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Be Rattlesnake Safe When Outdoors | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 22 May 2012 15:46

 

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Rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive and usually strike only when threatened or deliberately provoked. Given room, they will retreat.


By Carol Singleton
SPECIAL TO THE FORUM



Now that warm weather has returned, humans are not the only species coming out to enjoy the sun. Snakes, too, can be found basking in the sun’s rays.


Although most snakes in the state are harmless, the Department of Fish and Game reminds the public to steer clear of the venomous rattlesnake and know what to do if one strikes.


All of California is snake country. You don’t even have to be in the great outdoors to discover a snake. They can be found in your garden and sometimes even your garage, but there is no need to panic.


Snakes play an important role in the ecosystem, including keeping the rodent population under control.


Rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive and usually strike only when threatened or deliberately provoked. Given room, they will retreat.


Most snake bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally touched by someone walking or climbing. The majority of snakebites occur on the hands, feet and ankles.


On rare occasions, rattlesnakes can cause serious injury to humans. The California Poison Control Center notes that rattlesnakes account for more than 800 bites each year in the U.S. with one to two deaths. Most bites occur between the months of April and October when snakes and humans are most active outdoors.


The potential of running into a rattlesnake should not deter anyone from venturing outdoors, but there are precautions that can be taken to lessen the chance of being bitten.



 

Is it a rattlesnake?

Anyone who ventures outdoors this time of year should know how to identify California’s only native venomous snake - the rattlesnake. There are several species including the northern Pacific rattlesnake (), and the western diamondback in Northern California, and several others found in Southern California.


A rattlesnake is a heavy-bodied, blunt-tailed snake with one or more rattles on the tail. It has a triangular-shaped head, much broader at the back than at the front, and a distinct “neck” region. The rattlesnake also has openings between the nostrils and eyes. They have a series of dark and light bands near the tail, just before the rattles which are different from the markings on the rest of the body.


Rattles may not always be present, as they are often lost through breakage and are not always developed on the young.

 


Do’s and don’ts

Rattlesnakes are not confined to rural areas. They have been found in urban areas, on  riverbanks and lakeside parks and at golf courses. Startled rattlesnakes may not rattle before striking defensively. The following safety precautions should be followed to reduce the likelihood of startling a rattlesnake:


•Wear hiking boots and loose-fitting long pants.

•Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas.

•When hiking, stick to well-used trails.

•Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.

•Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark.

•Step on logs and rocks, never over them, and be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood.

•Shake out sleeping bags before use.

Never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers. Rattlesnakes can swim.

•Never hike alone. Always have someone with you who can assist in an emergency.

•Do not handle a freshly killed snake, as it can still inject venom.

Teach children early to respect snakes and to leave them alone.

 


In the event of a snake bite

Though uncommon, rattlesnake bites do occur, so have a plan in place for responding to any situation. Carry a cell phone, hike with a companion who can assist in an emergency, and make sure that family or friends know where you are going and when you will be checking in.

Try to stay calm. Wash the bite area gently with soap and water. Remove watches, rings, etc, which may constrict swelling. Immobilize the affected area. Transport safely to the nearest medical facility.


Don’t apply a tourniquet.

Don’t pack the bite area in ice.

Don’t cut the wound with a knife or razor.

Don’t use your mouth to suck out the venom.

Don’t let the victim drink alcohol.

 


Carol Singleton is a communications specialist with the California Department of Fish and Game.



 
Adopt-A-Pet • 05-16-12 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 May 2012 14:35

 

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Question of the Week • 05-16-12 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 May 2012 14:30

 

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Inventory Drastically Drops 69 Percent | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 May 2012 14:02

 

Real Estate Reality

 


By Carl Medford, CRS
Special to the Forum



It’s no secret that the Central County housing market has radically switched in the past few months so that we are now firmly ensconced… in a seller’s market.

 

 

While it’s true that there are still some listings out there moldering away, they typically represent either seriously distressed homes or those owned by normal folks with what I call, “misplaced optimism.” In fact, if your home has been on the market a number of months, it’s more than likely priced too high, even for the current market.

 

 

In contrast, nice, well-priced homes are flying off the market faster than flapjacks off the griddle at a logging convention. So much so that current inventory is a staggering 69 percent* lower than this time last year. In many Bay Area neighborhoods, sales are outpacing replacement inventory causing a serious housing shortage — there simply aren’t enough listings to meet the demand. And, as everyone knows, when demand outpaces supply, prices have nowhere to go but up. And therein lays the quandary.

 

 

While many sellers know that it’s a great time to sell, they’ve also been listening to news sources suggesting that Bay Area homeowners may actually see price increases of up to 10 percent over the next year. “Why sell now,” they reason, “if we can hold out until the end of the year and score an extra 10 percent?” It’s a valid thought; and, while completely speculative, it’s a sentiment that’s actually gaining some grassroots momentum. After all, if your home is currently worth $400,000, and postponing a sale for 9 to 12 months could reap an extra $40,000, it might be worth the wait. Or not. No one knows.

 

 

Although gaining ground, the economy still isn’t out of the woods. France’s recent elections could be signaling the demise of the Euro Zone. We’re in an election year and there is tremendous uncertainty as to how the outcome will affect local housing markets. And then there is the Facebook factor: With its impending IPO, some hopeful local owners are waiting for the resulting cash to hit the housing market — confident they’ll score big.

 

Whatever the future holds, the current reality is certain. We need your house and we need it now! Buyers are standing by and, if you prepare it carefully and price it right… multiple offers are almost certain to ensue. You can wait and speculate, or go for a sure thing… now.

 

 

*Data provided by Terradatum.

 

Carl Medford is a licensed Realtor with Prudential California Realty in Castro Valley and a licensed general contractor. This article is sponsored by the Central County Marketing Association at www.ccmgtoday.com



 
Spotlight on CV Adult and Career Education | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 May 2012 08:44


By Paula Evans
SPECIAL TO THE FORUM



I invite you to walk into any one of THE medical training programs AT Castro Valley Adult and Career Education  and experience the energy and motivation students’ exhibit as they learn a new set of career preparation skills that will take them from out-of-work to working, or allow them to increase their employability in order to maintain their current job status.


Orientations held for the CNA / HHA and Clinical Medical Assistant programs are packed with anxious adults concerned about availability in the next training session.


English as a Second Language and GED class enrollment is increasing as adults are using their “down” time to increase their education and skills.


The economic downturn and widespread unemployment have understandably contributed to the increased demand for training and affordable education.


Career and Technical classes at Castro Valley Adult are expanding and going strong. We are opening new sections and adding new types of courses in response to this demand. In particular, we have added daytime classes covering all levels Microsoft Office, Cloud Applications and Website Design.


California Adult Schools strive to provide affordable and accessible high-quality education to over 1.2 million adults state-wide annually.  Now more then ever, California needs to continue funding for this vital educational service, investing in our economy – our workforce and most importantly, our future!


Take advantage of what adult education is offering! Register today and invest in your future!

 


To learn more about the complete lineup of job training and educational courses offered through CV Adult and Career Education, call 886-1000, stop by 4430 Alma Ave. or visit www.cvadult.org for a listing of classes and services. And now, check us out on Facebook!

 
How to Choose a Medicare Advantage Plan | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 May 2012 08:34


By Jim Miller
SPECIAL TO THE FORUM

 


Medicare Advantage plans have become increasingly popular among retirees over the past few years. In fact, around one-fourth of all Medicare recipients – nearly 13 million Americans – are currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.


Here are some tips and tools to help you choose the best plan for you.


Medicare Advantage

Sometimes called Medicare Part C, Medicare Advantage plans are government approved health plans sold by private insurance companies that you can choose in place of original Medicare. The vast majority of Advantage plans are managed-care policies such as HMOs or PPOs that require you to get your care within a network of providers.


If you join an Advantage plan, the plan will provide all of your Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance) coverage – some plans even offer extra benefits like vision, dental and hearing. And, most plans include Part D prescription drug coverage too.


You also need to be aware that the monthly premiums for many Advantage plans are cheaper than if you got original Medicare, plus a separate Part D drug plan and a Medigap policy, but their deductibles and co-pays are usually higher. That makes these plans better suited for healthier retirees.

 


How to Choose

To help you choose a plan, a good first step is to call your doctors and find out which Advantage plans they accept, and which ones they recommend. Then go to the Medicare Plan Finder tool at www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan and compare those options. When comparing, here are some key points to consider:


Total costs: Look at the plan’s entire pricing package, not just the premiums and deductibles. Compare the out-of-pocket maximums plus the copays and coinsurance charged for doctor office visits, hospital stays, diagnostic tests, visits to specialists, prescription drugs and other medical services.


This is very important because if you choose an Advantage plan, you’re not allowed to purchase a Medigap supplement policy, which means you’ll be responsible for paying these expenses out of your own pocket.


Drug coverage: Check the plan’s formulary – the list of prescription drugs covered – to be sure all the medications you take are covered without excessive co-pays or requirements that you try less expensive drugs first.


Extra benefits: Many Advantage plans include dental, vision and hearing benefits, but they are often limited. Get the details on what exactly is covered.


Out-of-network coverage: Since most Advantage plans limit you to using in-network doctors only, find out what’s covered if you have an emergency outside your network area. This is especially important if you travel extensively or live part of the year outside your network.


Locations: If you don’t use any particular doctors and you live in a rural area, make sure the doctors in the plans you’re considering are located near you. Also check to see if the hospitals, home health agencies and skilled nursing facilities that the plan covers are nearby too.


Retiree benefits: If you have coverage from a former employer, be sure you speak with the benefits manager, because signing up for Medicare Advantage may void your retiree coverage.



 

Get Help

If you don’t have a computer to compare plans, or if you don’t feel comfortable working through this information on you own, you can get help by calling Medicare at 800-633-4227. They can do the comparing for you over the phone, and enroll you in a plan when you’re ready.


Another good resource is your State Health Insurance Assistance Program, which provides free Medicare counseling. Visit shiptalk.org, or call 800-677-1116 to locate a counselor in your area. And, check out the HealthMetrix Research “Cost Share Report” at medicarenewswatch.com. This service chooses the best Advantage plans based on health status.

 


Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org

 


 
Safer Cycling for Seniors | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 May 2012 08:24

 

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By Jim Miller
SPECIAL TO THE FORUM


 

 

Three-wheeled bikes – also known as adult tricycles – are a great cycling option for older boomers and seniors, especially those who have concerns with their balance or stamina.

 

 


Here’s what you should know, along with some tips to help you shop for one.



Safer Cycling

If you’d like to take up bike riding, but worry about falling, an adult tricycle is a smart option to consider because of the stability it provides.


With a tricycle, you can ride as slow as you want without ever losing your balance and you can put both feet on the ground while seated, which is very reassuring for many older riders.


In addition, adult tricycles are also made with a low “step through” design making mounting and dismounting much easier than a traditional bike; they come with big tires that ensure a smooth ride; have raised, ergonomic handlebars that are easier to reach and grip; and offer oversize seats (some even have backrests) for comfort and support.


And, other than the frame, tricycles use the same standard components as traditional bikes do, so replacement parts are readily available, and repairs are not an issue.

 


Types of Tricycles

There are literally dozens of different types of adult tricycles to choose from with prices ranging anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.


To help you figure out the right kind of tricycle that meets your needs and budget, here’s a breakdown of the different styles and costs, along with some popular models to checkout.


Upright: If you’re primarily interested in a leisurely ride around the neighborhood for pleasure, fitness or running errands, upright trikes are a good choice. These are traditional upright-positioned tricycles that come with rear cargo baskets and limited gear options usually ranging from one to three-speeds.


Some popular models in this category include the Schwinn Meridian Adult Tricycle sold at Walmart and Target for around $270, the Sun Traditional 24 trike (see sunbicycles.com) that retails for around $375, and the Torker TriStar three-speed (torkerusa.com) which costs around $500.


Recumbent: These are the lower-to-the-ground, stretched-out frame tricycles that allow you to recline with your legs positioned in front of you. Available in various styles, recumbent trikes are very comfy, easy on the back and aerodynamic which make them ideal for long rides.


See terratrike.com, sunbicycles.com, industrialbicycles.com, trailmate.com and bikemania.biz for a nice variety, but be aware that recumbent trikes are more expensive than upright models, typically ranging between $800 and $2,500.


Tandem: If you plan to ride primarily with your spouse or another partner, you may want to get a tandem tricycle that comes with two seats (front and back), or you can get a double seat tricycle with the seats side-by-side. You can find these types of bikes for around $1,000 to $2,000, at the same websites that offer recumbent trikes.


Folding: If you like to travel or if you have limited storage space, tricycles that are designed to fold up to fit in tight spaces are another popular option.


The Adventurer Three-Speed Folding Trike which sells for $390 at adventurebikes.com, Kent Westport Folding Tricycle sold at Target and amazon.com for $300, and Walmart’s Port-O-Trike 3-Speed Folding Tricycle for $400 are three good folding trikes to consider.


Electric: If you need a boost from time to time, electric tricycles are hybrids that have pedals and an electric motor, so you can exercise when you want or you can sit back and let the trike do the work. Some good options include the EW-88 electric trike at electricwheelstore.com for $1,200, and the Cabbike 3 Electric Tricycle offered through cabbikes.com for $979.

 


Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

 


 
The Afterlife of Online Accounts | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 May 2012 08:20

By Gene L. Osofsky
SPECIAL TO THE FORUM


Q:

I do most of my banking and bill paying over the Internet, participate in Facebook and exchange e-mails with friends and family. What would happen to these online accounts when I die or if I become disabled and can no longer manage them?


A:

 

As we move further into the 21st century, more and more of our lives are moving into the digital realm. This includes friendships, networking, business and banking.


While this gives us instant access to our “digital assets” and on-line friends on a 24/7 basis, the downside is that a large portion of our lives are locked away behind password-protected accounts.


How would our loved ones, executor or trustee access this information, notify our online friends and take other steps to freeze, transfer or terminate these accounts when they are protected by user names and passwords known only to us?


Unfortunately, unless you have taken appropriate steps during lifetime, it could be very difficult for your loved ones to access this information, notify your “friends” and memorialize or terminate your accounts. In one notable case decided in Michigan, the parents of a deceased Iraqi marine had to sue Yahoo in order to secure access to their son’s e-mails.

 


Here are several recommendations:


1. Make provision for your loved ones to get access to this information upon your incapacity or death. You might do this simply by creating, and keeping current, a list of user-names and passwords and keeping it in a place known to your loved ones.


Alternatively, you might sign on with companies who offer to safely secure your digital property and grant access to your friends and loved ones upon your death or disability. One of them is Legacy Locker. Others include Entrustet and AssetLock.


You might even arrange to send an e-mail to your loved ones in the future, even after you’re gone, such as your grandchild’s 16th birthday. Check out the GreatGoodbye and EternityMessage. However, in order to serve their purpose, the online services you select would need to survive you.



2. Include in your Durable Power Of Attorney, Will or Living Trust special provisions authorizing your agent, executor or trustee to access and manage these assets upon your incapacity or demise.


Caution: It is not yet clear under California law whether user-names and passwords are a part of your “estate” and subject to the control of your nominee. However, in anticipation of the law addressing this issue in the future, I suggest including appropriate provisions in your estate planning documents now, so that when California law does reach these issues you will be prepared.



3. Check your favorite websites and see if they have procedures in place to deal with incapacity or death. For example, Facebook, the world’s most popular online social network, allows someone to “Report a Deceased Person’s Profile.” Upon satisfactory proof of death, the decedent’s page can be “memorialized” so that only confirmed friends continue to have access to the decedent’s “wall,” which may then remain on Facebook indefinitely as a memorial to the deceased.


Most importantly, think about these issues now and discuss them with your loved ones. Remember, also, that none of us is immortal and we may or may not wish our online presence to continue after our demise. When you next update your estate planning documents, make it a point to discuss these issues with your estate planning or elder law attorney.

 


Gene L. Osofsky is an elder law and estate planning attorney in Hayward.  Visit his website at www.LawyerForSeniors.com



 
New Owners for Kay’s Bridal Shop | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 09 May 2012 14:25


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Robert and Karina Gillette took over Kay’s Bridal shop on Redwood Road eight weeks ago and are looking forward to many more years in business.



A local shop that has provided wedding gowns for hundreds of Castro Valley brides since the 1930s has reopened under the new management of lifelong Castro Valley residents Robert and Karina Gillette.


The Gillettes took over Kay’s Bridal Boutique at 21120 Redwood Road in March.


“A friend of the former owner made the connection for us,” explained Robert Gillette who said it was the previous owner’s desire to have local people run the business.


“We want to refresh the business to something we will be proud of,” added Karina.


The couple is focused on having Kay’s become the premier bridal shop for the East Bay.



 
Awards are Just Icing on The Cake for CV Baker | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 09 May 2012 14:07


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With just 19 months of cake-making experience, amateur baker Misti Short of Castro Valley has already brought home two prominent awards for her cake creation “Rapunzel’s Tower.”


Misti Short loves to bake cakes. But not just those round, three-layer jobs.

The Castro Valley housewife – mother of five and grandmother of one – talked her husband into letting her take a cake-making class a while back and since then her oven has been turning out the most extravagant of creations.


Short  edged out 40 other contestants for First Place in the Alameda County Fair competition and brought home a “People’s Choice” award from the April 29th Contra Costa Cake and Sugar Art Society competition in Concord.


“I have so many cake ideas in me I need an excuse to make more,” says the amateur baker.


Last September, Short went to the Wilton School of Confectionery Art in Chicago and is planning on enrolling in culinary courses at Diablo Valley College. She hopes to open her own cake shop in San Leandro in the near future.

 


–Robert Souza

 


 
Question of the Week • 05-09-12 | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 08 May 2012 14:54

 

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Movie Review: Marvel’s ‘Avengers’ Revive Hero Genre | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 08 May 2012 15:19


By Trevin Smith
SPECIAL TO THE FORUM



The Avengers revives the overhyped genre of superhero beat-em-ups and wraps you in a blanket of hope and imagination in a way only superheroes can.


In two hours childhood fantasy gets a shot of adrenaline as Hawkeye, the Black Widow, Thor, the Hulk, Captain America and Iron Man team up in an all you can eat buffet of bullets, mindless violence and explosions. Plus Samuel L. Jackson wears a cool leather eye patch, what else could you need?


Alone, each of The Avenger’s individual movies were good at best (the only two so far not to have films are Hawkeye and the Black Widow). But when combined, each hero offers endless snappy comebacks, one liners and unique powers that keep the movie from dying a boring death.


The older and younger crowds together erupted in cheer in a way I’ve never heard in a Marvel movie before, as the Avengers put their many differences aside to take down the Norse mythology inspired villain Loki who is out to take over the world.


My favorite hero after seeing the film is easily the Hulk. “The Avengers” tended to keep David Banner under wraps for most of the film, only to later reveal him as a car throwing, building scaling machine.


As each hero meets one another, some tension and rock star egos emerge, especially in Tony Stark (Iron Man) which at times can get a tad annoying, but overall it’s fun to watch how The Avengers use each of their individual skills to get the job done.


With solid characters, countless explosions and a hint to a sequel after the credits, “The Avengers” is a great way to open the approaching summer movie season by both giving you someone to root for and making you want to give superhero flicks another chance.

 


Trevin Smith, who lives in Castro Valley, is currently studying journalism at Las Positas College where he has been the Arts and Entertainment Editor of the school newspaper, The Express. You may read more of his work at www.LPCExpress.org and contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .



 
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