Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It sounded too good to be true

If you know anything about computers at all, you know about Google.

Google, a search engine and much more, has become such a part of our lives that it is now a verb, not just a noun - as in "I'll have to google that on the Internet." (Understandably, Google does not approve of the verb form.)

So, when I received a notice from an Internet friend about a work-at-home project for GoogleFortune, it sounded legitimate. The material doesn't promise millions but reasonable amounts from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars a week.

What made this sound really plausible was an attached article from The Nebraska Financial Journal featuring a young mother from North Platte, Nebraska, who had lost her job and was now making good money working for GoogleFortune.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?

Turns out it is.

If The Nebraska Financial Journal exists, the Internet doesn't know about it. I did a search - using Google, of course - and found no publication with that name.

Next I checked the North Platte telephone book to see if I could find the couple making this great money. No one by that name was listed. However, some people now just have cell phones, so this in itself wasn't too alarming.

My next step was to log on to the link that was provided in the e-mail I had received inviting me to try this work-at-home program.

I filled out a form with my name, address and e-mail address and telephone number. When I submitted that information, it took me to a page showing that "all" it would cost to get set up to work for GoogleFortune was $1.97, which I needed to put on my credit card.

That price seems reasonable enough, doesn't it?

Not if you keep reading.

In fine print, the instructions state you are ordering GoogleFortune for a seven-day bonus period for $1.97. If you are satisfied with the product, you do nothing. It does give you several numbers you can call to cancel if you are dissatisfied.

BUT - and here's where it gets tricky - on the seventh day your credit card will automatically be charged $69.97 and for every month after that, unless you call them and cancel.

Oh, in more fine print, you agree to two- and three-week trials to other information for $19.95 and $9.95 each month unless you call to cancel.

Another problem that pops up is that most often no one ever answers the telephone at those numbers.

I turned to the trusty Snopes Web site for information, and there was plenty to read. I recommend you go to http://www.snopes.com/fraud/employment/google.asp and read the full report.

Jason Morrison, who does Web development and design for Google, has gathered extensive materials about these schemes, which he has posted on his personal Web site at http://jimmorrison.com/. He lists numerous programs that have featured information on this scam using Google's name.

The official Google Web site that addresses these scams is at http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/how-to-steer-clear-of-money-scams.html.

Just an interesting note: Remember the North Platte mother mentioned above who was making a living by working from home for GoogleFortune? I found this same woman recently on a slightly reworded Web site, but her story was the same, except now she's living in California.

People are having a hard time financially right now and could use that additional income. It's tempting to grab at straws to try to dig your way out of debt or to secure financial security.

In the end, however, if you sign up you may lose much more than the $80 to $90 a month that will be eventually charged to your credit card (as noted in the fine print). Remember, the company now has your credit card number.

Telephone in churches

A man in Topeka , Kansas, decided to write a book about churches around the country. He started by flying to San Francisco and started working east from there.

Going to a very large church, he began taking photographs and making notes.

He spotted a golden telephone on the vestibule wall and was intrigued with a sign, which read "Calls: $10,000 a minute."

Seeking out the pastor he asked about the phone and the sign. The pastor answered that this golden phone is, in fact, a direct line to heaven and if he pays the price he can talk directly to GOD.

The man thanked the pastor and continued on his way. As he continued to visit churches in Seattle, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Denver, Oklahoma City and around the United States, he found more phones with the same sign, and the same answer from each pastor.

Finally, he arrived in Nebraska. Upon entering a church in Nebraska, behold - he saw the usual golden telephone. But THIS time,the sign read "Calls: 35 cents."

Fascinated, he asked to talk to the pastor.

"Pastor, I have been in cities and towns all across the country and in each church I have found this golden telephone and have been told it is a direct line to Heaven and that I could talk to GOD.

"In the other churches the cost was $10,000 a minute. Your sign reads only 35 cents a call.


The pastor, smiling benignly, replied, "Son, you're in Nebraska now.....You're in God's Country. It's a local call."

(I should have warned you - this is an oldie but a goodie!)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Getting up vs. aging

I tell people all the time, sitting down on the floor is a piece of cake. It's the getting up that is .....

My granddaughter, Jessica, has been helping me with some much-needed cleaning of cupboards, etc. I needed to put some things on the bottom cupboard shelves so I sat on the floor and had Jessica hand me the things.

It wasn't all that difficult getting down on the floor. The main thing you do is start to sit down and just let gravity take over from there.

After 15 minutes on the floor, I knew getting up was going to take some real determination.

I have a strange way of getting up from the floor. I get on my knees, stick my backside up in the air, bending over from the waist, with my hands on the floor in front of me. I can then "walk" my hands back toward my body, pushing my torso into an upright position.

It's not a pretty sight, but it works for me.

The other day, after the 15-minute period on the floor, I got on my knees, stuck my backside up in the air and tried to push myself backward and eventually upright. The process didn't work this time.

Then it dawned on me - I couldn't push myself upright because my feet were too far apart! To make this method work, it's important to keep the feet apart about the width of the hips. My left leg was off to the side way too far.

"Grandma, are you going to be able to get up?" Jessica asked, with a slight giggle in her voice.

"Yes, but not right now," I answered her, as I burst into a fit of giggling.

"My feet are too far apart," I struggled to tell her as I kept laughing, visualizing the funny sight I must have presented.

Finally, I had to give up and fall back on my knees on the floor.

After gaining my composure, I tried to get up again. Since I was careful to get my feet positioned correctly, I succeeded.

"Grandma, you are weird," Jessica said affectionately with a laugh.

"Maybe so," I replied, "but I bet I'm a lot more interesting than a grandma who sits in a rocking chair and knits or crochets all day."

Of course, if I sat in a rocking chair and knitted or crocheted my day away, I wouldn't have had those sore muscles I discovered the next morning.

Computer troubles

Despite my best intentions of posting every day or two, I haven't lived up to that goal.

My failure has mainly been due to computer troubles. I'm not sure what happened and I don't know if the computer people know for certain what happened. At any rate, I was without a computer for about a week.

I wish I could say it was back to normal and everything was just fine, but unfortunately, I can't.

It's the bumps in the computer road that really frustrate me. I love computers while they are working like clockwork. When they hiccup, I get totally cranky.

So, please bear with me, and keep checking back now and then. I hope to be back and up to speed soon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Be careful!

Be careful is not just an idle warning.

No matter what part of town you live in, you need to be cautious about coming home late at night, leaving doors open or unlocked, or answering your door after a reasonable hour at night.

Last Friday night this was brought home to me in a very real way.

I was at my son's home using his computer. His office is just inside the front door. It was 9 o'clock.

Someone knocked on the door (even though there is a doorbell) and I called out to my son, who was in the family room watching TV, that someone was at the door. I didn't think much about it, assuming it was probably a friend stopping by that late.

When my son didn't come right away, I stepped to the door and opened it. The front porch light was already on. There was a man standing not on the porch, where you would expect a visitor to stand, but he was standing back on the grass, just out of the light so it was hard to see him.

He asked me if I was the woman of the house and I replied I was not.

You know how you sometimes just have a feeling that something isn't right? That's how I felt. I can't say the hairs on my neck stood up or that I had any outward sign, other than something just felt wrong about this man.

About that time my son came around the corner of the hallway. He stepped outside to see what the man wanted.

The man wanted to clean carpets and he said they would be dry in 45 minutes. My son looked up and down the street but couldn't see any sign of a vehicle. He told the man to go on, he wasn't interested.

After thinking about it a couple minutes, my son called the police and gave them a description of the man. They had received another call about this individual.

As I ponder the situation, I wonder if this man saw my vehicle parked in front of the house and took a chance on my being the babysitter and no other adults at home. What would have happened had I been here alone?

This just reinforces the fact we all need to be more vigilant. I am not frightened but I also don't intend to be stupid. When someone knocks late at night, look out a window to make sure you know who is there. If you don't recognize them, call the police. Don't worry about feeling foolish if it turns out to be nothing.

The main thing is, trust your instincts.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Apple salad recipe

Whenever I attended a covered-dish meal, my family can pick out my contribution immediately. I always take Apple Salad.

This is one of those recipes that just evolved. I suppose my mother started with a recipe and then made changes to make it her own. Since then, I've made some changes to suit my tastes.

Give this recipe a try this weekend and then you'll have it memorized and ready for the next covered-dish dinner.

Apple Salad
1 can fruit cocktail
1 small tub Cool Whip (partially thawed)
2 or 3 apples
2 bananas
1 cup miniature marshmallows
2 or 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
Drain most of the juice from the fruit cocktail; place the fruit cocktail in a large bowl. Add the miniature marshmallows and the partially thawed Cool Whip and mayonnaise. Carefully fold the ingredients together.
Chop the apples (preferably red for color and leave the peels on) and fold into the first mixture.
Shortly before serving, peel and chop the bananas and stir into the other ingredients. Do not add the bananas too soon or they will turn brown within a few hours. This does not harm the flavor but does ruin its appearance. Leftovers can be eaten the next day but the bananas will be discolored.
This is one of those recipes that you can make it any way you want. Sometimes I like to add a half cup of half maraschino cherries, plus a little of the juice. You can also add halved, seedless grapes and some chopped walnuts if you like.
The mayonnaise (or salad dressing) gives it a little tartness, which is pleasing.
Make it for your family first, then decide what kinds of things you want to add or subtract to make the recipe your own creation.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Flu bug has flown in

When absenteeism at the high school is at 23 percent or so, you know there's a "bug" making the rounds.

My granddaughter, 15, had the flu last week. Many people get very sick with this and it needs to be taken seriously.

This isn't the country's first bout with "swine" flu; there was a serious outbreak of it in the early 1970s. In fact, my sister died from what was determined to be complications from the flu.

There are some things you can do to lessen your chances of getting this bug. Some simple things include:

1. Washing your hands thoroughly and often. Use water as hot as you can stand it and lots of soap. The rule of thumb is to wash your hands for as long as it takes you to sing the "Happy Birthday" song through two times. Be sure to wash around your wrists and under your fingernails.

2. If you are in a public restroom, hold a paper towel in your hand to turn off the faucets and to open the door to leave. Then either toss the towel in the wastebasket as you walk out the door or put it in your pocket to throw away later. If I am at a buffet, I use individual hand wipes after I go to the buffet. The serving spoons have been handled by everyone. Just makes sense to wash your hands after dishing up your food or use an individual wipe before eating.

3. At home, use disinfectant wipes to clean off the handles of all doors, cupboards, refrigerator and anything else everyone in the family touches often. Maybe it will help, maybe it won't, but at least you'll feel like you've done your best.

4. They used to say you should sneeze or cough into your hand. Then what do you do with that hand? You open doors, turn on faucets, etc. The current advice is to cough or sneeze into your shirt or blouse sleeve.

5. Make sure your diet includes plenty of liquids, preferably water, tea or fruit juices.

6. The most important thing you can do to help everyone - yourself included - is to stay home if you are sick. Stay in your room as much as possible to avoid infecting others in the family and wash your hands whenever you are going to open a cupboard door, or handle clean dishes. (In fact, it would be a good idea to keep Styrofoam cups and disposable forks and spoons and plates on hand to use so they can just be thrown away.)

7. See your doctor within the first 24 hours of symptoms. There might be something they can prescribe that could help you.

8. If you have underlying health issues, you might want to avoid large crowds until the flu bug has flown on to other communities.

9. Keep your hands out of your eyes, nose and mouth!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Exploding Pyrex

Safety alert:

I received an e-mail this morning about Pyrex cookware exploding. It was one of those usual forwards we all get, so before I jumped to the conclusion this e-mail was a bunch of nonsense, I turned to my truth-seekers, Snopes.


It turns out this is totally true. I'm not going to reprint the e-mail here, because it is quite lengthy, but if you own glass cookware, you owe it to yourself and your family to go to Snopes and read the complete e-mail and the Snopes answer to it.

As you read it you'll discover that if you have some of Grandma's Pyrex in your kitchen, hang on to it. The really old items may be a lot safer than the new.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Spring Flowers

Photos by Belinda Dannatt, Australia, taken at Canberra's Floriade event

One of the fun things about being on Facebook is finding people from all over the world.

I have found a few Dannatts living in Australia and have put them on my Facebook "friends" list so one of these days I can start doing some research to see if they are related.

Whenever one of the Australian Dannatts posts something to Facebook, it shows up on my home page. Most of the time it is their side of chatter with their friends, whose posts I can't see.

However, Saturday afternoon Belinda Dannatt (don't know if we're related or not) posted 70-some photos of a spring flower show in Canberra. The photos are absolutely breath-taking. I sent Belinda an e-mail and asked if she would forward a few of the photos to me to place on this blog.
I'm sharing these with you so you might turn your gaze from the snow drifts outside your window to the bright colors of spring in Australia.
If you want to learn more about their monthlong event, go to http://floriadeaustralia.com/


Fall or Winter??

Winter photos by photographer Tamra Turnbull, North Platte, Nebraska

* * * * * * * *

Mother Nature is having a good laugh at us now!

Snow was predicted in our part of Nebraska Friday night. Two to three inches the forecasters said. The weather forecaster have all this scientific data, latest equipment in tracking storms, and many decades of records to find historical data. So when the weather center predicts two to three inches of snow - and the TV station airs that prediction - we tend to believe the words have come straight from God's lips to our ears.

Friday night someone was not listening evidently. There were snow flurries in the evening and the wind picked up later that evening. There was just a skift of snow when I went to bed around midnight or so. The wind had died down.

When I let the dogs out at 7:30 Saturday morning we all got a surprise. There had to have been a foot of snow, if not more. Even without a ruler I knew there was more than two or three inches of snow on the ground, and it was still snowing.

The official range of snowfall was from 12 to 17 inches in the North Platte area. I don't have a great memory for weather statistics, but I think this has to be the most snowfall this early in the season for many years, if ever. One source said it was the greatest accumulation this early since weather records were first kept in the late 1800s.

While children welcomed the snow and a chance to go sledding and play outside, the snow has a slightly different meaning to farmers who still have crops in the field.

The snow weighted the cornstalks down to the ground, making it more difficult or impossible for the machines to get the corn off the stalk. Corn on the ground or left on the stalk means a loss to the farmer. The corn also needs warm and dry fall days to finish drying so it can be picked. I'm not sure what such a significant storm will do to the corn's moisture.

An acquaintance said she was driving in an isolated part of our area Friday and came upon a herd of cattle being driven down the road. The rancher must have suspected the nice weather was coming to an end and wanted to get his cattle from summer pasture back to the home place before the winter snows hit. Maybe he should have called the weather predictors with his observations.

The sad news is that more snow is predicted for tonight.

One source predicts a long and wet winter, while another predicts a fairly mild winter.

We need to remember who is in charge of this weather and it's not the weather service or the TV station weatherman.

Just to be on the safe side, I'm going to replenish my pantry.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Where'd the e-mails go?

There are some days that I am so brilliant I out-shine the best of the people around me.

On Tuesday I opened my e-mail and it showed I had not received a single e-mail in about 12 hours. This is impossible. I receive several e-mails on a daily basis and they are always in the inbox first thing when I turn on the computer.

Not on Tuesday.

I checked the spam folder to see if they might have been directed there, although they never have been.

Nope. Nothing unusual there.

Next I logged on to my Internet provider and checked my e-mail right at the source. That file was empty.

So I checked the FAQ (also known as frequently asked questions) page on the Internet provider's Web site. Nothing seemed to explain my missing e-mails.

I noticed there was a contact number to call or I could log on to the company's chat and chat by computer with a technical advisor. I like the give and take and quick response from chatting, so I opted for that method of communication.

When I logged on to the chat, I received a quick response from "Hyasinth" (yes, it's spelled with an 's'). I told her as briefly as I could that I had not received any e-mails for at least 12 hours and I just knew there should be some e-mails there.

Hyasinth suggested several several things for me to try, including checking my e-mail on their Web site.

Sorry, I typed back to Hyasinth, I've already done that and there's nothing there.

Hyasinth then typed out detailed instructions on how I could change the settings on my system so there would always be a copy of my e-mails on the server.

"Well, that will take care of the problem in the future, but what about all the e-mails I am missing today?" I typed to Hyacinth.

"I'm sorry," Hyasinth typed back, "but there is no way for us to recover e-mails that aren't there."

There was a pause after she sent the message.

"Is there anything else I can do for you today?" Hyasinth typed.

I fumed, thinking of a few things I wanted to suggest, but you'll be proud of me. I politely typed, "I guess not. Thank you."

I logged off the Internet provider's Web site and went back to my e-mail in-box. Just as I did, I heard the little "ding" that lets me know I have new e-mails.

But there was nothing there!

I was beginning to get really annoyed with the situation and myself. Where the heck were those e-mails going?

I don't know how your system is designed, but I use Microsoft Outlook and its inbox is organized with headings "Today," "Yesterday," "Monday" and older e-mails may be under the heading "Last Week" or even "Last Month."

There were e-mails in the folder marked "Yesterday" but nothing in the "Today" folder.

Then I looked to the left of the "Date: Today" sub-heading. Off to the far left side of the sub-title was a tiny box with a tinier plus sign in it. I looked at the other sub-headings that had e-mails under them, and instead of the plus sign, there were minus signs.

I clicked on the tiny plus sign by the "Today" sub-heading, and as if by magic the symbol turned to a minus sign and 24 messages tumbled down the page.

I'm just glad Hyasinth doesn't read this blog.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Back to the Future - sorta

For a while this afternoon I walked around in public in a time warp.

Today, Oct. 2, was the annual chili competition hosted by First National Bank in North Platte, with proceeds going to Mid-Plains United Way in Lincoln County.

Businesses and organizations prepared big vats of their favorite chili and people paid $6 to come taste all of the chili preparations. Then they could vote on hottest chili and best chili overall. The teams choose a theme and dress following the theme and decorate their birth according to the theme.

The Walmart team had a Hawaiaan theme - and I heard one vat of their chili had smoked pineapple in it. Hmmm, interesting!

The winning team for best theme was Coldwell Banker with a Michael Jackson theme.

Appropriately, the North Platte Fire Department's chili was the hottest.

United Way's theme was the 1950s. Board members were asked to get out their poodle skirts and leather jackets and dress up for the event. There were going to be decorations from the '50s around our booth.

It's been many years since I've had a poodle skirt and these days it would require way too much skirt to get around my body. The poodle would get lost in all the folds of the skirt.

I did have a plan though. I pulled on a pair of jeans and rolled the pant legs up to mid-calf. I rolled my socks down to rest on my shoe tops. No, I didn't have penny loafers. I knew my tennis shoes weren't authentic (remember tennis shoes in the '50s? The high-top black tennis shoes?) but they would have to do.

I found a neckerchief from about that era and tied it around my neck. I wear my hair very short, so the best I could do was glob on the styling gel and try to get my hair in the back to form a "ducktail" (remember?).

All things considered, I thought I looked sort of like someone from the 1950s. I walked into the church fellowship hall where the chili cookoff had been moved due to the windy weather. First person I saw was Ginny Martin, the Mid-Plains United Way executive director. She was wearing jeans but also a Hawaiian lei.

"Uhhh, wasn't our theme supposed to be the '50s?" I asked.

"Well, yes, but..." she said. It seems the decorations were stored somewhere and the decorations had gotten water-soaked and were ruined. Learning that late last night didn't give the committee time to come up with a new theme.

So there I was with pantlegs rolled up, socks rolled down and a ducktail in the back of my hair - the only one really dressed for the '50s. A couple others who had not received word about the change of theme either were able to modify their outfits so they didn't stick out quite so obviously.

That's OK. For about an hour today I walked around feeling very much like the teenager I was in the '50s, thinking I was way cool with my pantlegs rolled up, my socks rolled down and a ducktail in the back of my hair.