The Consumer Vision

January/February, 2009

Publisher, Bob Branco

Editor, Janet Marcley

Treasurer: Gail Teixeira

Braille Production: Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library CD Production: Bob Zeida

Cassette Reader: Gail Teixeira

Cassette Duplication: Jerry Arsenault

Print Production: Alpha Graphics

E-Mail Production: Bob Branco and Janet Marcley

Marketing Representative: Marci Tamez

Advisory Committee: Clem Beaulieu, Lisa Cabral, Dan Germano, Marianne Martin, Bonnie Schachter, Charles Soforenko and Gail Teixeira

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Table of Contents

A Message from Bob Branco

Man and Woman of the Year

The Invasion of Infomercials

HumanWare Introduces the New Deaf-Blind Communicator

The Story of a Blind Softball Commissioner

The Working Blind

Adaptive Product Requests

A Beautiful Reunion

Tales from the Marketplace

All States Across the Country Facing Budget Cuts

IRS Mileage Tax Deduction for 2009

Letters to the Editor

Spring Days

Foolish Spending

The Consumer Vision Trivia Contest

Dan's Kitchen - Recipe for Pork Roast

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A Message from Bob Branco

I wish to thank everyone who have been reading and contributing to the Consumer Vision. Without all of you, I feel that the magazine would not be as successful as it is. Though my staff and I put each issue together, this is "your" magazine. After all, you are the consumers, and we make an effort to put out a quality product just for you. We encourage you to continue submitting material if you want to, and there is no charge for submissions. We thank you for being observant, honest and supportive.

May you have a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.

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Man and Woman of the Year

Each year, the Consumer Vision is proud to select its Man and Woman of the year. There are many people who continuously give of themselves to the community and work tirelessly to lend a helping hand. For 2008, as was the case in 2007, we found two such people.

I met Steve Burgo in 2005 when he responded to an ad I placed in a local newspaper for a sports talk show co-host. For the past three years, Steve and I have spent many hours on Cable Access Television discussing the hot sports topics of the week. Not only did I realize how much Steve knows about sports, but I quickly learned of his strong devotion to our youth.

For many years, Steve has worked very hard to keep kids off the streets, and to get them involved in productive recreational activities, such as basketball. He is developing one of the largest and best sports complexes in the country. Many dignitaries who have visited this complex, which is located in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, have agreed with my evaluation. For these and other reasons, it is with great pleasure that the Consumer Vision has chosen Steve Burgo as Man of the Year for 2008. Congratulations, Steve, and please know that your influence over our youth not only goes a long way toward preventing crime in our streets, but it also serves to keep kids busy doing productive things, making their parents and the rest of us proud of their accomplishments.

Bob Branco

The following is a nomination letter for Man of the Year submitted by one of our readers.

I would like to nominate Steve Burgo for man of the year. As much as I tease him I think he does a lot for the Dartmouth community with his complex and all the organized activities he does. He puts a lot of time and effort into helping the youth of the community have a place to go and giving them something to get involved with. He really cares a lot, to no great benefit of his own besides doing a good thing, and I think that's commendable. Sincerely

Sean Sousa

I have not seen the Consumer Vision's Woman of the Year in nearly 40 years, but even then, I knew that Cynthia Essex would spend a good part of her life helping blind children at the Perkins School achieve their goals. I remember Miss Essex as principal of the Lower School, which was grade six and under. Whenever there was a problem in school, or if a student did something wrong, Miss Essex would not be too far away to handle the situation. I would like to tell you a brief story of an experience I had with Miss Essex. When I was in the fifth grade, we had a class called "Store" once a week. The store was set up in a classroom, and the inventory consisted of small toys. One day, I picked up a toy flute and began playing it. Miss Essex saw what I was doing and pointed out that I had now bought that flute. In other words, I wasn't supposed to put it back now that I played it. I had to buy it. I am aware of all that Miss Essex did while at Perkins, and it's for this reason that I fully support and agree with her being Consumer Vision's Woman of the Year for 2008.

Bob Branco

The following is a nomination letter for Woman of the Year from one of our readers.

Dear Bob,

I'm not sure if my nomination for Woman of the Year qualifies as someone who "helped the community," but I feel that Cynthia Essex, who has been the supervisor of the Secondary Program at Perkins, is someone worthy of note. During her many years of work there, starting with her time as a teacher trainee in September of '59, then as Lower School teacher, Lower School principal, head of and (I think) initiator of Special Programs, working with new students with multiple handicaps during the late '70s, and as supervisor of the Secondary Program from September of 1983 until the present, Ms. Essex has never been fearful of pointing out needs for innovation and, where possible, making innovations part of educational and residential practice in Secondary. Many of her decisions, such as courses to be taught, new practices to be implemented, and decisions regarding working with individual students, undoubtedly have had effects which have improved those students' lives and therefore improved their chances of better work possibilities and leisure activities in their communities after they left Perkins and Secondary.

She has always been actively cooperative with the State Department of Education regarding testing procedures, but has also advocated with those people the better alternatives for administering those tests to the blind, and has insisted that they be put in place where possible. I'm sure that there have been many other bureaucratic mazes which she has been able to go through and make less cumbersome. She has many times shown outstanding ability to pair students with just the right teachers for their needs and temperaments.

While I taught under her, there were a few policies with which I might not have agreed, but I always knew that, knowing the bigger picture, or being aware of some particular state law or mandate, Cynthia was carrying out policies or taking steps which would ultimately be proper and beneficial for the students.

Thanks, Bob, for giving me the opportunity to put Cynthia Essex in nomination for Woman of the Year for Consumer Vision. I eagerly look forward to learning of other nominations, and to finding out who are this year's Man and Woman of the Year.

Warmly,

Marcy Scott

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The Invasion of Infomercials

By Bob Branco

When I was young, network television consisted of basic programs of interest to all consumers all the time, whether it be sports, news, game shows, soap operas, prime-time hits, late-night funny stuff, etc. One afternoon, as I was channel surfing, I discovered that a local Boston channel, affiliated with the ABC network, had two half-hour infomercials in a row. During the week, Channel 10 in Providence, an affiliate of NBC, has a different half-hour infomercial from 12:30 to 1:00 every day. Has the age of infomercials taken over television? Can't network directors find other types of television shows like those we always enjoyed? Have we run out of good quality programming? We always had something, whether we enjoyed it or not. Network television even had movie nights. I miss that!

Aren't you tired of hearing infomercials about the Red, the Toby, the Steam Mop, Time Life's greatest oldies, or everything to help your abs? For a half hour we have to put up with the constant exclamations from people who absolutely love the product. "Oh, how awesome! Ooooh! It really works. I think I'll buy it!!!! Oh, Wow!!!!!!!!!!" I wonder how many of these people really enjoy the products advertised through infomercials, or if they're being paid big bucks to act like they do. The infomercial that I really get a kick out of is the one about the steam mop. The directors have a bunch of children write all over the floor with crayons while the mother tries to hold in her anger in an attempt to have faith in this wonderful steam mop. Suddenly, Presto! All the crayon marks are gone, and the mother says, "Ooooooh, I think I'll buy the steam mop, it's so wonderful; how awesome, it really works! Ooooooooh!!!!!!!!" I am almost willing to bet you that if I used my floor as a coloring book, this particular steam mop wouldn't work as well as advertised.

My point is, how effective are infomercials, and are they really necessary? I think it's overkill!

There is another area of television that infomercials have been invading.

TV Land is one of my favorite television channels. I enjoy listening to all the old-time programs that I loved while growing up. One day, I was astounded to learn that infomercials have taken over TV Land in the morning. Why do you suppose this is happening? Instead of laughing at the Jeffersons, Sanford or Lucy, I now have to listen to some half-hour promotion about something to help your abs. It's bad enough that infomercials have hit network television, but now we have to put up with them on TV Land, the religion channel, and even during an important football play-off game on a sports channel. How can we, as consumers, stop this? If network television wants to remain competitive with satellite television, they should not be so quick to give up all their quality channels to infomercials.

On New Year's Day, it is a tradition for us to watch the Tournament of Roses parade. Many of us look forward to seeing it, and the concept never gets old. This year, several NBC affiliates obviously felt that we didn't have to watch the entire parade, so they interrupted it with a half-hour infomercial. I believe that this was an extremely insensitive slap in the face to the viewers. As you all know, the Tournament of Roses parade has been an annual event for the past 120 years, way before the birth of television. I guess we're now supposed to call it the Tournament of Infomercials! On the first parade float we have the Toby, followed by the Firm, the steam mop, and a big truck full of Time Life's wonderful oldies but goodies! The people who are on all these floats probably have cute abs which will be advertised for the next 365 days in a row.

Should I be mad about this? After all, we're used to watching the entire parade before the football games come on. It's as I said before, infomercials are invading our television time. Are the network affiliates knuckling under to producers of infomercials? Is the almighty dollar speaking louder than the consumer? I contacted Channel 10 in Providence, my local NBC affiliate, and asked the lady why the parade was interrupted. She said it was all about money. I told her that as much as I sympathized with Channel 10 and their financial problems, this action only forces us to go to the rival networks in order to finish watching what "we" want to watch.

What would be your advice to an angry viewer like me who believes we should have been able to watch the entire parade? I can listen to promotions about oldies but goodies, ways to steam clean your floors, how infants learn to read, or how to trim our abs every single day. All I need to do is find the right channel, and I'm positive I will eventually see an infomercial. An annual event such as the Tournament of Roses Parade comes once a year. We should all have the opportunity or at least be given the choice to watch it in its entirety.

Bob Branco

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If you have an upcoming birthday and would like to share it with our readers, please email your birthday to the Consumer Vision at bobbranco93@gmail.com or call our office at 508-994-4972.

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HumanWare Introduces the New Deaf-Blind Communicator

Deaf-blind people have been dreaming about a truly portable and integrated replacement for the TeleBraille since its production ceased in 1993. HumanWare has made that dream come true when it introduced the new Deaf Blind Communicator (DBC).

The DBC enables deaf-blind users to effectively communicate with other deaf or deaf-blind people and the general public in many different ways. The DBC provides a TTY (with answering machine) for communicating with other deaf or deaf-blind individuals. It also includes a totally portable face-to-face communication system for communicating with sighted or hearing people on buses, in restaurants and shops, at school, or with colleagues in the workplace.

The DBC consists of two components: a BrailleNote that has a built-in braille display with either a standard QWERTY or braille keyboard, and the DBC companion phone. These two separate devices communicate wirelessly with each other using Bluetooth technology. The BrailleNote also has special DBC software installed that enables it to operate as a TTY when connected to a telephone landline. The BrailleNote and the DBC Companion are used together to allow face-to-face communication with a sighted person.

HumanWare developed the DBC in partnership with the Washington State Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH) and is the result of extensive collaboration between deaf-blind individuals, focus groups, and HumanWare's engineering and marketing teams.

More than TTY and Face-to-face Communication

In this modern world of smart phones and PDAs, texting and instant messaging (IM) have become key modes of communication. Ironically, these relatively new forms of mainstream communication are quite similar in concept to traditional modes of deaf communication. Because the DBC is based on modern technology, an adventurous user can activate texting and instant messaging capabilities on the DBC. With the addition of an SIM card and a texting plan from a wireless provider, a DBC user is able to send and receive text messages to and from anyone with a cell phone. A deaf-blind person is now able to communicate in exactly the same way everyone else does, not just with other deaf-blind people, but with anyone who has a cell phone. The DBC instantly translates the text to braille and visa versa. The communication happens exactly the same way as if two sighted cell phone users were texting each other.

BrailleNote, the world's most widely used portable braille device for blind people, contains a full suite of mainstream-type applications such as a word processor, a scientific calculator, an e-mail program, an Internet browser, a planner, an address book and more. Because some deaf-blind people may not be initially interested in these advanced features, the DBC hides them in basic mode, leaving only the TTY and face-to-face features. However, any user can choose to activate the advanced features when they are ready, as they are already built into every DBC at no extra cost.

For more detailed information on the DBC, visit the HumanWare website:

http://www.humanware.com/deafblind_communicator

HumanWare

175 Mason Circle

Concord

CA 94520

800 722-3393

925 680-7100

E-mail: us.info@humanware.com

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The Story of a Blind Softball Commissioner

by Bob Branco

Despite the high unemployment rate of the blind population, and the sedentary lifestyles of some blind people who find themselves with nothing to do because of a lack of opportunity, we hear many stories about a blind person's success. Though I am not employed, I am doing something that requires a great deal of loyalty and responsibility. I am commissioner of a slow-pitch softball league in the New Bedford, Massachusetts, area. The members in the league are fully sighted, and I am blind. Being blind does not hinder my performance. I have resources at my fingertips to assist me in what I have to get done. As commissioner of this softball league, it is my job to raise funds, apply for field permits, buy insurance in order to protect my players, find sponsors, buy softball equipment, register the teams, schedule the games, hire umpires, coordinate play-off tournaments and put many of our games on local television. Though I do not get paid for being commissioner of this league, I treat this as a job, because in actuality, it really is. I put every effort into making sure that things run smoothly.

Though the players and coaches take half a year off, I continue to work year-round for the good of the league. During the fall and winter, I look for sponsors who wish to buy a team, which also means they are paying for the team registration fee. While I try to find out how many teams want to play ball, I contact a local Parks Department in order to request a field several days a week. Once the Parks Department approves my request, I am asked to buy accident and liability insurance in order to protect the city or town we play in. Several years ago, this was not necessary, but in a sue-happy society in which we live, it's become necessary for any organization to buy insurance in order to use a park for its activities. At times, I have to spend most, if not all, of the registration fees in order to pay for the insurance premiums, meaning that I have to raise additional funds to buy softball equipment and pay umpires.

In 2008, my league, which is known as the Branco Events Softball League, had eight teams. We had our field permit from April 1st to September 30th. We played at Jones Park in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, and will do so again next year. Each of my teams wore a particular uniform, usually designed with the sponsor in mind. I believe, as commissioner, that when a sponsor invests his/her money with my league, I want the best return for that investment. This is why the name of the sponsor is on the uniform, and why we mention the sponsors as often as possible when we broadcast some of our games on local television.

The league has both male and female players, ranging in age from 17 to 76. Each team has a head coach and an assistant coach. It is the coaches' job to run their team as they see fit. They call their own practice sessions and decide on their own roster. If they need help recruiting players or have a problem that they can't solve on their own, I offer my assistance.

If I feel that a coach is doing something unethical, I have the authority to replace him/her. During the winter, I hold coach meetings at my home where we discuss important softball issues and vote on the rules. There are two sides to every issue, and I always believe that the majority rules.

In 2008, the league scheduled six games a week. Each team played a total of 26 regular season games. The top six teams made the play-offs, and the two best teams received a first-round buy, meaning they waited to play the winners of the preliminary round. The season began on Monday, April 21, and ended with the championship game on Wednesday, September 10. After the season, the coaches voted on the various awards, such as Most Valuable Player, Coach of the Year, Pitcher of the Year and Achievement Award. In order to maintain objectivity, I asked the coaches not to vote for any of their own players or for themselves.

It is not difficult to have our games broadcast on local television. I have a three-person television crew who films, announces and edits games. In 2008 we televised approximately 25 games during the regular season and throughout the play-offs. We had our own time slot every week, so that I could let everyone know when to watch Branco Events Softball.

Each year, the Branco Events Softball League continues to grow. In 2006, we started with three teams. It increased to six teams in 2007, and to eight teams in 2008. There is a chance that we will have ten teams next year.

Being blind does not hinder my efforts to make our softball league what it is, and again, the league I run is not a specialized league but is regular slow-pitch softball with all sighted participants.

During the season, you can find out about our activities by checking out www.brancoevents.com. Normally, we have a section which updates you on a weekly basis, giving you scores for that week and the latest team standings.

If you would like more information or have questions about the Branco Events Softball League, please email me at bobbranco93@gmail.com or call our office at 508-994-4972.

Bob Branco, Commissioner

Branco Events Softball League

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The Working Blind

The following are success stories of two blind people who are gainfully employed.

I have been working in Human Services for the past 31 years. I work in the Division of Family Development which administers the needs of public-assistance clients but I would appreciate it if you would keep the name of my workplace confidential. They would rather have it that way.

When I first started working at the Division, I worked as a hotline operator answering questions, taking client complaints and providing information to recipients and interested persons. I also took fair hearing requests. Since I took Spanish in high school and college, I was able to use my knowledge and communicate with Spanish-speaking persons to some extent. I had the Food Stamp Manual on tape and used an optacon to read printed material. At that time I used a typewriter to do reports and take hearing requests. After two years, I worked with the county welfare and bank and check-cashing agencies whose job it was to issue Food Stamps. I administered the contracts and insured that the issuers were following regulations when dealing with the agencies. In 1988, I spent a few months answering letters from constituents who wrote to their government officials. The letters were sometimes handwritten and I had to ask someone to read them to me. Writing these letters helped me to develop my writing skills. For the next ten years, I supervised the hotline where I originally worked as an operator. By this time, we had numerous calls and, in addition to supervising staff, I took calls, did reports and helped resolve client complaints by contacting the county welfare agencies to find out how the problems could be resolved. I currently write fair hearing decisions concerning the Division's assistance programs and coordinate the work of the unit. Our system is computerized and we use Paradox as our computer operating system. I use a scanner to read materials and my manuals are in print. I use the optacon to read printed material. I enjoy my job and feel that the Division has given me the opportunity to move up as a blind person. My handicap doesn't stop me from doing my work. I have the capacity to go onto some of our computerized systems and obtain client information. I am grateful for the job and enjoy my coworkers and what I do. I feel fortunate in what I'm doing.

Mary Jo Partyka

I'm Principal Pianist of Jose Mateo's Ballet Theatre and this is my 21st year.

I Started playing for Ballet Classes in 1973.

My objective is to train other blind people to do this.

Gilbert Busch, who is also blind, is very successful.

Rosalie Hoffman

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Adaptive Product Requests

I am Karen Crowder and I am looking for two things.

Do you know if anyone still makes a waist-high scale where the dial is in braille? Talking scales are okay, but everyone can hear your weight.

Braille scales were good because you can quietly read your weight, and no one will be the wiser.

I am also looking for an old braille note-taker, a Braille Lite or even a Versa Braille, at a very reasonable price. Also do you know if they still make braille candy or meat thermometers? Anne Morris Bliss used to have those things in her catalog.

If anyone has information on these things you can email me at kcrowder18@comcast.net. I hope you all had a Merry Christmas

friend ship and peace Karen

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A Beautiful Reunion

By Allen Hensel

Back in October of 2008 Bob was instrumental in re-uniting me with Alan Soule, a fellow Perkins alum and one of my best friends whom I had not spoken with since June of 1970.

For two years Alan and I built a great relationship on being able to effortlessly share personal experiences growing up blind in a sighted world through both laughter and fun as well as very serious reflection.

We instantly recognized the other as kindred in spirit and from the first moment established a permanent and very deep bond that we vowed would never come undone.

I was ecstatic when Bob offered to conference-call Alan and me for the first time in over 38 years. Part of me (I will admit) was a bit apprehensive, not knowing what to expect. That apprehension was immediately dispelled in the first moments of conversation as we literally picked up where we left off almost 40 years ago.

Two months, a number of phone calls and many hours of conversation later, Alan and I (as you might imagine) have caught each other up on our life happenings and we are eagerly planning to get together with our respective families sometime this summer.

I truly can not offer enough thanks to the one person completely responsible for giving me the opportunity to resume a rare and lifelong friendship with one of the most beautiful people I could ever know.

I love you my "Soule Brother" and am looking forward to making up for almost 40 lost years and beyond...

Al Hensel

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TALES FROM THE MARKETPLACE

Fool me Once .

I used to have a Citibank Visa card; I rarely used it, but kept it as a backup card. In early 2004, I received an invoice for thirty-something dollars, although I hadn't purchased anything. When I called to question the charge, I was told that it was for a "protection plan" that had been applied to my card. I said that I didn't want any such plan and to please remove the charge. Shortly thereafter, I received a letter from Citibank informing me that they had cancelled the protection plan, but that I was still liable for the thirty-odd dollars because I had agreed to the plan. Although I hadn't agreed to anything, nor even received any calls offering a plan, I paid the charge rather than go through a protracted dispute by correspondence.

About a year later, a similar charge appeared on my invoice. This time I was more than annoyed because my card had expired; Citibank had sent me a new card, but I hadn't activated it. I was mentally composing an angry letter to the Attorney General when Citibank called to advise me to ignore the charge-they would "take care of it." However, while I was waiting for them to do so, they sold my "debt" to a collection agency. Since then, with accumulating late charges and such, the amount due has grown to almost $300.00.

Where did I go wrong? Aside from acquiring a Citibank credit card in the first place, I think I made two other crucial mistakes. Paying that initial thirty-something-dollar charge may have marked me as a sucker and led to their second attempt to scam me. A further mistake was my na?ve trust in Citibank's promise to "take care of" the second phony charge. If I ever had to prove that I really received such a phone call, how could I do it?

In any case, you can imagine how pleased I was last fall when the U.S. government bailed out Citigroup with $20 billion of our money, plus billions more in asset guarantees. Is there no justice?

Bob,

I received a notice that I had a phone bill that was way overdue from 1994 (or somewhere around then). They had the correct number that I had at that time. I called and they said the payment of over $100 had never been made. As I had been divorced since receiving this bill and as it was possible that my ex-husband did not pay it, I made a deal with the company and paid it. When my sister and I were discussing it later, I felt that I had been scammed. I called my credit card company to dispute the charge after I had contacted the collection agency to ask for a copy of the original bill. I wrote a letter notifying them that I had disputed the payment with my credit card company and that when they produced a copy of the original bill I would certainly pay it. Instead, I received a letter from them stating that everything had been removed from my record and that I owed them nothing. This scam has nothing to do with being blind and everything to do with simply being the victim of an illegal business. I do not remember the name

of the company, unfortunately. Always ask for a copy of the original bill, especially when the collection agency is trying to collect on something that is several years old. (You can leave my name out of this, please.)

Hi there to you Bob.

The following is a short story of how I almost got taken in by Mystery shopping.

It was early Sunday morning. I sat listening to Coast to Coast AM and heard a commercial about Mystery Shopping. I had heard this ad before, and, intrigued I decided to call the number. I love to shop and what a fun way of earning money, get paid to go shopping. I called the number and spoke to a very nice lady. She said I would be helping my town with this sort of service. I told her I was going on a cruise, and she assured me that I could do this type of shopping.

Over the next few days, I began to question this sort of thing. I looked on their web site and filled out there form, and tried their first test. I do not remember it very much but I will say this, the company was willing to refund my money because I was having a difficult time. But I said no, I wanted to keep trying. You had to answer questions about a given shopping area: was it well lighted, were the people neatly dressed and was the store clean. I could not do the second part of the test very well, I felt funny going in to a store, only pretending to be a shopper. I gave up on it and

I am glad I did. I think the company I was dealing with was all right, but I always think when something is too good to be true, it usually is.

by Karen Crowder

P.S. I am always leery of those late-night ads where they say you can earn money from home. I like to find out more details first.

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Sharon Costa of New Bedford, Massachusetts, makes arts and crafts from gimp, ceramics, needle point, beads, etc. If you would like to order one of Sharon's creations, please email bobbranco93@gmail.com or call 508-994-4972.

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All States Across the Country Facing Budget Cuts

by A. Rivers

In response to the many articles written thus far about cuts being made by Gov. Patrick throughout the state of Massachusetts, I do not understand why no one has mentioned how all states across the country are facing budget cuts due to Bush's economic policies, or lack thereof. I don't blame Gov. Patrick for needing to balance the budget, especially in view of what is happening in California. They are running up deficits that are rapidly approaching a trillion dollars, and other states are beginning to cry out for help from the federal government. That being said, we can't get upset at the wrong person - as the expression goes, "don't kill the messenger." While I understand the intent on reporting the issues going on around the state regarding the budget, the broader issue isn't being addressed. With no help from the federal government, meaning a president that will listen to the woes of a slumping economy, sadly there's nothing we can do until January 20, 2009. And get this: President Bush is currently working on more deregulation for some pet projects of his, as well as close to 100 executive orders before he leaves office. More deregulation, huh? Well, these budget cuts state-wide and country-wide are an example of Phil Gramm, former economic advisor to Sen. John McCain's campaign, lobbying payoff. In the late 1990s, he lobbied for deregulation of the financial markets, and look where it got us. Yet, Bush wants more deregulation.

When money is taken away from cities and municipalities, where does it go? It is in the form of tax cuts for the wealthy. It's reverse Robin Hood take from the poor to give to the rich - and that has been the ideology of Reaganomics, supply-side economics, of the conservative ideology, and I honestly hope that people who are feeling the budget cuts understand where it's coming from. It's not the fault of the governor, but an entire ideology of backward thinking that came out of the Bush administration.

Gov. Patrick is not to blame for these cuts - at least he's not running our state into a trillion-dollar deficit like the governor of California has.

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IRS Mileage Tax Deduction for 2009

by Roger Chartier

For miles driven in 2009, the IRS is allowing us a business deduction of 55 cents per mile. This is a change from 2008.

For 2009 charity miles are @ 14 cents per mile. No change from 2008.

For 2009 moving and medical miles are @ 24 cents per mile. This is up from last year.

The rest of the story:

You do have to keep mileage records for the IRS tax prep and differentiate between business, personal, charity and moving miles. You can take a business-vehicle tax deduction, with receipts for all expenses, or a mileage deduction. Deductions for charity, medical and moving mileage are not as much of an advantage and for most of us it wouldn't be as big an issue. So let's focus on business here a bit.

The business miles are often the best deduction and, even though the price of gas skyrocketed, if you have a business that logs a lot of highway miles, like I do, at 50.5 cents per mile (and then with the increase to 58.5 cents for the second half of the year), it still should be a better method for 2008. I would suggest keeping track by both methods so that at tax time you can do the math and decide which is the better. Use a log book to track the odometer readings each day.

Someone told me how they recreated the mileage for one day when they forgot to log the difference between personal miles and business. They went to a web site that offers online maps and driving directions. There are software programs that are very helpful for tax prep and many people use them. I like to do all of the preliminary record keeping work and trust my accountant for the details.

Here are some good web pages for tax tips. http://www.rc123.com/tax_information_links.html

Some people think it's unnecessary to use an accountant because the electronic filing with tax-prep software is so easy to use. I'll have to look into it. It's surely worth the effort to learn about how to use the software and then decide if you want to save the cost of the accountant.

So using software and e-filing is another way to save money. You also have the option of a deduction that uses a percentage method whereby you have to save all receipts for gas, parking, registration, repairs etc.

If you had a catastrophic year repair-wise or had to park in a garage everyday, that could warrant using the percentage method.

Medical and moving allows a 24-cent-per-mile deduction and although I do have a serious heart problem with two artificial valves and need constant blood tests at my doctor's office, it isn't very far. So for me, n/a. There are those who have to travel for dialysis or chemotherapy on a regular basis and for them it is vital that they use the deduction.

The charity deduction if fixed by government regulation @ 14 cents. It could be an issue if you did it on a regular basis but again, you have to do the math. This can be a make-it-or-break-it deduction and if you are self-employed and just starting out, you have to think about this right away so that your records will be accurate.

The mileage deduction amounts change every year so be sure to look it up before you start every new year just to know where you will stand deduction-wise.

Good Luck!

Copyright ? Roger Chartier 2008

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Letters to the Editor

Dear Bob,

As always, this was another great issue of "The Consumer Vision." I wish to comment on "More Blindness Issues at the Forefront." Your account of the man who hitchhikes to work every morning is truly sad. I wonder why something like paratransit is unavailable to him. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I heard somewhere that at least a part of one of the blindness organizations in this country is actually opposed to paratransit. If this is, in fact, true, then I find that very unfortunate. Some states I'm told have very good paratransit services, and paratransit is the only transportation option for some people. In addition, aren't some opposed to sheltered workshops? Like I said in a previous letter to the magazine, the only way these and other issues will be resolved is if certain members and leaders of these two organizations just grow up and learn to deal with reality as it is. By that I mean learn to deal with the fact that we are who we are and there's nothing wrong with being different. I'm not saying that this is the sole purpose of the Massachusetts workshop where this man works being threatened with closure, but I just think it's unfortunate that we are still to this day dealing with this kind of thing. I think it's a crying shame that even to this very day, the unemployment/underemployment rate among people who are blind/visually impaired remains at the same high rate. I read the book "People of Vision: A History of the American Council of the Blind" a number of years ago, and in many respects I'm waiting with baited breath for a sequel to that book to come out. That sequel should tell the story of our two "consumer" blindness organizations reuniting as they were before the late 1950s and on into the '60s. A couple weeks ago I was at a meeting and I commented how these two organizations have been separate for so long, and a person sitting near me reminded me that there's bound to be some sort of conflict in just about anything. This is true. I think it will lessen when our new President takes office next year, but I don't want to get into a whole long political debate. If we only had more time at that meeting, I think I would've responded with an explanation of the split into two separate blindness organizations. I honestly cannot believe how certain leaders and members find it necessary to dwell on the philosophical aspect of blindness, and make that the basis for every argument. It is my sincere hope that things start to improve for our population.

Sincerely,

Jake Joehl, Illinois

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Spring Days

By Karen Crowder

I sit here at my computer with the window open:

I hear the sweet song of a bird:

It seems to say Spring is here,

Its sweet shrill sounding along with the warm morning breeze:

Makes you feel like the bird Rejoicing that winter is gone.

The Spring days are here

Gone will be the cold winds of winter.

The sun will shine ever brighter

The days growing warmer; crocuses budding

Lifting their heads out of the ground.

Tiny daffodils, tulips and magnolias will soon follow.

Perfuming the air in April.

Forsythias, jonquils and lilacs arrive.

Easter with its parades and pageantry celebration of our risen Lord. It is the End of the long season of Lent.

For children, it is candy and the Easter bunny.

The true meaning of Easter remaining

A mystery to their smiling eyes.

They celebrate with new outfits and Easter egg hunts

Playing outside after a long winter.

In May, 80- and 90-degree temperatures

Remind us that the balmy lazy days of summer are not far away. Picnics, parades and cookouts will start:

Noisy lawn mowers will break the sound in the morning.

The smell of newly mowed grass scents the air.

Spring is time for renewal and rebirth of joy and love.

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Foolish Spending

By Bob Branco

It is safe to assume that we are living through tough financial times in this country and around the world. Despite that, people still want to spend money foolishly. Don't you think we are better off putting food on our table or meeting all of our other needs rather than conducting a study about which class of women are the happiest according to their shoe size? You read correctly! This morning I heard on the radio that women who take a size 12 shoe are happier than those who wear any other size. Tell me how this is important, or how it makes my day to know this. I'm sure our tax dollars were spent on this study. On behalf of all the tax payers, I am insulted. People are trying to find out about women's shoe sizes and how that relates to their personality while three major auto dealers, Wall Street, and many other factions of this country are in deep financial trouble, directly affecting the consumer.

Please help me figure this out so that I can try to have a better day today.

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The Consumer Vision Trivia Contest

Here is the answer to the trivia question submitted in the November/December edition of the Consumer Vision. The only state in the United States with just one syllable is the state of Maine. Congratulations to the following winners:

Cori Castaldo of Walla Walla, Washington Aaron Amaral of Rehoboth, Massachusetts Jan Colby of Brockton, Massachusetts Marci Tamez of Carrollton, Texas

Lauren Casey of Lawrenceville, New Jersey Gail Teixeira of Acushnet, Massachusetts Lucille Post of New Bedford, Massachusetts Lucille Burkhardt of Little Rock, Arkansas

And now, here is your trivia question for the January/February Consumer Vision.

From the television program The Jeffersons, name the bell boy.

If you know the answer, please e-mail us at bobbranco93@gmail.com or call our office at 508-994-4972.

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Dan's Kitchen

Recipe for Pork Roast

This recipe can serve as many people as you like depending on how many of the ingredients you put in the pan. Pork roast freezes very well, if it is well wrapped. It can be put in the fridge for a couple of days and eaten as leftovers.

You can count on 3/4 of a pound for each serving, a couple of potatoes and a couple of carrots.

Ingredients:

A 3- or 4-pound roast, with or without a bone

2 bliss potatoes for each person (those are the potatoes with the thin skin) 2 whole carrots, or 6 to 8 baby carrots, for each person

3 or 4 garlic cloves, chopped lengthwise

1 large onion chopped in 1/4-inch slices

1 tablespoon of ground wet pepper or black pepper ground in a mill

1/2 pound of cherizo or linguisa (optional)

5 or 6 shakes of salt and pepper, or to taste

1 generous cup of water.

Utensils:

A baking pan about 9 by 13 by about 2.5 inches

Foil, enough to cover the bottom & sides of the pan, and to cover the top of the pan

Cutting board

Garlic peeler

A sharp knife

4 medium bowls:

1 for the potatoes, 1 for the carrots, 1 for the cherizo or linguisa, and one for the onions

A plate for the garlic

Tablespoon measuring spoon

A potato peeler

A dinner plate

Food scissors

A timer

Directions:

1. Check to make sure you have all of your ingredients and utensils.

2. If frozen, your pork needs to be thawed. (You can put it, still wrapped, in a pan of cold water for a couple of hours, or until it is thawed.)

3. Cover the bottom and sides of your baking pan with a piece of the foil. 4. Wash the pork well under the cold water faucet.

5. Shake your 5 shakes of salt into your hand and rub it onto the meat, all sides.

6. Pour pepper into your hand and rub it into the meat.

7. Peel your garlic. (A very easy way to do this is to first put your garlic cloves on a plate, and microwave for 20 seconds. When they come out they may be a little warm, but that's alright.)

Now cut one end off the garlic and peel off the rest of the skin off with your finger nails. It should come off very easily.

8. With your knife or scissors make 4 to 6 stab wounds on all sides of the meet, big and deep enough to insert your pieces of garlic.

9. After you have inserted your garlic pieces into the slits, if you have left-over pieces, just spread them over the meat.

10. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

11. If using baby carrots, you need only wash them off, cut in half and put in a bowl.

If using whole carrots, wash them off, cut off the ends, peel them and then cut into one-inch pieces, or bite-size, and put in a bowl.

I always make extra vegies so there will be enough for a second meal.

12. Wash your potatoes, take out any eyes, cut them in half and put them into a bowl.

13. Peel your onion and cut into 1/4-inch-wide slices and put into a bowl. 14. Pour water (a little over a cup) into the baking pan.

15. Put your meat (pork and cherizo or linguisa) and vegetables into the pan.

16. Spread your sliced onion about with your fingers.

17. Cover your pan very thoroughly with foil.

18. Put your meal into your pre-heated oven and set the timer for 2 hours. (If you have only a 1-hour timer, like my braille timer, it can only go to 1 hour, so you will need to set it for another hour when it rings.)

19. After 2 hours, remove pan from oven and take off the top piece of foil. (This is tricky, because the pan and foil is very hot. The first few times you may need help.)

20. With a fork, stab vegetables to make sure they are done.

21. If vegies are not done, using a meat fork with long prongs, insert the prongs deeply into the meet, at an angle, and lift the meat to a platter; cover it very well so it will stay warm.

22. Return pan with vegies to oven and continue cooking until done, checking every 15 minutes with your fork. (If you left the meat in the pan for that long, it would become overdone and quite dry.)

The end, ENJOY!!

As noted above, you can keep the meal in the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer for weeks or months. Please note that potatoes do not freeze as well and you might want to bake some potatoes when you have the meal again or just use other vegies. I often take out vegies from the freezer and warm them up in the microwave.

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