Monday, September 21, 2009

Our Health: A Valuable Resource

Who can argue with a friend who has a doctorate in nursing when it comes to advice on our health?  Certainly not I. 

She has asked me to alert everyone about a great publication that is also free.  What could be  better than that!

Herbs at a Glance: A Quick Guide to Herbal Supplements (2009) is a FREE book published by the National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The website that will let you order the book or look up any herb of your choosing is: There also many other websites in the book for even more specific or general herbal infromation. it is written for the lay public.

Our thanks to her for directing us to this resource.

Grandma Alert: Bonding With the Little Ones Long Distance through Technology

Are you three states away from your grandchildren or oceans away?  Are you looking for a way to make closer connections with them?  Do you want them to recognize you when the opportunity arises to visit?  If your answer is a resounding "Yes!", you might want to venture into the scary land of video calling.

I use the word 'scary' because so many of us have had to use computers and email for our work that we can, at the very least, email our closest family and friends.  But to go beyond email and word processing skills is to go into a shadowy area where all forms of unknown technology threaten our technologically shaky self esteem.

But I'm experiencing a great way to keep in touch with my soon-to-be one -year- old granddaughter.  She is a 9-hour car trip away so she has to become reacquainted with us each time we see her.  With the family's venture into video calling, she not only recognizes us but also seems happy to see us.  She becomes very excited when she hears the computer sound indicating a video call coming in;  she moves quickly to the computer to see what happens.  How's that for a tug at the heart!

We're able to talk to her, show her pictures, play pat-a-cake, sing the Seven Little Monkeys song, and watch her clap her hands in delight.  What a treat!

My laptop has no webcam(the next one will, I swear!).  So our son gave me a Logitech webcam for Mother's Day.  I went to to download free software, and so did he.  Also our daughter, who lives closer and who gives us lots of face time with our grandson, uses Skype as well.   It's nice to hear about his latest escapade and watch him telling us about it  on screen when we can't be there.

My server won't accept a Skype download.  I'm thinking that it is because the server has a video calling application of its own. Remember that I don't know much about the technology that I attempt to use-so realize this is just a possibility, not a basic truth.   But Skype is free, and the video calls are free as well.  So I called the help desk for my server, and a technician was kind enough to load Skype through Firefox for me.

The little Skype symbol is green when it comes on-and it does so automatically when I log onto my server.  If I click on it, the Skype screen appears. I can easily add people to my contact list, and I see who is online at the same time.  As dim as I am, I had a little trouble when the video went blank on me, but the tools, the welcome screen, and a right-click on the video screen itself gave me ways to fix that-in simple, non-techno terms.  Now a video call with our little grandbaby comes in every Sunday night .

I have a friend whose grandchildren are small and live VERY far away-in another country.  She skypes at lunchtime when they are eating lunch, and so is she.  The family are all visible, and so is Grandma.  She sees them once a year so bonding long distance is a gift.

For our older grandchildren who text all day and can read email, skyping may take up too much of their time.  I have ideas to close that generational gap between grandparents and teen grandchildren as well, but I'll leave those for next time.

Skype doesn't provide three-way video calls yet.  I know other services do.  I'm waiting for that, though, so that our adult children and their toddlers can keep in close touch as a larger group.  Are you using video calls to keep in touch with grandchildren?  I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Until then, I remain a happy woman because my grandchildren recognize me even though they're far too far away.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Watch Your Finances Carefully: Negative Option Marketing

I'm hoping my household is the only one among us to be hit by the 'negative option' marketing technique.

Some time ago, we noticed a $10 charge on our credit card that we couldn't account for.  When we called the number that our credit card company listed for the originator of the charge, we were told that an ad had been sent to us through the mail-and since we didn't respond that we were uninterested in the product, -it was immediately charged to our credit card account.

My first question is this:  How do these people get our credit card account in the first place?  I have to assume that we had purchased something earlier from this company or one owned by the same overseeing group of companies-somewhat like the unrequested catalogues that come in the mail because a connected catalogue company to which we do subscribe has shared our info.

My second question is this:  Can this 'negative option' marketing practice be legal?  According to the AARP Bulletin, Sept. 2009, the answer is yes!  If the offer contains all of the legal language required by law.

The article in the AARP Bulletin, "Taking No for an Answer" (22) by Sid Kirchheimer  indicates that you have a certain amount of time to respond with a resounding "No, I do not want this product!" or charges start accruing on your bank statement or on your credit card.

The article concentrates on insurance policies offered by banks;  these policies are sold by "third-party vendors" over the phone or by mail. That might explain the way these merchants gain access to credit card info.

We had to cancel our non-purchase in order to have it taken off of our credit card debits.  AARP suggests the following: 
  1. Review bank statements. You have 60 days to dispute charges on mailed statements.
  2. Beware of free trial offers.  They are often negative option programs.
  3. Request a contract.  In some states, an offer...cannot be legally accpted 'by the silence' of the customer.
  4. Send certified letters, with return receipt notifications, asking companies not to send you information about company-branded programs.
And my favorites among the suggestions!  Contact your state attorney general and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at or call 1-877-382-4357.  (AARP Bulletin, Sept. 2009,22)

We learned the 'watch your finances carefully' lesson and hope you won't have to go through the cancellation of goods and / or services you didn't order in the first place!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Grandma Alert

You may recall advice given to us about the fair-trade, organic, ecofriendly company called Fair Indigo.  I received the catalogue and have to tell you that the pages listing children's items are fantastic.

The handcrafted toys, sweaters, blankets and "Joobles Blankies" look great.  And the sweaters with hats, mittens and toy to match are just what I've been looking for.  I think my first order, however, will be the fleece baby bunting in cranberry.  After all, a new baby girl is coming our way at Christmastime!

Thanks for the tip!