‘Arrietty’ Film: Beautiful Yet Slow | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 24 February 2012 14:48


By Trevin Smith

“The Secret World of Arrietty” is aimed more towards teenage Japanese animation nerds instead of younger audiences.

If your kid likes to draw give it a shot, however with a long story, little to no action and a sleepy dialogue, the movie unfolds more like an artsy festival animation instead of a Disney flick standard.


Based on Mary Norton’s 1952 novel “The Borrowers” and originally titled “Kari-gurashi no Arietti,” this U.S version follows Arrietty, a young teenage “borrower” the size of a pack of gum living in the floorboards of a house with her parents. They steal small objects from a human family yet try to stay hidden. When Arrietty is discovered by the teenaged house resident Shaun, their way of life is threatened.


This is a Disney production, but this time they left Pixar in Emeryville and headed a little further east, to Japan, where artists drew a manga influenced atmosphere to the film without the crutch of Westernized computer graphics that is truly brilliant.


However, out of all the sensual experiences a movie provides, not often is sound one that sticks out in such a profound way as it does here. As the audience follows the borrowers in environments ten times their scale, the director kept this in mind and adjusted the sound accordingly. Rain drops piddle paddle on leaves as birds chirp and bugs rustled around the floor, all sounding impressively larger than life.


But “The Secret World of Arrietty” falls short in the thrills department. It is a bit of a slow hour and a half; the actual plot is quite simple and short as many scenes show how the travelers move in a world larger than themselves.


Kids who are used to watching nonstop action and slapstick comedy in Disney films will be bored long after all of their popcorn is eaten up, but the Japanese animation fans will adore it.



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

Foreclosure ‘Flood’ Forecast: Slew of Short Sales Sit Still | Print |  E-mail
Friday, 24 February 2012 14:22

Real Estate Reality

By Carl Medford, CRS
Special to the Forum





News that the five biggest banks cut a Foreclosure Abuse deal with the Feds to the tune of $26 billion has revitalized rumors of a new flood of foreclosures.


Just last week, RealtyTrak, publishers of the largest database of foreclosure, auction and bank-owned homes in the country for investors and homebuyers, claimed foreclosure rates kicked back up immediately after the landmark settlement was inked.


Based on what Realtors are seeing here in Central Alameda County, there has not been a flood of foreclosures, nor do we anticipate seeing one.


The reason is simple: while there is certainly no shortage of distressed homeowners who cannot meet current mortgage obligations, banks are growing increasingly willing to cooperate with a short sale instead of taking back the homes. So, while we don’t anticipate a “flood” of foreclosures, many are looking at projected increases in short sales calling 2012 “The Year of the Short Sale.”


While good news for sellers, buyers are not very excited about this development. In fact, there is a growing level of push-back from buyers who don’t want to see short sales. As chronicled in the past in this column, short sales have a number of inherent issues.


Issue No. 1: They often appear with artificially low prices designed to get buyers to write. In a move labeled by many as “bait-and-switch,” banks come back at acceptance time and raise the accepted price to market levels. Many buyers bail at this point, either unable or unwilling to pay the higher price.


Issue No. 2: The inability to access many short sales: an astoundingly high percentage don’t have lockboxes, making it almost impossible for buyers’ agents to show short sale properties to buyers on the buyers’ schedules. There doesn’t appear to be any good or logical reason for this. Everyone knows that to sell a home quickly for top dollar, you need ready access.


Issue No. 3: The length of time banks take to actually process short sales. The market average is still approximately six months. Given the choice between a normal sale, foreclosure or short sale, buyers will avoid the short sale and go after lower-hanging fruit.


Bottom line? While we can anticipate a significant uptick in short sales in the months to come, we also predict an increasing resistance to short sales by buyers. Unless, of course, banks can get their acts together and make sort sales… well, short.

Don’t hold your breath.


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

After Adolescence, Asthma-Like Symptoms May Not Be Asthma | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 15:31


By Navdeep Singh, M.D.

Most of us recognize episodes of wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing as bronchial asthma, a long-term disease of the lungs affecting more than 24 million U.S. adults and children.


When these symptoms begin in adulthood, though, the likelihood of the underlying cause being a more serious condition instead of asthma is significantly higher.


Seventy-five percent of asthma patients develop symptoms before age 12, and fewer than 10 percent develop symptoms in adulthood. However other diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure (CHF), can mimic asthma’s symptoms and are more common in adults than children.



Additional causes

An asthma attack occurs when the smooth muscle surrounding the air passages in our lungs contracts, narrowing the passageways and making it difficult to breathe, so asthma treatments either reopen the airway during an attack or help prevent attacks from occurring.


When a patient’s symptoms are caused by a different condition, though, different treatments are needed.


Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) is most commonly diagnosed in adults between the ages of 20 and 40, and its symptoms can mimic asthma almost perfectly.


During normal respiration, the vocal cords open completely to let air pass in and out of the lungs. In patients with VCD, the vocal cords will sometimes close when they should open—producing a wheezing-like sound and making it difficult to breathe.


Because the vocal cords do not respond to asthma medications, asthma treatments won’t help patients with VCD and can, in fact, make an attack worse.


Other potential causes of asthma-like symptoms include COPD, lymphoma, CHF and a tumor in the airway. In some cases, asthma can coexist with one of these conditions, sometimes making the second condition less apparent.



Managing an attack

Anytime our ability to breathe is threatened, panic can set in, and that can make an attack even worse. To manage attacks effectively, patients need to have an action plan that is specific to them and their disease.


For asthma patients, action plans generally include identifying and avoiding asthma triggers (e.g. cold air, exertion or dust and other allergens), as well as instructions on what to do when an attack occurs.


For patients with VCD, plans typically include steps to address any underlying cause and learning exercises taught by speech therapists that can help relax the muscles in the throat and open the vocal cords.


Patients and their families should also learn to recognize when it is time to call 911. Difficulty in breathing can be life threatening, and a patient’s best chances come with a fast response.


If you are alone when calling 911 and cannot speak, tap the telephone on a hard surface such as a table or counter. 911 operators are trained to recognize that as a sign of a patient who is choking and will dispatch medical responders right away.



Know your disease

As with all conditions, the best resource a patient has is knowledge. Understand your disease, what triggers it and how to manage it. Also, seek treatment early.


Left untreated, asthma and similar disease can become far more serious and difficult to treat.



Navdeep Singh, M.D., is a triple board certified internal medicine, pulmonary disease and critical care medicine specialist affiliated with Eden Medical Center.

Don’t Miss the A.R.T., Inc. Members Exhibit, On Now | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 14:59


“Canyon Hawk” by Peggy Harris

By Winda Shimizu




Art Around Town:


The A.R.T., Inc. Members Exhibit going on now at the Adobe Art Gallery presents a group of 69 pieces of acrylics, photographs, oils, ceramics, watercolors, metal, archival prints, mixed media and woodblock prints.


Exhibition Judge Edwin Bertolet selected six awards of merit, Larry Bendoski, Rene Clair, Carol Jones Brown, Todd Leonardo, Scott Miner and Peggy Harris.


“An extremely creative work of art, this sculptural piece fascinates on many levels and engages the viewers’ imagination,” said Bertolet in discussing Peggy Harris’ piece titled “Canyon Hawk.”


“The artist’s ability to take a found item and reinterpret it in a new context is stimulating. This delightful piece combines whimsy, heritage, and sensitivity into an intergral whole. I was struck by the way this artwork satisfies one’s emotional, design and intellectual needs,” Bertolet said.


Eight honorable mentions were awarded to Michael Belew, Nick Calarco, Donna Crum, Myriam Espinoza Aguirre, Janice Moulton, Pusha P. Dalal, Steve Platt, and Susan Sarti.


The variety of pieces showcased in this exhibit leave you refresh and energized. There is a piece for every taste. Come an see for yourself and feel your senses with the A.R.T., Inc. Members Exhibit until Saturday,  March 3.



Winda Shimizu is the publicist for A.R.T., Inc. For more art events and information, see the A&E Calendar on page 5 and visit

Adopt-A-Pet • 02-22-12 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 15:11




Fitness: ‘Mary’s Story,’ Part Two | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 15:54

By Mitch Rothbardt

Hi, everyone. Here’s the second of Mary’s columns:

“Hello everyone, its me Mary. I’d like to start out and thank those who emailed me. Knowing I’m not the only one walking in my shoes is very helpful, so thank you for sharing your story with me.

I would like to share one thought that really helped me. Since everyone knows me as Mary, I should see myself as helping Mary. Do what I would suggest to Mary. Mary is my buddy even though it’s me.


The past two weeks have been hard for me. Trying to keep up with my busy schedule and trying to stay focused. I wish I could say I am on the right track, but last Monday I was not at Boot Camp due to not feeling well.


That day I was feeling less energized as I would have if I had gone. I should have just pushed myself and did the best I could. Oh well, lesson learned.  Move on right?


I wish changes were easier than saying it. I guess if it was I would not be where I am today. But overall I would have to say “working out” has helped. I seem not to be as stiff and I have less back pain.


I definitely have more energy. Another big change I am slowly working on is choosing what I eat.  It’s one of my hardest challenges.  Overall I am usually the one making dinner and buying the food we eat in the house.


When I walk into the Safeway, as soon as I walk in I see all the bad stuff like donuts, cakes, cookies. All the comfort foods that I crave. If I were only able to take one bite it might be OK, but I can’t, so I can’t buy it.


To be honest I always put that stuff in the cart while I am walking and buying all the fruits, veggies and meat I need. About 85% of the time I put the cake back before I check out. While I’m walking around I think, “Do I really need it? Will I feel good after I’m done?” Most of the time my mind tells me no!


Another problem I have when I eat starchy or heavy foods is I don’t sleep well. My stomach bothers me in my sleep and I end up having to sleep more upright.


Last week I tried something new for lunch and dinner. I ate only 4-6 oz of protein and 6-8 oz of mixed veggies. If I have anything starchy like rice or pasta I would have it for lunch. It’s definitely helped.


I have not lost much weight yet, but I have more energy I am also doing more, less sitting, less catching up on my shows recorded on the DVR.  I guess that is a good sign.  I am on the right track doing the best I can.



Mitch Rothbardt is a Certified Personal Trainer who offers weight-loss programs, bootcamps and individual training for all fitness levels and budgets. Reach him at 510-754-7113 or by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

CV Woman Doctor’s Legacy Remembered with Scholarship | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 14:58

The Castro Valley Educational Foundation is inviting CVHS seniors to apply for the $20,000 Dr. Mary Jane Stamm Scholarship as well as many other available scholarships this year. Applications are due by April 1.


The Stamm Scholarship was established by Dr. Mary Jane Stamm, Castro Valley’s first woman doctor and the first woman OB/Gyn on staff at Eden Hospital when it opened its doors back in 1954.


During her many years of practice, she delivered thousands of babies at the hospital and was a vital part of the community. A philanthropist as well as a physician, Dr Stamm quietly contributed to many Castro Valley organizations and causes in her lifetime.


Stamm passed away in February of 2007 at age 91, but her legacy continues through this large, annual scholarship. To date, the Stamm scholarships have distributed more than  $470,000 to local students.



Seniors who would like to apply for the Stamm or any of the other scholarships can call 510-397-4095 or visit for more info and an application.

Question of the Week • 02-15-12 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 15 February 2012 15:26


No Question of the Week this week

Adopt-A-Pet • 02-15-12 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 15 February 2012 15:21




Real Estate Reality • 02-15-12 | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 15 February 2012 14:46


Trash Talkin’ Buyers Try

To Score Lower Prices

Negative dialogue typically hurts negotiations, alienates sellers

Smart house hunters understand that if they appear too eager about a specific property, they may lose negotiating power. Listing agents typically hear comments such as “it’s nice” or “OK.” Increasingly, however, we’re hearing dramatically different dialogue.

Trash talk.

To state the obvious up front, listing agents usually work with sellers to enhance their homes and maximize potential. Some sellers cooperate, ending up with homes sure to impress potential buyers. Others… not so much.


In every case, however, we help sellers determine appropriate asking prices based on current condition in relationship to comparable homes in the area. If the home is in great shape and shows well, we ask more. Poor condition… less. Bottom line — pricing reflects current market value for similar homes plus improvements or minus issues.


While most buyers seem to understand this, there’s a group that seems to think that they can take perceived issues and subtract the cost of remedies off the price. They believe that the more issues they can point out, the more they can knock off the price. Therefore, they go through homes loudly pointing out issues and making derogatory comments designed to justify their position.


I’ve even heard them suggest that they’ll have to replace perfectly good flooring because they don’t like the color, have to remodel the kitchen because it’s not modern enough and so on…thinking that they can take the cost of potential upgrades off the price because the house doesn’t currently “meet their needs or expectations.”



While I understand the logic behind trash talk, there are some serious flaws with this reasoning:


1. Any competent listing agent will have already identified issues with the seller and factored them into the price. In other words, the issues are already subtracted — buyers don’t get to subtract them again.


2. This tactic usually alienates sellers and listing agents. Not wise. Ticked-off sellers are usually less willing to cooperate and will often dig in their heels when dealing with unrealistic buyers.


3. When negotiating, sugar always works better than vinegar — you’ll get a lot further with positive win-win negotiating than with negative tactics.


The underlying premise is that if a buyer can point out enough issues, they can lowball their offer and score. Problem is, just like baseball, you have to get on base to score and, in reality, trash talkin’ buyers usually strike out every time.



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

Spotlight on Castro Valley Adult and Career Education: Healthcare Profession | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 15 February 2012 14:40

By Paula Evans

Is a career in healthcare still on your radar screen? Are you interested in working in an environment where providing quality patient care is a priority?

Do you want to be employed in a professional occupation with strong projected growth and sustainability? If you answered “yes” to these questions, then you are on the right track with medical career training programs offered through Castro Valley Adult and Career Education.


Let’s look at two of their comprehensive courses:

Administrative medical assistant students learn to update and file patients’ medical records, fill out insurance forms, and arrange for hospital admissions and laboratory services.


They also train in tasks less specific to medical settings, such as answering telephones, greeting patients, handling correspondence, scheduling appointments, and handling billing and bookkeeping.


This 17-week course is aligned with the Clinical Medical Assistant course, and when registered together as a package, students receive a 10% discount. The Administrative Medical Assistant program is Wednesdays, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., March 14-July 18.


In the Clinical Medical Assistant program, students develop the skills in a variety of duties that include taking medical histories and recording vital signs, explaining treatment procedures to patients, preparing patients for examinations, and assisting physicians during examinations.


Medical assistant students learn to collect and prepare laboratory specimens and sometimes perform basic laboratory tests, dispose of contaminated supplies, and sterilize medical instruments.


Instruction covers patient communication and information skills, medications and special diets, preparation and administration of  medications, authorizing drug refills, drawing blood, preparing patients for x-rays, taking electrocardiograms, removing sutures, and changing dressings.


Students learn to arrange examining room instruments and equipment, purchase and maintain supplies and equipment. Optional clinical externship are available for qualifying students.


The next CMA class schedule is March 14 through July 13, on  Wednesdays from 1-4 p.m., and Thursdays and Fridays, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. A mandatory orientation will be held from 6-8  p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23.


If you are considering transitioning into the medical and health services field for employment in 2012, consider the programs offered through CV Adult and Career Education. visit, contact the Adult School, 510-886-1000, or stop by in person at 4430 Alma Ave. in Castro Valley.

Help Prevent Elder Abuse: How to Recognize Warning Signs and What to Do | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 15 February 2012 14:34

By Jim Miller

Elder abuse is an immense and often hidden problem that all Americans need to be aware of so they can recognize it, and know what to do if they suspect a problem.


According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, around 3.5 million seniors are victims of abuse, but research suggests that this crime is significantly under-reported and under-identified.


Fewer than 1-in-6 cases of elder abuse ever get reported to the authorities because the victims are usually too afraid, too embarrassed, too helpless or too trusting to call for help.


The term “elder abuse” is defined as intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or trusted individual that causes, or can cause, harm to a vulnerable senior.


Elder abuse also comes in many different forms: physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment, neglect and self-neglect, and financial exploitation which has increased significantly over the past few years because of the sour economy.


Those most vulnerable are seniors that are ill, frail, disabled, socially isolated or mentally impaired due to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.


It’s also important to know that while elder abuse does happen in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, the vast majority of incidents take place at home where the senior lives. And tragically, the abusers are most often their own family members (usually the victim’s adult child or spouse) or caregiver.


Recognizing Elder Abuse


So how can you tell if a friend or your loved one is being abused, and what can you do to help?


A change in general behavior is a universal warning sign that a problem exists. If your elder friend or loved one becomes withdrawn or gets upset or agitated easily, you need to start asking questions. Here are some additional warning signs on the different types of elder abuse that can help you spot a possible problem.


• Physical or sexual abuse: Suspicious bruises or other injuries that can’t be explained. Sudden changes in behavior (upset, withdrawn, fearful). Broken eyeglasses. Caregiver’s refusal to allow visitors to see an elder alone.


• Emotional or psychological abuse (insults, intimidation, threats, social isolation): The elder is extremely upset, agitated, withdrawn, unresponsive, fearful or depressed, or demonstrates some other unusual behavior.


• Neglect or self-neglect: Malnourishment, weight loss, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, unsanitary and unsafe living conditions.


• Financial exploitation: Missing money or valuables. Unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts, or transfers between accounts. Unauthorized use of credit, debit or ATM card.


Unpaid bills despite available funds. Checks written as a loan or gift. Abrupt changes in a will or other documents.



What to Do


The best ways to help prevent elder abuse is to be in touch, and keep the lines of communication open. If you suspect any type of elder abuse or neglect, report it to your local protective services agency.


Adult Protective Services is the government agency responsible for investigating cases and providing help and guidance. Call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 or visit the National Center on Elder Abuse website ( to get the agency contact number in your area.


If however, you feel the person is in immediate danger, call 911 or the local police for immediate help.


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

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