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.”

WHAT’S YOUR STORY? GOLF, OF COURSE

A recent Writers Guild prompt brought this bit of memoir from Steve Goldfinger–for the inveterate duffers in out midst.

Breaking the Ice:  Aye, There’s the Rib!

by Steve Goldfinger

After my early days of hacking around scrubby Dyker Beach, Brooklyn’s only public golf course, I found myself playing The Country Club in Brookline from time to time. Yes THE Country Club, sanctuary of Boston Brahmans plus a handful of their chosen. Its name said it all.

My friend Tom, a fellow academic and ardent golfer, was one of their chosen. A few times a year, he would ask me to join him for 18 holes at this preserve available to but three hundred or so, a far cry from Dyker Beach’s availability to three million.

This time, it was for only nine holes. It was mid-January and the temperature had warmed up to 35 degrees, toasty enough for golf freaks who hadn’t teed up a ball for two months. The Country Club contained an extra nine holes that were kept open year round for such freaks.

Tom brought along his son Jeff, now 15, who was getting interested in the game. I had played with Jeff before, liked him, and was glad he was with us.

The air was brisk and the round uneventful, until we reached the seventh hole. Jeff’s drive put him about 150 yards from the green. I saw him pull a 4 iron out of his bag for his second shot.

“Use 6 iron,” I said. “You’ve grown a lot, and a 4 iron is much too much club.”

But 15 year-olds often have minds of their own.  He stuck with the 4 iron, hit it cleanly, and watched it soar well over the green.

“Now, drop another ball,” I said, “and try a 6 iron.”

He did and hit the ball the perfect distance….but it veered off to the left and rolled onto a frozen pond. When we arrived at the pond’s edge, we saw the ball sitting there, ten feet away. Just sitting atop the glistening ice, waiting to be fetched.  And feeling guilty that it was I who had consigned this $1.25 ball to such a fate, it was I who decided that I should be the fetcher.

I had gone two steps onto the ice when the inevitable crack came, and I crashed, sideways.   I managed to stand up, the water above my waist.  So cold I couldn’t utter a word.  Tom and Jeff ran over to fish me out by extending an 8 iron for me to pull on.  I noticed bleeding from my wrist where it had been scraped by ice as I fell through. Even then, I could barely say a word.

I was the shivering wretch of the three, though, insisting we go to the next tee to complete the round. I had just read The Right Stuff, and this was going to be my John Glenn moment. Tom and Jeff were still laughing as I teed up my ball.  Then, when I tried to swing my driver, I was nearly felled by a horrifically painful crunch in my left rib cage. The technical name is crepitus, and it denoted a rib fracture. I tried to swing again but could use only my wrists to wave at the ball.

They escorted me back to the club house, bleeding wrist, broken rib, freezing torso, numb legs, sunken spirit.

I later asked Tom to petition the club’s Governing Council to post a sign alongside the pond on the seventh hole, to read:  “Here Goldfinger couldn’t walk on water.”

BOLLI Matters contributing writer Steve Goldfinger

Since joining BOLLI about two years ago, Steve has been writing.  He’s taken  memoir courses with Marjorie Roemer and worked on fiction with Betsy Campbell.  In addition, he’s stretched his creative muscles into the world of acting as an intrepid CAST player.

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 . 

LINES FROM LYDIA: PHOTOGRAPHY–IN THE FAMILY AND BEYOND

This term, I took Mitch Fischman’s five-week class on photography, a course I found to be  full of both fun and knowledge!  Photography seems to be a family affair for the Fischmans.  His daughter Andrea is a professional photographer who has come to visit Mitch’s class in the past.  This time, though, Mitch introduced us to Liz Linder, one of  Andrea’s mentors.   I asked BOLLI friend and SGL Mitch about his guest photographers.

“Our guest photographer, Liz Linder (above right), employed my      daughter Andrea Feldman (above left), when she was starting her career as a freelance photographer over a decade ago. Liz’s studio in Brookline Village was a perfect place for Andrea to develop her photography and studio skills and to learn what it’s like to run a photography business. After Andrea graduated from Skidmore, she started doing freelance work in the Albany-Saratoga Springs area. While on assignment during her post-year after Skidmore, she photographed a group of Bangladeshi immigrants working in a factory in New York’s Hudson River Valley, profiling their poor living conditions. Andrea also established the beginnings of her wedding business while assisting Liz, and, later, other photographers in New York City. Both Liz and Andrea are premier photographers.

Andrea lives in Long Island City, New York and her photo business is in New York City.  Photographs by both Andrea and Liz were shown and appreciated by the class. Andrea loves taking photos of  people on subway cars, a favorite of many of the photographers examined like Walker Evans shown in “Photographers and Photographs That Have Changed How We See the World.”  

While interning in Prague, Andrea initially developed her subway skill in a photo spread published in the Prague Post entitled “Eyes Wide Shut,” illustrating what Andrea referred to as the “Prague Stare” she saw while photographing people on the Prague Metro from her concealed camera. She told me that, when subway travelers saw she was photographing them and started to look angry, she would get off at the next stop.”

Andrea Feldman, Subway Couple

Since graduating from Haverford College and studying at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and the International Center of Photography, Liz Linder has demonstrated her technical skills and a documentary style that captures the unique personality of her clients and her perpetual sense of fun. Liz loves the view from her camera, and her imaginative technique is honest and energized.

Alongside her portrait and decisive moment-based commercial work, Liz is currently collaborating with another long-term friend and colleague, RIch Griswold, on a form of documentary photography from a personal angle.  (Above, her “Shadow One” and “Shadow Two” images.)

Prior to social media apps, Liz and Rich developed a shorthand way of communicating using pictures instead of words, a game aptly called www.wetalkinpictures.com.  On the site, image exchanges touch on how disparate and similar things relate: these two have been friends since the 20th Century, when phones were tied to the wall.

Today, technology is re-writing the way we interact; just a decade ago, people used their phones to ask “how are you?” Now, the question is “where are you?” Most of us take pictures with something called a “phone,” and, as artists, we find ourselves exploring the expressive potential in the message of a photograph. What can we say in an image when it is served as a text message? What gets communicated? There are efficiencies, quandaries, and room for poetic license. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

The challenge from Liz to communicate in pictures should be easy for us New Englanders. We can send snow pictures to our retired friends in the south and  receive enticing beach and boating photos in return!  

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!

INNER VISIONS: FROM BEVERLY BERNSON’S COLLECTION OF “OUTSIDER ART”

INNER VISIONS: SELECTIONS FROM THE COLLECTION OF BEVERLY STEARNS BERSON
Davidow Gallery at  Colby-Sawyer College
New London, NH
October 13 – December 10
Are you an art enthusiast looking for a good day trip?  Try heading for New London, NH to see “Inner Visions.”
The new Bill and Sonja Carlson Davidow ’56 Art Gallery at Colby-Sawyer College features  its  inaugural exhibition: Inner Visions: Selections from the Collection of Beverly Stearns Bernson ’55. This is a wonderful collection of Outsider Art featuring paintings, drawings and sculpture from every major figure in this special genre. The exhibition will run until December 10 and will be open from 9-5 during the week and from 12-5 Saturday and Sunday except during school holidays.   Help celebrate the college’s stunning new building and gallery by taking a trip to see this exhibition featuring works from BOLLI member Beverly’s extensive collection!
For more information, click here to access the exhibition’s website: http://colby-sawyer.edu/stories/inner-visions.

VOLUNTEERING MATTERS: Meeting Cheryl

MEETING CHERYL

by Lydia Bogar

Religion or rumor? Is it true that you meet people for a reason, a season, or a lifetime? For me, the best of the best is the surprise meeting, connecting with someone you never would have met in any other place at any other time.

Is that meeting spiritual or emotional? To share. To grow. To learn.

Does that person meet your unspoken need, or do you meet theirs?  Maybe it’s both.  Either way, it can be powerful.

Last Saturday, I was a volunteer at the WGBH Food and Wine Festival where I anticipated being a helper and nothing more–well, except maybe a chance to indulge in a little taste of something yummy.  I was pleased to be at this event in Brighton where the décor was beautiful, the fall evening was mild with a slight breeze, and music was in the air.

I was assigned to be a greeter, providing guests with wine glasses and programs.  About an hour into my shift, late in the afternoon, I met Cheryl.  She was a lady of color about 50 years old, not very tall, casually dressed, and a graduate student at Northeastern.

Everywhere, there were pleasant, welcoming smiles. I cannot honestly say why Cheryl’s smile stood out in the crowd, but her thanks for the program was sincere and from the heart, not automatic like so many others. Sometimes volunteers at large events like this are treated like beige wallpaper, so I was certainly happy to be acknowledged.  I was even happier to be given the opportunity to accompany her into the tent.

As we walked through the tent, Cheryl shared her very personal responses to the aromas and tastes of the food and drink inside the big tent. I stood silently by her and absorbed her nuanced vocabulary.  I wondered if she was a professional chef. The fabulous green beans that I heard about from others as the night wore on. The ice cream, something flash-frozen and beyond delicious. A unique taste of lamb.  Some wonderful artisan chocolate. And gin, a surprise addition to the beverages that were usually limited to wine and beer.

When I returned to my post near the gate and picked up a program that described the tent’s offerings, I found that Cheryl’s descriptions were more interesting, detailed, and profound than what had been provided in the glossy script.  Thinking back to our chat, I started craving green beans.

The happiness in her voice told me that her experience had been totally worth the price of admission; whatever her needs were that day, they had been met. She was tapping her toes to the jazz quartet’s music and starting up new conversations when I saw her an hour later.  Had talking to me added to her experience?  She said it did; in fact, she said it twice.

Meeting Cheryl was a privilege. I was happy that our conversation felt so personal, and not simply like an event guest communicating with a “host face.” There was little time or opportunity for me to actually taste the food inside the big tent, and of course, no wine; I was on duty.  But her vibrant descriptions had provided a vicarious thrill.  Even more important, though, she brought me peace and a smile, both appreciated and reciprocated.

I enjoyed her joy, which was bountiful.

As I walked with her toward the exit ramp, I wished her luck with her final semester and her upcoming job hunt. The gap in our ages showed. I am grateful that, in my retirement, I never have to go on another job interview or read the postings of jobs at my pay grade (or to even be reminded, by some, of my paygrade).

I silently wish her strength and courage, even though she obviously has both. Being in the moment – her moment – was a bonus.

Cheryl is blind, and she enabled me to see.

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!

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)

DAVID GREENFIELD’S PHOTOJOURNALISM AT WORK

TELLING THE STORY–IN IMAGERY

For forty years, David Greenfield maintained a full time periodontal practice and teaching appointment at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine.  Now in the encore phase of his career, with clinical and academic periodontics no longer playing a role in daily life, he channels most of his energy into photography. His latest venture is a photo-blog, home for selected new images and accompanying narratives.
When film was the light-sensitive media of choice, David’s work was primarily black and white. With images now recorded digitally, his portfolio has expanded and is replete with color.  During the film era, his greatest photographic joy was experienced shooting with a vintage Leica III, circa 1950, formerly used by his father.  In 1996, David published Journey to Poland: A Family Mission which chronicled his investigative trip to research the experience of his parents during the war in Europe 70 years ago. That project ignited his interest in photojournalism and in ‘telling the story’ with imagery.
     ‘There is a crack in everything 
That’s how the light gets in’
The lyrics from Leonard Cohen’s Anthem  include his vision of a world in need of repair.  In these lines, however, he notes that light streaming through the cracks can show the way.
Cohen was surely not thinking about photography when he composed those lyrics, but who better than a photographer to capture the light streaming through the cracks and process it into imagery to inspire the repair process?  My photography has that objective when working with not-for-profits that want to ‘tell their story’ and promote their missions using imagery.
Be sure to click on both of the following links to get to David’s photo gallery and blog, both of which are stunning.  (Both are listed as well on our list of “BOLLI Bloggers” which can be reached from the BOLLI Matters home page.
FOTO VISIONS
https://fotovisions.smugmug.com/
http://davidsfotovisions.blogspot.com/

 

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.)

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