Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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The Dating Dot Com phenomenon came on the scene in the 1990s and since then has developed exponentially into a massive industry.  You can’t watch evening TV or pick up a popular magazine without encountering advertisements touting this or that dot com which all but guarantee that they will find the right person for you.  Many of us, from ages 20 to 76, have ventured forth and tried this new modality. After all, what did we have to lose but loneliness?

Upon using this new modality several problems have come to the surface that are perhaps unavoidable with a new, unregulated service.  We have explored many of the problems and pitfalls of this modality, of which there are many.  To recap, here is what you need to keep a wary eye on: 

There is a definite learning curve to using these new dot coms.  You are frequently reminded and instructed how to better your chances for a response by keying on certain things that people say in their descriptions about themselves. But I am not convinced that this does any good.  A “free” trial week or weekend can result in your profile being posted indefinitely but you have no way to respond to gestures at you because you haven’t paid for service beyond that free time. Consequently the people responding to you can get no response back.  It seems all too easy for the Dot Coms to use you to enhance their statistics.  They are poorly responsive to your complaints and requests, and, indeed, seem to ignore them, i.e., honoring the mileage area you wish to stay within.  When you contract with one, multiple others seem to jump on the bandwagon and inundate you. They tempt you with unverifiable numbers of contacts and then demand fees if you want to see those contacts. There seems to be a fair amount of deception practiced by the industry and the clientele alike—bogus flirts and contacts by scantily clad young beauties one third your age, and deceptive pictures posted by clientele which only become obvious when you meet in person.  But the most cited complaint seems to be the very low response rate that the vast majority of users get.  While the advertising seems to tout a 50-68% response rate the vast majority of users seem to experience a 1 to 5% response rate.  It would be interesting to compare responses for the 20-30 age group to the over 50 group.

There are many instances of obvious scams, particularly if you read comments in the social media.  One lady I interviewed pointed out two separate men developing a relationship with her on Christian Dangler. Then they are mysteriously called out of the country, become stranded and then ask — beg — for money or access to her bank account so that they can get back to the U.S.A.  Is this not exactly what shows up daily in our spam accounts?  Other more disturbing instances include censorship by the Dot Coms of comments critical of them.  The social media warns to watch your credit card after you cancel your service.  Many complain of getting re-upped anyway.  Again, read about the lawsuits leveled at the Dating Dot Coms on Google.

So are we giving these Dating Dot Coms failing marks and recommending that you stay away? No, I am not.  Over the course of 8 months I have met or made contact with maybe 6-8 people who are, for the most part, upstanding good people.  Some have turned out to have significant diseases and physical disabilities that re-open old wounds of mine.  I cannot go down that path again.  Some have had very different dating objectives in mind than my own.  Some just want a pen-pal—someone to correspond with.  Some have been very needy and quickly drain my energy.  Some have been rejecting of me.  Is this any different, though, than what goes on in the non- computer world?  It is not.  Will I keep contact with a couple of these people? Yes, I probably will, but because I just like them, not because I expect to develop a close, intimate relationship with them.    

I say to myself, “Perhaps we have to embrace the future.”  This is a new way of meeting prospective people that seems to fit better with the younger generation who can more easily assimilate computers and cell phones and smart phones.  I think that they have much better response rates.  I’m not sure to what extent we older generation people can embrace this new modality but certainly many of us have taken the risk to try it whether we admit to it or not.  It remains to be seen just how successful it will be for us.  As I said earlier in the series, where else can you get a list of people complete with pictures and personal info. This has the potential to be a wonderful way to preview people and pick and choose who you want to meet.  You would have to admit that this is true. But potential and actualization are two very different concepts.  And the initial TV advertisement touting that you want to find the right partner, that special someone, someone to marry—that is not false advertising. Maybe all of us aren’t looking for someone to marry, but all of us are looking for that special someone—however you define “special”

As with any new modality it is important to examine things carefully before jumping in. Sure Dating Dot Coms have been around for over 20 years. But many of us over 50 were not in the market until relatively recently. Many of us are old school.  We learned how to meet people before the advent of the internet.  Then in the 1980s we were confronted with the new revolution—home computers and the internet.  “How do you turn this thing on? How do you switch channels?  What else can you do with it?”   Of course it has become a whole new modality that many of us embraced, and some of us have never learned to embrace.

This seems to be a time of massive growth of the Dating Dot Com industry and there is very little regulation.  The dust has not yet begun to settle. Couple that with a strong human need, a desire for intimate contact with significant other people and caution is the word.  

What have I gained in my $240, eight month venture into the world of computer dating?  At this point I have made one, possibly two, ongoing friendships that conceivably could be called significant, but not intimate. With one there are significant health issues that scare me greatly and keep me at a distance.  The other relationship is much too new to assess. If nothing else the whole experience of writing to close to 400 people has served to clarify my view of myself and what I could offer someone else. But there must be an easier way.

To the negative, my wariness of the motivations of others has increased.  Certainly my opinion of the Dating Dot Coms is at a lower level than when I began this venture.  Will I continue with Dating Dot Coms?  NO! When I compare the energy it took to direct my efforts to close to 400 people and the great frustration I experience at the absolutely meager payoff, I feel it has been all for naught.

Whether you are 20 years old or 67 years old, let the buyer beware has never been more appropriate both in contracting with a Dating Dot Com or the meeting of a prospective date.  No matter how sophisticated these computer matches purport to be, nothing can take the place of face to face, sitting down and meeting a person, watching body language, hearing the word usage, and coming away with an impression of a person. That is the old psychologist in me.

 This ongoing column is dedicated to those of us—post 60’ers–  after “the sinking”.   If you identify with it, please come into the lifeboat and take a seat.  This is the ongoing saga of coping with the post 6o and single again dilemma.  I am open to ideas, feedback, and information that maybe helpful to all of us.  You can reach me at tel: 330-562-9801 or e-mail me at Skipstaxidermy@yahoo.com  

Author’s note: The names of the various dot coms have been changed

As the moon goes to bed, the sun comes up

And here we meet a sleepy pup,

Who was walking through G-ville one bright sunny day,

Then saw The Villager and decided to stay.

After all the walking around town he’s been doing lately, Doodle Dog decided today he was going to relax on the front porch and enjoy the view of the neighborhood from there. Better yet, though he knew snow would soon be coming, for now his floppy ears still felt the calming warm air. Ahhhh….  And for now there was no other place he’d rather be than right at home on his comfy mat surveying the hustle and bustle from afar. As he rested, Doodle Dog thought how grateful he was to be able to take a few moments to just be, to just watch the world go by from his perch, to just lie back with his paws toward the sky and his ears flopped out in both ways behind him. 

Trying to keep his eyes open with little luck, the floppy-eared puppy thought that for just one afternoon he would most certainly be energetic and ambitious and go on a wonderful new adventure… energetic and ambitious, that is, in his imagination. That way he didn’t have to leave his safe place on the porch! Quite thankful for this little quiet spot in the middle of it all, Doodle Dog didn’t have to go far in the wide reaches of the world in his mind or think much too hard at all to remember the fun activities he’d been able to do recently. Curling up a little tighter on his mat, he tried not to shiver in his sleepiness as he thought of the impending wintry days ahead of him. Sure, they could be fun too, if he didn’t have to dig himself out of a wet flurry mound again! Seeing all the beautiful ice sculptures glistening in the sliver of sunshine brave enough to peek out during the last season of the year was indeed quite fantastic. Doodle Dog wondered if the talented snow sculptors would make another one of him again this winter. It was nice to have something to count on year after year!

Of course, as much as Doodle Dog loves being able to look forward to favorite traditions, there is something great about having unexpected places to be too. The little floppy-eared puppy remembered how he had a different porch last year and, although it was a little bit scary at first to be somewhere unknown, his curiosity was quite enjoying the new view too! Indeed it took some time to settle in, and Doodle Dog thought how grateful he is that the shadows on the wall were not real spiders – he won’t be going up to the attic again anytime soon thank you very much! – but now that he knows the nooks and crannies and every hidey place (well, almost), it’s quite fun to explore the not-unusual-anymore space.

While he considered all the changes in his own world, Doodle Dog found himself grateful for all the exciting new aspects going on around him as well. He thought of the lovely bride and groom starting their lives together surrounded by family and friends – and a furry flower bearer or two – in a ceremony in the park. And though one of his favorite familiar places, the park itself was constantly changing whether it played host to a whirlwind romance, set the stage for zipping and zooming around a go-kart track (Doodle Dog thought he could still feel the rush of anticipation as he approached the finish line, or was that the breeze simply getting faster as it blew over the porch…), or served as a welcome spot for planting baby bulbs that would grow up to be beautiful buds for spring.

No matter how the park temporarily transformed, one part of the experience stayed the same and Doodle Dog was grateful he was always able to find something interesting and wonderful whenever he visited. Flopping to the other side of his mat so the wind could catch that bit of his fur, he remembered the extra-special bouquet he’d found all wrapped up in one little sparkling bundle of rainbow. It seemed as though he could hold all his imagination and every memory in one paw too that day! Just as the sun shone through the clouds and peeked onto the porch, the floppy-eared puppy opened one eye just slightly and caught sight of the stoop next door where he recalled the kind man delivering a real bouquet to the neighbor. Doodle Dog was happy he had been there at the right time to provide a helping bark! Then the floppy-eared puppy thought of how thankful he is for the animals and humans who are nice to him too. If he peered right through the front window he could just see the tiny clay sculpture that looked quite a bit like him made by the smiling street artist. And posing for that one was a lot warmer than the ice sculpture for sure!

Doodle Dog hoped he would always find a reason to smile too, even on the days when the sky was gloomy and gray. As the sun now felt toasty on his toes, the little puppy remembered the sweet little spot where he could go whenever he needed a bit of cheer and made a note in his mind to go there often throughout the year. Besides, it was easy enough to find the sun, not so easy to find his chewy toy as he certainly discovered not too long ago. To be fair, that one time when he wanted nothing more than to take a nap, the warm spot of sun shining through his window sure was a tricky little character! Doodle Dog was grateful it seemed to be staying put for now. Next time it moved, he would just have to find his favorite human with the little red wagon full of books. Diving in to a new story always made him smile from ear to floppy ear no matter where he was sitting. The sandy shore may not be the best place for books so perhaps the lake’s edge was better left for taking leaps of the splashy kind! Now that Doodle Dog thought of it, he really did successfully put in more than just a paw this year! The floppy-eared puppy started to smile as he thought of another successful adventure during his class at the cupcakery and the fun picnic with all the cats and dogs! He was grateful for all the pretty posies to smell and all the yummy doggie treats to eat. The colors of the cakes followed him long after, first for his pawdicure – there’s still a tiny spot on his toe! – then on the balloons bouncing along the breeze, then on the saddles of the carousel horses going round and round. (Doodle Dog now wondered if perhaps they would have liked their hooves painted. A hooficure?) It must be boring sometimes for those ponies riding up and down and nowhere in particular. On the porch, the little floppy-eared puppy turned around and around on his mat before plopping down again. Going round and round the neighborhood himself, sniffing out yummy biscuits for Trick or Treat wasn’t boring though. By now he’d become pretty good at searching with all his senses! Sunshine, chewy toys, biscuits, fairy princesses in distress and not-so-scary squishy toy noses… what could be next for the doggie detective? 

Without opening his eyes fully, he could feel the familiar mat under his back and thought of the sidewalk under his paws whenever he walks. He could still taste the flavor of the homemade pumpkin biscuit from the barkery and smell the crispness of almost-exiting autumn mixing with the fresh chill of nearly-entering winter air. Then his floppy ears picked up a sound he loves to hear: bong Bong BONG. A definitely wonderful part about the new office is that it is even closer to the town’s tall clock tower! And just as he coaxed his eyes open, a familiar sight greeted his gaze: the brilliant hue of his red leaf friend wafting on the wind. Doodle Dog was grateful for their next adventure – whatever and wherever it may be!

Rats!

Here I thought that scientists had finally found the answer to all of our education problems; a shot of penicillin, and… Presto!…the brain is working up to full capacity.  Whoopee!

 Alas! Not so.  

The other day there was a brief mention on the radio about a study at Johns Hopkins wherein the effect on some persons in an investigation of a certain chlorovirus ATCV, normally found in algae, had seemed to show that when given some tests of cognition, some 43% of the sample test-takers appeared to have difficulty in processing visual information—puzzles and such.  Ho Hum.  So…?

So somebody on a slow news day—Newsweek was mentioned but the internet picked the mention up and ran with it—called it the “stupid virus” and implied that any lagging intellectual powers among us might be the fault of an insidious invasion by these viral marauders.  Actually, the researchers themselves never made such a statement; some media whiz knew a good  ”viral” phrase when he saw it.  Additionally, a line was quoted—with quotation marks and everything—pointing to researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the University of Nebraska having discovered a virus that infects our brains and “makes us more stupid.”  Uh…maybe not.  In no way did the researchers make such a statement(and it was never really attributed to a named individual), and, in fact, the cognitive tests were sort of an afterthought, having to do with something else altogether, and the testing sample was really quite small.  And then there’s the fact that the writers of the study were able to choose their own reviewers (“Here, Mom, read this.”)…AND the question of how a virus that usually infects green algae might have got into humans in the first place.  This whole thing might warrant additional study but we certainly shouldn’t get all paranoid about some microscopic bad guys being responsible for our own da##ed foolishness.

Then again….  Another story of the same ilk turned up, online and elsewhere, about some poor sucker who suffered for four YEARS—YEARS—from headaches, mini-strokes, a sensation of “strange smells” and heaven-only-knows what else. A biopsy (no, he wasn’t dead) determined that the trouble with his brain was some sort of parasite which he may have  acquired in China.  Yeccch!  The term “brain tapeworm” immediately popped up and sales of Excedrin probably spiked as well.  They had MRI scans of the creature having moved around inside the guy’s brain but, apparently had no clue what to do about it.  Yeccch again! The name of this parasite, which requires about three different hosts over the course of its life cycle, is Spirometra erinaceieuropaei (Easy for you to say).  The team of scientists involved in this case and the investigation of the DNA of the parasite is larded with names like Hayley M. Bennett, Sebastian B. Lucas, Hoy Ping Mol, Isheng J. Tsai and Peter Chiodini but my favorite is Dr. Effrossyni Gkrania-Klotsas.  How much you want to bet that they all just call each other “Doc”?

Other hot news on the medical front : the 5HTA1 gene and its various workings and malfunctions may be the source of difficulties in building relationships with others.   Dubbed the “singleton gene” by some media yahoo, it has something to do with  serotonin receptors in the brain.  The chances of being neurotic and depressed were also hinted at.  Anything more than a hint would by edging perilously close to flat-out prevarication.  Do not tell adolescent children of this dubious discovery, they’ve got enough troubles with this stuff.

Anyway, you can deal with all of this if you just down capsules containing Korean Red Pine Needle (Pinus densiflora) Oil.  Yup.   The ad on the internet said that it is “4 All Parasites, Bacteria, Viruses, & Mold”(sic)—should have given the stuff to the guy with the “brain tapeworm”–and it will “cleanse your body, help rejuvenate aging cells, slow the aging process, tighten loose and ageing skin.”   It’ll be taking bread from the mouths of plastic surgeons!

And finally, if you’re still depressed over the state of your health or your psyche, give a call to Samantha Hess, professional cuddler, of Portland, OR.  She says, “I could cuddle, literally, 24 hours a day.”  She requires that clients first meet her in a public place, that they sign a waiver stating that they will be clean, courteous and fully clothed.  She’s thinking of opening a retail store but currently her services are available in clients’ homes, parks or movie theaters (so that’s who was in row H at “Frozen”).  She charges $60 per hour.

Stick with the Red Pine Oil.

2015 is less than two months away. Fall is the time when investors look for ways to lower their taxes and make some financial changes. This is an ideal time to schedule a meeting with a financial, tax or estate planning professional.

How do economists see next year unfolding? Morningstar sees 2.0-2.5% GDP for the U.S. for 2015, with housing, export growth, wage growth, very low interest rates and continuing vitality of energy-dependent industries as key support factors. It sees the jobless rate in a 5.4-5.7% range and annualized inflation running between 1.8-2.0%. Fitch is far more optimistic, envisioning U.S. GDP at 3.1% for 2015 compared to 1.3% for the eurozone and Japan. (Fitch projects China’s economy slowing to 6.8% growth next year as India’s GDP improves dramatically to 6.5%.)1,2

The Wall Street Journal’s Economic Forecasting Survey projects America’s GDP at 2.8% for both 2015 and 2016 and sees slightly higher inflation for 2015 than Morningstar (with the CPI rising at an annualized 2.0-2.2%). The Journal has the jobless rate at 5.9% by the end of this year and at 5.5% by December 2015.3

The WSJ numbers roughly correspond to the Federal Reserve’s outlook: the Fed sees 2.6-3.0% growth and 5.4-5.6% unemployment next year. A National Association for Business Economics (NABE) poll projects 2015 GDP of 2.9% with the jobless rate at 5.6% by next December.4

What might happen with interest rates? In the Journal’s consensus forecast, the federal funds rate will hit 0.47% by June 2015 and 1.17% by December 2015. NABE’s forecast merely projects it at 0.845% as next year concludes. That contrasts with Fed officials, who see it in the range of 1.25-1.50% at the end of 2015.3,4

Speaking of interest rates, here is the WSJ consensus projection for the 10-year Treasury yield: 3.24% by next June, then 3.58% by the end of 2015. The latest WSJ survey also sees U.S. home prices rising 3.3% for 2015 and NYMEX crude at $93.67 a barrel by the end of next year.3

Can you put a little more into your IRA or workplace retirement plan? You may put up to $5,500 into a traditional or Roth IRA for 2014 and up to $6,500 if you are 50 or older this year, assuming your income levels allow you to do so. (Or you can spread that maximum contribution across more than one IRA.) Traditional IRA contributions are tax-deductible to varying degree. The contribution limit for participants in 401(k), 403(b) and most 457 plans is $17,500 for 2014, with a $5,500 catch-up contribution allowed for those 50 and older. (The IRS usually sets next year’s contribution levels for these plans in late October.)5

Should you go Roth in 2015? If you have a long time horizon to let your IRA grow, have the funds to pay the tax on the conversion, and want your heirs to inherit tax-free distributions from your IRA, it may be worth it.

Are you thinking about an IRA rollover? You should know about IRS Notice 2014-54, which lets taxpayers make “split” IRA rollovers of employer-sponsored retirement plan assets under more favorable tax conditions. If you have a workplace retirement account with a mix of pre-tax and after-tax dollars in it, you can now roll the pre-tax funds into a traditional IRA and the after-tax funds into a Roth IRA and have it all count as one distribution rather than two. Also, the IRS is dropping the pro rata tax treatment of such rollover amounts. (Under the old rules, if you were in a qualified retirement plan and rolled $80,000 in pre-tax dollars into a traditional IRA and $20,000 in after-tax dollars into a Roth IRA, 80% of the dollars going into the Roth would be taxed under the pro-rated formula.) The tax liability that previously went with such “split” distributions has been eliminated. The new rules on this take effect January 1, but IRS guidance indicates that taxpayers may apply the rules to rollovers made as early as September 18, 2014.6

Can you harvest portfolio losses before 2015? Through tax loss harvesting – dumping the losers in your portfolio – you can claim losses equaling any capital gains recognized in a tax year, and you can claim up to $3,000 in additional losses beyond that, which can offset dividend, interest and wage income. If your losses exceed that limit, they can be carried over into future years. It is a good idea to do this before December, as that will give you the necessary 30 days to repurchase any shares should you wish.7

Should you wait on a major financial move until 2015? Is there a chance that your 2014 taxable income could jump as a consequence of exercising a stock option, receiving a bonus at work, or accepting a lump sum payout? Are you thinking about buying new trucks or cars for your company, or a buying a building? The same caution applies to capital investments.

Look at tax efficiency in your portfolio. You may want to put income-producing investments inside an IRA, for example, and direct investments with lesser tax implications into brokerage accounts.

Finally, do you need to change your withholding status? If major change has come to your personal or financial life, it might be time. If you have married or divorced, if a family member has passed away, if you are self-employed now or have landed a much higher-salaried job, or if you either pay a lot of tax or get unusually large IRS or state refunds, review your current withholding with your tax preparer.

 

Chris Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com.

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

Citations

1 – news.morningstar.com/articlenet/article.aspx?id=666682&SR=Yahoo  [9/29/14]

2 – 247wallst.com/economy/2014/09/30/downside-risks-to-global-gdp-growth/ [9/30/14]

3 – projects.wsj.com/econforecast [9/30/14]

4 – blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/09/29/business-economists-see-lower-interest-rates-than-the-fed-sees-in-late-2015/ [9/29/14]

5 – shrm.org/hrdisciplines/benefits/articles/pages/2014-irs-401k-contribution-limits.aspx [11/1/13]

6 – lifehealthpro.com/2014/09/30/irs-blesses-split-401k-rollovers [9/30/14]

7 – dailyfinance.com/2013/09/09/tax-loss-selling-dont-wait-december-dump-losers/ [9/9/13]

I love the holidays – friends, family, food and plenty of desserts! But being a dry red wine drinker, desserts do not always seem to pair well with the wine. So what options do you have for those holiday treats – besides either giving up wine or giving up dessert – let me give you some options.

For sweet wine drinkers, the wine should be as sweet as or sweeter than the dessert; otherwise the wine might taste bland or watery. Ice wines are usually a nice touch to the dessert table and can be drizzled over some pies or ice cream. Also try including some sweeter blush wines that are full of the “grape” flavors. Some of my favorites include a Pink Catawba wine or Concord or Niagara wines.

If you don’t want to go as sweet as an ice wine, I recommend trying a late harvest Riesling or Gewürztraminer. If you have a spicy pumpkin pie or heavy gingerbread cake, a late harvest wine will bring out the spice flavors in the cake. Late harvest wines are also great to have on hand between dinner and dessert. The transition from a heavy meal to sweet desserts will lessen with the sweeter wine.

If you happen to be serving scones or biscotti, I recommend pairing these desserts with a drier wine or a fruit wine. My favorite wine with biscotti is a bold and heavy Cabernet while if I am having a scone with nuts or fruits, I like to pair it with a lighter fruit wine like Peach or Apple.

But all of the choices above don’t really solve my problem of drinking dry red wines so in my case, I make sure that I have a dark chocolate dessert on hand too. The pairing of a dark chocolate cake or fondue really brings out the flavors in some of my favorite Chianti’s or Sangiovese’s. If you are making some of the desserts, I recommend using ½ cup of some of these wines in the batter for some of cakes and cookies. The wine will keep the dessert moist while adding a new sweetness to it.

If you have a full dessert tray, I recommend placing a couple of bottles of wine on the table so you and your guests can pair your favorite dessert with your favorite wine. If you need any help pairing the dessert with the wine, feel free to drop some desserts off at the winery and I will be more than happy to help with the tasting!!!!

Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery located at 11325 Center Road, Garrettsville.  For more information on other wine topics  please visit www.candlelightwinery.com.

A failure of Social Studies Education, I calls it.

The recent election, that is…failure of turn-out, failure to understand the way government works(whether it’s supposed to work that way or not), failure to be informed on the issues and the candidates, failure to pay attention to the down-ticket contests…a whole bunch of things that we should all be thinking about but don’t.  AND a prevailing, parsimonious attitude that makes a virtue of trying to do everything on the cheap.  There’s a powerful big difference between wishing to do things in the most cost-conscious and efficient manner possible to do the best we can for the most citizens and trying to see how much we can get away with before the dreadful consequences which we have been outrunning finally catch up.  The difference is the difference between “What’s the best we can afford?” and “What’s the cheapest we can get?”  Strangely enough, there are cases in which quality actually does count.

Consider : One of the persons recently re-elected to the state school board (Whose members, by the way, are NOT all elected; 8 of the 19 are appointed by the governor) has never attended a public school  and is an advocate of charter and for-profit schools(Which are virtually unregulated and certainly not required to account for the way that they spend our money; public schools must do this.).

At a recent state school board meeting, four members walked out when the president arbitrarily changed the agenda of the meeting to move the session for public comment on a proposed change to school requirements from morning—folks had been told to be there bright and early to put in their two cents worth—to afternoon, following a presentation in favor of the change.  People with real jobs had taken time off to be at the session; they were upset.  The president, a Kasich appointee, said that she had the power to make the change, so she did; take that, “We, the people.”

So, what was the change being proposed that caused all of the commotion?  It was a revision of the “5 of 8” rule, which states that school districts must have available to students at least five professionals including such areas as art, music, physical education, library science, school nurse, school social worker, counselors, so-called “visiting teacher” for every one thousand students.  Rather than  pull up their socks and acknowledge the fact that the State of Ohio has been acting unconstitutionally( as determined by the Ohio Supreme Court)  for over twenty years, by operating an unconstitutional educational funding  system, in  which the state share of funding has been declining , forcing local districts to seek funds more and more often to satisfy the mandates from the state board and the legislature, not to mention maintenance and transportation costs.  When larger and larger proportions of the education budget are dependent upon local tax valuation, it’s the old story : “the rich get rich and the poor get poorer”.

And, once again, there’s a strong anti-science coloration here.  Study after study, research effort  upon research effort has shown that art and music, libraries, physical education (Could we use a little less obesity here?), school counselors and school nurses, school social workers—all of these folks—play an important part in delivering the best and most comprehensive, most forward-looking education to the most kids in the systems throughout the state—heck, across the country.  Band and chorus and books keep kids engaged and enlarge their frame of reference for dealing with the real world.  School nurses are the point men—and women—in public health situations on the ground, so to speak.  Counselors and social workers all too often enter the picture in domestic violence situations and cases of poverty and homelessness.  And the board is just going to dump all of these key figures in the educational process?  Instead of showing some grit and integrity and telling the governor and the legislature to quit reneging on their responsibility to provide a thorough and equitable system of education in the state, this “gang of nineteen” is going to throw all of the professionals (the 8) under the bus so that the politicians may pat themselves on the back for reducing government expenditures.  Rather than saying, “These are important services that we should be offering to ALL students in the state of Ohio,” they’re begging off and saying, “Well, you folks out there know better than we what you need.  Go ahead and cut whatever you think you need to.”  Try getting away with that on YOUR next tax return or traffic stop (“Oh, officer, I really didn’t think that I needed to stop at that light; I’m in a really big hurry.”).  Try getting away with that the next time the state orders your school system to this or that or the other thing.  Right.

We might also want to look into who supports…and finances…some of the board members and legislators—All for the public good, of course.

The line, “the rich get rich and the poor get poorer” come from a  Twenties song by Kahn & Egan titled “Ain’t We Got Fun.”

That ain’t what we got, folks.

Growing a wee bit tired from all the pattering around town in the quest for yummy snacks, Doodle Dog was still having so much fun that he didn’t notice the sky around him was growing a wee bit darker. He knew he should get home soon and could hurry to make it back to the office before the stars came out to light the night, but for now the floppy-eared puppy figured it would be okay to meander just a wee bit longer since there were still plenty of children out and about scampering this way and that way too.

Waddling along in his cotton-candy cloud-sheep snowball-giant dust bunny-misty fog sort of getup, Doodle Dog’s floppy ears perked up at the sound of little feet racing behind him. A pint-sized fairy princess hurried along, her glittering wings flapping in the wind created by her dashing and her tiny toes trying unsuccessfully not to trip on the long hem of her silky dress. One misstep and her skirt caught on the tip of her foot and caused her to fall flat on her elbows, the dainty pail in her hand falling to the ground and most of the candy inside it flittering briefly in the air before skittering across the sidewalk. Oh no! Her petite crown followed the route of the candy, slipping off the top of her brown curls and flinging itself more than a few feet down the street. A nearby streetlamp starting to glow for evening glinted off the tiny tiara marking its silvery trail.

As the sky grew darker, the air around the pair grew thicker as though a cloud much bigger than Doodle Dog was settling over the town. The floppy-eared puppy didn’t want the little fairy princess to get lost in the fog, so he did his best to dart over – as well as a waddling whatever-he-was could dart – to her rescue. Even in the translucent cover of the misty surroundings, Doodle Dog could hear the very beginnings of a scared sniffle and just as tiny tears started to sparkle in the corners of her eyes, the floppy-eared puppy nudged the little fairy’s hand with his gentle nose, the cloud fur brushing up against her arm in comfort. Once the fluffy cotton candy-like dust bunny fuzz tickled her skin it made her giggle and Doodle Dog knew she would be just fine, so he went to track down her crown and nudged her candy back into her satin pouch piece by piece. As she stood up and brushed off her dress, the floppy-eared puppy nosed around her, circling once to check her ankles and again to check her knees until he was sure nothing was twisted or broken or otherwise unusual looking, at least from the little puppy’s level. The bumbling dust bunny bumped this way and that, encouraging the little fairy princess to walk along with him and together they would make it home.

It’s not TOO scary, Doodle Dog thought… though it was nearly twilight the two continued along quite happily enjoying a slow pace so there would be no more tumbles and only giggles as the fairy kept trying to pet the floppy-eared puppy’s fur and wound up with more fluffy fuzz in her hand every time. The wind had picked up a wee bit with the approaching nighttime and bits of the curious puppy’s costume constantly floated this way and that way down the sidewalk from where they had just been and up the street where they were about to be. No, not too scary at all… Doodle Dog even saw something colorful waving up ahead – a lot of somethings in fact! A bunch of balloons like the ones he saw from the carnival were floating in the wind like the tiny tufts of fluff from his cotton cloud cushion costume. They looked friendly enough, with their pretty purples and bright blues and yellows so cheerful they looked like a bouquet of tiny sunshines tied together. They looked friendly enough… but then the breeze blew the balloons to the side and revealed the person behind them. Eep!

The person wasn’t a person at all but someone who seemed ten feet tall with pasty blank powder where the face should be, neon pink discs for cheeks and crazy orange hair like the goop that comes out of the inside of a pumpkin. Decorated from head to feet in stiff ruffles and multi-colored stripes, the creature’s costume was as mismatched as could be. That was the scariest thing of all on the sidewalk! But then the not-person took off its bright red nose that made Doodle Dog think of Rudolph the Reindeer and gave it a quick squeeze to make it squeak just like one of the floppy-eared puppy’s favorite chewy toys! Without his glowing nose, Doodle Dog could imagine what the man looked like behind the red round spot, beyond the chalky white cheeks and beneath the unkempt pouf of hair. The not-so-scary clown-man stooped down with one hand still holding the balloons and the other hand in his pocket. Soon Doodle Dog could smell a whiff of pumpkin biscuit and an instant later he could see the doggie treat gently held between the clown-man’s fingers. The floppy-eared puppy gave it a curious sniff to make sure it really did smell okay to eat, and then he took a little nibble that was really a great big bite. Yum! While Doodle Dog enjoyed his snack, the man took his now-free hand and untangled a bright yellow balloon from the bunch, handing the tiny sun to the little girl standing cautiously next to the little puppy. And with that, the fairy princess and her guard dog made their way down the street, tugging the brilliant sunny bauble bouncing in the air behind them. Doodle Dog was definitely glad he hadn’t hurried home and was able to lend a helping paw on Halloween!

In this series we have been exploring the world of Dot Com dating services both from a personal experience point of view and that which is widely reported on multiple venues including social media, printed media, magazines and newspapers.  Many problematic issues have come to the surface, including accusations of false advertising, misleading advertisements and practices, a great lack of response to member’s overtures and responses, a lack of response by the dot coms to subscriber complaints. Further issues are alleged including apparent censorship, deception by the organizations, and deception by the users/members.  Is there any watch dog agency overseeing Dating Dot Coms?  None that I am aware of!  The whole dating dot com seems particularly unregulated.  Google Dating Dot Com lawsuits and see what comes up on the screen.  Prepare to read for hours.

Alleged False Advertising/Deception by the Dot Com

How many times has it happened that I am notified that an attractive lady with a moniker such as NANNAN69 has just favorited me and would like to talk with me.  The posted time is 7:15 PM.  At 7:16 PM I respond and immediately a screen flashes that, “NANNAN69 is no longer available but here are 8 more people just like NANNAN69.  Give them a response!”  Now, tell me how, in 60 seconds, NANNAN got swept off her feet, married off and managed to get the Dot Com to take her out of contention when the rest of us can’t seem to even get the Dot Com to respond to us.  I’d really like the answer to that. Isn’t this bait and switch?

Oh, wait a minute.  Here is a new message on my computer from loveemandleavem Dotcom, of whom I have never heard and certainly not contracted with.  They’re notifying me that I have 69 new profile views plus 4 flirts and 6 new messages. “Click here to read the messages.” I do so.  Immediately a screen pops up that has a silhouette on it but no explanation or directions to my messages.  Scrolling down the screen I see a box with flirts, winks, messages.  I click on messages and a screen pops up that says, “To read your messages you must upgrade now.  For just $14.95/month for 6 months………..  Isn’t this deceptive advertising?

Oh, wait, again, another new message this time from marrymoneymindedpeoplemeet Dot com has appeared telling me that I have 52 new profile views plus 5 new flirts and 8 new messages.  If I upgrade now I can read and reply to my messages, see the 4 people who have flirted with me, see the members who have “fave’d” me , view their videos, chat with hundreds of members on line, and always find out if we are an astrological match. It is only $6.49/mo. for 6 months.  One click upgrade and, oh yes, this offer expires in 6 minute and 34 seconds. Isn’t this a deceptive come-on?

Oh wait, Lighter Dot com is notifying me that on 9/20/14 at 10:57 a lady named IONOSPHERE from Medina saw me on her daily matches and says she is interested.  Medina is 78 miles away from me.  What happened to my 25 mile limit?  The lady looks and sounds interesting.  What to do?  Isn’t this trying to sell me something that I clearly asked not to see?

Oh wait, here is a message from AAAOLdoubles, of whom I have never heard and certainly not contracted with. It says, “Babe I guess you’re not getting any of my e-mails huh?  I’ve been trying to e-mail u (sic) so many times but this dammed (sic) laptop……” Isn’t this…..a scam?

From what can be gathered Lighter Dot Com likely also owns many other dating services with many other names, but they use your same profile and word content for all of them and do transfer them around to their other Dot coms.  On some of them they try to charge you to look at “someone responding to you!”  Also there are other apparently not related firms that either steal your profile or possibly it is sold to them and they add it to their repertoire.  You get daily e-mails from them under such names as Yourtimesover Dot Com, Senior Moments what was I saying?, Chemistryset Dot Com, Senior Good Lord Times, Italiandressingpeople meet, Petapeople meet and many other names. Actually, some of these are apparently free.   The response rate is reported to be better with some of these.  How much better, though, remains ambiguous. I will admit, though, that my response rate –people responding to my overtures– is significantly higher—in the 10% range—on Yourtimesover Dot Com.  This is likely due to the narrow focus on the age group over 55.

False advertising by the member

Let’s face it, we all want to put our best side forward.  Listing enticing information to enhance the probability of responses is basic salesmanship, but where does enhancement end and downright deception begin.  Yes, you clean and polish the car when trying sell it, and list all the positives.  But do you turn back the speedometer? Do you pour heavy weight oil in it to mask the leaking and burning? Do you forget to mention that the car has been in a significant accident?   While it is difficult to initially ascertain whether the written information listed on a person’s profile is accurate one deceptive practice seems to come clear upon meeting. That would be submitting pictures of yourself that were taken 5 to 30 years earlier, thus showing you as much younger than you actually are. Who would actually do that, you say?  I have encountered it.  I drove 80 miles one way to find exactly this.  Sometimes the posted picture is noted to have been taken in, say 2012, or last year or two years ago. This is, I suppose, not so much of an issue.   Often though, when you actually go to meet the person you have a difficult time recognizing them from their posted picture because they are significantly older in person. Putting aside the traditional issue that we often don’t look quite like our photos there is a seemingly significant age variance. A couple years difference is probably not such a big deal, but a posted picture taken 25 years ago IS.  That is major deception.  What do you do when you actually meet a person you have conversed with on e-mail and, upon meeting, find out that that there are marked incongruencies?  They are markedly older –i.e., the stated age is 59 but the person obviously is/looks middle 70s. Or that they have significant problems not mentioned or obvious in the photos. If nothing else this deception starts the relationship off on a wrong foot, and you immediately begin to wonder what else isn’t true.

Censorship

How could censorship go on in this country in this day and age?  “Why, that only goes on in China and Russia and……”  If you follow the commentary on the social media you will find many complaints about comments being censored, words being changed particularly in regards to a member being critical of the dot com.

In my experience this has happened at least twice.  Initially I thought it was a computer glitch but not the second time.  In conversing with a lady on the dot com website about the shortcomings of the site and suggesting that we switch to our e-mail addresses I was mysteriously and immediately cut off from communicating and asked to re-register my name and password.  I could then start over with my communication.  This was not a random glitch.

This ongoing column is dedicated to those of us—post 60’ers–  after “the sinking”.   If you identify with it, please come into the lifeboat and take a seat.  This is the ongoing saga of coping with the post 6o and single again dilemma.  I am open to ideas, feedback, and information that maybe helpful to all of us.  You can reach me at tel: 330-562-9801 or e-mail me at Skipstaxidermy@yahoo.com  

Author’s note: The names of the various dot coms have been changed

So here’s the thing….  We need readers and scorekeepers for the Garfield QuizMasters to go out to vanquish our intellectual foes in upcoming Academic Challenge competitions.  Do I see any volunteers?

Really, the hardest part is getting up EARLY on a Saturday morning to go ride a bus to the designated venue for the tournaments.  Of course, riding in a bus with a bunch of adolescents who are…how shall I say?…a little “left of center” can be an adventure in itself.  The other thing is that the whole bunch of people  in the tournament are like that aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllll of the time.  I am always amazed when they do math problems in their heads (I thought that I’d spend my entire life in the sixth grade, when I couldn’t grasp the concept of the division of fractions; these people are doing binomials—whatever they are) and can rattle off the atomic numbers of obscure elements on the periodic table.  Then again,  sometimes they don’t know spit about quite a few important time periods and/or historic figures.  And sometimes the question-writers don’t seem to have a real firm grasp of what’s being taught in schools lately.

The big TRASH Tournament is a fun one that the kids like, because it is focused on so-called Pop Culture—movies, TV, video games, sports, music,–definitely non-academic stuff.  I told them that I worried about anybody who knew too much about those kinds of goofy things but they immediately discount anything that I—as a person without a television–have to say about the topic.  We scored on one round of questions once upon a time because our ace female contestant beat the clock by calling out, “Bad Grampa!”  How’s that for non-academic?  This particular tournament has moved around a bit.  When we started, it was held up at Case-Western Reserve University, starting in one of the old

Take Up A New Hobby

halls with wooden floors and a blackboard, and moving into other buildings  around the Quadrangle.  We went to lunch at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital(closest food source…pretty good).   Lately, it’s been at Olmsted Falls Middle School, which is probably large enough to hold most of the population of Garrettsville.

Aurora’s Turkey Tourney has morphed from a connection to Halloween to the weekend before Thanksgiving.  There’s often an invitation to arrive in costume; a couple of the bodysuits invited comparison to alien invaders or cartoon characters.  Our local competition guru out of the PCESC(Portage County Educational Services Center) urges us to do themes for contests around the county. We’ve never really gotten into that.  My earmuffs are as far out as I get.

The new tournament coming up this Saturday is terra incognita, since it’s a brand-new tournament that we’ve never attended before (It didn’t exist before).  This one’s at Hawken Middle School, which I’ve never seen before either.  One more adventure!

None of these places are about gourmet lunches either.  The standard is $5 for lunch, consisting of (nutritionists avert your eyes) pizza, cookie, apple, maybe chips.  Rainbow Babies is lots better.  One competition we haven’t been to in a while is down in Copley, where the kids get the $5 standard and the coaches, readers, scorekeepers, et al. get goodies solicited from local food establishments, plus Copley team members’ donations.  That place is like a labyrinth too, with two or three floors, ramps and corners and identical-looking corridors that make just getting to the room that the team is supposed to be in quite a challenge.  Gotta be smart just to be in the right place, let alone answer questions.

One of the best parts of doing this Academic Challenge stuff is that we have never gone   to any meet that I didn’t learn something interesting.  And not just about Pop Culture either.  That trivia goes by so fast that it really doesn’t register a being important enough to latch on to.  I’ve only got so much brain space left and would rather not have it occupied by whatever it is that Nikki Minaj is nominated for or who’s got the best batting average for a right fielder in the World Series since 1989.  Hell’s bells, I forgot my own cell phone number the other day…I don’t call that often.  Nah, it’s more like the questions that we practice on : Who wrote the Wizard of Oz?  Who had the nickname “Satchmo”?  Where’s Kolkata?  What’s a parsec?  That kind of question.

So….  How about it?  Anyone out there up for a challenge?  The scoring system isn’t that hard to learn.  You get to hang out with some pretty fun kids and see “how the other half lives”, so to speak.  You get to make meaningful contributions to education.  You get to talk to me and the bus driver on the way to and from.  You get to offer directional advice when the abovementioned bus driver and I are not real sure of where we’re going, despite the directions from the bus garage –road closings happen, just like that other stuff.

Call the high school (James A. Garfield High School—330-527-4341—those office people take good care of me) or call me direct (I’m in the book).  This could be your new hobby!

Why do people get hooked up with on-line dating services like EEK-Grominy and Lighter Dot Com. Well, if you believe all the hype shown you in the 90 second TV commercials it is because you want to find the right partner, that special someone, someone to marry.  Of course it is also possible that maybe you just want to meet for a short term relationship, and if you believe the comments on many of the social media sites it sounds as if some just prefer a very short relationship–one night. Of course that probably wouldn’t make good TV ad copy during the family viewing hours, would it –Endless one-night stands for $14.95 per month for 6 months?   Suffice it to say though that people of all ages desire affiliation with the opposite sex. This is basic human nature programmed into us genetically.  As we get older the prospective dating  pool gets progressively smaller and the opportunities to meet shrink proportionately. So, here comes a service with lists of people complete with pictures and personal info. Initially you think, “What a seemingly wonderful way to preview people and pick the ones you want to meet. Sign me up for a date dot com.”

This type of service seemed to come on the scene in the mid-1990s and has blossomed a hundred fold over the past 20 years. It corresponds with a similar rise in the social media and commentary the likes of which we have not seen before the rise of computers and now smart phones.  There are now, in 2014, countless numbers of dating services. I could fill the rest of the page with names of these dot coms. A couple are free. Some of them are “apparently” free, that is, until you want to see your contacts. The vast majority though require payment up front and a sign up minimum duration of 3 months to 1 year. Most of the for-pay services will automatically re-up you, charging your credit card unless you give them advanced notice that you want to be cancelled immediately. Even then the social media commentary indicates that you need to be watchful of your credit card charges because, time and again, these dot coms apparently re-enlist you whether you want it or not.

Major complaint issues:

Low response rate –  One of the biggest complaints about the dating dot coms is the low response rate—most often quoted as 1% to 3% by consumers.   The Lighter Dot Com official site ambiguously touts rates of 63.5% to over 75% but if you closely read their information you can’t seem to pin it down.  After you quickly discount the positive slant written at the hands of the Lighter Dot Com advertising people you will find masses of dissatisfied customers complaining about the low response rate. To be fair I note that there are also some positive commentaries listed on the various social media sites. Many of these seem to be written by people in their 20s and generally relate to dating around and the large variety of people available to date.  Indeed several people do tout the one–night date experience but here is a representative sampling of complaints by actual customers on the social media sites:

–On Lighter Dot Com there seems to be more attractive women but it seems much harder to  reach them.  I’ve sent out over 100 messages and have gotten 3 replies.

–The men to women ratio must be at least 25 to 1.  My response rate is less than 1%.

In my experience the response rate to my overtures has been in the 1% to 3% range. Let us look at the statistics that Lighter Dot Com presents on me.  By the way there is no means of verifying any of their presented statistics.  They say that my profile has been viewed 760 times from mid-February through mid-September.   I have gotten 6 responses (to my well over 300 overtures—they apparently don’t present or keep track of my overtures). They also note that apparently there have been 17 overtures (winks, flirts, favorites, e-mails) directed at me. The responses/overtures are lumped together as 23 connections, which is an erroneous term because it implies two parties coming together. This was often not the case.  This also introduced a new issue– attention I am not seeking/do not want to respond to. The reasons include:  1) great distances from me. 2) Large age gap, 3) bizarreness in their descriptions or responses directed at me, 4) obvious health issues.

I went through all 23 “connections” and broke them down as follows:  6 were overtures indeed initiated by me, and 17 were overtures directed at me. Of the 17 directed at me, four had no picture, three had little or no information stated on their profiles, five were from much greater distances than I want go—Kalamazoo, Phoenix, China, two were far older than I, two had obvious major health issues, and one supplied seemingly bizarre info that was an absolute turn-off to me.  I answered the four no-picture overtures with a simple “Picture please”. I did not respond to the people with little or no info on their profiles or info that was a complete turn-off to me—I’m leery of being scammed.  I continue to correspond with the two major health issues people. I sometimes responded to the great distance people noting that the distance was a major factor, and I’m sorry to say that I did not respond to the age issue people because I just don’t have an acceptable answer. I do feel horrible about that. These people are, like me, lonely too.

There are a number of articles and publications available that attempt to address the low response rate. One representative article, obviously penned by a Date Dot Com employee summed it up as: 1) no established etiquette for on line communication. 2) on-line daters commonly use a shotgun approach, 3) we are more critical on-line, 4) are you being realistic?, 5) sometimes chemistry is just off, 6) not all our members are paid subscribers.

The last two issues seem to hold the most water. Sometimes the “chemistry is just off” is very plausible but, I think somewhat difficult to ascertain without face to face encounters. Words and pictures are not nearly enough to go on.  The last issue–Not all of our members are paid subscribers—is perhaps the most significant issue and cited over and over again in the social media.

Paid subscribers and “free” often short, 3 day to 1 week trial subscriptions, opens up a big can of worms and allows you to see how statistics can get jacked up and misrepresented. Most of the Dating Dot Coms constantly advertise and approach you with come-on specials where you can, free for a weekend or a week, join their Dot Com and try it out.  You fill out all the info, supply the pix and are immediately entered into the array of subscribers–people available.  Actually they have just hooked you and your profile.  But when you begin to make overtures to others you quickly find out that you have to pay to find out who has responded to you. When you don’t pay, your profile is not taken down but remains in the mix indefinitely.  As a result people keep responding to you and the dot com keeps e-mailing you telling you that you have 10 winks, 4 favorites, 2 messages and such and the contacts and messages increase infinitely as time goes by.  This goes on indefinitely with them hoping you will bite.

Some of the Dating Dot coms, though not the majority, post a time indicating how recently people have been responsive.  If there is indication that a person has not responded for three weeks or more, chances are that that person is no longer active or able to respond because they didn’t pay up yet, quit, or died, but are still being advertised as available. Obviously there are a significant number of people posted that cannot respond to you.  Some lawsuits allege 90%.  This is very frustrating.  This skews the statistics. It adds to the DOT Coms “contact” rate but ultimately contributes to your low response rate.  A representative comment on the social media says:  “I joined Lighter Dot Com and after a couple of months discontinued my membership.  A year later my profile was still on there.  Lighter Dot Com is using old and inactive profiles to expand their base.”

This ongoing column is dedicated to those of us—post 60’ers–  after “the sinking”.   If you identify with it, please come into the lifeboat and take a seat.  This is the ongoing saga of coping with the post 6o and single again dilemma.  I am open to ideas, feedback, and information that maybe helpful to all of us.  You can reach me at tel: 330-562-9801 or e-mail me at Skipstaxidermy@yahoo.com  

Author’s note: The names of the various dot coms have been changed

The holiday season is officially in front of us! I was amazed walking through the stores on November 1st to see very little Halloween and Thanksgiving items out to see instead most of the shelves already turned over for Christmas. So I guess it’s inevitable, time to prep for the holidays now!

While we haven’t decorated for Christmas yet at the winery, we are gearing up for some amazing events in the month of November and December. Are you looking for a gift that comes from the heart? Or maybe you want a new piece of artwork in your home? This month, our Wine & Art event will focus on you painting a gorgeous serving tray. On November 15th from 2-5pm, local artist Carol Milani will be walking us through the step by step process to create your own custom painted serving tray.

Can’t join us on the 15th? Then be sure to mark your calendar for December 12th from 6-9pm as we wrap up a year of painting with painting 2 glass mugs and a Christmas charm. A perfect gift for yourself or to give as a gift. Each session is $30 / person and includes everything you need to paint (supplies & instruction) and your choice of a glass of wine or beer. Reservations and pre-payment are required- call or stop by the winery to make reservations.

If you’re the type where it’s easier to walk into a shop, pick up some gifts and go – then we have that opportunity coming up for you as well! Shop BIG and Shop LOCAL! We will be hosting our first ever Quarter Auction on November 21st from 6:30 – 8:30pm! Tickets are $5 pre-sale or $7 at the door – each guest will receive 1 paddle. We will have a number of vendors available to shop from throughout the evening but at 7pm be ready to bid, bid, bid!

Bring a roll of quarters and as the vendors present their raffle prizes, simply toss your quarters to the center of the table, raise your paddle and be prepared to win! Extra paddles can be purchased at the door for an additional $7 or 7 non-perishable items to be donated to the Nelson Garrettsville Community Cupboard. Money from paddles and each auction will benefit the #GarrettsvilleStrong fund. Get ready to shop from 31 Gifts,  Avon, Magnabilities, Mary Kay, Miche, Pampered Chef, Perfectly Posh, Premier Design Jewelry, Scentsy and more!

Plus be sure to stop at the winery this month for all of your gift  needs – we have some great deals on our Cranberry wine right now and will start featuring our gift baskets as well in the next couple of months. Don’t miss out!

Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery located at 11325 Center Road, Garrettsville.  For more information on other wine topics  please visit www.candlelightwinery.com.

Estate planning is a task that people tend to put off, as any discussion of “the end” tends to be off-putting. However, those who die without their financial affairs in good order risk leaving their heirs some significant problems along with their legacies.

No matter what your age, here are some things you may want to accomplish this year with regard to estate planning.

Create a will if you don’t have one. It is startling how many people never get around to this, even to the point of buying a will-in-a-box at a stationery store or setting one up online.

How many Americans lack wills? The budget legal service website RocketLawyer conducts an annual survey on this topic, and its 2014 survey determined that 51% of Americans aged 55-64 and 62% of Americans aged 45-54 don’t have them in place.1

A solid will drafted with the guidance of an estate planning attorney may cost you more than a will-in-a-box. It may prove to be some of the best money you ever spend. A valid will may save your heirs from some expensive headaches linked to probate and ambiguity.

Complement your will with related documents. Depending on your estate planning needs, this could include some kind of trust (or multiple trusts), durable financial and medical powers of attorney, a living will and other items.

You should know that a living will is not the same thing as a durable medical power of attorney. A living will makes your wishes known when it comes to life-prolonging medical treatments. A durable medical power of attorney authorizes another party to make medical decisions for you (including end-of-life decisions) if you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to make these decisions. Estate planning attorneys usually recommend that you have both on hand.2

Review your beneficiary designations. Who is the beneficiary of your IRA? How about your 401(k)? How about your annuity or life insurance policy? If your answer is along the lines of “It’s been a while,” then be sure to check the documents and verify who the designated beneficiary is.

You need to make sure that your beneficiary decisions agree with your will. Many people don’t know that beneficiary designations take priority over will bequests when it comes to retirement accounts, life insurance, and other “non-probate” assets. As an example, if you named a child now estranged from you as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, he or she is in line to receive that death benefit when you die, even if your will requests that it go to someone else.3

Time has a way of altering our beneficiary decisions. This is why some estate planners recommend that you review your beneficiaries every two years.

In some states, you can authorize transfer-on-death or payable-on-death designations for certain assets or accounts. This is a tactic against probate: a TOD designation can arrange the transfer of ownership of an account or assets immediately to a designated beneficiary at your death.3

If you don’t want the beneficiary designation you have made to control the transfer of a particular non-probate asset, you can change the beneficiary designation or select one of two other options, neither of which may be wise from a tax standpoint.

One, you can remove the beneficiary designation on the account or asset. Then its disposition will be governed by your will, as it will pass to your estate when you die.3

Two, you can make your estate the beneficiary of the account or asset. If your estate inherits a tax-deferred retirement account, it will have to be probated, and if you pass away before age 70½, it will have to be emptied within five years. If you name your estate as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, you open the door to “creditors and predators” – they have the opportunity to lay claim to the death benefit.3,4

Create asset and debt lists. Does this sound like a lot of work? It may not be. You should provide your heirs with an asset and debt “map” they can follow should you pass away, so that they will be aware of the little details of your wealth.

One list should detail your real property and personal property assets. It should list any real estate you own, and its worth; it should also list personal property items in your home, garage, backyard, warehouse, storage unit or small business that have notable monetary worth.

Another list should detail your bank and brokerage accounts, your retirement accounts, and any other forms of investment plus any insurance policies.

A third list should detail your credit card debts, your mortgage and/or HELOC, and any other outstanding consumer loans.

Consider gifting to reduce the size of your taxable estate. The lifetime individual federal gift, estate and generation-skipping tax exclusion amount is now unified and set at $5.34 million for 2014. This means an individual can transfer up to $5.34 million during or after his or her life tax-free (and that amount will rise as the years go by). For a married couple, the unified credit is currently set at $10.68 million.5

Think about consolidating your “stray” IRAs and bank accounts. This could make one of your lists a little shorter. Consolidation means fewer account statements, less paperwork for your heirs and fewer administrative fees to bear.

Let your heirs know the causes and charities that mean the most to you. Have you ever seen the phrase, “In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to…” Well, perhaps you would like to suggest donations to this or that charity when you pass. Write down the associations you belong to and the organizations you support. Some non-profits do offer accidental life insurance benefits to heirs of members.

Select a reliable executor. Who have you chosen to administer your estate when the time comes? The choice may seem obvious, but consider a few factors. Is there a stark possibility that your named executor might die before you do? How well does he or she comprehend financial matters or the basic principles of estate law? What if you change your mind about the way you want your assets distributed – can you easily communicate those wishes to that person?

Your executor should have copies of your will, forms of power of attorney, any kind of healthcare proxy or living will, and any trusts you create. In fact, any of your loved ones referenced in these documents should also receive copies of them.

Talk to the professionals. Do-it-yourself estate planning is not recommended, especially if your estate is complex enough to trigger financial, legal, and emotional issues among your heirs upon your passing.

Many people have the idea that they don’t need an estate plan because their net worth is less than the lifetime unified credit. Keep in mind, money isn’t the only reason for an estate plan. You may not be a multimillionaire yet, but if you own a business, have a blended family, have kids with special needs, worry about dementia, or can’t stand the thought of probate delays plus probate fees whittling away at assets you have amassed… well, these are all good reasons to create and maintain an estate planning strategy.

Chris Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com.

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

Citations

1 – forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2014/04/09/americans-ostrich-approach-to-estate-planning/ [4/9/14]

2 – ksbar.org/?living_wills [9/10/14]

3 – nj.com/business/index.ssf/2013/12/biz_brain_beneficiary_designat.html [12/9/13] 

4 – nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/naming-non-spouse-beneficiary-retirement-accounts.html [9/10/14]

5 – forbes.com/sites/deborahljacobs/2013/11/01/the-2013-limits-on-tax-free-gifts-what-you-need-to-know/ [11/1/13]

If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.

We’ve finally seen the end of the political ads (Do you ever get the feeling that the only reason we have elections is to find out if the polls were right?—Robert Orben).  The signs should all be picked up until the next go-round and we can listen to the moans of the losers until the next big thing when they can switch to “We told you so.”  The amount of money spent is so amazing—and largely unaccounted for—that we can only nod our heads in agreement with the remark by the inimitable Will Rogers, “Politics has  got so expensive that it takes a lot of money just to get beat with.”  Can I get an “Amen”?

AND then there’s The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which on page 129, in its typical doggerel-style rhyme describes the period between November1 and November16 thus : “Mild retreat means muddy feet.  Enjoy the sunshine while it lasts; piles of snow and blustery blasts”.  Stock up on the booties for the Christmas Walk.  Could be chilly out there.  It also mentions that black bears head to winter dens now, lobsters move to offshore waters and crab apples(The only native apples) are ripe .  AND in 1914 Mary Jacobs received a patent for a brassiere.  How’s that for uplifting info?

In the midst of all that, we have Veterans’ Day on the 11th, honoring all those who have served our country in the armed forces.  It was originally dubbed Armistice Day and commemorated the end of WWI on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month .  Subsequent acts of Congress in 1926, 1938, 1954 and 1968 enlarged the intention of the observation of that day and moved the date around, to considerable confusion; in 1975 the date was set as the original, marking the end of “the war to end all wars”…we can only hope.

Bad news for my sisters!  The London School of Economics and Political Science and Western University in Canada have just announced, in the journal Demography, the results of a study (Social scientist are always doing studies of goofy stuff, trying to show that they are too scientists just like physicists and astronomers.  These don’t always help) that posits “the 3rd child effect” in which child three, four, five, whatever, is not responsible for the same level of excitement and/or happiness in the family as the first two.  Well, there’s a surprise!   You’d think that the backlog of diapers and teething rings and such would have tipped somebody off before a study was deemed necessary to discover this.  Besides, the older siblings will always be happy to point out their innate superiority to the younger porch monkeys.  Not to mention necessary enforcement measures.

Now in Florida, children of any rank in the family line-up may be getting access to a whole new outlook on a number of things if the Satanic Temple, based in New York, gets permission to distribute their “Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities” in the schools of Orange County.  Well, they say, the high school kids in the county got NIV Bibles, so the Satanists should get equal time.  The books have pictures of kids in T-shirts with satanic symbols on them and  they offer messages against bullying and discrimination, for self-esteem and good behavior.  There’s a connect-the-dots page that results in a pentagram and all kinds of stuff like that.  Their point is that if one religion can distribute literature, then all should be able to do the same.  They have a point.  They also have an example to follow in Oklahoma (Oklahoma?!), where, after a legislator brought in a monument of the Ten Commandments and had it put up on the green outside the state capitol building, the Satanic Temple commissioned a statue of Satan/Baphomet/Beelzebub/one of those BAD guys to be put up in the same area.  From the pictures online, I’d say that goats are getting a bad rap, since the Evil One sort of looks like a billygoat.  The little dog named Cerberus isn’t real scary but there are persons with horns pictured in family portraits hanging on the wall.  The “fabled” necronomicon (Book of Spells) was the creation of author H. P. Lovecraft and not exactly ancient wisdom of any kind.  It’s going to be interesting to see how anybody argues against it, given that the Bibles are already circulating out there.  The Freedom From Religion Foundation people will haul a– to the Supreme Court, if it takes that.  Could be a wild scene.  Think of it, Satan in court.  Fire and brimstone (Senators and Congressmen called to testify on the state of their souls…if they still have any).  Stay tuned.

Speaking of which, the Prairie Home Companion last Saturday did their—sort of—annual “Joke Show” and it was a hoot—bunch of stuff that nobody’s heard since fifth grade that just makes you chuckle. Knock-knock jokes, stuff like that.  Ole & Lena jokes.  Three priest, two penguins, one chicken got top billing.  Someone stole a midget’s billfold.  How could anybody stoop that low?

An English professor explained that though a double negative equals a positive, in no language in the world does a double positive equal a negative.  A voice from the back of the lecture hall called out, “Yeah, right!”

That kind of joke.

Tournament time is here for the Academic Challenge Team, the Quiz Masters, at home and far afield.  We could really use some readers and scorekeepers to make things move along.  Can you read?  You’re hired!  Call the high school to sign up or call me at 330-527-2577.

Our first step was to find out the artist’s full name. Searching “Chandler pastel artist” in an online search engine brought up Timothy Osha’s “Pastel Masters” website, which has a section devoted to Chandler and his works [http://pastelmasters.com/chandler]. Along with an online gallery showcasing Chandler’s paintings, “Pastel Masters” also provided a brief biography. The artist’s full name is William Henry Chandler and he lived from 1854 to 1928. He’s known as an extremely prolific pastel artist and, as such, his work tends to vary dramatically in quality. The article also mentioned that Chandler was featured in the book “The Power of Pastels,” but it seemed to be long out of print and, unfortunately, wasn’t available through any library we could find.

We weren’t able to find William Henry Chandler in any of the reference books we checked, but we were able to turn up a little more information online. The Butler Institute of American Art gave a short biography going a little deeper into his personal life [[http://www.butlerartcollection.com/artist.php?artistId=649]. Chandler grew up in New Jersey where he suffered a hunting injury that left him with a permanent limp. He moved to Chicago to work as a cameo engraver in the button industry, and it was in Chicago that he met his wife. They had three daughters together. Sadly, though, the youngest died when she was only a few months old, and Chandler’s wife died soon after, so he returned to New Jersey to raise his daughters with the help of his sister.

While the Butler Art Institute covered his personal life, appraiser Mike Wilcox wrote an article for WorthPoint that fleshed out Chandler’s professional life a little more [http://www.worthpoint.com/article/mystery-chandler-paintings]. According to the article, in 1887, William Henry Chandler and his brother Frank Chandler established W.H. Chandler and Co. in Manhattan. The company produced decorative art to be sold through gift shops, art dealers, and department stores, but unlike similar companies (such as Currier & Ives), they didn’t rely on mass production. Instead, they had a loft with up to twenty easels set up and artists working on several paintings at a time. Landscapes are the most common Chandler pieces, followed by still-lifes and hunting scenes, with seascapes as the rarest.

“Price It!,” the library’s database for estimating the values of antiques and collectibles, listed Chandler paintings as having sold for anywhere from thirteen to one thousand dollars. Such a large range makes it difficult to estimate how much something is worth, but fortunately our patron had the name and contact information of a professional appraiser who could price her painting accurately for her.

If you’d like to see a Chandler painting in person, the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown has “Scene in the Adirondacks” in its collection.

For answers to your questions, visit the Newton Falls Public Library, 204 S. Canal Street, Newton Falls or phone 330-872-1282. For information about all the free library programs or hours, visit our website at www.newtonfalls.org or our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NewtonFallsLibrary.

I signed up for two prominent, well-advertised, on-line dating services, EEK- Grominy and Lighter Dot Com.  Every day I received 3-20 new matches based on my “personality inventory” results, and other, unknown calculations. These were guaranteed to be close matches (listed as 70%, 80%, 89% matches) to my needs and personality type. From what I can gather the criteria they use to match people are apparently things like 1) Likes to watch TV, 2) Likes Outdoors, 3) Likes to go to restaurants, 4) Likes Politics, 5) Likes dogs, 6) Likes to sniff old, used socks (OK, not really).  Week after week I e-mailed my interests to lady after lady after lady. By their descriptions and percentage ratings we seemed to have very similar interests. I got no responses though! Continuing on, I soon put 2 and 2 together and hypothesized that these descriptors listed on the profiles were often not in their own words but seemingly abstracted by a computer from various multiple choice questions you had to answer upon signing up. I got no responses, not an, “I’m not interested”, not a “No thanks”, nothing. Finally, after 4 weeks and probably over 100 overtures, one lady did respond. Even a blind squirrel occasionally gets a nut I guess!

We set up to meet at a Cracker Barrel Restaurant– her choice.  She didn’t look like her picture though. In fact I didn’t recognize her. The only way we actually made contact was when, after we both wandered about the lobby, she asked me if I was Skip! She was not unattractive, and like me, average. We talked for 45 minutes. I quickly noted that she was obviously not enthralled with me possibly because I have stiffness in my back, or ???  I’m not the perfect specimen anymore.  We conversed. Her words seemed forced.  I tried to buy her dinner.  She wouldn’t eat.  So I had a piece of pie and a coke. She had tea.  I was starving. I could have eaten a horse. But I was polite. I said, “Maybe we could meet again here next week?”  She said OK.  I went back the next week. She was a no-show. I just chalked it up to payback from years ago once when I was in the service.

Over the course of the next 8-10 weeks I did get a few responses from my e-mailing efforts. There were a couple, “Sorry, I’m not interested, You’re not my type” and one crazy lady who wanted to meet me right now never mind that someone she had dated was apparently living in her house and she couldn’t get rid of him. I heard her whole sorrowful story and wished her luck…….and lost that phone number.  The dog ate it!

Another lady did actually have lunch with me. Even from her picture she looked way out of my league but her pose and the background were so out of synch for a dating service photo that I couldn’t resist sending the cryptic message—“Are you the Cheshire cat eating the mouse!”  She bit. We seemed to hit it off well all during lunch but she obviously was playing an intellectual, one-up-man-ship game. In the parking lot I asked if we might meet again.  She said “What’s wrong with your back?  You can’t straighten up very well can you?   I play golf 20 times a week. This won’t work.  Maybe we can have lunch again sometime because you apparently can keep up with me intellectually.  Call me some time!”  She got in her BMW, put the top down and drove into the sunset. I got in my Hyundai, opened the window, and drove out of the parking lot!  I never called her.

I also noted that, despite my asking for candidates within 25 miles, 99% of my potential matches/dates consistently lived from 50 to 300 miles away. One even lived in China but was “coming to America soon!” And of course, about once a week I got a seemingly obligatory flirt from some scantily clad, sexy 30 year old bombshell living in Albuquerque or Milwaukee, or Hawaii—a good bit farther than my requested 25 mile limit  So I e-mailed the two on-line firms and complained that they were not honoring my wishes and that I felt that they were sending me bogus messages and flirts!  I was not at all happy with their services.  After a fair lapse of time they responded and assured me that they were trying to send appropriate matches within 25 miles my way.  Well, you know how that went, don’t you? I might as well have yelled down a well.  There was no change what-so-ever. So four months into the contract I cancelled both services-do not renew—drop me now! (If you don’t do this they automatically renew you indefinitely and charge your credit card until you inform them otherwise. This is stated in the contract.) I wonder if this is legal?  I am convinced that there are dead people still being listed as candidates because nobody cancelled their contract.   “Sorry we can’t do that: Your listing will end when the time is up. In the mean-time we’re sure that you will find someone to your liking on our service”, they responded. As the 6 month deadline approached, the EEK-Grominy people, who usually sent me 1-3 matches a day, began daily sending me 5-20 different matches and then, during the last week I got all 1425 (they said) of their customers thrown at me—some from Alaska and Puerto Rico.  Of course none of them responded to me either but I admit that I didn’t write to all 1425 of them.  I got writer’s cramp. The Lighter Dot Com people—who had many more months on their contract– just kept daily sending me 20 new “fresh” matches which, after 8 months, I began to recognize as many of the same people shuffled around each day with maybe a few new faces added. I’m pretty sure that, if only just to test the limits, I’ve now responded to most of these people once, twice, four times—sometimes cryptically and mysteriously just to see if I could draw a response. I got none!  I got to know pretty much most of their customers by their pictures and crazily made up names like AnAn, Sexygurl, and Poosie Suzie which invariably were sent to me over and over and over again. I have trouble remembering names, except for one unfortunate, ill-chosen name –Msphyllis—(yes, I read and re-read that one several times to make sure that it wasn’t what I initially thought it was) but if I see a face once I remember it forever.

Let’s talk locations and social class.  From my now eight months experience with these two Dot Coms, if a lady is from, say, a well to do suburb like Chagrin Falls, Hiram, Hudson or Aurora, there is no way that she will respond to you if you are from working class, Mantua, Streetsboro, Windham, or Twinsburg. We apparently do not warrant responding to. Virtually every response that I did get was from a similar working class location.  Your best bet to get responded to is picking someone from a similar social class neighborhood.

I quickly recognized that the pictures people post of themselves on these Dot Coms tell you a great deal about themselves and correlate highly with social class and location.    As they say, “Pictures tell a thousand words.”  Many of the posted pictures of women are obviously posed in a studio and include vases of flowers, background antiques, fancy drapes and the woman striking a pose right out of Good Housekeeping Magazine dressed to the nines. Some were even in dance or ballerina poses. The included extra pictures were frequently labeled “Me on the beach at the Riviera, Me drinking wine in Tuscany, Me in Cannes, and Me and Bilbo in Cancun”—Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me!!!!  Now do you think for one minute that any of these women are going to be interested in common old Skip Schweitzer from working class Mantua, sitting on the back of his Model “A” Ford tailgate or in front of his wall of trophy fish?  So you very quickly begin to only consider women who are obviously un-made up, in natural snap shot poses, real life looking women who look their age.

My daughter, a university professor and researcher, researched these firms and confirmed that the response rate is about 1-3 percent.  What this means is that for every 100 responses you make to these prospective women you may get 1 to 3 responses back.  That is as low as, or lower than the response rate to random laundry detergent surveys you get in the mail.

Let’s be honest. I am not the world’s most handsome man. I am balding, 67 years old, a little bent over from years of hard work and athletic injuries. I am not Adonis.  But I am not ugly and stupid; I am average.  I can talk about most anything, I am interesting and can be funny. I put a realistic picture of me in the dot coms. Obviously the lady who stood me up was able to recognize me from it.

The straw that broke the camel’s back, though came the other day when a lady responded to me a couple times, forwarded me her phone number and asked me to call.  I did so and within the first two sentences she hung up.

Was it my breath? Perhaps it was the 8th day of a seven day deodorant pad? Was I sucking the helium out of balloons again?  I’ll never know! It’s good that I have a strong ego.

This ongoing column is dedicated to those of us—post 60’ers–  after “the sinking”.   If you identify with it, please come into the lifeboat and take a seat.  This is the ongoing saga of coping with the post 6o and single again dilemma.  I am open to ideas, feedback, and information that maybe helpful to all of us.  You can reach me at tel: 330-562-9801 or e-mail me at Skipstaxidermy@yahoo.com  

Author’s note: The names of the various dot coms have been changed

What do you do when, at 67 you find yourself single and alone again?  The reasons for this often include, your mate passed away, or perhaps you and/or your mate decided to end a 1-40 year relationship for whatever reasons.  At any rate you are now alone in the house, responsible for everything.  Assuming that bereavement is an ongoing part of this process, you realize that somehow you have to carry on, however dismal this might seem.  This prospect seems rather bleak, given that for 45 years, you have been accustomed to daily predictable conversations with a person you trust and love.  If not love then you have grown used to coexisting and conversing with your mate. You now find that talking mostly  to the dog has its limitations. Suddenly you are faced with a new and unpredictable future.  This is, to say the least, very disquieting, uncomfortable, and oftentimes overwhelming.  Who do you now bounce ideas off of? Who do you ask the advice of for making that special spaghetti sauce that you have taken granted for such a long time?   You tried to make some and it turned out………just awful—thick, globby and bitter. You tossed it in the garbage and ate at Mc Donald’s. You’re also eating way too much at fast food places.  After 8 months you realize that you haven’t had a homemade cake, pie or cookie since….you can’t remember when. Furthermore, where do you go to meet somebody and exactly how do you do that in today’s world? It’s different now!  There is the internet and people say they meet on it.

This ongoing column is dedicated to those of us—you and me– in this same boat. This life after “the sinking” has to be more than just marking time, waiting for…what?  If you are reading this and find it easy to identify with, please come into the lifeboat and take a seat.  In it you might hear of similar trials and tribulations that you have been experiencing. Or maybe it will be different. Maybe you and I are looking for some of the same things.  Just maybe together we can create some answers.  Sometimes things you read here may strike you funny. Oftentimes they will not, and humor will be hard to see and experience. But I will really work hard to somehow see, and get you to see, a lighter side to this experience.  We have to survive this somehow! This will be the ongoing saga of how one man is attempting to cope with the 65 (actually now 68) and single again dilemma.  As with most of my columns you can reach me at the e-mail and numbers at the end of the columns.  I am open to ideas, feedback, and information that maybe helpful to all of us in the same lifeboat. Maybe between us, we can all get to a safe harbor.

COOKIE MAKING 101

I have found that meeting prospective ladies for a man of my age is not quite as easy as “they” would have you believe.  My daughter said, “Why not sign up for some cooking classes? I know you can cook but there will be a greater number of women taking those classes and you might meet someone.  You might also try some book clubs.”  Yeah, well, maybe I’ll try the cooking classes”, I said! (How much worse could this be than my so-far-0-for-100 batting average at meeting women?)  When I was in my 50’s I can remember hearing tales of post-65-aged men being flooded with offers from ladies of similar age, of having a different date every night because of the plethora of available ladies. So went the tales. It may well be that there is an imbalance of women to men, but if you have lived with a very vivacious, smart, athletic woman for 45 years, there is a precedent set that is hard to ignore and tends to greatly narrow the field.

So I signed up for a cookie making class at Maplewood Joint Vocational School.  This school and its adult learning classes is such a gem to our community.  Not nearly enough adults take advantage of it.  Perhaps this would be a venue to meet somebody.  I’d get out of the house for an evening which seems to be a lonely time for me and I just might learn something about making cookies.  Not that I don’t know how to bake but, truthfully, I haven’t made cookies in about 10 years.  Even back then those were some God awful, low-fat cookies that sort of tasted like the cardboard backing of a pad of paper.  My daughter’s husband, then new to the family, was graciously, and gratuitously, saying how good they were.  “Hey, you’re already in the family.  You don’t have to stroke my ego.  These are terrible”, I said!  So from then on I let my wife continue to make the cookies.  Now, no cookies at all!

I arrived about a half hour early for the class which took place in the kitchen of Maplewood Joint Vocational School.  I had been there before maybe 30 years ago to take a welding class.  (Not in the kitchen!)  As I opened the door to the office, the adult class coordinator said “507, room 507, that’s what you want!  Perhaps my covered cake pan gave me away. (The instructions said that you needed to bring some kind of pan to take cookies and goodies home in).  When I reached the room I noted it was indeed the kitchen/classroom for the school’s cafeteria.  These kids here must eat pretty well, I thought to myself.  In amongst the pots and the pans and hanging utensils I saw a man unwrapping a bag of caramel candies and placing them in a double boiler.  I’m here for the cookies class, I announced.   Wonderful, a man for a change (I thought, Carrie, maybe you weren’t wrong!)  Just have a seat until the other two class members show up”, he said.  OK, not a big class, but what the hey.  The other two people turned out to be ladies.  Both seemed to be taking the class for reasons like “something different to do than sitting home watching TV”

After the usual spiel about “watch the knives, don’t wipe your nose and go back to cooking, wash your hands frequently, etc., etc., etc., we began our first task, that of making peanut butter cookies (my request). I immediately confirmed that indeed these kids eat very well here at school.  The recipe which called for one pound of margarine, was quickly replaced with 4 sticks of butter.  “We don’t want to use margarine in cookies. If you melt it down you will find that 90% of margarine is water and only 10% is oil.  This makes for tasteless, blah cookies.  Use only butter when baking!!!”  OK, you’re the boss and obviously a chef, so you must know what you’re doing.   The chef, Ed Klasa, is a very pleasant fellow with a droll sense of humor that initially catches you off guard. You keep wondering, “Is he really serious”? But in short order you realize that this man “knows his stuff” and his dry sense of humor is actually entertaining.  Over the course of the three hour class he kept you on your toes.  He passed out recipes; we began mixing and someone said, “Who measures flour in quarts?  It says to put in 1¼ quarts of flour.”   “Well”, the chef says, “think about it, how many cups in a pint, and how many pints in a quart?  Come on, deduce with me here.  OK, that’s 5 cups of flour—gotta keep your mind working,” he says delightedly.  Although some obviously did not see the humor in that, I got a kick out of it.

We made very rich peanut butter cookies and snicker doodles, and then some concoction of chocolate, graham crackers, the caramel sauce, and peanut butter.  “I ran across this last week and I’m dying to try it.  It is no bake –you just pop it into the freezer for a while”, Ed said.  Problems did arise later though when we tried to cut it up and the caramel stuck to the aluminum foil like gorilla glue.  He laughed and said “OK, that didn’t work.  Next time put the caramel on last.  Next week I’m going to teach you to make the best Baklava you’ve ever tasted.  You should sign up for that class too.”   By the end of the class we all took home a large cake pan full of cookies and goodies.

Now, wasn’t this better than sitting home alone and lonely, talking to the dog again?  Oh, by the way, I’m making baklava next week!

This ongoing column is dedicated to those of us—post 60’ers–  after “the sinking”.   If you identify with it, please come into the lifeboat and take a seat.  This is the ongoing saga of coping with the post 6o and single again dilemma.  I am open to ideas, feedback, and information that maybe helpful to all of us.  You can reach me at tel: 330-562-9801 or e-mail me at Skipstaxidermy@yahoo.com  

Some cartoons, political or otherwise, are SO nail-on-the-head right that they ought to be required reading…er…viewing…er…whatever, for aware citizens.  The AB-J had a pip just the other day in a series called “Pearls Before Swine” (Think about that for a while) which is a little off-the-wall at the best of times , into lame puns and sight gags but this one could be considered a voice of prophecy, in a way.

First panel : a bald, semi-shaven guy with dark glasses, a broken nose, a “wife-beater” undershirt and black vest walks in and says, “Repo man here.”  Rat, standing there next to Pig (recurring characters with definite personalities in the strip), says, “Repo Man?  I’m not behind on my car payments.”

Second panel : The guy carries a ballot box—locked—away in the same direction he came from and says, “Not here for your car.  I’m taking back your democracy.  Too few people bother to read or stay informed or even vote.  So off it goes.”  Rat and Pig watch him go.

Third panel : Rat turns to Pig and says, “I hate it when that happens.”

Me too.

I’ve been serving as a poll worker for about seven years now and it always makes me proud to see a former student come in to cast a ballot; wish that I’d see even more of them.  It used to be a regular thing in the seventh grade to take my classes down to the Precinct A polls on High Street to observe the voting; the poll workers were always helpful and welcoming and happy to explain the procedures to the kids. Pity we can’t do stuff like that anymore.  The curriculum has changed so that civic education of that sort doesn’t really make an appearance until junior or senior year.  Cultivate interest early, I say.  Build on it.  Encourage it.

I remember telling classes that I was really excited about turning twenty-one (The dinosaurs and I had a party—right in front of a glacier.) and someone said, “Yeah, then you could drink!”  The thought never crossed my mind.  I could vote!  That was way more important.

It IS neat that young adults can now register to vote in government classes.  The risk is that they will become like all too many older adults and fail to live up to their responsibilities as citizens.  People will loudly go on and on about their “rights” and just sort of whisper about the other side of the coin, which would require them to actually DO something.

Like voting, for instance.  The polls are open thirteen hours—thirteen hours! For goodness’ sake, how many of us have to be tied down, nose-to-the-grindstone for so long  and at such a vital activity that we can’t arrange for the time to contribute to the fate of the Republic?  The date  of Election Day is determined far ahead of time(First Tuesday after the first Monday in November) so anybody who cares can work it into the schedule.  Absentee ballots are easily available to be put in the mail.  The Board of Elections office is open on weekdays at the county seat.  Think of the posters and advertisements around promoting seatbelt use—What’s Holding You Back?  Equally important, folks.

It would probably be a good thing to have some idea about what you’re voting for, too.  Pay attention.  Don’t just  reflexively pick a party and vote for everybody of that particular persuasion.  Investigate a little.  Read…on both sides.  Listen to what they’re saying.  Check out ratings and non-partisan assessments.  “Due diligence” can make a difference in what you actually see and understand.

And for goodness’ sake, don’t just vote “no”…or “yes”… on everything without understanding what the question is.  Emergency medical services( or fire & rescue or law enforcement), for instance, are something that we have to support all of the time or they won’t be available when we do need them.  Do you figure that saving a couple of bucks on your taxes is worth watching a neighbor gasping for breath trapped in a collapsed ditch on the back forty?  Will your money show up at a football game to take a kid with a broken leg to the emergency room?  The services of the Portage County District Library may not interest you but the programs that the various branches(Aurora, Garrettsville, Streetsboro, Windham) offer boost our schools(and home schoolers), provide for nursing home residents, give the  non-computer public a place to interact with information and opportunities on the web. That’s a bargain, any way you look at it.  Small money, big rewards.

Taxes are the price we pay for the things that we could not do alone : roads, bridges, parks, armies, navies, air traffic control, libraries, health departments, regulations of weights and measures…a whole raft of things that we seldom see but would certainly notice if they were gone.  And, sure, nobody wants to pay more than they need to (Arthur Godfrey said, “I’m proud to be paying taxes in the United States.  The only thing is—I could be just as proud for half the money.”) but doing your part to keep the “ship of state” afloat is a pretty important responsibility, at least as important as premium cable and/or top-of-the-line phone plans.  We might ponder the words of Will Rogers, “Thank heavens we don’t get all of the government we pay for.”Or, on the other hand, Henry Ward Beecher said, ”The worst thing in the world, next to anarchy, is government.”

Think about THAT. And vote!

So I went to get new license plates, since my old ones were still on the poor , pitiful “Revolution Orange Metallic” car that got totaled, and this meant a sojourn in the local(Ravenna) office of the State of Ohio   Bureau of Motor Vehicles…turned out to be quite instructive, in a decidedly eccentric sort of way.

First off, one is required(Well, that is if you actually want to achieve your objective of getting license plates or  renewed driver’s license or stuff of that ilk) to take a number—just like at a busy deli or bakery– from a gizmo mounted on a pole right at the entrance doors.  It’s always a shock to look at the number you’ve got and at the crowd of people sitting there already waiting.  My number was 26; the first number called after I got there was 7.  O.K., this is going to call for settling in.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring any reading material—I usually do bring something on expeditions like this—so I whipped out my trusty pen and paper and took notes; people looked at me funny.

First of all, the set-up is better than it used to be; whatever it is that you want, when your number is called, you step up to the counter and the clerk who called will deal with your request.  Once upon a time, specific clerks dealt with specific operations and the issuer of license plates might be snowed under with people waiting  and waiting, while the driver’s license clerk was able to sit at her leisure to examine the new nail color that she had chosen and  tempers tended to shorten as the wait time lengthened.  Well, that’s done with…and none too soon.

The décor is quite enlightening, consisting of old Ohio license plates—predominantly in red, green or  blue, with  some yellow or black thrown in( For awhile there, the idea was to use the colors of the principal state universities—OSU, Miami, Ohio U, BG, Kent, etc.—as they were celebrating their centennials or sesquicentennials or whatever, but then the field expanded and budgets faded and who knows what the  Bureau of Motor Vehicles is thinking now?); 1933 was orange. The earliest date that I saw on the wall was from 1916; there was a1920 next to a 1921 and from then on it was consecutive to the present day. Most were for your standard passenger car but historical vehicles, trailers, farm conveyances, dealers, vanity plates, government vehicles and school buses were also represented.  Then there were plates from all of the states, from Alabama to Wyoming on the lintel above the service desk.  I must say, the design that the BMV has come up with for our Ohio plates is certainly lame, compared to some of the others on display.  I remember  several years ago we( or the BMV, anyway) got all in a snit when North Carolina beat us to the license plate slogan “First in Flight”  commemorating the Wright Brothers exploits at Kitty Hawk.  Somebody was asleep at the switch down in Columbus, probably.  “Birthplace of Aviation” doesn’t have the same ring to it.  “Ohio, the Heart of It All” was pretty good but somebody dropped that one  and currently it’s just sort of nondescript, a barn and an airplane or shadowy words about accomplishments or something behind the numbers; definitely forgettable.  Their whole design concept is less than arresting, that’s for sure. The chairs are black and lined up in rows of four across and there are what look like army surplus church pews running along one side(So you can pray for a lower number?).  The walls also have framed vintage automobile ads(I think that I remember some of them from the LIFE Magazine; that tells you just how vintage they are).  I spotted Dodge Plymouth, Ford, Mercury, Chevrolet, Jeep and Nash(How’s that for a blast from the past?);there was an Atlas Tires  blurb too.  There is also an  antique Ohio Driver’s Manual, some temporary tags, a reminder about  being an organ donor—don’t forget that one—and a display of the old paper driver’s licenses; I remember those too.   Somebody’s bad typing and my own ineptitude caused me to be driving for a whole year on an  expired license.  The last number was typed right on the line on the right side of the little box and I thought—having looked at it carelessly—that I had another year before needing to renew.  WRONG!  It was a nerve-wracking time between when I turned myself in and when I could  get an appointment to retake the driver’s test—written and driving.  Good thing I was still walking to work then and didn’t get into any high-speed car chases.

And speaking of displays….  Everybody’s got a tattoo.  The variety is stunning.  Everything from names inside of hearts—Mom, Emmy-Jo, USMC—to skulls and dragons and Disney characters to Maori designs, spider webs and faeries.  I knew a guy once who had a fly tattooed on his big toe; at the time, this was pretty far out; he’d be a wuss now.  Lots of the displays were on phone screens, everybody seemed to have someone to contact by text, the talking was not a factor.  The big TV screen was being mostly ignored.  The game show that was on was not real inspiring and nobody seemed to be paying much attention…including the contestants.

I must say that the clerks seemed very helpful.  One poor gentleman showed up with no I.D., no passport, nothing attesting to his place of residence; I think he was connected to the University and didn’t have the drill down yet.  The young lady helping him sent him to another office across the hall to figure all of that out; he came back and got through it, chop-chop.  Good thing, since another sign announced that  the whole place was appearing on closed circuit TV and there was an audio monitor in use.

So eventually my number came up , I had all of the necessary papers—including my checkbook—and I now have a new set of plates that I have to remember to put on the car before my 30-day tags run out.  This means that I will have to learn a new set of numbers and letters…oy!…and update my insurance…the fun never stops!

“The reunion”, he says. “Oh yeah, you’ve gotta go”, says my friend Don, 80 years old and hasn’t missed a reunion yet.   Class Reunion……These are words that strike terror into the heart of…… me. The word brings trepidation, apprehension, a dredging up of time spent in….limbo.  It seems to hit me in the face with horrible thoughts about what is now and what is no more. This reunion to me is a thing out of time and very out of place. “But you’ve gotta go—it’s your 50 year Class Reunion”, they say. “You will never have another.”

Most of what I am today, whatever that actually means, has little to do with that first 17 years of my life. Of course that is developmentally not true, but characterologically it is so.  High school, particularly when compared to the rest of my life, was not a grand time. It was not even a good time.  It was a plodding through time, a marking time, a waiting for ……dawn?  It is not unlike now again.   Now I am marking time again, waiting for ?????  Am I down to existing to feed the dog?

I force myself to drive to the banquet center and then to walk into the building. I really do not want to be there. I no longer have an ally to fallback upon, no partner. It is not a good feeling.  There are a few others arriving early and likewise walking in.  But I do not recognize them, not even remotely. They could be just people off the streets, a gathering of people from the Cleveland Stadium perhaps. Maybe they really are. I get in line– it is a short line at that early hour—30 minutes before we are supposed to be there. Why am I always so early?  Why can’t I be late?  I’m so damned obsessive compulsive!

There are four or five people at the greeting desk. I vaguely recognize some facial characteristics.  The guy has on a name tag reading “Randolph Peccarillo”.  I don’t recall going to school with any Randolph Peccarillo. There was a Randolph something or another though.  He was the quarterback of the football team. I was a defensive lineman. I guess if I had a last name like that I’d probably change it too. If I had a name like Roy, I’d change it. I couldn’t actually do that though.  It would dishonor my father.  So that must be old Randolph the quarterback.

The greeting party looked at me; I looked at them. No recognition!  Someone said, “Name?”  I said Schweitzer.  “Oh yes, Roy. You must be over here. Let me look in this pile.”  Sort… sort…. sort. “Now I have to believe it is here.  How do you spell it again?”  SCH……..I say.  “Oh maybe that’s why I can’t find it. I’m at the end of the S’s. Ah, here it is, Roy…..Skip Schweitzer….did they ever call you that in high school?” (No, I think to myself, my life didn’t begin until I left high school. I don’t really recall what they called me in high school).  They gave me a name tag….with Roy Skip Schweitzer on it. It likely should have said Skip Roy Schweitzer –as in, just skip him totally—it would have been more accurate. I say, “Sorry, I haven’t been called Roy in 50 years—it’s very strange to me now.” I recognize one of the ladies at the greeting table. It is Donna something or another, one of the prettiest girls of the class, someone I would love to have known but someone who was in a different galaxy than me when I was in high school (probably my perception, not hers). Fifty years and she hasn’t lost a thing.

Someone directs me to the next table. This guy looks somewhat familiar.  The nametag says Mike Piston. He was a running back on the team.  “Good to see you, I’m glad you’re here,” he says.  “How are you?”  I fumble…….. “Well, I’m here,” I hear myself say. I’d like to say, “Hi Mike, How are you, Good to see you”, but it’s not there, not in me just right now.  “Here, put those tickets in here; you may win a prize”, he says.   Mike hands me a coffee cup with some beads in it, some plastic flowers and trinkets, and a class picture with 250 people in it.   “Were you at the 10 year reunion/” he asks.  “I honestly don’t know. I don’t remember”, I say.  “Well, find yourself in the picture and were going to line up that same way and have a group picture taken, so you can compare now to then”, he says.  Yeah, right, that’s exactly what I want to do…. compare now to then.

I walk around in a fog.  There are a very few places to sit down except at one of the banquet tables.  There are maybe fifty tables scattered around the large room, all with six or seven place settings.  I think, 7 time 50 equals 350.  Are there that many people expected?  Well, maybe with wives and husbands. There were some 475 people in our class.

I am here alone, by myself.  Me, no wife, no guest, just me, like it was back then in high school. Nobody to turn to and say, “Boy this is strange.” I feel profoundly out of time and place. I don’t want to be here.  I fight the urge to walk back out the door, get into my car and leave.  I want to, though; I want out.  Inwardly, terror is mounting.  I don’t want to be here.

I walk around.  I see some pictures taped to the wall. It is the whole 1964 football team.  There I am in all my very young and innocent, radiant glory on the wall.  Who is that really? What universe did he come from?  That is not me. Was that ever me?  Next to the football team are maybe 50 pictures of other people.  It is an “In Memorium Wall”– people who are no longer with us, people who have died. Some of the prettiest girls are on that wall. Some of the more popular guys are on that wall. Raw memories flash through my mind. I can’t get away from that wall fast enough.

I walk around some more. My legs and back begin to ache.  I spot two chairs behind the reception desk–not exactly a great place to park but if I don’t sit down soon, my legs will give out.  But these people don’t know that. They don’t know that my lower back is crippled with arthritis and my legs get numb.   So I sit down, behind the scenes as they say.  I watch people file in, be greeted and go through the same schtick as I did.  I don’t recognize 99% of them. There is hugging, handshaking, backslapping.  I didn’t have any close enough relationships with girls to hug them back then. Hug them…Hell, I don’t even think I ever actually physically touched a girl until I was in college.  I was a very late bloomer.  I never ever had a meaningful relationship with a girl until I was out of high school and far away from these people. How can I now relate to these people that I have no established meaningful relationship with —Might has well be in Yankee stadium.

“How are you,” someone says.  What does that saying really mean? “Haven’t seen you in a coon’s age,” he says.  How long does a raccoon live anyways, 3-5 years maybe?  I say “I guess I’m still here.”  A terrible response, I suppose, but how I feel.  I’m marking time. Just try and stay until the dinner is served, I re-tell myself, then you can leave.  Two women I can’t identify come up to me and say, “Who are you?”  They look at my name tag and say, “Skip, Skip, Skip- did we have anybody by that name in our class?  Roy, Oh, Roy.”   Then they walk away.   Suddenly, out of nowhere a doddering, shuffling old man comes up to me –he looks far older than me, wearing a gray-brown suit. Maybe it’s one of the teachers—could be a 100 years old! “Is that seat taken”, he says?  “No”, I say, “be my guest”.   I don’t recognize him– his name tag is hard to see.  Maybe I should put mine backwards. It takes me a few minutes to make out his name tag.  It is Ken Sarter, a guy that I used to fight with in junior high school.  He was a cool guy in junior high school—an early bloomer.  I was just….a seed.  He doesn’t recognize me, doesn’t acknowledge who I am.  He just sits there for a long while, then he gets up and shuffles away. I think, “Whatever arthritis I’ve got, he’s got worse.  What a sad thing.  We used to fight, now………..this!”

By now the party center is filling up with hundreds of people.  I don’t know any of them.  I can’t really bring myself to strike up a conversation.  How do you relate to someone who you don’t have a relationship with?  I should put on my therapist hat, but it just doesn’t fit right tonight.  I fumble again when asked something. This happens when I am extremely out of place and uncomfortable.  “How are you?” someone says? Who is asking I can’t seem to ascertain.  “I don’t know really; I’m still here, I guess, whether I want to be or not,” I say.  That pretty much ends the conversation. What do I say to strangers? Strangers from a life lived before my time—an alternate universe or maybe a parallel universe that I was not in. I get an overwhelming urge to leave.  I feel my feet walking through the door without me—an out of body experience.  “Just stay until dinner is served. Hell, I paid $55 for it.  I should at least eat,” I implore myself.   I get up, look around. The place is filling up.  Where will I sit anyway? With more strangers, people I have no rapport with?  Alone in a stadium full of people.  I look down and find my feet walking out the door past some people in line.  As I go out I see no-one I recognize.  Out the door and into my car, I start it up and drive away.  I do not look back.  Never look back.

Well, that train left the station without me aboard.

I had been planning to take the Portage County Farm Tour but it turns out that it was held on Saturday instead of Sunday and my schedule was all wrapped around the Aurora Band show, Thunder Over Aurora, so it was a setback to open the Record on Sunday and see that I had missed the whole thing.  Too bad.  Those tours are really quite enjoyable and one gets to learn a lot of stuff when going on them.

The Mackenzie Creamery was a big “draw” as far as I was concerned; the cheese they make is amazing and the goats which are part of the operation are always a hoot.  I like goats; they are characters, they have personalities.  You can’t go to the fair and  go through the sheep and goat barn without seeing(and hearing) at least one of them with feet up on the rails of its enclosure, looking around, and giving a loud and raucous “Baaaah”   to express whatever it is that goats think about all of the rest of us.   I understand that the billygoats have some disgusting personal habits and the bad rap that they have concerning body odor is often well-deserved, but the creamery itself was clean enough to perform surgery in when I saw it on the last tour.  The possibility of exotically-flavored   cheese samples may have entered into the desire to go there again.

Then there was a stop at the Sand Hill Stables, which I’ve been itching to get a look at for quite some time– the demos by the farrier(They’re the ones that work at shoeing horses, not blacksmiths) would have been instructive, I’m sure, my feet being what they are ,tours of Beckwith Orchards, Inc, that venerable fruit emporium in Franklin Twp, Brugmann Farms on Frost Rd. in Mantua(They’re not all about sand &gravel), and Lazy B, an apiary ( a place where bees are kept; a collection of hives or colonies of bees kept for their honey)on Ryder Rd. in Hiram Twp.—we all ought to know more about bees and what we can do for them, since they’ve been having a rough  time lately, what with the “colony collapse disorder” and the  profligate use of insecticides in agriculture   and shrinking  areas of wildflowers—or flowers of any kind—for them to forage for food.  The little buzzers have been having a time of it and we should pay attention because a very high percentage of the crops that we raise to eat depend upon the honeybee (genus : Apis ) and their cousins(seven species, 44 subspecies) of all sorts for pollination. And I missed it all!  Bummer!  Watch for it next fall; there aren’t that many farms/agricultural enterprises in Portage County any more.  We should support them  whenever we can; that’s what the Farm Bureau is all about doing in organizing these tours.

Which leads me to think that I’m going to actually get down to learning how to do things with my new phone…like keeping a calendar.  I have a calendar at home with space to write things in, which I try to do religiously(I’ve been excommunicated a few times) but if I don’t scribble a note somewhere when I’m out and about, then transfer it to the calendar when I get home, It’s anybody’s guess whether I’ll remember or not.  Notes on the grocery list are just not very reliable.  My brilliant plan for getting this phone thing accomplished is to take it to the next QuizMasters practice and have the kids instruct me on everything from calendar set-up to weather aps.  Heck, I could probably take it to the sixth-grade girls’ volleyball practice and get the same kind of help.  Ditto for the car; it does things I haven’t even discovered yet.

Missed World Pet Day on Sunday but the pets here are doing pretty well anyhow, except one of the original trio is heading for that last Big Lap in the Sky.  There’s only one cure for old.

I did go to the Thunder Over Aurora band show, which was fine and loud, as usual.  The official T-shirt this year was designed by a member of the Aurora flagline, utilizing caricatures of the  mascots of the participating schools—NDCL Lions, Southeast Pirates, Riverside Beavers(Riverside Regiment), Jackson Polar Bears(the Purple Army), the Garfield G-Men and the Aurora Greenmen .  There were the inevitable redundancies, two different bands playing the same tune, but the arrangements and instrumentations were so different that sometimes you could hardly tell.  Choreography abounds–on the flaglines and dance corps, by the instrumentalists, among majorettes(The Purple Army had a much-awarded feature twirler, she was really good)—everybody is “tripping the light fantastic” at the least provocation.  Calls to mind a line from an ancient ’40’s tune : “It must be jelly, ‘cuz jam don’t shake like that.”  Or maybe “Shake a Tailfeather” from the ‘60’s (It got into  the Disney film “Chicken Little in 2005, as well); there were plenty of shakos on the field.  There was—as occasionally happens at large gatherings–a little lost boy at intermission, a young sprout just sort of dripping tears, not sobbing yet but clearly in danger of heading that way.  A kind  young woman—she had a light green hoodie, so I assumed that she was an Auroran got him to the concession stand and the guys there relayed a call to somewhere to help find Mom ; everybody was very reassuring so the little fellow didn’t lose it, even after Mom did appear.  Actually, by that time, she was probably more likely to be teary than he.  And , Finally, I think that I shall  prod our athletic director (Look out, Mr. Pfleger) to find an equipment sponsor which will provide an “OFFICIAL golf cart” for big events at our school.  Those Greenmen have all the cool stuff…and the event was very well organized.  Thank you, Booster Parents!

Oh, and I saw T-shirts : Fear God. Love Your Neighbor.  Hunt Ducks…. Eclectic Genres…What does this mean?

Last weekend I had the chance to try an excellent Vidal Blanc white wine. Everything about it was perfect – the nose, the color, the taste and the finish. In fact, if I would have judged this wine just on the color, I would have assumed someone poured me a glass of water, it was so clear. Unfortunately someone in our party was disappointed that the color was so clear and felt that it might have been flawed. If we hadn’t sampled the wine, we might  have assumed that the winemaker filtered the wine too many times to strip the color from it, however, some white wines can be made so well that they are clear.

There are a few things, though, that you can learn about a white wine by looking at the color. First, when you are looking at the wine, make sure you have a white piece of paper or a white tablecloth as the background. Then tilt the glass at a 45 degree angle in front of the background. If a wine is golden or amber it may mean one of a number of things;

1) The wine is older. As white wine ages and depending on how well the wine is stored, any light on the bottle will start to impact the color.

2) The type of grape variety. Chardonnays tend to have a deeper or more amber color than a Vidal Blanc or Riesling.

3) The wine was aged in oak. By the nature of oak barrels, the white wine will pick up some of the color of the wood.

4) The wine has oxidized. This is the worse situation for a white wine to be in. If the bottle is not sealed correctly or has been open too long, the wine will start to turn an amber color and eventually a brown color. In this case, the wine usually tastes bad.

When we have attended wine tastings in the past it is always interesting to hear how people describe the color of white wine. I may say the wine is a pale yellow while you may feel it is gold. Similar to taste and smell, color is based on each person’s perception so there never is a “right” answer to what color a wine may be.

Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery located at 11325 Center Road, Garrettsville.  For more information on other wine topics  please visit www.candlelightwinery.com.

Ya know…ya can’t make this stuff up.

Some dude, a financier with AGI Capital in San Francisco named Jesse Herzog, has come up with something that he calls the “Suitsy”, which is a “onesie”—familiar to the parents-of-infants crowd—for adults, specifically, adult male business-types.  He claims it will appeal to guys who appreciate “class, convenience and comfort”. “Imagine looking professional but feeling like you’re wearing pajamas.”

The Suitsy is a jacket connected to a shirt, attached to pants with fake shirt cuffs showing at the end of sleeves and a zipper(hidden beneath the fake button placket; tie, belt and shoes are extra) running the length of the front exposure from neck to crotch.  Aye, there’s the rub, to shanghai Shakespeare, and “Hamlet”, into the conversation…in a one-piece garment—coveralls, anyone?–this critical location, the crotch (or “crouch” as Mama calls it in “Music Man”) tends to move in concert with the shoulders, up, down, whatever.  So anyone wearing a Suitsy should think twice about ever raising his arms, or even doing a major shrug.  Either that or have a specially-crafted one made with the crotch somewhere south of its customary position.  And you don’t think that anyone would notice that?

The other concern out there is about the whole zipper issue.  Think about it.  Ladies wearing Spanx have had to do this for quite some time.  It can make “intestinal distress” into a category 5 disaster.

One commentator remarked that it was as though a business suit and a jumpsuit had produced a lovechild.

Anyway, anyway…this dude is touting his invention/device/garment on a website called Betabrand(the promo says “Better Than Fresh Camel Milk”, so you just know they’re about serious stuff) that apparently kind of does market  surveys to see if some new ideas are worth considering for manufacture and distribution…and funding, of course.  At last count, the Suitsy had 375 votes.

And Jesse Herzog has had previous business experience; he once ran a hot dog shop in San Francisco named Zog Dog which put the first hot dog into space.  What?  You missed that?  Gotta get with the program if you’re going to get rich.

***And you might get rich if you’re into Sumo, Sumo wrestling.  Yes!  The United States is the biggest venue for amateur sumo wrestling outside of Japan.  As a matter of fact, the U.S. Sumo Open was just recently held at Cal State–Long Beach and was quite an event.  Yeah,  there were videos with big pounding drum sounds from a drum corps   considerably different from what we might see on a Friday night football scene, ads for sumo equipment, sponsors—Sapporo Premium Beer, Hazutsuru Sake (couldn’t read the Japanese last one)—cheering crowds…the whole enchilada—or sushi roll, if you want to go in a different ethnic direction.  They do weight classes, both men(70) and women(15) and it’s certainly something to watch those very large persons tossing each other about in the middle of that ring.  Clearly, though, it’s not just weight that carries the day.  A competitor must either push/pull/maneuver the opponent out of the ring or cause them to hit the canvas surface.  A lot seems to be about redirecting momentum to bring about the desired result, rather than simply overpowering and outweighing.  And speaking of weighing…do they use a truck scale or what?  Those folks are BIG!

The current reigning champ is—get out your Spellchecker—a Mongolian dude named Byambajav Ulambayar, who’s won the last seven titles.

Sumo may be becoming popular because it is QUICK, sometimes as little as 5 seconds for a match; no commercial breaks, no breaks in the action.  Scoring is simple : is he down? Is he out? No seventh-inning stretch needed.  The uniform sales might be a bit problematic, since the standard garment is pretty much a precision-folded loincloth( 30 ft., linen or cotton or silk); not something the average  Joe-Sumo would be likely to wear to the local adult-beverage emporium.  Oh, some individuals wear what looks sort of like bike shorts under the mawashi or mokko-fundoshi (literally, “earth-basket loincloth”) which is the usual attire, but there are several styles to suit personal preferences Where would one put the college/team logo?

*And finally, check out the bunch of teens that were in an SUV automobile accident when one of their number (the dumbest one) used a lighter to set the driver’s armpit hair on fire.

Like I said, you can’t make this stuff up.

Well, actually, it wasn’t all that wild but it definitely was interesting and fun.  The Portage County Park District is offering opportunities to scope out some of the features of the newly-funded (THANK YOU, VOTERS)county parks with knowledgeable  and  entertaining volunteer naturalists (or  one, at least, Thank you, Joe) to get a good look at just what’s out there.  There is a lot.

We got to see the fall flowers—goldenrod(several varieties), asters(lots of  colors and sizes), lobelia, to name a few.  We got to see lots of mushrooms, from decorative turkey tail shelf mushrooms to cute little red-topped poisonous ones (Amanita muscaria, red fly agaric, which contains the toxic, psychoactive alkaloid, muscimole which used to be left out in dishes to kill flies…probably bumped off a few  curious others as well)  and the  little, filament-like “fairy fingers”.  We got to see frogs and toads and spiders, mostly little-bitty guys.  We got to see an abundance of trees (What? You thought the place was paved?)and shrubs, both native and invasive species, a couple of stages on the succession of forests and the remnants of vernal pools.  No wild animals to speak of appeared to cross our path but a few had clearly been there for a woodland picnic because the bones of their appetizers were spotted in a couple of places and the odd one or two stray turkey feathers indicated that somebody was celebrating Thanksgiving early(and it wasn’t the turkey).

The day was perfect for an exploratory amble through field and/or forest.  Our ever-resourceful guide had fortified himself with a GPS app to make sure that we’d be getting back to where we’d started and not still be out there looking for a fenceline.  He also helpfully passed out laminated plastic cards describing the local tick population and what to do about them.  They certainly are ugly little buggers and they hang out with a murderer’s row of diseases—Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis(that’s always mentioned in the papers that you have to read before giving blood),Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis, Heartland Virus—not warm fuzzies that one would like to invite home.  Cats are about the wildest things that I can stand.

So….  That was Sunday.  On Saturday, the band—the James A. Garfield Marching Pride—went to the Solon Band Show and for the first time in recent memory, the evening was dry and , while cool, was   bearable, temperature-wise.  Mirabile dictu!  I tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve been on a bus packed full of band kids soaked to the skin and unable to get any concession-stand food that wasn’t drenched by the run-off from under the spectators’ seating.  Not a pretty picture!

Kudos to the Windham band, also in attendance, for showing what a rebuilding program and a lot of spirit can be capable of.  They did their school and their supporters and themselves proud.   The big  schools—Solon, Hudson, Kenston, for example—can blow down the walls but small can be MIGHTY mighty too.

The Marching Pride exemplified this as well, with a display of energy and enthusiasm and musicianship that captivates audiences.  One dude in the announcer’s booth said, “I love this band; they’re always so ON!”  That’s what I thought too.

And the kick-off(Ha!  That’s a joke, son.) to the weekend was—as always—the football game , with our first look at real football weather for this year.  Truth to tell, it wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the weather people were hinting prior to the first whistle.  Several times I heard dark hints about the  temperatures plunging after the warm week that we had earlier…incipient Polar Vortex, for sure!  More on that later; I now have both the Farmer’s Almanac and the Old Farmers’s Almanac, which, I have noticed have both hedged their bets by saying that this could all be a pile of brown stuff if the El Nino weather pattern kicks in…or pigs fly…or hell freezes over.

And speaking of cold….   It’s a tad chilly out in space, right?(Is this a segue or what?) And there are radiations of various sorts, right?  Well, fear not, Japan’s cartoon favorite feline and exemplar of the Kawaii (“cute”) culture, Hello Kitty (Her real moniker is Kitty White; the other is just a stage name), is whirling around way up there with a special space suit and paint job designed to protect from  UV and cosmic rays.  Yes.  The little white cat with a pink bow is cruisin’ in the Japanese nanosatellite(It’s really little), Hodoyoshi 3 and getting messages from various earthbound fans—one of said messages will be drawn by lot and broadcast every day, a different one every day, from space.  She went up on June 19; it was announced on August 12, probably to make sure that no misfortune came to the little 4cm  model   which was celebrating her 40th birthday.  Somebody spent $40million on this to boost Japan’s education and science industries.  I could have got them a much better deal to celebrate MY birthday for a mere $10 million.

Cake would be extra.

If you’ve left a bag of potatoes sitting around for a while, you might have noticed them starting to grow green, white, or somewhat purple sprouts. That’s the potato trying to grow into a new plant.

The sprouts themselves, as well as any green part of the potato, are home to a toxic alkaloid called solanine and must be removed. Eating them will make you sick – the National Library of Medicine even has a page on their website devoted to potato plant poisoning [http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002875.htm] – though it would take quite a few to do it. The solanine gives the potato a bitter taste, so it wouldn’t be worth eating anyway.

As long as the sprouted potatoes are still firm and haven’t started to shrivel up, there’s no reason to throw them away. Once the sprouts and any green part of the potato have been removed, it’s safe to eat.

You can also plant your sprouted potatoes, though “The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible” by Edward C. Smith recommends using seed potatoes (which are available from garden supply stores and were grown for the express purpose of being planted) rather than supermarket potatoes for gardening.

To inhibit sprouting and keep your potatoes in their best condition, store them in a cool, dark, dry place with ample ventilation.

For more information on growing potatoes, check out “Food Grown Right, in Your Backyard” by Colin McCrate and Brad Halm, “Ortho’s Complete Guide to Vegetables,” or “The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener” by Niki Jabbour, available at Newton Falls Public Library. If you’re looking to learn about the potato’s history, Andrew F. Smith’s “Potato: A Global History,” John Reader’s “Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent” and Michael Pollan’s “The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-eye View of the World” are all available through CLEVNET. For recipes, we have Kay Halsey’s “Potatoes” on the shelf here at Newton Falls. Or you could order Alex Barker’s  “Potato: The Definitive Guide to Potatoes and Potato Cooking” through CLEVNET and get information on potato cooking, gardening, and history.

For answers to your questions, visit the Newton Falls Public Library, 204 S. Canal Street, Newton Falls or phone 330-872-1282. For information about all the free library programs or hours, visit our website at www.newtonfalls.org or our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NewtonFallsLibrary.

The clock is ticking. Between now and April 30, 2016, 100% of 401(k) plans, profit sharing plans, and other tax-qualified plans that use an IRS-approved prototype plan document must be amended and restated.1

If this doesn’t occur by the above deadline, these retirement plans risk losing their tax-qualified status and the corresponding tax advantages they offer to plan participants. Any amendments to the current plan document must be incorporated into a fresh “core” document.1,2

Here’s your chance to refine your plan – to possibly lower its costs, to get more out of it. A little analysis from a consultant (and perhaps a little surveying of your plan participants) may allow you to answer some crucial questions.

Are the plan fees still reasonable? The required annual benchmarking gives you an opportunity to compare, contrast and see how they measure up vis-à-vis other plan providers.

Are employees nudging you about more provisions? Do they want a Roth option, or a chance to make in-plan Roth conversions? Are they able to take loans? Should non-spousal beneficiaries be eligible for rollovers?

Is there room for improvement when it comes to deductions and allocations? Is the business getting the maximum deduction? Do the highest-salaried workers often end up with percentages of their 401(k) deferrals refunded back to them?

Should the vesting schedule be revisited? Should you change from three-year “cliff” vesting to a six-year gradual vesting schedule, or vice versa? What benefits might result from such an alteration?

Have employee demographics at your business shifted? Do the plan participation criteria need adjusting? Is auto enrollment a good idea, and should there be an automatic escalation option?

This is the time to “look under the hood” of your plan. You will probably need to rewrite or at least notably revise your 401(k) plan document by the spring of 2016. Why not opt for a formal review of your 401(k) plan in the process? Some plans only permit changes at the start of a calendar year, so looking ahead now is quite wise.

Who has the ultimate responsibility to make sure that your plan complies with ERISA? You do.

Don’t risk controversy and possible legal action from plan participants as a result of inattention or procrastination. Ask today about a plan review – it could be very illuminating, and it could help you amend, reassess and improve your company’s 401(k).

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

Citations

1 – irs.gov/irb/2014-17_IRB/ar08.html [4/21/14]

2 – claconnect.com/Private-Client/Wealth-Advisory/2014-Tax-Qualified-Retirement-Plan-Restatement-Reasonable-Fees.aspx [4/1/14]

 

Signs of fall abound, a chill is  in the air,  you can see and hear the familiar V formation of geese flying south, Monarchs flit among the flowers making their way to Mexico, and  the woods are becoming quiet as many songbird species leave for winter. The autumnal equinox announces fall is officially here on September 23, 2014. But to many, Goldenrod, Solidago species, is synonymous with the final days of summer.

One of the most common wildflowers in North America, there are more than 100 species of this perennial plant native to North America. The name solidago means “to make whole” and Goldenrod has been used by many throughout history for medicinal purposes. Hence the common name “woundwort.” Goldenrods vary in height, with the shortest being S. brachystachys (under 12 inches) and the tallest topping out at 4 to 6 feet (S. rigida, S. gigantea, S. rugosa, and S. altissima), and all are characterized by  large clusters of small yellow flowers that appear from the end of summer until frost. Most species propagate by a dense spreading root system called rhizomes in addition to seed. Estimates range from twenty-two to twenty nine different species found growing naturally in Ohio. The majority of the species are found in sunny meadows especially S. canadenis (Canada Goldenrod) and S. graminifolia (Lance Leaved Goldenrod), but there are others quite at home in the partial shade of the woods,   S. flexicaulis (zigzag goldenrod), S. ulmifolia (elm-leaved goldenrod), and S. caesia (wreath goldenrod). There are also goldenrods growing only in bogs or fens (S. uliginosa, S. ohioensis, S. patula, and S. Tenufolia.

Goldenrod gets a bad rap from hay fever sufferers, when it is the Ragweeds (Ambrosia sp.), that should get the blame. Blooming at the same time as Goldenrod, ragweed is the real culprit for the misery of fall allergy season. Ragweed is pollinated by the wind, similarl to grasses, another allergy producer. Only by releasing billions of pollen grains into the wind can they ensure that some will find their way to the female flower of another ragweed plant and produce seed. Again similar to grasses, ragweed does not need visually attractive flower parts. They are an inconspicuous green color. People suffering from allergies in September look for a flower to blame and goldenrod get the rap because they are so visible and abundant. The pollen grains of goldenrod are relatively large, fat, and sticky so that they will adhere to visiting insects and be transferred by them to another flower and are not airborne.

Analogous to a food court at the mall, Goldenrods attracts every manner of insect. Since it is one of the last flowers of the season, bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, flies, and others visit for nectar and pollen. Monarch butterflies rely on the Goldenrod as they make their way to Mexico. Caterpillars, aphids, and other small insects eat the leaves and stems. Wasps, spiders, praying mantis, lacewings, ambush bugs, assassin bugs, beetles, and birds prey on the insects Goldenrod attracts.

Often visible in the winter, many goldenrod stems have strange growths present on their stem and/or at the top of the plant. These are called “galls” and are the homes of three different insects, the Goldenrod Stem Gall Fly, the Goldenrod Gall Moth, and the Goldenrod Gall midge. The larva overwinters inside the gall which provides protection and provides the larva with a food source. The round “apple” or “ball” gall is characteristic of the Gall Fly, the spindle shaped or “elliptical ” gall is characteristic of Gall Moth, and the strange growth at the end of stem of some Goldenrods is the result of the Goldenrod Gall Midge. Once again the Goldenrod provides an important source of food for over wintering birds. Woodpeckers and other birds have learned a tasty snack lives inside these galls and can be seen prying opening the galls during the cold winter months.

What’s in Franklin Bog?

9/28/14   Franklin Bog   2:00 pm -4:00 pm

No it’s not bigfoot or the creature from the Black Lagoon, maybe buried treasure?   Join Park District volunteer naturalist and we will search over hill and dale, well actually a “bog” to see what hidden gems might be lurking there.

Wild Hikes Challenge Guided Hikes Schedule

If you’d rather hike in a group, or learn a little more about nature along the way, please join us on the following naturalist-guided hikes—even if you’re not taking the Wild Hikes Challenge!

Sept. 21 – Chagrin Headwaters Preserve – 2:00 pm

Oct. 5 – Headwaters Trail Rt 700 – 2:00 pm

Oct 26 – Headwaters Trail Buchert Park – 2:00 pm

Nov 9 – Franklin Bog Preserve – 2:00 pm

More Nearby Nature

Dunes Hike  – September 20th at the Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve

Join the preserve manager as we ramble through one of Ohio’s most unique natural areas. This sand dune community is one of the very few remaining opportunities to see some of Lake Erie’s natural coastal features.  Fall is a great time to visit the beach and explore.  The hike will begin near the information kiosk at 10:00 am located just north of parking lot number 1 at the east end of the Headlands Beach State Park, 9601 Headlands Rd. Mentor, OH. This is a free hike and registration is not required. For more information contact Adam Wohlever at (330)-527-5118.

Fall Tree Identification Hike –  October 11th at Eagle Creek State Nature Preserve

Join the preserve manager as we take in the beauty of fall in one of NE Ohio’s most diverse nature preserves. This hike will include some basic tree identification skills and application as we trek through the upland forests and bogs of the preserve. The trees will be “showing their true colors” as we discuss the changes we see in the foliage this time of year. The hike will begin at 10:00am at the preserve parking lot located at 11027 Hopkins Rd. Garrettsville, OH. This is a free hike and registration is not required. For more information contact Adam Wohlever at (330)-527-5118

Kent Bog Fall Foliage Hike October 18th at Kent Bog State Nature Preserve

Join the preserve manager this fall as we explore the Kent Bog State Nature Preserve during a time of change. We will spend some of our focus on one of only two deciduous conifers in this region of the United States, the Tamarack. The hike will begin at 10:00am at the preserve parking lot located at 1028 Meloy Rd. Kent, OH. This is a free hike and registration is not required. For more information contact Adam Wohlever at (330)-527-5118

Autumn Wetlands Hike October 18th at Tinker’s Creek State Nature Preserve

Join the preserve manager as we explore the vast wetlands of Tinker’s Creek State Nature Preserve. We will discuss wetland ecology and take time to view the bald eagle nest. This is preserve can also be a spectacular location for any “leaf peepers”! The hike will begin at 1:00pm at the preserve parking lot located at 1230 Old Mill Rd.  Aurora, OH. This is a free hike and registration is not required. For more information contact Adam Wohlever at (330)-527-5118.

I guess its official – the end of summer is quickly approaching and the great holidays like Halloween and Christmas are even closer – or at least that’s how it appears at Walmart, Target, Giant Eagle and Jo Ann Fabric stores. What makes me even sadder is the number  of requests we are receiving to book Christmas parties, order Christmas party supplies and Christmas gifts. So, since everyone else seems to be ahead of the game, it’s time for me to get involved in the excitement.

How many of you will have to give a toast at the holiday party this year? Or maybe you have some other great party before the holidays you need to have a toast prepared. What do you do? What do you say? How do you give a toast? Well, thanks to stores for the reminder the first thing you need to do to give an excellent toast is to be prepared and give yourself ample time to write your toast. So, since the stores are preparing for the holidays, maybe now would be a good time to start thinking about that toast.

Now that you have all this time, what should you do next? I recommend writing down a couple of sentences as you think about the toast. You don’t need to sit for an hour and think about it but as you are preparing for the event, keep a pen and paper close by in case you come up with some ideas. Then a couple of weeks before you toast, compile the list of thoughts and start to compose your toast.

Remember – short and sweet is the key to a good toast. You are keeping your guests from food and drinks so no one wants to listen to a 30 minute toast while they see the food getting colder. Keep your toast positive, even if the economy hasn’t been the best this year, keep the troubles out of your toast – this is supposed to be a fun party.

When the day finally arrives to give the toast, take a few deep breaths. Then, as your time comes to toast the group, stand up straight and grab your glass. As you come to a close in your toast, be sure to end it with another positive sentiment and either “Cheers” or “To our guests” to signal that it is okay to drink.

Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery located at 11325 Center Road, Garrettsville.  For more information on other wine topics  please visit www.candlelightwinery.com.

Well , it’s not just about football, ya know.  Or volleyball or baseball or cross country or golf or soccer or any of those sports where you get all sweaty.  Much more refined than THAT.

Specifically, it’s the Sinquefield Cup Chess Tournament.  Held this last week in St. Louis, MO, the event saw a stunning  performance by Fabiano Caruana, a twenty-two-year-old Italian grand master(He became a grand master at the ripe old age of fourteen.)  Prior to this occasion he had been ranked third in the world by the FIDE (Federation Internationale des Eschecs…sort of the NFL of chess)but he took care of the number-one-ranked dude, Magnus Carlsen(age 23) of Norway (Who is also a model for advertising campaigns and was named one of the “sexiest men of 2013” by Cosmopolitan) in short order and went on to best such big names in chess as Veselin Topalov and Hikaru Nakamura.  He finished with seven…SEVEN…wins(in a row) and one draw in the tournament and won $100,000.  This is unheard of in chess competitions, where winning frequently is decided by the number of draws and losses—it’s soo hard to win outright against all of these “brainiacs”.  Judging from the ages of the top two finishers, it could be the beginning of a fierce competition   to go on for some time.

Then again, you never know.  Two competitors at the Chess Olympiad held in August in Norway kicked the bucket while the event was going on.  One, from the Seychelles had a heart attack at the venue, one, from Uzbekistan, was found dead in his hotel room.  Pressure’ll get to you.

No sweat!

And then, of course, there’s the Spanish Vuelta.  What, you’re not following the Spanish Vuelta?  It’s one of those European bicycle road races that we all care so much about at this time of year. (  Since Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France deceptions we’ve lost all interest.  They could –totally–be riding unicycles and wearing clown suits for all we know…or care.) Anyway, the latest stage winner (Not sure what that means either) is a speedy dude named Przemyslaw Niemiec.  Nice Irish kid, right?  Imagine first grade, being a little tyke riding to school on your bicycle—probably in a Polish neighborhood—and having to learn to write your name on your school papers.  Imagine being his teacher and having to pronounce the tiny tot’s name on the first day for roll call.  Whoooeee!  I survived Viggiani, Chaykowsky and Gruchewski but this guy might have given me pause for refection.

While you were on the road, should you have been traveling in Canada, you might have run into—oops! poor word choice—you might  have encountered hitchBot, a robot designed and , presumably, programmed by David Harris Smith of  McMaster University and Frauke Zeller(Who also produced an art critic robot named kulturBot) which was   hitchhiking across the country from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia.  Beginning on July 27 at the Institute for Applied Creativity at NSCAD (formerly Nova Scotia College of Art and Design),  it traveled 6000km (4000mi.) relying on the kindness of strangers and arrived  on the west coast on August 16.

It was originally plunked down by the side of the road at the airport in Halifax and within five minutes got a ride with a couple heading to camp in New Brunswick.  It then went on to crash a wedding celebration, join in a First Nations gathering, show off dance moves by doing the Harlem Shake at a festivity of some kind in Saskatchewan and become an international celebrity of sorts.

hitchBot can talk and has GPS capabilities.  Creators Smith and Zeller refer to it as “her”, so that’s what that’s about(Girls can do anything).  She survived having a cracked LED shield protector and by the end of the adventure her speech patterns had become a little more random (Heck. I get that way by the end of the DAY sometimes).  She’s got a beer barrel body(Been there, done that), yellow gloves—with one thumb up—for hands,  blue arms and legs, multicolored boots and red eyes—they wink –and she can smile.  She can carry on a conversation( with a brief quotation from Robert Frost) about as well as a lot of people I can think of.  She’s part of an investigation concerning the question of whether or not robots can trust humans and the functionality of Artificial Intelligence(The “real” kind seems to be getting pretty thin on the ground lately).  Her last ride around was with a gentleman named Steve Sxwithul’txw(Yup, that’s his name; he’s of the Salish Tribe  on the Pacific coast) who is a film producer, so we’ll probably soon see a documentary on hitchBot’s  trek across Canada.

I’d have picked her up

A patron was walking near the falls and grew curious about their history.

We were able to find a lot of information in “Fragments of History of Newton Falls and Newton Township, Ohio,” compiled, edited, and annotated by Wendell F. Lauth and the Friends of the Newton Falls Public Library and “History of Newton Falls,” compiled by Ella A. Woodward. “Fragments of History” even included a picture of the falls, circa 1900, with the Hoyle Woolen Mill on one side and part of the Eagle Mills on the left.

Mr. Canfield and Mr. Ruggles (no first names available) built a sawmill in 1806 on the site that would later house the Hoyle Woolen Mill. The woolen mill itself was built in 1825, enlarged and improved in 1843, and sold to Allen Hoyle in 1857. Under Hoyle’s ownership, it became well-known for the excellent quality of its products. According to “History of Newton Falls,” some of the blankets from the Hoyle mill were still around a hundred years later.

Canfield and Ruggles built the first grist mill (also known as a flour mill) in 1811, but a drunk man took refuge in it one winter night in 1817 and ended up burning it down.Twelve years later, Horace and Augustus Stephens (or Stevens, depending on the source) built the Eagle Mills, another grist mill, to take its place. The Stephens were bought out and their mill rebuilt by the Porter family in 1871, who renamed it the Eagle Mills of Porter and Sons.

Both the Eagle Mills and the Hoyle Woolen Mill seem to have been bought up by an electric company around 1908.

We’re fortunate enough to have a dedicated volunteer who works in the local history room most Wednesdays and may be able to pull more information and old pictures. Give us a call any Wednesday to see if she’s available!

For answers to your questions, visit the Newton Falls Public Library, 204 S. Canal Street, Newton Falls or phone 330-872-1282. For information about all the free library programs or hours, visit our website at www.newtonfalls.org or our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NewtonFallsLibrary.

Americans have a great deal of disposable income relative to many other nations, yet our free spending can take us further and further away from the potential for financial freedom. Some people fall into crippling spending habits and injure their finances as a consequence.

Bad habit: failing to save. Saving – saving even $50 or $100 a month – isn’t that hard under most financial conditions. Even so, some households don’t put much of a priority on building a cash reserve of some kind, a portion of which could be used for equity investment.

When you don’t make saving a goal, you don’t have any money to withdraw in a pinch – so if you need to get ahold of some money, where do you find it? Basically, you have three options. One, turn to friends or Mom or Dad. Two, divert money that would go toward a core need (food, rent, the heating bill) toward the sudden crisis. Three, charge your credit card. (There are other options, but they are best not explored.)

Good habit: save just a little, then a lot. You can start a savings campaign by saving “invisibly” – that is, just spending $10 or $15 or $20 less on a regular expense each month. Maybe two or three, even. That’s less than a dollar a day per expense. When your earnings climb further above your financial baseline, you can increase the amount you save/invest.

Bad habit: buying things on a whim. The correlation between impulsive spending and credit card use isn’t too hard to spot. Spending money you don’t have on material items that will soon depreciate doesn’t put you ahead financially.

Good habit: set a budget when you shop. As you arrive at the market, the mall or the local power center, arrive with a limit on what you will spend on that shopping trip and stick to it. Take an hour (or a day) to mull over any big buying decisions – are you buying something you really need? Lastly, use cash whenever you can.

Bad habit: living on margin. Living above your means, charging this and that credit card – this is a path toward runaway debt. You may look rich, but you’ll carry a big financial burden that risks being “out of sight, out of mind” in between credit card statements.

Good habit: strive for lasting affluence, not temporary bling. Possessions symbolize wealth to too many Americans. Real wealth is measured in accumulated assets. They aren’t usually visible, but you can count on them in the future, in contrast to ever-depreciating luxury goods.

Bad habit: buying unnecessary services. Cable subscriptions, extended warranties, service contracts for highly reliable items, health club memberships that translate into little more than an alternate place to shower – they all add up, they all siphon some of our dollars away each month. In many cases, we pay for options rather than necessities.

Good habit: evaluate who benefits most from those services. Are they benefiting the provider more than the consumer? Are they entrees to a “main course” – a steady, long-range financial exploitation?

Go against the norm – it might leave you a little wealthier. In April, Gallup found that 62% of Americans liked saving money more than spending it. Just 34% liked spending more than saving. This appreciation of frugality is relatively new. As recently as 2006, 50% of Americans told Gallup that they enjoyed saving more than spending with 45% preferring spending.1

If we love saving money, a key statistic doesn’t reflect it. According to the Commerce Department, the typical U.S. household was saving 4.8% of its disposable personal income in May. The personal savings rate for 2013 was 4.5%, the least in any year since 2007. Compare that to 6.7% across the 1990s, 9.3% across the 1980s and 11.8% during the 1970s.1,2

Perhaps many of us want to save but can’t due to financial pressures. Perhaps the economic rebound is encouraging personal consumption over saving. Whatever the reason, Americans on the whole don’t seem to be saving very much. That’s the status quo; going against it might help you build wealth a little more easily.

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

Citations

1 – gallup.com/poll/168587/americans-continue-enjoy-saving-spending.aspx [4/21/14]

2 – bea.gov/newsreleases/national/pi/pinewsrelease.htm [6/26/14]

I am so lucky to have so many friends that have beautiful gardens. From a variety of fruits, vegetables and even flowers, everyone’s gardens have been bountiful this year! And now, as harvest season is approaching the vineyard, many of you have already started to harvest your peppers, tomatoes, peaches, apples and many more foods. The amount of fruits and vegetables that my friends have given me this year has been amazing.

However, with all of this food it can be tough to pair wines with the variety of vegetables. As a fan of dry red wines, many fruits and vegetables seem to get lost in the heavy flavors of a dry red wine. So this harvest season I have started a few experiments that I thought I should share with you.

My first experiment was to make a garden salsa and figure out what to wine would be good match. I made two batches of salsa – a nice tame salsa of green, yellow and red peppers, tomatoes, celery, onions and cilantro. Then since I love spicy foods, I made a spicier salsa that included all of the items from my tame salsa but added about 5 different hot peppers to it.

Since there were so many different flavors in both salsas that any heavy bodied (Cabernets, Sangioveses, Chardonnays) would overpower the salsa. So I started with a crisp Riesling and paired it with the salsa. It was so good that I set aside some extra salsa and added a splash of Riesling to it as a marinade. Anytime I have a spicy dish I make sure that I have a good bottle of Gewürztraminer on hand.  The peppery finish from the Gewurztraminer really compliments the spicy peppers in the salsa.

I am also enjoying the chance to eat fresh salads topped with fresh fruit and vegetables. However pairing wine to a basic salad is difficult at times so adding this much flavor to a salad makes the pairing a little more difficult. Depending on the salad dressing, I usually stick to a Vidal Blanc wine. With a creamier dressing I try to go a little drier with a Sauvignon Blanc wine or a Pinot Gris. If you have a light dressing or even a fruit dressing (like a raspberry dressing) I bring out the Vidal.

Depending on the size of your garden you can also look at making wine from some of the fruit and vegetables. Next week I will share some of my favorite “fresh from the garden” wine recipes.

 

Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery located at 11325 Center Road, Garrettsville.  For more information on other wine topics  please visit www.candlelightwinery.com.

With the freshly made doggie biscuits out of the oven and cooling on top of the counter, Doodle Dog could smell the delicious flavors wafting from the trays, off the tippy top of the table and all the way down to puppy-sniffing level. He could see the steam rising from the still-warm treats as it swished and swirled above the cookie sheets, seemingly twisting and twirling with the yummy scents of the completed recipe. Weaving together on the wind, it appeared that not only were the smells dancing around the bakery kitchen but they were so excitedly looping from one spot to the next it looked as though they might just escape right out the window! Not only did the floppy-eared puppy’s gaze follow the silvery steam and his nose follow the airborne aroma as it circled around the cooking area, but as it went out the exit to the outside world, so did he, chasing it right into the garden behind the store. Still hot on the trail, Doodle Dog emerged from the back door of the bake shop to find that more wonderful whiffs awaited him.

Just beyond the bakery building, a patch of grass served as the perfect place for a picnic and several of the other culinary class participants were already settling in around a beautiful blanket spread over a section of the yard. The soft covering created a cozy space to land as Doodle Dog scampered toward his friends. But before he settled in he wanted to explore the assortment of odors mixing around him! He had been smelling the cookies for a while now, waiting patiently as they baked, and there was a plate near him ready for the picnic, but he couldn’t quite figure out the enticing scents mixing with those tasty treats. The floppy-eared puppy could still see the steam and smell the biscuits, and now his paws could feel the soft sod under him as he searched out this new flavor just tempting him to taste! But what was it and where was it hiding? He paused a moment to listen to the wind gently rustling in the leaves of the nearby trees hoping it would direct him but all he heard was the faint giggling of his friends getting comfortable on the colorful squares covering the ground. Hmmm…

Lush hedges bordered the yard, so high they were that the floppy-eared puppy couldn’t begin to look over them. He bet the taller humans wouldn’t even be able to try to see what was on the other side! Poking out of the thick foliage in its varying shades of green, tiny flowers peeked through as though they were bright polka-dots on someone’s shirt. Tucked into the leafy bushes, the buds seemed cozy and content, their colors calling out to the curious Doodle Dog who immediately snuck a sniff. There! The floppy-eared puppy eagerly bounced from one blossom to the next, promptly poking his nose into the center of each one and drawing in its delicious scent. All around the boundary of the backyard little flowers posed on display in their shrubbery frames and Doodle Dog was determined to smell them all. He was so excited in fact, as he scampered from petal to petal that he nearly forgot about the other source of his nose’s enthusiasm ~ the yummy treats he could actually eat! Distracted by the tempting scents and the eye-catching colors, the floppy-eared puppy didn’t hear his friends telling him the biscuits were ready for munching, nor did his tongue remind him how much he wanted to taste the peanut butter and pumpkin bites he’d made with his very own paws. Well, it probably did, but the floppy-eared puppy was doing a pretty good job ignoring it for the moment! But then, as the soft, silky petals tickled his nose, a leftover drop of dew, cold and wet, stuck to the top of Doodle Dog’s mouth and he instinctively licked it off. It reminded him of the icy treats they had put in the freezer and he suddenly remembered how much he had wanted to try them!

The floppy-eared puppy immediately bounded back to the blanket in search of those puppy popsicles and as soon as the picnic party was in sight he could see the display of everyone’s treats dotting the green grass like the flowers did in the wall of flattened trees. Doodle Dog was glad he could share the treats he helped make! And as everyone else brought their recipes to share too, the arrangement of edibles enticed even the most patient of pups.

Doodle Dog set about excitedly sampling each one, taking in their delicious smells and also the bakers’ gleeful smiles that came with them, each four-legged friend and human too gathered together to enjoy their handmade recipes just as wonderful as the unique posies nearby!

As the afternoon sky melted into its own evening blanket, Doodle Dog couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the summer as it melted into autumn.

 

According to the “Wild Discovery Guide to Your Cat,” a cat’s pregnancy will typically last between nine and ten weeks. They don’t start to look bigger until around four or five weeks, so if your cat’s very visibly pregnant, she’s probably quite well along. You can prepare a birthing box for her by cutting a hole in a clean, covered, cardboard box (low enough that she can use it as a door, but high enough that the kittens won’t be able to crawl out of the box right away – about five inches) and lining the bottom of the box with shredded newspaper and clean cloth. However, there’s no guarantee she’ll use it – strays tend to try to hide their kittens from people.

You can bring the mother cat in to be spayed once her babies are weaned – usually about five to six weeks after they’re born. It’s possible for her to get pregnant again while she’s nursing, though, so keep her separated from tomcats. The kittens can be spayed or neutered once they weigh at least two pounds [http://pets.thenest.com/spaying-cat-after-pregnancy-9707.html]. Sources vary on how old they need to be, anywhere from eight weeks to twelve, so it’s best to check with your veterinarian and see what they recommend.

Because spaying and neutering cats and dogs is vital in reducing the overpopulation problem that leads to so many homeless animals being euthanized, animal welfare programs provide a lot of resources to make it as easy and cost-effective as possible. The ASPCA provides a searchable database of low-cost spay/neuter programs across the country [http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/spayneuter] so you can find the one that’s most convenient for you.

Anyone considering taking in a cat or kitten is welcome to come check out Eric Swanson’s “We’re Having a Kitten!: From the Big Decision Through the Crucial First Year” and Wendy Christensen’s “Complete Guide to Cat Care,” both available here at the Newton Falls Public Library.

 

For answers to your questions, visit the Newton Falls Public Library, 204 S. Canal Street, Newton Falls or phone 330-872-1282. For information about all the free library programs or hours, visit our website at www.newtonfalls.org or our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NewtonFallsLibrary.

 

A first-world problem, and nothing more? Not quite. Getting rich quick can be liberating, but it can also be frustrating. Sudden wealth can help you resolve anxieties about funding your retirement or your children’s college educations, and newfound financial freedom can lead to time freedom – greater opportunity to live and work on your terms.

On the other hand, you’ll pay more taxes, attract more attention and maybe even contend with jealousy or envy from certain friends and relatives. You may deal with grief or stress, as a lump sum may be linked to a death, a divorce or a pension payout decision.

Windfalls don’t always lead to happy endings. Take the example of one Bud Post, who won more than $16 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988. Eighteen years later, he passed away owing more than $1 million after business failures and bad investments. Along the way, his girlfriend successfully sued him for some of the money and his brother hired a hit man to try and take him out, hoping to inherit some of those assets. That weird and tragic example aside, windfalls don’t necessarily breed “old money” either – without long-range vision, one generation’s wealth may not transfer to the next. As the Wall Street Journal mentions, on average 70% of the wealth built by one generation is lost by the next. Two generations later, an average of 90% of it disappears.1,2

So what are some wise steps to take when you receive a windfall? What might you do to keep that money in your life and in your family for years to come?

Keep quiet, if you can. If you aren’t in the spotlight, don’t step into it. Who really needs to know about your newfound wealth besides you and your immediate family? The IRS, the financial professionals who you consult or hire, and your attorney. The list needn’t be much longer, and you may want to limit it at that.

What if you can’t? Winning a lottery prize, selling your company, signing a multiyear deal – when your wealth is publicized, expect friends and strangers to come knocking at your door. Be fair, firm and friendly – and avoid handling the requests yourself. (That first, generous handout may risk opening the floodgate to subsequent handouts). Let your financial team review appeals for loans, business proposals, and pipe dreams.

Yes, your team. If big money comes your way, you need skilled professionals in your corner – a CPA, an attorney and a wealth manager. Ideally your CPA is a tax advisor, your lawyer is an estate planning attorney and your wealth manager pays attention to tax efficiency.

Think in stages. When a big lump sum enhances your financial standing, you need to think about the immediate future, the near future and the decades ahead. Many people celebrate their good fortune when they receive sudden wealth and live in the moment, only to wonder years later where that moment went.

In the immediate future, an infusion of wealth may give you some tax dilemmas; it may also require you to reconsider existing beneficiary designations on IRAs, retirement plans and investment accounts and insurance policies. A will, a trust, an existing estate plan – they may need to be revisited. Resist the temptation to try and grow the newly acquired wealth quickly through aggressive investing.

Now, how about the next few years? What does financial independence (or greater financial freedom) mean for you? How do you want to spend your time? Should you continue in your present career? Should you stick with your business or sell or transfer ownership? What kinds of near-term possibilities could this open up for you? What are the concrete financial steps that could help you defer or reduce taxes in the next few years? How can risk be sensibly managed as some or all of the assets are invested?

Looking further ahead, tax efficiency can potentially make an enormous difference for that lump sum. You may end up with considerably more money (or considerably less) decades from now due to asset location and other tax factors.

Think about doing nothing for a while. Nothing financially momentous, that is. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sudden, impulsive moves with sudden wealth can backfire.

Welcome the positive financial changes, but don’t change yourself. Remaining true to your morals, ethics and beliefs will help you stay grounded. Turning to professionals who know how to capably guide that wealth is just as vital.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

 

Citations

 

1 – money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2014/01/24/5-things-to-do-if-you-receive-a-windfall [1/24/14]

2 – tinyurl.com/qblyk6v [3/8/13] 

 

Well…seasons have started…football season, soccer season, volleyball season, cross country season,  interscholastic golf season (The regular duffers have been going at it all summer), marching band season…you name it, the season has started.  School is like the opening gun for all sorts of stuff.

There are, however, plenty of competitions out there which we “wot not of”.  Such as:

Amazon has just agreed to pony up a ton of money–$970 million—for some outfit called Twitch which makes it possible for video gamers to watch—just watch, not play themselves—other video gamers play…what else?…video games!  This is causing great commotion in the online world for some reason and many of the big names—whatever they are, in the online gamers world are all a-buzz about it.   I am not one of these people.

Let us get this straight; people can get on their computers to watch other people play video games.  Just what IS it that these watchers DO?  They don’t have to even move their fingers, just barely their eyeballs.  Do the actual players get any feedback on their play?  Are there electronic/digital cheerleaders chanting algorithmic encouragement from the in-the-cloud sidelines?  Any rain delays when a server goes down?  The questions have only just begun to roll in.

On the other hand, there will be no ambulances with emergency medical staff standing by in case of injury.  The playing field, such as it is, acts as its own scorekeeper and referee, so there will be no overheated spectators booming out insults about the officials’ suspect ancestry or eyesight.  No more trekking to the concession stands for sustenance, you can set up your screen to watch next to the refrigerator and/or microwave and never have to brave the cruel outside air.  You can watch in your Jammies and who’ll be the wiser.  And as evolution marches onward, humankind will devolve into creatures with two  myopic eyes, three fingers on each hand(Those two on the ends don’t do much on a keyboard or controller anyway)and enormous butt-ends to sit upon in front of the ubiquitous screens that are part of the sports scene.  What a picture!

On the other hand, there are the World Tug-of-War championships presented by the World Tug of War International Federation (more than one; divisions by weight class—in kg—and gender) drawing participants and spectators from all over the world.  This past weekend the big competition, sponsored by the United States Tug of War Association, was held in Madison, Wisconsin, the fourth time that it has been staged in the U.S.(Oshkosh, WI—1984, Rochester, MN—1998, 2004).

Pretty much the opposite of the abovementioned sport (?) competition, this features teams of eight pullers per team who have to be weighed in—and stamped on the wrist and thigh—before the contest to ensure the weight requirements are met.  All pulling is done bare-handed—oy—no sitting is allowed( there are officials who issue cautions if this does occur and three cautions equal a disqualification and a loss of the match.  In  the videos on YouTube, the teams sort of resemble sixteen-legged insects with  uninspired choreographers; legs on the left, step, legs on the right, step, everybody LEAN BACK.  The noise is pretty visceral too, mostly uuuhhh, uuuhhh, UUUHHH—in unison.  Coaches (called drivers) can stand alongside their team, sort of like a coxswain in front in rowing( or wrestling coaches yelling “Chicken wing!  Chicken wing!), and  speed up the count or direct the lean or whatever—all pretty sweaty work    from the look of it.  Not where one might expect to see ladies’ teams but they’re on deck too and just as determined.  Ladies don’t sweat, they “glow”.

Actually, the tug of war was part of the Olympics when the modern games restarted in 1896 and had a considerable history from as far back as ancient China and classical Greece…not to mention tales of the Vikings pulling animal skins over pits of fire to decide who got what share of the plunder from hapless European peasants.  After the 1920 games the number of sports was reduced and the tug of war got the ax.  It is regularly  a part of the World Games, where teams from Egypt, Cambodia, Japan, Sweden, Ireland, Scotland and everywhere else get into the act.

Injuries resulting from accidents in tug of war can be rather gruesome, back strains being the least of a participant’s worries.  Not so much concussions as amputations ,caused by the ropes snapping or getting wrapped around the wrong thing.  Uh-oh!

Makes one pine for the good old days of Tiddly-winks

…and speaking of winks ….

We haven’t  yet seen a bikini coffee bar in the neighborhood.  It’s the latest thing in some locales.  Somehow the thought of a “Peek-A-Brew” or “Natte Latte” in Portage County isn’t really flying in my imagination but you never know.

 

Not one of my better weeks; suffice it to say that I’m now looking for a new car and not a rehab facility.  That’s the good part.  Time to move on.

The rollercoaster begins again : school is starting!  Whooeee!  Anyone got an office/coffee klatsch/bowling league/civic group/ neighborhood betting pool going on whether the newly -added-on-to Garfield Elementary School will make it to open in time?  Well, it’s GOT  to, of course.  Time and tide and fifth graders wait for no man.  There will be, undoubtedly, opportunities for volunteers to step up to the plate and help move all of the miscellaneous stuff stashed all over the district buildings into its appointed places in the Elementary School.  Stay tuned on that one.

The Portage County Randolph  Fair is on–on the same week as the Lorain County Fair in Wellington, Ohio( often still referred to as the “Wellington Fair”).  They have similar histories, actually.  Once upon a time in each of the counties there was a county fair and the Randolph  Fair / Wellington Fair.  Folks took their prize-winning peach pies or their fattest hogs to whichever festivity was closer or had the best prizes (or the least competition).  Then the real estate prices got to rising to the point that there was NO point in using prime acreage just once a year for the fair and so the “more rural” location became the de facto county fair location and the state of Ohio Agricultural Society declared that it would only support and sanction the awards given at official county fairs.  A couple of fires on the fairgrounds might have contributed to the switch as well.

Some years I can make it to both of them, some years, not.  The Lorain County Fair is my old stomping grounds.  In my misspent youth I garnered a 4-H pin that attested to the fact that I had made the best apron—brown and orange print, it was—in the county .Take THAT, Martha Stewart!  It was stunning, I’m sure.  The dress that I made, not so much. (All of my handmade items—potholder, tea towel, whatever,   tended to have kind of brownish edges  where I had to take out and re-stitch with my grubby little hands; laundering was another skill learned at this time.)  It was an interesting twist of fate that one summer  when I was young and foolish(I’m older now; we won’t go into the rest)and recently moved to Garrettsville, I consented to assist in being the advisor to the girls’ 4-H sewing club in town.  Mrs. Ford was the real advisor, I think that she just wanted help with crowd control.  At least I don’t remember anyone sewing through a body part as I did with the edge of my thumb.

I also have a cherished set of three GENUINE Swiss cowbells that I, or, rather, my livestock won in the cattle competitions over the years.  Trophies be darned, we were showing Brown Swiss cattle and the Brown Swiss Breeders Association wasn’t handing out some chintzy plastic trophies.  Two of the bells came mounted on little wooden  cradles, the other one came on a leather strap that a Swiss cow would wear up on the mountain.(Anybody remember Heidi?  She did goats, I think.  Same principle, you can’t milk the creatures unless you can find them; that’s what the bells were for.  To be honest, cows OR goats will usually head home when it’s milking time.  Like looking for a rest stop on the turnpike, there’s a certain discomfort factor involved, if you get my drift.)  Anyway, they do make a really, really loud noise at a football game…or anywhere else for that matter.

Now-a-days, I notice there are camping set-ups all over the fairgrounds in designated areas for the kids and their parents to stay overnight to keep an eye on their animals.  Back in the day when I was one of the 4-H ‘ers with a project, only the BIG boys were to be found around the barns after, say, ten o’clock and they were usually sleeping with the cows…which is O.K. if the cows are sleeping too but getting stepped on in the middle of the night by a half-ton milk-producer-in-training is no picnic, I’ll tell you.  Cozying up to the livestock doesn’t do much for one’s personal hygiene ratings either but this was trumped by the “cool” factor of getting away with hanging out at the fairgrounds basically unsupervised and the subsequent opportunities for making up big fat lies about whatever it was that the guys did there.  There are, at least, shower facilities available at most fairgrounds which allow overnight stays.  Still, it doesn’t hurt to stay upwind until the campers can be checked out.

Other exciting things can happen at the fair too.  Thursday evening used to be the Junior Fair Parade, where the kids showing livestock of all sorts—calves, cows, goats, sheep, horses, ponies (Not many chickens were in the parade)—would bring their animals to one entrance to the racetrack, walk them past the grandstand(To frenzied applause of relatives and friends) and exit out the other side entrance and, thence, back to the barns.  One fateful year the affair was going on, even as big purple clouds were gathering …and gathering…and piling up…and darkening in the west.  The wind picked up and we were hustling along, hoping to get to the other side before all hell broke loose; a vagrant breeze caused the blue ribbon on my calf’s halter to flutter, the lightening cracked, the thunder rolled and that headstrong bovine decided right then and there that she’d had enough and was heading for home …NOW!  Rain or no rain, she was outta there.  I was hanging on to the halter strap for dear life and running as fast as I could, considering that she had four feet and I had only two ,which were only touching the ground on a part-time basis.  Luckily, my dad had anticipated a fiasco of this nature, was at the exit and managed to get a hand on both of us to slow things down just a tad.  We were soaked, of course, by the time we reached the barn—much faster than we had left it—but at least we got back there; there were others attempting to round up critters for quite a while after that.  Long live the fair!

Apropos of nothing at all except the virtue of proofreading is this notice in a newspaper about a 4-H fundraiser : Small Animal Pancake Breakfast.  So…are these pancakes made in the shapes of bunnies or pygmy goats or chickens…or do the pancakes contain hamster toes or duck eggs or goose grease…or are the foods being made by sheep chefs or a pony maitre patissier or an alpaca cook at the grill?

Make you think…right?  Somebody get Disney on this.

The stock market may be up and down this year, but America’s economic recovery seems to be proceeding at a decent pace. Anyone who wants some evidence of that can find it in some key fundamental indicators.

Pessimists may counter: didn’t the economy grow just 0.1% in the first quarter? Indeed, that was the federal government’s initial estimate – but the initial estimate of quarterly GDP is twice revised, and often drastically so. Other key indicators point to a healthier economy, and some suggest that March and April were better than presumed.1

Jobless claims reached a 7-year low this month. They decreased to pre-recession levels at last, with a seasonally-adjusted 297,000 applications received in the week of May 3-10, the fewest in any week since May 2007. Economists Reuters polled thought 320,000 claims would appear.2

Hiring has picked up. April saw employers hire 288,000 people with gains in the manufacturing, construction, and professional/technical sectors. Even state and local governments hired.1

From November to April, non-farm payrolls grew by an average of 203,000 jobs per month. From January through April, the gain averaged 214,000 jobs per month. That is the kind of steady growth that pulls an economy out of the doldrums.1,3

Yes, the jobless rate hit a 5½-year low in April partly due to fewer jobseekers – but when fewer people look for work, it often translates to an indirect benefit for those in the hunt. That benefit is higher pay. Analysts think noticeable wage growth might be the next step in the labor market recovery.1

So has consumer spending. With a 0.9% increase (0.7% in inflation-adjusted terms), March was the strongest month for personal spending since August 2009. While the gain on April retail sales was just 0.1%, the March advance was just revised up to 1.5%, representing the best month for retail purchases in four years.3,4

The sequester is in the rear-view mirror. Major federal spending cuts probably exerted a significant drag on the economy in 2013. In 2014, they are gone.

The manufacturing & service sectors keep growing. The Institute for Supply Management’s globally respected monthly PMIs monitor these sectors. ISM recorded economic activity in the U.S. manufacturing sector expanding for an eleventh straight month in April; its service sector index has recorded growth for 51 straight months.5,6

Inflation is normalizing. In the big picture, inflation is not necessarily a negative. At the turn of the decade, our economy faced notable deflation risk. The euro area is still facing it today – as of April, consumer prices there had risen just 0.7% in a year. A return to moderate inflation is expected as the economy recovers. Interest rates should move higher, and in the long run, higher interest rates should lend a helping hand to the savings efforts of many households and the incomes of many retirees.7

Pending home sales went positive again in March. Before the 3.4% gain in that month, this leading indicator of housing market demand had been negative since last June. An increase in contracts to buy homes speaks to a pickup in residential real estate. The gain brought the National Association of Realtors’ pending home sales index to a reading of 97.4 in March, close to its origination (or “normal”) mark of 100.8

Some analysts think Q2 should bring solid expansion. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expect GDP to hit 3.5% this quarter, and in the Wall Street Journal’s May poll of 48 economists, the consensus was for 3.3% growth in Q2.3,9

More inflation pressure, tightening by the Federal Reserve … how can that be good? In the short term, it will likely hamper the stock market and the housing market. In fact, the Mortgage Bankers Association has been tracking a reduction in demand for home loans, and that and any wavering in consumer spending may lead the Fed to ease a little longer or less gradually than planned (news Wall Street might welcome).7

Normal is good. Over the past several years, we have witnessed some extreme and aberrational times with regard to market behavior and monetary policy. A little equilibrium may not be so bad.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

 

Citations

 

1 – mercurynews.com/business/ci_25684116/u-s-has-best-month-job-gains-two [5/2/14]

2 – reuters.com/article/2014/05/15/idUSLNSFGEAGK20140515 [5/15/14]

3 – marketwatch.com/story/sales-at-us-retailers-barely-rise-in-april-2014-05-13 [5/13/14]

4 – tinyurl.com/q88a338 [5/1/14]

5 – ism.ws/ISMReport/MfgROB.cfm [5/1/14] 

6 – ism.ws/ISMReport/NonMfgROB.cfm [5/5/14] 

7 – blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2014/04/30/macro-horizons-all-eyes-on-fed-but-central-banks-overseas-more-interesting/ [4/30/14] 

8 – usnews.com/news/business/articles/2014/04/28/contracts-to-buy-us-homes-up-1st-time-since-june [4/28/14]

9 –  projects.wsj.com/econforecast/#ind=gdp&r=20 [5/14]

If you’re planning a trip in this last stretch of summer and you want to plan ahead and find out how much cash you’ll need to pay the tolls, you’re in luck. Every state we’ve checked has a website with a fare calculator. Ohio’s, for example, is at http://www.ohioturnpike.org/travelers/fare-calculator/. While the sites are all set up a little differently, they all give you the option to choose your vehicle class as well as the points that you’ll be getting on and getting off the toll road. If applicable, the sites also provide the fares for toll bridges.

We have another patron who’s planning to walk around the entirety of Lake Erie next spring. He wanted to know if he could walk across the bridges in Detroit and Niagara Falls that cross from the United States into Canada. Again, we were able to go to the websites of the bridges in question and find the tolls listed there. While the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls lists a fifty-cent charge for pedestrians and bicyclists [http://niagarafallsbridges.com/], the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit only gives charges for motorcycles and automobiles, so our patron will most likely need to find a ride across.

For avid travelers, we have an assortment of travel guides available for borrowing, including “The Rough Guide to the USA,” “Lonely Planet USA,” “Lonely Planet Canada,” and “Off the Beaten Path: Ohio.” Though it’s in our reference collection and not available for checkout, we also have the most recent Rand McNally Road Atlas here for anyone to page through.

 

For answers to your questions, visit the Newton Falls Public Library, 204 S. Canal Street, Newton Falls or phone 330-872-1282. For information about all the free library programs or hours, visit our website at www.newtonfalls.org or our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NewtonFallsLibrary.

 

So…I’m thinking that my gardening endeavors are in need of divine intervention—for the fungus or whatever it is that’s devastating the hollyhocks  and the tomatoes, the slugs and/or whatever is feasting on the berry bushes, the infant poison ivy that seems to be popping up all over the place, the ”sweet violets”, AKA Chameleon plants that are sending out their smelly but vigorous roots everywhere but in the “dead zone” where I’d like them to move in—and I was reading a murder mystery involving a public garden with a statue of a holy fellow called St. Fiacre(Irish–Fiachra, Latin—Fiachrius) patron saint of gardeners (…and maybe cab drivers…who knew?).    Why not give him a shot?

Well, maybe not.  There’s more to the guy than one might think.  He’s not just a second-string St. Francis.  Mercy, no.

So, the saints tend to have specialties.  If you want to sell your home and the bids aren’t coming, you can appeal to St. Joseph; bury a statue of him in the back yard—upsidedown– and first thing you know you’re calling the movers.  ‘S’truth.  St. Jude specializes in lost causes, just ask Danny Thomas, that’s why he named that hospital after him.  St. Genevieve is the patron saint of cats because she was originally invoked to protect  grain stores against rats and mice( I need to speak to her).  St. Patrick watches out for snakes, engineers and Ireland.   St. Wenceslaus looks out for brewers.  St. Isidore of Seville has even been called upon to take an interest in computers and the internet; the list goes on.

So St. Fiacre (That’s St. Fiacre of Breuil, not the other two guys), whose feast day is approaching on August 30, has some , shall we say…interesting…areas of consideration.

St. Fiacre is, number one, the patron saint of gardeners, those who raise vegetables and/or medicinal plants.  Statues of him often depict him with a staff , masses of blooms and a bunny.   He was granted as much land as he could entrench in one day to build an oratory for the Blessed Virgin and a hospice for travelers.  Instead of digging , as the grantor no doubt expected, he simply dragged his staff along the ground and the soil turned itself over—the ditch dug itself!  Anyway, the good man dealt with all manner of travelers’ complaints and seemed to specialize in urology and proctology, particularly sufferers from venereal diseases (Probably why his name is seldom given to helpless children).  Also, riding distances on a horse, mule or donkey , or camel, for that matter, was certainly no easier then than now, so the good man’s intercession was implored for those afflicted with hemorrhoids (known in medieval times as “St. Fiacre’s figs).  Do we want this guy hanging around?  Sounds like his expertise is not really focused on fungus and slugs.

And, besides that, I think that I might have a word with St. Ambrose; Saint Ambrose is the patron of beekeepers.  Not sure whether he has any influence with the non-honeybee (genus : Apis) critters but I was sure in need of somebody who had some recently.

I had placed an out-of-service litter box on the back porch in hopes of encouraging a semi-feral momma-cat in the neighborhood to have her litter there where we could get a hand on them and socialize just a little.  No such luck.  So the box sat there, upside-down facing the wall, abandoned, for all intents and purposes.

Sunday I went out to clean up the porch for expected company—sweep, straighten up, that sort of thing—took a broom with me; good thing.  When I bumped the box, what I had thought was just an idle bee or two buzzing around exploded into a swarm of really, REALLY angry critters that thought I was attacking their homeland and THEY were going to put a stop to it.  Whooeee!  Sure did!  I beat a hasty retreat, swatting all the way, and got the heck out of there.  From a somewhat safer spot I looked back to see what the situation was then fetched my broom to get the box, the rug and the bees off of the porch an out onto the lawn where they could be dealt with a little more safely.  Not a one-shot deal!  Took about three tries, slapping as we went, to get the box and rug out but some of the bees…yellow jackets, whatever they were…were sticking around, just hopping mad and itching for a fight, flying around their former location, stingers at the ready.  Finally, what did the trick was the garden hose.  I washed what was left of their real estate out of there and brought out the insect spray to convince them to look for new digs.  Still took them about an hour to give up and move on.  The remains of their apartment building are out on the lawn until I’m sure they’ve gone for good.

The adventure was not without injury.  I got stung about four times but only one seems to be actually swelling up.  The last time I remember and event like this, I was stacking hay on a wagon  when the baler ran over a nest on the ground.  Zoweee!  Those bees were just as mad  but I was a lot faster then.  We—my sister and I—shot from of that wagon and took off for parts unknown, shedding our long-sleeved shirts as we went.  Finally wound up in the creek, dropped trou’ and put mud on the stings where the bees had gone up our pants and shirts.

Who says that living in the country is boring?

 

If you want significant reward, you will have to assume some risk. Anyone investing in securities – particularly stocks and funds – must accept that reality.

Investing in the markets gives you an opportunity to accelerate the growth of your savings and outpace inflation, and you definitely want that chance – but how do you cope with the risks linked to it?

Here are the four varieties of investing risk – and tactics that may help you manage or counteract them.

Diversification & concentration risk. This occurs when a portfolio isn’t varied enough. Some investors have everything in a handful of stocks or a couple of funds representing just one or two “hot” market sectors. If macroeconomic factors hurt those companies or industries, that undiversified portfolio may suffer a major setback. Even a bad earnings season may do significant damage.

Tactic: Diversify across asset classes, moving money into funds that provide broader market exposure. Avoid a glut of holdings in a given sector – even a sector everyone insists is “hot.” The flavor of the month can sour next month. Broad diversification gives investors a chance to capture gains in different market climates, and sets them up for less pain if a particular sector or asset class dives.

Reinvestment & timing risk. All investors would like to buy low and sell high, but some succumb to impatience and leap in and out of the market. In attempting to time the market, they end up hurting the long-range performance of their portfolios. The weakness of buying high and selling low has caused too many investors to miss the best market days. Besides that, bond investors commonly face reinvestment risk – the hazard that a bond’s coupon will end up reinvested someday in a lower-yielding security.

With regard to stocks, here are some long-term statistics worth noting. Standard & Poor’s research shows that if a hypothetical investor had simply parked $10,000 in an index fund mimicking the S&P 500 on January 1, 1994 and just watched it for 20 years, he or she would have wound up with $58,350 at the end of 2013. If the same investor was out of the market for just five of the top-performing days during those 20 years, he or she would have amassed only $38,723. Investment research firm DALBAR estimates that from 1991-2010, the average mutual fund investor earned 3.8% a year compared to an average 9.1% annual return for the S&P – and that 5.3% difference no doubt relates to buying high and selling low.1,2

Tactic: Instead of jockeying in and out of stocks and funds, buy and hold while scheduling consistent income through bond laddering. Use dollar cost averaging to pick up more shares of quality companies in down markets, with anticipation that they will be worth more in better times. Employ tax loss harvesting: harvest losses to offset capital gains, with the objective of bettering the after-tax return of your taxable investments.

Credit quality, interest rate & inflation risk. As you invest in the bond market, these three risks must be watched. A corporate bond’s rating (credit quality) may be downgraded by S&P or Moody’s, for example, implying a greater default risk for the bond issuer and signaling less certainly that you’ll redeem all coupons and principal. Interest rates can climb, sending bond prices south. Rising inflation can turn a bond that seemed like a “can’t lose” investment years ago into a loser at the date of maturity.

Tactic: Use individual bond issues in a laddered strategy and/or target maturity bond funds; think about zero-coupon or revenue muni bonds, or explore hybrids like preferred securities or structured notes.

General market risk. Anyone with a foot in the markets must recognize systemic risk – the potential that many or all market sectors may be riled by shocks such as a geopolitical crisis, an act of terrorism, a recession or a natural disaster. How do you cope with that?

Tactic: If you hold stocks that have logged significant gains, consider adopting a collar strategy for them – that is, writing a call option and purchasing a put option on equivalent shares. This move essentially gives you a covered call and a protective put and targets two exit prices for the underlying stock. Collars can be highly useful when volatility strikes Wall Street, and they may let you hedge positions in certain funds when conditions turn bearish. In the bigger picture, you could look into a core-and-satellite approach to investing: passively managed investments at the core of a portfolio, actively managed investments as the “satellites” seeking greater returns in different market climates under the guidance of a skilled money manager.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

 

Citations

 

1 – fc.standardandpoors.com/sites/client/wfs2/wfs/article.vm?topic=6064&siteContent=8339 [5/5/14]

2 – cbsnews.com/8301-505123_162-57402744/why-investors-are-their-own-worst-enemy/ [3/26/12]

3 – news.morningstar.com/classroom2/course.asp?docId=3035&page=4&CN=com [5/8/14]

 

We checked the Milton Township website [http://www.miltontownshipohio.org], which includes information on its history. From the website, we learned that Milton Township was originally home to the Erie Indians until the Iroquois Confederacy went to war with them in 1653. Settlers, including Nathaniel Stanley, Aaron Porter, and John Van Netten, arrived in 1803. The town was one of the most sparsely populated in Mahoning County until development of the lake began.

However, not finding any information on the origins of the town’s name, we brought in reinforcements and called the reference librarian at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. The librarian we spoke to was extremely friendly and willing to help. Since she didn’t know off the top of her head either, she consulted “Ohio Place Names” by Larry L. Miller. According to Miller’s book, Lake Milton most likely takes its name from Milton, Connecticut, which makes sense given that it was originally part of the Connecticut Western Reserve.

As it turns out, we have a copy of “Ohio Place Names” here in the library. Out of curiosity, we looked up Newton Falls and found that it was originally just called “Falls.” The “Newton” was added later, either in reference to Newtown, Connecticut, or to honor Eben Newton, an 1812 schoolteacher.

If you’re interested in knowing where your own town’s name comes from, feel free to give us a call or stop by!

 

For answers to your questions, visit the Newton Falls Public Library, 204 S. Canal Street, Newton Falls or phone 330-872-1282. For information about all the free library programs or hours, visit our website at www.newtonfalls.org or our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NewtonFallsLibrary.

 

pizza pocketsOur summer has been filled to the brim with softball games, family road trips, and impromptu picnics around town. To make packing lunches a little easier, we decided to make some homemade sandwich pockets to keep on hand. They are a quick lunch or snack at home, and are an easy, healthy option to pack up for quick picnic fare. As an added bonus, this recipe is simple for kids to help at any step — by measuring ingredients, mixing & rolling dough, choosing & adding filling, sealing, and topping with seasonings.

Pocket Sandwiches (adapted from abeautifulruckus.com) 

Makes 10 Pockets

3 cups flour

1/4 cup powdered milk

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 tablespoon yeast

1 cup warm water

Diced, cooked meat and/or veggies

shredded or sliced cheese

 

2-3 tablespoons of milk to brush tops of pockets (and help adhere sprinkles)  more cheese or spices for topping, including parmesan cheese, garlic powder, Italian spices, etc.

Combine flour, powdered milk, sugar, salt, yeast, and water in a stand mixer or in a bowl and knead well.

Once the dough is well combined, divide it into 10 equal portions. Take each portion, and roll with a rolling pin to form rectangles. Top each rectangle with filling, and then fold in the sides and ends to create a pocket. Place pockets, seam side down, on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Brush with milk, then top liberally with cheese and seasonings of choice. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly brown.

Serve while warm, or cool completely, then wrap and store in the freezer.

With one batch, we chose pepperoni and mozzarella cheese filling, topping with pizza spices and grated Parmesan cheese. My taste-testers gave these two thumbs up served warm, with or without marinara sauce. For another batch, we filled with ham and cheddar cheese, topping with shredded cheddar, and these, too, were a hit. They’re great at room temperature, and simple for kids to warm in the microwave for a quick bite.

Additional savory filling options we’d like to try include diced chicken, cooked broccoli & cheddar cheese, scrambled eggs & sausage, grilled vegetables & shredded cheese. Really, whatever flavor combinations your family enjoys will probably make tasty hot pocket fillings. Sweeter filling options could include cream cheese & berries, or Nutella & preserves, sprinkled with powdered sugar or icing once the pockets have cooled completely. Not to rush past summer, but these would be great in lunchboxes in the fall.

 

One of the features of the ship’s itinerary is to make a couple stops at the local villages so that we might get the flavor– experience the ambiance– of the area. One of the towns is Petersburg, settled by Norwegians in the 1800s.  We motored for about three hours south of Juneau on the inland waterway passage of Frederick Sound.  This is part of the inland waterway that stretches from Seattle to Alaska. You can travel all the way and never be exposed to the open Pacific Ocean.  Among other benefits, the water is much calmer than the open ocean.  It is also a world class prime grounds for sighting whales (inset photo) , seals, sea lions and other marine mammals. The water is deep—sometimes 2000 ft. in places but most often 400-600 feet deep.  It never freezes over, and is in the temperate zone where, despite many snowcapped peaks on all sides, the temperature never goes below zero in the winter and summer temps are in the 60-70s.  There are about 110 inches of rain per year making this a temperate coastal rainforest. There are more than 18 hours of daylight in June and 6 ½ hours in December—you can read the paper by natural light at 3 AM in the morning during the summer. The tide can vary as much as 23 feet in one day from high to low tide. If you, perchance, dock at say, high tide, you will undoubtedly have an alpine climb down to your boat if you return 10-12 hours later.

We docked at Petersburg, another village that you can only get to by air or by sea. It is one of the very few outposts of modern civilization in coastal Alaska, most of which are likewise accessible only by air or water. Technically, it is on an island, one of truly countless many in Alaska. (You can’t drive to Juneau, the state capital, either, mostly because of hugely high snowcapped mountains, glaciers and other insurmountable natural barriers.) Fishing is the backbone of the economy, producing 36 million dollars worth of  seafood each year.   Petersburg is an ancient village, the roots of which go back many hundreds of years to when only Native Americans inhabited the area.  Native American Tlingit tribes used the area to fish for salmon and halibut and hunted in the area all year around

These days, Petersburg is a city of about 3000 people.  80 % are Caucasian, 10 % are American Indian and Alaskan Natives, and 10% others. The federal, state and local governments are the largest employers and fishing is the driving force in today’s economy. The town’s seafood processors employ about 1100 people.  Besides fishing, tourism and timber also drive the economy.

As you approach the harbor from the water, at a mile away you begin to make out the masts and deck cranes protruding from many large ocean going fishing boats.  As you get closer you see row upon row of fishing boats like you see on TV’s Deadliest Catch. The vast majority have extremely high bows to fend off large ocean waves and swells.  This is an indication that they don’t just fish the inland waterways but frequently venture out into the open ocean. They are smartly painted, have a couple deck cranes to hoist the nets and crab pots, and are in good repair.  These boats are each worth well over a million dollars and the majority are family owned.

The whole village is about 8 blocks long and three blocks deep—maybe as big as the village of Fairport Harbor on Lake Erie. But the many rows of these magnificent fishing boats are the most impressive sight.

According to the Petersburg Visitors Guide here are some of the more (some less??) memorable things to do in Petersburg: 1) Adventure Tours—local companies can provide Wilderness tours by land sea or air. 2) Fish for king salmon.  3) Bird watching. 4) Nature walks.  5) Check your E-mail. 6) Eat Lutefisk.  7) Restaurants (two). 8) Visit the Viking Ship Valhalia in the Sons of Norway parking Lot.  Checking your E-mail might seem one of the more mundane if not ridiculous options to list……until you realize that you haven’t been able to have any cell phone reception or E-mail reception for 4 days because you are so far out in the bush/mountains/uninhabited water ways.  Eating lutefisk……let’s just say that following the bears to the garbage dump to wallow in dead fish and rotting vegetative matter is a very similar sensual experience.

This is prime whale watching water. Of the estimated 6000 humpback whales in the North Pacific about 1000 of them spend the summer feeding in Southeast Alaska and they enter through the Frederick Sound on which Petersburg is located.  On this trip we encountered myriads of whales frolicking about, feeding, and having a gloriously good time totally oblivious to our presence. The captain would stop the ship and we would expend thousands of photos trying to get just the right picture of a whale breaching or rolling or bubble hunting!  What?? You don’t know what bubble hunting is? I confess, neither did I.  So let me explain.  Whales frequently hunt in packs or pods. When they find a school of fish they will surround it, dive down under it and begin blowing a screen of tiny bubbles thus creating a surrounding wall much like a net, driving the school of fish closer together. Then they come up from under it with their mouths open until they reach the surface with mouths full of fish, krill and other things (lifeboats, Pinocchio). As they hit the surface there are 4-6 whale mouths and upper bodies protruding skyward out of the water for an instant.  The trick is to snap that photo at just the right moment, and why all of us on the boat have hundreds of shots of ……water, having just missed the correct timing. This pod hunting may go on for hours and hours. It takes a while to fill up a 40 ton animal.

Hump backs may reach 55 feet in length, the average being 45 feet.  Whales frequently travel in pods of several whales, often related to each other. (I don’t really know how we know that—maybe the biologist do DNA sampling, or when you get your whale driver’s license you have to submit to a DNA Test).  They may stay submerged for up to 30 minutes.  Frederick Sound humpbacks have been tracked to Maui, Hawaii where they make a 2800 mile migration and can do it in as little as 39 days.

The last page of the visitors guide has the obligatory warning to be cautious around the bears (grizzlies) which are numerous in this area  Don’t feed the bears….garbage addicted bears become nuisances…….. Don’t set up your camp where there are signs of bears eating, and imitating a bear’s sounds ranks as one of the most foolish things a human can do!

Bears are very nice. Bears and I have a love-hate (fear, actually) relationship going back to a trip to the Canadian Rockies some years ago when a lovely grizzly left a smoking 25 pound turd right in front of us on the wooden walkway “just so we knew he was there”. It apparently wasn’t enough that he was shaking trees and creating havoc in the skunk cabbage like a herd of wrestling wolverines.  I like to see bears often—most often from the short side of my long binoculars with me on the short side, or from my 400 millimeter telephoto lens. The bear warning page of the pamphlets on the ship warns strongly not to leave any garbage out that bears could get into.   Bad bears that have eaten garbage quickly become addicted (apparently garbage is to bears what heroin is to humans). Then they have to be whisked away, sometimes to the other side of the earth so that they don’t come back to that spot for a fix.  Often though they have been known to somehow make their way back home again, oh, by hopping a tramp steamer, hiding in the wheel wells of jet planes….who knows how they do it, but getting back to that garbage dump in Petersburg, Alaska is all-important.  So don’t feed the bears, or be the bear’s feed!

 

 

Do you fish, hunt, trap, travel, camp, go for nature walks? What else do you do outdoors? Drop me a line at THE VILLAGER, 8088 Main Street,  Garrettsville 44231. E-mail me at Skipstaxidermy@yahoo.com or give me a call at 330-562-9801. I’d like to hear from you.

Royal Crown Cola’s Diet-Rite, introduced in 1958, was one of the first diet sodas on the market. Once the nation started watching its weight and Royal Crown Cola started advertising Diet-Rite as a soda rather than a specialized diet product, the Coca-Cola company knew they had to do something to compete.

In 1963, Coca-Cola introduced TaB, their first diet soda. Snopes.com, a website dedicated to investigating rumors and urban legends, gives the origin of the name, which some people have erroneously assumed stands for “Totally Artificial Beverage.” [http://www.snopes.com/business/names/tab.asp] Coca-Cola was unwilling to dilute their brand by referring to their diet soda as Diet Coke. Instead, they came up with a list of three- and four-letter combinations and put about two dozen of them through market tests. TaB emerged victorious. According to Coca-Cola, it brings to mind keeping “tabs” on your weight.

Knowing a little more about TaB, now we needed to find its Pepsi counterpart. The Pepsico website has a timeline section that goes back to the sixties, but there’s not much information there. However, searching “Pepsi drinks 1960s” in an online search engine brought up the Wikipedia page for Patio, which jogged our memories. Introduced by Pepsi in 1963, Patio came in several different flavors including cola, orange, root beer, strawberry, and grape.

Fans of the television show Mad Men may be familiar with the drink. In one episode, the characters put together an ultimately unsuccessful commercial for Patio imitating the opening song in “Bye Bye Birdie,” but changing the words to “Bye bye, sugar.” A year later, Patio Diet Cola was replaced by Diet Pepsi, though some of the flavored sodas stuck around into the seventies. TaB, however, can still be found in some stores today.

For more information about Pepsi’s history and their rivalry with Coca-Cola, Pepsi: 100 Years by Bob Stoddard and The Cola Wars by J.C. Louis are both available through CLEVNET.

 

For answers to your questions, visit the Newton Falls Public Library, 204 S. Canal Street, Newton Falls or phone 330-872-1282. For information about all the free library programs or hours, visit our website at www.newtonfalls.org or our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NewtonFallsLibrary.

 

It hasn’t quite hit me yet because it really seems like just yesterday my husband and I were talking about opening a winery. Young and naïve, only 25 at the time, we said, let’s give it a go and see how far this thing goes. Then we started talking after our first anniversary – “if we make it to 7 years in the business, we’ll have done better than most.” Then year seven came and we agreed that we were having too much fun to stop then. And now as we get ready to celebrate the winery’s 10th anniversary it’s amazing what we have learned, what we have accomplished and most of all how all of you have welcomed us into your neighborhood and have supported us from day one.

From the day we opened our doors on August 13, 2004 every moment of having the winery has been exciting. We had guests lined up an hour before we opened that day, had people stopping in all the time to see what we were working on and to see how they could help. Sure – some of the moments we have experienced in 10 years have been challenging (especially the moments Mother Nature has thrown at us), but nevertheless each moment has gotten us to where we are today.

As we have in years past, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary on Saturday, August 9th with a huge benefit for Ohio Pug Rescue. For those of you that do not know the story, our pug Mynde, passed away suddenly on the winery’s first anniversary. Shortly after her passing, our other pug Mork, needed a companion so we reached out to Ohio Pug Rescue and adopted two more pugs, Ellie and Truman. Every year since Mynde’s passing, we have celebrated with a benefit to Ohio Pug Rescue.

We will open the winery to all friendly dogs and their owners to enjoy wine (especially our Pink Pug wine and Pink Pug Sangria), live music by singer / guitarist Ellen Burke from 2-5pm and local favorite Steve Vanderink from 7:30 – 9:30pm, great $10 food options, awesome $10 deals on bottles of wine. Shop over 10 vendors, enter to win more than 10 huge raffle prizes and so much more! We will have everything set up outside by our pond, so bring some lawn chairs or a blanket to enjoy the day with us.

The day is dedicated to all dogs (pugs especially!) with music, food, Pug Wine, and of course, plenty of dogs. So if you have a special dog, plan on joining us on August 9th from 2pm – 10pm. All friendly dogs are welcome!

 

Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery located at 11325 Center Road, Garrettsville.  For more information on other wine topics  please visit www.candlelightwinery.com.

TOD, JTWROS...what do these obscure acronyms signify? They are shorthand for transfer on death and joint tenancy with right of ownership – two designations that permit automatic transfer of bank or investment accounts from a deceased spouse to a surviving spouse.

This automatic transfer of assets reflects a legal tenet called the right of survivorship – the idea that the surviving spouse should be the default beneficiary of the account. In some states, a TOD or JTWROS beneficiary designation is even allowed for real property.1

When an account or asset has a TOD or JTWROS designation, the right of survivorship precedes any beneficiary designations made in a will or trust.1,2 

There are advantages to having TOD and JTWROS accounts … and disadvantages as well.

TOD & JTWROS accounts can usually avoid probate. As TOD and JTWROS beneficiary designations define a direct route for account transfer, there is rarely any need for such assets to be probated. The involved financial institution has a contractual requirement (per the TOD or JTWROS designation) to pay the balance of the account funds to the surviving spouse.1

In unusual instances, an exception may apply: if the deceased account owner has actually outlived the designated TOD beneficiary or beneficiaries, then the account faces probate.3

What happens if both owners of a JTWROS account pass away at the same time? In such cases, a TOD designation applies (for any named contingent beneficiary).3

To be technically clear, transfer on death signifies a route of asset transfer while joint tenancy with right of ownership signifies a form of asset ownership. In a variation on JTWROS called tenants by entirety, both spouses are legally deemed as equal owners of the asset or account while living, with the asset or account eventually transferring to the longer-living spouse.3

Does a TOD or JTWROS designation remove an account from your taxable estate? No. A TOD or JTWROS designation makes those assets non-probate assets, and that will save your executor a little money and time – but it doesn’t take them out of your gross taxable estate.

In fact, 100% of the value of an account with a TOD beneficiary designation will be included in your taxable estate. It varies for accounts titled as JTWROS. If you hold title to a JTWROS account with your spouse, 50% of its value will be included in your taxable estate. If it is titled as JTWROS with someone besides your spouse, the entire value of the account will go into your taxable estate unless the other owner has made contributions to the account.4

How about capital gains? JTWROS accounts in common law states typically get a 50% step-up in basis upon the death of one owner. In community property states, the step-up is 100%.5

Could gift tax become a concern? Yes, if the other owner of a JTWROS account is not your spouse. If you change the title on an account to permit JTWROS, you are giving away a percentage of your assets; the non-spouse receives a gift from you. If the amount of the gift exceeds the annual gift tax exclusion, you will need to file a gift tax return for that year. If you retitle the account in the future so that you are again the sole owner, that constitutes a gift to you on behalf of the former co-owner; he or she will need to file a gift tax return if the amount of the gift tops the annual exclusion.5

TOD & JTWROS designations do make account transfer easy. They simplify an element of estate planning. You just want to be careful not to try and make things too simple.

TOD or JTWROS accounts are not cheap substitutes for wills or trusts. If you have multiple children and name one of them as the TOD beneficiary of an account, that child will get the entire account balance and the other kids will get nothing. The TOD beneficiary can of course divvy up those assets equally among siblings, but in doing so, that TOD beneficiary may run afoul of the yearly gift tax exclusion.2

JTWROS accounts have a potential a drawback while you are alive. As they are jointly owned, you have a second party fully capable of accessing and using the whole account balance.2

As you plan your estate, respect the power of TOD & JTWROS designations. Since they override any beneficiary designations made in wills and trusts, you want to double-check any will and trust(s) you have to make sure that you aren’t sending conflicting messages to your heirs.2

That aside, TOD & JTWROS designations represent convenient ways to arrange the smooth, orderly transfer of account balances when original account owners pass away.

 

Christopher Perme may be reached at 330-527-9301 or cperme@financialguide.com www.permefinancialgroup.com 

 

Christopher Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) Supervisory Office:  2012 West 25th Street, Suite 900 Cleveland, OH  44113. 216-621-5680. Perme Financial Group is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. 

 

 

Citations

 

1 – dummies.com/how-to/content/bypassing-probate-with-beneficiary-designations.navId-323700.html [5/5/14]

2 – galaw.com/the-dangers-of-pod-and-tod-accounts/ [2/4/14]

3 – fidelity.com/estate-planning-inheritance/estate-planning/asset-strategies/brokerage [5/13/14] 

4 – theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/167700/what-is-probate.html [5/10/13] 

5 – newsobserver.com/2013/06/08/2944839/advice-on-joint-tenancy-with-rights.html [6/8/13]

 

In addition to pareidolia, I occasionally suffer(if that’s the right word) from bouts of mondegreen; I don’t think that it’s covered by any reputable insurance(though it’s likely on the docket for some fly-by-night, blood-sucking outfit from the late-night TV)but it can be sort of debilitating when you’ve got it.  Pareidolia, as you must recall, is usually seeing significant images in totally random contexts, like the guy down in Louisiana who cut open an eggplant and beheld the word “God” spelled out in seeds.  Elvis and the Virgin Mary are apt to turn up anywhere, from a toasted cheese sandwich to pictures in mildew on old walls.

Mondegreens, on the other hand, are audio rather than video effects and have only been defined since 1954, when the word was coined by Sylvia Wright in an essay which appeared in Harper’s Magazine.  It’s even in dictionaries now.  The Wikipedia definition is : a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony(sounding alike) in a way that gives new meaning; most often created by listening to a poem or song  but not hearing clearly, substituting words that sound similar to the misheard lyrics…sort of making sense.  The columnist in the Record who mentioned this the other day cited his mishearing of the ‘70’s song “Chuck E.’s in Love” as “Chuck Easy, Love”.  Not real intelligible, but close.  He gives a couple of other examples, like “very close veins” for “varicose veins” and “old timers’ disease“ for Alzheimer’s disease.  My contribution to these slightly-skewed interpretations     was my confusion over a ‘60’s tune by Elvis (See, I said he was everywhere) titled “Return to Sender”;  for years  I puzzled over why Elvis was singing about “The Prisoner of Zenda”.  Not that I actually knew anything about “The Prisoner of Zenda”—it was written in 1894(Just a tad before my time—maybe I was channeling Grandma) and made into movies in 1913, 1922, 1937, 1952 and 1979 (a Peter Sellers flick, must have been interesting).  I wasn’t that into Elvis, truth to tell, so I probably didn’t listen too carefully.

Anyway, some other examples of the phenomenon are :

“Surely Good Mrs. Murphy shall follow me all the days of my life….”  from the 23rd Psalm, “Gladly, the cross-eyed bear” from the hymn “Keep Thou My Way” and “O Say Kansas City” opening the “Star-Spangled Banner”.  Pop songs, possibly because of the really poor enunciation found among the groups singing them,  are frequently episodes of mondegreens, for instance, the Creedence Clearwater Revival line “There’s a bad mood on the rise” morphed into “There’s a bathroom on the right”.  The original “Twelve Days of Christmas” had “four colley birds”—not any more understandable than “four calling birds”, really—until the early twentieth century.  The cartoon feature, “Olive, the Other Reindeer” had its origin in the song “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”.  One of my personal favorites was  the line from the Catholic rosary, where the line hailing Mary (See, I told you she was everywhere too)”amongst women” became “a monk swimmin’” and some little kid looking at a Nativity scene at Christmas trying to find “Round John Virgin”.  I even had to participate in a reverse mondegreen in the third grade when we had a music program and sang a novelty song, popular at the time, “Mairzy Doats”; the immortal lyrics were : “Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey; A kiddley divey too, Wooden shoe?”  Great stuff, eh?

And there are examples of the same kind of wordplay in lots of languages, not just English; one mentioned  was the Hebrew song, “Hava Nagila”(Let’s be happy)—always showing up in Jewish wedding movies where everyone goes around in a circle and they all end up stamping and yelling “Hey”  at the end.

See, they’re everywhere.  And don’t get me started on soramimi—songs that produce unintended meanings when translated homophonically into another language.  I always wonder about the ones in the Methodist hymnal that have versions in Cherokee or Japanese.  What if we pronounced them wrong and sang something scatological? Might even have some connection to the urban legend that the Chevy Nova had to have its name changed when sold in Latin America because competitors  claimed that it “No Va”—“Doesn’t go”  Or on eggcorn…or mumpsimus (That one makes me crazy).

Malapropism is another story.  Time for bed.

 

From the edge of the red and white blanket, Doodle Dog watched his favorite kind of humans splashing in the slight surf at the edge of the shore. As much fun as he was having listening to stories and snacking on yummies, the floppy-eared puppy couldn’t very well spend all afternoon on the blanket, especially being that he was still in the middle of a goopy mess. A very tasty, frosty, creamy mess, but a sticky, slimy, icky mess all the same. It had been fun for a moment or two, but Doodle Dog did not quite wish to stay covered in this concoction that made him appear as though a vanilla volcano erupted all over his fur. Licking the tips of his paws only worked so well because soon his tongue became just as sticky as his toes and he found the more he tried to get clean, the more he was actually getting gooey! The melty ice cream drops started to turn a bit gummy as they mixed with the fuzzy flecks on his feet and, well, it was NOT what the floppy-eared puppy had in mind when he thought maybe he would try a new look for summer! This was definitely a fashion faux “paw” of puppy proportions! Doodle Dog certainly didn’t want to commit such a canine crime, even if it was of the yummy confectionary kind, so he wondered how he could get himself out of the – quite actual – sticky situation.

There! A very simple solution to his current condition shone in front of him by the form of the sprawling, shimmering lake where the little humans splashed and scampered. As their toes swished in the ripples, it appeared they had the right idea to get un-sticky! Splashing and scampering are what the floppy-eared puppy does best so not another moment went by before Doodle Dog decided to join in the fun. As his paws swished in the ripples, the spaces between his toes loosened and the clumps in his fur disappeared. Dozens of boys and girls were scampering, splashing, swimming and shrieking with delight as gentle waves washed over them. Skipping over the ripples, the little red wagon boy was now leading something other than a pile of books. Several children danced and pranced along beside and behind him as he made his way down the shore to the far end of the lake, his bare feet leaving a trail of toe prints in the sand as he went, toe prints which were soon joined by those of the other children and then the paw prints of one very curious – and now considerably cleaner! – floppy-eared puppy. At the curve of shore just up ahead, Doodle Dog could now see what everyone was excitedly approaching. A wide ladder, which really more resembled a series of steps, reached up from a solid, sturdier piece of ground off to the side of the sandy bank spread under their feet. And, at the tippy top of the staircase ladder, a length of colorful lumber stuck out like a long, flat limb jutting out of a tree. The little boy immediately scurried up the sturdy rungs and balanced on the protruding panel, his small feet light tan against the bright orange overhanging from the ladder. Doodle Dog couldn’t help but think the diving board resembled a flattened traffic cone that hadn’t jumped out of a bicycle’s way in time. He also couldn’t help thinking that he generally avoided objects that reminded him to take caution!

Despite the friendly child beginning to bounce up and down on it, that diving board did not appear very welcoming to the curious but cautious floppy-eared puppy. As the other children scrambled up the ladder to watch the boy take his leap into the liquidy lagoon below, Doodle Dog preferred the view from right where his paws were planted. He could see plenty from right there on the safe shore.

But as the brave little boy went to the very end of the diving board, wrapping his toes over the edge, and bounced once, then twice, the floppy-eared puppy watched first in fright, then in anticipation and awe when the boy’s toes left the platform, then excitement as he splashed in, and then finally in eager delight while waiting for the jumper to resurface. The onlookers cheered from their various positions on the platform, the ladder or on the ground waiting to climb up themselves. One by one the group thinned out as its members took turns scrambling, springing and splashing. Soon the floppy-eared puppy was the only one not swimming.

The children in the water called out to Doodle Dog, encouraging him to try the dive himself. Several pets dove with their humans: a Golden Lab had already taken the plunge and was now happily chasing a small ball as it bobbed up and down in the wrinkly waves and a very wet German Shepherd shook itself dry after returning to the shore right next to the floppy-eared puppy. Doodle Dog knew if he was going to try it, this was his chance. If he waited too long, everyone would be tired of splashing around and he’d be all by himself at the top of the ladder! Eep!

Taking a deep breath, he put one front paw on the bottom rung of the staircase ladder, then his next front paw and then finally his two back paws cautiously followed. Rung by rung, one at a time, one paw then the next and then the rest, the floppy-eared puppy climbed. When he reached the top, he didn’t bounce out to the board right away like the little wagon boy, but instead stopped to look out over the lake and the treetops surrounding it. Then he took a deeper breath and slowly scooted paw by paw, inch by inch along the traffic cone-colored beam. This must be what it’s like to walk the pirate plank! Doodle Dog imagined all the sea stories he read with sleek ships and salty air. A swift wind made him shiver as he went to the very end of the diving board and wrapped his paws over the edge, his claws digging in slightly while he convinced himself to take the path between holding on tightly and letting go to fly in the air. Taking his deepest breath of all, the floppy-eared puppy bounced once… then twice… and … SPLASH!

The onlookers cheered from their various spots in the surf and on the shore as Doodle Dog resurfaced and swam to the water’s edge. Doggie paddling? Now that’s something he can do quite well!

 

Even as hot as it’s been lately, one of our patrons is looking ahead to colder months, concerned for the deer that have to weather them. We found our answers in Leonard Lee Rue III’s “The Deer of North America” and “Way of the Whitetail” and the websites of New Brunswick’s Natural Resources Department [http://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/departments/natural_resources/ForestsCrownLands/content/DeerWinteringAreas.html], the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department [http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com/cwp_elem_spec_dwa.cfm], and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife [http://www.maine.gov/ifw/hunting_trapping/pdfs/deer_yards.pdf].

In the fall, deer begin to grow out their winter coat. Grayish-brown in color, the winter coat is comprised of hollow hairs and a dense undercoat and provides excellent insulation. Deer’s metabolism will also drop, allowing them to get by on less food.

Even with their winter coats, cold winds can chill, and deep snow requires a lot of energy to move through. To avoid the wind and snow, deer in the north will move to wintering areas, also known as deer yards, which can be anywhere from a few to a hundred acres and can draw in deer from all over the area. The most important function of a deer yard is to provide cover, so they’re typically found in swamps and gullies with good stands of evergreens.

While moose will lie down in the snow and use it as a blanket, deer prefer to make their beds by pawing down to the leaves and sleeping there. As another way of conserving energy, they’ll move as little as possible. During a bad snowstorm, they may not even leave their beds – an impulse many of us can understand.

 

For answers to your questions, visit the Newton Falls Public Library, 204 S. Canal Street, Newton Falls or phone 330-872-1282. For information about all the free library programs or hours, visit our website at www.newtonfalls.org or our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NewtonFallsLibrary.

 

As the moon goes to bed, the sun comes up

And here we meet a sleepy pup,

Who was walking through G-ville one bright sunny day,

Then saw The Villager and decided to stay.

 

The best place to find the sunshine and the best way to see it for sure is to go outside and today was as good a day as any for meandering through town. Doodle Dog ambled out the office door, his tail wagging excitedly as he hopped down the front step and dropped onto the sidewalk.

Not only was the sun right there where he expected it to be, a bright, bold yellow ball high in the sky above him, but that sky itself surrounding that sunny orb spread a brilliant, beautiful blue on top of, below and every which way around it. A few white clouds here and there dotted the atmosphere like fluffy versions of the smattering of stars scattered in patterns on the fabric flags hanging from patriotic poles and delicately draped over balconies bursting with the colorful pride of the season.

The floppy-eared puppy scampered past the shops along the main street of town, only stopping for a moment to admire a simple scene of summery selections carefully clustered together to create a lovely window display. A red and white checkered blanket cushioned a tiny inflatable pool with plastic walls clear and see-through so passersby could spot the family of rubber duckies lazily floating on the top of clean, sparkling water tinted blue for extra effect. Soft ripples bobbed each duckie up and then down, one by one, as Doodle Dog watched the gentle, peaceful motion, and he only slightly wanted to jump after the creatures and chase them! (But he managed to refrain.) However, causing him to pause for much longer than a moment, the storefront a few windows down caught the floppy-eared puppy’s attention entirely. The bake shop had been decorated with several yummy designs, strawberries, blueberries and vanilla icing serving as edible art supplies. Masterpieces made of assorted munchies lined up like soldiers on the shelves and petite pastries were arranged just so that they became one small part of what turned out to be a giant star if viewed just right. Mmmmm! Doodle Dog would have to remember to come back to nibble a puppy-friendly treat, but not now. No, he was too excited that the sun was still following him and wanted to make the most of the day. Stars and bites would just have to wait!

As soon as he returned to his path, Doodle Dog noticed a small boy tugged a little red wagon filled with something else quite wonderful. The brim of a blue baseball cap pulled way down low shielding his eyes from the sun way up high, the boy took great care with each step to make sure his cargo stayed in place. Filling the space behind him, stacks and stacks of prettily-bound books formed a sort of fortress in this child-size carriage. Doodle Dog wondered how long it would take for the little boy to read all those stories, or maybe he already had! And then, perched on the books and riding in the very center of the wagon, a white cat as fluffy as the clouds above politely meowed at the floppy-eared puppy as he padded past. It would be easy to read all those books with a buddy to hear the stories too! Before continuing on his way, Doodle Dog took a moment to nudge the back of the wagon a few squares on the concrete to make the load a little easier for the boy to pull. From under his baseball cap, he giggled gratefully as he let his temporary guard dog give him a helping paw.

Down the hill the little boy went, his wagon, his books and his cat in tow. The floppy-eared guard dog could see they would be just fine on their journey, but decided it would be a good idea to follow them at a short distance behind in case they needed him. Eep! Not quite. They may not need help, but the guard dog might! Doodle Dog ducked as a bright cherry red cardinal and a blue jay with markings the color of a muted blueberry zipped after one another in an airborne game of tag so intense that for a moment all the floppy-eared puppy saw was a blur of purple until the birds finally became separate streaks zooming around him. The not-so-guard dog dropped to the ground and hopped out of the way as the feathers flew above him. When all was clear he followed where the wagon, its passenger and its conductor had disappeared on the path, sniffing his way to find them. Soon his nose picked up the scent of pages, fur and metal warmed by the sun and he not only found his new friends, but the glistening blue lake behind them. Next to the lake, a giant blanket spread over the ground, its tiny red and white squares playing patterns that disappeared under a plate and reappeared on the other side of a mug. Seated around the blanket were various humans chattering happily while smaller humans splashed on the shore. A little girl ran up and down the sandy bank of the lake trailing a kite, a patch of red floating against the blue sky and white clouds. The little boy took out his books and shared them with the other humans sitting there, making sure to place one next to him for his cat too. Then he patted a spot for Doodle Dog as well! Along with the tales, which were definitely treats in themselves, an assortment of summery yummies were spread on the blanket. The little boy chose an ice cream cone, soon beginning to drip from the warm day. The goopy vanilla swirled on top just like the icing on the cupcake in the bake shop window. Mmmm! The little boy offered the floppy-eared puppy a bite, but as Doodle Dog took a lick he wound up with frosty, sugary drops dripping ALL over his nose! The drops went from his nose to his paws and down to the blanket making it covered in red, white and goo! Ew!