Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Joys of the e-Reader

To be sure, there are many occasions for hard-copy books.  What could match a little one's delight in lifting a tab and finding Big Bird or Boots behind the flap?  Introducing children to books and reading gives them a window on the wider world.

But, for those of us who love to read, the introduction of the e-reader has been an amazing feat of technology.  According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 29% of us own an e-reader or a tablet.  Thanks to holiday gift-giving, that number is an  11% increase over December, 2011's  18%.

Some of us are no strangers to e-readers.  Marty, Sherry, and Joan H. have exhausted their first e-readers and are enjoying their second.  Others of us are new to the e-reading scene, adding to the Pew stats just last month.  For those of us with one foot in the hard-copy world, this is a new adventure-and a welcome one.

Jo, Marty, Sherry, and Barb R. all agree that portability is wonderful.  Having lugged the hard copy of Dances with Dragons in her carry on just last fall, Peggy has to admit that an e-reader would have simplified her life. 

The new e-readers offer so much, including the addition of email and web access as well as the main perk of a treasure trove of reading material.  Jo even uses her e-reader on trips when she wants to pass some time playing games-no need for the Nintendo!Barb is happy about her trips to the beach with a chair, towel and e-reader instead of a huge bag of books for her husband and herself.  She comments that the e-reader is great because of the easy reading in sunlight and the flexibility of print size.

On her holiday vacation, Sherry found that, of 11 beachgoing  reading enthusiasts, 10 were using e-readers with only one holding a hard-copy title.

Another plus for the e-reader is that the book lover can borrow books from the library.  The only downside to that, according to Marty, is that the wait time can be a problem.  Lots of library patrons are signing up to borrow the e-versions of their  library's collection.

Are hard-copy books a thing of the past?  Amazon did sell 105 e-books for every 100 hard-back and paperback books over the holidays.  Still, even with that increase, only 14% of all fiction and non-fiction titles purchased in the past two years were e-books (Claire Cain Miller & Julie Bosman, New York Times, May 19, 2011).

There are many e-readers on the market, but the best known are the Amazon Kindle series and the Barnes & Noble Nook.  Peggy just received the Kindle Fire this past month from her generous children and loves the color, the email access, the web surfing capabilities, and the cloud storage.    So far she's going through the 5-star free library at Marty's suggestion and has not been disappointed.

No e-reader at your fingertips yet?  If you want to determine which product  is right for you, go to the site listed below.  the Configurator is free and will help you by asking questions related to your personal needs.   Questions range from screen size to weight, memory, your limit for expense, free book downloads, and other capabilities.  When you answer the questions, the various e-readers (including the i-pad tablet) appear with a sliding bar to indicate which one meets your needs. Find the Configurator at

You can find  Brian Heater's reviews of various e-readers at http://www.engadget.com/.    He does an extensive review of Amazon's Kindle Fire versus  Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablets as well as comparisons  of other products.  Find his reviews at http://www.engadget.com/2011/11/21/barnes-and-noble-nook-tablet-review.

A final consideration that Barb R. mentioned is this:  The Green Factor.  That's right.  We all recycle, but this is a new way of reducing  our carbon footprint.  The carbon footprint of one book is 8.84 lbs. in carbon dioxide terms.  In 2006, the carbon footprint of the book industry in the US was 12.4 million metric tons ("2008 Environmental Trends & Climate Impacts:  Findings from the US Book Industry").

If you're sharing books with children, by all means use the beautifully illustrated, colorful hard copies so that children can touch, manipulate, and discover the world of reading.

But for our own reading enjoyment, the e-reader is a great invention..

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Helping Children By Spreading the Love of Those Who Matter to Us

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January is a perfect time to look around for ways to make our living spaces neater.  If you're like some of us, you have a nice stack of Christmas cards from people who mean something in your life.

Recycling all paper is part of our weekly routine, but putting meaningful messages in the recycling bin seems a sad way to deal with the cards from people we care about.

Clay Thompson of The Arizona Republic, January 0, 2012, B10, suggests that we might consider sending those cards to the St. Jude's Ranch for Children, "a home for kids rescued from abusive homes."   According to Thompson's web search,  St. Jude's Ranch for Children is the "biggest recycler of cards."  The children reinvent the cards, earn money for doing so, engage in positive therapy, and learn business skills all at the same time.  (See http://stjudesranch.org/ for more information).

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By boxing up our cards and sending them to St. Jude's Ranch, we can be assured that the good thoughts we felt when opening those messages will continue to do something meaningful for the children who need it most.  And what might be better? 

How about sending out an email or posting a note telling your friends or coworkers your plan.  Take a box to the next bagel- shop breakfast, to your workplace, your book club meeting, your church, or your fitness club to collect cards for you to send.  What a good, simple way to help a child by sending cards touched by the people we love.

Interested?  Here's the address:

St. Jude’s Ranch for Children
Recycled Card Program
100 St. Jude’s Street
Boulder City, NV 89005

Thursday, January 5, 2012

An Easy Way to Help Homeless Vets

We have read accounts and seen news coverage of the plight of homeless vets.  Over the holidays, various malls had collection sites to drop off clothes for women vets and their children who are homeless.

An easy way for us to help the Veterans Behavioral Health Services is to collect coupons for personal care items so that the VA can increase its supply of those items to help these servicemen and women. Wherever we happen to be, we can find coupons in the Sunday newspaper, in magazines, and online.  For those of us who are accomplished coupon clippers, more sources than those listed here are coupon goldmines.

 Coupons that you can clip for razors, shaving gel, body wash, soap, lens cleaner, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, wipes, feminine products, deodorant, body lotion, and other personal care items make it easier for the VA to provide for the veterans who have come back to face homelessness.

One address to use when you want to send an envelope of coupons, is the following:

Jamie Zewe, MA, LPC

Assistant Chief, Behavioral Health
Erie VA Medical Center
135 E. 38th Street
Erie, PA 16504

According to Sarah Gudgeon Public Affairs Specialist/My HealtheVet Coordinator, the following link also  provides information:  http://www.erie.va.gov/pressreleases/couponingteam.asp

What could be easier for us to do?  Let's take a few minutes each month to clip coupons.  In a small way, this easy act might help someone who has served our country in dangerous countries abroad  and now finds himself or herself homeless back in the US.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Our Health: New Information on the Benefits of Shopping, Yoga, SuperFoods, and The Occasional Hangover

We've all known that we can add years of good health by staying active, following a good diet, limiting alcohol to a drink a day, and kicking the smoking habit.  But every day, new information comes out to help us to enjoy life and to stay healthy. More:  The Magazine for Women of Style and Substance gives great insight that can lead to better living.

Saving money can make you happier.  Of course!  But healthier?   What's the latest?  Plavix lost its patent protection at the end of 2011. Those of us who include the blood thinner in our 'stay healthy' arsenal will save considerable money now that the generic is available.

Most of us like to shop, but does it help our health?  The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health says, "Absolutely!"  According to the study,  shopping can actually lower the possibility of untimely death by 23%. Wonderful!   Isn't this what we've been saying all along?  But why does it help our health?  How?

The researchers include the benefits of physical activity, socialization-either with shopping pals or with the salespeople we meet-time away from the house in the fresh air, the psychological lift of fresh veggies in the frig or new stuff to wear to work tomorrow, and to top off the health and happiness fix, the discovery of bargains to stretch our money a little.  

At least one of our group suffers from atrial fibrillation-that very serious condition causing irregular heart beats.  It's a danger because it might lead to stroke or to heart failure.   In the study by Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Kansas Hospital, Kansas City,  a group of a-fib sufferers were able to reduce episodes by 50%.  How did they do it?  A new med?  No.

They were able to reduce their episodes of a-fib dramatically by following a plan that included participation in 45-minute yoga classes 3 times a week for 3 months.  According to the researcher, this treatment also avoided side effects of those drugs usually prescribed for the disorder.

Are you living with aching caused by inflammation?  Cherries have been noted as a good preventative.  More suggests that we give aloe and/or prickly pear juice a try.  Since recurring inflammation can lead to even more serious health issues such as heart disease and/or cancer,  adding one of the juices listed might reduce the inflammation.  And here's an unexpected plus! (One that we don't need, of course, but one that we can pass on to our imbibing friends.) 

The prickly pear extract could help a hangover by attacking inflammation induced by alcohol.

And how about this nutrition booster:  Sea buckthorn berries.  What?  Here's another edible that few of us have heard of.  It is also known as the havtorn berry.   These small berries are packed with Vitamins C and E, omega fatty acids, and beta-carotene.   According to Washington, DC, dermatologist Noelle Sherber,  these fruits "are powerful neutralizers of free radicals, and including them in your diet will minimize disease-causing inflammation and wrinkle-creating collagen breakdown." A berry that minimizes collagen breakdown?  Hmm...now that's a bonus!

Wow! What a lot of information.  No wonder I'm grateful to Dawn for steering me to this worthwhile publication.  More focuses on those of us over 40.  Of course,  some of us are under that age, and many of us were 40 a few decades ago, but we can all enjoy the worthwhile info in  a journal describing itself as the publication for "Women of Style and Substance".

January: A Time for Reflection and Relaxation

Are you facing the current snowstorm?  Have you just come home after fighting the slippery road?  Is this the scene from your frosty window? Do you want to just relax and forget about that blizzard?

If not in the snow, are you looking out on sunshine and feeling warm breezes coming through your window?  Lucky you!

 Wherever you are, you will enjoy fixing a hot cup of tea or coffee or sipping a cold iced tea, sitting back and enjoying "Symphony in White" sent to us by Bob A.  

It's a perfect way to wind down after the holiday rush.

Check out this video on YouTube:


Created by Michelle Sherliza with music by Ernesto Cortazar