Don’t let a pretty face fool you….

    One of us lacked trust and the other patience.  We met in mid-November, when after being “dog deficient” for three months I couldn’t take it any longer.  Never mind the outpouring that I was too busy and always on the go and didn’t need a dog.  I fought back, stating I had a dog since the day I was born.  My thoughts were I’d adopt a dog…save a life.  OK, I was selfish and wanted a dog already house broken and knew how to use the lawn for a toilet and not the carpet.

    I fell in love with Mr. Snow, a Great Pyrenees, from the moment I saw his face.  Saw him, had to meet him, and then had to have him.  A quick background on Mr. Snow finds he must have a hidden past.  He was found wandering in Tennessee last July and went from shelter to shelter and became a ward of Big Fluffy Dog Rescue.  From there, he took the long trip to Bloomsburg to his foster home.  Tennessee to Pennsylvania should have been my first clue.

    Upon his arrival to his new permanent home, Mr. Snow leaped out of his personal vehicle and onto the porch.  He politely sat down and refused to move.  Nothing would get him to move.  He just stared at me with those big brown eyes.  So, with doors open, I raised his butt and assisted him into the house, where he stood, turned his head, stared at me and then relieved himself.  Clue number two.

    I quickly found he hated quick movements near him, sirens and garbage trucks.  While I was told to crate him, I found he could open his crate with his paw.  Seriously?  His first walk in his new “hood” was his best walk.  After that, it was dragging me where he wanted to go, and I don’t like chasing cars.

    Mr. Snow taught me not to leave a kitchen cupboard door open or a bag of flour will appear on the floor all chewed up, not good when you come home from a night out.  He taught me that a 65-inch plasma TV really does explode when an object hits it.  Love my new wall mount.

   Mr. Snow initially was not one to show affection.  He just stared at me.  Any sudden movement found him defensive.  People told me to get rid of him and to give him back.  I’m not a quitter; I learned to react in Snow time.  Snow, in the meantime, became calmer.  We learned to work together.

    Nine months later, we have adjusted to one another.  Who says an old gal can’t learn patience?  Who says a giant dog can’t learn trust?  Together, we can do anything.  Thank you doggie Prozac!

 

                   (Written by Kathy Lynn, the director of the Columbia/Montour Aging Office Inc.)

FIVE FAST AND EASY SELF-EXAMS CAN TELL YOU IF IT’S TIME TO SEE A DOC!

1) EYE CHECK…..If you want to know a man’s soul, look him in the eye.  If you want to know your own body, go ahead and look yourself in the eye.

What you want to see:  firm eyelids, even lashes and no swelling or redness

If you see….The red, irritated surface of the inner lid, this can lead to corneal damage & should be treated

If you see….A bump on your eyelid and missing eyelashes:  A persistent bump that’s gotten bigger, darker and thicker could be cancer and needs to be looked at.  With cancers, you often lose your eyelashes, too, so that’s another sign to watch for.

 

2)  SKIN CHECK…..Run your eyes and your fingertips over your skin, and ask a family member to check your back.  Make sure you use your sense of touch as well as sight.

What you want to see and feel:  An even texture across individual body parts and no noticeable changes in your skin’s appearance.  Pay particular attention to your face, ears, scalp, neck and back.

If you see or feel….A small, sandpapery patch of skin:  you may have actinic keratosis.  Have it checked out; 10 percent develop into skin cancer.

*A shiny pink or brown bump:  If it has a raised, rolled border, and it wasn’t there the last time your looked, have it checked for basal cell carcinoma, the most common skin cancer.

*A new mole or one that’s changed shape or color:  Any skin growth that’s asymmetrical, has uneven borders or coloring, or is larger than a pencil eraser should be checked for melanoma.

3)  BALANCE CHECK….Stand on a flat, nonslip surface, with your arms folded across your chest. While standing on your preferred leg, raise the other foot of the floor a few inches, making sure the foot remains parallel to the floor and isn’t resting against the standing leg.  Time how long you can keep the leg raised before it touches the floor as you lose your balance (or after 30 seconds).  Do the test twice, once with your eyes open and once with them closed.

*What you want to see….The ability to hold your balance with your eyes closed.  Science suggests that those who could perform this task had lower rates or mortality from all causes than those who could not.

*If you see….That you can’t hold the position at all with your eyes closed:  consider talking to your doctor about doing a deeper dive into your overall health and fitness.  In a study of 53-year-old men and women conducted at University College London, those who could balance on one leg with their eyes closed for more than 10 seconds were more likely to survive over the next 13 years of the study.

4)  HAIR CHECK….Sure, it would be great to feel those long tresses blowin’ in the wind once again, but if your hair has become as sparse, as say, hit songs by Bob Dylan, don’t get too concerned.  Most people’s hair gets thinner after 50, and it’s usually a result of genetics and hormonal changes rather than poor nutrition or some other factor.  But sometimes our hair can indicate that something larger is at play.

*What you want to see….Little if any sudden change.  If you are under stress, had major surgery, experienced sudden weight loss or started a new medication (for high blood pressure or arthritis and more), these may increase hair thinning.

*If you see….Extra hair on your brush or in the sink:  If your locks lose density quickly, say over three to six months, you may have an underlying condition such as anemia, iron loss or thyroid disease.  “You’ll notice more hair in your brush, in the shower drain and on your pillow.

 

5)  HEART CHECK…..Place two fingers on the side of your windpipe.  Count the beats for 15 seconds, then multiply by four to get your beats per minute (bpm).

*What you want to feel….A heart rate of 60 to 100 bpm.  (Very fit people may have rates below 60 bpm).

*If you feel….A rate of more than 100 bpm:  consult your doctor.  A rapid heart rate, or tachycardia, may be caused by a number of factors, including alcohol, anxiety or cardiac issues.

*Your heart rate rising at work or when you think about work:  You might want to consider whether your stress levels are too high.  Studies have linked work stress to diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

 

(written by Kate Lawler and Stephen Perrine for AARP The Magazine, August/September 2017)

Teach the Children Well

(Money lessons for the grandkids)

Among the vivid memories I have of my grandfather is staring up at the ticker tape at the Bache & Co. brokerage firm in Philadelphia, where he’d go to “watch” his tiny portfolio of (usually underperforming) stocks.  Sitting there with my Pop-Pop was my first exposure to the market and the idea that someday I might be able to own pieces of big companies, too.

Grandparents can give invaluable money lessons to their grandchildren.  “There are messages and values they hear and accept from grandparents in a way they don’t from parents,” says Joline Godfrey, founder of Independent Means, a financial-education firm.

But never undermine the children’s parents in your quest to do a familial good deed.  Beth Kobliner, author of the best-selling Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even if You’re Not), says she hears complaints about grandparents breaking family money rules.  It’s better to discuss with the parents the values, knowledge and money history they want to share.  Then offer up your pearls of financial wisdom, such as:

Start a homegrown 401(k)…..Children may get frustrated that it can take so long for a small allowance to grow into a large pot.  Help foster the savings habit by matching savings deposits dollar for dollar.  Or, offer incentives for other behaviors you and their parents want to encourage (exercise, reading, cleaning).  Paying your grandchildren to do jobs you’d pay strangers to do is a great option as long as you demand they do them well.

Teach mental accounting…..Adults are more successful in achieving financial goals when they create separate savings pools for particular aims.  Start that practice early with grandchildren.  For example, divide a $15 gift into three envelopes, labeled “Saving,” “Spending” and “Giving”.  Or—as the kids get older—break it into four chunks and add in “Investing”.

Give Stock…..You can buy single shares through companies like GiveaShare.com or open an account at, for instance, TD Ameritrade or Ally Invest, which have no minimum balance requirement.  Or your can gift shares you already own.  One caveat:  Grandkids sometimes become emotionally attached to stocks that beloved grandparents give them.  Make sure they know you want them to sell when the time is right.

Give cash, not gift cards…..Research shows that cash feels more valuable than plastic.  Big bills, by the way, carry more weight than small ones.  Your grandkids will think twice about breaking a valuable $20 bill.

Or write a check…..Then take the child to a bank or credit union, open a checking account and show how to deposit the check or cash.  (My children had their first debit cards at 12.)  Do this only with the parents’ permission, though, as you are also committing them to the arrangement.

 

(Written by Jean Chatzky for AARP Magazine, August/September 2017)

Your Brain Behaving Badly

Your Brain Behaving Badly

 

Ever done something not at all like you and not at all good—such as lashing out in anger over a small irritation?  After the dust settles and the damage is done, it can sometimes be hard to recall why you acted so badly.

According to Stanford neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky, our most impulsive actions aren’t always determined by the moments when they happen.  In his new book, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, Sapolsky argues that rash decisions result not only from temperament and upbringing, but from what happens to a person’s body in the moments, hours, weeks, months and even years beforehand.

Sapolsky talked with AARP about how biology can influence our behavior, for better and worse:

Q: How does long-term stress affect a person’s behavior?

A: Chronic stress does lousy things to people’s frontal cortices. We make ridiculous, stupid decisions during times of stress that seem brilliant at the time, and then we regret these for decades after. Judgment, impulse control and emotional regulation go out the tubes during times of stress because of the effect on the frontal cortex.  If you’re chronically stressed, it becomes easier for you to learn to be afraid.  You’re also not going to be at your sharpest cognitively.  But probably the most recent finding is that when we’re stressed, we become less empathic, less compassionate, less capable of taking somebody else’s perspective.  It’s really good for people to get stress under control because there will be fewer cases of hypertension or diabetes. But ultimately, the most important reason is because people will be nicer to one another.

Q:  Why do some people feel more stress than others?

A:  We now have a huge body of literature that shows you’re more likely to feel stress if you feel you have no control over what’s going on and if you have no predictive information about when it’s coming, how bad it’s going to be, and how long it’s going to last.  It’s even worse when you lack outlets for frustration and you lack social support.  If you could manipulate any one of those variables—control, predictability, social support, outlets for frustration—far and away the most powerful one is social support.

Q:  So you need a lot of friends?

A:  We spend an awful lot of time mistaking acquaintances for friends, and in times of crisis, we’re often deeply disappointed when the acquaintances turn out to be just acquaintances.  People who do best are those who are more selective about whom they affiliate with.  They’ve gotten rid of the acquaintances and the coworkers who turned out to have zero lasting power.  You don’t need a lot of friends; you just need a few very good ones.

 

(By Gabrielle deGroot Redford for AARP Magazine)

3 Easy Moves for Stronger Knees

3 Easy Moves for Stronger Knees

Hamstring Stretch

This will stretch the back of your knee and knee joints. Stand tall, and place one foot in front of you. Bend your supporting knee slightly, and lean forward from your hips. Use a chair for added support.

Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

Calf Raise

This exercise will strengthen the entire calf region. Using a chair for balance, lift one leg and bend your knee so your calf is parallel to the floor. While keeping that position, lift up high on your other foot, bringing your heel up and down.

Complete 10 on each side. Relax and repeat.

 

Quad Strengthener

To strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee, sit up straight in a chair and elevate one foot parallel to the ground. Lift the straight leg up and down.

Do 10 on each side. Relax and repeat.

Lateral Presses

This move will keep your knees healthy and strong. Place a resistance band around your ankles. Bending at your knees, step your right leg to the right, and then bring your left leg toward it. Then step your left leg to the left, and bring your right leg toward it.

Do 10 on each side. Relax and repeat.

 

(by Denise Austin for AARP)

Best Fresh Apple Bundt Cake

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 12

 

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3 cups of white flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 cups chopped, peeled apples (varieties that are good for baking – i.e. Granny Smith, Gravenstein, Fuji)
  • 1 cup of sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup of chopped nuts – walnuts or pecans

 

Glaze:

  • 1/2 stick sweet butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk

 


1 Preheat oven to 350° F.

 

2 Make the cake batter: Beat together the sugar and oil. Add the eggs. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

Add dry ingredients to oil sugar eggs mixture in thirds, beating to incorporate after each addition.

Mix in the vanilla, apples, coconut, and chopped nuts.

 

3 Bake: Bake at 350°F in a greased and floured bundt cake pan about 1 hour.

Test around the centers with a long thin bamboo skewer or toothpick to make sure the cake is done.

 

4 Cool and remove from pan: When cool enough to handle, gently remove from pan. Let sit on a rack to cool completely. If the dough has raised substantially around the middle areas of the bundt ring, you may need to use a bread knife to gently level off the cake so that it sits even.

 

5 Glaze the cake: Blend glaze ingredients and cook until melted. Place the cake on its serving dish.

Prick all around the top of the cake with a fork so that when the glaze is applied it easily seeps into the cake.

Use a pastry brush to apply the glaze liberally around the surface areas of the cake, or use a spoon to dribble the glaze on the cake.




The Blue Screen of Death

The Blue Screen of Death

Sue Sirotti, a 66-year-old retired teacher from western Michigan, was browsing websites when her computer screen suddenly turned blue.  A loud voice cam through the speakers, telling her to call the provided number to speak to a Microsoft technician.  

It was a terrifying moment. No matter what she tried, she couldn’t quiet the blaring electronic voice or get past what looked like the “blue screen of death”—a term from the early days of the Windows operating system, when a crash led to a blue error screen telling you to shut down.  But in this case, the screen said the opposite—do not shut down.

Out of desperation, Sirotti finally called the toll-free number and spoke to a pleasant-sounding technician.  He said her computer had been infected with malware; she should shut it down and take it to a certified Microsoft technician for repair.  It would take a week to fix and would cost roughly $350.

Sirotti’s reaction: I can’t be without a computer for a whole week! No problem, replied the technician; we can repair your machine today, remotely, for $250. Reluctantly she agreed and gave her credit card number. Hours later, the blue screen was removed.

Throughout the transaction, Sirotti said, a small voice in her head warned that this was a scam, but she couldn’t see any other way out. She even asked the technician if she was being scammed. “No, but you are asking all the right questions,” he replied.

She may have been asking the right questions, but the technician was lying about the answers. Sirotti paid $250 to repair a computer that had nothing wrong with it.

ANATOMY OF A TECH SCAM

Sirotti became a victim of the latest version of a time-tested ploy: the tech support scam. In the more familiar version, a stranger claiming to be from Microsoft calls on the phone. He tells you there is a virus on your computer and instructs you to log on to a website that will allow him to take control of your computer and run a series of bogus diagnostic exercises. Often he installs malware on your computer, then charges you to remove it.

While such calls still happen, most computer users today know to hang up when they receive them. But as is true for all effective scams, the pitch has evolved to work around the increased awareness.

Enter companies like Client Care Experts and more than a dozen others, many located in Florida, that have figured out how to get customers to call them.  How?  By installing bogus pop-up warnings on your machine.

Client Care Experts, at its peak, had hundreds of salespeople working in an inbound call center in Boynton Beach, FLA. An AARP investigation reveals that many of the employees had had run-ins with the law, and that they were not trained technicians.

Tape recordings of sales calls obtained by the Florida attorney general’s office showed how salespeople were instructed to gain the caller’s trust by claiming they were affiliated with Microsoft, and that they could ciagnose the problem for free. Then, when they inevitably “found a problem”, they were instructed to suggest sending the consumer to a retail outlet like Staples, Best Buy or Office Depot that had onsite technicians. This helped to reduce consumers’ suspicions.

Sirotti was skeptical at first. But when the technician said he wasn’t going to charge her for a diagnosis, that put her mind at ease, she said. But sales scripts obtained by AARP show how salespeople persuade their victims to sign on for their “services”.

One part of the script instructs the technicians to say: “A far more convenient option is what’s called a remote session.  Instead of bringing your computer somewhere, paying $300 to $350 and waiting three to five business days, with a remote session, it will be serviced today.”

Salespeople then explain that the remote session will take four to six hours and cost just $250. The script also calls for offering an ongoing protection service for $24.99 a month.

POP-UP TECHNOLOGY

But how do scammers get the targets’ computers to freeze up and display the blue screen of death? There are a few ways:

  • Software download.  When computer users click on an ad for free software, such as “Free PC Cleaner,” they might also be sent malware. “The software can be programmed so that every two hours, a pop-up will appear telling you how badly infected your computer is,” says Jeffrey (a fake name), a boiler-room technician who provided testimony to the government about tech scams.
  • “Malvertising”.  Malware sometimes gets built into ads that may look benign but actually contain “cloaker” programs—“a piece of software that hides your true ad,” Jeffrey says.  So unbeknownst to the online platform or the user, a fake blue screen shows up on the computer.
  • Bogus websites.  Scammers also will purchase thousands of domain names that are misspellings of common websites (for example, Twwitter.com) This is called domain squatting or typo squatting.  When you inadvertently misspell the web address, you are taken to a scam site that will redirect you to a tech support scam.

 

A SHOCKINGLY PERVASIVE PROBLEM

 

Nick Nikiforakis, assistant professor of computer science at Stony Brook University in New York, recently co-published a study that found close to 9,000 domain names that were affiliated with tech scams on the web.  “This approach of luring people in with fake domain names and pop-ups is one of the hottest scams on the web right now,” he says.

 

The Client Care Experts case was one of a dozen actions brought during the past three years by the Florida attorney general’s office.  Officials say Client Care took in more than $25 million from 100,000 victims before it was shut down.  Law enforcement officials say that shutting these companied down is like playing a game of whack-a-mole—one bogus firm closes, and many of the employees just go to work for another company.

 

A recent Microsoft study showed that a whopping 4 out of 5 Americans reported having had some contact with a tech-support scam.  More than a third continued interacting with the fraudulent organization, and about 1 in 5 lost money.  

 

(Written by Doug Shadel for AARP Bulletin, July/August 2017)

ARE STEM CELL CLINICS LEGIT?

ARE STEM CELL CLINICS LEGIT?

~Hundreds of them now offer pricey injections to treat a wide range of ailments—                                                                                        outside of insurer or FDA oversight~

Sitting on the fringes of the mainstream health industry, nearly 600 clinics offering stem cell treatments have sprouted up in the United States.  They promise relief from an array of ailments, from spinal cord injury, stroke and Parkinson’s disease to ALS and Alzheimer’s.  Stem cell clinics tend to market directly to consumers; their procedures typically are not covered by insurance and they use a regulatory loophole to perform injection therapies for uses that are not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The clinics and many satisfied patients, herald stem cell treatments as the next great advance in medicine.  But critics contend that the current marketplace is based on unproven science.  And safety violations at some clinics, which have led to such tragic outcomes as blindness, unusual bone growths and two deaths, have the FDA pondering whether it needs to intervene.

“People have benefited, but the placebo effect can be powerful, especially when you’ve forked over big bucks for the procedure,” says Leigh Turner, a bioethicist at the University of Minnesota and coauthor of a study on the number of domestic stem cell outfits.  “And these clinics don’t disclose when patients don’t see any improvement or had serious complications.”

Researchers at academic institutions continue to study the benefits of stem cells, and many see the potential for medical breakthroughs.  So far, though, the FDA has approved stem cells only for these treatments:  cancer, blood and immune disorders, and skin grafts for burns.  But stem cell therapies costing $5,000 to $20,000 per treatment are offered for all sorts of ailments, including those outside the FDA’s approved list, because the clinics operate in a gray area of the law.  As long as the patient’s own stem cells are used, and these cells are only subjected to “minimal manipulation,” they’re exempt from federal oversight.  That’s because their usage is considered a medical procedure, not a drug.

Stem cells are also trendy in cosmetic procedures.  For this form of a face-lift, stem cells are injected along with fat to plump up the skin.  There’s scant evidence that the procedure works better than standard face-lifts.

(Written by Linda Marsa, for AARP Bulletin, July-August 2017)

Slow-Cooker Reuben Sandwiches

  • Prep15 MIN
  • Total11 HR 15 MIN
  • Servings8

 

Easy enough to make for a weeknight meal or a friendly Oktoberfest gathering. Bring on the beer and the oompah band!

Ingredients:

1 package (2 pounds) refrigerated sauerkraut

1 package (2 to 3 pounds) corned beef brisket

1 cup Thousand Island dressing

16 slices pumpernickel rye bread, toasted

8 slices (1 ounce each) Swiss cheese

 

Steps:

1) Place sauerkraut in 3- to 4-quart slow cooker. Place beef brisket on sauerkraut. (If brisket includes packet of spices, sprinkle spices over brisket.)

2) Cover and cook on Low heat setting 9 to 11 hours.

3) Remove beef from cooker; place on cutting board. Cut beef into slices. To serve, spread 1 tablespoon dressing on each toast slice. Using slotted spoon to remove sauerkraut from cooker, top 8 slices toast with 1/2 cup sauerkraut each. Top sauerkraut with beef slices and cheese slice. Top with remaining toast.

Note: This recipe was tested in slow cookers with heating elements in the side and bottom of the cooker, not in cookers that stand only on a heated base. For slow cookers with just a heated base, follow the manufacturer’s directions for layering ingredients and choosing a temperature.

DON’T NEED A WILL? THINK AGAIN

Just do it.  Your heirs will thank you…..

 

    Does everybody need a will?  The straight answer is yes.  That’s true even for people who think they don’t have a dime to leave to anyone.  What if you were in an accident and died later of injuries, and your estate won a $1 million settlement?  Who gets the money?

    Admittedly, that’s a little far out.  You might get away without having a will if, say, you’re a renter living on Social Security with no savings.  If you have savings, a pay-on-death account will pass that money to named beneficiaries when you die.

    But there are hitches to any no-will scheme, says attorney Patrick Lannon of Bilzen Sumberg in Miami.  To begin with, a random financial asset almost always turns up.  Examples might be a rental deposit that’s returned or a medical reimbursement.  Those checks will be made out to the deceased.  How do your heirs get them cashed?

    If you had a will, you’d have named an executor to cash checks, pay off creditors and distribute any money or property to your beneficiaries.  Without one, your heirs will have to ask a court to appoint a personal administrator.  Usually, it will appoint your surviving spouse or a child.  But you risk a family fight over who should be in charge.  

    Some couples try to go will-free by putting everything into joint names.  Joint assets pass to the other owner automatically.  So do assets with beneficiary forms, such as individual retirement accounts.  But something is inevitably left out—typically, a car, Lannon says.  Heirs would need an administrator to transfer title.  Even if the joint-asset strategy works for the first death, what happens when the other spouse dies?  He or she should make a will, which you both could have done from the start.  

    When there’s no will, state law dictates who gets the house, car, savings and other assets.  Those laws vary widely.  A surviving spouse might get everything in one state but only one-third in another, with the rest going to your children.  If you have no children, half might go to a spouse and half to your parents.  

    Lawyers are the best source for reliable wills.  Your lawyer will also remind you that you need a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy, so someone can manage your finances and make medical choices if you’re unable to do so yourself.

    If you’re allergic to lawyers, you can find free, state-specific will forms online.  In most states (not all), handwritten wills are also accepted, provided that they were witnessed properly.  DIY should be better than nothing.  But be careful.

 

(Written by Jane Bryant Quinn for AARP.org/Bulletin, May 2017)