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February 2020
Volume 6 Issue 2

Table of Contents

Greetings from the Editor
Movers & Shakers
Odds & Ends
Exercise, does a body good
Have I Got A Story For You
The Braille Highway
Kaleidoscope of Krafts
Spencerís Spotlight
Computer Tech101
A Time to Plant
Seeing the World Differently
Dirty Work
The Beauty Parlor
Cooking Concoctions
Riddle & Brain Buster


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If you have any trouble reading this copy you can go to Click Here it will take You to the read the current newsletter

Greetings from the Editor

By Karen Santiago

Welcome Readers,
I hope you enjoyed our first edition of 2020.
Thanks to all who completed our survey last month. If you didnít get a chance to fill it out, the link is below and you have until February 15 to submit it.

Be sure to check out our new segment titled Odds & Ends. If you have something to share, this is the section for you!

Find out who won the braille contraction contest in the Braille Highway segment.

Once again, a fully loaded newsletter to keep you informed and entertained.

Remember you can also choose to listen to our audio version of the newsletter, link below:
The Blind Perspective Audio

At A Glance: VIP, All New, Yoga, Country, Creepy, & Funny, Braillables, Basket, Eggs, Spoofing, Mulch, Museums, Bedtime, Pampering, Superbowl, Riddle & Brain Buster

Movers & Shakers

By Karen Santiago

Last month I conducted a pleasant interview with Terry Borden, the president of VIP Conduit. Please read on to learn more!

The beginning:
Back in 2005 seven individuals decided to start their own chat site. They had been members of other sites, but felt there were too many restrictions on them. And so, VIP Conduit was formed.

They chose this name for a couple of reasons. First, most people know that the acronym VIP stands for very important person, and, the blind community may know it as visually impaired person. Guest and members are all viewed as very important people, and the site serves the visually impaired. Therefore, with this duel meaning it fit, and it was appropriate.

Secondly, conduit is defined as a means of transmission. Whether chatting in the Coffee Shop, listening to music in A World of Sound, or discussing technology in the Tech Chat room, among others, there is always something being "transmitted."

The Board:
All VIP policies are posted on their website. Here you can read the guidelines for rules & conduct, and their privacy statement and disclaimer.

The board is made up of seven supporting members. Although there are no term limits, they hold elections every year. They find this format works, and they stick with it.

VIP Conduit does not hold any auctions or give aways, as they rely on their supporting members, truly making it a memberís site!

Terry stated that VIP really does not have any management problems. The site allows the host of events to manage their event as they wish. Should a problem arise, the host will usually be able to take care of it. If not, then the board would get involved. However, Terry added that he couldnít remember the last time that there was a problem.

Itís not all about VIP:
The board and its members realize that they are not the only blind chat site out there, and they do not make any attempt to limit discussions about other sites. What I mean by that, is that they freely inform each other of other sites, what events are happening on them, and how to locate them.

Although members of VIP Conduit are primarily visually impaired, anyone is welcomed to join. There are two levels of memberships; guest and supporting members. Currently, they have 375 members, with 170 of them being supporting members. A supporting member pays 20 dollars a year, or 50 dollars for three years.

Benefits to becoming a Supporting member include the following, taken from their website:

Full privileges in the VIP community including the right to have input into the site decision making process by way of regularly scheduled supporting member meetings with the management team.

Use of a group of chat rooms available only to supporting members.

1. Priority access to the Tech Support Team.
2. Use of a group of supporting member functions including:
a. The ability to create reminders for almost anything you can think of.
b. An accessible perpetual calendar.
c. A weather tracker for cities you're interested in.

VIP offers new members the ability to experience exactly what a supporting member experiences. Upon joining, each new member will receive a 30 day free trial supporting membership period.

VIP Conduit is supported solely by donations and the sale of supporting memberships.

The Site:
VIP Conduitís internet client is based on Team Talk. Barry, their webmaster, added additional features that Team Talk does not offer. VIP Conduit is a web based site which you log into, and then you can click onto one of the numerous links. I have to say, navigating VIPís website is a breeze. It is so blind friendly, and it explains everything!

VIP has many rooms with various things going on. There are music events, games, technical assistance and more. Terry says their biggest event is probably in the Center Stage room on Wednesday evenings, from 8 Ė 10 Pm, eastern time. During this event blind artist perform, whether singing or playing a musical instrument.

Although there are events on the site, it is primarily a chat site. You can literally talk with others from 7 in the morning till after midnight! Seems like this would take care of those from early risers to those suffering from insomnia.

You definitely have to check out their items of interest. The list is way too long to include in this article. However, some of the resources you will find here include products, technology, diabetes, nutrition, fitness, computers, games, and so so much more! If you are looking for something, this would be a great place to start.

Let me also inform you, if you donít know what to make for dinner, or any meal or occasion for that matter, you have to check out their cookbook! This cookbook has over 4500 recipes with nearly 100 different categories. Again, I canít list them all but here are a few that I thought were interesting; Pet Foods & Treats, Greek, Ice Cream & Frozen Treats!

Final Thoughts:
Terry says the members on the site are a close-knit group of people. They are like a second family. Should a member not be on the site for a few days, then another member will check in on them to make sure all is okay, especially those living alone.

To join:
Go to: VIP Conduit.com
, it will take you to the home page where you can click on the "join us" link. That will take you to a simple membership form to complete. Then you will receive an email once approved, which doesnít take long.

VIP Conduit invites you to join them and see what they are all about. They would be delighted to add you to their "extended family.

And, you can follow them on twitter at: VIP Conduit

Website: VIP Conduit.com

Odds & Ends


As you may have noticed, the name of this segment has changed from International Perspective to Odds & Ends. However, should anyone one to be interviewed, or submit an article about life in their country as a blind person, please feel free to contact me at my email address above.

What is this new segment all about?? Well, I think the name says it all. It was due to the response of you, the readers that I have chosen to include this segment. By the way, if you havenít completed the survey, please do so by February 15. Here is the link once again: www.TheBlindPerspective.com/2020Survey

Thank you to all who have submitted their responses, and for giving us such great suggestions. For example, my interview for the Movers & Shakers actually was suggested by a few different people. If you havenít read the article, go back to the top and read it!

This segment is similar to the Readerís Perspective, however there are a few things that people have suggested that we focus on specifically. Therefore, I have listed a few topic suggestions below. If you have experience, know how, advice, etc., then please submit your ďarticleĒ (to my email above) by February 15, for publication in the March newsletter.

Readers would like to know:

Alexa skills: Share what your favorite game, podcast, or skill is. Write up how to link contacts, set reminders, call or leave a message with someone. Anything Alexa is welcomed!
Tech: Share anyquick tech tip and/ or trick. We could always learn a new way to do something by using a key combination. For example, in just talking with a bunch of friends I told them how I create a new folder. To my surprise, most of them didnít know that way of doing it. I mistakenly assumed that everyone knew that way. So here it is, press control, shift, and the letter N, that will give you a new folder. As soon as you let up on the keys it will be in an edit field for you to name your new folder.
Personal Experiences: Share how you have overcome barriers and challenges that are not as spectacular as climbing a mountain or competing in special Olympics. How do you cope with everyday challenges like unemployment, discrimination, late life vision loss, etc.

Note: Any and all international Perspective articles will take precedence over any other articles submitted for Odds & Ends. But, donít worry because those articles will be published the next month, or at a later date.

Exercise, does a body good

By Dan Kiely

Welcome back for another edition of Exercise Does A Body Good. I have been hesitant about writing how to do a warmup for power yoga/ashtanga yoga. I was unsure if I could be descriptive enough for you to follow the warm up exercise. However, I thought I give it a try.

Power yoga or Ashtanga yoga has a great warm up exercise called the Sun Salutation. Sun Salutation can be used as a warm up before swimming, running, weight lifting, or just walking. In addition, it can be used as a cooling down exercise after your workout. Also, Sun Salutation can be used as a form of aerobic exercise.

Power yoga is all nose breathing. When inhaling, you breathe in through your nose, and when exhaling, you breathe out through your nose. If you feel like you are out of breath during the exercise, then breathe through your mouth. Power yoga is a stretching, strengthening, balancing, and a cardiovascular exercise program. Yes, it does involve yoga posturing, and it also involves doing push-ups.

Equipment: You will need a yoga mat, it is a non-skid mat.
Clothing: Loose fitting shirt, and shorts, or yoga pants. No shoes or socks are worn here, it is all done bare footed.
Breathing: It is all nose breathing, when doing a downward movement, you will be exhaling, and when doing an upward movement, you will be inhaling.
Stomach: When performing yoga, keep your stomach muscles involved throughout the yoga movements. Meaning, keep your stomach muscles slightly contracted, or tucked in.

Starting position: Stand near the top of your yoga mat, with feet together, knees slightly soft, hands at your sides, stomach slightly tucked in, head forward, and breathe in and out of your nose for a minute.

Now we are going into the top of the mountain pose. As you inhale through your nose, you will raise your hands and arms out to the sides, like an angel with wings. Then upwards, with arms straight above your head and hands together, like a prayer, and head facing up. Hold for a second while inhaling, remember to keep your stomach tucked in throughout the movement.

Now, exhale, lowering your head, hands and arms moving straight forward towards the floor. Keep stomach contracted, knees slightly bent, back flat, like you are going into a swan dive. As your hands reach the floor, they should be shoulder width apart and flat on the floor. If hands cannot be flat on the floor, then bend the knees more until hands are flat on the floor. Hold this position for a breath.

Now, still in forward bent position, raised head up and inhale. Then exhale, and either jump back, or step back into a push-up plank position. Still exhaling, lower body toward the floor. Once chest touches floor, inhale and go into upward dog posture.

Upward dog posture should look like this; feet hip width apart, top of feet placed on floor, knees soft, lower back slightly hyperextended, and chest off of floor, hands and arms shoulder width apart, neck slightly hyperextended, and head facing upward. Hold this posture for a breath. Exhale and lower body into a push-up position, with toes on floor. From the lower push-up position, you will go into a posture called downward dog.

The downward dog posture should look like this; feet hip width apart and on floor, Legs straight, knees soft, and hips and butt up in the air. Now, some people will be able to place heels on the floor, and others wonít, that is ok, do the best you can. Bend at the hips, back flat, stomach and chest off the floor, arms extended, hands placed flat on the floor and shoulder width apart, and head and neck facing forward. This posture should look like an upside-down letter v. You will hold this posture for 5 long inhale and exhale breaths.

After completing the 5 breaths, from the downward dog posture, you will inhale, and lift head into a slightly hyperextended position. Exhale, and either jump or step forward into a standing position. Then inhale and go back to starting position.

repetitions: 5 reps, 6 days a week.

Muscles Worked: In the top of mountain posture, you should feel the stretch in arms, and upper and lower back. In the standing bent over with hands on floor position, you should feel the stretch in the calves, hamstrings, lower back and upper back muscles. In the upward dog posture, you should feel the stretch in the front of your thighs, abdomen, chest, shoulders and in the front of your neck. In the downward dog posture, you should feel the stretch in the calves, hamstrings, lower back, chest, shoulders, and back of neck.

I recommend that you do the sun Salutation 6 days a week, do them slowly, mindfully, and breathe. This is not a contest, or a race, it is just a good warm up and a cool down stretching exercise. Let me know your thoughts on this article. If well liked, I will write the second part of the Sun Salutation in my next article.

Health Tip
How to survive a heart attack if alone:

Scenario: Letís say itís 6:00pm and youíre going home (alone of course) after an unusually hard day on the job. Youíre really tired, upset and frustrated. Suddenly you start experiencing severe pain in your chest that starts to drag out into your arm and up into your jaw. You are only about five miles from the hospital nearest your home. Unfortunately, you donít know if youíll be able to make it that far.

Since many people are alone when they suffer a heart attack without help, the person whose heart is beating improperly and who begins to feel faint, has only about 10 seconds left before losing consciousness.

Take the following steps:
Then, cough repeatedly and very vigorously. A deep breath should be taken before each cough, and the cough must be deep and prolonged. A breath and a cough must be repeated about every two seconds, without let-up until help arrives, or until the heart is felt to be beating normally again.
Deep breaths get oxygen into the lungs and coughing movements squeeze the heart and keep the blood circulating. The squeezing pressure on the heart also helps it regain normal rhythm. In this way, heart attack victims can get to a hospital.
Tell as many other people as possible about this. It could save their lives!!
Well, that is it for this month and remember Exercise Does A Body Good!

Have I Got A Story For You

By Carla Jo Bratton

Greetings book friends! I have been in a serious book bubble lately. I just canít read enough, not sure what it is. I might put my overflow reads on Facebook. Keep an eye out that way. Itís hard to decide which books to choose each month. If you have any recommendations, please write me at the above address and let me know. I canít read them all!

Country Music: A history
written by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan
reading time: 18 hours and 10 minutes
CELA has it in the following formats; contracted Braille, Electronic braille, DAISY Audio CD, DAISY Audio Direct to Player, DAISY Audio Zip, DAISY text Direct to player, DAISY text, Word Zip, ePub
not on RNIB yet

This deeply researched and hugely entertaining history begins where country music itself emerged: the American South, where people sang to themselves and to their families at home and in church, and where they danced to fiddle tunes on Saturday nights. With the birth of radio in the 1920s, the songs moved from small towns, mountain hollers, and the wide open West to become the music of an entire nation a diverse range of sounds and styles from honky tonk to gospel to bluegrass to rockabilly, leading up through the decades to the music's massive commercial success today.

But above all, Country Music is the story of the musicians. Here is Hank Williams' tragic honky tonk life, Dolly Parton rising to fame from a dirt poor childhood, and Loretta Lynn turning her experiences into songs that spoke to women everywhere. Here, too, are interviews with the genre's biggest stars, including the likes of Merle Haggard to Garth Brooks to Rosanne Cash. Rife with endlessly fascinating anecdotes, the stories in this sweeping yet intimate history will captivate longtime country fans and introduce new listeners to an extraordinary body of music that lies at the very center of the American experience. Companion to the PBS documentary series.

My comments; Donít let the length scare you off. This is a great read for all music fans. You can pick it up and put it down easily. I enjoyed it immensely.

The Silent Patient
written by Alex Michaelides
reading time: 8 hours and 45 minutes
CELA has it in both Contracted Braille and Electronic braille formats
RNIB has the following info on this one, Iím not sure how that library works, help would be welcomed.
I s b n 9781409181644

The Richard and Judy Book Club Winter 2020, Peterborough file

Alicia Berensonís life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of Londonís most desirable areas. One evening, her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face and then never speaks another word. Aliciaís refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London. Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations a search for the truth that threatens to consume him.

My comments; Seriously creepy good. What is it about artists getting locked up in loony bins? Always a great setting. This is my first book by this writer and Iíll be looking for more.

Nothing To See Here
written by Kevin Wilson
reading time:6 hours and 40 minutes
CELA has it in all of the following formats; DAISY audio CD, DAISY audio Direct to player, DAISY audio Zip
not on RNIB yet

Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then, Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal, and theyíve barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help. Madisonís twin stepkids are moving in with her family, and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, thereís a catch: The twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way. Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but itís the truth.

Thinking of her dead end life at home, the life that has consistently disappointed her, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose. Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other and stay cool while also staying out of the way of Madisonís buttoned up politician husband. Surprised by her own ingenuity yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her urgently and fiercely. Couldnít this be the start of the amazing life sheíd always hoped for?

My comments; I saved the best for last! Funny, just laugh out loud funny. Kevin Wilson is a snarky, tender hearted writer and I love his books. Read this one book people!

Until next month, Unplug, blow your own book bubble and escape. Be sure and let us know where it takes you!

Happy reading, Carla jo

Attention Facebook Users!

Our facebook group is growing like fat dogs at an all you can eat buffet. So, since this is your group just as much as it is ours, feel free to post away. Keep it clean and respectful of course or Iíll have to smack you with a long handled wooden spoon. So, get out there and tell us what you think. Talk to each other, share, you lovely Blind Perspective People, Share! We need more positive in our lives.

And don't forget to like us on Facebook at The Blind Perspective

The Braille Highway

By Nat Armeni

Hello and welcome to Februaryís article. There are 3 significant things this year in the month of February. They are Groundhog Day, Valentineís Day, and there are 29 days in this month.
It is very important to tell the special people in our lives that we love them and appreciate them. So, below I have instructions for creating two braillables that are appropriate for the upcoming Valentineís Day; a small heart, and a large fancy one.

At the end of this article, you will find out who won the ďnew contractionĒ contest we held in January. As always, I welcome your emails of ideas, suggestions, and constructive feedback, just send them to the email at the top of this article.

Small Heart: This heart is just four cells across and three lines down. Quite simple to create. You can use it multiple times to create a border for a frame, decorate a gift tag, or randomly place them on a card.

1. Write S, E, I, and the WH contraction.
2. Write the GH contraction, space twice, and the A R contraction.
3. Space once, E, and I.

Large Heart: This heart takes 30 cells across, and 23 lines down. This fancy heart is frilly and delicate looking. The design is simple, but the lines are not easy to follow and take a bit of finger dexterity to identify. Spacing is important so that the hearts fit neatly into one another. Be sure to take your time, itís rather involved, but once completed, itís beautiful!

1. Space 9 times, IN contraction, 9 ďcísĒ, EN contraction, IN contraction, 9 ďcísĒ, and EN contraction.
2. Space 8, S, space 22 times, and WH contraction.
3. Space 7 times, S, space 4 times, IN contraction, 6 ďcísĒ, EN contraction, IN contraction, 6 ďcísĒ, EN contraction, space 4 times, and WH contraction.
4. Space 6 times, S, space 4 times, S, space 16 times, WH contraction, space 4 times, and WH contraction.
5. Space 5 times, S, space 4 times, S, space 4 times, IN contraction, 3 ďcísĒ, EN contraction, IN contraction, 3 ďcísĒ, EN contraction, 4 spaces, WH contraction, 4 spaces, and WH contraction.
6. Space 5 times, L, space 3 times, S, space 4 times, S, space 10 times, WH contraction, space 4 times, WH contraction, space 3 times, and dots 4, 5, 6.
7. Space 5 times, L, space 3 times, L, space 3 times, S, space 3 times, IN contraction, C, EN contraction, IN contraction, C, EN contraction, space 3 times, WH contraction, space 3 times, dots 4, 5, 6, space 3 times, and dots 4, 5, 6.
8. Space 5 times, L, space 3 times, L, space 3 times, L, space 2 times, S, space once, S, E, I, WH contraction, space once, WH contraction, space 2 times, dots 4, 5, 6, space 3 times, dots 4, 5, 6, space 3 times, and dots 4, 5, 6.
9. Space 5 times, GH contraction, space 3 times, GH contraction, space 3 times, GH contraction, space 2 times, GH contraction, space once, GH contraction, space twice, A R contraction, space once, A R contraction, space 2 times, A R contraction, space 3 times, A R contraction, space 3 times, and A R contraction.
10. Space 6 times, GH contraction, space 3 times, GH contraction, space 3 times, GH contraction, space 2 times, GH contraction, space once, E, I, space once, A R contraction, space twice, A R contraction, space 3 times, A R contraction, space 3 times, and A R contraction.
11. Space 7 times, GH contraction, space 3 times, GH contraction, space 3 times, GH contraction, space 2 times, GH contraction, space 2 times, A R contraction, space 2 times, A R contraction, space 3 times, A R contraction, space 3 times, and A R contraction.
12. Space 8 times, GH contraction, space 3 times, GH contraction, space 3 times, GH contraction, space 2 times, E, I, space 2 times, A R contraction, space 3 times, A R contraction, space 3 times, and A R contraction.
13. Space 9 times, GH contraction, space 3 times, GH contraction, space 3 times, GH contraction, space 4 times, A R contraction, space 3 times, A R contraction, space 3 times, and A R contraction.
14. Space 10 times, GH contraction, space 3 times, GH contraction, space 3 times, GH contraction, space 2 times, A R contraction, space 3 times, A R contraction, space 3 times, and A R contraction.
15. Space 11 times, GH contraction, space 3 times, GH contraction space 3 times, E, I, space 3 times, A R contraction, space 3 times, and A R contraction.
16. Space 12 times, GH contraction, space 3 times, GH contraction, space 6 times, A R contraction, space 3 times, and A R contraction.
17. Space 13 times, GH contraction, space 3 times, GH contraction, space 4 times, A R contraction, space 3 times, and A R contraction.
18. Space 14 times, GH contraction, space 3 times, GH contraction, space 2 times, A R contraction, space 3 times, and A R contraction.
19. Space 15 times, GH contraction, space 3 times, E, I, space 3 times, and A R contraction.
20. Space 16 times, GH contraction, space 6 times, and A R contraction.
21. Space 17 times, GH contraction, space 4 times, and A R contraction.
22. Space 18 times, GH contraction, space 2 times, and A R contraction.
23. Space 19 times, E, and I.
I hope you enjoy making your significant other a braille heart and having an awesome Valentineís Day!

Congratulations go out to Jeanne Gallagher, our winner for the (2 or 3 cell contraction) contest. Read her winning contest submission below.

Dear Nat,
In response to your invitation to participate in the Braille Contest, I propose the contraction dots 5, 6 I for ies. Many words have plurals that are changed from ys to ies. The most notable example is baby, which has babies as the plural, not babys. Moreover, I have never seen dots 5, 6 i.

I really like this contraction since we do change lots of words that end with the letter y, into ies when we pluralize them. I want to thank all the participants who took the time and effort to send in their suggestions for a new contraction. One suggestion was the letters D T to stand for downtown. Another suggestion that I was seriously considering was adding the 4, 5, 6 sign in front of letters to create new contractions. One reader mentioned that the ally contraction should have been saved in UEB by making it dots 4, 6 and the letter Y.

Braille users do it with feelings! Why complicate life with gadgets when you can complement it with braille. A reminder to stay on the dotted line of life! Speak with you again in March and stay safe!

Kaleidoscope of Krafts

By Lindy van der Merwe

Spencer's Spotlight

By Cheryl Spencer

It has come to my attention recently that there are a fair number of folks out there that are not very comfortable around kitchen appliances, such as the stove. As a result, they have a difficult time making eggs of any kind. Well, this monthís product should ease your mind quite a bit.

There is an egg cooker out there that will make them pretty much any way you like, whether it be hard boiled, poached, scrambled and even an omelet. It has been tried and tested with resounding success by the blind, how about that?!

>It is called the Rapid Egg Cooker. It holds 6 eggs and is electric. It has an auto shut-off feature, which is very nice. It is easy to use and yes, very important, it is easy to clean.

1. Pierce the eggs with the special point that is on the bottom of the water measuring cup.
2. Put the eggs in the special egg holder, which makes it easy to remove.
3. Add water from the measuring cup marked soft, medium and hard.
4. Plug it in, and in about 12-15 minutes the sound goes off so you know they are done.

Make sure not to lock the cover or the unit will not go on. This is a safety feature. It also comes with another accessory to make mini omelets. You can get it in one of five color; white, black, red, yellow or aqua.

Warning, the sound it makes when the eggs are done may be rather loud. This problem may have already been addressed so don't think your house is on fire or anything.
I am very intrigued by this egg cooker and I am looking forward to trying it because I love the idea of making an omelet that may actually look like it might be an omelet.

It is available on Amazon for 17 dollars and 36 cents and has free one day shipping for prime members. It has a 4.5 rating which is extremely good. Here is one of the reviews:

It is convenient, compact, and time saving. This kitchen gadget is a game changer. I was hesitant but after reading all the reviews, I was ready to try and I am glad I did. Prep takes 30-45 seconds to fill the appropriate water level, poke the eggs, and place in tray.
Okay, omelet anyone?

Computer Tech101

By Jim Morgan

Okay folks, to quote an OLD Red Dog Beer commercial, ďI aint no sad eyed puppy but itís beginning to get to meĒ. Iím talking about what is commonly known as Spoofing. What this involves is, usually, getting an E-mail from either a well-known company or one you have done business with but really isnít from that company. This also happens on the phone, particularly cell phones, where you get a call/text from a number or name you might know and, again, it isnít that person/phone that called/texted you. What weíre going to talk about is this scam, thereís just no other word for it, and what you need to look for and, in some cases, do if you either suspect or know that a company or person is being spoofed.

The best and most effective weapon against Internet Spoofs is paying attention to Web links in a message. For example, if you get a message that says itís from Amazon and they want you to click on a link to verify something, look at, or listen to the link and make sure that you see/hear Amazon.com in there somewhere. If you donít, it is a fairly safe bet that itís not from Amazon. I myself get, on average, one of these messages a week; hence why Iím starting to get a little frustrated about it. The most blatant one Iíve so far received was one ostensibly from the phone company but the link had. Nigeria. in the link to click on. As we all know by now, countries in Africa are the poster children for scams both by phone and on the Web; no offense meant to the good people of Africa, itís just a sad fact. I know theyíre banking on people not paying attention which is why it is SO important for you to do so.

The next thing to cover is the ramifications of clicking on one of these links. It could range from something as ďinnocuousĒ as a nuisance advertisement that you can get out of, to the FAR more insidious. What a number of these websites are trying to do is get hold of personal information that can then be used for identity theft or plant some kind of Virus, Malware, or Ransom ware on your system. In case you donít know, Malware is a malicious program that really messes up your system as a form of prank or, in some cases, ďstealsĒ information from your computer and Ransomware is a program that locks up your system forcing you to pay someone to get the unlock code so that you can use your computer again without having to reformat and then reinstall everything. I believe weíve discussed Identity Theft in the past and the problems it creates. Bottom line is, unless youíre ABSOLUTELY sure that itís the company in question, either donít click on the link or give them any personal information no matter what ďthreatsĒ are used to coerce you to give them what they want.

As a further example of this, I routinely receive a message, again, ostensibly from the Phone Company that Iíve requested my account be closed within one hour of opening the message in question. If I donít want this to happen, there is a link to click on to stop it. Of course, nowhere in the link is att.com, the phone company, to say nothing of the fact that I never called the company nor went online to initiate such a process. Again, they are banking on you either not paying attention or, in their eyes, being too stupid to know better. Just for clarification, THEYíRE the ones that think youíre stupid, not me; I think are readers are smart enough to recognize these things and not fall for them.

In addition, in most cases, you can either call the company in question or go directly onto their official Web site, not by using any links in the message you received, and ask them about the message you received. They can then either verify the validity of the message or, if it wasnít them, direct you as to how to report it to them for investigation. A number of companies are aware of the problem and have mechanisms in place to help control it. Amazon, for example, has a specific address, stop-spoofing@amazon.com, that you can forward the message in question to so that they can check it out. You can then delete the message knowing that, if, in the highly unlikely event that itís legitimate, the company knows that they might need to do a little more to make sure that recipients KNOW itís legitimate. Rest assured, companies take a VERY dim view of this scam and, if Iím not mistaken, is considered a form of Fraud and, believe it or not, is a low grade felony. Iím not sure how it works with the Internet, but I do know that if one gets caught committing Mail Fraud in the U.S., the penalty is up to a 1,000 dollar Fine and up to a year in Jail FOR EACH INSTANCE. Meaning that, if one were to get convicted of 10 counts, or 10 pieces of mail, it could result in up to 10,000 dollars in fines and up to 10 years in Prison. As I said, Iím not sure how the law works for the Internet since itís International so the criminals arenít necessarily subject to U.S. Law. Bottom line is that most companies take the problem VERY seriously and have mechanisms in place to fight it; take advantage of them if youíre suspicious.

As I said, this kind of thing also happens with the phone, both cell and landline. I think itís, for technical reasons, easier to do with Cell Phones. It works similarly, however. You get a call from a company you may or may not do business with and they need to update some records. They will then ďfishĒ for personal information. It might also take the form of you getting a call or text from, ostensibly, a family member or close friend who has an emergency and needs cash wired to them. It usually is a medical emergency, travel problem, or legal problem. The Caller ID or Text says itís coming from said family member or friend but, again, isnít them. Again, donít fall for it. If youíre suspicious, and its a phone call from a company, say youíre uncomfortable with giving out the information they want and try to get the extension of the person youíre speaking with and call them back at the companyís ďofficialĒ number. If itís legitimate, they wonít press and offer alternatives. For example, I recently had a colonoscopy and had to do a pre-registration with the hospital where the test would be done since anesthesia was involved. Anyway, I got a call that said it was the hospital on the Caller ID. They started asking questions and got to where they wanted my Social Security Number for verification. I hesitated and, without missing a beat, the person asked for the last 4 digits in my Social Security Number. This is not enough information for someone to try to hijack my identity. They were willing to offer another form of verification as well. You will find, in most cases, companies are sensitive to spoofing and have no problem with you calling them back and will, in some cases, give you their name and extension so you can get back to them. In the case of a family member or close friend needing help, itís a little harder. Phone calls arenít usually used for this since youíd know the personís voice. However, what sometimes happens is that the person will say theyíre calling for the family member or friend in question. In this instance, the best thing to do is tell them you need to call them right back and then do precisely that on the number you KNOW belongs to the family member or close friend in question. Unless the person you spoke with actually has the phone it will go to the correct person and you can verify the validity of the previous call. In the case of a text, it, again, is a little harder. I would suggest calling the family member or friend in question first to verify. If this isnít possible, particularly if voice communication isnít possible for some reason, you may need to use other means to verify. For example, if your daughter says that sheís in jail but canít call and can only text and needs bail money wired, I would suggest getting the name of the Police Department in question and calling them directly to ask after your daughter. As with companies, most Hospitals, Airports, and Government Agencies are QUITE aware of spoofing and will try to help, if they can. The bottom line is, and itís sad to say, but you need to be suspicious about phone calls and E-Mail messages since they are used a LOT to get money and/or personal information.

In the end, as with most things, it is your responsibility to watch out for things like this. As Professor Moody said many times in ďHarry Potter and the Goblet of FireĒ, ďConstant vigilance!!Ē. So, I canít stress highly enough that you need to keep aware of what youíre clicking on and donít trust that the message, call, or text in question came from who it says it did. Iím not trying to incite a panic here or encourage paranoia, I want to make sure that people are aware of the problem so that they take steps to defend against it. Should you have any questions about this or any other topic, please donít hesitate to send me a message. Iíll respond as quickly as I can one way or the other. I can be reached at my email address above and welcome all questions and comments. As always, Happy Computing!

A Time to Plant

By Sue Brasel

Perennials are plants that come back to life every year, annuals only last for one season. Appropriate mulches can add to the health of the soil where these plants live.

Mulch is a soil covering. It helps retain soil moisture, protect plant roots and suppress weeds. Some decorative varieties, such as rocks or pebbles, add attractive color and texture features.

A mulch cover in a cold climate helps keep the ground cold and frozen in the cold season. If the ground freezes and thaws repeatedly, the soil movement could cause root damage when it moves plants. In a warm climate the soil hardly ever freezes, although it warms up and cools down during the cold months.

Soil temperatures are different from air temperatures, sometimes varying by 30 or 40 degrees. When the soil temperature is warmer than the air temperature, some plants canít tolerate the temperature swing. In warmer climates, it is the winter hardy plants that need more mulch protection than the semi-tropical plants, the ones that are more susceptible to the cold.

After surviving a mild cold season, plants such as peach trees and azaleas typically leaf out and start to form flower buds as the weather warms up. A frost or freeze can affect these early bloomers by wiping out the blossoms, destroying the crop for that year.

Although people in cold climates should mulch the ground in the fall, people in warmer climates are better off deep mulching when plants form flower buds too early. A deep mulch will keep the soil from warming too much on sunny days and prevent the ground from radiating heat at night, keeping damage to a minimum.

In a warm climate, typically mulches donít need to be applied until the end of the cold season. If a hard frost threatens when flower buds are developing, mulch should be pulled back so that the ground warms the trees and shrubs. Less hardy plants, such as citrus, should not be deeply mulched; they need warm soil. If ground warmth is delayed by mulch, your crop or tropical plants might be endangered. During the hot season, mulch helps keep the ground cool.

Organic mulches can add nutrients to the soil as they decay. When using these, know your sources! Plant material that has been chemically treated might damage your plants. Weed seeds might be in some plant mulching materials.

To control weeds, apply 2Ē to 4Ē mulch. A cold season mulch should be 4Ē to 6Ē deep. Too much mulch can kill plants. Leave a 1Ē space between trees or shrubs and mulch.

Organic mulch breaks down over time. New mulch of the same kind can be spread over old mulch on a yearly basis. From a functional perspective any kind of organic mulch can be added to old mulch. Aesthetically, you might choose to move old mulch to a compost pile, then replace with a different kind of mulch.

Inorganic mulch doesnít need to be replaced often. Usually hosing down dirty looking rock or pebble mulch brightens it up!

It is now ďthymeĒ for me to get back to my thirsty houseplants!

Seeing the World Differently

By Lois Strachan

In my last article I described a few different museum experiences Iíve had in my travels and invited you to share a few museums that effectively accommodated you as a visually impaired visitor. Thanks so much to those of you who wrote in and told me of a few of your favourites.

Brian told me of two museums in Michigan. Hereís what he says:
ďThe first is the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo Michigan. They have a flight simulator and a helicopter that you can walk in to and you can take a flight in a 1929 Ford tri motor aircraft. The next is the Impresson 5 in Lansing. I don't know if it is still there or not. I went there on a school field trip back in about 1975. They had a very interactive science museum. They had a tunnel that you would walk through with your shoes off so you could feel the different textures and you also could feel all around the walls and on top. It was dark in there. They also had you drive a wheelchair around a square of boards to show you that it's not so easy to get around in a wheelchair.Ē

Then, from Karen:
I went to the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York this past summer. It is a toy museum and it was fantastic. We were the first group of blind people (I think 8 of us). We were able to handle several different toys while the presenter told us the history. Absolutely wonderful.Ē

Finally, another museum experience from me, this time from Cape Town, where I live.

Chavonnes Battery Museum is in the V&A Waterfront, a popular tourist destination in Cape Town. No, itís not a museum about the history of batteries -I probably wouldnít have gone if it was. Itís a museum dedicated to a battery, or fortress, built by the Dutch East India Company in the very early days of the settlement of Cape Town, as a refitting station for merchant ships plying the long and perilous trip from Holland to the Far East for spices, and was built in the 17th Century.

The battery was rediscovered when the V&A Waterfront was being built, having been submerged by the changing shoreline for 143 years. The museum has pieces of the original battery walls, and numerous historic pieces like cannons and weapons, from the time of the fort. And youíre able to explore many of the exhibits with the sense of touch.

Since I was with my sighted husband, he was able to describe the images and read me the signs on the wall but, if weíd booked ahead of tie, we could have been accompanied by a guide to tell me about the displays.

My guide dog, Fiji, was welcomed and it was easy for us to navigate our way around the museum, which is also totally wheelchair accessible. I have a photo of Fiji looking at one of the information signs, and a friend told me it looks like sheís studying it intently as if sheís about to read it to me.

What was great about the experience was the ability to engage with so many of the period pieces with the sense of touch, the ease of navigating the flat and smooth paths through the museum, and the friendliness of the guide we spoke to when we arrived. And that my guide dog was so warmly welcomed, which doesnít always happen.

What I felt would have made the museum more user-friendly for a visually impaired visitor was for them to have an audio guide describing the exhibits. Of course, if Iíd been better organised, I could have been accompanied by a museum guide and learned about the site that way.

Still, it was an enjoyable and informative visit, and we spent the next few hours wandering around the shops and other attractions at the V&A Waterfront, soaking up the summer afternoon.

Next time Iíd like to talk about long distance train travel. If you have any stories to share on the topic, why not drop them to me by e-mail on the address given above and letís compare notes on this mode of transport.

And, till next timeÖ happy travels!

Dirty Work

By Manny Morales

This month I am focusing on an item you use just about every night of your life, and it probably doesnít get the proper care it needs. Yes, it is your mattress!

Rotate or Flip:
Now a days many mattresses are one sided. Therefore, these types can be rotated 180 degrees, turning from head to toe. For the double sided mattresses, they can be flipped over. Rotating or flipping your mattress will not only prolong the overall usability of the mattress, but help to keep your spine in a rather neutral alignment.

How often should you rotate or flip your mattress:
There are many factors that can determine how often you should rotate or flip your mattress, such as material, durability, usage, etc. Most manufactures recommend to rotate or flip your mattress twice a year. It is also recommended not to rotate or flip your mattress alone; they are heavy and can be cumbersome.

Whatís in your bed?
Ok, this is not a pleasant thought, but one that needs to be brought up. Mattresses can be home to dust mites, bed bugs, and other critters, but thatís not all, sweat, urine, and blood may also get mixed in with mold and mildew which can make you wonder how you were ever able to sleep in your bed in the first place. Not only that, if youíre living in a more humid environment, youíre more likely to sweat, which can put you at higher risk for some of these nasty critters.

How often should you clean your mattress?
Again, manufactures recommend that you wash your mattress at least twice a year. So, why not wash it then flip or rotate it.

Strip your mattress bare; no bedding and remove the pillows.
Using the upholstery attachment on your vacuum cleaner, start vacuuming from top to bottom. And, be sure to vacuum the sides of the mattress as well.
Deodorize the mattress by sprinkling baking soda on it. If you notice some strong odors coming from a particular part of the mattress, then use a scrub brush to gently rub the powder into the mattress. After the baking soda has been sitting for 10 to 30 minutes, then vacuum the mattress clean.

Prolonging the life of your mattress:
One of the easiest and efficient ways of prolonging the life of your mattress is to use a mattress protector/ pad. These will encase your mattress to not only keep the bed bugs and dust mites from making a home out of it but also can help prevent stains. In addition, you can protect your mattress from accidental spills and dirt accumulation using a mattress protector.

Preserving your mattress:
Clean up the mess as soon as it happens. Blot the excess moisture using clean towels or paper towels before using any stain remover solution.

Next month I will continue this topic, discussing how to get rid of mattress stains and how to deep clean your mattress. Until next time, sleep well and remember dirty work is clean fun!

The Beauty Parlor

By Christy Ray

Here is a motto that I think is good to live by, if you take care of you, then you can take care of those you love longer.

Hereís an enjoyable way to help take care of you. Find your favorite hand/foot pampering set. Pampering hand /foot sets can take 15 minutes, or as long as you wish. If you only want to pamper your hands, it can take as little as 5 minutes, and that is your choice.

Enjoy these pampering sessions one to three times a week. My recommendation is once a week. These sets generally consist of a skin softener, an exfoliant, and lotion/hand cream.

There are benefits to each of these components within these pampering sets. Before beginning, wash hands and feet thoroughly.
Step 1: Hand Softener
This can be used on your hands and feet. Massage it into your skin, between fingers and toes. This can be very relaxing. The softener can help soften the rough calluses to make it easier to remove them if needed. The thick texture will fill in cracks and as in the name, can cause a level of softness. No promises, but the longer you pamper yourself the softer your hands and feet are bound to be. When using all 3 steps, this is the first one. Do not wash off the softener before the next step.

Step 2: The Exfoliant
This has a gritty texture that will help remove the calluses that the softener loosened up. Massage the exfoliant into your skin, over the softener. Massage the whole hand and if you are including your feet in the relaxing session, take your time on them as well. Do not forget between fingers and toes. Once the texture is sticky and the gritty feeling becomes more like sand, let it sit a few minutes (time is really up to you). Then gently rinse it off and pat your skin dry.

Step 3: Lotion/hand cream
The last step in the pampering session is massaging the lotion/hand cream into your skin. It can be fragrant free or scented, this is a personal choice. This last step can be performed every day. If you have a really good lotion, only once or twice a day will keep your skin smooth. Other lotions can be needed more often. Looking for a 12-hour hand cream or lotion is preferable, for busy people.

There are some additional steps you can perform for more relaxation. Try soaking your feet in a tub, bucket, or personal foot spa (if you have one) and add Epson salt. Use a callus remover (if needed), cut and file nails (as needed).

This is so relaxing and rewarding, especially if you enjoy soft skin. We use our hands so much and put so many miles on our feet, maybe itís time to show them some TLC (tender loving care). And remember this is not just for the ladies out there, so gentlemen take care of yourselves as well.
Until next month, Happy Pampering!

Cooking Concoctions

By Maxine

I am hoping you are reading this on February 1 as my recipes will be great to make tomorrow, for Superbowl Sunday! But if not, they are great appetizers to serve up anytime.

Individual Loaded Tater Tots:
Ĺ pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
32 ounce bag of tater tots
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack
1 cup sour cream
4 scallions, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spray two muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray.
Place four tater tots in each of the 24 muffin cups, and bake for 10 minutes.
Spray bottom of coffee cup with cooking spray. Use (in twisting motion) to press TATER TOTS in each muffin cup to form potato cup.
Return to oven, and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until deep golden brown.
Add cheeses to potato cups, and bake for a couple of minutes, or until cheese is melted.
Transfer to platter, and top with sour cream, crumbled bacon, and scallions.
Serve & enjoy!

Sausage and Cheese Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers
1 pound Jalapeno peppers
1 pound bulk sausage
8 ounces softened cream cheese
Ĺ cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Ĺ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Prepare the peppers by cutting off the tops, discarding the seeds, and cutting in half lengthwise.
Note: do not touch your face when discarding the seeds.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Brown the sausage in a skillet and drain.
Mix in the cheeses until well incorporated.
Fill the peppers with about one tablespoon of the sausage cheese mixture.
Spray baking sheet with a nonstick spray, or line with parchment paper.
Arrange the stuffed peppers on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

Variation: Bacon Wrapped Sausage and Cheese Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers
If you like bacon, and who doesnít, then do the following:
After you stuffed the peppers, put them back together again. (one half on another) Then take a half slice of bacon and wrap it around the pepper. Once all the peppers have been wrapped, place in a 400 degree oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Serve and enjoy!

Riddle & Brain Buster

By Alex Smart


You measure my life in hours and I serve you by expiring. Iím quick when Iím thin and slow when Iím fat. The wind is my enemy.
What am I?

Answer to Januaryís Riddle:
Take the word draglines, add the letter J and rearrange all the letters to  name a famous writer. Who is it?
J D Salinger

Brain Buster

Fine Fun Answer each clue with a two syllable word in which both syllables start with F. Example: lightning bug: Firefly. Sound of trumpets. Give up, as in rights. Relating to McDonalds or BurgerKing. Carry out as an obligation. Bare knuckle boxing match. Sudden reversal of policy. Parachuterís descent. Web browser. Four times as many. Hard to believe. Answer to Januaryís Brain Buster: Name a certain sport. Take the first three letters in its name reverse them, and youíll get an article of equipment used in that sport. What sport is it? Tennis; net

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