Category: Uncategorized

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!

Kentucky Derby Hats

Well it is hard to believe but it is almost Derby Time. The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs is just around the corner. For some it is the fastest two minutes in sports. For others, the Derby means much more. Across the country Derby Parties are being planned.  Derby parties involve good food, mint juleps, party dresses and best of all, Derby hats.

I am a hat person. I love hats. Straw hats and felt hats, fedoras and even ball caps. My collection even includes a couple of fascinators. The best way to describe a fascinator is a headband (or barrette) on steroids. I think I need to add some fascinators because they tend to stay on your head if there is any wind in the forecast.

Hats serve a purpose in addition to looking nice. They protect from the outdoor elements. Both the sun and the rain can cause damage. Hats offer good protection from the sun for both the face and the top of the head. Guys going for the “Bald Look” need to consider the potential skin damage. Additionally, without a hat, one tends to look like a drowned rat if standing in the rain. Of course Derby hats, really fancy ones, need shelter from the rain!

Some hats are made specifically for an outfit. The photo to the right shows the winner of a hat fashion contest last fall in San Diego. I wholeheartedly agreed with the judges. But one needs to know a milliner to have a hat custom-made. There are none near me.

The next best thing is a store specializing in hats. Or at least a shop that carries hats. I am lucky to have a local shop with hats in my hometown. In some parts of the country such a store is not available. Fortunately, we live in the age of the Internet so for those without a local source of hats, shopping online is an alternative to driving a long distance.

Derby Hats

If you are hosting or attending a Derby Party the first Saturday in May you need to act quickly. Hopefully anyone lucky enough to attend the race in person already has purchased their hat. But in any case there is still time and several options.

First, if you are artsy and live near a shop like Hobby Lobby or Michael’s, consider making your own hat.  Most Derby hats start with a straw base. Then the decorations are added. The add-ons could include netting, silk flowers, feathers or all three. Some people go wild. I have seen horse heads and even the entire racetrack. The sky is the limit as you can see from the pictures.

If creativity is not your thing and you don’t live near a hat shop, go online. A simple web search will give you plenty of options. But at this point you may need to pay extra for shipping. Or you can spruce up a hat you already own by adding either a scarf clip or a piece of jewelry like a fancy broach.

No matter how old-fashioned hats may seem, the Kentucky Derby and Derby hats go hand-in-hand. So jump on the bandwagon and find a hat for the first Saturday in May. The slide show below will give the creative types some ideas. For the rest, it is time to go shopping!

 

Financial Literacy Month

April is financial literacy month. So naturally, Econogal needs a post with tips on teaching financial literacy. Fortunately there are many ways to engage young people in learning financial responsibility. Even the youngest of children can appreciate a piggy bank.

In fact, two of my children received piggy banks from the OB-GYN who delivered them. At least one of the others was gifted a bank at a baby shower. Piggy banks are a fun way for the young child to begin saving. Some banks use piggy banks as marketing items.

Once the banks are filled, the kids can either roll the coins or use a coin sorter. The age of the child will determine the needed coordination to roll coins. A few banks will even allow kids to watch their large coin sorter. Just ask the next time you go to your bank.

Credit Cards versus Lay-away

Saving coins is just the first step. Many other lessons are needed. One of the most important is budgeting. In these days of plastic payment it can be especially difficult for kids to understand how transactions work. A swipe of the card at the check-out does not help with the concept of budgeting and payment in the same way as putting an item on lay-away. But the two are similar.

Although lay-away still exists, it is far more common to buy with a credit card. Both involve multiple payments. But with the credit transaction there is instant gratification. This is a two-edged sword. The item isn’t truly owned until paid in full. Many individuals forget this key concept. Using credit to buy expensive items or charging large amounts on services or vacations is a sure way to find yourself underwater financially.

Thus, if you have a store that still offers lay-away, consider using this avenue to teach the idea of budgeting. The child will understand the need to save to make each of the regular payments. The item will belong to them at the end of the lay-away. If this type of payment is not available, create your own system at home. Have the child put aside a certain amount each week until the amount needed for purchase is needed. Then go to the store. We need to get away from instant gratification.

Allowances or Earnings

Some families provide allowances. Others exchange payment for chores upon completion. Still others expect kids to pitch in as part of the family responsibility. Regardless of your methodology, kids can learn to participate in work at an early age. Work ethic is an integral part of financial responsibility. It is important to teach the concept of the exchange between work and pay.

Continue to emphasize savings. Either encourage or require the deposit of some of the allowance or chore earnings into a bank account. If possible, consider a small match of savings. This concept found in the working world of employee match for 401K deposits is important. Many individuals lose out by not contributing to these retirement accounts. Introduce the idea at an early age.

Track Spending

A problem faced by teenagers (and adults) is not knowing where all the money is going. A great exercise is keeping track of all expenditures in a month. All means all, down to the very last cent. For this exercise to work, several things are involved.

First identify income sources. This should include wages from part-time jobs, allowances, and gifts. College students can include scholarships and work-study.

Second, estimate how the money is spent. For example, a third is going to gas, a quarter is deposited in a savings account. The remainder might be broken into multiple uses.

Next, create a record. This can be as simple as a folder with notebook paper. Or an accounting ledger book could be used for those interested in accounting. The record needs to identify each day of the month. After creating separate daily logs, the information can further divide. Additional divisions could include categories such as food, rent, gas, and of course discretionary spending. Receipts should be kept.

Then, at the end of the month, analyze the expenditures. This is eye-opening. My students often discovered a large amount was spent on fast food even though they were paying for the college food service. Others underestimated daycare expenses because they did not include babysitting during evenings. The analysis is key in understanding spending habits. Unfortunately few save any money at all much less a quarter of the income.

Financial Literacy

These are just a few ideas for teaching financial literacy. While some states have incorporated financial literacy in the curriculum, parents need to take the lead. Start with a piggy bank and move onto a coin sorter. Kids are interested in how money works. Help them out by introducing financial responsibility at an early age.

Make sure budgeting is a concept they know and understand. Unfortunate events can wipe out a family, but far too many are in trouble from out of control spending. Instant gratification needs to be replaced by the satisfaction of payment in full. If you use credit/debit cards instead of cash, make sure the youngsters understand the payment transactions involved. An increase in the savings rate is necessary for long-term financial stability. Share this habit with your children.

Random Economic Thoughts

Sprinkler heads.
New and old sprinkler parts.

I am currently travelling away from my small town and thought I would share some random economic thoughts. These ideas spawn from a few weeks stay in a city whose population ranks in the top 25 in America. This is a far cry from my hamlet of 7500. This post contains my opinions. I am fortunate to live in the United States of America. The Constitution guarantees my right of free speech. You may differ in your opinion on the below subjects. I respect that. We may end up agreeing to disagree.

Big Box Hardware versus Mom and Pop Hardware Stores

This time of year I make many trips to the hardware store. Spring heralds longer days. More daylight means more hours to work. Since I am currently in a city I have visited both the Big Blue and Big Orange hardware stores. Neither have been satisfactory in the service category but the orange guys are at least passing. However, the price points are great. So, if you know exactly what you need and can tolerate the lack of personal service you are good to go.

I prefer good service. My blood pressure rose a bit after five trips for a landscape project and poor service. This particular Big Blue store used to be a favorite go to store. My Mom and I spent many enjoyable mornings picking out plants. The store became slightly tarnished in my mind two years ago because it could not hire someone with a physical handicap. This is well within the law due to the type of work and the specific handicap.

However, the place is now in purgatory-at least this location because of the abysmal service. Multiple trips were made for 2 cubic foot bags of mulch because the rental car could only hold so much. On three of the four trips to haul the mulch, no offer was made to help. The other time a young man,able bodied so hired, appeared by the stack of mulch and proceeded to watch me load the already carted bags into my trunk. Watch me. Best case scenario, he was dumber than a doorknob. As was another young man who told me one bag would cover one and one half square feet.

I have worked on both professional and personal levels with physically handicapped individuals. One of whom is a quadriplegic. In each and every case their work ethic is/was fantastic. Sometimes the physically handicapped are much less handicapped than the able bodied individual.

Today, I opted to go to Big Orange Box store instead.

What is the long-term economic impact of poor service? I am not sure service value can be measured. Economies of scale make it hard for the Mom and Pop stores to compete on product price. The big box stores enjoy discounts from their volume purchases. In my little town the Mom and Pop stores are often almost double or double the price of the big box stores. (Not to mention the online opportunities.) However, if I knew of a Mom and Pop place here in this metropolis I would be willing to give them a try.

I will pay a small amount more to support a local business, but only a small amount. After all I wouldn’t want to negate Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand Theory. This is just one of the theories posited by Smith over 200 years ago.

Specialization

Another random economic thought from this trip is specialization. Adam Smith wrote about the positive impact of division of labor in his 1776 publication Wealth of Nations. In a small town you will find many Jill of all trades (some Jack’s as well.) Because of scarcity of a wide number of services you learn to do more. Specialization occurs, but in multiple areas.

For example, neither one of my parents love the kitchen. My skills came from necessity. Unlike a city where you could dine out for a solid month without ever repeating restaurants, choices in small towns are limited. But I do not even consider my cooking to be in my top three skills. I am thinking in multiples, so there goes the idea of specialization out the window. Perhaps that is why David Ricardo is my favorite economist and not Smith. Although I do describe myself as a capitalist.

So two small town people tried tackling a sprinkler system in defiance of Adam Smith. If we were playing baseball we would be a hit. But I see our fifty percent success rate as a failure. In hindsight, I should have found someone who specialized in sprinklers. Or waited for daylight to return. Of course a little more service from Big Orange would not have hurt either.

Just-in-Time Inventory System

The reliance on Just-in-Time inventory also plays a part. A lack of stored sprinkler parts demanded the trip to the hardware store. I deem items, such as sprinkler heads, as non-storage items. They are easy to purchase, inexpensive, and not often needed. This type of item lends itself to Just-in-Time inventory at my home. Unless one desires their own hoarder’s reality show, replacement inventory for everything under the sun cannot find a place under one’s roof. This is not a contradiction to an early post on National Preparedness Month. Some inventory is needed in the home. Items I categorize as Just-in-Time parts differ from items preparing a home against events such as hurricanes and blizzards.

For those who detested economics or skipped class that day, Just-in-Time manufacturing appeared in the 1970s. The approach, generally credited to Japanese car manufacturers, cut costs by delivering parts as needed. This reduced the footprint needed by production companies by eliminating storage costs. Thus today it would not be unusual to see vertical components within the same industrial complex, For example a factory producing air condition units for buses might be found a few blocks away from a bus manufacturer.

Social Media Regulations

Facebook dominated the news the first few days of my trip. Mr. Z would like you to believe the pop-up ads on Facebook are as random as these random economic thoughts. He took out full-page ads apologizing for a breach to your privacy. Theoretically the breach was unintentional.

This is not the case. Social media needs to sell your data in order to make a profit. The economic model does not work without advertisements. Of course advertisers want their dollars to work efficiently. They need to target their ads to people most likely to use the product they sell. Hence the role of Big Data. Social media platforms are great ways to socialize in the 21st Century. But they come with a cost. (Remember nothing in life is free. Not liberty, not love, not even water, but I digress.) Facebook has expenses so they need revenue in order to operate. Since Facebook users can sign up “free” of charge, the money must come from somewhere else.

So should Congress regulate social media? I think your answer will reflect your politics. My own answer is to use outlets such as Facebook sparingly.

Striking Teachers

Another random economic thought concerns the striking teachers. In general I am not a big fan of strikes. However, I can at least understand why these strikes are occurring. Teachers in the United States are not paid well. Some attribute it to the nine month school year. I think even if they worked twelve months and the pay was increased proportionately the profession would still be underpaid.

But the traditional low pay scale is only part of the story. Violence in the schools is increasing. The media do report the shootings, but other acts of violence occur as well. Fistfights can be everyday occurrences and I know stabbings happen as well. Teachers are handling all of these violent acts. In addition, drug overdoses are occurring during the school day. Education has become a hazardous occupation. Usually jobs that involve a risk to life and limb are compensated with an increase in pay. I believe teaching needs to fall into this category.

In general, I think most kids start school wanting to learn. I also believe most students are good citizens. But we seem to have reached a tipping point. The minority number of trouble makers and in many cases troubled students is now large enough to have a sustained negative impact on the education system. Teachers are on the front line. They need combat pay.

Full Circle on Specialization

Why is there so much violence? What can be done? These questions have many answers. My answers are quite opinionated. I believe we have become over specialized. I doubt Adam Smith ever addressed this and to be honest I will need to reread Wealth of Nations to see if over specialization was discussed other than in terms of the Invisible Hand. In a well oiled economy if too many carpenters exist, some will change careers. This is the theory of the Smith’s Invisible Hand. Equilibrium will occur naturally over time.

As applied to school violence and societal violence, we have tipped beyond a point of balance. I believe we need to re-think our system. We have too much idleness in our youth. This is not a new concept. Devout readers of the Bible as well as staunch fans of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales understand this notion. Idle hands are the Devil’s tools. Of course both the Bible and Chaucer predate Smith.

But how do we achieve this? Do we really want sixteen year olds with no interest in higher education roaming the streets? I am in favor of vocational-technical (vo-tech) education. We need more plumbers and electricians. But both professions need individuals with strong work ethics. Power outages occur day and night as do broken pipes. We need to introduce vo-tech careers as early as grade school.

Vocational-Technical Education

By the sixth grade there can be an indication of which students have lost interest in education. There are a myriad of reasons. Some don’t have the aptitude for book learning, others are hindered by environmental factors. The problem with fixing an arbitrary age to divide children into tracks of learning is the fact some people are slow developers.

Again, a child can be hindered by outside forces. Tara Westover is a prime example. Please read my review of Educated to understand why I am against a set age for kicking individuals off the path to higher education.

Grade school needs to incorporate some career development. Many of you may remember the early reader books on careers. These stories introduced jobs in many fields. Unfortunately, many were out of print by the time my children were learning to read. Children can multi-task by learning to read from books introducing various types of jobs. Maybe the desire of the young to multi-task is a response to over specialization.

Equilibrium Balance one more Random Economic Thought

One last thought on idleness. Some nations as well as some religions require service commitments. I have no first hand knowledge of the parameters of this work. Nor do I have data on the success of these individuals. However, I believe the idea has merit. We need to promote the idea of work and working with others. Two years serving a country or as a mission to a religion seems likely to give an individual time to mature. Of course hard work at a full-time job may also achieve the goal of self sufficiency.

This country needs to regain balance. Teachers are underpaid, in part due to the new work conditions facing educators. Needed vo-tech employees are scarce. Too much violence is a result of mal-adjustment. At the risk of being labeled a Keynesian, somehow the Invisible Hand needs a little help. Individually and collectively a push needs to be made concerning work ethic. We see this in the service industry as well as in the emerging industries of the 21st Century.

Somehow the education system needs to alter so that kids retain that desire to learn you see on virtually every kindergarten face. This is not a task just for the teachers or the parents. The students themselves need to be involved. Work ethic comes from within.

March 2018 Wrap Up

March 2018 has been a busy month. In addition to reading many books and working on garden projects. I traveled. The first trip to New Orleans you can read about here. Currently I am visiting Orlando. March is a busy month for travelling. After all it is spring break for many. The planes are packed and in some cases the airlines are looking for people willing to be bumped from their scheduled flight. I have yet to accept the offer.

Cold mornings lent themselves to reading while waiting for the temperatures to warm up. As a result, I have about half a dozen book reviews waiting for a Friday publishing date. There was a stretch in mid-March when book after book was incredible. I am excited about the reviews (including yesterday’s on Educated.)

I spent the pleasant early spring afternoons creating a new garden area. The raised row garden idea came from Jim and Mary Competti, bloggers at Old World Garden Farms. You can read a review of their new book here.

Zip Ties

Since I had a scheduled trip to Florida at the end of March, I worked diligently to establish the 40 x 30 foot garden. I managed to finish putting a deer fence in place just the day before I left. Zip ties allowed me to get the job done in quick order.

There are pros and cons with zip ties. On the pro side, they are relatively inexpensive. I bought a container of a thousand for $10.00. They are easy to attach. Finally they are strong. On the negative side, they will eventually become brittle when exposed to outside elements and thus have a short life span. They also play havoc on your finger nails.

I used zip ties to attach recycled metal soffit to wire supports for the base of my garden fence. Then, I used zip ties to attach a netting to seven-foot poles (to deter deer.) I also used the zip ties as an additional anchor of the poles to the base fence. Most of the afternoons in March 2018 were spent on this gardening project. See the pictures below for a sneak peek. An extensive post on the how-to is forthcoming.

Readership Community

Readers are a dying breed. On one flight a chatty aisle mate kept interrupting my reading of Kristen Hannah’s latest book The Great Alone. She was quite curious as to what the book was like since I was so engrossed. I wish I had an extra book to give her. I can’t imagine boarding a plane without a book to read.

Once I reached my destination, I was happy to see my copy of Two Girls Down was no longer inside the Little Free Library around the corner from my Florida hang-out. So readers are still out there, we just need to reach out and connect. I would love to have a reading group to share ideas on The Twilight Wife.

The readership community of Econogal is slowly expanding. If you would like emails sent to you each time a post is released, subscribe now or bookmark the page. Generally, I post twice a week as part of my New Year's Resolutions. So far I am on track to keep the 2018 list.

Be sure to share what books you have read this month in the comments below. This is one way we can share  great books even if we cannot meet in person. I know March 2018 was a banner month for my reading. I made some great discoveries of new authors and enjoyed new releases from old favorites.

What did you read in March?

Daylight Saving Time: A Brief History and Argument Against

Once again I am faced with the need to adjust my body to an arbitrary jump in time. Daylight Saving Time began yesterday. For whatever reason it takes me a week at least to adjust. If I am travelling during that week the jump in time zones throws me off even more. Sometimes it is close to three weeks before I feel normal again.

Since I am still out of whack this morning, I decided to do some research. The information out on the internet is rather interesting so I will provide some sources at the bottom. Some of the various websites were misleading through omission of facts. The biggest culprits will be left off the bibliography.

A Brief History

The best information came from a website founded in 1995. Timeanddate.com was complete in their discussion. They even discussed Ben Franklin’s idea that the Parisian’s needed to get out of bed earlier. However, the first formal proposal of Daylight Saving Time was a proposal in 1895 by George Vernon Hudson. He worked in a New Zealand Post Office by day. Hudson posited a two-hour change during the warmer months. His motivation was bugs. The extra two hours would allow him time after his day job to collect insects for scientific study.

In 1906 a British builder, William Willett wrote Waste of Daylight proposing to change the time over a series of weeks by 20 minutes at a time. This effort was criticized by many. Just imagine the difficulties! However, in my case it might work better for adaptation. The British defeated a bill to make the change shortly thereafter.

First locale

The first known location to establish a change was an area in Canada now known as Thunder Bay. This occurred in 1908. Other areas in Canada adopted the time change over the next few years. However, the first countries to adopt the time change were Germany and Austria during World War I. This took place April 30, 1916. Other countries in Europe quickly copied the effort. The switch back to Standard time followed the resolution of the conflict.

World War II brought back the use of Daylight Savings Time. In the United States the time change was known as War Time. After the war ended, America once again ceased observing the custom as a nation. Individual states and even cities set their own guidelines of what clock to use. This resulted in a bit of chaos for travelers.

Uniform Time Act

The Uniform Time Act eased some of the conflict. The United States Congress passed this Act in 1966. The ruling established a uniform time for the change. Daylight Savings began the last Sunday in April and ran until the last Sunday in October. However, states were allowed to opt out and stay on Standard Time.

Over the years, some changes were made to the original act. For example, in 1972 Congress allowed States with multiple time zones to have part of the State opt out. Also occurring in the early 1970’s was a yearlong adoption of Daylight Saving Time as a reaction to the 1973 Energy Crisis. In 1986, Congress moved the start of Daylight Saving Time to the first Sunday in April. The beginning was moved even earlier in the year to the second Sunday in March by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This same action also moved the end of the time period to the first Sunday in November.

Currently, Hawaii and most of Arizona use Standard time exclusively. For both it is a matter of existing amounts of Daylight. Just last week, the Florida legislature voted to keep to one time clock per year. But, in Florida’s case they must get approval from the Federal Government.

Will Florida join the club?

Since Florida would like to remain on Daylight Saving Time so to abandon the changing of times it needs approval to change to the Atlantic Time Zone. This seems a bit convoluted, but apparently it is easier to remake Time Zones. The Uniform Time Act would not need an amendment. Furthermore, the Western most counties in Florida are currently in the Central Time Zone. These residents will have a big adjustment. There are many factors in this decision. As of this writing, the Sunshine Protection Act is awaiting Governor Rick Scott’s signature.

If the Sunshine Protection Act becomes law, there are two ways for the State of Florida to win approval from the Federal Government. The first is through Congressional action. This method is not often used. The more likely scenario is the second method of change. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation has the authority to change time zones. It is interesting to note in the actual Florida Bill that the state legislators include wording that would preserve the law in the event the United States Congress amended the Time Act to allow for the Daylight Saving option. I am unsure if Florida would then choose to revert to Eastern Time.

Against Time Change

From my personal standpoint, I think my body would fare better I a state without an arbitrary time change. I do not own an alarm clock. Nature wakes me up. However, I know that is not a feasible approach for many. The change to Daylight Saving acts as jet lag on my body. Both the spring and fall changes have a negative impact. So losing an hour is not the culprit.

I can appreciate the desire after a long winter to have daylight at the end of the work day. But the change really affects my productivity levels. In some years, I think I lose about a month to this time change lag. In my case staying with just one time would increase output. I don’t have a preference between Standard and Daylight Saving.

Perhaps I identify with the Amish. In the winter I find inside work appealing and probably sleep a bit longer. In the summer, I follow the sunlight. As the sun rises earlier and earlier, I follow the advice of Ben Franklin and get out of bed earlier. Gardening occurs in the cool of the mornings and evenings. Sleep is shorter and perhaps deeper after a long day.

Studies back both views

Many arguments abound for bouncing the hours back and forth. Some studies show fewer accidents. Others a drop in suicide. One article by Web M.D. suggests the adjustment period is only a day. Unfortunately, my body doesn’t agree with that. On the bright side I know I am not a candidate for time travel. Someone else will have to be the guinea pig for that experiment.

I tend to favor the arguments against changing the clocks. Studies in Indiana which did not fully adopt the change until this century indicate little savings. A decrease in lights used was offset by an increase in air conditioning. The real worrier for me is the increase in heart attacks the first few days after springing forward. As I said before my body gets out of whack. I don’t like messing with Mother Nature.

My body really struggles with the time change and if it worsens I may need to relocate. I do have Hawaii, and Arizona on my list of preferred states just because of their common sense approach to the time change. If Florida is successful, they will join the list. This would only happen in an extreme case-like a heart attack scare coinciding with the time change.

I have a long list of references below. Other sites were deleted from the list for their glaring errors. I certainly don’t want to fall into the trap of believing everything I read on the Internet. Nor do I want to be accused of issuing Fake News.  I think you will enjoy reading some of the articles listed below if you have some spare time.

Website Sources

https://www.timeanddate.com/time/dst/history.html

https://www.timeanddate.com/time/us/indiana-time.html

https://www.timeanddate.com/time/us/daylight-saving-usa.html

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/09/daylight-savings-time-history-george-vernon-hudson_n_1333378.html

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160310-the-builder-who-changed-how-the-world-keeps-time

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/03/0330_040330_daylightsavings_2.html

http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2018/1013/BillText/er/PDF

https://www.transportation.gov/regulations/time-act

https://www.transportation.gov/regulations/procedure-moving-area-one-time-zone-another

http://www.webexhibits.org/daylightsaving/e.html

https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/coping-with-time-changes

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131101-when-does-daylight-savings-time-end-november-3-science/

 

 

Aging Doesn’t Equal Lifestyle Slow Down

Recently I picked up a Time Magazine at a check-out counter. The cover was a maze. The extra content covered longevity. Many of the articles are interesting and a couple seem to be directed toward me. I am aging and my lifestyle has changed but I don’t seem to be slowing down.

This past weekend is a good example. On Friday afternoon, I used spray paint to mark the rows as discussed in the book review of Raised Row Gardening. On Saturday, I oversaw the unfortunate need of rototilling. Only the eighteen inch beds were tilled. I am not one for machinery hence the overseeing.

True Test

Sunday came the true test for my aging body. I engaged in very physical labor from just before nine a.m. until five p.m. with a thirty minute break for lunch. First I made three trips to a Tractor Supply because the local farmer I contacted was out of straw. Three trips with four bales at a time in the back of the Subaru Outback. Each trip ended with hauling the bales to the plot of land lined out for the garden.

Then the real labor began. My location on the High Plains is in the midst of a major drought. To be honest, we have been living with different levels of water restrictions for at least ten years. Thus the ground is not easy to turn even after two passes with a rototiller.

I did not rototill the walkway areas. No need in my mind since no growth is desired there. Because of another ongoing project, I have excess topsoil to work with.

Each of the four growing rows measures eighteen inches by forty feet. Yes, forty feet. I may be aging but I still love working in my garden. I am counting on the folks at Old World Garden Farms and this raised row method to make the work easier with each passing year. But this first year is labor intensive.

I raked the loose dirt up the sides of each row. Then I shoveled the center in order to make a nice even ten inch base within the eighteen inch area. Next, I layered a six inch thickness of straw in the ten inch area. I raked the side dirt back in and then shoveled more topsoil over to form a nice mound. Often, wheelbarrows of dirt were added from one of two nearby piles.

The final step was to put a four inch layer of straw on the walkway areas. Since the wind kicked up in the late afternoon and was predicted to get stronger, I elected to water down the garden instead of lining the final two walkways. Dusk accompanied me into the house.

Stretching

Then, I did something good for my aging body. I stretched. I use Stretching by Bob Anderson as a reference guide. After the long day of work, I followed the stretches recommended for Indoor and Outdoor Work as well as those for Lower Back Tension.

The stretching I think is a key for the aging body. On Monday morning I did a few stretches and went about a normal day. Light housework with lots of laundry and vacuuming. I also wore a brace on the one ankle which has been giving me trouble. But no major pain.

In addition to the stretching, I think the absence of pain is psychological. I really want to expand my garden and I want to lay the groundwork properly. Therefore, the work is worthwhile. Some slight stiffness is expected. Slight is the significant adjective. No painkillers needed.

The articles in Time magazine reflect my weekend experience. The small snippets described individuals actively engaged in living. One anecdote was of a woman who ran her first marathon at the age of 69.  The reporting also discussed the need for community and social relationships.

Each of the five Blue Zones discussed by the Time article stress healthy living. Dan Buettner is the author of The Blue Zones. Ingredients for a healthy life include exercise, healthy food sources (such as straight from the garden), social circles, spirituality, and a good amount of sleep. Individuals in these areas of longevity not only live longer, but as the Time article states, they live better.

Online Communities

Even though the article did not discuss the online community, I believe that blogs and in my case blogging will also contribute to aging well. I follow several blogs and comment from time to time. I enjoy the comments (as well as the likes) on Econogal. I love going to lunch with a friend, but I also enjoy trading successful canning techniques online with individuals I may never meet. The same holds true with the book reviews.

We live in a changing world. People are living longer. Now the challenge is to make those extra years meaningful. Aging is one thing, aging well is yet another.

Aging Doesn’t Equal Lifestyle Slow Down

  • Empty lot
    Plot for future raised bed garden

February 2018 Wrap Up

February 2018 was a short month! I am a few hours late posting this but that is what happens when you only have twenty-eight days. I really needed a leap year! In our part of the world we had a month with little moisture. Just a skiff of snow one morning which began dripping off the roof before mid-morning, I actually hooked up the hoses to water the trees. We had one day of high winds accompanied by fire warnings. This is quite a contrast to those of you who are water-logged.

My New Year’s resolutions are holding up. I added to my skills by learning to prune grapevines. I am a bit worried that I cut them back too far, but all the You Tube videos I watched warned I would feel this way. You Tube is a great tool for visual learners.

February 2018 Celebrations

February 2018 hosted many celebrations including a baby shower, a birthday and an anniversary. The baby shower marked the last time I indulged in any sweets. Ash Wednesday also occurred on Valentine’s Day and in observation of the Lenten season I am abstaining from sugar. This was prompted by my first book review of the month, The Case Against Sugar.

This time of year is usually so cold I limit myself to indoor activities. But February 2018 acted like a yo-yo. Our area bounced back and forth between days which remained below freezing and days that reached the seventy degree mark. As a result, some of my time was spent prepping the garden. Garlic and onions planted last fall are poking through along with the earliest of the spring bulbs. I may have erred on the early side, but rutabaga and potatoes were also planted. Some late snows would be welcome.

On the February 2018 days that were too cold to work outside, the indoor activities included starting a new acrylic painting. Unfortunately, my schedule keeps me from taking classes so I am taking the self-taught approach. In this case I am using a library book. This is my first attempt at painting a scene with water. So far, Creative Acrylic Painting Techniques published by North Light Books has been helpful. The photo below is after three days of painting.

Wild Markets

My reading this month included quite a few articles from the Wall Street Journal during the market sell-off. February 2018 marked the end of a very long run of gains. The volatility was not unlike that of the markets a decade ago. Although markets are unpredictable, I personally don’t feel the doom and gloom I experienced in late 2007 and all of 2008. However, I am keeping a close watch. Unlike the totally insane housing bubble, the markets rise over the past few years has a backbone. A correction is certainly due and perhaps even overdue. But unlike ten years ago, I see real cause for growth.

Technology is changing at a rapid pace and in more than one area. Computers and communications may be a driving force, but the health field is also undergoing great changes. Much of this growth stems from the unraveling of DNA. Much research is occurring. In some cases genetic diseases can be treated. However, the cost is tremendous as you can read here regarding gene therapy.

Even though I am optimistic about economic growth, there are some concerns. The greatest from an economic standpoint is the economic debt of nations. Two articles worth reading are from Statista and Global Finance. Countries with external debt carry a risk. In my opinion, some risk is acceptable. Most of the viable national economies operate with external debt. The concern is reaching the point where the debt is so great, the debt payments cannot be met. This tipping point is unknown. But, as in the case of Venezuela, which you can read about here, once a nation is insolvent things go downhill fast. For those residing in the United States, an up to the second accounting is given by the Debt Clock. The picture is not pretty.

Acrylic painting of water and grasses
Third Day of Progress

Quick Thanks

A quick thanks to Moe for sharing reading lists last month. It can be hard to comment first. I appreciate the involvement in the readership community. Please feel free to share what book you have on your bedside table.
Currently, I am reading New York Station so look for it in a review later this month. I also have a stack of gardening books. February 2018 was a short month so my reading fell behind. What else should I be reading?