Category: Uncategorized

Path Not Taken

Often books focus on the path not taken such as The Little Paris Book Shop. Other times an author may provide more than one ending like the Choose Your Adventures my kids used to read. Or entirely separate plot lines like Heads You Win. In life, the fork in the road takes us down very different paths.

In my case the path not taken was not forging a career in New York City. My undergraduate degree came from a small women’s college in Connecticut. Thus, during a few very formative years, New York City beckoned to me. I still remember crossing the GWB (George Washington Bridge) for the very first time.

Trips to The City during those college years were infrequent but not rare. The vibrancy of New York is enticing. Favorite haunts included the museums near Central Park, Wall Street and the World Trade Centers (My fond memories of Windows on the World atop Building 1 defy the actions of the 9/11 terrorists.) and last but not least the Garment District.

I love the Garment District. Too short to be a runway model, I focused on the fabric. Every texture, color and design pattern can be found. Additionally, there are stores that sell nothing but notions. Ribbons, buttons, lace, zippers and threads to adorn any design.

Much has changed since my college days. I met my husband, a farm boy, at one of the land grant universities west of the Mississippi. I have only been back to New York City four times and two of those visits kept me on Long Island. But on one visit, I shopped in the Garment District and mourned at the site of the towers.

Changes from the Path Not Taken

Marriage is a major fork in the road. In my case a very major fork. Even though we lived in major cities the first three years together, the remaining years, over 30, have placed us in small towns. Towns of ten thousand or less are very small by my standards. I am a city girl at heart. Furthermore, the employment options are a bit limited.

Investment brokerage firms are not standard in rural America. Post Internet that is not a problem for investing. But employment in that career path is limited. So, I ended up teaching at a community college in the Business/Information Technology department. This actually complimented the other major path change.

Four children takes you down a very definite path. The needs of others becomes an essential part of life. Celebrities and movie stars manage large families. But my bet is they have a lot of help in the form of nannies, housekeepers (or at least a cleaning lady on a regular basis) and drivers. I had none of these, although I did carpool on occasion and even participated in a babysitting co-op in one town.

I concentrated on raising my family during these years of my life. But sacrifices occur if this is the path taken. My writing took a back seat. For several years I drove close to two hundred miles to participate in a writer’s group on a monthly basis. This gets old. As the kids grew so did the demands. The writer’s group had growing pains of its own, so I stopped making the trip. My family was happier. The writing took a hiatus.

New Forks

The kids are all adults now and busy choosing their paths. But, I still live in a small town. So some options are not feasible. New technology allows me to write. Blogging is not equivalent to important American Literature but it fills my need and I enjoy it.

However, design work is limited. The demographics of the area I live in are not conducive to earning a living through interior decorating. This is unfortunate. Somehow, I have the ability to throw together colors, textures, and patterns and the end result is amazing. Perhaps all the time spent designing quilts spilled over into other areas.

Thinking of the path not taken is fraught with what ifs. For example, if I had stayed in New York and chosen work in the Garment District instead of Wall Street, would I enjoy the process of design today? Actually, enjoy is an understatement. Creative design work whether a quilt or a back splash, defines me at this point in time. I love what I am doing. But would it be the same if I had followed another path?

That question is unanswerable. But I know the answers to others. I would never trade my time spent raising children. So, the path not taken remains a mystery. We have choices to make. Some are emotional, others are financial. Occasionally, a choice is made for us.

Each time we take a fork in the road we start down a new path. Can we backtrack? Perhaps to some degree. But we cannot erase the past. Thus the path not taken twenty years ago would not be the same now. If by chance the road loops around a second time and then you choose the other fork, the experience will differ. Thus, a path not taken remains unknown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fat Tuesday

Mardi Gras Beads hanging from tree and fence
Beads adorning a house and tree in New Orleans, Louisiana

As an individual raised in a family that attended church on a regular basis, I celebrate religious holidays. So Lent, Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday are no exceptions. However, as a child I celebrated Lent differently than I do now.

Lent is the 40 days before Easter. Of course, there are more than 40 days between Ash Wednesday-the start of Lent and Easter Sunday. But apparently SOME days don’t count. The purpose of Lent is fasting. A religious fasting, not a diet fasting. (Fasting as a diet is a trend.)

Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is also Fat Tuesday. But I confuse Mardi Gras with the entire Carnival season. I think I am too old to enjoy the debauchery of a New Orleans Mardi Gras. But, the city definitely knows how to usher in Lent! Mardi Gras Day parades in the New Orleans area started this morning at 8:00 a.m. If you happen to be in New Orleans visit my NOLA blog post for some good restaurant recommendations.

Fat Tuesday-Deadline for Resolution

I began sacrificing during Lent in college. Before that, Lent was a countdown to Easter, but the churches we attended did not emphasize the fasting. Then, I attended a Catholic college and thus adopted the tradition of giving up something for Lent. Upon moving to the town where I now live, we chose to raise our family in a Protestant church that also observes sacrificing during Lent.

Most of the time I have no trouble deciding what to give up during Lent. Many years it has been some form of sugar. Last year, in no small part due to reading The Case Against Sugar, I gave up all sugars. The year before, I gave up stress. Tough for someone with a Type A personality. Both years were eye-opening.

However, this year I am procrastinating. So much so that I re-read my post on procrastination. It reminded me that I can reduce stress by making a decision. Additionally, I asked for input on one of my social networking accounts. The two replies suggested adding something or reducing time spent on social media. Well, it was my first post in 2019 so I don’t think I am spending too much time there. Maybe not enough, since I missed the birth of a child to someone I hold dear.

Time is running out. Since I consider Lent as a time of improvement as well as sacrifice, I plan to add something to each day. Missing the news of a little ones arrival hits home at just how reclusive I have become. So during each day of Lent I plan to reach out and touch base with someone I care about. Especially if I have not communicated with that person in a while.

I will even jump the gun and start on Fat Tuesday. This commitment has lots of flexibility. I can pick up the phone, drop a note via snail mail or direct message someone. But it will be a different someone for 40 days. Who knows? Maybe I will invite one of you over to dinner. I am now looking forward to the challenge of Lent.

February 2019 Wrap Up

Action-packed describes the twenty-eight days of February 2019. The month started out with a refurbishing kitchen project. Perhaps a better description is a face lift. The work continues as you can see from the pictures. A two-week drive across the country to celebrate an eightieth birthday contributed to the action of the month. Throw in some reading, quilting and garden planning and the end of February 2019 is nigh.

Kitchen Project

Textured dark wall paper on lower third of wallThe old wallpaper is history. A mixture of warm water and vinegar in equal parts aids in the peeling. I found spraying the wall with the mixture and waiting just a few minutes helped a lot. The timing is important though. After ten minutes, the paper was almost dry. (I live in a very dry climate.) So it is important to treat small areas at a time. I used about two quarts of vinegar in the process.

The next step involved applying a new coat of wallpaper primer. Once that was completed I marked the breakfast room wall to indicate the division between the two wallpapers. So far only the bottom paper is up. The top is on today’s schedule. The chair rail will be tile. But this tile came in square foot sheets. So I asked my favorite contractor to assist in cutting the tile.

A strategy is needed for the tile. Because the tile is a Koala Gray basket weave tile, which you can view here the application will be complicated. I think we have a solution, but I haven’t reach that step yet. So it is still a bit of an unknown. But the tile is cut in thirds and it is ready and waiting.

I also tore out the old back splash. Murphy’s Law dictated the last tile off pulled off a chunk of drywall. However, my contractor is lined up to do the repair. In the meantime, the remaining tile adhesive scraped off with a bit of elbow grease. Hand scraping tile glue from wallAfter that was completed, I coated the wall with KILZ 2 acrylic. I plan to use a mixed tile design here that I am quite excited about. Additional pictures will be forthcoming.

Back splash area after a coat of KILZ 2 Acrylic applied.
A coat of KILZ 2 Acrylic prepares the surface for repair.

Cross  Country Trip

In the middle of February 2019 (and the kitchen project) I drove across half a dozen states or so to reach the warm, sunny climate of Florida. Since I was not born there I am not a native. But, I spent much of my childhood in this state and consider it home. Of course much, like some is a qualifier.

I prefer to travel by car or train because you can see so much of the countryside. Yes, there is a need for air travel-so my hope is the U.S. Congress does not seriously consider a proposal to outlaw that mode of transportation. But, when time permits I opt crossing by land. I shared much in my Travel Thoughts post.

February 2019 Hobbies

Our weather at home has been cold and snowy. So, very little time was spent outside. I pruned the grapevines one day when the temperature reached the upper fifties. But most of February 2019 was spent indoors.

Quilt top before layeringI am currently hand quilting the Love Panel Quilt. The next baby in the family is due in early June. I think she will enjoy the bright reds and pinks. Even though I use a machine to piece the quilts I make, the hand quilting relaxes me. It takes a bit of extra time.

February 2019 Books

Many reading recommendations arrived in February 2019. Some I have completed. But I was thrilled earlier this week to receive a package in the mail from a fellow book lover. She gifted me with The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris and Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. Both look fantastic. The non-fiction work I am now reading is Jeff Gerke’s The First 50 Pages.

My library check-outs are Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield. I loved her The Thirteenth Tale which I read many years ago. Also, The Only Woman In The Room by Marie Benedict caught my eye. The latter, Like the Heather Morris book above are fictional accounts of true people and events.

Even though February 2019 is a short month, or perhaps because, I accomplished quite a bit. My goal is to have the kitchen project wrapped up by the end of March. My hope is the below zero temperatures will then be history, at least until the next winter season rolls around. I am anxious to return to gardening.

Daydreams of the Aging

You’re So Very Welcome

I can’t quite remember the quote about bravery and aging, but the gist is that growing old isn’t easy. Nor is watching someone with dementia or like condition. I am not there yet so I can’t give a first-hand account. But something I witnessed today at a nursing home put a new spin on aging. For the short-term, a differentiation between the sexes based on the experiences of yesteryear.

It was a beautiful morning and several of the residents were enjoying the open air of a back porch. Among the group were a pair of 80ish folks. Each was accompanied by a family member. And each dozed off and on. But here the similarities ended. In my opinion the differences hinged on sex. As in male or female.

DayDreaming

I do not know the background of the gentleman. But he is certainly of an age to have experienced the draft. Therefore, from what happened I suspect he saw battle. The solitude was abruptly broken with a cry of “he has a knife, watch out.” It took his family member some time to calm him down. He gradually became aware of his surroundings. But we all experienced his terror albeit briefly. From the conversation, it seems these day terrors were recent, after a fall.

On the other hand, the second day dreamer I know a great deal about since I belong to her. She is suffering from dementia, most likely Alzheimer’s. She did not comment on the outburst from her co-resident. Instead she drifted back to sleep.
But the next time she awoke she too spoke out into the quietude: “You are so very welcome.” These pleasant words were accompanied by an infectious smile. I truly hope when I reach this stage my daydreams are similar.

Much is known about the aging process, but there are still mysteries. I am very interested in the aging of the brain. However, until today I had not considered how the sex of the individual might predispose the symptoms. I am sure there are studies but I have not looked for the research. If any of you know, please share in the comment section.

Women: From the Maternity Ward to the Battlefield

Of course there are instances of women in the midst of battle. The review of We Band of Angels discusses the story of the nurses caught in the Philippines during World War II. The late 1970s ushered in an era of women and matriculation at the military academies. So it is possible that instead of a bias from gender, one needs to look at experience. But some experiences do come with a gender bias. Men may be present during childbirth but they still do not undergo labor.

All in all it was an eye-opening day. PTSD is present long after the stressful experience. How this affects our brains as we age and the triggers, such as a fall as we get older is something I plan to research. I also wish to find scientific studies involving gender and aging. Even though it may be redundant, I still hope my aging has daydreams ending in “You are so very welcome!”

Boondocks Connections

Living in the boondocks as I do, one has to put up with frequent interruptions in modern communication connections. Bandwidth available for use of the Internet is considerably less in sparsely populated areas. Additionally, cell service, even though on alternate frequencies, is spotty in rural areas. The commercials for national carriers brag about 99% coverage. I think the one percent without coverage all live in the boondocks.

Frustrations abound for anyone trying to work from home living in a rural location if that work includes communicating via Internet. The website Tech Terms does a nice job of explaining how bandwidth works. Their analogy of sending varying amounts of sand through a tube gives a great visual.

In our little town, Fridays and weekends when the kids are home from school are peak traffic times for the Internet. First thing in the morning is also tough. Perhaps people are checking their email or searching for overnight news. For someone trying to work, the slowdown or inaccessibility is quite frustrating.

But are there any solutions? There are a plethora of articles on the subject. An online article on the site The Conversation titled Reaching rural America with broadband internet service posits several ideas. But all come with a cost. Obviously, if connecting the rural areas of the country made a profit, the connections would exist. Just how much of the cost should be subsidized? And who pays for the subsidy?

Cell Service

The internet is not the only spotty connection affecting rural areas. Within 30 minutes of my small town in just about any direction are pockets of no service. In fact, one country home, built just yards from a large carrier transmission line is without access to landlines.

The spotty coverage results in a danger for those needing emergency services. Out of area travelers beware. No service readings are common. Calling for roadside help may be impossible, if any national branded help is even in the area. Often the roadside assistance carriers in rural areas only contract via reimbursement. Thus, a company will require a payment at the time. Then you file the claim with your roadside insurance company. Even just for a jump-start. A far cry from the service found in our cities.

Those of us living in the boondocks understand the difficulties in communication. Most of the time we make do. But productivity can suffer. Furthermore, to stay on top of things we must be organized and plan ahead. For example, students with online classes run the risk of not completing assignments on time due to sketchy connections. Therefore, individuals must complete tasks beforehand. Thus, in actuality rural students have less time to complete the work.

Work Arounds

At this point in time, residents of the boondocks must make do. Jobs dependent on glitch free connections are not an option. But with careful planning most other careers are doable. Writing is a good example. As long as one stays ahead of deadlines, submissions can be made.

Origin of Boondocks

A side note for the history buffs, boondocks came into use in The United States of America at the turn of the 20th Century. The word originates from the Tagalog word bundok. The Tagalog people and language hail from the Philippine Island of Luzon. At the conclusion of the Spanish-American War, war broke out between the United States and Philippine nationalists. The nationalists did not care for any authority and desired independence. The war was very bloody with losses on both sides.

Just recently, church bells appropriated by U.S. troops were returned to the Philippines and the people of Balangiga. For a complete story read this NPR story. Returning the warehouse stored bells makes sense to me.

A great information source discovered while researching the origin of “Boondocks” is a “retired” website established by the State Department. There is no ongoing maintenance but the site is chock full of historical information. You can access it by clicking here.

 

January 2019 Wrap-Up

January 2019 Wrap-Up

The first month of the year flies by for our family and January 2019 was no exception. In addition to the many birthdays celebrated, a new great-nephew was born. He is the recipient of The Train Quilt which you can read about by clicking here.

New Projects

Winter is a great time for indoor projects. I live too far north to count on any extended outdoor time. This year has been colder than last, so the pruning of the grape vines is still on the “to do” list. But, I am still spending some time perusing through the seed catalogs both online as well as the hard copies received in the mail.

Tiles being knocked off from wallLest you think I have been lazing about, I am sharing some photos of my latest remodeling project. This is an easy remodel for the most part. I am stripping the wallpaper in the kitchen and breakfast room. Additionally, I am replacing the back splash over the cook top. Unlike the popular home remodel shows on television, I am striving not tear up the dry wall behind the tile.

My old wallpaper was beautiful. In fact one of my youngest daughter’s acquaintances once remarked on the homey feel the kitchen had. But, the wallpaper was over twenty years old and was dating the house.

In my travels, I had noticed the use of textured wallpapers in many of the hotels I stayed in. So I decided to look in that direction. I found some scrubbable paper with texture. As I am just starting on the tear down, I plan to provide full details in a later post.

Tile and wall paper samples in gray tones.
Some of the samples for the kitchen re-do.

Hobbies

The new projects include two of my hobbies. I have started a new acrylic painting. Usually when I paint a landscape involving mountains, the perspective is one of looking up. But this time I am attempting to look down from the mountain top. Definitely tricky.

I am also working on the design for a two-sided quilt. One side will be a panel quilt with a Bohemian look. The other side will be a modified Train Quilt. The train will be a circus train. Not politically correct, but fortunately newborns know nothing of politics.

Reading Selection

The seasonable weather is also offering a chance to whittle down the pile of books to be read. Of course this pile will never disappear since I continue to visit my local library and the neighborhood Little Free Library. But reading is one of my greatest pleasures. So no complaint intended.

Books read and not yet reviewed include the latest Stephanie Plum book (Look Alive Twenty-Five) from Janet Evanovich, Breakpoint by Richard Clarke and Everything for Everyone by Nathan Schneider. Two books reviewed but not yet posted include Pandemic by Robin Cook (which will appear tomorrow on Econogal) and Organic Hobby Farming by Andy Tomolonis.

I continue to read the Wall Street Journal. Our household receives magazine subscriptions as Christmas gifts, so I enjoy both The Economist as well as Better Homes and Gardens. Visiting the garden used in the latter publication was a highlight last summer which you can read about by clicking here.

While visiting my local library, I noticed a list of New Year’s resolutions for young readers. A full-page of resolutions centered on ways to expand reading. For example, the resolutions included reading a biography and reading various genres. I like this idea. So, I plan to incorporate some of the resolutions into my reading habits.

As always please feel free to share recommendations.

Hiding Behind “SOME” – Commentary

Hiding Behind “SOME”

This past week I managed to listen to a critique on the overuse of the phrase “Some People” in a monologue by Greg Gutfeld. In fact, I think this term received criticism from Mr. Gutfeld more than once over the past week or two. Justly I might add. For I too am sometimes guilty of hiding behind the word. Oops I did it again. (With apologies to Ms. Spears.)

Seldom do I watch television on my own unless I am in the hand quilting stage of a project. However, some of the time I will have the TV turned on for background noise. This past week I was stripping wallpaper in the kitchen and so this became one of the times the television was on.

I believe the point of Mr. Gutfeld’s commentary was to highlight how journalists and others are hiding behind the phrase some or some people. The monologue made me stop and think. How often have I used some on Econogal? And why?

Defining Some

After starting the previous paragraph, I Googled some and came up with this:

/səm/

determiner

determiner: some
1. 1.
an unspecified amount or number of.
“I made some money running errands”
2. 2.
used to refer to someone or something that is unknown or unspecified.
“I was talking to some journalist the other day”
3. 3.
(used with a number) approximately.
“some thirty different languages are spoken”
4. 4.
a considerable amount or number of.
“he went to some trouble”
5. 5.
at least a small amount or number of.
“he liked some music but generally wasn’t musical”
6. 6.
expressing admiration of something notable.
“that was some goal”
o used ironically to express disapproval or disbelief.
“Mr. Power gave his stock reply. Some help”

pronoun

pronoun: some
1. 1.
an unspecified number or amount of people or things.
“here are some of our suggestions”
2. 2.
at least a small amount or number of people or things.
“surely some have noticed”

adverb

INFORMAL•NORTH AMERICAN
adverb: some
1. 1.
to some extent; somewhat.
“when you get to the majors, the rules change some”
Phrases
and then some
and plenty more than that.”we got our money’s worth and then some”
some little
a considerable amount of.”we are going to be working

I found the second example under the use of determiner quite interesting. But maybe Artificial Intelligence is not involved and it truly is a coincidence. I also checked with Merriam-Webster and you can compare the definitions by clicking here.

The fifth definition under determiner; at least a small amount or number of and the second, correlating pronoun definition; at least a small amount or number of people or things represent how I most often use the word. My belief is that it keeps me honest. As in SOME readers may like the book. Am I hiding behind this phrase? Quite possibly.

Generalizations

Staying away from words that generalize is as important as not making generalizations. The problem with broad statements are the myriad of exceptions. Very few things are concrete. In fact, outside of the hard sciences, the only inevitable is death. (I am not excluding a life in the hereafter. Just excluding immortality on Earth.)

I grew up trusting journalists both print and broadcast. But now I consider most individuals in the field commentators not journalists. My belief is the 24/7 news cycle created this skew away from journalism. There is just too much time to fill.

Also, it is my belief that “Fake News” is not new. My older readers may recall the time a major network showed an exploding American made car on television. After the airing, the information came to light that the vehicle had an incendiary device attached to ensure an explosion.

So, how should one proceed?

Stop hiding behind words like “some” is a first step. Then, get the facts. Next, don’t jump to conclusions. Finally, remember the Internet does not equal truth. Nor, in this day of self-publication does the printed word.

So, for my part, I plan to limit my use of determiners. Furthermore, I will do a better job of sharing my sources. Even though this website is an opinion based blog, I will strive for accuracy. This includes letting readers know both website and print material sources. Happy reading!

Winter Weather: Tips to Entertain Kids

The Northern Hemisphere is in the midst of the winter season. Many places have already experienced hazardous winter weather. Here in North America the jet stream is pushing one system after the next across the continent. Both Canada and the United States have websites focused on issued weather warnings. I like consulting these sites since they are straightforward and without media hype.

In fact non-profit and government websites along with blogs offer good advice for dealing with adverse weather. Sites like Red Cross, FEMA and the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (CA) have many lists to help one gear up to face adverse conditions sent by nature. But are there other situations to prepare for during the winter?

Kids and Winter Weather

Common sense needs to guide kid activities in winter weather. Most people understand bundling up the kids before letting them out to play. But how many realize how important hydration is in cold weather? Because of the extra layers, some activities such as sledding can cause excess sweating. Water is always good. But warm liquids help maintain body temperature. Since caffeine is counteractive to hydration think hot teas or warm milk with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Yet sometimes the outdoors are unsafe for anyone. Blizzards come to mind. In fact the Blizzard of October 1997 was particularly bad for us. The National Weather Service had issued advisories for both human and livestock a full 5 days prior to the weather event. I stocked up twice that week at the grocery store. With four kids under ten and one still in Pull-ups I didn’t want to run out. The preparations were well advised.

Three feet of snow with high winds made things treacherous. But one of the biggest tasks was keeping the kids entertained inside. The older ones were quite curious. So much so that I had to keep close tabs because they wanted to test for themselves the outside visibility. They had still not formed a sense of mortality.

Indoor Activities

Furthermore, blizzards tend to cause power outages and cause disruptions to T.V. and Internet. So a plethora of indoor activities are needed. Fortunately, my kids were (and still are) readers. Other ideas to entertain are board games and puzzles. A table set aside or card table set up will allow a long game like Monopoly or large puzzle to stay out during meals or sleep.

Prior to losing electricity or if you have a generator, kids can bake and decorate sugar cookies. If a storm is just prior to Christmas, Gingerbread Houses are also fun to create. Some may roll their eyes, but often winter storms are slow moving and/or come with bitter cold. A 72-hour confinement can make things tense. So the more options for entertainment, the less stress.

Away from Home

One scenario that offers even greater challenges is encountering bad weather away from home. Perhaps you are visiting relatives or stranded in a hotel. There are still ways to keep kids occupied. Charades is a game not needing any props. Drawing is another. Although crayons and markers are desirable, pen and pencil will work.

A favorite of my kids was the alphabet game. Although we utilized it most in restaurants and on airplanes, this can be played anywhere. First you pick a subject like animals or food. Then starting with the letter A, each person comes up with a unique answer. Of course some letters are tougher than others. Again no props are needed.

These are just a few ideas for those winter days where normal schedules are disrupted. A little creativity goes a long way in de-stressing the situation. Keep kids occupied and their unhappiness of being cooped up will diminish. And your sanity will remain intact.

Snow man

Free Style

Sometimes topics do not flow easily. This is one of those times. Indecision strikes from time to time. Then my writing becomes free style.

Part of the problem is a waiting game. I have a wonderful baby quilt to post about, complete with pictures. But the baby isn’t here yet and the quilt is a surprise. It is hard to keep surprises when blogging on a public domain.

A great fun read has been written about. But it is not Friday. I plan to keep the book reviews for the end of the week. Just in case someone wants a weekend book recommendation.

I could talk about some of the horrible political junk out there. However, I do not want to run the risk of slander or libel. We live in such a litigious world. Plus negative news spurs on the winter blahs in my case. I lack the power to change others. I can only change myself. Hence, the tendency to make Econogal upbeat.

Even though I grabbed some herbs and onions out of the garden, wintertime is still in full swing. Not much is going on outside. Furthermore, planning for spring planting is limited to perusing seed catalogs with an occasional order.

My lack of photographing constantly hinders the kitchen articles. Last night’s pizza would have made for a great post. The dough was made from strong flour. The fine texture of the milled wheat lends itself to both pretzels and pizza dough. Perhaps I will make some pretzels AND remember to take photographs. Besides, my pizza dough is not measured out. I just look for the right consistency in the mixing bowl. Tough to share a recipe under those circumstances.

Thinking Block

I am actually experiencing more of a thinking block than a writer’s block. I have yet to decide any New Year’s Resolutions for 2019. So by default the ones I made in 2018 will continue. Plus, I have a number of quilts pieced and waiting for their turn to be quilted. For once I do not have one at the piecing stage. A similar decision problem is holding me back. I need to pick a pattern and a color palette. The same is true for the acrylic painting. What subject and what colors will I attempt next?

Free Style Motivation

Creativity can falter when you try too hard to come up with something new. Writing prompts can help motivate writers. But writing free style seems to help me the most. The unrelated paragraphs jolt my mind. Gray matter stirs into action just from putting words together into (hopefully) coherent sentences.

I am not a jealous type, but I envy the many prolific writers. Those writers that write and publish multiple times per year. They are far more talented. However, my writing brings me satisfaction and happiness. Two good reasons to keep writing. Even if the result is free style. The motivation derived from the writing is immeasurable. I am ready to create.

 

 

The Elements Book Review

The Elements

Some things I don’t remember learning. Reading for example came early, I just don’t know how early. Other concepts are vivid. Multiplication tables were memorized in third grade and the periodic table in high school. I wish The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe by Theodore Gray had been around back then.

Gray has produced a classic. The Elements is a fantastic example of how to make learning exciting. He starts off the book by giving a general overview of both the elements and the periodic table. Gray includes information on how the different types of elements are grouped together on the chart.

Also provided is a guide to the information he presents on each page. The reader can quickly identify such properties as State of Matter, Density, Atomic weight and radius on the sidebar labeled Elemental. Then Gray delves into the heart of the book-the individual elements.

Individual Elements

As you may recall, each element has a number. Thus the periodic table is not arranged alphabetically. (Probably why I had such a hard time memorizing the information.) Hydrogen has the first position on the table. The book finishes with Element 109 Meitnerium. To be honest, I don’t recall anything past (94) Pu or Plutonium. Fortunately Gray even has a brief explanation for these additionally named elements, those numbered from 95 to 109.

The elements I do remember each have a double page unto themselves. Gray includes pertinent information about the individual element. Then, photos illustrate the pages with either the raw material or examples of products made from the matter. Some elements such as lead and gold rate multiple page spreads.

Theodore Gray shares the information on each element in a readable entertaining style. He engages the reader and piques ones interest and curiosity. Thus one is not put off by the potentially esoteric subject matter.

For this reason, I include The Elements by Theodore Gray with photographic credit to Nick Mann as well as Gray as one of the must have books in a home library. The book was released in 2009 but I have seen it on bookstore shelves within the last 12 months. Of course online sources have copies as well. Take action now and add this to your collection.

 

Page from The Elements by Theodore GrayBarium Page in The Elements by Theodore GrayEinsteininium page from The Elements by Theodore GrayFluorine page from The Elements by Theodore GrayPage on Iodine from The Elements by Theodore GrayPage from The Elements by Theodore Gray on Protactinium

December 2018 Wrap-Up

December 2018

The last month of the year has come and gone. December 2018 provided a chance to travel and see family. Additionally, I acquired the last of my six learned skills for 2018. Furthermore I successfully kept my 2018 New Year’s Resolution. All in all I am quite content with the outcome.

My focus this winter is quilting. Soon I will post about the baby quilt I am working on. The little guy is expected any day. I want the pattern to be a surprise and since my niece is a reader of this blog the arrival date is delaying the article. Then I will move on to quilting the one pieced for the baby due in June. I also have a larger quilt to work on.

We have been enjoying the fruits from last summer’s labor in the garden. A serious dent has been made in the supply of canned goods. A recent cold snap made trips to the grocery store dreaded and delayed. Ratatouille pressure canned (one of the six learned skills) last summer made a great meal from storage.

Reading List

The cold weather also provides opportunity for reading. My reading list continues to grow. In addition to books, I am busy reading recent issues of both The Smithsonian and National Geographic. Both are good publications even if I don’t always agree with the editorial view point.

Several works of non-fiction are on my list in addition to my favorite genres. The current economic book I am reading is interesting and perhaps a bit controversial. Everything for Everyone by Nathan Schneider in the early going presents a case for cooperatives. I will keep you posted.

Resolutions Kept

Perhaps the best thing about December 2018 is that the month was completed with a final skill. Some of my millennial readers will shake their heads and claim it doesn’t count. But I am counting the downloading of a share riding app, installing and using that same app at 2:00 A.M. at the end of a 22 hour travel day as a skill. No one coached me even via text. And the travel circumstances are incredibly hard to believe. I am now a convert of this type of transportation.

Of course a successful year of keeping resolutions makes me want to try for a repeat. The problem is not knowing what to work on. I need to improve in many areas. As I wrote in Econogal’s Tips to Keeping 2018 New Year’s Resolutions, specifics help. I am stuck on the specifics for what I would most like to improve. The desire to articulate is a priority. But just how can one measure improved communication specifically? I also would like to carry on with the goals from this year, but I don’t think any carry-over should count as new resolutions.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Christmas Shopping Challenge

‘Tis a week before Christmas and my Christmas shopping is only half done. While my greatest wish is for good health, happiness and World Peace, I also hope to give meaningful gifts to those I love. This is tricky. My gifts tend to be practical and perhaps not always appreciated. I confess to having traditional tastes.

 Practicality

For some oddball reason, I came equipped with a practical outlook on life. One Christmas my greatest wish was for a new dishwasher. Not jewelry, not clothing but a dishwasher. I had four hungry youngsters at home not to mention neighborhood friends. My small town offers primarily fast food. Furthermore, certain dietary conditions meant I cooked a lot. From scratch. The result was three loads a day in the dishwasher in a town of water so hard the softener could not keep up.

Furthermore, I am practical with my gift giving. Books are always on the list. Knowledge is power. But reading is enjoyable as well. So finding books that will be read and treasured is a challenge that I will cheerfully continue to face. Fortunately there are many lists one can review including Econogal’s Top 10 Favorite Books of 2018.

The gift of clothing is also practical. I live in rural America but am lucky enough to have three good women’s shops located in and around the county seat. So all the women on the list are covered. But I always fear my tastes are too old-fashioned. This perhaps gives me the greatest heartache since both my grandmothers and my mom were fantastic at picking out clothes I loved.

I fear I sometimes fell short. I refused to buy holey jeans for instance. No way would I spend $60.00 for jeans that were too ripped up to even make into jean quilts. The practicality gene at work.

Fun Gifts

Kids are easy to find gifts for. Even for those of us striving to stay away from electronics. (Although I fear that becomes more difficult each year.) My favorite fun gifts tend to be classics. Lego’s, dump trucks, stuffed animals and dolls are items I love to give. Puzzles and board games also make the list.

Teenagers can be trickier. Sports nuts can be given the appropriate gear. But not everyone is into athletics. So, again much thought is needed if you are Christmas shopping for an individualist. Those able to give the greatest gift throughout the year-the gift of time will be in a better position to find a thoughtful gift.

However, if this is not possible, the challenge remains. So as lame as it may sound, a gift certificate may be the best solution. Just make it fun. Perhaps to a movie theater, a clothing store, or even if must be, an electronics outlet. I hope the teenager on my list doesn’t roll her eyes too much Christmas morning.

Christmas Shopping Challenge

Adults are the hardest to buy for in my opinion. For one thing, they have spending power. So Christmas shopping for adults can be just as complicated as for kids. My biggest problem is I have great ideas of what each grown child would like, but find out they have already filled the need or want. This problem only increases with age.

I have yet to buy anything for either the two most significant older men in my life. Fortunately, the eldest is a regular reader of this column and mentioned how much he liked the review of Where the Crawdads Sing. But that still leaves the most important person of all. So I have a week of braving crowds to find something with enough meaning to convey my feelings. Christmas shopping at the last-minute. I hope I am up to the challenge!

Craving Christmas Cards

Two Christmas cards on display
Old-fashioned Christmas cards via snail mail.

One of my favorite things about Christmas is sending and receiving Christmas Cards. So far, I have mailed out three dozen with another dozen or so to go. Alas, only two have made their way to my doorstep. Both are on display. But I fear Christmas cards are a dying tradition.

In times gone by, Christmas cards were a method of sharing school pictures or the latest family news to cousins, aunts and uncles. And childhood friends. Now that sharing is often done via social networks. Personally I limit the number of people photos I share on the World Wide Web. As a youngster, I read biographies and Charles Lindbergh’s left me with an irrational fear of kidnappers. So I have “hidden” the faces on the card displayed on the left.

Buying Christmas Cards

My mom always ordered the most beautiful cards with the family name printed inside the card. One of my favorites had an old map of the world embossed in gold with a message of world peace. Then my dad would write a handwritten message on the back cover.

Today, I buy my cards at the local discount store. However, I pick them out early so I can get the four dozen needed to all match. I lean toward nativity scenes but sometimes I will buy ones with winter scenes or with cardinals.

Some years it is difficult to mail Christmas Cards. This is especially true after the death of a family member. In this case the cards often are mailed with a simple signature and no news.

Other years, so many great things have happened I am tempted to print out a letter. But the tradition of handwritten notes continues. In 2012 I even mailed out a collage of photos from key events. That was a fun year! But most of the time our life is humdrum so the stock cards suffice.

Receiving Cards

The best part of course is receiving the cards. I know this is selfish and usually believe it is better to give than receive. But I really like Christmas cards! Each day the mail comes in December, I stop whatever I am doing and hurry out to the mail box. I look forward to seeing school pictures. Or vacation pictures.

My two cards (so far) this year have both been from cousins. Both are Texans although that may or may not play a part in the promptness of getting cards out. The first arrived December 1 with a comical cover and a handwritten note. A perfect start to the Christmas season! The other was delivered on the 11th.

This second card is from a cousin with many artistic talents. The two kids are featured with a background of the Brooklyn Bridge. Absolutely gorgeous-the kids, the back drop and the photography. My heart swelled as soon as I opened the envelope.

Christmas cards connect us with friends and family. Geographical distance makes it hard to see everyone on a regular basis. While the social networks help fill these gaps, Big Data may become the downfall of these networks. The quest for profits by selling information to advertisers has left a bad taste in many mouths.

I am connected via the same social network to both these cousins. However, the artsy photographer has not logged in for over a year. The other cousin is a bit better at keeping on top of things. My own log-ins are sporadic.

So I encourage all of you to consider sending some old-fashioned Christmas Cards. Ones that can be picked up and re-read over and over again. Cards that will not result in pop-up ads. Mail some Christmas cheer this year!

November Wrap-Up

Yes this month’s wrap-up is two days early. But the last day of November falls on a Friday. I try to keep Friday’s posts reserved for book reviews. The blogs I regularly read tend to keep a schedule and I know I am disappointed when a website goes off track. Perhaps one of you can offer a solution to conflicting posts other than releasing two at once.

November is a time to reflect. It is also a time of thanks. I shared many of the things I am grateful for in the post, Thanksgiving Thankfulness. Our own holiday gathering this year was small in numbers but the atmosphere was delightful.

I grew up in a small family. I do not remember having more than a dozen people for either Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. However, I married into a large family. Thus, one year I entertained over sixty in my home. We put up card tables everywhere! Of course this number included second cousins along with the various “Great” grandparents, aunts and uncles. It will be interesting to see how close the next generation remains. Rural areas continue to lose their younger generations to the cities.

Quilting

The quilting room is the focus of my days. I finished piecing the Love Quilt began last spring. This panel quilt combines pre-made panels with traditional blocks in an original design. The quilt is ready to layer. However, the completion of a small baby quilt takes priority. I will be a great-aunt yet again in January. Look for a post then on the design. I don’t want to spoil the surprise!

November Weather

Our weather has been quite wacky. We have already enjoyed the moisture from two snows. Yet today the temperature will be in the mid-sixties. On the plus side, I am still harvesting rosemary and sage from the herb garden. The mint on the back patio has also survived. While the raised row garden has been mulched with leaves for the winter, a few green onions remain to use in the kitchen as well.

However, the possibility for cold and snow makes travelling trickier. These last weeks of fall often resemble winter. Tips for winter travel sounds like a good idea for a post. Other posts to look for next month include a ranking of my top book reviews. Holidays are a great time to give books! They are also a time to try new recipes. Check back to see what December brings to Econogal.

Thanksgiving Thankfulness

Floral Thanksgiving cornucopiaPlease and Thank you are two words used frequently in this household. They were among the first words each of my offspring uttered. The first expresses a courtesy while the second conveys appreciation. My strong belief is life should be approached with politeness and thankfulness.

Strangers and acquaintances might roll their eyes at this. They might think I have had an easy life so being thankful is easy to do. However, those close to me know the hardships I have faced. Just like many of you have faced or are facing challenges. Indeed we all have tough times. But as I discussed yesterday with one of the beloved millennial’s in my family, happiness comes from within. Thankfulness is needed most when times are tough.

Social Networks

Social networks are one way to express thanks. My freshman roommate routinely writes a message of thanks each day during the month of November. I was concerned when I checked November 2, and there was no post yet. But the next time I checked, she had an explanation and I look forward to each of her posts. She is an elementary teacher. I am thankful this country still has great people in that profession.

As a blogger, I follow a number of blogs and actively participate in several. I am grateful for those blogs that provide knowledge in both the garden and the kitchen. Other blogs I read usually revolve around books. I am also thankful for those loyal readers of my own blog. Your feedback, whether a like or a comment is appreciated.

Millennials

I adore Millennials. Perhaps because I taught at the college level for so long or perhaps because most of my kids fall into this demographic. However, the age gap keeps me from sharing much of my personal life as is the norm within this demographic. But this is a time to share my thankfulness.

Some of these individuals that I follow on social media I know personally. Others are total strangers. But all have a positive impact on my outlook on life. Some are bloggers, others are entrepreneurs. They are at the beginning of their lives and have no qualms about sharing their experiences. I want to thank them all.

Similar to my freshman roommate, one millennial I follow is creating regular thank you posts on her Instagram account. I am proud of the young lady now in the running for the next Miss USA. Particularly since I believe this was one of her goals as she sat in my classroom.  I am grateful that she stays in touch even though she now lives in the big city. Those of you with Instagram can follow #madisondorenkamp as she prepares for the national competition.

In that very same classroom sat a young entrepreneur. His views often ran opposite others in class. Now he is enjoying success on many levels. His marketing podcasts and his posts from his speaking engagements across the country always pique my interest. I appreciate the information he shares. His company website can be accessed here.

At the present time, there are no grandchildren in my life. So I am very grateful to the young lady in Kentucky who makes sure I get to see her precious tots at least twice a year. (I am also grateful to their two grandmothers who don’t mind the hugs I receive.)

Furthermore this young lady is inspirational. She too, experienced the death of a sibling at a young age. Each year she honors him on Instagram. In addition, she recently lost a good friend to breast cancer. Her response was to join others to help create a foundation honoring one lost too soon. Consider donating to the Shantel Lanerie Foundation by clicking here. Even though we sometimes lose loved ones before a life fully lived, we are still thankful they were in our lives. And for their positive impact even after they are gone.

Family

Seldom do I discuss family. But I am most thankful for this group. Some are loyal readers and followers. Thanks go out to my cousin’s wife; one of my first followers, and my aunt and my father, also followers and providers of feedback. Blogs are challenging for 50 somethings, much less senior generations!

A special thanks to my offspring and their significant others. Thankfulness is in abundance for this group. Among them are loyal followers, participants in the challenges, photographers and even a comment now and then. I appreciate all of them more than they know.

They are a diverse group. Both ends of the political spectrum are represented, yet they still break bread at the table together. (Of course it helps not to talk politics at the table!) My hope is this tolerance for others’ views continues. Too often families divide over little things. Life is a long road and it helps to have support through the years.

Of course there is also the guy I share my life with. Thirty-three years together. Some blissful, others heartbreaking. When doctors give you bad news it is important to have someone rock solid beside you. The same holds true for other life altering events. Thankfulness barely touches the surface of the feelings I have for this man with whom I am riding the roller coaster of life.

Reflect on Thankfulness

Thanksgiving week is a time of cooking, baking, travelling and visiting. The weekend prior is spent sifting through family recipes and remembering feasts from long ago. The day before, full of prep in the kitchen. But the week is also a time to reflect.

Please take time to reflect. Reach out and let people know your gratitude. If fences need to be mended, mend them. If you are experiencing great loss at this time, have faith. Thankfulness reminds us of better times and gives hope for future times. Reflect this Thanksgiving on life and living with thankfulness in your heart.

October 2018 Wrap-Up

October 2018


Some months fly by. October 2018 traveled at supersonic speed. This month of seasonal change is one of my favorites. Leaf color, crisp mornings followed by warm afternoons and bountiful harvest highlight the month each year.

The first freeze of the year arrived mid-month. I missed it here on the High Plains. But Mother Nature gave me a taste of it the very same day in Quebec.

Trip to Quebec

My trip to this Canadian Province has been highlighted in three posts thus far with another scheduled next week. Please take time to read about the travels in Fall Travel, Saguenay Fjord, and Quebec Province. The slide shows share some of the picturesque scenery. I believe the Province of Quebec rivals New England for Fall Color.

Most of my travel revolves around work or family. The trip to Quebec was pure vacation for us. Perhaps this is why it has made such an impact. I currently have a Louise Penny book checked out from the library. She is a Canadian writer with a mystery series centered on this region. Stay tuned for a review.

Harvest

This year I tried sweet potatoes in the garden. Most of the slips were planted in raised boxes with one slip going into the Lasagna Bed created in the fall of 2017. The yield was good for this part of the country. But the big success of the year was the raised row garden.

Early last spring I reviewed Jim and Mary Competti’s book Raised Row Gardening. Then I followed the directions to a tee. My fellow homeowner was skeptical. But the bountiful harvest has convinced him. I tried to keep track of the harvest amounts, but the totals became too great.

By Early October the Roma tomatoes were yielding over 5 pounds each day. The carrots large and sweet. Unfortunately the freeze zapped the cantaloupe with over a dozen on the two vines. Beans, peppers, eggplants, tomatillo and squash were prolific. Much time was spent canning in the kitchen.

After the freeze I planted garlic. The Indian summer has the flat green leaves popping out of the ground. In preparation for winter, the beds have been mulched. But green onions, Swiss chard and Kale are all still thriving.

Reading Discovery

I continue to read both printed and online material. One of my finds this month is a blog by Tim Harford. Naturally this writer for the Financial Times has much to say about economics. Among the non-fiction work I read this month was The Virtue of Prosperity. You can read the review by clicking here.

Among fiction reviews, I routinely read The Critiquing Chemist. She often reviews audio books. Commuters may want to visit her site. I am amazed at how many works of fiction are read each month by some of these reviewers. Often I struggle to find time to read and then review one a week.

Challenge

Many of you took on the challenge I issued after writing Linking Liver Disease to Socioeconomic Events. The three months are over. I hope you all have benefited. Physical health has direct links to Brain Health which of course is very important to me.

At this point in time I am still meeting my New Year’s Resolutions. This has been quite challenging for me. I find the social aspect the hardest. But I am getting better. As an introvert, small talk is not one of my strengths. But there is always room and for now, time for improvement.

Happy Halloween everyone.

September 2018 Wrap-Up

September 2018 focus was on harvesting from the garden and personal growth. To be honest, I lost track of how much I put up canning-wise. But my garden was the most successful ever thanks to following the advice learned from Raised Row Gardening. Jim and Mary Competti also offer great advice on their Old World Garden Farms website. Their book will surely make the top five under the non-fiction category for 2018.

September

My favorite part of September is the cooling down, at least at night. As usual, my part of the country did flirt with triple digit temperatures mid-month. But the evenings have brought some much-needed relief. Even though we have yet to see some color change in my small town, I did enjoy the turning aspens on my Xtreme Hike.

The twenty plus mile hike allowed for personal reflection as well as satisfaction. Achieving ones goals is always uplifting. The social interaction also kept part of my New Year’s Resolutions going strong. The physical aspect is also key. Brain Health goes hand in hand with physical well-being.

Challenges

Those readers taking the no-alcohol challenge are two-thirds through. I am receiving positive feedback from several individuals. Keep up the good work.

Personal challenges for me are also on track. Part of this year’s goals involved learning new skills. This past week I successfully learned how to convert a Microsoft Office power point to Google Slides. This was necessary to upload some You Tube videos for a presentation. I am still amazed at just how proprietary the competitors are. It is an understandable part of capitalism. But does create added work for non-profits and others developing presentations.

Final Quarter of 2018

The last three months are upon us. My cucumbers have already quit producing. We usually have a freeze in October. Sometimes just as the Trick-or-TreaLooking upon a mountainter’s are making their rounds. Thus the garden will soon be put away. Then it will be time to focus on quilting again.

Congratulations again to those meeting their own personal challenges. Growth is measured in many ways. Those of us getting on in years need to keep reaching for the stars as much as we are able. Personal growth may mean spiritual growth, improvement in mind and body, or just the ability to relax and be happy with our journey through life.

Sleepless Nights

Some nights I fall right to sleep only to wake up at two or three or four in the morning. Other nights I just can’t get to sleep. No matter how tired I am. I have tried many things. Over the counter sleep aids, herbal remedies and long ago even prescribed medications. The results varied. But none have been truly successful, since once again I am sleepless.
Tonight, there is an extra inning ballgame to occupy my time. But I prefer writing these thoughts. Perhaps it will be a blog entry. I am sure there have been stranger posts. In fact many times when I do fall into a quick slumber but then wake up, I opt for writing.

Middle of the night writing has many advantages. No one knocks at the door in the middle of a thought, or paragraph or scene. The cat doesn’t beg to go out and the phone doesn’t ring. Thoughts can flow and usually they do.

Disadvantages of Sleepless Nights

Of course there are some disadvantages. Staying up half the night even when productive can have a negative effect the following day. It is best not to drive long distances for example. Or try to make critical decisions. Sleeplessness tends to impact my decision-making the following day.

Perhaps a solution would be to work all night and sleep during the day. But I would need some type of blackout curtains. As it stands whether I have slept two hours or seven hours, the light of day signals my body to rise if not shine. Yes I am a grumpy morning person after a sleepless night.

The absolute worst case scenario is when I have multiple sleepless nights in a row and yet I still can’t sleep. Another rough situation is when I am bone tired from a strenuous day of exercise or labor and still can’t sleep. My body really needs that time to recover.

Sometimes reading a book helps. Especially text books. But other times, I get too caught up in the story to stop, even if the yawning has commenced. Other than sports, I am not much of a TV person so that doesn’t work either.

I am not a scientist, but I think the key to my problem is the inability to shut off some of my brain cells. My thoughts keep percolating. I try to avoid heavy thinking in the hours before bedtime. Admittedly my worst nights are when I have become keyed up about something. The something could be personal. Or it could take place thousands of miles away.

Hurricanes do a number on me and I live in the heart of flyover country. Other types of events that keep me up are election results, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Sleepless nights are definitely aided by the instant communication of a Twitter Feed.

I have tried various tactics. There are lots of articles on how to sleep better. Even the book I review this next Friday gave advice on sleep and it was a novel not a self-help book. So I have finally decided not to fight the sleepless nights. They may turn out to be hereditary. There are tales of insomnia running through the family. So instead I will embrace them and write. Perhaps I will finally write something worthy of publication. If not, at least I have this post.

Online Passwords

Passwords have become a ubiquitous part of life. This is because so much of life now takes place online. Many people shop online and each of these stores request a password. Social media sites also want passwords. Banks offer online access and naturally they want passwords. In theory, these passwords protect the consumer. But having a password isn’t enough protection from hackers.

For starters, many people use the same password over and over. Yes, this does make life easier. For you. And for hackers. Theft, both monetary and of your identity is what a hacker is after. Therefore, a password is of utmost importance.

Risky Passwords

I have had the privilege of working with several IT gurus. They each have their own insights into password security. Each say total security is impossible. Security breaches will happen. But steps can be taken to reduce that risk.

First, don’t save your passwords on a computer file or even a caveman file, named passwords. Preferably don’t have a written list at all. But if you absolutely need one, bury it under a different name or folder. Second, don’t use the same password over and over again. Ideally each password should be unique. Yes, that means dozens of passwords.

Passwords should not be obvious. In other words, your online bank password should not be Bank 1234. However, there are some ways to compromise so that you can remember a password without writing it down.

It is also a terrible idea to share passwords. My family gets frustrated with me because I will not even share my password to fire up my computer. Just remember that old adage: loose lips sink ships and politely refuse.

Another poor habit regarding passwords is using the same one forever. I am guilty of this myself. However, there may be some safety in my approach. My one account that has not changed in almost 10 years is a social account. It is tied to an email created to join that network. Neither the email, nor the password has been used for anything else. My other accounts are changed on a regular basis.

If at all possible, do not log in on public computers. Public Wi-Fi is also a sketchy proposition. Furthermore, if you are in a public place be sure to keep your laptop, tablet or cell phone with you at all times.

Security Breaches

Breaches in security happen frequently. If you are contacted about a breach do not delay in checking the account. After scanning for unauthorized activity, change your password, even if it is fairly new. Because a breach means someone may have access to your password.

Businesses are changing protocols in response to hackers. For example, I recently booked an international flight. The first day’s attempt went nowhere. The airline site kept sending an error message. Turns out their security had just been breached and they shut their system down. The following day they were up and running. But a digital code was needed to complete the purchase. The code was emailed to me from the bank which issued my credit card. This double-check is a necessary nuisance.

Strong Passwords

In addition to businesses instituting double checks, strong passwords are important. The strongest are software generated. These are available both online and offline. Naturally, both have some risks. Anything online can be hacked. Furthermore, with the IOT (Internet of Things) even some risk occurs with software uploaded onto a computer. Nevertheless, computer generated passwords are extremely strong.

There are some old school methods to creating a random password. A favorite of mine is to use a newspaper. Find an article and count down a random number of words. The word you use should be at least five characters long. This will serve as a base for your password. Then scan the paper for a number with at least four digits. Combine the two making sure to capitalize one letter and one number. For longer passwords add a second word or set of numbers. This method is great for creating a password you will never use again and don’t need to remember.

Financial Institutions

Very strong passwords are needed for accessing accounts held in financial institutions. These passwords should also change frequently. This includes accounts such as savings, money market and C.D.’s. People routinely monitor their checking account, but all types of accounts are vulnerable.

I like using short sentences for these accounts. Then I can remember the words and hopefully how I altered them. For instance, She Hates Turkey can be written as $H3h2t3sTurk3y or S434@tuRK3y or $434@T3$turk3y. You need to create your own secret code. These short sentences can reflect the business such as Always Great Service or the day you created the password: Rain, rain and more rain. The trick is to alter the letters into numbers and symbols. And then to remember how you altered them.

Numbers are easily converted to symbols. Simply shift to capitals. For a really difficult password, set the cap lock before typing a series of random letters and numbers.

However, using an alteration of the company name is not advised. Randomness and length are what lead to strong passwords. So if the site says a password should be 8-20 characters long, don’t settle for 8.

Social Media

In my opinion, social media presents great opportunity for hacking. For one reason, many people use the apps and so they don’t sign out. In other cases, public devices are used and then clicked off without signing out. This leaves the door wide open.

The best solution would be similar to what I referenced above, have a separate email and a separate password for each. The next best option is one email for social media sites that is never used elsewhere. Again each site needs a unique password.

However, if the accounts are already set up and an email is used for both social and non-social sites, make sure you change passwords often. By often, at least four times a year and more frequently is better. Don’t simply change a digit at the end of the password to make it new. For example Twitter1 should not become Twitter2.

Passwords for social media accounts should never be used elsewhere.

Emails

Creating a new email account for business only is advisable, but sometimes the migration in use is slow. I have multiple email accounts in order to keep usage separated. But these email accounts do lead to vulnerability. You are not required to provide an email at box stores. However, many online merchants require the information for purchase.

Organizations are now requesting emails as a form of communication. Almost everyone I know has an email. (I can count two holdouts.) But not everyone understands how to safeguard these accounts. Passwords for emails need to be very strong.

Due to the rise in fraud, many transactions are verified through either email, phone call or text. An email account can be open on more than one device at a time. If someone has access to your email account and its password, fraud is easily committed.

Therefore, vigilance is needed. Many of the carriers notify via email if a new device has signed onto the account. If this was not you, take action immediately.

Cyber security is crucial for protecting your identity and your assets. Strong passwords play an important part. So does a vigilant attitude with respect to changing passwords and screening for breaches. Remember to use a unique password for each account. Change passwords frequently. Finally, look for the secure symbol on websites before submitting emails and creating passwords. Never enter credit information without the padlock symbol and the word Secure on the browser line. Sites such as Econogal pay for this extra security. Just another step in protecting your identity.

August 2018 Wrap Up

I usually find August unbearable. Hot winds out of the Southwest make life miserable. Much of the time my garden shuts down because it can’t handle the windy triple digit days. This year was different. Cool, rainy days prevailed during the early weeks with just a couple of hundred degree days toward the end. ‘I could get used to this’ to paraphrase an alien busting actor.

Travel

In fact, weather in my hometown rivaled Saratoga Springs during the early part of the month, although we lack any farmers market. Other travel trips were limited to just a few hours. But one I will share took place in the Rocky Mountains. I joined a young couple in hiking around Golden Gate Canyon State Park. We will participate in the Xtreme Hike Vail in late September. This is a fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Feel free to contact me through the mail button at the top if you wish to donate.

View of mountains in distance
Looking West from atop Golden Gate Canyon State Park

two people hiking on a trail
Hiking Mule Deer Trail

High altitude certainly slows me down. On this particular hike, each mile took about twenty minutes. The three hours of “moderate” trail left me feeling confident that I am up to the challenge. I did ice my ankles and stretched afterwards. Both actions keep me on top of my game. Read my post recommending the book Stretching if you don’t already have a routine.

County Fair

August heralds the county fairs in this part of the country. I entered quite a bit of produce and some canned goods this year. Although I did not win a top prize, I was proud of my garden efforts. The Raised Row Garden certainly is a success. My plan is to continue this technique another two years before placing permanent fencing around the perimeter. So far the temporary fence is keeping the critters at bay.

4-H Competition Premiums

A comment on the fair. There were over eighty kids in the parade of champions. This is a good number. However, I believe most were competing in the livestock divisions. The other divisions were not well represented.

For example, only four articles of clothing were entered by three separate 4-H kids. This was disappointing to me. With the exception of cake decorating, the entries in the non-livestock division were sparse. I don’t think most of the kids showing animals will use the skills as adults. Much of the competition centered on lambs and goats. Outside of the Easter season, few in this country eat lamb on a regular basis.

But I do see this as a principle of economics. The premiums for animals participating in the livestock division are determined via auction. The townspeople bid on the animals (but don’t actually purchase them) and the kids keep this premium. The bids are usually in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. The kids can then sell the animals at market price if they wish. This doubles the money.

However, the 4-H entries in subjects ranging from dog obedience to cooking to rocketry to woodworking (the list of skills is extensive) earn premiums paltry in comparison. The Grand Champions of each division are awarded seventy-five dollars. If you were a kid, which activity would you spend your time on?

Econogal Challenge

In July I challenged my readers to abstain from alcohol, or if they did not drink form their own challenge. An article and scientific research indicating a rise of liver disease among Millennials prompted this challenge. The feedback is positive. Those involved feel free to share in the comment section below. Or in the comment section of the original article Linking Liver Disease to Socioeconomic Events. One month down, two to go!

National News

The investigation into the involvement of Russian election interference continues to twist and turn. I urge my readers to read my reviews of both New York Station and Hidden Target. History reveals such interference is not new. However, current technology has taken everything to the next level. I have talked about technology before. I am currently working on a post concerning cyber security. There are some things one can do to limit the invasion of privacy. However, only going totally off-grid eliminates breeches to personal data. My preference is to protect what I can with the knowledge that everything is vulnerable.

This past week, Senator John McCain lost his battle with cancer. I did not personally know Senator McCain and did not always agree with him on political matters, but I admired his devotion to this country. Over the next few days, media coverage will focus on the ceremonies recognizing this statesman. Honoring those who give much to society is important.

Even more important is each of us doing our part to make society better.

Simple Concepts

A Little Bit of This

“A little bit of this….”was the beginning of the title of one of my favorite first books. To be honest, I think the title finished with “a dab of that.” But when I did a quick Internet search I was inundated with results far different from my original understanding of dab. Perhaps the book is no longer in print. Maybe if I patiently clicked through thousands of hits the book would pop up and I could cite the author. At any rate, I still remember the story over 50 years later. The kids in this early reader book were making sandwiches and adding “a little bit of this and a dab of that.” A simple concept that stuck.

So how does someone come up with a simple concept? Many are inventions of necessity.The Flintstones had wheels of rock on their cartoon cars. But perhaps the first wheels were attached to carts to make things easier to drag along.

Simple Concepts

How are simple concepts monetized? I think one would fall back on the old standby answer, it depends. If you use the example of Walter Hunt, an inventor of the early 19th century, some of his inventions could be considered simple. The safety-pin is one of his inventions. What a great idea! Yet Hunt sold the patent to pay a small debt.

Hunt is a very interesting man with a couple of biographies. The first, written in 1935 by Clinton N. Hunt is titled Walter Hunt American Inventor and the only copy I could find through the search engines resides in a Berlin, Germany library. Fortunately for me since my curiosity has been piqued, Joseph Nathan Kane penned Necessity’s Child: The Story of Walter Hunt, America’s Forgotten Inventor in 1997 and copies are still easily available. Stay tuned for a review!

In contrast to Hunt, who merely paid the bills with his inventions, are the modern-day profiteers. Think pet rock, or even more successful, the Beanie Baby. These creations generated tremendous profits. But how have they advanced civilization?

Many of today’s money making inventions are marketing successes as much as needed creations. All fill a need, it is just our needs have changed. For example, one of my favorite pieces of exercise equipment is the Simply Fit Board. I love it! The board definitely falls into the simple concept category. But if I lived a hundred years ago, I would get fit from all the manual labor required to get through each day.

A Dab of That

The passage of time has made other changes in our daily lives. Earlier this month, Econogal sponsored the Rocky Ford Melon-Man Triathlon. Sports competition has greatly evolved. During the same time period Hunt was working on his many inventions, very little occurred in competitive sports. Baseball, with its murky origins appears to have predated both football and basketball. Modern day organized track and field events also occurred in the late 1800s.

This very informative article from The Atlantic published in 2013 discusses the tie between mandatory education and organized sports for youth. According to the author, organized sports first catered to the poor. Only in the 20th Century did middle class kids enter into competitions.

I would concur with the article that the rise of competitive leagues for kids dovetails with the educational push starting in the 1960s to lessen competition in the classroom. In theory, this would allow all children to achieve self-esteem. (I could write a series of blogs on the pros and cons of this theory.)

Rocky Ford Melon-Man Triathlon

Thus I did not find it unusual that the youngest participant in the Rocky Ford Melon-Man Triathlon was six years of age. In fact I was pleased to see a youngster competing in this event. I think personal challenges of this type are what really create self-confidence. Competition with others can be good, but improving upon your own measurements, I think, creates positive self-esteem.

Congratulations to all the participants. Thank you Rhonda Snyder for the shared photos. Next year I hope to travel to Rocky Ford to compete in the 2019 Rocky Ford Melon- Man Triathlon.

Swimming PoolMan on bicycle

 

 

 

 

Runners at Starting Line

Linking Liver Disease to Socioeconomic Events

Numerous alcohol bottles on displayI use Twitter to keep abreast of news. But, I follow-up by searching for source information. Yesterday the Twitter feed piqued my interest with a trending item relating increases of liver disease in the under 34 population with The Great Recession. Naturally, I am interested whenever I see society impacted by economic events. Also, I look for the reverse; societal events which impact economics. The interchange is often life changing.

Increased Liver Disease Since the 2008 Recession

Therefore, I searched for the source of the study and found the publication in the BMJ. The study originated at the University of Michigan. Assistant Professors  Tapper and Parikh produced the work. Please click here for the link explaining the scientific methodology. Some of you may have read articles in either the New York Times or Washington Post summarizing the study. I encourage you to read the actual study found on the above link.

The study covers the time period from 1999 to 2016. A statistically significant correlation between The Great Recession and increased deaths in the 25 to 34 population is discussed. Since my oldest offspring fit this demographic, there is a greater interest on my part. The data analysis and results were of particular note. Table 2 in the study is a good indicator that the onset of economic trouble has a direct correlation with an increase in liver disease.

Validation is important to me, so I searched for other studies. There are quite a few. The Great Recession spurred many scientific studies. Most attributed the decline in health to the decline in prosperity. However, I did come across a scholarly article that posited the opposite reaction.

Health Effects of Economic Crisis

Christopher J. Ruhm produced the working paper Health Effects of Economic Crises. His detailed analysis can be accessed by clicking here. (Note the Economic Bureau of Economic Research does not have a secure website, but the link is to a PDF.) On the surface the two studies appear to conflict. Yet a closer evaluation indicates some correlation between the two.

Ruhm’s study of the interchange between macroeconomic downturns and morbidity rates focuses on cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Everything else is lumped into a category of other disease. (He also includes analysis of death rates due to accidents, suicides and homicides. Although the two latter conditions could be attributed to mental illness.)

Backgrounds play a key role in the approaches. Tapper and Parikh are medical doctors specializing in the field of gastroenterology. Ruhm’s background is in economics. He holds a doctorate with his CV citing Health Economics, Labor Economics and Public Economics as specialties.

My belief after reading both studies is there is an interaction between economics, macroeconomics in particular, and societal changes. Declines in extra spending money leads to a decline in consumption of goods harmful to health. Examples would be alcohol, tobacco and sugar.

Correlation

From what I understand of the two studies, a correlation can be made. Ruhm’s analysis led me to believe the morbidity rates declined due to a money squeeze. Personal observation recalls individuals in my hamlet switching to bikes and walking during the Great Recession. This increase in physical activity combined with a decrease in consumption of deleterious goods such as alcohol, tobacco and sugars would lead to healthier living.

By contrast, the study by Tapper and Parikh seems to me to focus on the aftereffects of the Great Recession. The country has enjoyed a decade of prosperity. Yet it is easy to infer the lingering effects on the age group of 25-34 year olds. Some would include the Millennials in this cohort. Individuals entering the workforce during the Great Recession faced adversity at the time. Many are still struggling to catch-up.

Perhaps this internal struggle coupled with more money currently available for consumer spending is the cause for the findings in the study. Higher alcohol as well as obesity lead to liver failure. Thus a call for an increase in sin tax with regards to both alcohol and sugar by proponents of this particular study.

Health Challenge From Econogal

Taxes are unpopular and only one approach. My suggestions differ. First, as I have written before, maintaining physical health is important. In my opinion, all adults (everyone over 18) should have blood work done once a year along as part of an annual check-up. Second, we should practice moderation. I first discuss this in the book review of The Case Against Sugar.

Alcohol consumption should be limited. I looked up the suggested limits for low risk use. They were more than generous in my opinion. My understanding is those who don’t drink at all are at an advantage with regards to memory processes and only at a slight disadvantage for cardiovascular health.

Thus, I have a challenge for my readers. Starting August 1, 2018, reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption until Halloween. Monetary costs most likely prohibit blood work before and after for concrete results. So, I am asking my readers to use observation. Make weekly notes on energy levels. Note activities. Journal entries will keep you on track. Then share your results via comment. I will let responses dictate space on the blog.

If you are already a non-drinker, reduce your consumption of sugar, tobacco, caffeine or some other unhealthy product. Or those that abstain from alcohol and other sinfully delicious goodies can add a positive. This addition of a healthy alternative would be good for the drinkers as well.

Are you up for the challenge?

Procrastination

Procrastination is defined as delaying a task or action to a later time. I have witnessed procrastination all my life. Occasionally I am guilty of procrastinating. But most of the time I am not. The times I procrastinate revolve around either a dislike for a task, or a fear of rejection.

Tasks I dislike and often put off include scrubbing toilets, taking out the trash and matching clean socks. If I have both inside and outside chores, I will opt for the outside ones unless the weather is bad. Or I know company is coming.
Fear of rejection also delays me. I have two completed children’s books that I have not submitted for publication. My current excuse is I have no illustrations to go along with them. The real problem is I fear rejection. I love the stories but worry no one else will.

As I have aged, procrastination has become less and less a problem. Juggling a career, four kids, volunteer work, hobbies and last but certainly not least, a husband meant staying on task. Thus I have a few tips to share.

Paying Bills

I pay bills as soon as they arrive. This way they are paid on time. Some of my bills are set up for online payment. In this case, the payment is scheduled for a few days before the due date. Some may prefer to have the bills submitted straight to the checking account. Again, this method ensures prompt payment.

Procrastination at Work

The workplace is primed for procrastination. There are co-workers to provide distraction. Other delays are caused by customers, clients, suppliers or students as the case may be. I remember one boss complaining of all the “fires” that needed to be put out and hence things didn’t get done in a timely manner. But there are ways to stay on track.

First, set aside time to get the needed tasks completed. This may mean going in an hour before others if you are in a management position with lots of interruptions. Or put out some type of do not disturb notice. I remember one December donning a Grinch hat and posting a warning note indicating the posting of grades came first. No one knocked on my door.

Second, prioritize the work. Organize the tasks by both importance and deadline. Sometimes a first in first out approach will not work. Make sure you schedule enough time to check the work for accuracy whether it is proofreading, measuring or even taste testing.

Third, break large projects into small chunks. Procrastination has a psychological component. Often the task is overwhelming. By dividing the work up into pieces or parts the job no longer seems as daunting. Give yourself a break between sections of the work. But set a time limit on the down time. If you don’t have a plan and a time-table, procrastination can sneak back in.

Fourth, learn to delegate. If you can’t share the load, then know when to say NO. Procrastination becomes a nightmare when multiple tasks pile up.

Exercise

Another area ripe for procrastination is exercise. We all know how important it is to exercise. Studies show benefits from physical activity include brain health, physical fitness, longevity and psychological well-being. But many put off the work-outs. Maybe you woke up late. Or it is too cold. Or too hot. After work you are too tired. Part of the year it is too dark. All these are just excuses. Some people just don’t like to exercise so they put it off.

Don’t procrastinate! Exercise is one of the keys to life. In the old days we labored (and some still do). The labor served as our exercise. If you are lifting bales of hay you benefit as much as by lifting weights. But most no longer labor. The future will probably involve even less manual work. Just think of the inventions such as the robots that clean kitchen floors. In order to keep our bodies fit, we need to substitute work outs for labor.

Keys to avoid putting off exercise are as follows. First, have an exercise partner. You can encourage each other. Second, find a workout you enjoy. There are so many types of exercise that you can mix up the workouts. Bicycle two days, run two days and dance or kick-box on other days. Third, stick to a routine. Try not to go two days in a row without some form of exercise. Remember your physics, an object in motion stays in motion.

Benefits from overcoming Procrastination

Defeating procrastination leads to many benefits. Tasks are done on time. This translates into less stress which tops the list for me. There is also an increase in productivity. Procrastination slows down the time-table. So once you put the drag of undone work behind, you will be surprised at just how much work can be completed. Furthermore, you will establish a reputation for getting things done. This can-do work ethic is what employers look for. So start today by stopping procrastination.

Maintaining Physical Health

Physical Health

Aging naturally affects physical health. Maintaining ones physical condition takes more effort as each decade passes by. But the benefits of taking an active approach are many. The various body systems gain from good physical health. Of course both exercise and diet are key elements needed to keep the body in tune.

Ten years ago my body was aging fast. Even though I walked two miles most days, I had gained weight and my digestive system was a mess. My gastroenterologist prescribed some medicine to treat the ulcerative colitis. But the best thing he gave me was advice. He told me my body was used to the walks around the park. He said I needed to step it up a bit. So I began training for a marathon.
I trained a full year for the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon. My physical fitness level needed all that time to get ready. The best side effect was the positive reaction in my intestinal system. Since, I was serious about the training I stopped drinking colas and other carbonated beverages. This change in diet also contributed to better physical health.

Sugar and Fat

The carbonated beverages contained lots of sugar. Please read the book review The Case Against Sugar. In addition to watching sugar, I also watch my fats. I have been drinking 1% milk for over a decade. This change from whole milk has kept my cholesterol levels in check. Now, my biggest challenge is to not eat too much cheese.

Because I am a decade older, I have personally ruled out additional marathons. In fact, I have not run a half marathon in almost two years. Unfortunately, this has had a negative reaction for my digestive system. But, my heart rate gets above where it should be if I run too far. Thus I am experiencing a bit of a Catch-22. (A good book by the way.) So, I need to find other ways to maintain good physical health.

I now keep track of my heart rate when I exercise. This leads to many run/walk outings. Fortunately, the alternation between walking and running is akin to the interval training of my track days. Since I live at altitude, my trips to the East Coast let me run a bit farther. I plan to do any future half marathons at sea level. If my heart rate gets too high, I will make myself walk part of the course.

Brain Health

The physical activity also helps my brain health. First, the exercise releases many hormones. For an informative article on exercise and beneficial hormone release please click here. I am particularly hopeful that the more intense workouts release enough Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor to grow some new cells. I need all the new growth I can get.

Some early studies show consistent aerobic exercise increases the size of the hippo-campus. One study by the University of British Columbia was limited to women. The hippocampal volume grew over the course of the experiment. Unfortunately, the results were mixed with respect to memory. The study cited possible interference by white matter as a cause. You can access the study by clicking here.

Check-ups

Regular check-ups are key. Plane travel has been affecting my right eye. It becomes blurry and a headache ensues. Recently, my annual eye exam verified my sometimes blurry right eye was a cause for concern. I have a cataract. While I am apprehensive about the surgery, I know this condition can be addressed.

Each year I have blood work done. A couple of springs ago I was surprised that my thyroid levels were off. It is a hereditary disease. But both my parents are symptom free. However, I began treatment and feel much better. Last summer I discovered my father’s brother takes the same medicine. Since my paternal grandparents died relatively young the possibility of the condition was unknown. So, it helps to know beyond just the immediate family even though the odds diminish.

Maintaining physical health can aid in the quality of life. Eating right and exercising are the two components I focused on today. Other things come into play when discussing longevity such as social connectedness and spiritual life. Both are potential topics for future posts.

Since I need to alter my workouts, please let me know your choice of exercise.

April 2018 Wrap Up

Garden bed with raised sides made from recApril 2018

It is hard to believe but April 2018 is over. We are a third of the way through the year. April was busy for me as I wrapped up an extended stay in Florida celebrating the 80th birthday of someone near and dear to me.

In The Garden

Other events included planting quite a few varieties of vegetables in the raised row garden and a few plants close to the house. The deer proof fence is working. No signs of deer (droppings) in the new garden. So I consider the effort a success.  However, 70 M.P.H. winds damaged some of the poles. Therefore, replacement poles are now anchoring the garden.

An existing 4 x 8 foot raised box was elevated even more. Originally the height was 9 inches. Now the bed reaches just over two feet. This is easier to reach. Hopefully, the added depth will allow me to plant longer root vegetables.

Reading

Quite a few book were read this month. Thanks again for the suggestions both private and public. Several exciting books will be reviewed in the coming weeks. I am beginning to get used to the format that blends current events with fiction. No longer do I find these stories off-putting. I am sure novelists with a penchant for telling spy stories can’t resist utilizing the current world affairs as a backdrop.

Gardening references occupied a large amount of my time. There is a host of information in book and magazine form as well as online sites. Make sure you read the review of Gardening Shortcuts. I also recommend Edible Gardening, a magazine put out by American Farmer’s Almanac. I consulted the website put out by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds numerous times. The site has an easy to use planting guide that you can access by clicking here.

Spring

Our springs on the High Plains are short and varied. This year we have had cooler temperatures, a bit of moisture and lots of wind. The danger comes from the wind in the form of fire. So those of you living in a drought situation (which includes various states from coast to coast) be careful using any open flame outdoors. Fires in both Florida and on the plains made appearances near me in April 2018.

As always, feel free to share any great reads. Just use a first name or even initials. The month of May will be action packed. Stay tuned!