Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner — janice m.
Over the years, stories and studies have sometimes praised coffee drinking and other times condemned it.
I’ve always believed that pretty much everything can be good or bad for you depending on how much you consume, how often you consume it, and probably a host of other factors I never cared enough to discover. I figure that if I spend all my time worrying about everything, I’ll be wasting a whole lot of my life that could be better spent enjoying the many and varied things the world has to offer. So when it comes to liquid refreshment, for example, I enjoy my morning coffee without worrying that it might be raising my “bad” cholesterol or blood pressure. I also drink tea — green, white, all kinds — though mostly during the winter. And if I lived there, I’d be one of the folks getting New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg’s panties in a bunch over the evil and hated sugar drinks, which I very occasionally consume.
I just don’t worry about it. One day, I’m going to die of something so I might as well enjoy what time I have as best I can.
What does that have to do with coffee? Well, it turns out, according to a recent study, that my coffee drinking might actually be buying me a little more time to enjoy the other things in life.
Study finds java drinkers live longer
One of life’s simple pleasures just got a little sweeter. After years of waffling research on coffee and health, even some fear that java might raise the risk of heart disease, a big study finds the opposite: Coffee drinkers are a little more likely to live longer. Regular or decaf doesn’t matter.
The study of 400,000 people is the largest ever done on the issue, and the results should reassure any coffee lovers who think it’s a guilty pleasure that may do harm.
“Our study suggests that’s really not the case,” said lead researcher Neal Freedman of the National Cancer Institute. “There may actually be a modest benefit of coffee drinking.”
No one knows why. Coffee contains a thousand things that can affect health, from helpful antioxidants to tiny amounts of substances linked to cancer. The most widely studied ingredient — caffeine — didn’t play a role in the new study’s results.
It’s not that earlier studies were wrong. There is evidence that coffee can raise LDL, or bad cholesterol, and blood pressure at least short-term, and those in turn can raise the risk of heart disease.
Even in the new study, it first seemed that coffee drinkers were more likely to die at any given time. But they also tended to smoke, drink more alcohol, eat more red meat and exercise less than non-coffee-drinkers. Once researchers took those things into account, a clear pattern emerged: Each cup of coffee per day nudged up the chances of living longer.
I drink about two cups of coffee a day and though the study indicates drinking more could further decrease my chance of dying at any particular age, I’m going to stick with the beverage I most enjoy for the bulk of my liquid intake — plain old room temperature water.
What about you?
Are you a coffee drinker? If so, how many 8-ounce cups a day?
Will this study tempt you to drink more?
And if you don’t drink coffee, will the results of this study tempt you to give it a try?
Back when I was a younger and had more hair, my friends and I used to play a game we called table-top football.
The only equipment needed was a flat table and a book of matches. The rules were simple.
The matchbook was flipped and someone called heads or tails, or top or bottom.
The winner began by putting the matchbook on the table and, using his first two fingers, sliding it across the table. When it stopped, if it was wholly on the table, the other player slid it back from where it stopped. If any part of it was hanging over the edge when it stopped, the player got a touchdown and tried for an extra point. If it fell off, the other person tried for a field goal.
Field goals and extra points involved standing the book of matches vertically on its side. The opponent would place his hands on his edge of the tabletop with his fingers laced together, thumbs sticking up to form goal posts. The “kicker” then used his thumb and index finger to flick the matches up and across the table between the goal posts.
We’d usually play to some agreed-upon number of points or length of time. If we were sitting in an establishment that served adult beverages, the loser would often buy the next round.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I thought of it the other day at dinner and told my son about it. And I’ve been thinking about it, off and on, since then.
We used to have a great time playing that game as we sat and talked, drank beers, and just hung out like young guys do. We had other time-wasters, but tabletop football was a favorite, probably because I was pretty good at it. I rarely missed a field goal or extra point.
It’s been close to forty years since I last played it. And given that my thirty-something son hadn’t heard of it, I don’t imagine anyone plays it anymore. It probably began fading out as cheap Bic lighters became popular.
Oh well. Maybe I’ll see if I can find an old book of matches laying around somewhere and teach my son to play this week when he and his wife come for dinner.
If he’s not too busy texting and whatever on his Blackberry, of course.
Guys, did you ever play table-top football, or some similar time-wasting game?
And ladies, what did you and your friends do to waste time when you were young?
Until I read the following this morning, it never occurred to me that my Facebook page, which I’ve not visited since early last year, might be something my family or friends, or anyone else, would even care about after I die. Of course, you can tell I have little use for my personal Facebook account, primarily because I have little time to spend on such things and what little free time I do have I prefer to spend elsewhere than online. But I’m different than most, as you’ve probably figured out if you’ve read this blog for any length of time.
But, as it turns out, some folks do want access to their loved one’s social media accounts.
Is Facebook part of your estate? States weigh laws to govern social media accounts after death
LINCOLN, Neb. — When Karen Williams’ son died in a motorcycle crash, the Oregon woman turned to his Facebook account in hopes of learning more about the young man she had lost.
Williams found his password and emailed the company, asking administrators to maintain 22-year-old Loren Williams’ account so she could pore through his posts and comments by his friends. But within two hours, she said, Facebook changed the password, blocking her efforts.
Who should have access to your accounts, and how much access should they have, after you're gone?
“I wanted full and unobstructed access, and they balked at that,” said Williams, recalling her son’s death in 2005. “It was heartbreaking. I was a parent grasping at straws to get anything I could get.”
Now lawmakers and attorneys in at least two states are considering proposals that would require Facebook and other social networks to grant access to loved ones when a family member dies, essentially making the site contents part of a person’s digital estate. The issue is growing increasingly important as people record more thoughts and experiences online and more disputes break out over that material.
Williams, a second-grade teacher from the Portland suburbs, ultimately got back into her son’s account, but it took a lawsuit and a two-year legal battle that ended with Facebook granting her 10 months of access before her son’s page was removed.
Nebraska is reviewing legislation modeled after a law in Oklahoma, which last year became the first state to take action.
“Mementos, shoeboxes with photos. That, we knew how to distribute once someone passed away,” said Ryan Kiesel, a former legislator who wrote the Oklahoma law. “We wanted to get state law and attorneys to begin thinking about the digital estate.”
Under Facebook’s current policy, deaths can be reported in an online form. When the site learns of a death, it puts that person’s account in a memorialized state. Certain information is removed, and privacy is restricted to friends only. The profile and wall are left up so friends and loved ones can make posts in remembrance.
Facebook will provide the estate of the deceased with a download of the account data “if prior consent is obtained from or decreed by the deceased or mandated by law.”
If a close relative asks that a profile be removed, Facebook will honor that request, too.
I can see why parents or siblings or children might want access. Like William Lindsay, mentioned in the story, they may want access so they can notify the deceased’s friends of his or her passing.
But I can see problems, too.
Does a parent really want to know what may be, to them, truly sordid details of their child’s life? If their child hid those details from them while alive, should not the child’s decision be respected after they are dead?
Facebook has in place a rudimentary system for dealing with this issue, but I think they, and other social media platforms, need to take it a step further and provide a way, in each account, for members to determine what access to what parts of the account should be granted after their death and to whom, be they members or not.
Of course, it’s not just Facebook one has to think about. What about Twitter and private tweets? Or YouTube and videos you uploaded but kept private or restricted? And don’t forget your email accounts. You really might not want your kids to have access to those!
There was a time when you only had to worry about letters you wrote and received. The digital revolution has opened up many more options for communication, and given us many more things to consider when planning for the future.
What do you think?
Would you want your parents or your children or anyone else to have total access to everything in your social media accounts after you die, including private messages and email?
Should you be able to tell Facebook and others to deny access and delete your entire account when they are notified of your death, regardless of what anyone else wants?
And what instructions would you leave for various social media providers if you had the ability to do so?
Living in the city and most suburbs is expensive for most folks. Houses are larger, with higher utility and maintenance bills, higher taxes, higher insurance bills, and so on. Even the cost of insuring your car or truck is higher in the city.
Many of us make the choice to live there, and bear the burden of those costs, for a variety of reasons, personal and professional. But there comes a time for those of us in the middle class when retirement is not a someday proposition but one that is but a few birthdays off. How will we be able to maintain our lifestyle without the huge retirement nest-eggs some have?
For many, the answer may well be a move to rural America and a much smaller home.
For retired, simple bungalows can slash the cost of living
From The Boston Globe, March 7, 2012
Here is what life is like in a yurt. You live in the woods in a glorified tent, with fabric stretched over the skeleton of your one-room quarters. You burn wood to keep warm. You have a propane stove for cooking and an outhouse. And if you’re a budget-conscious retiree, you save tens of thousands of dollars a year over what it cost you to live in a suburban house.
This was all part of the calculation for Dave Cruey, who hopes to sell his house near Houston for $250,000 after he and his wife, Harmony, move to a two-acre homestead in New Mexico. Dogged by the high cost of living in mainstream America, the 56-year-old blacksmith paid $40,000 five years ago for a picturesque plot. Slowly, he has built a 210-square-foot custom yurt with an outdoor kitchen, a bathhouse, a shop, and two 12-foot “guest yurts.’’
Call it the reverse American Dream. With 78 million baby boomers inching toward their golden years, more and more are seeking a simpler, cheaper, and more adventurous way of life. It makes sense in a nation where, in 2009, 27 percent of Americans depended on Social Security for 50 to 90 percent of their income, according to AARP.
Many manufacturers and dealers of simple homes like kit cabins and yurts – modeled after the circular shelters favored by Mongolian nomads – report an increase in interest among retirees.
Cruey estimates he and his wife will go from spending about $60,000 per year for property taxes, homeowners’ insurance, utilities, and other living expenses to an annual budget of about $25,000. With little money set to come their way during retirement, the couple needed to shift gears, he said.
Ivy Fife, marketing director for Colorado Yurt Co., which sells homes for as low as $6,000, said she has noticed an uptick in older folks looking for an alternative. “As they near retirement, they want to simplify and get away from the concerns of having a house,’’ she said.
Jim Gega, owner of Trophy Amish cabins in Michigan, builds 10- by 16-foot cabins and delivers them for as low as $7,800. He said 80 percent of the customers buying his simple, rustic homes with traditional log cabin exteriors are in their 50s or older. “Their kids are grown and moved out, they’ve got some land. For 10, 15, 20 grand they’ve got a nice place that’s going to last,’’ he said.
In 1978, Alan Bair started Pacific Yurts, the first American manufacturer of the small, round structures. He said the trend with older people has become clear. Bair thinks the ailing economy has pushed a lot of people into the lifestyle, but said it does “provide a sort of value of life that’s really whole and fulfilling.’’
“We’ve got a lot of baby boomers that will not be able to live on their Social Security checks,’’ Cruey said. “We’re trying to develop a product that can help Americans get away from a mortgage. People can build their own home, move in in a couple weeks, done deal.
Some, who can’t bear the thought of moving away from the city, will go the condo route, or will trade their 2000 square foot home for one half that size. Such a move will usually help some with utility bills, but condo fees or maintenance costs, taxes, insurance, and such will still remain high.
Yurts and small homes really are a viable option, even more so when you relocate to an area where land costs are low. I was curious about how much space one gets in a yurt for $6,000 so I tried to connect to the company mentioned in the article, but their website was down. Instead, I went to Pacific Yurts, one of Backwoods Home’s frequent advertisers, and found that $5450 buys a 16-foot diameter yurt (200 sq.ft.), $6790 gets one 20-feet in diameter (314 sq.ft), and just under ten thousand dollars buys a spacious 706 sq.ft, 30-foot diameter yurt.
That last one was just a tad smaller than our first house on a tiny city lot, for which we paid $31,500 in 1983 and sold seven years later for $120,000.
Of course, glorified tents are not for everyone. That’s why businesses like Jamaica Cottage Shop, another BHM advertiser, and Trophy Amish Cabins, exist. From Jamaica Cottage, you can get a 16 x 20 foot cabin kit for $12,999. Trophy does not list prices on their website (why??) but offers sizes up to 16 x32 feet.
What it comes down to is that there are good purchase options out there for everyone. And if you have or are willing to learn carpentry skills, you can probably build your small home from scratch for less than the cost of buying the kits.
Have you ever lived in a “small” home or yurt? What was it like?
Would you consider emulating Dave and harmony Cruey and retiring to some acreage and living in a yurt of small cabin?
The ultimate mobile device
Cars’ Internet connections may change driving life
Talk about a smart car.
Coming soon to a garage near you is a car that will download your work schedule and trigger your alarm clock. By the time you get behind the wheel, the car will have analyzed the morning’s traffic and weather and calculated the best route to get you to the office on time. You won’t even have to touch the radio – it’s already playing the same station you were listening to in the house. And as you pull away, it will shut the garage door and turn off the lights.
Cadillac’s CUE system already offers a suite of navigation and communication tools
Those capabilities are built into Ford Motor Co.’s Internet-connected Evos, a so-called concept car making its North American debut at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
“By 2014, you’re going to see nearly every auto manufacturer have a connected vehicle option,’’ said Leo McCloskey, vice president of marketing at Airbiquity Inc., a Seattle firm that manages wireless communications for many models of connected cars.
About 40 percent of the cars sold in the United States last year can already connect to wireless data networks, allowing drivers to listen to Internet radio stations or get traffic reports; the next step will be cars that constantly monitor online data.
Alan Taub, vice president of global research and development for General Motors Corp., said his company’s goal is “360-degree situational awareness’’ – a car that can “see’’ and respond to its environment.
Too much technology, however, might overwhelm drivers, posing new dangers.
Call me a Luddite, if you will, but I’m one of the folks who think 24/7 connectivity is not a good thing. I spend ten to twelve hours each day here at the keyboard to earn my living and when I quit, the very last thing I want to do is jump online or play some mindless game on my telephone. Speaking of which, I’m the proud owner of a dumb phone. All it’s allowed to do is to make and receive phone calls. Text messages? Not for me. If one of the few people who have my cell number have want to tell me something, they can call. If it’s not important enough to call, it’s not information I need.
Knowing all that, you can imagine my reaction when I read the article, above. The very idea of driving a car with total connectivity seems crazy to me.
Paying attention to what is happening around you on the road is difficult enough when one is alone in a car doing nothing but driving. Add the distraction of a phone call, and attention declines. Up the ante with texting and you’re an accident waiting to happen. Adding the kind of technology talked about in the article can only make things even worse.
Do we really need our cars and trucks monitoring our stress level to decide if we’re too distracted by the technology that’s causing the stress? Wouldn’t we all be better off if all the technology was simply turned off to begin with?
It is the challenge of the auto industry, as well as regulators, to objectively assess what tasks should be safely allowed in the vehicle.
I don’t see that as a challenge at all. Driving is the only thing that should be done in a moving vehicle. Anything else, like changing a radio station or eating or texting or applying makeup or reading or any of the myriad things we do in cars while driving, serves only to distract us. Purposely installing even more distractions would seem to be a recipe for disaster.
What do you folks think?
Do you think the kinds of technology they’re talking about can be installed without having a deleterious effect on the driver’s ability to drive safely?
What kinds of things have you done while driving that reduce your attention to the road?
And have you ever been involved in an accident because you or the other driver were distracted by something?
Facebook has settled with the Federal Trade Commission over complaints about its privacy policies. Here’s a look at the social network’s interaction with the agency on privacy and Tuesday’s settlement.Why was Facebook under investigation?: Many Facebook users were concerned about the way that the company changed its privacy policies, making some user information public without their express consent.
In December 2009, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and other privacy advocates filed a complaint with FTC saying that Facebook’s changes to its privacy policies disclosed “personal information to third parties that was previously not available” and that those changes violated user expectations of the service.
The FTC settlement also lists several other instances where Facebook “allegedly made promises it did not keep” such as promising that it did not share personal information with advertisers, did not share unnecessary data with third-party app makers, did not verify the security of third-party applications, would not retain data that it told users had deleted on its servers and would comply with the U.S.-European Union Safe Harbor framework on privacy.
Facebook has already addressed some of these complaints ahead of the settlement, co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post Tuesday, saying that it had canceled its Verified Apps program and fixed a problem that gave advertisers access to users’ ID numbers.
What’s in the settlement?: The provisions in the settlement are very similar to what the agency worked out with Google over its Buzz social network. The network must put a “comprehensive privacy program” in place and obtain express user consent before “enacting changes that override” a user’s privacy preferences.
Facebook has also agreed that it will notify users when it changes the way it shares data and has consented to privacy audits for the next 20 years.
This story got me thinking again about privacy, both on and off the Internet.
While a natural right to privacy is implied in both the Fourth and Ninth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, Government has long operated as if it were an option to be ignored. Most businesses seem to have the same opinion.
As technology has expanded into our homes and now our pockets as we go about our daily lives, privacy seems to have become an afterthought, at best, with most folks.
Which made me wonder…
What are your greatest privacy concerns?
Do you think the very idea of personal privacy privacy has become, or is becoming obsolete?
What specific things, if any, do you do to protect your privacy online, at work, at home, and when you are out and about?
And are you one of the millions who feel compelled to “share” every detail of every day with the world via social media, and if so, why?
I own a DumbPhone. All it does is make phone calls and I like it that way. I spend enough time trying to keep the bad guys our of my computers and the websites I manage. I have no desire to add my phone to the list.
A few years ago, when my daughter-in-law told me about a website that offered half-price and sometimes quarter-price coupons to a particular restaurant we all were fond of, I was all over it like crust on a crème brûlée. I ordered a dozen coupons. This was a place we normally could not afford to go to with any regularity, but those coupons brought the cost into our price range. A few weeks later, they offered half-off coupons to another local eatery. Again I bought a bunch. Between the two sets of coupons, we could afford to eat out at a really nice restaurant every few weeks. Then the coupons vanished from the website, never to return.
We were disappointed our outings to these two places had to return to semi-annual special occasions, but after thinking about it, I realized the restaurants were probably breaking even on the half-price coupons and losing money on the quarter-price ones and that’s no way to stay in business.
Some time later I heard about a website called Groupon. Then my local newspaper started offering “Daily Deal” coupons. And before I knew it, I was being bombarded with coupon offers from every direction. At some point, I realized that not only was I wasting work time checking offer emails and googling restaurants to see if their menus looked attractive, all these great deals had seduced us into spending much more money on restaurant meals than we ever had before.
That’s when I dealt myself out. Every day brought so many offers I started hitting Delete without even looking at them.
I’m pleased to say that lunch or dinner at a restaurant has returned to the status of a treat we enjoy once or twice a month. Yes, we pay full price and are happy to do so because we enjoy the places we frequent and want them to stay in business.
What has been your experience with “daily deal” and other coupon schemes?
How many do you get or check each day? How many do you use?
And after using a discount coupon, how often do you return to the place and pay full price for the product or service?
I was big fan of comic books fifty years ago. I read Superman and Batman, Green Lantern and the Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman, and many more. If I had, today, all the silver dimes I handed over for comics during those pre- and post-puberty years, I’d be sitting on a pretty darn good retirement nest-egg. Had I kept all the comics, I’d have been able to retire years ago.
My comic-book reading tapered off once I discovered science-fiction and Mad Magazine. It’s probably been forty-five years since I read my last comic. But I’ve never forgotten the characters, the Superheroes who fought against evil and for truth, justice, and the American way. They were clean-cut, compassionate, and sometimes, like Clark Kent, their alter egos were even a little dweeby. The comics and the heroes reflected the mood of the nation and it’s people. When you lost yourself in their world, you knew that no matter how bad things might seem at the moment, the Hero of the moment would find a way to save the day.
Apparently comics have changed with the times, something I discovered this morning as I opened the newspaper and found this below the fold:
Truth, justice, and plenty of violence
Lois Lane shacking up? Superman graphically tortured in an electric chair? Batman and Catwoman having sex on a roof?
DC Comics has relaunched 52 of its comic book series, with popular characters and story lines starting over from scratch and getting a decidedly edgy makeover. In the six weeks since the rollout began, more than 5 million copies have sold, stimulating a stagnant market. DC officials say sales are the highest in 20 years.
But the changes aren’t pleasing everyone. The blogosphere is abuzz with complaints about the extreme violence, hypersexualized women, and bad language in the new issues – the sorts of things that the Superman of yore would have swooped in to conquer, never countenanced.
Long considered family entertainment, superheroes over the years have become darker and racier, geared more toward young adults than youths. Though the superhero makeovers aren’t as raw as some of the others DC has reissued – “Voodoo,’’ for instance, seems like soft porn – the content is nonetheless aimed at a more mature readership than ever.
It’s said the more things change, the more they stay the same. I guess in the case of comic books, that does apply. It would seem the current crop still reflects the mood of the nation, a nation that has become crude, rude, over-sexualized, self-absorbed, narcissistic…well, you know.
I feel bad for my kids. They’ll soon start having children of their own, and those kids will grow up in a nation bereft of character, populated far too densely with the dense, the self-absorbed, the narcissistic, and the clueless, who will spend their youth reading about Superheroes who are just like them instead of serving as inspiration for them to strive for something better.
Anyone have any thoughts about this?
Anyone see a patch, even a sliver of sunshine in the dark clouds covering America?
Or am I overreacting again, as some folks like to tell me?
The family of a 20-year-old British man who died as a result of a blood clot that formed after playing video games for up to 12 hours a day is speaking out about the health risks obsessive gaming can pose.
David Staniforth told The Sun that his son, Chris, spent most of his days playing the online game Halo and was accepted into a game design program at Leicester University.
“He lived for his Xbox. I never dreamed he was in any danger,” Staniforth said.
The young man died in May from a deep vein thrombosis, the coroner told The Sun. The night before he died, his father told the BBC he was probably up all night on his computer.
“He had probably been on all night, on the computer at his desk, on Facebook or gaming — one or the other,” Staniforth said. After that, Staniforth said his son’s friend said Chris felt a pounding in his chest but eventually fell asleep.
The next morning, Chris and his friend were going to apply for jobs and Chris collapsed outside the job center.
It’s been fifteen years or so since I last played Zelda. Back in the early 90s, I finally gave in to my son’s entreaties and bought a Nintendo and the game all his friends were playing, The Legend of Zelda. It did not take long for me to get hooked on it since it was something he and I could share. When we both had trouble remembering where we were in the “world,” we set about mapping it. Somewhere in my attic, I still have that drawing of the Zelda layout. But even when our interest was at its peak, we had a house rule that limited video game play to one hour a day.
At some point I learned there were people who played the games for hours on end. One of my cousins was enthralled by the VGA release of Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards and admitted to wasting entire evenings in front of his computer playing the game. It never occurred to him or me or anyone else I knew that playing games too long could kill us.
Today, we learn differently.
Are you a gamer? For how long?
What’s your current favorite? Your all-time favorite?
And will this news change any of your gaming habits?
Comment Contest Winners # = Repeat winner
For the week ending
1/29 Leonard Barnes2 2/5 Pat
2/12 Brogan1 2/19 Stephanie
2/26 Scott Schluter
3/5 Storm4 3/12 Donna C.
3/26 Becky Holm
4/30 Brogan1 5/7 Blue_Sky
5/14 Drill Sgt K.
6/25 Woody3 7/2 Christie
7/9 Candace Delaney
7/16 No responses!
7/23 Rob Andrews
7/30 George Deas
8/6 Vinny V
9/17 Leonard Barnes2 9/24 Kathy
11/5 Kentucky Kid
11/26 Woody3 12/3 Leanne
12/10 Gina Jackson
12/31 charles scamman
1/7/12 Gloria Meyer
1/14 Liz Gavaza
2/4 Phillip Dukes
2/11 Storm4 2/18 Leslie
3/3 Debby Rich
3/17 Carolyn McBride
3/24 Keith Hodges
3/31 Jeffrey C. Anthony
4/7 Sue Reynolds
4/14 No responses!
5/5 No responses!
5/19 Estes Mills
6/16 Chip Johnson
6/30 Elizabeth Martin
7/21 K Howe
8/4 Will you be this week's winner?