THE CONSUMER VISION

December 2016

Address: 359 Coggeshall St., New Bedford, MA 02746

Phone: 508-994-4972

Email: bobbranco93@gmail.com

Website: www.consumervisionmagazine.com

Publisher: Bob Branco

Editor: Terri Winaught

Proofreader: Leonore Dvorkin

TABLE OF CONTENTS

In this Table of Contents, three asterisks *** will be used to separate each article's title from its author.

To make searching for and skipping items easier, three asterisks *** will be used between articles.

Finally, in columns such as Readers'Forum, Recipes, and Special Notices, three asterisks *** will be used between items.

1. A NOTICE FROM THE PUBLISHER *** by Bob Branco

2. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR *** by Terri Winaught

3. HEALTH MATTERS (new column): The Benefits of Apples *** by Leonore H. Dvorkin

4. THE IMAGE OF YOURSELF *** by Dennis R. Sumlin

5. A GREAT PHONE FOR EVERYONE *** by Stephen A. Theberge

6. TEXTING WHILE DRIVING *** by Bob Branco (originally published in Word Matters, www.ernestdempsey.com)

7. IS THERE A PLACE FOR BRAILLE? *** by James R. Campbell

8. THE AMAZON ECHO: Worlds of Possibility *** by Stephen A. Theberge

9. THE BIG QUESTION *** Answers submitted by readers and compiled by Bob Branco

10. DISGRACE AT CHILI'S *** by James R. Campbell

11. THE PAIN OF BEING BEAUTIFUL *** by John Justice

12. INSTANT REPLAY IN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL *** by Bob Branco (originally published in Word Matters, www.ernestdempsey.com)

13. SPECIAL NOTICES *** by Bob Branco

14. WHAT GRINDS YOUR GEARS? *** by Joe Machise

15. RECIPE COLUMN *** by Karen Crowder

16. TIPS FOR VIPS (Because Visually-impaired Persons Are Important, Too) *** by Penny Fleckenstein

17. STAR'S SOLUTION TO AN ANNOYING PROBLEM *** by John Justice

18. TRIVIA CONTEST: Answer to November's question, winners, and December's question *** by Bob Branco

***

1. A NOTICE FROM THE PUBLISHER

Hello, readers.

I hope all of you had a blessed Thanksgiving. I know I did. My girlfriend and I spent the day at a friend's house with an 18-pound turkey. (No, we didn't eat it all.) I'm sure our friend has plenty of leftovers that she can use in soups, sandwiches, and other related combinations.

I am very pleased to announce that Consumer Vision has taken on several new writers who have agreed to feature monthly columns about their area of expertise. Leonore Dvorkin, our proofreader, has a new column entitled  Health Matters, and Dennis R. Schumlin will be introducing his monthly feature  The Image of Yourself. I think that we all care a lot about our health and our image, and this is why we are very pleased that Leonore and Dennis will put many of our concerns into perspective for us. As of the January 2017 edition, I will be introducing two additional columnists, Ann Chiappetta and Brian Coppola. Ann will be providing general wisdom, while Brian will cover advocacy as well as the rights of all persons with disabilities. There may be more additions to come, but they are not definite at this particular time. With that said, there is a very good chance that we will soon be adding a sports feature.

I hope you all have a blessed holiday season and a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year.

Bob Branco

***

2. LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Hi, Consumer Vision readers.

Having celebrated Thanksgiving on November 24th in the United States, I'm beginning by saying how much I hope our American readers enjoyed a cornucopia of blessings, bounty, and gratitude.

A situation for which I am extremely grateful is being able to send this month's letter. I have been having e-mail issues, which began two days ago and were still unresolved late this afternoon. Thanks to Penny Fleckenstein, our "Tips for VIPS" contributor, my e-mail is now working as smoothly as a well-maintained car on a newly paved highway.

To give Penny even more of a plug, she always encourages readers to contact her with feedback and suggestions. As hard as Penny works on her monthly column, I really hope that many of you have already contacted her, and that those of you who haven't soon will.

Having mentioned Thanksgiving near the beginning of this letter, I can't end without acknowledging upcoming celebrations.

To our Jewish readers: With Hanukkah starting on Christmas Eve, my prayer is that the menorah's lighted candles will always remind you of the mysterious, faith-filled miracle that Hanukkah is.

For those who celebrate Christmas, we seem to need extra doses of peace and goodwill this year. Consider, for example, the violence into which some of the protests around this year's presidential election erupted. Not long after that period of unrest, four police officers in different parts of the U.S. were shot execution-style. Those shooters having been such harbingers of hatred, I pray that derision and division will depart from hearts and be replaced by care and healing.

Finally, regarding upcoming festivities, Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26th to January 1st and focuses on seven African principles. Just as candles are lit on Hanukkah's eight days, so, too, is a candle lit each day of Kwanzaa.

So, to acknowledge our diverse readers, cultures, countries, and celebrations, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and Happy Kwanzaa!

As always, I welcome your opinions and suggestions, so always feel free to phone 412-263-2022 or e-mail me at: twinaught@comcast.net .

Take care, and thanks for reading with me.

Terri Winaught, Editor

***

3. HEALTH MATTERS

The Benefits of Apples

by Leonore H. Dvorkin

The following is a lightly edited version of the original article. To see the original article and a photograph by the author, go here: http://www.leonoredvorkin.com/henu/benapples.php

Apples are famously good for us. How often have you heard that "an apple a day keeps the doctor away"? Apples are delightfully crisp and juicy. Many varieties are available year-round. Unlike grapes or ripe bananas, apples stay firm in a backpack or purse, requiring no special protection. An apple makes an ideal after-school snack, requiring no preparation other than a quick wash. Baked into pies or cobblers, apples rank high among comfort foods.

In short, it's hard to find anything negative to say about this justly popular fruit. What may surprise you, as it did me when I was doing the research for this article, is just how many benefits apples offer. The range is truly impressive.

The nutritional standouts in apples are fiber, flavonoids, and fructose. One apple provides up to five grams of fiber, more than many cereals. This can help prevent heart disease and constipation. Apples contain virtually no fat. They can help lower harmful LDL cholesterol and raise beneficial HDL cholesterol. Lauren Mathews, a Denver acupuncturist, says she has seen patients' cholesterol levels "plummet" after they added a daily apple and a fish-oil capsule to their diets. Fujis and Red Delicious apples have the most effect on cholesterol.

Extensive research has confirmed that flavonoids, a class of antioxidant that is abundant in apples, help prevent heart disease and stroke. The richest sources of flavonoids are apples, tea, onions, and broccoli. To get the most of a flavonoid called quercetin, which can boost memory, be sure to eat the skin of the apple. A flavonoid called phloridzin, which is found only in apples, may help prevent bone loss associated with menopause.

Antioxidant compounds in apple skin called phenols provide UV-B protection, making your skin more resistant to damage from the sun. Braeburn, Fuji, and Red Delicious apples are all high in phenols.

The fructose in apples gives them their sweetness. Fructose is a simple sugar, but it's broken down slowly. Combined with all the fiber in apples, this helps keep blood sugar levels stable.

Dozens of studies in many countries have shown that apples can reduce the risk of developing asthma, several types of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. They can also increase weight loss and lung function. The tannins in apple juice may help prevent urinary tract infections and gum disease.

The common and popular Red Delicious apple may be one of the healthiest foods on earth. It contains more antioxidants than seven other apple varieties. Jonagolds and Golden Delicious apples contain the most quercetin, the memory booster mentioned above. Granny Smith and Red Delicious apples are particularly good for the skin, fortifying both collagen and elastin.

There is nothing wrong with sticking with one or two favorite types of apples, as they are all good for you. But why not experiment, so as to get the full range of possible benefits? For just a few dollars, you can take home samples of half a dozen different varieties. And those are only a few of the 7,000 varieties of apples on the world market today. Be sure to try apples of all colors: red, green, and yellow. You will discover a remarkable range of flavors, texture, and sweetness.

Some cautions to observe: Apple juice has only about 10 percent of the phytonutrient content of fresh apples, and is higher in sugar. "Cloudy" apple juice is more nutritious than the clear variety. In order to avoid the pesticides that may be in apple skin, buy organic apples if possible. If this is not possible, be sure to wash and rinse the apples thoroughly. To get the most nutrition and fiber from your apples, be sure to eat the skin. Waxes are often applied to apples to protect them during shipping and storage. Carnauba wax, beeswax, and shellac (from the lac insect) are preferable to petroleum-based waxes, which contain solvent residues. If your apples are waxed, wash them thoroughly in warm, soapy water, then rinse well before eating.

Using and storing apples: Of course you can eat apples raw. Many people like apple slices with a little peanut butter or almond butter on them. Add diced apples to fruit salads and green salads. Sliced apples and cheese are a European favorite for dessert. You can also cook apples, and not just in desserts. Gravenstein, Pippin, and Granny Smith apples retain their texture the best during cooking. Try braising a chopped apple with red cabbage. To prevent apple slices from browning, simply put them into a bowl of cold water with a spoonful of lemon juice added. To use apple slices in future recipes, freeze them in plastic bags or containers. Whole apples retain a large percentage of their nutritional value for many months if they are stored in the refrigerator.

Try to eat at least three or four apples per week. Some of the healthiest people I know eat one or two apples every day. Now, after all I've learned, I plan to follow their example. To echo what one enthusiastic reader e-mailed me after she had read my articles on tea: "I'm a convert!"

Email: leonore@leonoredvorkin.com

Website: http://www.leonoredvorkin.com

***

4. THE IMAGE OF YOURSELF

by Dennis R. Sumlin

Five Steps to a Positive Mindset

Yes, it's that word again. The  P word. The word is  positivity. You hear it all the time. Stay positive, be positive, think positive, and so on. Many people have a wrong impression about this and related words. Being positive does not mean you walk around with a smile 24 hours a day, skipping through the meadow with cute puppy dogs following you, while suppressing all other feelings. Positivity is a mindset that can help you through tough times. While it is normal to acknowledge and deal with negative feelings and emotions, it is important not to become consumed by them.

Maintaining a positive outlook has many benefits, such as decreased rates of depression, lower stress, better coping skills during hardships, a longer life, and more endurance. Due to the multiple benefits that positivity has to offer, it is worth the time to make sure you stay on its path.

1. Be open.

As stated above, positivity does not mean disregarding life's misfortunes; it just means looking at your situation, making the best of it, and using the tools you have in the moment. Like many people, I used to resist positivity. I would be blinded by the negative situation I was in and allow myself to find reasons to stay in that place. I would soak, wallow, and roll around in the negativity, and lose sight of other options. Some situations are more challenging than others, and losing perspective can be very easy. As long as you stay open to the concept of positivity, you have a fighting chance.

2. Watch what you think.

Many things in our mind are on automatic. Before you know it, while in a negative situation, your mind flies into action with all kinds of negative thoughts and conclusions, and the next thing you know, you are sinking. When in such moments, be conscious of what you are thinking. When you are conscious of your thoughts, you can then shift them. You can flip the switch and create new thoughts. After a while, those new thoughts will become the default.

3. Watch your surroundings.

It is easy to slip into automatic negativity if you are around things that support that. Who do you spend your time with? What activities do you engage in? What shows do you watch? Do they support positivity or not? When you change what you do and who you are around, then it is easier to change your mindset. We do not live in a vacuum. The things around us have an effect on what we think. Do you have people who support you? What kind of energy do your friends bring into your home? How do you like to spend your time? When you know this, then you have the answers you need.

4. Stay in the moment.

Very often, our minds bounce from thoughts of the past to thoughts of the future. We project negativity onto our past stories and we send negativity into our future thoughts. If you can keep your mind on the present moment, you stand a better chance of staying positive.

5. Maintain gratitude.

Regardless of what our situation is, there is always something, and most likely more than one something, to be grateful for. When we keep our good fortune in mind, it makes it harder for negativity to grab the controls.

The Start

When shifting from a mostly negative mindset to a positive one, it can take time. Since our minds are on automatic, we have to introduce a new program into our mental computer. Meditation and diet can also help in this process. Like many people, I fall short of this from time to time, but I remain open to the process. What do you do to maintain a positive outlook? What are some of the things that help you when you are in a negative space?

***

5. A GREAT PHONE FOR EVERYONE

by Stephen A. Theberge

I recently bought a new cordless phone. It is the best house phone I have ever had. It is loaded with nice features. The talking caller ID is great for the blind. With a little help from someone, anyone can learn to use it.

The best feature of this phone is the ability to block unwanted callers. If you have caller ID, the push of two buttons will block them forever. You can also block numbers that don't have their numbers come through. You can block numbers from different area codes or number ranges. I just love blocking those unsolicited numbers. You can set it up so that the phone will not ring once when the unwanted number comes through. When the phone rings, and the caller ID announces, you know the number is not a blocked number. You can block 250 numbers.

The other feature is silent mode. You can tell the phone not to ring during certain hours, so you can have electronic peace when you are asleep. All in all, the phone is durable, has good sound, and also allows you to use the base unit.

I purchased the phone from QVC. You can find it online on Amazon for about $60. I hope others will love it as much as I do.

The phone is Panasonic model KX-TGF340 D1

***

6. TEXTING WHILE DRIVING

by Bob Branco

(originally published in Word Matters, www.ernestdempsey.com)

People love to text. That's obvious. It is a fast and convenient way to communicate with smartphones, as well as other forms of modern technology. It is wonderful. As is the case with other recent inventions, I'm totally amazed at what we can do today.

While many of us enjoy texting, some people forget about choosing the right time. For example, when you are driving your car, your eyes must be focused on the road so that you won't endanger your life as well as the lives of your passengers. It is one of the first things you learn in drivers'education. As far as I'm concerned, it's the most important factor when driving.

However, some drivers feel they can do many things at once, so they try to prove it by taking out their smart devices while the car is moving. Perhaps they hear the signal on their device which indicates a text message from someone else. Is this text message so urgent that you have to answer it before you stop the car? Back in the day, we got along quite well without cell phones, and messages had to wait until we either stopped the car or arrived at our destination in order to be responded to. Believe it or not, this was perfectly all right. Nobody panicked, and we managed to get through our day quite easily.

There are many serious accidents that take place because someone is texting behind the wheel of a car. I'm glad that there are new laws forbidding this behavior, and they should be enforced as much as possible. In fact, the punishment for violating these texting laws should be as great as the punishment associated with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In a sense, texting is like a drug in two ways. It's very habitual, and it causes you to not be focused on something much more important.

With all the amazing technology out there, I am surprised that no one has invented a vehicle with software that will shut off your phone when the engine starts, and won't turn it on again until the engine stops. Why would this be so hard to accomplish? I'm not saying that you can never use your cell phone on the road. The technology is here, and there are emergencies that happen. My point is that if you need to make that phone call or send an important text, for God's sake, pull over and stop your car first!

Proofreader's note: The last part of Bob's article intrigued me, so I went looking for what along those lines might be out there at the present time. What I found is that there is already technology that will prevent a driver from texting, etc. It is marketed primarily to parents who wish to control what their kids do with their phones in the car. It is called Cellcontrol. Here is some online info about it:  Cellcontrol can disable the ability to text, email, surf the web, play games, Tweet, post to Snapchat and Facebook, take selfies and much more while driving a vehicle. 911 is always allowed. Details are here: https://www.cellcontrol.com/stop-texting-while-driving-for-your-teen-gt?gclid=CMGV8oKR19ACFQcFaQodEVEI_A

 

***

7. IS THERE A PLACE FOR BRAILLE?

by James R. Campbell

A subject of major importance to the blind community was the topic of discussion on the chatline for the blind this morning. One of my best friends spoke with an employee of the Humanware company concerning the cost of its adaptive equipment.

 Why does this technology cost so much? he asked.

The man responded,  Because there are so few blind people in the United States with respect to the general population, and many of them don't read Braille.

The assumption is that there is no longer a place for Braille. Most blind people who use computers rely on screen readers to convert printed text to speech. No one can deny that this is a major advance that allows the blind greater access to information on an unprecedented scale. It stands to reason that many sighted persons, as well as many of us who are blind, have come to the unfortunate and misguided conclusion that Braille is obsolete. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have lived with Braille my entire life. My resource teacher taught me to read and write Braille. When I was younger, I loved to read. My favorite books were about dinosaurs, science, and reptiles. Often, my dad and mama would read print books to me. Braille allowed me to read without having someone else provide me with the enjoyment of books.

Braille has many advantages. It allows the blind some measure of privacy. Some things aren't meant for sighted eyes. Braille allows the blind the freedom of expression they need in a safe space.

There are many who don't have assistive technology. What do they use to communicate? They rely on Braille. I have been writing since childhood. Before I got my laptop, all of my work was done in Braille. I would record my work on tape and share it with friends. Right now, I am doing a story for Michael Soares on cassette tape. He isn't computer literate, so tape allows me to do this favor for him.

There will always be a place for Braille, regardless of what the pundits say, or how far our technology takes us. It is nothing short of a disgrace that many blind persons are not receiving the kind of instruction I got from my resource teacher. I am forever in her debt for that much! The rise of screen readers should not, and cannot, replace Braille. Those of us who depend on our computers would be lost if our computers broke down or the internet was hacked. I have been there and consider myself fortunate that I have Braille skills. It is my fervent wish that all blind persons had the same skill set. Those with partial vision would benefit as well; who knows, they may lose the sight they have, and then where would they be? That happened to a classmate from TSB. If he knew Braille, he would be better equipped to stay in the game.

Braille is an essential part of our lives, and should be taught to all blind persons. Those who are familiar with it function better and have an edge over those who don't know it. Let us work together to ensure that we don't lose this vital part of our lives.

As always, thanks for your time.

With loving kindness,

James R. Campbell

J.campbell@grandecom.net

***

8. THE AMAZON ECHO: Worlds of Possibility

by Stephen A. Theberge

First, I'd like to talk about the three devices in the Amazon family. We have the Echo, Tap, and Dot. They all accomplish the same functions, but are quite different.

The Dot is the smallest of the units. It is on a charger. It has the lowest quality speakers, and if you are listening to music, you'll probably want Bluetooth speakers.

The Tap is battery operated. Since the other units are always listening for a  wake word, this would use a lot of battery power. So, when you issue a command to it, you must push the button.

The Echo, which I purchased nearly a month ago, is the largest unit. It runs on AC power and is not portable like the Echo or Tap. It is meant to be in the home. The Echo has very good sound quality. It is a black cylinder that stands about 10 inches high, and is maybe 3 inches wide. It has a  light ring on top which goes on when you say the  wake word. When Alexa is thinking, or you are engaged in a  skill, the light ring indicates this. You can mute the Echo and the other devices with a button that is on the top. It has a turn volume ring on the top, going around the outside.

The Wake Word

Unlike the Tap, when they're working, the Dot and the Echo listen for a word known as the  wake word to start their work. It is defaulted to  Alexa. You can change this to either  echo or  Amazon. When Alexa is awakened, you issue commands. For example, I can say,  Alexa, what is the temperature? She then tells me something like,  It is now 43 degrees in Attleboro. Expect clouds and showers today.

Obtaining Skills

What Amazon calls  skills are comparable to Apple Apps. I say something like,  Alexa, enable blackjack. You then say something like  Alexa, open birdsongs. Or maybe,  Alexa, play Tune-In Radio. You can also disable skills.

The Same Voice Recognition Problems

As wonderful as the concept is, we are still not at a point where Alexa can understand us 100 percent of the time. One fascinating test I did was to say,  Alexa, how do you spell pussy? I will note that I was asking her about the descriptive adjective for something being pus-like, or containing pus. She fell into the trap, as do SIRI and even other things, and came up with posse.

Final Impressions

I think there is a lot of possibility in the Amazon Echo and her sister devices. Alexa is very powerful. She can tell you jokes, riddles, and many other things which she can do right out of the box. Oh, before I forget: You need to get the devices hooked up with a smartphone, tablet, or through the PC. I was able to do it non-visually, meaning with Voiceover and so forth, as I am visually impaired. I think you have to be reasonably tech savvy, but it isn't too difficult. It took me about 20 minutes, but I think that if I could see, it would have been done in five.

You have to be very specific in how you issue commands with Alexa. She is a stickler for details. This can be frustrating, but at the same time, as a computer programmer, it means you can have the potential for very strong skills, as you can layer up commands for a potentially very complex task.

I'd say it's about $150 for the Echo and around $90 to $100 for the other devices. It is a really good buy. Given that Alexa is relatively new, I'm sure that many more skills will come out for her to perform. I am especially waiting for the day when she can do my laundry and make my meals. Happy Holidays.

The video in this link is very good at demonstrating all the functions.

https://scontent.fbos1-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t42.9040-29/10000000_421855441536362_6013902427214839808_n.mp4?efg=eyJ2ZW5jb2RlX3RhZyI6InNkIn0%3D&oh=aa58e8caaed5c6984e9490a362324af0&oe=58389F25

Note: I am the author of a science fiction novel called The MetSche Message (C 2016). It's available in e-book and print formats from Amazon and multiple other sellers. Full details are at: http://www.dvorkin.com/stephentheberge/

***

9. THE BIG QUESTION

by Bob Branco

We had a very successful big question segment in last month's Consumer Vision. I want to thank those of you who contributed constructive and thoughtful answers to the question about people who talk on cell phones in public. It is now time for the next big question. I asked my readers if they think there is too much political correctness about Christmas? In other words, should we stop saying Merry Christmas and say Happy Holidays instead? Here are some of the responses we received.

Editor's note: The following responses are separated from each other by three asterisks.

***

Hi, Bob!

I have a friend who works double time during Christmas at a pharmacy, so at least one is open in town for those in need of medication, so the  happy holidays greeting becomes ineffective for that one. My one relative who used to go full"out on Christmas in celebration, gifts, etc., became a Jehovah's Witness. Now, to greet that person with  Merry Christmas would be considered an insult unless one was unaware of the religion of that individual. I love to hear  Merry Christmas loud and cheery directed at myself, anyway, so I guess one can say that the greeting is industry"specific, if that isn't politically correct.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

Jens

***

Hi, Bob,

I think that Merry Christmas is fine among friends who we know celebrate Christmas. But when we're in a mixed group, Happy Holidays is probably more appropriate and least likely to offend anyone.

And so to you, Bob, I'm going to take the chance of saying: Merry Christmas!

Henry Achin

***

Hi, Bob.

If I am unsure what holiday tradition someone celebrates around Christmas, I am happy to say, "Happy Holiday," though I have also said, "Merry Christmas!" or whatever holiday you celebrate.

While I appreciate the sensitivities of persons who celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa and therefore may be uncomfortable hearing "Merry Christmas," I also don't feel that people should no longer be allowed to say "Merry Christmas."

Although I respect the religious richness of Hanukkah and the cultural wisdom of the African principles on which Kwanzaa is based, for me it's about letting my heart be at an inn where there's always room for the birth of a Savior and the promise of peace which Isaiah prophesied.

Terri Winaught,

Pittsburgh, PA

***

Hi, Bob,

The sad thing about political correctness is that it often shuts down any further discussion. I believe we are stronger when we don't merely tolerate, but celebrate our differences, and try to learn from one another. Let each one say what his or her heart dictates, but do it with kindness.

Susan Jones

Indianapolis, IN

***

Hi, Bob,

I think we put too much emphasis on political correctness. There's nothing wrong with saying "Merry Christmas," unless, of course, the person we're addressing is Jewish or doesn't observe the holiday, in which case, the greeting should be adapted accordingly.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

http://abbiescorner.wordpress.com

Note: Abbie's new book is My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds (C 2016). It's available in e-book and print formats from Amazon and multiple other sellers. Full details are at: http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com/memoir.htm

***

Hi, Bob,

I feel that each religion should be respectful to other religions.

***

Hi, Bob,

From my perspective, while it appears not to be politically correct to share a Merry Christmas wish with anyone, have we forgotten that this country was founded on Christian principles? Our freedom should afford us the right to share a Christmas greeting as we would permit those who do not follow Christ equal opportunity to share freely in their belief of choice.

***

Sweety,

Yes, there is too much political correctness, and saying Merry Christmas to me is better than saying Happy Holidays. No, we shouldn't stop saying Merry Christmas. I mean, we all have our way of expressing our traditions and everything. Why mess with something that we have been saying for years? I think we should keep Merry Christmas always.

***

Hi, Bob,

I feel that this world is too political. If someone celebrates Christmas, you say Merry Christmas. I, on the other hand, and others from the group celebrate Chanukah. So we would say Happy Chanukah.

When we were in school, I sang in Christmas concerts and plays. My father was proud of me. He would bring all his friends to the concerts, and they thought we were so great. So what do I think? Call it what it is.

***

Hi, Bob,

This month's topic couldn't come at a better time. I personally am very sick and tired of all this political correctness as far as saying Merry Christmas. At this time of year, it gets on my last nerve to be wished a Happy Holiday instead of Merry Christmas. I have also been wished a Happy Holiday on the fourth of July, so I say knock it off. So, Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it, and Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends.

Jo Smith

***

Hi, Bob:

I think there is too much political correctness these days. Christmas has been around for hundreds of years. If someone has a problem with "Merry Christmas," they need to get a life. I have no problem with Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season's Greetings, or whatever. Any greeting is fine with me as long as it's spoken in a lighthearted or friendly manner.

Don Hansen

Oklahoma City, OK

***

Hi, Bob,

Yes, absolutely. Sometimes when I hear someone say Happy Holidays, I think to myself, Which one? To me, Christmas is not only a religious holiday, but a cultural one. I know many folks including myself who enjoy the fun aspects of Christmas, such as putting up a tree and exchanging gifts. We are not what you'd call practicing Christians. I was raised Catholic but am now an agnostic. Folks should not be offended if someone wishes them a Merry Christmas. If I know someone celebrates Chanukah or Kwanzaa, I will offer them wishes for their chosen holiday. To me, Christmas is a tradition to be enjoyed.

There is, however, one aspect of Christmas that does bother me, and that's the pressure to exchange gifts with way too many people. I know folks with large families that go into debt to get gifts for lots of folks even when that turns out to be an unwise financial decision. No one should feel pressured to buy gifts for anyone. Christmas should not be a competition to see who can outdo whom in the price of a gift. That is, the level of commercialism can ruin the spirit of Christmas. It really should be the thought that counts. Sometimes, the best gifts are not found underneath the tree. They might be a promise to do something special for the recipient.

Merry Christmas to all Consumer Vision readers.

Bob Hachey

***

Hi, Bob,

I think that political correctness is the poison of America's minds, and should be eliminated from our culture because it avoids directness of thought and speech. For example, the word is  blind, not  visually challenged.

Mark Blier

Sierra Vista, AZ

***

10. DISGRACE AT CHILI'S

by James R. Campbell

This is yet another commentary about a story that has thrust the Chili's restaurant chain into the national spotlight for the wrong reason.

On Veterans'Day, Ernest Walker went into a Chili's restaurant near Dallas. He wanted to take advantage of the offer of a free meal for veterans who had ID as proof that they had served their country. Another guest in the restaurant questioned Mr. Walker's military ID. As a result, the manager took his food away from him.

The regrettable fact is that incidents like this one reflect badly on the restaurant chain as a whole. Many people will decide that they can't eat at Chili's anymore because of the actions of one person. Chili's has removed the manager from his post. It is my sincere hope that this man is never hired to work at another restaurant in the United States!

There was a time when our service men and women were respected. My dad served in the Second World War. He was one of the greatest generation. The fighting men who served in that time came home to the cheers of the public. They enlisted to do a job, and that was it. They liberated Europe from the most evil genius the world has ever known and avenged Pearl Harbor. They were held in high esteem by a grateful world that appreciated their efforts on its behalf.

How much things have changed, and none for the better! Those who served in the Vietnam War were spat upon, called baby killers, and viewed as pariahs by the public because they served in a war that nobody wanted any part of. Perhaps the vets who served in Vietnam were the least understood of all of the veterans who have served before them.

I don't believe that most people understand how hard it is for a soldier who has been on the front lines to adjust to civilian life once they return from the combat zone. These people see things that no person should see; they are forced to do things nobody should do. It is the nature of the beast. The law of the jungle prevails: it is  kill or be killed. Many return with traumatic brain injuries as a result of exposure to concussions from IEDs. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is rife among this group. Twenty-two veterans kill themselves every day because they can't readjust to normal society.

If anything, the veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve our love, care, and help. For someone like Ernest Walker to be mistreated as he was says a great deal about the worst society has to offer, when we should be bringing our best to the forefront. I would like nothing better than to see this manager in an orange jumpsuit. A clear message must be sent:  We will not tolerate this type of misconduct! If you can't treat our vets any better than this, then join the unemployment line, because no one should hire you at all!

I cannot tell you what my dad would have done, but I can promise you that that would have been the last time he ever went to that establishment for a meal. A neighbor who lived near my grandmother's house in southeast Oklahoma asked Mamma to donate to the Red Cross. Dad talked with this woman; she left in tears because she did not realize that the Red Cross made the soldiers pay for everything they received from them during the war. She was very deeply hurt to know that the servicemen were treated in that way.

Let us hope that the manager at Chili's who took Ernest Walker's food from him is a rarity. In the meantime, let us do what we can to reach out to the vets who fought and died for our freedoms.

As always, thanks for your time.

With loving kindness,

James R. Campbell

J.campbell@grandecom.net

***

11. THE PAIN OF BEING BEAUTIFUL

by John Justice

Have you ever considered the misery the average attractive woman has to go through to keep in style and stay "beautiful" by today's standards?

Before this night, she may have gone to the hairdresser's, where some person has subjected her to bad"smelling chemicals and twisting, shaping, and abusing a part of her body which is very sensitive to pain. Namely, her scalp.

If her eyebrows aren't just perfect, she might have to use metal tools to pull out offending hairs which don't quite fit the accepted parameters.

If her nails aren't perfect, she has the option of attaching ridiculous plastic devices which glue onto her normal body with chemicals that would kill if they were ingested.

If she dresses for an outing in a nice outfit, she has to shave her legs or, Heaven forbid, wax them. That, my friends, is a most painful and incredibly hard thing to do. She struggles into pantyhose or classic silk stockings, then crams herself into a bra. Okay, so far so good. But now she has to consider whether an undergarment might be advisable, since the dress she is wearing is somewhat sheer. On goes another layer of clothing. If she is heavier than what fashion demands, perhaps one of the slimming devices would be chosen. That means she has to force her lovely but somewhat over-padded body into an elastic form of hell that will torment her for the rest of the night. Now for the dress. No problem there. But the shoes! Oh, my God, those damned shoes!

She puts her delicate feet into torture mechanisms which force her heels up and her toes down. She is now teetering on the balls of her feet and has to be careful not to fall on her lovely behind by making a misstep.

She is finally ready to go out and be admired by the male part of the species. Oh, great! He will probably show up in badly tailored clothes, shoes which haven't been shined, and with sloppily combed hair, if he has any left at all. They don't call these arrangements blind dates for nothing. The participants might be better off if they were both blind. On the one hand, you have the female, who has been subjected to all kinds of misery just to look nice. On the other hand, you have the male, who might take some trouble with his dress and appearance or might not. But in the worst of times, he will never have to go through the misery his female date has experienced.

If she has to use the ladies'room during the outing, she will have to go in there and force that damned foundation garment up and out of the way. She'll have to be very careful not to brush her legs against anything that could cause a run. She is so confined in that blasted thing that she might even find it's difficult to go at all. While she's in there, she might have to pay some attention to the layers of paint and powder she has had to apply so that she looks like some model in a magazine who makes ten times more than she'll ever see in her lifetime.

And people wonder why girls wear jeans these days.

Even when a vacation is considered, more pain and abuse might be necessary. Someone with a twisted sense of humor has decreed that the bikini is cool. But if she doesn't take the time to trim certain areas of her body that should never see the light of day on a public beach, she's going to look like hell. There are many ways to do this and none of them are pleasant. She can apply a chemical hair remover, but that can burn like anything. She can use more of that damned wax. But imagine trying to pull the offending hair out of such a sensitive place. She can use devices created for that purpose that contain an incredibly sharp piece of steel, and if she isn't damned careful, she might cut herself.

Girls, you have my most sincere admiration and sympathy.

Now, let's talk about the fact that people do age, in time. But that isn't allowed, either. Heaven forbid that you might show some wrinkles or lines on your face or that your breasts might sag when you are over 40. But here come surgeons who can fix your problems, for a price. They don't call this procedure plastic for nothing, friends. After a facelift, the average woman or man's face feels like it's made of plastic. Gone is the natural, free-moving feel of an unaltered face. You will be saddled with the feeling that your cheeks or chin have been permanently sealed inside a film. Your skin doesn't have nearly as much sensitivity as it once had. The worst part of this is that the surgical procedure does not guarantee effectiveness for long. In as little as five years, your skin might start sagging again. If that happens, you end up with the same wrinkles and lines, but now they're in a face which has very little feeling anymore. The same thing can happen with breasts or behinds. They, too, will respond in time to the influence of age and gravity. Eventually, the same thing will happen again, but by then, you might be old enough to regain some sense of reality and say to hell with all of this.

What's wrong with accepting people as they are? If you are bigger than the fashion magazines say you should be, so what? If you have laugh lines or wrinkles because you are 42, so what? If you wear a two-piece bathing suit that isn't a bikini, won't you be more comfortable, anyway? If you wear flat dress shoes instead of heels, wouldn't that be better for safety's sake?

My wife is 63 years old. Like every other woman I know, she gets angry at her sagging boobs and worries about her appearance. To me, she is as beautiful as she ever was. It is Linda, the person, I love, not some image created by people I'll never see, or want to see, for that matter. As for me, I'm balding and 71 years old. I am sure as hell no fashion plate in anyone's magazine. But I am still me. I am very lucky to have someone who sees past the physical appearance to the person I have become after 35 years of marriage.

I'm sure girls will still wax or shave their legs. I'm sure that they will still put on lipstick and powder. But there is a reasonable limit, folks. As long as a person doesn't smell bad or look like a Salvation Army reject, I will accept them as they are.

Just imagine a world where all of this nonsense didn't ruin the lives of women everywhere.

***

12. INSTANT REPLAY IN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

by Bob Branco

(originally published in Word Matters, www.ernestdempsey.com)

I think that instant replay is necessary in sports. It's always important to double-check a play in case of human error. While other sports adopted and adjusted to instant replay, it took a long time for baseball to catch on. Two years ago, baseball officially established instant replay, and I must tell you, it has many problems that need to be addressed.

First, let me tell you how I would conduct instant replay. There are four umpires on the field. If there is a questionable call, these umpires should be allowed to huddle in a video room and review the play as a group. That way, the umpires will take full credit for their mistakes or their accurate calls.

It's very simple, and with today's technology, it's easy to do.

However, just like government, Major League Baseball wants to make something more complicated than it needs to be. For those of you who are unaware, let me describe the tedious process that Major League Baseball has established when a play needs to be reviewed. If a manager questions a call, he checks with a team of video experts. It is their job to let the manager know if the play is worth reviewing. If the video crew determines that the play should be reviewed, the footage is sent to a designated umpire in New York. Meanwhile, the four umpires on the field have headsets on while they wait for the results from New York. When the results are in, the field umpires let all of us know whether the original call stands.

Isn't this a lot of unnecessary work? To begin with, I think this process is an insult to the umpires on the field. If the play is reviewable, the field umpires have no more say in the matter. It's almost as if they aren't trustworthy. They make the original call, but the final decision is left up to someone in another city. Why does Major League Baseball want to take so much power away from the umpires at the game? It makes no sense at all.

Another problem with instant replay is that the process takes a long time because of all the steps involved. On one hand, MLB wants to shorten games, but on the other hand, they created a lengthy process for instant replay that makes the games longer. I will guarantee MLB that if they simply let the field umpires look at film on the field, the results will come quicker. Let's not complicate things when it isn't necessary.

***

13. SPECIAL NOTICES

by Bob Branco

Branco Broadcast is a weekly teleconference show that I run every Monday starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time. Each week, our participants get on a conference call and listen to inspirational guests talk about their jobs, projects, and other endeavors. Some of you already get weekly notices about Branco Broadcast and about who will be appearing. If you are not getting these notices but wish to do so, please email me at bobbranco93@gmail.com and I will add you to the mailing list.

***

The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season

C 2016 by Alice Jane-Marie Massa 

In e-book ($2.99) and print ($7.50), 101 pages.

To celebrate holiday reading, author Alice Massa invites you to join her on a snowy, imaginary carriage ride featuring her holiday memoirs, short stories, and poetry. The collection includes her remembrances of Hoosier holidays in the 1950s and 1960s. This book is one you will want to keep beside your chair while you settle into the sparkle and joy of the season.  

Details, cover photo, and handy buying links: http://www.dvorkin.com/alicemassa/

***

Two other excellent, Christmas-themed books are the following:

Christmas on Valley View Farm, by Brian Nash. C 2012. A delightful, adventure-filled book for children ages 9 to 12. In e-book and print. This is the third and longest book in Brian's lively Valley View Farm series, but each book can stand on its own. Full details: http://www.dvorkin.com/brianknash/

It's Still Christmas, by John Justice. C 2015. A short, touching story of hardship overcome thanks to mingled hearts, trust, and faith. In e-book and print.

John is also the author of the much longer novel The Paddy Stories, Book One, set in the 1940s (C 2016).

For full details of both books, see: http://www.dvorkin.com/johnjustice/  

***

Editing Services from Leonore Dvorkin

Besides editing books, both fiction and nonfiction, I am happy to edit articles, blog posts, business letters, etc. I offer quality work, a quick turnaround, and low prices: only $20 per hour for those who are blind, otherwise disabled, and/or low income; the minimum charge is $20. Others pay $25 per hour, with a $25 minimum. I accept checks, money orders, and PayPal. If you are interested in my services, phone me at 303-985-2327 (in Denver, Colorado) or email me: leonore@leonoredvorkin.com

For details of the comprehensive editing and self-publishing services that my husband and I offer, see: http://www.dvorkin.com/epubhelp/    

Bob Branco and many of the regular contributors to this magazine are our clients.   

***

14. WHAT GRINDS YOUR GEARS?

by Joseph Machise

Email: josephmachise@comcast.net

Hi, readers.

The following is a story about an unfortunate purchase that I made a while back and about how badly I was cheated and mistreated by the seller.

Larry and I are on one of the blind selling lists on the internet. With no trouble, he bought a reading machine from me. Later, I heard about an internet radio that he was selling, one made in Holland.

This radio works off a website, so the only way you can program the radio is through the Web. I didn't mind that, because, from his description, it seemed easy enough to do. I mailed him a check for $375 on September 8, 2016. I received the radio on September 26. I worked with Larry and the radio till October 4.

Several unfortunate things happened in those nine days.

There are various features of the radio that you program from the Web, such as having it remember which station you last tuned to. There is also a timer function; the default is that the radio will only run for three hours before it shuts off. However, I couldn't turn off the timer or have it remember the last station I had tuned to. Also, this radio isn't fully accessible.

Around the same day that I mailed the check to Larry, I had a dental emergency. I needed a root canal and a crown, which came to about $2,000. I told Larry about the emergency and that I wished to return the radio, but he wouldn't take the radio back and give me a refund. So I tried working with the radio some more, with no luck. If Larry had told me that all sales were final, that I could not get a refund, I would not have bought the radio from him. After all, virtually all stores will take back a defective product!

After we e-mailed back and forth a few times, he said I could send it back to him. I did, sending it via ground shipping, which cost me $50. In the end, he was so angry about my returning the radio, plus the fact that I had not sent it back by two-day airmail, the way he wanted, he said he would refund me only the $50 for the shipping, and nothing at all for the radio. I told him it took me a long time to save for the radio and that I eat at a soup kitchen, so I don't have money to just throw away that is, if I am not actually getting a radio which I can use. But that had no effect on him.

So now I am out $375, and I gained lots of frustration into the bargain. It turns out that I can't even take him to small claims court, as he is in Arizona now!

The hard lesson I have learned from this is to ask a lot of questions before I buy anything in the future.

I would not treat Bob Branco or you, the readers, this way. If any of you bought something from me, tried it for a few days, and found that it didn't work right, I would gladly refund your money. Any reputable seller would do the same.

If anyone has a suggestion as to how I might rectify this situation, I will welcome your comments. Thanks from Joseph.

***

15. RECIPE COLUMN

by Karen Crowder

Editor's note: The items below are separated by three asterisks, and each one is preceded by a letter: a, b, c, or d.

December always brings wintry weather to New England. It is eclipsed by the excitement of another holiday season. This year, Christmas Eve and the beginning of Hanukah are both on December 24th. Christmas music is playing everywhere, and with the cheery magic of the season, everyday realities fade.

Here are four easy-to-prepare recipes. First come a delicious cheese dip and an ice-cream pie. The recipes for bird's-nest cookies and baked eggplant slices were submitted by Marcy Segelman, honoring Hanukah.

CONTENTS

a. Delicious Cheese Dip

b. Unforgettable Ice Cream Pie

c. Bird's-Nest Cookies

d. Baked Eggplant

***

a. Delicious Cheese Dip

I made this dip right before Thanksgiving Day 1995, and by nightfall it had disappeared. It is simple to prepare; your guests will love it.

Ingredients:

Two 8-ounce containers WisPride sharp cheddar cheese spread

One container Philadelphia brand cream cheese

One 16-ounce container sour cream

A dash of Worcestershire sauce

Method:

1. Soften cream cheese, WisPride sharp cheddar cheese spread, and sour cream on a kitchen counter for 20 minutes.

2. Place cheeses in a large stainless steel bowl, blending on medium speed for two minutes.

3. Add sour cream, blending on medium speed for two minutes.

4. Add Worcestershire sauce and mix on low speed for one minute.

5. Place the cheese dip in container and cover it with a plastic, airtight lid.

6. Refrigerate dip until half an hour before serving time.

This goes well with Ritz, Club, and other types of crackers. With a large, hungry family, it will disappear the same day.

***

b. Unforgettable Ice Cream Pie

In 2005, I faced a dilemma. What to make for dessert on Christmas Day? I was selling Avon, and packages had to be mailed before Christmas. I had recently tasted an ice cream pie and thought it would be the perfect solution.

Ingredients:

Two Oreo Cookie piecrusts

One quart coffee ice cream

One quart chocolate or vanilla ice cream

One jar chocolate fudge sauce

Two chocolate-covered ice cream bars

Method:

1. Soften chocolate or vanilla ice cream and coffee ice cream in a large stainless steel mixing bowl for 10 minutes. (Any longer, and it will be too soft.)

2. Stir ice creams together with a plastic or metal spoon for three minutes.

3. Add sauce and stir for a minute.

4. With a cup, add ice cream mixture to the two Oreo piecrusts.

5. Add the broken"up chocolate"covered ice cream bars, putting each pie on a paper towel-lined paper plate. Spread wax or plastic wrap over the pies and aluminum pans. (This will prevent any dripping.)

6. Put pies in the freezer. Freeze pies for 18 to 24 hours.

Note: if you are allergic to chocolate, use graham cracker piecrusts and omit topping.

I could not believe how fast the ice cream pies went on Christmas Day and how appreciative my stepchildren and grandchildren were. These pies travel well to a nearby destination of relatives or family members.

***

c. Bird's-Nest Cookies

Submitted by Marcy Segelman

Ingredients:

One stick unsalted butter

One egg yolk

One-half teaspoon vanilla

One egg white

One-fourth cup Imperial light brown sugar

One cup sifted flour

One-fourth teaspoon salt

Jam of your choice

One cup walnuts, pecans, or peanuts

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream butter and brown sugar by hand or with an electric mixer.

3. Add yolk and beat until light.

4. Blend in flour, salt, and vanilla and beat for one minute.

5. Form dough into walnut-sized rounds and dip into slightly beaten egg white. Then roll into nuts.

6. Place on greased cookie sheets. Make a depression in each round with the back of a spoon.

7. Bake cookies for eight minutes. After removing them from oven, carefully press down cookies again. Cool for 20 minutes and fill with your favorite jam.

If you omit nuts, put confectioner's sugar on top of the cookies.

The website for Imperial sugar is www.imperialsugar.com .

***

d. Baked Eggplant Slices

Ingredients:

One and one-half pound eggplant

One-fourth cup oil (Marcy suggests canola oil.)

Two cloves crushed garlic

Three-fourths teaspoon salt

One-eighth teaspoon pepper

One-half teaspoon oregano

Preparation:

1. Cut eggplant crosswise into half-inch pieces.

2. Sprinkle slices well with salt. Let them stand in colander for half an hour. This will get rid of the bitter taste.

3. Beat oil, garlic, and seasonings with a fork in a bowl.

4. Brush each side of eggplant with oil mixture.

5. Place slices on cookie sheet or a 13-inch by 9-inch pan.

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

This serves six.

I wish all Consumer Vision readers a happy holiday season and a blessed and joyful 2017.

***

16. TIPS FOR VIPS (Because Visually Impaired Persons Are Important, Too!)

by Penny Fleckenstein, who blogs at: http://notyouraveragesinglemom.com

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all! May you open up many treasured gifts materially and spiritually. May you have a season of great discovery, peace, and joy!

November 1, the day after Halloween, I was standing outside my local grocery store next to the Salvation Army man already starting to collect for Christmas.

"How amazing," I said to him, "that you guys are starting so early." I handed him my small donation and told him how grateful I felt when I attended the fabulous dinner at the Omni William Penn Hotel last Christmas.

How that made my day, and so my small donation was my way of saying "Thank you" to the Salvation Army. No one made me feel guilty or ashamed or poor at that Christmas dinner. They treated us with dignity. It really felt like Christmas. It was my first time attending a large Christmas dinner held by the Salvation Army. I felt hesitant about it when I heard of the opportunity to receive tickets. My friend Gayle told me I would really like it. I did.

It was a true blessing and a wonderful gift.

I've already updated my Amazon wish list, started my Christmas shopping, arranged to have greeting cards sent to my World Vision children, and have been coming up with creative relational gifts.

Here are some ideas:

1. A coupon book of services (massages, a turn at washing the dishes, help with chores, babysitting, etc.).

2. Offer a meal out or make a special day to be with your close friend or family member.

3. A book you can read together or a game you can play together.

4. Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, or a special beverage that can be shared whenever you can spend time together.

5. A home-cooked meal.

6. A date for a movie night, so you can watch a movie together.

7. Tickets for a concert which you can attend together.

8. A picnic and a trip to a special place.

9. An appreciation letter, story, or poem.

10. A donation to that person's favorite charity or cause.

It has taken me a while to feel comfortable with giving fewer material items and thinking more about relational giving. I'm not convinced that it saves money, but it does make you put more thought and creativity into the gifts you give. My son, Zachary, was invited to a birthday party. I proposed some ideas to the mom, but I didn't read the reply till after I had bought her son's gifts. Although I love the idea of giving relationally, I didn't want to impose it on someone who might not be on board, so I ended up buying the material gifts Zachary wanted me to buy him.

I can still give relationally at another time of the year. Time spent with family and friends is always an invaluable treasure.

Besides giving gifts to those you love, I am also an advocate of giving gifts to yourself. Through years of being a mom and self-sacrificing, I have neglected myself. Because of my kindheartedness and stubbornness, I have delayed giving to myself. What I realize now is that for my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, it is what I need to do. In this season of giving, I want you to consider what you can give to yourself that will help you in the years to come. What can you give to yourself that will help you to achieve your dreams, stick to your New Year's resolutions, and make you a happier, healthier person for others to be around?

One of the ways I've been neglecting myself is through the postponement of making some home improvements. The new improvements I've made in my home, which also have significantly affected my life, are a new ceiling fan in my room, a new fluorescent light for Zachary's room, and weather stripping on the front and back storm doors. If I had done these things years earlier, I would have been a more peaceful spirit to live with, and our house would have been less drafty. Instead of waiting around for someone to give me the monetary gift that made this all possible, I would have benefited from giving to myself years earlier. Giving to yourself does not always have to be selfish.

I am an avid reader who is obsessed with improving myself. Although I work on self-improvement all year long, New Year's, which also happens to be my birthday, gives me the impetus to seek more resources to help myself and my family.

I love the free Ten-Day Anxiety Cure, which is a free email course offered at http://charliehoehn.com . He also offers two free books when you sign up for his website: The Recession Proof Graduate and Play It Away.

(Proofreader's note: I could find something called The 10-Day Anxiety Fix, but not anything called The 10-Day Anxiety Cure. However, I found this free PDF file with a similar name: Heal Your Anxiety in 10 Days, by Charlie Hoehn. http://charliehoehn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Heal-Your-Anxiety-in-10-Days.pdf )

Rori Raye offers a fantastic course I took at http://www.havetherelationshipyouwant.com . She even has it so you can pay for her Complete Collection in manageable payments.

Because of her, I ended up signing up for Katie and Gay Hendricks'newsletters and just purchased three ebook bundles for the price of two. I got The 10-Second Miracle, Learning To Love Yourself, and Hearts In Harmony for about $60, which includes the PDF version, epub versions, and audio with some videos. There are more materials I'm planning to purchase from them. Check them out at http://heartsintrueharmony.com

All this is along with reading Napoleon Hill's book Think and Grow Rich and various Joel Osteen books, which I got free from http://bard.loc.gov .

I'm expecting growth and excellent years ahead.

This year, I'm so glad to be receiving, giving, and participating in the celebration of life, knowing that each year I grow and others with me.

Feel free to write to me and share about your journey at goodthaimom@gmail.com .

***

17. STAR'S SOLUTION TO AN ANNOYING PROBLEM

by John Justice

In the heart of the Garment District in New York City, there are small shops owned and operated by individuals who are as unique as the products they sell. In many cases, a visually impaired pedestrian would pass these retail establishments without knowing anything about them. Finding one particular boutique was difficult without sighted help. I found myself walking through this part of lower Manhattan on a regular basis since several recording studios were located in that same area.

Every time I passed a certain sweater shop, a small dog would come racing out of the open door. This pint-sized menace would bark, growl, and snarl at my guide dog, Star. Fortunately, the owner or someone in the staff would come out, grab the dog, and bring it back into the shop. One of the studios I mentioned was four doors away from this retail location. I had a feeling that sooner or later something unpleasant was going to happen involving that animal, who seemed to think he or she owned that part of the sidewalk. I wasn't concerned about Star, my German Shepherd guide. She loved dogs of any kind and wasn't aggressive at all.

One summer day, it happened. That little store must have been very hot, since the outside temperature was almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit. I was strolling along, thinking about the work we had planned at the studio. Other than listening for other pedestrians, I really wasn't paying attention to my surroundings. Suddenly, that little dog was there, and she was trying to bite Star. When I picture that scene, it makes me laugh. Here was a tiny Chihuahua trying to attack Star. My dog weighed 87 pounds and stood about 28 inches at the shoulder. That didn't seem to matter to Coco. She was trying to jump up and bite Star's neck or face. Finally, my patient friend reached the end of her tolerance. She picked up Coco by the scruff of her neck, just as a mother dog would do to one of her puppies. As soon as her feet left the ground, Coco stopped barking and snarling. Star stopped and stood there right in the doorway with Coco dangling from her mouth.

The owner finished with her customer and turned around. Her scream was louder than any noise Coco had ever made.  Oh, my God! Your monster dog is trying to kill my Coco! Put her down, you awful brute!

Her words told me what had happened and my sense of humor took over immediately.  Your Coco was trying to attack my awful brute. Star won't hurt her. I'm not so sure about what Coco will do, though. I carefully reached toward Star's mouth. Fortunately, I touched the back end of Coco and wasn't near enough to be bitten.  If you come over and take hold of your dog, Star will release her.

The lady ran to where we were standing. She spoke softly to her dog. As soon as she touched Coco, Star let go. But that little terror whipped around and sank her teeth into the owner's hand. She started screaming again.  Madre de Dios! She bit me! Oh, my God! Somebody get me a rag or something! I'm bleeding!

I waited for a moment or two to make sure that everything was under control. Then, Star and I turned and went on our way.

We were trying to finish a Wrigley's Spearmint Gum commercial, and the producer was making a nuisance of himself. Every time we thought the one"minute recording was finished, he would decide to change something else. We worked on that thing for more than two hours, and then I headed for the bus terminal and home. It was decided that we would all come back the next day, and there would be a run"through. We were all hoping that the producer would finally be satisfied.

I came out of the subway and was making my way down that same block. This time, I was listening for Coco, but before I reached the store, I heard the front door slam with a resounding crash. I walked past the store, grinning. From inside the glass entrance, I could hear Coco having a fit and the owner trying to soothe her. Coco seemed to want to try her luck again. Fortunately, the owner saw us coming and provided a barrier that little horror couldn't get through.

I heard a lady chuckling next to me. She paused and explained what had made her laugh.  That little dog is trying to climb up the inside of the door. But it's glass, and she isn't getting anywhere. The more she tries, the angrier she's getting. I hope they don't open that door right now!

The producer was pleased with the result of our work at last. They took the track holding my piano part and put it through a signal processor that made it sound like an old fashioned honky-tonk piano. I liked it. That commercial ran for almost a year before Wrigley started another approach.

Not long after that day, I moved from northern New Jersey to the Philadelphia area. Although Philly has its share of oddballs, strange people, and stray animals, I have never experienced that particular kind of problem here. My dogs and I have run into alley cats, pigeons, and all kinds of homeless people, but the only animals I have met in stores didn't create issues like Coco. That little dog probably crossed the Rainbow Bridge years ago. I wonder if the owner ever did anything about her angry little excursions.

***

18. CONSUMER VISION TRIVIA CONTEST

Here is the answer to the trivia question submitted in the November Consumer Vision. The group who sang the 1997 hit song  Barbie Girl was Aqua. Congratulations to the following winners:

Jan Colby of Brockton, Massachusetts

Roanna Bacchus of Orlando, Florida

Amy Stefanik of New Bedford, Massachusetts

Here is your trivia question for the December Consumer Vision. According to the Christmas song  Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, what are the age ranges of the kids who're offered a simple prayer? If you know the answer, please email bobbranco93@gmail.com or call 508-994-4972.