One might think that, as an IT professional for 45 years, I would know a lot about fixing computers. But I was a manager and not close to day-to-day machine operation. And even if I had known about making repairs then, technology changes rapidly. It involves constant relearning. So that, friends, gets me to the topic for today’s discussion.
When I purchased my last computer a little over three years ago, I was faced with having to transport a huge amount of material (files, emails, etc.) from my old machine to my new one. Further, I knew that many of the pieces of software I owned were not up-to-date and that some would not run on the Windows 8 system that I was buying. I purchased my computer from Best Buy and decided to purchase their Geek Squad policy and their conversion assistance. It was an excellent decision.
They took my old computer, made a list of all of my software, and shared it with me so I could tell them what no longer wanted. Then, they ported over what they could. My version of Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) would not run on the new machine, so I bought the upgrade. It really made my life easy.
But Part 2 is really the important part. During the first month, I kept running into subtle little issues. The way that Word and Excel operated, for example, was not the same as it had been with my previous environment. I called the Geek Squad, and they helped me through every problem. When it was time to go to Windows 10, I had them do it. I’m sure I could have done it myself, but I decided to avoid any potential hassle. Yesterday, my Windows Live Mail (through Comcast) stopped working. I tried everything I could think of—to no avail. I called the Geek Squad, and they fixed it. It turned out that Comcast had changed port numbers, and even when I called the company, they gave me the wrong information. The Geek Squad, though, had the correct data. The guy I was dealing with was in the Philippines, but his English was excellent. After gaining some basic information, they (with your permission) gain access to your machine and do a full scan. Subsequently, the agent used his access to my machine to work out and solve my issue. I slept better last night.
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 .
Congratulations to Suzanne on the publication of her book!
Suzanne says that “the memoir is about the ups and downs of the creative process, its challenges and joys, its successes and failures. It also includes over 100 color images in color of my paintings, prints and drawings.”
Suzanne was the subject of one of our first BOLLI Matters member profiles. Just type her name into the blog’s “search box” to bring it up so that you can read more about her and her work. In addition, she has a beautiful website you can access in order to see many of her paintings. Go to: suzannehodes.com (or just click on the picture above).
The book is available at Blurb.com (less expensive) and at Amazon.
My dad knew nothing about baseball. He was born in Nürnberg, Germany where boys played soccer. Dad dropped out of high school during the Depression and came to America for work. Mom was also from Nürnberg, but she emigrated later, to escape Hitler. Coming from the same hometown and sharing some mutual friends, my folks met in New York City. They married, and after my dad returned from World War II, my sister and I were born.
As immigrants, my folks were grateful to the United States for giving them second chances in life, and they tried hard to be good Americans. Even though German was their first language, they spoke English at home. Also, Dad tried to take an interest in America’s favorite pastime–baseball.
We lived in a suburb of New York City which, during the post-war era, was absolutely mad for baseball. So Dad took us to Yankee Stadium and to the Polo Grounds even though he didn’t understand what was happening on the field. He even bought a baseball glove so he could play catch with me. He was terrible at it, but he did it anyway.
My neighborhood was bursting with Baby Boomers who rooted passionately for the Dodgers, the Giants, or the Yankees. The Yankees were my team, and Mickey Mantle was my hero. From around the age of six, my friends and I gathered in the local park and played ball every chance we could.
When I was ten, I joined Little League and, in a couple of years, was the starting shortstop for Cutler’s Pharmacy. At thirteen, my friends and I switched to softball, and that became our passion. I played intramural softball through junior and senior high school as well as during my four years at Brandeis. After graduating from college, I played in leagues for the next forty years–as an infielder and a pitcher. I played for the Harvard Coop in Cambridge and then for the Boston Children’s Museum. But my main team was Silva Brothers Construction in the Reading Men’s Softball League.
Tom Silva, the contractor on “This Old House,” sponsored our team of Reading neighbors. For seventeen years, during my forties and fifties, I was the Silva Brothers’ third baseman. Sometimes we came in last place, sometimes in first, and usually, somewhere in between. But win or lose, we had a great time playing ball and hanging out together.
As I grew older, my knees got worse and worse. I could still get down to field a ground ball, but it became harder and harder to stand up again to make the throw to first base. Eventually, I stopped playing in a competitive league. I joined the ADD Inc team in the rather casual Boston Architectural B-League. I was the team’s pitcher, manager, and sports reporter until I hung up my cleats for good at age 60. I had entered the Teaneck Little League in 1958 and retired from the Architectural League in 2008, fifty years later.
I still get together with a few of my Silva Brother buddies on Sunday mornings. Sometimes it’s just for coffee. However, when the weather is good, we head down to the local park afterwards. We don’t play softball anymore, but when the nets are up, we stagger around the tennis court for an hour or two, playing a doubles match for what we call “the championship of the world.”
* * * *
I spent most of my working career as a bookseller, for many years owning my own bookstore. After closing the store, I went to work as an archivist for an architecture firm. I retired from that job at the end of August, 2008. Two weeks later, I began taking classes at BOLLI. My first class was “Why Sing Plays?” led by Art Finstein which included a study of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.” My daughter had once played “Little Red” in Sondheim’s musical, so for me, Art’s class was a perfect introduction to BOLLI.
At BOLLI, I’ve been on lots of committees and task forces and such. My favorite BOLLI activities (outside of taking classes and attending lectures) have included working on The Banner and participating in the Sages & Seekers program.
The Story of a Marriage was the BOLLI Book Group selection for April. We had a spirited discussion that covered a lot of ground, as does this short, absorbing novel.
The Story of a Marriage is an affecting novel that is so good on so many levels that Andrew Sean Greer — author of the wonderful The Confessions of Max Tivoli — can be forgiven some quibbles. What he gets right: 1) the evocation of the fog-bound Sunset District in San Francisco in 1953 as the young families of war veterans are putting down roots in the burgeoning middle-class neighborhood; 2) the way the fear and repression of the times — war, McCarthyism, sex, race — are reflected in peoples’ lives and especially in their marriages, the suffocating submersion of everything that isn’t “mild and good”; 3) the way “we think we know the ones we love” but one day find ourselves sleeping next to a stranger; 4) the beautiful sentences and turns of phrase.
The quibbles: Neither the plot nor the protagonist’s voice are fully plausible; the “delayed reveal” of important plot points feels manipulative; and there’s some overwriting going on.
This is nothing more or less than the story of a marriage — one marriage, of a young couple who had been teen-age sweethearts in rural Kentucky and stumble upon each other on a beach in San Francisco, having each landed there after the war. It’s a well-worn dictum that there are only two plots in fiction: someone goes on a journey and a stranger comes to town. This novel is a quintessential example of the latter as a handsome, blond stranger knocks on Pearlie Cook’s door, upends everything she thought she knew about her husband and their marriage, and sets the story in motion.
There is not much more that can be said without giving away too much. Whether you find them annoying or pleasurable, unexpected twists and secrets are at the heart of this short novel and you can’t help but be borne along on the beautiful language and by wanting to know what happens. An extremely satisfying read.
THE NORTH WATER
by Ian McGuire, 2016
I can breathe now. Clean, warm, fresh air wafting in the window. There’s not much breathing to be done while reading The North Water – one of The New York Times ten best books of 2016 – both because of nonstop action and because of the overwhelmingly fetid atmosphere that pervades this brutal and brilliant novel. Seafaring saga, wilderness survival adventure, suspense story, morality tale, and more blood and guts (literally) than you can imagine in under 300 pages.
As a 19th-century whaling ship heads north to Greenland for reasons not limited to whaling, mortal danger — and not just from the elements — is the constant companion of the miscreants and misfits passing for a crew. The brutality in the novel is shocking and relentless but never gratuitous. And unlike in most historical fiction, there’s no scene-setting distraction, no digressions to describe, say, the state of the whaling industry or the ways of the Esquimaux. The only descriptive detail is the minimum needed to advance the story and our understanding of the characters. Thus the lack of a respite in which to breathe as the story careens forward.
This is not a novel for the faint of heart or, trust me, the queasy of stomach. But for pure story-telling power, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Abby is a lifelong book nut who retired from a forty-year computer software career in 2007 and ticked an item off her bucket list by going to work in a bookstore. She is a native New Yorker who moved to Boston recently to be among her people: family and Red Sox fans. She is a music lover, crossword puzzler, baseball fan, and political junkie who flunked Halloween costumes but can debug her daughter’s wifi.
This recipe came from my Grandmother Helen Rudy in about 1965. She got it from her mother or grandmother. As is usual with that generation, nothing was written down, so what is here is a tuning of the recipe based on making it–a lot. Most commercial Noodle Puddings have a higher concentration of noodles, and that certainly can be arranged, but I like it softer and creamier. Others have raisins, pineapple, and other stuff I don’t like to put in my noodle pudding, but there is no problem adding other ingredients unless they either absorb a lot of moisture or generate a lot of moisture. If that is the case, moderate the milk to get the consistency you like. This recipe makes 8-10 portions in a 9” x 13” pan (117 sq in). A half recipe goes into an 8”x8” pan. With two of us, the half size works just fine.
9×13 pan8×8 pan
1 lb ½ lb Cottage Cheese (standard size container)
8 oz 4 oz Cream Cheese, softened
4 2 Eggs, Jumbo (adjust if using a smaller sized egg)
½ pint ½ cup Sour Cream
1¼ cup ⅝ cup Milk (note that 1/8th cup is 2 tablespoons)
2½ Tbs 1¼ Sugar
8 oz 4oz Broad Noodles. (Note: Some bags are 12oz, others are 16oz)
2 Tbs 1 Tbs Butter
½ cup ¼ cup Cornflake crumbs (just pour from box till it is enough)
shakes shakes Cinnamon-Sugar
Except for when there will be a crowd, make ½ of this recipe
Certain recipes require accurate measuring. A noodle pudding does not. And you might as well play with the ingredients to tune it to your taste.
Cook the noodles for 6-7 minutes, drain, and cool in water. Don’t make them too soft as they will continue to cook as you bake the pudding.
Beat the Cream Cheese, then add the eggs, Sour Cream, Cottage Cheese, and Sugar. If you use “lite” sour cream or cottage cheese it will affect the taste. Only you will know if you care.
Slowly beat in the milk and then stir in the well drained noodles. It will be very liquid at this point but will thicken during cooking.
Heat the oven to 350°
Melt the butter in a Pyrex pan and make sure that the sides are also buttered. The amount of butter is approximate. Place the pan onto an edged cookie tray (to collect leakage). Pour in the pudding material. This can, in fact, be done hours before the cooking.
Sprinkle the top liberally but not thick with Cornflake crumbs, and then sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.
Bake, uncovered, ~33 minutes until it browns on the top and it is reasonably solidified. It will not harden in the pan while hot. If covered it will boil, not bake. The smaller pan will take 28 minutes.
The pudding can be prepared a day before cooking.
The pudding reheats well in the microwave.
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.)
A few months ago, my 11-year-old grandson Ben and I were in the kitchen. He was sitting at the table, patiently waiting for lunch. I was preparing to serve him the world’s greatest grilled cheese sandwich ever.
Out of the blue he looked up and said, “Nana, I hope you live a long time.”
“I hope so too,” I said, moved. I thought all he was interested in was his X-box, play station, texting, and winning at Monopoly.
At the time, I was 80. Now, I’m 81. I’ve already lived a long time. I don’t know what living a long time means to an 11-year-old. I didn’t probe or ask questions, but I’ve been thinking about this question off and on since then.
So what does living a long life mean to me? Is it the fullness of years or just another number to strive for? So I’m 81. Will I reach 82 and, if so, what difference will it make? What difference will I make? Is being here enough? Or am I just existing? Does my continued existence matter? Of course, my family and friends would say yes. And I say yes too!
But is my yes important? Will I live to see my oldest grandchild—and also my youngest grandchild who is 7—graduate 6th grade, 8th grade, high school, college. Will I see them have careers, get married, make me a great-grandmother? Unlikely. Very unlikely. Impossible. Do the math!
For me, it’s important to not only live well into a “ripe old age” but also to live a meaningful old age. Yet, a very wise person once said to me that all God wants us to do is to “be.” I ask myself, “How can I ‘be’ as I do?” A conundrum that gets me into, may I say the word, spiritual stuff.
Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be. Really?
So, how about a conversation?
Years ago, when we were in our 40’s, my husband and I bought a sundial with the saying “grow old along with me–the best is yet to be.” I’m not sure whether or not I believed it then, and I’m wondering whether I believe it now. Stay tuned!
I really don’t know how Lisa Scottoline keeps writing one excellent mystery after another, but she does. Her latest had me completely fooled until the author revealed the secret she’d kept for more than a third of the book.
One Perfect Lie opens with Chris Brennan interviewing for a position at the high school in Central Valley, Pennsylvania. He’s made it his business to know exactly the type of substitute teacher the school administration wants, and he presents himself accordingly. He’s observed the male high school staff and is dressed the way they are in what might be termed “school casual;” he’s even had his hair cut locally so that nothing about him will stand out or seem unusual.
His resumé is perfect, and the reasons he gives for the many moves he’s made in his life ring true. It also helps that the school needs a substitute Government teacher at once, as the regular teacher left suddenly due to a family emergency. Chris gives the principal, the only member of the school’s administration he hasn’t met previously, all the answers she wants and needs to hear, and so, he gets the job. Then he thinks to himself, “It was time to set (the) plan in motion, commencing with step one.”
Step one is finding out about renting a truck from a local man who’s not too fussy about legalities. The man assumes the vehicle is needed for a move, but Chris knows that the available twelve footer is the perfect size for transporting an ANFO bomb, an explosive with ingredients that are easy and safe to assemble.
During his first class Chris sets out to win over all the students, especially the boys. He’s already deciding who the leaders and who the followers are, and he’s narrowed down the ones he’s interested in to just a handful. He plans to cull the handful even more until he finds the perfect boy. Between his teaching assignment and agreeing to be the assistant coach of the school’s baseball team, he expects to find just the right one; he’s in a hurry because the bombing is only six days away.
Lisa Scottoline is a master storyteller. She brings to life the three teenagers in whom Chris shows the most interest. There’s Evan Kostis, the handsome, smart student from a wealthy but unhappy family; there’s Raz Samatov, bereft over the recent death of his father; there’s Jordan Larkin, whose single mother is guilty over how much time she needs to work in order to provide for the two of them. So what exactly does Chris want from the boy he decides to choose?
All of these characters, and many more equally well done and believable, inhabit the pages of One Perfect Lie. Ms. Scottoline has written one more thriller that will keep you guessing until the end.
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!
Kittery. Kittery Maine is a beach town, rocky and cold but very peaceful. With lobsters, lots of lots of L-O-B-S-T-A-S . It is also a destination for those in need of retail therapy in the form of outlet store bargains. Lots of B-AH-G-U-N-S.
Bargain shopping is in my blood. You see, I grew up in Worcester—where we had Spag’s. Founded in 1934 by Anthony “Spag” Borgatti, it was the most wonderful store. At Spag’s, “where cash buys more,” you could by a can of paint, a wrench, or a 5-lb. jar of peanut butter. You could visit with friends and neighbors who were buying everything from grass seed to work gloves to vacuum cleaner bags—with no plastic. In fact, at Spag’s, there were no bags or shopping carts. You put your stuff in your own bags or in empty cardboard boxes found around the store. And every part of the store had its own smells. Bread. Shoe leather. Fertilizer. But always the fragrance of paper dust and just-cut cardboard. Spag’s may have closed a dozen years ago, but the retail lessons learned there will never fade. For me, the name of the game was—and still is—“the best deal for the best price.” We learned that from our parents and from Spag himself before the missiles were photographed in Cuba. And then, we taught our children “Spag’s Mentality.”
So, for me, when Kittery became an outlet store mecca, the leap from Spag’s to Maine was not a painful one. At Spag’s, Wrangler jeans, piled by size on shelves, had cost less than $10 a pair. Now, the Lee Outlet in Kittery offers a dozen different colors and cuts for prices ranging from $39 to $100, a definite bargain in today’s market.
During my years as the mother-of-the-bride, treks to Kittery became marathon. The drive north on New Year’s weekend was one of the favorites. Sets of handcrafted holiday ornaments in really nice boxes made great gifts for my daughters but also served as bridal shower gifts for their friends. Serving pieces from Lenox China likewise. Pyrex casseroles and OXO utensils were legion.
At about that time, I turned a walk-in closet into a storage space that my girls referred to as “The Store.” With four long shelves and six feet of closet rod, it became the resting place for good bargains. Fancy candles. Blankets and throws. Mirrors and holiday items. When my mother’s health impeded traveling to stores, she would do her birthday and holiday shopping in “The Store.”
My mother and I never shopped together in Kittery, but she had taught me well during the Spag’s years. No, my most diligent shopping partner was Betty, who loved a bargain every bit as much as I did. On one trip, she managed to score one of her greatest finds ever—an entire set of dishes to match the blue walls and red ceiling border of her newly renovated kitchen. Her very favorite trip, though, was our first venture to the When Pigs Fly bakery. Talk about aroma. Forty dollars later, we returned to the car where the “coup de gras” rested in my trunk—a tray, napkins, a knife, and a pound of butter. It was the most perfect January day–the sun was shining, there was no dirty snow in the parking lot, and the temperature was hovering in the mid 50’s. We sat on the tailgate and relished the baked goods and the moment. Her freckled smile is preserved in my memory.
With the arrivals of the boys, my grandsons Brady and Henry, my addiction to cute pajamas and overalls propelled me to the Carter Outlet where I would spend $30 on tiny tee shirts and rubber pants, and then take away a free umbrella stroller. The boys have outgrown Carter’s, and their new shirts–complete with dinosaur and sport themes–now come from full-price sporting goods stores, and of course, the vendors near Fenway.
So, here are a couple of tips for shopping at the Kittery Outlets. Use your VISA card as you drive north and your MasterCard when you head south, going home, to avoid straining either one. During the month of August, avoid the crowds of frantic mothers and unhappy kids altogether. Go to the beach. Eat lobsta and whole belly clams by day, and drive home at sunset. The crazy shoppers don’t tend to hit the road until the outlets close at 9 p.m.
Shopping at other beaches? The Outer Banks? Monterey? Key West? Sure, but it’s just not the same. You can’t find lobstas or whole belly clams, and if they have coupons, I have yet to see one.
I stopped my treks to Kittery when I retired, had lost forty pounds, and was shopping in good consignment shops that could accommodate my changing sizes and tight budget. In my heart, though, Kittery shopping ended five years ago when my dear Betty died. How could those trips bring me happiness when my faithful shopping partner was no longer there to ride shotgun? She is in my heart always, as is my mother who trained me at Spag’s.
Shopping with family and friends can be a distraction during times of stress or unhappiness. From big box stores to outlets to coastal gift shops, finding the perfect item for someone special and giving it with love is key. The warm smile delivered in return is the best kind of retail therapy there is.
Former English teacher and health care professional Lydia Bogar joined BOLLI in the spring of 2016 after returning home from a stint in South Carolina where she dipped into another OLLI program.
In June of 2014, Martha saw an advertisement for BOLLI’s “Scholar for a Day” in the Newton Tab. Having recently retired, she was intrigued with the idea of taking classes and signed up for the program. When she arrived, she found herself in a current events class that she did not think she would enjoy, “but I was so impressed with the SGL who gave us a map and spoke so knowledgeably about ISIS that I even talked during the session.” She says the Lunch & Learn program that day was also excellent, and, consequently, she signed up for the 2014 fall term.
“Since then, I have enjoyed all the classes I have taken–with only one exception. And since I have taken 17 courses so far, that strikes me as a great ‘batting’ average. I enjoy listening to the SGLs and my fellow classmates—everyone has so much to offer on the many subjects. I have been especially impressed with the great selection of speakers at Lunch & Learn, and I also love the seminars during the winter and summer terms.”
In addition to her course load at BOLLI, Martha has become a “part-time” member of the Photo Club, attending some of the group’s meetings as well as their outings which she has found particularly fun to do. She has also been taking part in the Book Group. “The books chosen have broadened my reading selections, and the discussions are very interesting,” she says.
One of Martha’s interests outside BOLLI is doing cross-stitch samplers, a tradition in which, for centuries, stitchers have created pieces to demonstrate their skills and commemorate significant events. “In 1976, I wanted to make something for my first child,” she says. “I first tried crewel and then needlepoint but then realized that I liked counted cross-stitch the best. It takes concentration, but I also find it relaxing.” She has enjoyed making birth samplers for the babies in her life which she says some receive shortly after birth while others come along later. “I just recently finished a birth sampler for my great niece who lives in Pennsylvania—she’ll be four in April! And now, I am working on one for my honorary great-niece who arrived twelve days early on March 5th.”
Martha majored in chemistry in college, and after she graduated as an analytical chemist, she worked in three different arenas. After two years in the chemistry lab at Mass General, she spent eighteen years in a Boston City Hospital research lab which then moved to Beth Israel Hospital. Her last job was a twenty-two year stint at Biogen, the well-known biotech company. “Working in biotech is fascinating and very rewarding,” she says. With a note of pride, she adds that “during my time at Biogen, we had seven drugs approved by the FDA.”
Martha is married to Bob, a retired high school guidance director, and the couple have two children. Son Michael is working on his Ph.D. in public policy at UMass Boston where he concentrates on English language learners. Daughter Jennifer, who works as a corporate recruiter, is married to Watertown Chef Mike Fucci who was recently the winner on an episode of Cuttroat Kitchen on the Food Network!
Apparently, Martha Berardino’s friends have dubbed her their “Culture Meister” because of her talent for organizing trips to drama, dance, and music performances. At the moment, she recommends the play Topdog/Underdog at the Huntington Theatre, the Matisse exhibit at the MFA, and Charlotte’s Web at Wheelock Family Theatre. “Right now, I am planning a five-day trip to the Berkshires in July which will include performances at Tanglewood, Williamstown Theatre, and Jacob’s Pillow as well as art museums and, of course, good eating at area restaurants.”