The Consumer Vision

            March/April, 2011

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

Telephone: 508-994-4972

Web Site:

Email Address:

Publisher: Bob Branco

Editor: Janet Marcley

Braille Production: Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library

CD Production: Bob Zeida

Cassette Production: Audible Local Ledger, Sherry Bergeron

Email Production: Bob Branco and Janet Marcley

Print Production: Alpha Graphics

Board of Directors: Clement Beaulieu, Darryl Breffe, Steve Brown, Lauren

Casey, Dan Germano, Ken Sylvia and Gail Teixeira

If you would like to subscribe to the Consumer Vision six times a year,

please email or call our office at 508-994-4972, and

we will discuss which format you want to receive. The Consumer Vision is

available in print, Braille, cassette, CD and email.

Note: For searching purposes, three asterisks (***) have been inserted just

before the beginning of each new article or section.



Blind Woman Skis Downhill

Blindness in the Digital Age

Making Friends and Changing Lives

Coastline Elderly Wins Competitive Grant

Crusin' the Gulf of Mexico

No More Chuck into a Watery Grave

Skype Invitation

Personal Care Issue

Coastline Elderly Nutrition News

How My Trip to Lourdes has Strengthened my Catholic Faith, Part 2

The American Economy

Winters in New England

Tradition with a Twist

Trivia Contest


| index |

            Blind Woman Skis Downhill

by Scott Rapp

            (Reprinted from the Post-Standard, February 7, 2011)

Blind since birth, East Syracuse's Heather Galko on Sunday did not join the

100 million or so television viewers expected to watch the Super Bowl and

its stupefying plethora of pre-game hype.

Instead, she skied downhill most of the day.

Galko, 38, skis on Sundays through the adaptive skiing program at Greek Peak

Mountain Resort, south of Cortland. The non-profit, all volunteer program

offers discounted skiing and instruction to participants who have a wide

range of emotional, mental and/or physical challenges.

Skiing, Galko said, helps glide her into a good place - both mentally and


"It gives me a thrill . and puts me at peace," Galko said as she rode in a

chairlift to the top of one of the trails. Overnight snow had coated the

tall evergreens off to both sides of the chairlift with a layer of icing

that looked like frosting on a cake.

It was a sweet day, as well, for volunteers like Hurf Sheldon, 65, who lives

outside Ithaca. Sheldon has taught challenged skiers for the past 13 years

and said he benefits as well - if not more - from participating in the


"You get a lot more out of it than you put into it,'' Sheldon said.

Greek Peak started the program in 1974 and provided the land for

construction of the program's ski center where volunteers and participants

mingle, get dressed and grab their equipment. Today the program numbers some

125 volunteers in total - all of whom ski for free - and 25 to 50 challenged

skiers of all ages on Sundays. Some of the participants are blind like

Galko, or are autistic, have had limbs amputated, suffered strokes or are


Many of the volunteers take certified training courses and each skier is

assigned at least one instructor for the morning and afternoon sessions.

At the top of Castor, a long and wide sloping trail, veteran volunteer

Martin Berrgren was guiding Galko down hill. Berrgren, 50, skied about 10

feet behind and to the right of Galko as they snaked back and forth at a

slow speed.

Berrgren used steady vocal commands to direct the East Syracuse woman, who

grew up skiing with her family and also rides horses competitively.

"Turn left . and hold . and hold. Turn right . and hold . and hold," guided

Berrgren, who has two young children with physical challenges skiing in the


Like Sheldon, Berrgren is a trained certified teacher and got hooked on the

program from about the time he started in the late 1980s.

"You have to give something back to society . and this is a lot more

(rewarding) than pulling out your checkbook and pen," Berrgren said.

Paralyzed skiers like Brian Kaplun ski seated on a single ski, called a

monoski. They shift their weight back and forth to turn the ski and hold

small skis in each hand, called outriggers, to help guide them down hill.

Kaplun, 26, started skiing in the program after he was left paralyzed from

the waist down in a mountain bike accident five years ago. Now the engineer

at Lockheed-Martin in Owego teaches other paralyzed skiers in the program.

Like Galko, skiing gets his juices going and puts him at peace, Kaplun said.

"I just really feel like I belong there. It doesn't matter what happens. I

can be having a cruddy ski day or whatever, I just feel at peace," Kaplun


Scott Rapp can be contacted at or 289-4839

Post-Standard site:


| index |

            Blindness in the Digital Age

By John Justice

Although there have been tremendous strides in providing adaptive solutions

for those with little or no vision, technology itself has not remained

static. The development of touch screens and image-based links has

presented some unique challenges for the blind. Even with today's marvelous

software and computer systems, there are internet sites the visually

impaired just can't access. But the development of smaller circuitry and

simpler interfaces is creating a barrier which might be even more of a

challenge than screen reading was in its day.

Very few equipment designers take the visually impaired into account when

they create newer, smaller and more capable electronic PRODUCTS.  Today, a

portable data device the size of a pack of cards can do more than an entire

fully equipped desk-top system could do 10 years ago. The miniaturization

of these ELECTRONIC TOOLS requires that each device possess layers upon

layers of functions. The only way to gain access to the various features is

by reading the menus and selecting the appropriate choice. But what happens

if you can't see that menu? How does a visually impaired person use some of

these tools when, in many cases, the equipment doesn't talk at all or has

only limited speech capability? The answer to that question is that, in

some cases, it can't be done without sighted help. The equipment designers

aren't trying to exclude the blind but the fact remains that they are being

left out of the equation again and again. In this article, we will examine

some of these new developments.

One of the most commonly used devices in every kitchen throughout the world

is the microwave oven. What a marvelous tool! Entire meals can be prepared

in less than a third of the time it would take to make the food using

conventional stoves, burners and techniques. But, with very few exceptions,

the control surfaces of a modern microwave oven are completely smooth.

There are no buttons or switches at all. How can you operate something when

you don't know where to find the On switch? Fortunately, with a little help

from a sighted neighbor or family member, most of these control surfaces can

be fitted with Dymo Tape Braille labels. They can safely be applied without

having a negative effect on the appliance's function. The only time the

visually impaired person will need help is in the initial labeling process.

General Electric's designers have taken this idea one step further. Someone

on their staff designed microwave ovens which have the same diaphragm

switching, but the film has been embossed with raised buttons that the blind

operator can feel. Now, all the operator has to do is to learn the precise

location of each function control. The numeric keypad is similar to the

kind found on a calculator. Placing a dot on the 5 button will give the

blind homemaker the orientation point he or she would need. With this

simple design modification, General Electric has indeed brought "good things

to light" for the visually impaired.

Some of today's modern gas ranges are fitted with a totally flat cooking

surface. The position of the burners is indicated by patterns which are

imprinted in the glass. For the blind, this kind of stove can create some

serious challenges. However, it is possible to acquire aluminum film with

an adhesive backing. The cooking area of each burner can be outlined with

this film in such a way that the blind chef can determine where the pot or

pan should be placed. However, this is not an ideal solution since the

entire cooking surface becomes uncomfortably hot when the stove is in use.

Fortunately, there are still manufacturers who make the older gas stoves

which have removable cast-metal gratings. But the best design we have found

to date is a Caloric gas stove which has the raised shapes of the burners

embossed right into the glass cooking surface. However, some of the new

stoves now have completely inaccessible function controls which are used by

touching certain marked sections of the surface. There is one model of

range with a thermostat for the oven which is a simple circle. To raise the

temperature, the operator presses the On emblem and then moves his or her

finger within the imprinted design. If the finger circles to the right in a

clockwise direction, the temperature is increased. The results are shown in

a digital display. To lower the temperature, the operator moves his or her

finger in the counter-clockwise direction. Even the On-Off switch on this

particular stove is just a printed symbol which isn't raised or otherwise

indicated. It's this kind of technology which is almost frightening in its


Satellite Radio can present a new world of music, news, talk and

entertainment to anyone who can afford the equipment and the monthly

membership fee. Most of the function controls on the receivers are standard

buttons but there are numerous menus which are only accessible by moving a

cursor through a list of choices. During a performance, a constant flow of

information passes across the small digital screen. At a glance, the

operator can learn the name of a song, the performer's identity, the channel

on which the song is being broadcast and where he or she can find similar

programming. None of this information is available to a visually impaired

person. We can certainly enjoy the various stations made available and, by

law, each channel is required to identify itself at pre-determined

intervals. But we are missing so much of what makes this relatively new

service so unique. We can memorize the channel numbers and, using a

computer, we can download the program lineup from the service provider, but

as blind people, we have no access to the information provided by the visual


Many public television stations offer Second Audio programming.  When

certain selections are broadcast, a narrative description of the video being

shown is offered. By accessing that public television station's on-line web

site, we can learn when these special services are provided. But how do you

access that Second Audio channel? Usually, with most current television

models, Second Audio Programming is an option on one of the menus.  Many

visually impaired people have considered activating that second audio

channel and leaving it that way. My friends don't even think about it. If

the television receiver is tuned to a commercial station, that additional

audio channel is often devoted to presenting the audio portion of that

program in an alternative language, usually Spanish. The public

broadcasting channels go to a great deal of trouble and expense in providing

this special service for their visually impaired listeners, but the

television manufacturers have never considered the fact that gaining access

to that special programming is virtually impossible for the ones who need it


There is, however, a ray of light in the darkness where digital technology

and its development is concerned. Some far-seeing companies do make the

effort to make their equipment talk. LG has been producing cellular phones

with speech for years. More recently, Samsung has offered models with

talking menus. As a matter of fact, many cell phones and personal data

devices do have speech capability, but not all, by any means. The function

controls on some of these devices are so small that the operator uses a pen

to press the miniature keys. Trying to feel for the correct buttons on a

device like that might create some interesting challenges for the blind. The

introduction of text messaging has created an additional barrier for the

visually impaired. Most cellular phones have the ability to "text" but it

is often completely inaccessible to the blind. The operator might be able

to send a text message using the tiny keyboard, but the response cannot be

read by the voice software. Efforts have been made to produce equipment

which can send and read received texts messages but, at best, the entire

process is time consuming and very challenging for the visually impaired.

Any blind cell phone operator who is considering texting must be

exceptionally capable and knowledgeable. But the most important personality

trait he or she will need in endless supply, is patience.

When it was first developed, screen-reading software had to be loaded onto a

computer before the operator could use it successfully. A remarkable

improvement has been introduced in which the operator can access a web site,

enter a password and, within seconds, any computer with a sound card becomes

speech-capable. System Access To Go is one of the most exciting

improvements to become available to those who use screen readers.  The blind

operator can also purchase System Access for permanent installation onto

his or her computer. Several companies have developed open-code screen

readers which can provide limited capability to the blind at no cost at all.

Programs like NVDA are being improved regularly. There may come a time in

which it will no longer be necessary to pay more than twelve-hundred dollars

to make a computer accessible to the blind. It is safe to say that the days

of total domination of computer accessibility by companies like Freedom

Scientific and GW Micro are limited. To quote one program developer, "We're

not there yet, but now, it's just a matter of time."

The most amazing developments where accessibility is concerned come from a

company which has taken the needs of its visually impaired customers,

seriously. Apple has been, and hopefully will remain, on the cutting edge

of adapting all kinds of technological marvels for use by the blind. Many

Apple devices are sold with speech already built into them. The iPod Touch

and some of the smaller iPod models can talk or make it possible for the

operator to communicate with them through USB cables. Many of the Apple

laptop and desk-top computers have Apple's excellent speech system built

right in. The most incredible part of this company's efforts is that the

devices can be purchased without the heart-stopping price tag which is

usually a part of screen-reading adaptation. Although their operating

systems are not Windows based, it is possible to migrate from the personal

computer to one of Apple's products with minimal effort. Apple has

developed software which is very similar to well-known programs like Word

and Excel. In short, Apple should be commended for its really impressive

work in trying to keep the visually impaired in step with recent

technological advances. It is possible to learn to use Apple's touch

screens, especially when every item on the menu is spoken as soon as the

operator's finger touches it. iPod devices can be interfaced directly with

a computer using USB technology. Songs, audio books or radio broadcasts can

be transferred from the computer to the iPod with relative ease.  Once the

material is stored in the Apple portable device, the blind operator can move

a finger across the touch screen and hear every single menu spoken. It is

possible to set the iPod to announce each song as it is played or to select

one particular performance. With the simple introduction of Apple's

"Double Tap" safety feature, the operator can move across a display, locate

the item and activate that choice by tapping the screen twice in quick

succession. It seems so simple yet it took years for Apple to develop this

incredible feature and to adapt it for use by the visually impaired. With a

small device like the iPod or iPad, the orientation of the unit is critical

and Apple's engineers put that consideration into their development. The

device will tell you whether the display is in "portrait" or "landscape"

mode. The most recent iPod software will tell you to place the Home button

to the right. That is usually all the operator needs to become completely

oriented to the information being shown on the screen.

For years, the blind have been enjoying books which were recorded on disk,

cassette, and now on removable digital cartridges. The "Talking Book" has

been around since the thirties. This is one instance in which the blind

were way ahead of the sighted. Within the past ten years, what are now

called "audio books" have become immensely popular. Huge on-line retail

sites like Amazon have developed book readers but, as usual, the Kindle is

not accessible to the people who could really make use of this technology.

But it is possible for the blind to download a talking book from a web site

and play it on a commercially produced data device like the iPod or iPad, or

purchase blank digital storage cartridges for use with the new Library of

Congress players. The BARD (Braille And Recorded Digital) site is

relatively easy to use and contains thousands of books made available for

that purpose. The BARD-site service has been beautifully designed and is

one of the most impressive developments to come out of the Talking Book

service in years. The digital player itself is a well-designed, sturdy tool

which represents the marriage of cutting-edge technology with a

consideration for what the blind might want and can use effectively.

Being blind has never been easy, even at the best of times. There are still

certain types of digital material that screen readers can't handle. More

than twenty years ago, a large shipping company made an effort to hire

several visually impaired people to work in their customer service

positions. For a long time, these men and women were able to work side by

side with their sighted counterparts. But then, a new software package was

introduced that was supposed to combine all of the services into one

easy-to-use platform. No one ever considered how that new program might

function with the adaptive systems used by the blind. As a result, all of

them have been forced into take work positions which do not require the use

of their experience and ability. The company has decided that it is cheaper

to retain the blind people concerned at their present wages, rather than

risk possible litigation which would certainly arise if they were dismissed.

The software was written in a computer language called Sun Java.  To date,

we have found no screen reader which can accommodate information produced in

that form.

From the earliest times, our best achievements were made when an individual's

ingenuity and determination were applied. We have achieved more success by

finding devices that will work and then sharing that knowledge with other

visually impaired people. There are clearing houses of information made

available through e-mail list servers. Special groups have been developed

which give blind people the opportunity to learn and grow through exposure

to new ideas and techniques discovered by other people with the same

physical limitations. Here are just a few that we have found to be most


JAWS-USERS.COM: This is a site devoted to the best possible use of the Jaws

for Windows screen-reading software.

BLIND-COMPUTING.COM: This e-mail list has a broader approach to all kinds of

computers and related software which is "blind friendly."

BLINDWINDOWS7@YAHOOGROUPS.COM:  A yahoo group which is devoted to getting

the best use out of Windows 7, from the unique approach of operating that

system as a blind person.

In each case, anyone wishing to belong to one of these groups has to go

through a specific joining procedure. The process is clearly outlined under

a link marked Help.

To learn about more lists made for and shared by blind people throughout the

world, just go to the Yahoo web site, look for groups and type "blind" in

the Search field.

There are many groups devoted to all aspects of life as a blind person.

They deal with the issues of raising children, handling guide dogs, raising

and caring for animals and a great many other topics and venues. We believe

that the most powerful tool for adjusting to blindness is knowledge. Good

luck and good hunting.

John and Linda Justice

with Guide Dogs Jake and Zachary

personal e-mail:


| index |

            Making Friends and Changing Lives

by Bonnie Almeida and Christine Frizzell

SouthCoast Compeer is a local chapter of Compeer International, an

award-winning program that brings the healing power of friendship to the

treatment of mental illness. Our chapter serves Fall River, New Bedford,

Taunton, and the surrounding towns. We are sponsored by UMass Dartmouth and

managed by an all-volunteer advisory board.

The Compeer program is an adjunct to therapy and is based on the concept

that a volunteer's friendship, advocacy and support can offset the

loneliness and fear experienced by those suffering from mental illness. Time

spent together enables both individuals to experience a renewed sense of

self, bringing joy and purpose to their lives. Oftentimes, this friendship

is what motivates individuals to reintegrate back into their communities.

Mental health professionals refer clients to Compeer, provide consultation

to the volunteer, and are available for backup support. Compeer can document

that participants have enhanced self-esteem and communications skills.

Ninety-two percent of clients and referring professionals and 94 percent of

volunteers report satisfaction with the Compeer friendship.

We are currently seeking volunteers who are willing to offer their time and

support to an individual recovering from mental illness. A background in

mental health is not needed; all we ask for is a minimum of four hours a

month and a commitment to the mutually rewarding friendship.

You can also contribute to Compeer's mission by making a donation through

the UMass Dartmouth website. Be sure to specify where you want your donation

to go, using the drop-down menu on the second page of the electronic form.

SouthCoast Compeer will be holding their annual auction dinner on Friday,

April 29, 2011, at the Hawthorne Country Club in North Dartmouth, Mass.

Tickets are on sale for a price of $50.00, which includes a full dinner,

entertainment, and admittance to the auction. We invite you wholeheartedly

to attend and support our wonderful cause. The SouthCoast Compeer staff may

be reached by email at or by phone at (508) 542-0203 or

(508) 999-8843.


| index |


While many organizations are closing programs and sites due to budget cuts,

Coastline forges new partnerships and wins grant as first-time recipient

NEW BEDFORD - In light of the state's recent budget cuts, many human service

agencies are struggling to keep their service programs running. At Coastline

Elderly, Program Directors are forging new partnerships and acquiring new

funding sources to ensure programs keep running.

This week Coastline Elderly received a nod from funders when they won a

competitive $500 grant from the Meals on Wheels Association of America. As

the first ever recipient of the Bernie Bercuson Grant, a part of the Jack

and Eleanor Borden Memorial Fund, Coastline will use this money to purchase

needed equipment for their Kosher Nutrition Program.

President of Meals on Wheels Enid Borden wrote to Coastline: "In some ways,

winning this grant this year is more significant than ever. So many

organizations in the MOWAA [Meals on Wheels Association of America] family

are struggling to stay afloat and continue to provide services to their

communities. It is inspiring that organizations like yours still focus on

specific portions of the population that need your help."

Two months ago, amid the sudden closing of the Ahavath Achim Synagogue,

Coastline Elderly moved quickly to maintain uninterrupted delivery of kosher

meals to the elderly Jewish population in New Bedford. Together with its

community partners: the New Bedford Jewish Convalescent Home, the Jewish

Federation of Greater New Bedford, Bateman Senior Meals, and Tifereth

Israel, Coastline Elderly kept the city's only kosher meal site up and

running, moving operations to Tifereth Israel at 145 Brownell Avenue, New

Bedford, Massachusetts.

The new kosher site opened in January without one meal missed.

Coastline Elderly has been delivering programs and services to seniors

living in the Greater New Bedford community for over 30 years. The Coastline

Elderly Nutrition Program serves hot meals to over 1,200 elderly and

homebound individuals each week.

Phil Beard, Elderly Nutrition Project Director



| index |

            Our Travels: Crusin' the Gulf of Mexico

(c) Jean Marcley

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I was picked up by my good friend and soon-to-be cabin mate Berniece at 7:00

a.m. Riding with us were our friends Suzie and her sweetie, Whitey. We

followed the directions from map quest and managed to find the parking area

at Long Beach, Calif., and checked in our bags, after waiting in line for

15 or 20 minutes. Then it was off to another line to get pre-booked, or

something like that. With tickets in hand we smartly headed to the

indicated door and, yes, you guessed it - another  line. We were getting

closer, line by line, step by step. We had our pictures taken for our

ship-board card, went through security, and we were still not on the ship

yet. Finally, we saw the ship. There it was - Carnival's Splendor. We

crossed the gangway and stepped onto the ship. Yay! We were so happy.

Now it was time for lunch - a buffet. Our rooms, also known as cabins,

would not be ready for about another hour. That was okay since we were

pretty hungry by now. The food was pretty good and very satisfying. I

dislike buffets because they are just so cumbersome, but Berniece got me

through it without mishap - God bless her.

Our cabin was quite spacious with two single beds divided by a lamp table.

There was also a sofa, chair, and small coffee table. We managed to get all

our clothes put away in the closets, drawers, and shelves provided - not an

easy feat for two women on a week's vacation.

There were thirty-three people in our group and we all signed up for the six

o'clock dinner seating in the Gold Pearl dining room. The waiters at my

table of 11 were Henry 1 and Henry 2. They remembered all of our names by

the next evening's dinner. Amazing!

The dinner choices each night included a cold creamy fruit soup which I

always ordered. All the food I had was excellent - shrimp, lobster tail,

roast lamb, more shrimp, mahi mahi, etc. And the desserts were out of this

world. So, enough about the food.

The shows I attended were great. The music was a little loud (no surprise

there), but great. Some of us sang along with the tunes we knew and cheered

and hooted when appropriate. The costumes were described to me, as well as

the stage sets. The show that I saw in my imagination was far superior to

what everyone else witnessed on stage, I am sure.

We had two line dance classes while we were at sea on Monday and Tuesday

mornings. The classes were an hour and a half and some people joined us

from the ship. I met a woman from Conn. who is a certified line dance

instructor and we exchanged information so we can get together this summer

when I visit Eugenia.

The first port of call was Puerta Vallarta and I stayed on the ship. Barbara

also stayed on board and we just hung out and relaxed by the pool for a

while, enjoyed the whirlpool, and went down the water slide a few times

screaming just like a couple of kids. It was great and so relaxing. We had

photos taken and actually bought a couple because they turned out so well.

The stop in Mazatlan was canceled. We assume it is because of drug-related

shootings, but don't know for sure. We stopped in Cabo San Lucas for two

days instead. I went with a few friends to Cabo, mostly to plant my feet

somewhere that didn't move. We just wandered around and had lunch and some

of us bought jewelry and paintings on tiles, and the obligatory t-shirts.

I bought Dwaine a shirt that has a picture of an older man with a motorcycle

that says "Old Guys Rule." That's all I bought. Most of that stuff I can

get in Al Gadones when we drive down there.

Oh, there was Karaoke on the ship. It was great fun. The DJ was a great

singer and very funny. His name was Kim and he talked like a sissy boy, but

I am not convinced that it was not an affectation for the karaoke gig. He

also remembered the names of many of the singers. We had fun pretending I

was hitting on him when I "talked" the song "Hey Good Lookin'." I do it

with a kind of husky bedroom voice and sort of act like a vamp. I sang a

few different songs on different nights and always had lots of fun.

One of the comedians in one of the lounges was great. Barbara and I went

after dinner on Friday which was dress-up night. We laughed so hard my

sides almost hurt. And he didn't say one single curse word or anything off

color. He was great. He said that anyone who pays a doctor for assisted

suicide is just plain lazy. You wanna die? Go to the ATM in a bad

neighborhood at 3:00 a.m. and stand there and count your money - POOM.

You're dead.

Now the liquor tasting was pretty good. There is a white Russian that comes

in a bottle with two sides that blends a vanilla cream liquor with the

kahlua as it pours. Very good and very rich and creamy.  Since Berniece

doesn't drink, she got an extra one for me. Good friends are hard to find.

We were allowed to taste three or four different liquors and, even though

those little plastic cups are smaller than a thimble, I managed to feel a

little bit of a buzz - probably a sugar high.

We danced at night on the Ledo deck of the ship to Latin music and were

swooped up into the dance party going on. There were several Latinos just

dancing and laughing and wanting everyone to join in. One of the men put

his huge sombrero on the floor and we danced around it holding hands. It

was a blast.

On another occasion, there was dancing by the pool at night - a cross

between line dancing and Zumba. We shook our booties and wiggled our hips

and worked off some of those calories from all that food.

Berniece and I ordered room service almost every morning. We just checked

off fresh fruit, croissants, coffee, muffins, and the time we wanted it

delivered the next morning. Our cute little porter was there right on time.

I love that.

On the last day of the cruise, Saturday, we held our exhibition line dance

performance in one of the lounges. Many of the people from our group were

there as well as people we met during the cruise who said they wanted to

watch us dance. In our long skirts we danced to five or six different

songs(each one is a different dance step) Then we took a 10-minute break

and changed into our beaded shirts (that wiggle and jiggle around when we

dance) and did around six more dances - maybe seven or eight. The whole

performance lasted ninety minutes.

There were two girls there in their early thirties who just loved it when we

wiggled our hips in one of the dances. "We can't even work our hips that

good," they said in total amazement. Again, it was great fun and we just

love showing off our dances and our talents. One of the dances was

choreographed by Berniece and me for the show we did in February.  We danced

to the song "Take A Chance On Me" by Abba.

Some of the people in our group went sailing for the day in Puerta Vallarta,

whale watching, and swimming with the dolphins. The dolphin thing sounded

like fun. One woman said the dolphin swam on its back, she climbed on, and

held on to his fins while he swam around the pool. She said her head and

shoulders never went below water. When she told us that she and the dolphin

spent about fifteen minutes getting to know each other before the swim and

that they kissed after the ride around the pool, we were sure they were


Well, as all vacations must do, it ended Sunday morning with sad good-byes

and warm hugs and promises to keep in touch. It seemed to take forever to

get off the ship (which it did) and get back in the car and head home. We

stretched our vacation out just a little by stopping for lunch and then

dinner - no big deal. Just burgers for lunch and Popeye's chicken for


Several people made a point of thanking me for putting this together. It

was my pleasure. Most of our group had never been on a cruise before. One

woman, Alene, was particularly happy. She is seventy-eight and going on a

cruise was on her bucket list. That made me feel like a million bucks. Now

a couple of us are talking about where to go next - Panama Canal maybe?

Jean Marcley


| index |

            No More Chuck into a Watery Grave

by Stephen Brown

"How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?"

This famous tongue twister begins the process of painting a sympathetic and

almost humorous picture of this pestiferous marmot. Woodchucks are not

cute. For farmers and gardeners, they are a considerable pest.

This large rodent lives almost everywhere except in deserts and along

oceans, from the Arctic Circle to points far south, all around the globe.

The chuck, a very weary though not fast creature, ruins nearly all edible

vegetables, especially soft ones such as greens, parsley, lettuce, etc.

Most annoying is the disgusting habit of "sampling." He will pick at

numerous vegetables in a row and leave them so a human cannot eat them.

Most alarming are tomatoes!

While living with "Maria," my long-time "significant other," for the better

part of 15 years, we lived six or more years with only a slight marmot

problem. Then one summer a marmot americanus population explosion occurred.

With foreboding in our hearts, we began to see groups of chucks coming early

in the morning and late in the afternoon (preferred time for this furry

animal not enamored). Some became so distinctive that we could identify

them by their fur coats. We even had names for some, such as "Fabio" and


With no fence at all, there was total devastation; then with a slight wire

fence, there was next to no protection. Finally, the next year we had two

wire electrical fences around the vegetable garden. This slowed them down

but did not keep them all, particularly the small ones, out.

Along the way, we procured a "Have-a-heart" trap, a large metal wire cage

with two doors that close, yet not hurting the animal. With this trap, I

soon began to fancy myself a modern Jim Bridger of the Southeastern

Massachusetts coast. A woman's urging in the face of danger did much to

motivate this man! My manhood was at stake, not to mention fresh soups,

salads and side dishes. "Maria's" business was threatened, too. She was a

caterer at the time, a profession demanding fresh ingredients.

At first, my trapping did not go smoothly: Wind and vibrations would set

the trap off, often without the quarry. Then flapping wayward birds,

clinging hissing possums, and Mr. Skunk, surprisingly amiable, would be

released. Then finally I learned a "secret formula" to trap my foe (a

formula with a "copyright" pending).

Six or more chucks I sent to a watery grave in one and a half years. At

first, I had no more compunctions killing these animals.  Understand,

 "Maria" and I tried other means to end their scourge against vegetables and

even-yes even-beautiful flowers, but to no avail. We threw hardware stink

bombs and poured antifreeze into their burrows, but they would not be moved!

But now I can no longer kill them. "Number six's" death proved to be a

traumatizing experience for me.  "Number six" was so large and so heavy; I

wondered to myself how he ever got into my so-called "benign" trap.

Arriving at the beach, holding this trapped giant underwater, placing my

knee on the top metal plate, all, at first, was quiet; for three minutes and

then more. "Well," I thought to myself, "time to stand up, empty the trap

and let the dead body float out to sea." But something inside me said "no,"

and I kept my semi-submerged knee on the trap. Then at five minutes it

happened! The trap began to violently shake and quiver.  Before I knew

it-or wanted it-I was internalizing the death of a living being.  This

animal pushed and bent the plate my knee had rested on. Then it was all

over. I was shaking with fear, a touch of self-loathing.  Holding and

killing a creature with your own hands is no longer something I ever want to

do again.


| index |

Bob Branco, our publisher, has a Skype account, and welcomes any of you with

Skype to join him. If you are interested, please submit your Skype name to


| index |

            Personal Care Issue

by Bob Branco

In Massachusetts, there are at least two agencies that allow a client with a

physical disability to take charge of his own personal care. The reason for

this policy is to promote independence. I can understand that, because we,

as people with disabilities, should try to lead as normal a life as

possible. Despite the efforts of these personal care agencies to allow us

to be independent, I have major concerns.

Allow me to explain how this arrangement works. Once you are evaluated by

these agencies, you are granted a certain number of hours a week for which

your personal care attendants can work. The worker fills out the time

sheet, you sign it, and then it's sent to the agency so that your worker can

get paid. However, the worker is hired by you exclusively, and not by the

agency. You would conduct the interview, and ask for references from the

potential worker, if you choose to. On many occasions, things work out

fine. The care giver does her job properly, and is paid based on the number

of hours she works each week, according to the time sheet. She follows your

rules, because you are the boss, not the agency. However, just because you

are in the privacy of your own home, that doesn't exempt you from the worst

that could happen. The caregiver may turn out to be a thief, a drug addict

or an alcoholic, and then you, and only you, are forced to make a very

important choice. It's also important to note that if a caregiver breaks

something in your home, you are liable for the damage, and not the agency.

The whole point is to put you in charge of your own environment.

In some cases, the client strikes up such a close friendship with the

caregiver that the caregiver is allowed to overstep her boundaries. Some

caregivers bring their little children to the job, some bring their dogs to

the job, and some even leave the client in the middle of work to pick up

their children from school, while on the client's time.

As you can see, there is a two-fold problem with the policy that these

agencies are trying to promote. The care giver isn't liable for any damage

or inconvenience, and the client, unless he takes full control, will allow

the caregiver to overstep. I don't think caregivers should bring their

children and their pets to the client's house. Would they be allowed to do

this at any other job? Imagine bringing your child or your dog to the

office every day. We know that wouldn't be allowed, so therefore it should

not be allowed in the home of someone who needs personal care. The

caregiver receives money from the agency, once the time sheets are filled

out, and that particular money is our tax dollars. I, for one, do not want

to run the risk of spending my tax dollars if a client allows a caregiver to

run errands on his time, bring dogs and cats to the job, or walk out in the

middle of the job because, for whatever reason, she can't take it any more.

I would much rather see an agency offer its own personal-care attendants.

That way, if there's a problem, all the client needs to do is call the

agency, and suddenly the worker will be replaced. Another good thing about

workers who work directly for the agency is that they are most likely

bonded. If a client is allowed to hire his own workers, especially if he

puts an ad in the newspaper or on Craig's List, he really doesn't know what

kind of worker he's getting, at least at first.

I know one thing. If, God forbid, I were physically incapacitated to where

I needed personal care, I would never use those agencies which allow me to

be the boss. I wouldn't want strangers in my house, and it wouldn't matter

how good of an interviewer I am. We're talking about my life and my

property, and all it takes is one hiring mistake on my part, and it could

lead to disaster. I would want an agency worker in my home, or a family

member, or a close friend. Independence is great, but how far do you take

it before you risk your own safety? Perhaps in a more perfect world, I

would not be opposed to agencies who allow the client to be the boss of his

workers, but I think we all know better. There is too much crime, a lot of

dishonesty and not enough safeguards to allow that system to work all the

time. While some clients have no problem under this system, others do. One

of my friends had a personal-care attendant walk out on him before she

dressed him, and it was only because she couldn't take it any more. Being

that he was the boss, he had to worry and wonder when another personal-care

attendant could take over. If the agency hired the worker who walked out,

they'd send someone else to the house to finish dressing him, and there

would be no stress or aggravation for the client.

Independence is fine, but safety is just as important.


| index |


            Kimberly Ferreira, MS, RD, LDN

            Coastline Elderly Services, Inc.


Every five years, the USDA and HHS release "Dietary Guidelines for

 Americans" (DGA). On January 31, 2011, an updated version was made public.

The DGA provides advice for making food choices that promote good health, a

healthy weight, and help prevent disease for healthy Americans ages 2 and

over. They are important to follow because they form the basis of Federal

nutrition policy, education, outreach, and food-assistance programs used by

consumers, industry, nutrition educators and health professionals.

The DGA includes 23 key recommendations for all Americans, which focus on

four major themes:

1. Reduce the incidence & prevalence of overweight and obesity of the US

population by reducing overall calorie intake and increasing physical


2. Shift food intake patterns to a diet that emphasizes vegetables, cooked

dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. In addition,

increase the intake of seafood and fat-free/low-fat milk and milk products

and consume only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry, and eggs.

3. Significantly reduce intake of foods containing added sugars and solid

fats because these dietary components contribute excess calories and few, if

any, nutrients. In addition, reduce sodium intake and lower intake of

refined grains that are coupled with added sugar, solid fat, and sodium.

4. Meet the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

Take Action by Making Changes in these 3 Areas:

1.     Balancing Calories

·      Enjoy your food, but eat less

·      Avoid oversized portions

2.     Foods to Increase

·      Make ½ your plate fruits & veggies

·      Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk

3.     Foods to Reduce

·      Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, & frozen meals - choose

the foods with lower numbers

·      Drink water instead of sugary drinks

Please contact me with any questions at (508) 999-6400 x194 or email:


| index |

            How My Trip to Lourdes has Strengthened my Catholic Faith

           Part 2

By Karen Crowder

We went to Mass at Max Million chapel, receiving the sacrament of the sick

from Father Tuka. It gave us a deep sense of peace. Out in the warm summer

sunshine we appreciated the lovely organ music and singing from the

Eucharistic procession taking place at Pope Pius Basilica. We sat in our

voters drinking in the atmosphere, the lovely music, the chorus and the warm

summer sunshine. Sunday it was up at 6 a.m. and, as we walked to breakfast,

a Spanish youth choir was singing, clapping, praising God. How did they get

that much energy at 7 a.m. when we had not had our first cup of coffee?

This day would be one of the "high points" of our trip. We attended Mass at

Pope Pius Basilica, which seats 25,000 to 30,000 people. It is huge, more

like a stadium than a church, with sloping cement floors which accommodates

wheelchairs. The music from the choir and pipe organ was magnificent; the

readings and gospel were spoken over speakers in several languages. The Mass

lasted for two hours and 45 minutes because of reading and the communion's

taking a long time. There were thousands of people attending Mass.

During my five days in France I witnessed a vibrant enthusiasm and devotion

to our church fostered by the priest's volunteers, many of them youth. I saw

Father Mike and other priests encouraging a sense of joy and love for Christ

and a sincere charity towards us. We are not looked upon as" different"

because we had special needs but were treated "like one of them."  For five

days I put aside my questions, immersing myself in the sacraments and

ceremonies. I would learn more about our faith, feeling a closer connection

with God. That afternoon we attended the Eucharistic procession. That

Sunday evening Mary and I walked to the Grotto, passing open ice-cream

parlors and getting an invitation to one from a doctor traveling with us.

We stepped into the quiet of this place, a spring of pristine water always

running. We lit candles and wrote petition intentions for people we wished

to pray for. We knelt praying, offering our intentions. I was able to touch

the roof of the cave where some of the apparitions appeared. "Isn't that

amazing, that the foot prints of our lady appeared to Bernadette here?" Mary

said, amazed at this story. There was a sense of tranquility about this

place; no wonder people went here to pray. This grotto would play an

important part in my increase of faith.

Monday we saw Saint Bernadette's homes, one where she lived with her parents

and siblings until she was 10. Then her father, much like today, had to file

for bankruptcy, his business not running well. They were forced to live in a

small hovel often hungry and freezing in winter, and with very poor

ventilation. When asthmatic Bernadette was collecting firewood for their

small home she saw the Blessed Virgin, at fourteen. She would become a nun

and die at an early age from lung disease.

Monday afternoon we all took a break to go to lunch and do shopping. Seven

of us went to an open-air restaurant; Father Mike joined us. We were glad

to have his company and would learn that he has several youth communities

across the country. He is the kind of priest our church needs, always

evangelizing about Christ, singing rap songs about him and "speaking the

youth's language." Father Mike and I had the baked chicken, French fries

and salad for desert  I had delicious dark-chocolate mousse. The whole

lunch cost nine euros.

It being another hot sunny day in Lourdes, we bought souvenirs after 2:00

(the French take naps from 12:00 to 2:00). I bought Rosaries, holy water. a

tea shirt, soap and violet perfume oil. I was also privileged to visit the

Rosary Basilica to see a miniature of the large Pope Pius Basilica, the nuns

being kind and cordial. We also enjoyed French ice cream, which is

deliciously rich. That night we could not miss participating in the Rosary

Procession. Tuesday would be our last night and we would be too busy

packing to go home. The lavender bushes, music and lighted candles give the

whole ceremony a mystical feeling.

I could understand the prayers, even if some of them were said in different

languages. There were thousands of people there praying you could sense and

feel the gentle tranquility, peace and mystical transcendence these prayers

bring. We held the candles upright while praying - it made lovely contrast

with the warm air and setting sun. The music prayers and soft light lent an

awesome loveliness to this traditional set of prayers, the Rosary. I felt a

sense of hope about our church.

Tuesday morning was sunny and warm. We celebrated outdoor Mass in the

grotto. You could smell the flowers and herbs, and hear the softly running

water and the sweetly chirping birds. After Mass we went, by prior

appointment, to the baths. When I first thought of the baths I imagined

warm waters where you would lie for half an hour. I was quite wrong - the

waters are cold, as cold as any beach on the North shore. We were taken one

by one into a dressing room; we disrobed putting on a wet cotton wrap, and I

think it conditions you to the cold water. That comes off as you go in to

the bath. The bath reminds me of a small swimming pool; water comes up to

your waist. As I stood on the cement, prayers and intentions to Our Lady,

the women helped me step into the frigid water. My first thought was, "I do

not know if I can stay in here, it is so cold." We walked to the statue of

Our Lady, I bending, kissing it silently, praying my intentions for others

and for better health. The women held my hands as I was immersed in the

water for twenty seconds. I stepped out of the water, onto the dry cement;

I was almost completely dry. There are some documented healings which

happen; everyone who goes into the baths is healed emotionally, spiritually

and sometimes physically. I was out in the grotto and people from our group

commented, "You look radiant!" At first I attributed that to the cold

water. Yet I felt a new-found sense of peace and serenity. I prayed in the

solitude of the grotto and was helped to light candles, praying for

intentions. I promised to make a commitment to Christ, making a sincere

effort to put my life in his hands. I felt serenity, that life's nagging

anxiety had ceased to be a problem on this trip. I felt as if "Any changes I

would face I can deal with now." I felt a feeling of peace and trust in God

not experienced in years.

I talked with a lovely nurse as we went away from the meditative peace and

beauty of the sunny grotto. We said three Hail Marys; she said if you do

this you might return here. That was something I hope to do.  Tuesday,

after hearing the Stations of the Cross outdoors, we had a fare-well meeting

saying so-long to the friends we had made. Each person talked about what

they received from there stay in Lourdes. That night, before going to

sleep, the four of us exchanged emails, phone numbers and physical


Wednesday morning we were up early. A group left for LAX Airport at

four-thirty a.m. We boarded our bus to Peau airport at eight o'clock. We

would be flying out of Paris at 2:00 p.m. and would be arriving in JFK

Airport at 5:25 Eastern time, 11:30 in France. We were sad to leave our new

friends. I had a renewed sense of faith. I hoped to talk to Mary again and

felt privileged to meet kind priest's like Father Mike with his joy and

sense of gentle compassion towards all. I would be traveling home with

Father Tuka with his gentleness and sincerity. I was glad to meet kind

father Alvin, who had spirituality about him.

Since I have returned, my strengthened faith and memories of gifts of grace

and serenity received at Lourdes have helped me weather the storms of

moving, having to give away or sell many possessions. A hopeful sense that

God has an unknown plan for us keeps me going.

If you want to know more about this organization call Our Lady of Lourdes

North American Volunteers. The phone number is 1-315-476-0026, and speak to


she may lead you to Lourdes.  It is worth going, the spiritual gifts you

receive are priceless.


| index |

            The American Economy

by Bob Branco

Every time our economy suffers, we always hear the same thing. We need to

create new jobs. The thing that people do not realize is that for every new

job we create, we lose others, and not only because of a bad economy, but

because of the times we live in. Think of the number of telephone operators

and receptionists that will be out of work because of automated answering

services. With the tremendous increase in email, the postal profession

might be in jeopardy. What about gas station attendants who used to help us

pump gas? Today, most of us do it ourselves. Why do we need so much

personnel in a bank when we all can work an ATM machine? What's going to

happen when more of us shop on line. You won't see very many sales

representatives in retail stores. If we create more and more robots to

clean our homes, the house-cleaning profession will suffer. Even though I'm

against it, stores now allow us to scan our own cards and use the cashier's

computer without the cashier doing it. So, why would we need cashiers? We

might as well ring up our own purchases while we're at it. So, how do we

replace all these people who are victims of technology as well as an

economic collapse? Has anyone thought this through?

Another thing that bothers me is the deceiving unemployment rate.  It's been

said time and time again that those of us who are out of work and no longer

receive benefits are not part of the statistic. How is this fair? If I go

out to dinner with nine people, where six of us are working and four are

not, with no unemployment benefits, the surveyor who questions us will

report that the unemployment rate is zero percent, because six out of six

people are working. The other four do not count because their unemployment

benefits expired. Sorry, Pal. If I'm not working, I'm not working, and it

should be reported, no matter what benefit I get or do not get. If I'm not

working, it's more than likely because there's no job for me, which is

something an economist needs to count.


| index |

            Winters in New England

by Karen Crowder

When December arrives, we start watching weather forecasts for two things:

snow (freezing precipitation) and extreme cold. In New England we can

receive our first snow fall anywhere from October to late January.  We

usually get snow in December, everyone wishing for a White Christmas."

It is during the months of January and February that New England has the

most snowstorms There are exceptions - in 1997 we got our biggest snow

storm on April 1 and in 2007, central Massachusetts received its biggest

storm on Saint Patrick's Day.

For people who are blind, winters can try our patience and endurance. There

is the difficulty of navigating streets and sidewalks after snowstorms, or

when there is nothing but shiny glass-like ice everywhere. There is waiting

in bitterly cold weather where wind cuts through all the layers you have on

for Para transit, subways, a bus, commuter train or cabs. There is cautious

planning when to go shopping and stock up if you do not get to a grocery

store often.

Here are ways to cope with winter when you live in New England.  Always make

sure you have ample nonperishable paper products and large sizes of dish and

washing detergent. Stock up on batteries - buy the "good kind" as less

expensive brands do not last.

When you are outdoors in extreme cold, dress in layers; heavy cotton,

flannel and wool keep you the warmest.

When there is a bad snow storm, if you can, stay at home from work. If this

is not possible, ask about arriving later or leaving earlier before the

worst of a storm. When streets and sidewalks are slippery, wear grippers

over boots they will make you feel secure and confident.

When I worked, I would bundle up when it was extremely cold and got teased

because I looked "like an Eskimo" with sweaters, a scarf and hat. I loved

wearing sweatshirts and heavy cardigan sweaters. They kept in the warmth.

How do other readers who live in either New England or other parts of the

country manage the trials of winter weather?


| index |

            Tradition with a Twist

by Marilyn Brandt Smith

It's fun to take traditional fare and give it a new look, a new taste, a new

place at your table. Here are a few ideas to stir those creative bursts of

energy we occasionally have in the spring.

March is upon us, and soon the fishermen, even in the north, will be heading

back to work. I don't know about you, but I ate enough tuna-pea-noodle

casserole in college and before my ship came in vocationally, to never want

to see it again. Here's a twist that allows flexibility and revives that old

concept in a better way.

Crabmeat and Friends Casserole

6 ounces frozen crabmeat (You can use imitation crab, shrimp, minced clams,

salmon, or whatever you like. This is your day at the dock.)

1 can mushroom soup (Experiment with celery, potato, asparagus, or cheddar


1 can green peas (Play with green beans, sliced carrots, or stewed


Defrost and/or drain the meat. Mix all ingredients, and season with your

favorite exotic or home-style spices. Heat in a moderate oven, on top of the

stove, or in the microwave. Serve over noodles (cooked ramen will do), rice

(if you make it from scratch, try that expensive but yummy dark

Minnesota-grown wild rice), or toast cubes (Don't settle for plain, try a

whole grain or make cheese toast and cut it in cubes). See what new fun

this old favorite can be.


Ham Balls

1 egg

1/4 cup water

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 small onion, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 teaspoons prepared mustard

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon thyme

1 pound boiled ham (canned or from the deli will do)

In large bowl, beat egg and water. Add breadcrumbs and let stand until

liquid is absorbed. Stir in onion, parsley, mustard, pepper, and thyme. Mix

in the ham, and shape into one-inch balls.

Place on a large greased baking sheet and cook at 375 degrees for 25

minutes. Spear each ball with a pretzel stick or toothpick after removing

from oven.


Not your Mama's Bean Dip

1 package onion soup mix

1 15-oz can refried beans

1 pint sour cream.

Blend all ingredients in blender. Add anything else you think would taste

good. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers.


Impossible Bacon Pie

12 slices crisp bacon, crumbled

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/3 cup chopped onion

2 cups milk

1 cup biscuit mix

4 eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a ten-inch pie pan. Sprinkle bacon,

onion, and cheese in the bottom of the pan. Beat remaining ingredients until

smooth and pour into pan. Bake until a knife or toothpick comes out clean,

35 to 40 minutes. Cool 5 to 10 minutes before you slice and serve.


| index |

            Consumer Vision Trivia Contest

Here is the answer to the trivia question submitted in the January/February

Consumer Vision. The maid on the television series "The Jeffersons" is

Florence. Congratulations to the following winners:

Mark Blier of Sierra Vista, Arizona

Jan Colby of Brockton, Massachusetts

Lauren Casey of Lawrenceville, New Jersey

And now, here is your trivia question for the March/April Consumer Vision.

Name the closest planet to the sun.

If you know the answer, please email or call 508-994-4972.

| index |