May 2017

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

Phone: 508-994-4972



Publisher: Bob Branco

Editor: Terri Winaught

Formatter: David Dvorkin

Proofreader: Leonore Dvorkin


Below, each article's title is separated from its author by three asterisks ***.

For your convenience and to make using your browser's search feature easier, three asterisks *** will also be used between articles.

Finally, three asterisks *** will be used between recipes in Karen Crowder's column, as well as in Readers' Forum and Special Notices when those features contain more than one item.


2. HEALTH MATTERS *** by Leonore H. Dvorkin

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

4. TECH CORNER *** by Stephen Théberge

5. COMMENTARY AFTERMATH *** by James R. Campbell

6. THE MOUNT EVEREST OF EQUALITY *** by Brian J. Coppola

7. SOCIETY'S TRENDS *** by Bob Branco


9. WEATHER OR NOT *** by Steve Roberts

10. THE HANDLER'S CORNER *** by Ann Chiappetta, M.S.


12. TIPS FOR VIPS *** by Penny Fleckenstein

13. RECIPE COLUMN *** by Karen Crowder

14. DRIVERLESS VEHICLES *** by Ernie Jones







April 29 and 30 represented the 99th and 100th days of Donald Trump's presidency.

Although news reports indicate that Trump has the lowest approval rate of any president in modern history, Channel Four, Pittsburgh's ABC affiliate, aired a report in which they interviewed people from western Pennsylvania's rural communities. Everyone from those communities who voted for President Trump lauded him as the "best president we have ever had, adding that he will "get this country back on track."

Though I didn't vote for Donald Trump, I hope that he will retain and even increase funding that benefits persons who are blind, have low vision, or live with any disability.

Before concluding with a poem that expresses the happy Easter I hope all of you who celebrated had, I want to thank publisher Bob Branco and proofreader Leonore Dvorkin for their diligence and hard work that keep this magazine excellent. I also commend our talented contributors, our previous editor, and our former proofreader, all of whose combined efforts exemplify excellence.

Thanks for reading with me, and now please find my acrostic poem below. An acrostic poem is one in which each line begins with a letter of a word or words for example, each line in this poem begins with a letter of "Happy Easter."


HAM is heaped heartily onto food-filled plates.

ABUNDANT also are comaraderie and conversation.

PRAYERS of thanksgiving precede a shared meal.

PEOPLE fellowshipping keep traditions alive.

YOUNG children fidget and fuss, awaiting Easter egg hunts.

EXULTATS resounded during Easter vigils.

ALLELUIAS proclaim that "Jesus Christ is risen today!"

SINGING songs, hymns and psalms from the ancients, choirs reach the rafters with their Hosannas.

TODAY is unlike any other day!

ETERNAL is the love, a gift wrapped in salvation.

REDEMPTION is the balm in Gilead that offers forgiveness and brings healing and hope!

Terri Winaught


2. HEALTH MATTERS: A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

by Leonore Dvorkin



Given the title of my article, you might assume that I'm going to write about the type of stitches that you receive from a doctor. But no. That old, wise saying advises you to take care of small problems before they become larger ones. And today, I'm writing about the importance of maintaining the health of both your home and wildlife. That's because, over the 46 years that my husband have lived in this same house in Denver, we have learned three very hard lessons in the wisdom of doing just that.

The most recent lesson came this past March 17, when my husband and I were awakened around 6:00 a.m. by very strange and ominous sounds. They started softly but grew steadily louder. One was a low growl which grew ever fiercer in tone, and the other was the sound of what we assumed was a large bird in distress. We were terrified that the sounds were coming from the living room or kitchen. What animals might have invaded our home? And how?

We waited about 15 minutes, until the sounds subsided somewhat, and then dared to creep down the stairs to investigate. We could see nothing in the house and determined that the sounds were coming from the chimney. So then we were afraid that whatever creatures were in there would come tumbling down into the fireplace and into the living room.

We waited some more, until we heard no more sounds, and called Animal Control. The lady on the phone was nice, but said that they could not come unless we had an identifiable animal that they could capture. However, she suggested that I call a chimney sweep. Online, I found a place called Masters Services. They clean chimneys, remove animals, and do much more besides.

In a couple of hours, a very nice, humorous young man named Phillip arrived. Investigating the situation from the roof, he determined that our chimney had been invaded by a large raccoon; the creature was curled up and apparently asleep on what Phillip called the smoke shelf. He took a photograph of it and showed us. He then gave us copious information about how common it is for raccoons to go into chimneys and even have babies there, how they can growl and shriek and make a variety of other sounds that he animatedly imitated, and how they can be humanely removed. He did not know what animal might have been making the other, more bird-like sound, but whatever it was, it had either escaped or had been driven away. There were no feathers, blood, or fur either outside the chimney or on the ground beside the house.

Phillip worked hard for over an hour, first trying to coax the raccoon out with a fascinating combination of clucks and whistles, but nothing doing. Eventually, he captured it with a rope and catch pole. He said that it ran away, obviously unhurt, as soon as he lowered it to the ground.

Next, we discussed what to do to prevent a recurrence of this frightening experience. We gladly ordered an attractive, heavyweight, black metal chimney cap, custom sized for our large chimney. It fastens down securely, has fine metal mesh that will still allow smoke to escape, and has a peaked roof which harmonizes very well with the roof of our house. As temporary protection, Phillip glued a metal plate on the top of the chimney, to keep out any animals until the chimney cap was delivered and installed. The total bill, for removal of the raccoon and the purchase and installation of the chimney cap, was a whopping $1,450, but we were confident that we had made a good decision. Everyone is impressed with the handsome chimney cap, as well as horrified by our story.

But that's not all! Years ago, we had two other problems with animals in the house. One was when a bird fell down the chimney. Whether from the fall or some other mishap, its head was bleeding. It flew all around the main level of our tri-level house (living room, dining room, and kitchen), utterly panicked, getting blood on every wall it hit, plus the ceiling and the ceiling fan. Eventually, David was able to throw a towel over it and get it outside, where it staggered around for a bit and then flew off rather woozily. I hope it survived. It's a good thing we no longer had cats at that time; they would surely have added to the chaos and destruction.

Far worse than either of these two events was when, unbeknownst to us, a large squirrel got into the vent of our clothes dryer. After close to two weeks of enduring and wondering about the grotesque smell that was invading the entire house, we had two strong young men from Sears haul the dryer out, dismantle it, and discover to their horror and ours a rotting, maggot-filled squirrel corpse. Needless to say, that was the end of that dryer; there was no way it could have been cleaned and preserved. The men would not even cart it away, saying they were not allowed to. Amazingly, just minutes later, two Mexican men with a truck appeared and carted the dryer off. Our elderly neighbors, two stalwart survivors of WW II (husband and wife were both in the military), took care of the squirrel corpse and the maggots, as I was totally freaked out and David was at work.

And what could have prevented all these disasters? Obviously, a simpler, cheaper chimney cap installed many years ago, plus an effective cover for the dryer vent, where it emerges from the exterior wall of the house. In other words, some sensible measures taken in good time, saving us lots of trouble, distress, and expense. So take heed, everyone, and do what you can to safeguard your own domicile!



by Dennis R. Sumlin

As a communication and self-mastery coach, I have been writing articles for a few years. This month, I will begin to present the top five articles on .

Number 5

This article is about creating the best intimate life possible. It is written from a male view, but has info for everybody. I discuss issues around sex very openly, and it makes it to the countdown!

Six ways to have a happy sex life

Sex is one of the most basic of human instincts. It is a primal need. It is the raw drive that can bring humans together. Sex can bond people, bring enjoyment, keep us healthy, and create life. Sex is both simple and complex, and can make or break relationships. With such a powerful tool in our hands, how can we ensure that the very thing that was meant to bring pleasure actually brings pleasure?

We are told so many contradictory messages about sex, it's a wonder we can even think straight. Everybody has their likes and dislikes, religious and nonreligious views, and their own ups and downs. On top of that, everybody judges everybody else's sex habits, as if there is only one way to sexually conduct oneself.

Clearing the fog

Sex is personal. Only you can have sex as yourself, and only you have to deal with any unhealthy or limiting views on it. It is up to you to clear out the fog of others' views, un-adapt yourself to beliefs you absorbed from the world, and decide how fulfilling your sex life will be.

This is not an easy feat. It may require you to leap over tall stigmas in a single bound, but it is possible. Since you will only ever be having sex as yourself, and you have to live with your own sexual feelings, you might as well be as happy with your sex life as you can be. You can start with these steps.

1. Accept yourself

Self-acceptance is the first step in being happy with who you are. Accept your good points and your challenging points. Stand at the mirror and look at your body nude. Are you happy with what you see? Your chest, your arms, the size of your penis, the amount of hair you have or lack thereof? Do you like what you see? When people have major issues with their appearance, it can inhibit sexual comfort.

I had to do this. I have always been a skinny dude. People always made negative comments about my skinniness. For years and years, I always felt uncomfortable about my body. After a while, I decided to stop feeling uncomfortable about myself through other people's eyes and take a fresh look. I looked at all the good things about my body, and I started to like the features. My smooth skin, the symmetry. Only then did I start on the road to full physical acceptance. Many men have body image issues. We are sent messages about how we are supposed to look. Big muscles, and all that. That's not real!

2. Get comfortable with what turns you on

We all get turned on by something. When we were younger, we may not have always known exactly what turns us on, but there are a host of things that could make us stand tall. The key is to find out what turns you on, and like it.

With all the stigmas in the world about everything from masturbation, to what position, to what noise we make, to what gender we like, to where we have sex, there is never a loss of others' judgments. Others' judgments do not matter. It is about what we like and how it makes us feel.

If we are not comfortable with what we like, we may be unable to relax during sex. We may suppress our own needs, judge others for what we ourselves like, and invite guilt. The only thing we need to do is make sure that everything we do is consensual.

3. Deal with trauma

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 20% of females and up to 10% of males can recall child sexual trauma. As we know, child sexual trauma is underreported, so the numbers may be higher. If you have such trauma in your past, it could be very hard for you to relate to yourself and others in a sexually healthy way. If the trauma is not dealt with, it can impact your sex life for decades to come.

There is no shame in seeking therapy to help deal with this trauma. You must take care of your sexual self in the same way as you take care of other health issues. It may be a very difficult process, but if you want to be as sexually happy as possible, these traumas need to be addressed.

4. Communicate

If you want to be sure you have a happy, healthy sex life, you must be able to communicate. You should be comfortable with communicating your needs and wants. If you do not communicate, then the other person will not be clear on what you want. There is no one size fits all. Every man is not the same. Every woman is not the same. Communication can be hard for some, as we are taught not to talk openly about sex.

As shocking as this was to me, I did have an issue with communicating my sexual needs at times. I noticed it the most when it came to writing articles about it. Unnoticed by me, some of the sex stigma had leaked into my psyche. To counter that, I started to write stories. I wrote about my own sex drive, body, penis, partners, and other things to break down this outdated stigma. Underneath this block was a fear of judgment. Root out all communication issues!

5. Know your partner

Knowing your partner is key to having a happy sex life. Your partner should feel comfortable with sex communication, just like you. Get to know what turns your partner on. What gives them that smashing orgasm? When you focus on giving your partner pleasure, and they focus on giving you pleasure, you both win!

6. Have fun

When you are having sex, it is a time for bonding, intimacy, and fun. Leave all your life's issues outside, take off your clothes, and have fun. Make sure that the environment is comfortable. Make sure you want to be with that person. If you are not attracted to that person, then why bother? If you are doing something that you will feel guilty about, solve the guilt or don't do it!

Sex can be a healthy, powerful way of expression. Try and make every sexual encounter the best you can. If not, why bother?



The Turing Test


Can We Be Fooled into Thinking a Computer Is Human?

by Stephen Théberge

Alan Turing, considered the father of theoretical computer science, was a visionary in artificial intelligence. In the 1950s, I don't think he envisioned the exponential growth of computing speed and memory power.

He proposed his famous test nearly 70 years ago. In general, two  subjects would be physically separated and could communicate via computer terminal. Someone observing the interaction would decide who was the computer and who was human. There are a lot of ways Turing thought about this, but it means even more today.

With so much of our communications going on in the online world, I have wondered a lot about this. Could it be possible that all those posts on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs aren't really done by our friends and family? I say this tongue in cheek, but am serious, as well.

I know a lot of people, and I don't exclude myself, who are very predictable in their Facebook posts. I could see making a computer program to mimic these. What if we called our friends by phone and a computer was really able to do their voice inflections, fooling us all the way? Voice recognition, fortunately, isn't there yet, but it makes me wonder.

These issues have concerned philosophers, psychologists, and computer scientists for decades. Should we make computers and androids to emulate us? Well, I think we can and should program skills. We know IBM's Watson is designed to be a helpful tool, not to fool us into thinking  he is human. We certainly know that Amazon's Echo and related cousins are not there yet, but that idea of computers talking to us in nice voices is great. Years ago, a synthesized voice was easy to spot, and we can still tell that Watson and Alexa voices aren't quite human.

We are far away from the science fiction stories where androids fool us into thinking they are human. An android is different from a robot in that it is specifically designed to look human. Artificial intelligence research has come a long way in that we have a lot more computing power and memory than we did when we talked about it in the 1960s.

According to the April issue of Discover Magazine, artificial intelligence is great for very specific tasks like playing chess, but can't do commonsense things that we take for granted. A five-year-old kid is much smarter than the most advanced artificial intelligence application.

Tools like Watson have a lot of promise. Combing through piles of information and drawing conclusions are perfectly suited for computers. The smartest human can't work as fast as a computer. I think the biggest allure of the internet is the ability to get information quickly. A good search engine can usually catch spelling errors and come up with what you want, but it  loses context with certain words.

We have to decide what we want our computers to do for us in the future. I see that the social media trend has shown us that we are pretty trivial. It is wonderful to be in touch with people all over the world at any time, but are we really doing anything important?

I am generalizing, but I think we need to be more imaginative in how we have social media work for us. The people who seem to benefit the most from it are advertisers. It would not be possible to have all these resources at our disposal without some kind of sponsorship.

It is almost impossible to predict where we will be in five years, let alone 25. I don't think that even five years ago I'd have thought I'd be asking a black cylinder to get me ball game scores, where my team was in the standings, or to play songs and albums for me.

Information on my novel, The MetSche Message:

Watch my YouTube channel:



by James R. Campbell

It is no small secret that our nation faces many challenges, both foreign and domestic. The list would take up more space than I am willing to devote to it. All one has to do is turn on the national news networks; the first thing you will hear is a litany of obstacles and hurdles we face. Last but not least is the uncertainty as to what the future holds.

As if this weren't bad enough, Congress added to the misery by repealing a regulation that Barack Obama had put in place to protect our privacy on the internet. (Note: The House vote was 215 to 205. The Senate vote was 51 to 48.) The regulation was slated to take effect in one year. If left in place, it would require internet providers and others in the telecommunications industry to ask for permission before they sell our information to advertisers.

We can hardly turn on our email without finding junk email from advertisers. But the situation is about to get much worse, thanks to the people who were sworn to protect us.

According to a CNN Money report, the reason behind the repeal was that the regulation would place an unfair burden on other broadband providers, while search engines like Google and Facebook already engage in the practice. One of my friends pointed out that telecommunications companies have been doing this for years. The real problem is that these companies have lobbyists who pay our representatives to repeal regulations and pass legislation that benefits them. They are interested in lining their pockets, not in our internet security.

What can we do? First, check to see if your antivirus software has a VPN, a software utility that cloaks your internet provider address (IP). VIPRE antivirus packages have this feature as part of the firewall. Another course of action: Contact your cable company to make sure that they follow Federal Trade Commission guidelines. According to the FTC guidelines, they are prohibited from selling our data for advertisement purposes. My provider is a member of the American Cable Association; they follow FTC mandates. I don't know how the repeal will affect the regulations of the FTC.

At this point, I would strongly advise that you call your cable or internet provider and demand that they protect your privacy online. Follow the same procedure with your representative. As I see it, we own this one if we don't make this a campaign issue in 2018 and 2020. If we can't trust our government to protect our data, how can we trust it with anything else?

As always, thanks for your time.

With Loving Kindness,

James R. Campbell



A Heartfelt Thank You to Former President Barack Obama

by Brian J. Coppola

I thank you, President Barack Obama, for eight years of strides towards equality and more access for those who are visually handicapped or those who are both visually and hearing handicapped.

While we are the often forgotten disability community, those who came into the world this way through birth, it was greatly appreciated that we started to get recognized during your eight years of service. While most people with visual challenges are elderly, this should not and does not mean that we should be leaving the young blind and hearing impaired population behind.

Your recognition of our existence came through your signing of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, a bill filed by Representative Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, to allow for the blind to have equal access to television programming and what is playing in theatres. Under this bill, through the allotment of $10,000,000.00 to be distributed by the Federal Communications Commission, the deaf/blind who are low income can receive assistive technology to help them communicate, take part in surfing the internet, and use phones just like anyone else. The iCanConnect Program, which distributes the assistive technology to low income deaf/blind people, could open even more doors.

With your signing into law the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act of 2012, and through another Markey amendment, I saw what I had been fighting for since 2003 in Massachusetts. That was to have the labels on prescription medications made into alternative accessible formats, such as braille, large print, and audible format. I hope that the labels on over-the-counter medications will follow suit. With proper RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) labeling and a patient reading station on loan free of charge from En-Vision America to the blind and the visually impaired, and with a refreshable braille display, which a low income deaf/blind person can get through the iCanConnect Program established by the Federal Communications Commission under the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, a deaf/blind person can also read their medication labels in a safe and independent manner. That's because the patient reader now hooks up to a computer or laptop via a USB cord and the ScripTalk user Interface software, which is also provided by En-Vision America.

I cannot emphasize enough that those of us in the blind community must continue raising our voices. We must keep on insisting that our consumer organizations also do their part to get the most universally designed equipment into all of our major chain pharmacies to have safe and independent access to our medications.

It is with great gratitude that my heartfelt thank you goes out to you. Happy Easter, and may God bless you and your family.

By the way, have you heard of ScripTalk, the pill bottle that can talk and come to life?



Do Commercial Ads About Medication Frighten You?

by Bob Branco

(Originally published in Word Matters,

I don't watch television very often, but in the little time that I watch it on a daily basis, I probably hear at least five commercials about new wonder drugs that are supposed to treat a variety of conditions. With every reason why you should take these drugs, the commercial offers you 10 reasons why you shouldn't. I understand that a lot of people can't take them for various health reasons, but I must tell you that these ads scare me a great deal.

For example, many doctors prescribe these very tiny pills which help lower cholesterol. These pills, also known as statins, are usually prescribed when diet and exercise don't work. Yet I know people who take these statins who develop numbness of the legs, liver problems, and other conditions that they never had before. The television commercials even verify that this is a possibility when taking these statins or other related cholesterol medications. On two separate occasions, my doctor prescribed a statin to help lower my cholesterol, but I am very reluctant to take it because of what I hear on television and in person. I don't want to take a chance that any side effects I might get are worse than the actual condition that the statin is trying to treat. I've been told that doctors may not know your body, and they need to find out more when you take the statin in order to determine whether to put you on another one if something goes wrong. That may be so, but I'm still afraid.

As I said earlier, drug commercials don't make me feel any better. With that said, I think I know one of the reasons why we hear so much negativity in these ads, even though some people actually do have other health issues which prevent them from taking the medication advertised.

I believe that these advertisers are driven by a large percentage of society who can't wait to sue someone for every bad thing that happens. I said that this was only one reason for the negativity, because I also believe we should hear the warnings against taking the medication.

My point is that lately, there is an abundance of drug ads where 90% of them warn people. I never heard this much of an overemphasis before. While a lot of people need to be warned, I am warned scared!

About the Author:

Bob Branco resides in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and is a self-published author of four books. He is a community organizer, tutors persons with visual impairments, and has written columns for local and international organizations.

Bob's website is:

Bob also blogs at This is where you subscribe.



About Patty L. Fletcher

My name is Patty L. Fletcher, and I am the author of one book, Campbell's Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life, and the creator of an online news and literary magazine called The Neighborhood News.

To see buying or free download links for my book, read back issues of The Neighborhood News, and see how it all began, visit 
To see my updated newsletter and blog, as well as newer work, visit

To advertise with me, send your ad of up to 200 words in the form of either a Word or PDF attached document, with or without imbedded photo, to the email address shown at the end of this ad.

Starting May 1, 2017, all advertising is $10 per year or $5 for a one-time ad.

This includes:

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I am also a nonprofit and small business consultant, and I'd love to come to work for you. I can provide:

Public speaking about your nonprofit or small business. Give me the materials and presentation, set the public speaking engagement, and watch me go to work.

Need funds raised? Volunteers recruited? I'm your go-to girl.

Need a part-time, all-hands-on-deck staff member during your busy season? Give me a call. I have over 4,000 hours of customer service, public speaking, and fundraising experience, and I'd love to find out how I can help you.

I also provide résumé and business profile writing lessons.

For more information, please email: or phone: 423.963.9476.


Editing and Publishing Assistance

Hello, everyone. We are David and Leonore Dvorkin, in Denver, Colorado. We are the authors of over 30 published books, and since 2009, we have been editing books (both fiction and nonfiction) by other authors and assisting them in getting the books self-published in e-book and print. The three publishers are CreateSpace, Amazon, and Smashwords. Amazon is the primary seller, and the books are sold worldwide.

We have worked on over 40 books of widely varying lengths and many types. Most of our 30-plus clients are blind or visually impaired. Bob Branco and several others who contribute to this newsletter are among our clients.

Our comprehensive services include thorough editing, print layout, conversion to e-book, cover design, the provision of back cover and ad blurb texts and book-related Web pages for the authors, setting up the accounts with the publishers, and some help with marketing, all for very reasonable rates. Throughout every project, we maintain close email contact with the author.

For full details, see:



The Return of El Nino and What It Might Mean to the Eastern United States

by Steve Roberts

Government scientists are telling us that El Nino may return in the fall. That would be the second El Nino in less than two years. So what exactly is El Nino, anyway?

To understand El Nino and its impacts, you must first understand the normal state of the Pacific Ocean. Under normal climate circumstances, the trade winds blowing across the vast Pacific go from the east to the west. These trade winds push seawater from the east to the west. This water gets transported by Rossby Waves. As these waves travel to the west, cold water rises to fill the void created by their movement. This process of cold-water upwelling causes the eastern Pacific to be roughly eight degrees cooler than the western Pacific. The waves that cause cold water upwelling in the East get heated by the strong equatorial sun as they travel to the west. These waves provide a constant supply of warm water to the Western Pacific Warm Pool. The easterly trade winds and wave motion cause the western Pacific to warm and the eastern Pacific to be cold.

Every few years, the tropical trade winds blowing across the Pacific slacken or reverse. This causes water in the western Pacific to start sloshing to the east. This water is transported to the east by huge waves called Kelvin Waves. These lumbering hulks can transport billions of gallons of water across the Pacific Ocean. As El Nino evolves, the normally dry West Coast of the Americas becomes wetter, and the typically wet areas of Asia and Australia become drier. It is El Nino's ability to turn the climatological tables on the Pacific that makes it of such interest to the scientific community. Once the warm phase is in full swing, there can be drought in Africa and the Indian subcontinent. In the Atlantic, there are fewer hurricanes, while in the Pacific, there are lots of hurricanes.

What does El Nino Mean to the East?

Strong warm phase events keep those of us in the East warm and snowless. This is because the warm phase event keeps the cold air up in the Arctic. Weak to moderate warm phase events tend to bring cold and snowy weather to the East. This is because these weaker events allow cold air from the North to come into the East, while amping up the subtropical branch of the jet stream. The subtropical branch of the jet stream transports tons of moisture to developing storms. The polar branch of the jet stream can unleash bitterly cold Arctic blasts into the central and eastern United States. The polar branch of the jet stream also carries upper air disturbances that can be the catalyst for the detonation of snow bombs.

From Atlantic to Pacific

Though El Nino can be truly impactful to those of us in the eastern United States, El Nino tends to be a follower, not a leader in the forcing of climate behavior. To understand what El Nino may do to those of us in the East, you must first understand the North Atlantic Oscillation and its impact on eastern winter weather.

El Nino tends to play along with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). When the NAO is positive, the Bermuda High and Icelandic Low are strong. This results in warmer and snowless weather in the eastern United States. If El Nino coincides with a positive NAO, then the weather will be even warmer and even less snowy. If the NAO is negative, the Bermuda High and Icelandic Low are weak. This causes cold and snowy conditions in the eastern United States. Should El Nino coincide with a negative NAO, then the East could become very cold and very, very snowy.

Climate change is causing the jet stream to become increasingly wavy. Where you have a trough, it is very cold. The East is climatologically favored for troughiness under these climate change circumstances. If El Nino coincides with a wavy jet stream, the East could incur the wrath of lots of very big snowstorms. Bombs away! Next winter could be brutal to those of us in the East.



Living and Working with Guide Dogs

by Ann Chiappetta, M.S.

Hello, readers. Spring is here, and the fur is flying. That's right: Shedding season has begun. I am not going to bore you all with a grooming article, as we all have different techniques. I just wanted to acknowledge the necessities of dog ownership.

One of the shifts that many new guide dog handlers experience is the increased attention from the public. Our dogs are people magnets. It can be a bit intrusive at times, but for me, I find it better than being ignored when using my white cane. The isolation barrier shifts when working a dog. There are times when using a white cane is advantageous, and there are times when it is not; I think those of you who are reading this will have differing opinions about a guide dog versus a cane, and that is why we are individuals. We have choices, and I believe this is a blessing in society today.

For four years, I have been volunteering for a program called Building Bridges, going into schools and teaching children ages six and seven about people with disabilities. Below are some questions and answers.

How does the dog know when to cross the street?

I need to tell my dog when I think it is safe. The dog will take me from one side to the other as long as it is safe.

How do you know when to walk the dog?

We have a schedule so the dog won't have to tell me unless he has a tummy ache, and then he whines to tell me.

Does your dog find your food for you?

No, but he can find the line to order food, the chair in the restaurant, and the checkout line in the grocery store.

How do you know your dog is listening to you?

I can feel what he is doing when holding the leash or harness handle. I also have a bell on his collar that helps me keep track of him when he isn't on leash or working in his harness.

What is the little bag on his back? And how do you know when he is going to the bathroom?

Ah, we refer to this question as the inevitable poo question. It always makes the kids giggle. I explain how we are taught to know how to position the dog and a foot to find the poo and explain that the dog is trained to go on command. This really impresses them.

I realize that many of these questions are going to come up almost every time, but some are unique. I love hearing from these minds. They are little sponges just waiting for information. The payoff is when I am in a store and I hear a child tell Mom or Dad,  Don't pet the dog! Then I know it's working.

Have a great spring and see you all next time on the virtual pages.

My 2016 book is Upwelling: Poems, available in e-book and print from Amazon and multiple other online sellers.

My second book will be coming later this year.

To view my author page, go to

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by Terri Winaught

In my last column, I introduced the concept of Personal Medicine, differentiated it from pills by explaining that Personal Medicine is something you do that puts a smile on your face, and mentioned that Patricia Deegan is the one who pioneered this recovery-oriented concept. To say more about Pat Deegan, Ph.D., I indicated that my next column would be a biography of this internationally acclaimed advocate, psychologist, public speaker, and researcher.

As already stated, I will provide some biographical data about Miss Deegan. Additionally, I will also talk about May being Mental Health Awareness month.


On one of the many videos Pat Deegan has produced, she talks about what it looked and felt like to be diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 17. Her having been diagnosed with that psychosis meant that young Pat was whisked away into the dark, scary place that a psychiatric hospital is.

When Patricia was discharged, returning home didn't equal mental health and happiness. Instead, she existed in a cocoon of despair brought on by antipsychotics that kept her sedated and caused weight gain. Deegan's turning point was her grandmother's patience, the result of which was Miss Deegan's enrollment at a community college. Though the voices she heard and medication side effects made college a struggle, Pat Deegan not only overcame those adversities but went on to obtain a Ph.D. in psychology from Duquesne University. She now owns a consulting business and teaches college courses.

These significant accomplishments, combined with no longer taking medication or receiving therapy, make Dr. Deegan living proof that recovery is possible. Recovery being possible is also a key part of what May as Mental Health Awareness month is all about. Since 1949, and with a different theme each year, Mental Health Awareness month strives to stamp out stigma, educate the public, and raise awareness.

On May 10, I'll be participating in the rollout of a project called The Human Library. Through my participation, I'll be striving to educate and raise awareness by sharing parts of my lived experience as a person with the dual disabilities of blindness and mental illness.

In June's column, I'll provide an overview of what a Human Library is, and I'll also discuss what I shared at the May 10 event.

If you want to share your story, I would love to use this column to hear your voice. Should you choose to share a topic that is both difficult and painful, please be assured that I will tell your story with dignity and respect.

To tell your story, comment on this column, or suggest mental health topics, please call 412-263-2022, home; 412-209-9818, cell; or email


12. TIPS FOR VIPS (Because Visually Impaired People Are Important, Too)

by Penny Fleckenstein, who blogs at:

Welcome to the month of May. It is my favorite month. With beautiful flowers, the temperatures are perfect! I don't know my real birthday. If I could choose my birthday, I'd like it to be in May.

I've run into some difficulty with Zachary's iPhone 6 with Sprint service. We began our new relationship with Sprint at the end of January. I was so excited to be getting new iPhones. While I was on my bike trip in March, I was texting Zachary regularly. When I arrived home, his phone was unable to charge. A few days later, I took it to the Apple store to find out that the phone would never turn on. I was informed that the original purchase date of the phone was October of 2014, so his phone was not under warranty. I went to Sprint. Because my friend thought that the phones were brand new, he had not bought insurance. Sprint was unwilling to replace the phone. Apple said it would cost $300 for a new iPhone 6 if I were to trade it in.

Apparently, we have been leasing the pre-owned phones which they had sold us as new. If I had not gone to the Apple store, I would never have known that. After several hours of arguing with Sprint, they finally agreed to let us send Zachary's phone in to be replaced. We sent the phone in the Monday before Easter, and I have still not received the replacement. They finally said that there is a 90-day warranty on the leased phone. We are stuck, along with many others who have found out that they too have been leasing phones which are years old. I know someone who got the contract emailed to them. The phones must be returned to Sprint after the 24-month lease in brand-new condition. I've discovered that Verizon is running the same scam. My warning to you is do not get into a leasing arrangement with a cell phone company. Buy your phone outright and choose the service you want.

When I came home from the mall, I felt that my day had been wasted. I felt so depressed and discouraged. However, if I hadn't gone to the Apple store, I would never have found out that our phones are not brand new and not under warranty. I also got my first opportunity to ride an Uber. I really like it. The app tells you how much your trip will cost before you order a car. The driver was cheerful and talkative. She said she works for both Uber and Lyft. She prefers to work for Lyft because there are more money-making opportunities with them. What a learning opportunity!

At a later date, I visited the Apple store. The technicians were very happy to help me set up Apple Pay and Apple Music. I asked them if there is an affordable way to buy an Apple iPhone. You can choose between Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T. A new iPhone can be purchased on a credit card with a payment of $32 a month for 24 months. You get a new iPhone with AppleCare included. After 12 months, you can decide to upgrade to a new phone or stay with your current phone. I also learned from a friend of mine that if your broken screen on your device causes bodily harm, they will fix the screen for free. You can also turn in a cord that is no longer charging your device, and they will replace it.

Besides having trouble with Zachary's phone, his iPad mini and his iPad Air stopped charging. I was able to buy him a new iPad for $199.00, an iPad Air for $249.00, or I can buy an updated iPad, the newest one, for $329.00. I bought the iPad Mini but told them to put in my notes that the arrangement would still be available for the iPad Air when I can take advantage of it. You cannot purchase AppleCare for these replacement devices. They do come with a 60-day warranty.

After all that technology stress, how about eating some delicious Girl Scout cookies? No one asked you to buy Girl Scout cookies? Or maybe you didn't buy enough? Make your way to Family Dollar. Their store brand cookies are made by the same factory that makes the Girl Scout cookies. Samoas, thin mints, and peanut butter meltaways go by different names at Family Dollar but have the same flavors at a lower price, with more cookies in the package. I'm not saying don't support the Girl Scouts, but you can buy these cookies year round.

Feel free to drop me a line or more at: .



by Karen Crowder

As May arrives, there is warmer weather with sunnier days. There is the scent of blooming daffodils, tulips, and lily of the valley. By mid-May, lilacs are blooming with their enticing fragrance. However, the scent is fleeting, fading after Memorial Day. In 2017, this holiday will be observed on May 29. On cool evenings, creamed chipped beef or chicken rice soup with mushrooms and asparagus is appealing. On Memorial Day at a barbecue, chocolate pudding cake topped with ice cream says summer.


A. Chicken Rice Soup with Asparagus and Mushrooms

B. Old-Fashioned Creamed Chipped Beef

C. Chocolate Pudding Cake

A. Chicken Rice Soup with Asparagus and Mushrooms

Adding fresh asparagus and mushrooms makes this soup delicious. Try it on a cool, rainy evening.


One can Campbell's chicken rice soup

Two to four whole mushrooms

Six to eight thin fresh asparagus tips

Four tablespoons whipped butter

A dash of olive oil.

One cup milk

One-half cup light cream or Half & Half.


Pour soup into a three-quart saucepan.

In a glass bowl, place butter, olive oil, and broken"up vegetables. Microwave them for two minutes and 50 seconds. Add vegetables, milk, and light cream or Half & Half to the soup. On low heat, stir soup, letting it simmer for 30 minutes.

Serve soup with rolls or garlic bread and a salad.


B. Old-Fashioned Creamed Chipped Beef

This recipe comes from The Braille Cookbook, published in 1951. The addition of light cream is from the 12th edition of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, published in 1979.

This was one of Marshall's favorite dishes. This version of creamed chipped beef is unlike ones you have tasted at school. They were salty with a bland taste. I made changes, soaking dried beef in hot water for two hours. Hot water helps remove most of the salt. The white sauce is what makes this dish outstanding. I added light cream to the milk. It is delicious over buttered toast or mashed potatoes.


Six tablespoons flour

Six tablespoons tub margarine

Two and a half cups milk

One-half cup either light cream or Half & Half

One jar Hormel chipped beef, found in supermarkets.


Open jar of dried beef. Empty dried beef into very hot water. Use a lock lid or regular saucepan. Soak dried beef for two hours.

In a three-quart saucepan or double boiler, melt margarine for three minutes.

Turn off heat and add flour. Whisk flour and melted margarine for 30 seconds, until smooth. Add milk, and on low heat, whisk sauce until smooth. Whisk infrequently for 25 minutes until sauce has thickened. Add one-half cup light cream or Half & Half. Stir for five minutes.

Drain beef, breaking it up into small pieces in a glass bowl. Add beef to sauce, stirring until sauce and beef are combined. Simmer creamed chipped beef until serving time. If you own a double boiler, you can cover creamed chipped beef, gently simmering it for two hours without loss of flavor or texture.

Serve creamed chipped beef over broken-up buttered toast or mashed potatoes. This version of creamed chipped beef is superior. Your family and guests will request it again.


C. Chocolate Pudding Cake

This recipe is from  50 Scrumptious Recipes from It has been published in braille by the National Braille Press in Boston. The author of Chocolate Pudding Cake is Shirley Fan.

I have made changes, adding extra cocoa, milk, and semi-sweet chocolate chips; using Crisco instead of cooking spray; and using half a stick of butter instead of four tablespoons. I would also bake this cake for 45 minutes, not 40. I have changed some of the words, making it more explanatory.

As Shirley says, "This is a decadent dessert, a cross between molten chocolate cake and a brownie." She suggests "topping it with vanilla or mint chip ice cream." I topped my sample with delicious chocolate chip ice cream.


One cup sugar, divided

Three-fourths cup unsweetened cocoa, divided

One cup all-purpose flour

Two teaspoons baking powder

One-fourth teaspoon salt

One-half stick of melted butter

Three-fourths cup milk

One large egg

One and one-half teaspoons pure vanilla

One-fourth to one-half cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

One small cup hot coffee or water.


Microwave butter in glass bowl for 50 seconds and let it cool. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch by 8-inch glass or metal pan with Crisco or cooking spray, dusting bottom and sides with flour or cocoa.

In a small mixing bowl, combine one-half cup sugar and one-half cup cocoa. Set bowl alongside a large mixing bowl. In the large mixing bowl, measure out one-fourth cup cocoa, one-half cup sugar, one cup flour, two teaspoons baking powder, and one-fourth teaspoon salt. Stir dry ingredients together with a wooden spoon. Make a well in the center of the bowl. Add three-fourths cup milk, cooled butter, beaten egg, and pure vanilla. Stir batter with a wooden, plastic, or silicon spoon for two minutes. If it feels too thick, add one-fourth cup milk. Stir and add chocolate chips.

Measure batter into baking pan, one-half cup at a time. Make sure batter covers the bottom and sides of pan. Microwave a small cup of water or coffee for 50 seconds. Sprinkle cocoa/sugar mixture over entire top of cake batter. Pour coffee/water over cake. Do not stir.

Bake cake for 45 minutes. It will feel springy, rising near the top of the pan. Let cake cool for 15 minutes. Cut it, serving it in bowls with ice cream.

I hope Consumer Vision readers have a delightful month, especially Memorial Day weekend. Remember everyone who has passed away, especially our soldiers. Memorial Day ushers in the unofficial beginning of the carefree days of summer



by Ernie Jones

In March 2012, Google posted a video showing Steve Mahan, head of the Santa Clara (California) Valley Blind Center, being taken on a ride in Google's self-driving Toyota Prius.

In the video, Mahan states, "Ninety-five percent of my vision is gone. I'm well past legally blind."

In the description of the YouTube video, it is noted that the pre-programmed route takes Mahan from his home to a drive-through restaurant, then to the dry-cleaning shop, and finally back home. Imagine a blind person trying to do that on his own!

Can you picture the time when driverless, autonomous semi trucks glide along on the freeway? The makers of these vehicles see a day when semis do their thing on the Interstate, then stop at designated depots where humans drive the last few miles into town for unloading and reloading. Drivers, in effect, become harbor pilots, bringing the ship to port. It is said, "These trucks are more practical than autonomous cars. They'll almost certainly be here sooner than cars because the industry desperately needs them." The trucking industry hauls 70% of the nation's freight about 10.5 billion tons annually and simply doesn't have enough drivers.

In recent news, I heard that passengers in a driverless test car were saved when the vehicle's cameras reacted, slamming on the brakes to avoid a collision, braking before the man who also had controls knew what was happening.

Google's robotic cars have about $150,000 in equipment, including a $70,000 LIDAR (light detection and ranging) system. The laser range finder mounted on the top allows the vehicle to generate a detailed 3D map of its environment. The car then takes these generated maps and combines them with high-resolution maps of the world, producing different types of data models that allow it to drive itself.

The project team has equipped a number of different types of cars with the self-driving equipment, including the Toyota Prius, Audi TT, and Lexus RX450H. Google has also developed its own custom vehicle. And in May 2016, Google and Fiat Chrysler announced an order of 100 Pacifica Hybrid minivans for testing.

Google's vehicles have driven on San Francisco's Lombard Street, famous for its steep hairpin curves, and through city traffic, including the Golden Gate Bridge. The system provides an override, similar to cruise control, that allows a human driver to take control of the car by stepping on the brake or turning the wheel.

In what could be the first incident that was the driverless car's fault, in February 2016, a California Department of Motor Vehicles report says that a Google Lexus hit a city bus while in autonomous mode.

According to the report, the Google autonomous vehicle, or AV, was traveling in autonomous mode in the right-hand lane and was attempting to turn right on a red light. But the AV had to stop and go around sandbags that were positioned around a storm drain in its way, so when the light turned green, the car let a few cars pass and then started to move into the center of the lane to pass the sand bags.

"A public transit bus was approaching from behind," the report says. "The Google AV test driver saw the bus approaching in the left-side mirror but believed the bus would stop or slow to allow the Google AV to continue."

But that didn't happen. About three seconds later, the Google AV came into contact with the side of the bus, the report says. When they hit each other, the car was going less than 2 mph, while the bus was traveling at 15 mph. The Google vehicle sustained relatively minor damage, but there were no injuries reported at the scene.

In its February monthly self-driving car report, Google provided further details of the incident, calling it a "tricky set of circumstances" that has helped it "improve an important skill for navigating similar roads."

Once developers get all the kinks worked out and autonomous vehicles become commonplace on America's roadways, the blind should gain a newfound sense of independence, able to travel to their chosen destinations at will. I think it is my turn to take a drive!

Ernie Jones

Author of Onesimus, the Runaway Slave

Encouraging the Blind

Greater love hath no man than this



by Patty L. Fletcher

Good morning, everyone! Today I've been listening to the news, and I have to tell you, I'm amazed! I'm amazed that we're living as we are, doing as we are, and not realizing that we are, as a people, destroying the very world we say we wish to save. I do not care what faith you choose to believe. Every single one of them has a story of creation, a story of destruction, and a new beginning. They all have a story of an afterlife too, but that's a post for another day.

This morning, as I was listening to NPR's Morning Edition, I heard a report about the sun, about its health benefits and risks. That got me thinking. Long ago, people worked in the sun for long hours. They probably did get bad sunburn and most likely there were skin cancers. However, I doubt there were nearly as many as there are today. Why is that? Because over the years, we've destroyed the natural barrier put in place at creation, and now we're paying the consequence for our neglect.

We talk about water shortage, we talk about pollution, and we talk about what should or should not be done about it. We argue over whether global warming is real or fake, and we argue over whether the changes in the climate are nature or nurture. My thoughts are, yes, the wheel really does turn, and my question is, when are we going to learn?

Okay, let's take the most popular story of destruction and renewal, the Flood. Let's say the flood happened. Let's say all those people but the best of the best were destroyed, and that enough animals were kept to repopulate the Earth upon dryout. So, if we believe this is true, then why on this wonderful, awesome Earth are we doing the same stuff we were doing way back then? And don't give me that crap about you're not doing it, and you believe, and all that! We are all doing it! Me, you, all of us.

People don't recycle as they should. They run air conditioners on days when their windows could be open, letting in the fresh air. We leave lights, TV, radios, and all sorts of stuff running when we're not even home. We don't reuse things. We aren't taking care of the Earth, and I have a feeling she is just about sick and tired of taking care of us.

So, folks, what has to happen before we really get it? How many people have to die before we really wake up?

As I continued listening to the news, they began to talk about crime. Once again, I asked the question: When will we learn? First of all, some of the laws we have make no sense, and in fact cause crimes to be committed. Then we have people in prisons, being warehoused like animals. They're not being rehabilitated. No one is teaching them correct ways of behavior. Most of them don't have education when they enter, and while I know there are programs in prisons to teach them, the conditions these people are living in are such that they're too busy trying to survive to do anything about being rehabilitated and educated. I've seen what can happen to folks who have done long, hard time. Whether they deserve to be there or not is not the issue. It's what are they going to do when they get out?

Again, back to the Flood. If God really did destroy the world with a flood because of man's horrid behavior, then don't we think we should've learned from that? Should we not be trying to find and cultivate the good in folks, rather than making them worse than they were when they got into trouble in the first place?

What's going on in our country and this world is, in my opinion, inexcusable. Our president rants and raves at times like a blooming idiot. If I acted and spoke as he does at times, I'd be told I needed therapy, medication, and possibly hospitalization. Oh! Wait! I've done that already! So, is it possible he has some mental illness? Yes! Does that mean he should not be our president? Unless he can get himself under control a bit better, then yes. What about other leaders around the world? What about, for example, the leader of North Korea? He won't even think about listening to reason. So, are people like these I've mentioned, as well as many others, going to just continue and continue to wreak havoc upon our world?

Are we going to continue to toss cigarette butts and other nasty junk onto our beautiful Mother Earth, thus contributing to yet another destruction? If indeed the Bible is correct, it says we shall be destroyed by fire next time. I don't know about the rest of you, but I do not really wish to burn to death!

So, what is the answer? I think there are many answers, many things we can do, but the first thing to do is to stop repeating our mistakes! The next thing to do is to sit down, as an entire world, and find some common ground on which we can all stand, and then figure out how to make changes which will benefit us all.

The Earth was created for all, not some.

Until next time, this is Patty, who is sick of watching us all destroy each other, and her awesome King Campbell, from whom everyone could take a lesson of love, saying:
Remember, we all look at the same moon. Blessid Be.



Here is the answer to the question submitted in the April 2017 Consumer Vision. New Hampshire is the granite state. Congratulations to the following winners:

David Faucheux of Lafayette, Louisiana

Jan Colby of Brockton, Massachusetts

Susan Jones of Indianapolis, Indiana

Jean Marcley of Brenda, Arizona

Patty Fletcher of Kingsport, Tennessee

Patricia Bunce of Cedar Grove, New Jersey

Jo Smith of West Dennis, Massachusetts

Mark Blier of Sierra Vista, Arizona

Roanna Bacchus of Orlando, Florida

Steve Theberge of Attleboro, Massachusetts

And now, here is your trivia question for this month's Consumer Vision. What humorous singer's hits include  Eat It,  I'm Fat, and  Like a Surgeon ? If you know the answer, please email or call 508-994-4972.



We have one very observant blind reader who reads every issue of Consumer Vision extremely carefully and then emails me whatever typo or typos he has found. Too bad we do not have time to have this person read every issue before it goes out!  

I just want to tell all our readers that the newsletter is compiled by Bob Branco and is then gone over by Terri Winaught, my husband (David Dvorkin), and me before it goes out to the readers. We all do the best we can. So, if there are any errors left, we apologize, but we want to assure you that it is not for lack of trying.    

We thank all of you for your continued reading, for contributing (if you do), and for helping to spread the word about this valuable publication. We appreciate all of you very much!

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