a bestselling novelist, science fiction writer,  and screenwriter–and an admitted Star Trek fan–is the series “show -runner.”  This means he has overall creative authority and management responsibility for the series. The first two episodes are directed by Hanelle Culpepper, an energetic and unflappable filmmaker with broad experience in television. She is the first woman to direct an initial Star Trek episode and, along with Chabon, may bring a younger perspective to the 55 year old Star Trek saga. Episode 1 seems to suggest that Chabon and his team intend to return to the thoughtful, big issue approach of the TNG series, rather than continue the predictable “space opera” adventure trend of the Star Trek motion pictures. But the first episode did include enough stunning visual effects, action, mayhem, and death to keep our attention.

Sopan Deb, in a New York Times review of the new series, noted that:

There are just enough nods to “Next Generation” lore to signal for die-hard fans that this is a show that understands why Picard’s return is so important to them. But it doesn’t lean so heavily into nostalgia to overwhelm a great story. And it is a great story.

The tone and feel of the first episode is intimate and earthbound, as Picard broods about the loss of his friend Data and several other epic events which are quickly revealed. Picard’s interactions with his Romulan house staff, and with Number 1, his companion pit bull, portray Picard as more vulnerable and approachable than he seemed as the imperious Captain of the Enterprise.

In the initial dream sequence poker game, Data makes a large bet which forces Picard to risk all he has left to “call.”  When Picard pushes all his chips into the pot, Data’s reaction convinces Picard that Data has the winning hand. Picard begins refreshing his Earl Grey tea and otherwise stalling to avoid laying down his losing hand. When Data asks why he is stalling, Picard, with a show of wrenching emotion, answers Because I don’t want the game to end. He then wakes up. This may be the key to understanding the series.

Through well-paced action and dialogue, we are quickly brought up to date about intervening events and are then promptly immersed in a mystery concerning Data’s legacy, artificial intelligence issues, the cessation of the Federation’s manufacture of synthetic androids, and the appearance of a strange young girl with unique powers who is somehow intimately involved with Picard. The episode is punctuated by scenes incorporating advanced weapons, acrobatic martial arts, mysterious assailants, and lots of dead bodies. All this stimulates Picard to abandon his sedentary vineyard life and get back in the game.

Trailers indicate that Picard is about to surreptitiously acquire a starship, assemble a crew, and launch into the unknown to find answers to these vexing new questions. My reaction to this planned undertaking by Captain Picard is in sharp contrast to how I reacted to that first mission with Captain Kirk 54 years ago. When I was 22, the thought of a 35-year-old hero embarking on an epic adventure was expected and not especially noteworthy. But now that I’m 76, the thought of a man at least 15 years older than I am, who has trouble climbing stairs, undertaking such a mission draws both my admiration and my concern. I will be rooting for Picard to prevail, but I hope he can find time to nap and then stretch a little. I will worry about him because, after a certain age, most folks don’t handle stress well, especially when moving at warp speed.

Critics who have seen the first three episodes report that these initial episodes are mostly “set up” so that both veteran Star Trek fans, and new viewers who have not seen the prior 55 years of Star Trek, are all able to get up to speed. Then, when this much more mature Captain Picard gives his new crew the order to “Engage,” we can all enjoy the adventure together.

CBS All Access has already committed to Season 2, so I am looking forward to “going where no person has gone before” each Thursday night for the foreseeable future.

Live Long and Prosper!

BOLLI member and frequent contributor to BOLLI Matters, Dennis Greene

Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie.  He saw The Day the Earth Stood Still in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since.

A HOLIDAY MIRACLE? By Phil Radoff

A HOLIDAY MIRACLE?

by Phil Radoff

On Christmas evening, as my brother and sister-in-law were driving off, I waved goodbye and threw the switch to turn on the outside lights to illuminate their path down the driveway. After they left, my wife walked to the mailbox at the end of the driveway to retrieve yesterday’s mail, which we hadn’t bothered to collect on Christmas Eve. We don’t normally rush to collect the mail, which is likely to be 90% junk anyway, a combination of solicitations from worthy charities to which we have already contributed–or decided not to–and offers for goods and services in which we have no interest.

When my wife returned with a meager collection of envelopes, she reported that all of the lights along the driveway were illuminated.

“How can that be?” I asked, incredulous. The street level light hadn’t come on in more than a year. Indeed, its failure to turn on was a continuing source of annoyance and exasperation in view of its previous history. Two winters ago, our former snow removal service had clumsily managed to sever the final segment of electrical wire running from the middle lamp to the street level lamp. Despite numerous emails and phone calls, the snow removers had failed to take any steps to repair the break or even to respond to our communications, and we parted ways with them after more than 20 years of increasingly spotty service.

During the last winter a severe storm had broken many tree limbs across the front lawn, and some of them had damaged three of the four outside lamps. Remarkably, the street level lamp was untouched. We were able to replace or repair the three damaged lamps, while we tried to decide whether to hire an electrician to restore the connection to the fourth or undertake on our own to join the ends of the previously severed wires, now separated by a gap of about six inches.

Ultimately, the desire to do it ourselves won out, and, after a few false starts, I consulted a helpful Home Depot employee and purchased: some wire connectors, a length of three-wire underground cabling, and a roll of tape, all guaranteed to be water-proof and suitable for connections destined to remain underground, and I set to work. Stripping the wires and making the splice at each end of the break wasn’t as easy in the event as it seems in the retelling, but at last the repair was completed and the segment of spliced wire was wrapped in a plastic bag and tied at each end. My wife (the gardener) dug a short trench about four inches deep and we buried the newly spliced cable to the level of the connecting segments. With some trepidation, we threw the switch and were rewarded with four brightly shining lamps. Success!

As it happens, we rarely use the outside lights, so it was months before we felt the need to turn them on again. Imagine our chagrin when the street-level lamp refused to come on. Must be a blown light bulb, right? So I duly removed the top of the fixture, reached in and unscrewed the light bulb. I had brought along a Simpson meter to check for continuity, and found that the bulb was fine. Just in case, I replaced it with a new bulb and again threw the switch. The lamp remained dark. So all that effort to make the splice waterproof had been in vain. Ground water must have found its way into the joint and created an open circuit. To make matters worse, I hadn’t thought to mark or take note of the spot where we had spliced the severed wires, so we would have to dig around quite a bit to relocate it. Ugh. Not worth the effort. We would live with three lamps and give up on the fourth, at least for now.

So…when on Christmas evening my wife walked down to collect the mail, she was surprised–amazed, really–to see that all of the lamps were on.

I was equally amazed. As a former physicist, I felt sure there must be a scientific explanation, but perhaps there was another, more intriguing answer. Perhaps it was our own version of the miracle of the Hanukkah lights, where one night’s oil miraculously lasted for eight nights. After all, Christmas night was also the third night of the eight-night Hanukkah festival. Or perhaps it was the distant jingle of sleigh bells that my wife thought she had heard, but had initially discounted as the product of an overactive imagination. Indeed, as she opened the door to the house I too could have sworn I heard a faint but distinct “ho-ho-ho” off in the distance.

Not quite believing in the miracle of the lamp, whatever the explanation, I again threw the switch on the day after Christmas. Again, all four lamps were illuminated. In the spirit of true scientific inquiry, I determined to run this test each night until the day after Hanukkah. I told myself that if the lamp was lit on each day of the festival and again on day 9, there must indeed be a scientific explanation; but if the lamp was lit only on the eight days of the festival and returned to darkness on day 9 and thereafter, the miracle would be confirmed.

I felt duty bound to write to my brother to tell him about the mystery of the last driveway lamp and the alternate explanations I was considering. On day 8 of the Hanukkah festival he wrote back to say that, as he and his wife were driving off, he had noticed that the street-level lamp was dark, so he stopped the car, got out, and kicked the lamp post, whereupon the light came on.

I didn’t bother to run any further tests.

BOLLI member and SGL Phil Radoff

Phil Radoff is an ex-physicist, retired lawyer, and longtime BOLLI member and SGL. For many years, he has led opera courses and has been a frequent lunchtime speaker on the operas of Mozart, Verdi, and others. Phil has also written several one-act comedies and published a short-story collection (Butterflies…and other stories).  His stories have appeared in the BOLLI Journal and in other periodicals.

 

 

 

THE CHEF’S CORNER WITH JOAN THORMANN: PLUM CAKE

PLUM CAKE (Zwetschgen Kuchen)

 from Joan Thormann

This is a special kuchen since it can only be made in late summer and autumn when Italian or prune plums are available.  It is also a beautiful cake, which always brings “ooohs” and “ahhhs” when served to someone who hasn’t seen it before or even those who had it the previous year.

When I  visited the Boston area German refugees  in the plum season, I  would be greeted with coffee and some variety of plum kuchen. This is the variety  that my mother made, and I think her recipe  is the best.

Murbe Teig Pie Crust for 2 round pies (8 or 9″ round)  or one 9″ x 13″ rectangle

4 oz butter (one stick)

4 oz sugar (½ cup)   ½

8 oz flour (1 ½ cup)

1 egg

12 to 14 medium sized prune plums for each pie dish

1 to 1½ tsp tapioca

Mix the crust ingredients together to form a ball, and put it in the refrigerator while preparing the plums.  This makes two pie crusts or one large pyrex dish of cookie sheet crust.

Cut one side of each plum along the seam line and remove the pit, keeping the two halves together.  Make two slices in each half of the plum, from the top to about half way down.

When finished slicing the plums, take the dough out of the refrigerator and cut it in half.  Butter the pie plate or spring form very well.  Flatten the dough out and then place in the pie plate.  With the heel of your hand and fingers spread the dough into the pie plate.  Poke dough with fork a few times.  Bake the dough for about 10-12 minutes at 350°.

Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with minute tapioca (about 1- to 1½  tsp), to absorb the plum juices.  Place the plums skin side down in the crust starting at the outer edges and filling the crust in circles.  Bake for about 15 minutes at 400° and then another 30 to 45 minutes at 350°.  The pie is done when the plum juices flow. It sometimes takes over an hour.

When you take the cake out of the oven, you may want to sprinkle it with sugar if the plums are not very sweet.  My mother always did, regardless of sweetness.  I like the tartness of the plums, so I never sprinkle it with sugar.  Try it both ways.

BOLLI member Joan Thormann
During her last five years teaching at Lesley before retiring, Joan ended up teaching teachers to teach online–by teaching them online.  If you know people who need help in this area, she shamelessly asks you to let them know they can find her book on Amazon. 
When Joan isn’t occupied with life maintenance, she paints watercolors, makes quilt tops, and listens to audiobooks. Two years ago, she started taking classes at BOLLI and enjoys learning from the SGLs and classmates.

PANDEMIC PROSE: HOME ON THE STRANGE

HOME ON THE STRANGE

by Barbara L. Jordan © 2020

Home is the yellow and turquoise 13-foot paddleboard that takes you gliding some summer mornings  in coastal Maine. Over fish, maybe even sharks, around Sow and Pigs Island, past the neighbors waving lazily from their deck chairs.

Right palm on the paddle’s handle, pushing downward as it moves you forward in upright bent-kneed posture, you are a black nylon wetsuit-clad figure below a wide-brimmed white hat protecting you from the cancer ray sun.

You are not at the gym in a mask.

Socially distanced from all sentient beings, it is not possible in this hour to spread or absorb one deadly viral particle unless there’s something you don’t yet understand about this disease.

And then Summer turns to Fall.

Your house is sort of a home, until you let in the servicemen whose face masks slip below noses or you deposit mail on the foyer bench to disinfect.

What used to be a casual run to the market for dinner ingredients is now a carefully planned “trick or treat” with personal protective gear and a “who’s behind that face costume?” guessing game.  Maybe you’ll recognize the hair, the eyeglasses, or bag and then struggle to communicate without sounding desperate and as tired as you are of all this.

Out out, damned virus. Go back home. Just don’t take up residence in my home, the body I felt at home in once, in late February but not so much in March and beyond.

In this land of the free, you on the Other Side are free to bare your face and spit at me, and do so every day, fearlessly, while I plan my exit strategy should the end come in November. Home of the brave no more, home to ever more raging cowards.

God Bless the few remaining spaces on water and land that aren’t yet destroyed by fire, rain, wind, and the demon leader with homely hair and the wife flaunting that she “really doesn’t care.”

There are no monsters, this is not yet Halloween. But there are more than 200,000 dead here in God Bless America, our home sweet home.

But we can’t kid ourselves.  Home is not safe anymore.

BOLLI member and writer Barbara (“Babs”) Jordan

Barbara is the founder of “Heavy Hitters Music,” an Emmy Award-winning publishing company which provides independent songwriting talent to the film, television and advertising industries. She is the author of “Songwriters Playground: Innovative Exercises in Creative Songwriting” and has taught songwriting and lyric writing at the Berklee College of Music and in workshops across the country. Her songs have graced the soundtracks of hundreds of television shows and feature films, including such productions as “The Sopranos,” “N.C.I.S.,” “Analyze This,” and “Being John Malkovich.”

HELPFUL HINTS FROM JOHN RUDY: Prescriptions

Prescriptions at a Good Price and with Added Safety

from John Rudy

About 2 years ago, I learned of a company called GoodRx.  It had been recommended to me by a Raytheon HR Director, so I assumed it was legitimate–and it is! Through GoodRx (and a prescription from my doctor), I was able to order medication bypassing my insurance company.  For one of my meds, Crestor, the price was about half of what CVS charged even with my insurance plan.  So far, I’ve saved over $200.

Recently, I heard about another company that does a similar thing: you put in your medication, your location, quantity, and dosage into their web page, and it tells you the least expensive places to buy it.  I was able to better my GoodRx price by about 30% and improve two other medications (where GoodRx wasn’t helpful) by about 30% below the insurance cost.

See https://www.americaspharmacy.com/medication

Through this site, you can print out a DISCOUNT DRUG COUPON which you take to the pharmacy.  For my three medications, the lowest cost in my area, tied with a few other places, was at my local Stop and Shop.  Given the high cost of many medications, it seems smart to look around for multiple options.

I recently received an email from Bruce Nogueira.  Many of you will remember him as an MSD HR manager and also as an ARR Board member.  One of the things he mentioned was that, occasionally, a pharmacy gives you the incorrect dosage of the med.  This can be due to either a doctor or a pharmacy error.  In either case, the wrong dosage could, of course, cause major problems.  I maintain a spread sheet with the correct values, and I always check when I receive a refill.  The worst case, and the one Bruce pointed out, was where the shape/size of the pill in the bottle was unfamiliar to him; luckily,  he  checked it out.  It was 10 times the correct dosage though the bottle was marked with the correct value!  Bruce then told us of a site to identify pills.

It is called https://www.drugs.com/imprints.php   Here is what the home page looks like:

The site offers additional services as well.

Be healthy and safe!

BOLLI Matters columnist and contributor John Rudy

In addition to his regular “BOLLI Matters” recipe offerings, John provides tech help and shares his findings when it comes to medical equipment and prescriptions.  Thanks, John!