31 December 2008

Now buying rawhide in bulk. You would, too.

$11.39, Rawhide PE (now buying in bulk)
$7.99, Dog Toy Rubr (big rolly ball)
$2.99, Dog Toy (cloth-stuffed bone with squeaker)
$7.99, Dogtoy Chain (Rubber! I promise, rubber!)

I am reasonably certain that we will someday have enough chew toys in the house and we will speak of something other than said toys.

No image here today. Go to www.moneytoliveblog.com for Katy's contribution to Sherman Documentation.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

30 December 2008

Boomer Lens: Gran Torino

Yea for the best Christmas movie, or at least best for the Christmas season because it's not actually about Christmas. Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino delivers the anti-hero he is famous for, but also communicates it to younger generations who may not know his film history. At 78, Eastwood can speak to at least two younger generations old enough to enter the R-rated film.

As a boomer, I remember Eastwood in those earlier anti-hero roles. And I also remember cars like the Gran Torino. My Gen X movie partner doesn't have those memories but knows Eastwood from later works, such as Million Dollar Baby and the very recent production Changeling.

These were my boomeresque thoughts during Gran Torino:

<> Eastwood at 78 physically resembles Henry Fonda in his last movies.

<> This film earns its R rating not only for rough language and violence but also for ethnic slurs.

<> Demonizing the protagonist's family is typical in films but rarely justified. After all, what family member would seek association with a foul-mouthed racist grandfather who keeps guns and ammunition in the house?

Those were the only thoughts that I can recall that were not about the story that was unfolding on the screen. That means Gran Torino is nearly fully engaging. Best movie of the season for me.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

29 December 2008

Leaning Toward "Sherman"

$250, gift from Katy
$4.48, dog food
$6.97, puppy pads
$2.84, dog treat
$6.88, pooper pick-ups
$2.62, leash
$1.52, chew sticks
$2.24, Clr Adj (cannot even remember what that is)
$8.87, water bowl (specifically with non-skid rim that's still dishwasher safe)
$24.88, pet bed
$7.99, medium Kong (toy for holding food treats)
$0.99, cloth rope toy
$10.99, NCF SO9 (must be something necessary)
$1.47, tennis balls
$111.99, dog crate
$2.99, Holiday dog chew on 50% sale
$3.49, more Holiday chew on 50% sale
$22.99, pooper scooper
$15.99, water bottle specifically for travel (built-in bowl)
$29.99, harness with seat belt connection for car travel

We're not totaling the receipts. We are helping with one segment of the economy as we outfit the dome for this new resident, a Labradoodle.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

28 December 2008

Personal Technology: CNET TV on the Web

Technical help videos, tutorials, from tips are housed at CNET TV:

CNET (pronounced SEE-NET) is a platform of CBS Internet, having been acquired in 2008. CNET offers more than personal technology but the CNET TV platform reflects what most of us associate with the original company’s offerings: television shows about computing and the Internet.

The CNET TV web site carries the tradition forward with short videos (hundreds of them) that answer old questions (how to increase performance on your XP machine) and introduce new wonders (such as the next prediction for the BlackBerry Bold—no relation).

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

27 December 2008

Boomer Lens: Benjamin Button

Forrest Gump meets The Notebook. The most striking feature of Benjamin Button last night was the incredibly silent audience. They chuckled at the obvious invitations to laugh but otherwise sat in silence during the 2.75-hour adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story. (My movie partner commented that she read the book in less time than it would take to see the film. This, as we decided on toward-the-end location of our third-row seats in case either of us wanted to visit the ladies' room.)

Directly in front of us (that would be on the second row of the theatre), two young teenaged girls began the evening with excited chatter. My movie partner knew what I meant when I said, "Maybe tonight will be like Man in the Iron Mask." Anyone who knows me well has heard this story. It is my favorite movie-going experience.

In going to see Man in the Iron Mask in 1998, I went for the story. In my youth, I had read Dumas on Louis XIV. Three young girls sat a few rows ahead of me in an otherwise empty theatre and clearly could not resist having conversation during the movie. (I am the sort who patiently accepts people talking in movies, at plays, and even at concerts. That doesn't mean I like it but I accept it. I figure most people will grow out of the behavior. This describes my approach to people in general, actually.)

In that Iron Mask theatre, the girls' chatter was not constant. It even seemed to follow a pattern. Eventually, I understood: conversation ended whenever Leonardo Di Caprio was on screen, and resumed for every other scene.

So, would the girls at Benjamin Button have similar reaction to Brad Pitt? They did not. They were just as silent as the rest of the audience. Although one of them did use her cell phone during the movie. Twice. Texting.

Read Fitzgerald's original short story online. My movie partner read beforehand; I read afterward. Not reading the short story also works since you can prep with Forrest Gump.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

26 December 2008

Boomer Lens: Marley & Me

It doesn't matter what any reviewer proclaims about Marley & Me (the movie), this film will be a blockbuster, heartwarmer, and all around family classic. We contributed to its opening day proceeds, with our new Christmas tradition of going to a movie early in the day.


There is no real surprise in the story. Most of us have had family joys and family sadnesses, and a good portion of us would also claim to have had the world's worst dog. Still, we enjoy the parts of the movie that make it a blockbuster, heartwarmer, and all around family classic.

The boomer lens is satisfied with glimpses of Alan Arkin and Kathleen Turner. (Our Xer daughter didn't have the same reaction but that's what generational differences are all about.) Arkin's and Turner's physical appearance backs up an observation from years ago: as male actors age, they benefit most from clean-cut grooming; as actresses age, they benefit most from "relaxed" dress and hair. In Marley & Me, Kathleen Turner hits that mark. So well, in fact, that the dialogue's poodle reference works.

(The observation about screen views of aging actors is my own. I formed it 4 decades ago when I saw a then-young Colleen Dewhurst pull off an on-screen aging of a character by letting her hair appear mussed and slightly gray. The real Dewhurst never reached old age: she died in 1991 at the age of 67.)

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

25 December 2008

Holiday Greeting. That's All.

Merry Christmas!

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

24 December 2008

One Boomer Woman's Holiday Cards

Holiday card exchange now includes the Internet. E-cards have matured and I enjoy them just as much as the physical kind.

A former student sent me a winter greeting online from the Jacquie Lawson collection. The programming of Lawson's cards is impressive (and has been for several years) and this year the artist has added considerable interactivity to some of them. Especially Lawson's dog cards are great choices for children.

(I was inspired to renew my subscription at Lawson's site: $18 for 2 years.)

Last night I finally clicked on my e-card from American Airlines that arrived via email. I'm actually impressed by a corporate e-card? I am.

And even though I quit sending snail-mail holiday cards 10 years ago, I am lucky to continue to receive cards from more than a dozen friends and relatives. A former student insists on giving me gift certificates, three artists in the family send original creations, and far away nieces send us cards never expecting reciprocity. Missing this year: Tom's card from his employer. Post-layoff, there are no holiday greetings!

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

23 December 2008

Boomers Exhausting Holiday Giftwrap

News reports on holiday shopping are making clear that many Americans are holding back. The retailers doing well in this season are those offering very deep discounting to draw shoppers to their stores. Consumer experts wonder what those retailers can do post-holiday when shoppers will expect even greater discounts.

My conversations in the past week have not centered on gift shopping, but rather gift-wrapping shopping. Three boomer women have told me that they are not buying any wrap or ribbons. All are determined to exhaust the supplies they have on hand and then adopt green alternatives.

One additional comment was made by a non-boomer (meaning, young) woman: "I'm buying only silver paper from now on. Change the ribbon and it can fit any occasion."

My own experience is that I have more than a dozen rolls of Christmas and Hanukkah wrap. It may take years to work my way through them. But this year, all the name tags went quickly. As the package in the foreground (in the above graphic) demonstrates, a visiting 2-year-old can make short work of all available stickers.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

22 December 2008

Kindergartners on a polar express

Admittedly, I had not imagined the number of children riding on polar express trains last week but I now have the images in my brain.

My niece Jacqueline teaches kindergarten and told me and other relatives at a holiday gathering about her experience with her K class. They all wore pajamas, of course, as did the teachers for the 45-minute round-trip train ride. Seats were arranged in clusters of four and children juggled their mugs of hot chocolate on their own. (No tables on the train—but there was only one partial spill, which speaks well of 5- and 6-year-olds.)

Jacqueline was enriched by the experience beyond the acquisition of a pair of flannel pajamas: she sat with 3 children and had uninterrupted conversation with them. She told us that the regular teaching day never affords that luxury. So, she enjoyed the train ride on more than one level.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

21 December 2008

Holiday shopping picking up

Lofthouse
People may fall into three categories: those who buy and eat Lofthouse cookies, those who eat Lofthouse cookies purchased by others, and those who have no idea what this is about.

Yesterday at Walmart in Hot Springs, Arkansas, these were the fast-moving merchandise. Obviously much slower moving: cut flowers turning brown around the edges. On the plus side, the shoppers at Walmart proved the biggest and most bustling holiday event I've seen in this season.

Today I'm back in Texas and will check out the shopping crowds in the days leading to Christmas.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

20 December 2008

Shipping Stories

Just for comparison in the gifting season...
5-day UPS ground from Arkansas to California: $17
2-day UPS air from Arkansas to California: $54
Everyone reading this knows what I did yesterday to get the box to San Francisco before too many days of Hanukkah can pass.

The photo above represents the convenient shipping when glass jars of liquids are involved: send it in the car of a relative who is heading in the right direction. This is also the most economical shipping method. And it worked for more than half of the season's gift-giving this year!

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

19 December 2008

Personal Technology: iPhone Santa

Favorite seasonal mall shot
Apple Store
Tysons Corner Center
McLean, Virginia

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

18 December 2008

When Bedding Is the Gift

I was a teenager when I married and we were mainly poor. Oh, we were resourceful and inventive and had lots of fun creating a home from thrift stores but we were still mainly poor. I remember a treasured wedding gift: a blanket. It was far more important than the silver asparagus server although you can guess which gift has survived almost four decades.

In those salad days, I appreciated an ongoing gift from an older relative who visited every year. She brought a set of sheets on each visit. The collection was slow-growing but tided me over the years that pretty bedding was far down on the priority list.

For this holiday, I get to give a gift of bedding, except it's really a gift of laundry. We will be houseguests amid a string of houseguests and I told our hostess that I have the efficient plan for that. We shall bring our own bedding and remove it, too. She laughed out loud and said, it's my gift! Yes, it is.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (http://www.marybold.com/, http://www.boldproductions.com/, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

17 December 2008

Fast Food Senior Discount

My first senior discount. (Well, I'm not counting AARP discounts at motels.)

When I reached the pay window at Taco Bueno today (selected for lunch because it has drive-through and the temperature outside was 27 degrees), this sign was visible: If you're 55 or older, you've earned a 10% discount. Just ask about it when you order.

I was past the ordering point but asked anyway. Yes, that's 40¢ off.

I had a fleeting thought about whether anyone is ever carded when claiming senior status. And another thought about 55 being awfully young to be considered senior. And a final thought that I was very happy to save almost a half-dollar.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

16 December 2008

Home for the Holidays: Fertility Grilling

A few weeks ago in San Antonio, I had dinner with a group of boomer women and conversation moved to holiday stresses. One of them told about a young friend's dread of traveling home to Florida for holidays because of her relatives' questions about when she would have another baby. I volunteered advice, which is only half-joking: tell the relatives that her poor husband has fertility issues and a second child is not likely.

The group of women expressed the obligatory opinion that the daughter should be able to tell the truth (she likes having only one child) and have that respected by the relatives. Then they acknowledged that relatives who ask questions about reproduction are probably relatives who want more of a reason than, "I don't want to."

At that point the group got creative. The couple can tell her relatives that she has a fertility issue, and his relatives that he has a fertility issue. That way, any resulting gossip (which could go on for years) will be equal between them.

Not a recommended course of action.

But an entertaining thought, nonetheless.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

15 December 2008

Best Holiday Gifts for the Young and for the Retired

Best holiday gifts....

...for very small children: socks
Old friends of ours gathered for their first grandchild's second Christmas. In fact, all the grandparents were present. A normal round of competition had ensued and this 22-month-old boy had quite an array of toys. He played with only one gift: a 6-pack of colorful socks. His mother looked sternly at all the grandparents and said, "We're all going to remember this next year. Right?"

...for anyone retired: consumables
Those little jars of marmalade really do have a purpose. Same for the small packets of fancy hot chocolate or flavored coffee that no one buys for themselves. Small denomination gift cards at McDonald's, Sonic, etc., are also welcomed but the emphasis should be on low cost. It's amazing how many of those cards are lost every year.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

14 December 2008

TSA: A Welcome at Dulles

Most of us have learned to dress for airport security (no shoe laces, few layers), pack for Xray (easy to unpack laptops), and wait to buy bottled water. There's been another preparation: steel ourselves for rudeness. That's because any expression of exasperation after being barked at by airport personnel can be misread by security personnel and land you in a time-consuming interview.

Here's my happy report from Thanksgiving travel between Dallas and Dulles: not only no rudeness, but downright helpfulness from airport personnel. TSA folks were as close to folksy as could be, although the people examining bags were as somber as usual. The airline's counter and gate agents went out of their way to find me a great seat on an earlier flight. No one barked at any station. I saw more smiles.

My experience matches the press releases: TSA understands that it has a PR problem and is wise enough to know that a PR problem ends up being a cooperation issue in a business that hinges on customer cooperation.

Half of my Thanksgiving travel was uncrowded. The other half was crowded. TSA was pleasant on both halves. I'll be interested to hear friends and family report on December travel.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

13 December 2008

Bye Bye Buggy: New Developments in the Stroller World

I knew that strollers and car seats progressed dramatically in the past 25 years. They are prettier and softer and sometimes even more convenient to use.

I also knew that stroller manufacturers rolled out twin and triplet strollers to the extent that they are now common. When I was a stroller pusher, those models were rare and expensive. Well, this week I've learned what is expensive now in the stroller world. It's the day care stroller. Sometimes on sale for under a thousand dollars.

After spotting a Bye Bye Buggy, I couldn't resist the google search. It produced:

Bye Bye Buggy
KinderVan
Turtle Bus
Quad Stroller

Being boomer-aged makes me appreciate the ingenuity of these products and simultaneously certain that I don't want to push one.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

12 December 2008

Personal Technology: Power Cord on the Air Desk

Hard to say which I value more: the extra power cord for the laptop or the air desk. So, I have both. Twice. That is, the dome has an air desk upstairs and another downstairs.

Air desks cost too much but after one becomes accustomed to suspended laptops, it's hard to go back to holding one. (I have a beautiful lap board that I'll display on another Friday.) As you may be able to discern from the photo, an air desk has plastic platforms (1 or 2 or 3, of varying sizes) on arms that allow the computer to swing away with little effort.

An extra power cord for a laptop isn't quite the luxury it used to be. In my history of laptops, I started buying extra cords just a few years ago when prices dropped. Today's extra cordage is half the cost of 12 years ago.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

11 December 2008

Boomer Woman Transported by Film

Friends and family will confirm that I am not much influenced by a movie's reputation or review in deciding to go see it. In fact, there's little decision-making at all. I'll see anything.

But my usual fare is comedy. Sometimes romance. Sometimes the combination. I'm never dissuaded by a critic's warning of banality. "That's OK. I don't mind mindless."

While my usual pattern is to go to a movie in spite of the newspaper review, yesterday I went to a film in reaction to a review.

Chicago Tribune's Matt Pais on Transporter 3:
"Because sometimes you're just in the mood to see a car park on top of a moving train."

Who could resist that invitation? I went. And, hey, compared to the bicycle sequence, the car-park on the moving train was the realistic part of the movie.

I have no idea what Transporters 1 and 2 entailed but I am mildly amused at 3. And that I've seen it.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

10 December 2008

Selling Globally through PayPal

I received an email from PayPal advising me that I can now receive payments to my PayPal account in Euros, Yen, Fracs, Forints, Pesos, and, oh, about a dozen more currencies.

Upon receipt of 50 Euros (or whatever), a PayPal account holder has option to a) accept the payment with conversion to $X U.S. Dollars, b) accept the payment in Euros and create a Euro Balance in the account, or c) deny the payment.

PayPal promises a "competitive exchange rate" but the more important concept here is that the everyday PayPal merchant (anyone with a web page and a linked PayPal account) now how opportunity to sell globally, to borrow PayPal's advertising line.

Is the everyday PayPal merchant up to this?
Up to making sound decisions about accepting payment?
Or decisions about holding it in non-U.S. currency?

I use PayPal sporadically to receive workshop fees. I don't much care for the service charge (a few percentage points) but I value the ability to receive credit card payments from clients who expect that convenience. For the occasional user like me, the PayPal system takes less energy than establishing and maintaining a bank/credit merchant status. PayPal has various types of customers but many are like me. So, I'm quite impressed that a need has emerged for global transactions that (we'll assume) make this service worth Paypal's effort.

Assuming the market is there, I'll return to my primary question: is the everyday PayPal merchant up to this? Using myself as example (theoretically, not in actuality because my PayPal transactions are always in USDollars), my answer is a Reluctant Yes. Why reluctant? I can imagine making errors. A lot of them and not just the arithmetic sort. Currency exchange represents more than simple arithmetic; it's all about trends and cycles and predictions, none of which is very sure right now.

Still, PayPal's international currency service assures us that global markets occur at all levels. Nothing I would have predicted when I set up my PayPal account 5 years ago.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

09 December 2008

DVDs in a redbox near you

I've never used redbox and have never heard anyone talk about it. But I have seen several red boxes in area stores, so I was aware of the growing use of automated DVD rental booths. My surprise today, at a McDonald's near San Antonio, was an outdoor redbox. At first glance, I thought the fast food restaurant had placed a walk-up ordering booth for food. Not very logical, obviously, as the booth was literally right in front of the restaurant. In a few seconds the purpose of the booth registered: this was a place to pick up DVD rentals. For heaven's sake.

My next thought was, gee, how many people coming for McDonald's actually want to pick up a DVD, too? And literally 10 seconds later a car pulled alongside and the driver went to the redbox. And that's all he came for. So, fast food has nothing to do with DVD rentals. Except that McDonald's owns a large chunk of redbox. And is smart to realize that great restaurant locations can be great other-things locations.

Redbox has its own web site (www.redbox.com) and a remarkable amount of humor under HELP, beyond the general faq. (Click that tab for basics but keep reading the next HELP tabs to marvel at the humor. This is corporate McDonald's? Really?)

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

08 December 2008

When less is more: Hotel services

Last night we stayed at a $57 motel with free Internet, free parking, and, yes, freeway noise all night.

Tonight, our $159 convention hotel has non-working Internet and $23 garage parking.

Can I blog on an iPhone? Yep. Very slowly. Good night.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

07 December 2008

Internet on the Interstate: Safety Rest Area in Texas

"Bell County Safety Rest Area, Southbound" is the new roadside facility (Fall 2008) located on I-35 heading south, halfway between Waco and Austin, Texas. The architecture resembles a grist mill. But better looking.

Historical information is on display and so is practical information for this part of the country. A storm shelter is located near the restrooms, complete with sitting benches and photographs of tornadoes and storms.

Lobby seating area (see photo above) includes perfectly placed electrical outlets—you know what they mean. Yes, Texas rest areas and travel information centers provide free wireless Internet access. And convenient electric for your laptop. The computer network name is Texas Safety Rest Area Free Wifi, and it opens with the TexTreks Web portal. There's even a toll-free help line: (866) 532-5235.

The TxDOT web site gives this reason for providing wi-fi at rest areas: "Wireless Internet service is provided to help drivers fight fatigue, a major cause of auto accidents. The service encourages drivers to make regular stops and return to the road rested and alert."

It's not all about wi-fi, though. New and renovated rest areas are designed to promote exercise (via walking paths), safe roadside stops (security systems and cameras are well advertised), road information (with maps, road condition reports, and weather updates). Federal funding helped make these rest areas possible.

On a personal note: Tom Bold and I spent more time exploring this rest area than we have ever spent at a roadside facility. In short, TxDOT met its goal: get drivers out of their cars to "refresh." We didn't actually boot up a computer but having spotted the electrical outlets at the table, we did wonder out loud if wi-fi were in the house. We reached for iPhones nearly simultaneously. We couldn't get a clean photo of the network name on a phone screen, though, which led to another distraction: is a screenshot possible on a cell phone?

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

06 December 2008

Boomers over 60: The Purpose Prize

Lots of heroic tales this season and many awards honoring people for their good deeds. Here's one more source of honor: the Purpose Prize. Nominations are now open for the 2009 prize, with links to information about past winners (including the 2008 winners announced this week) of the awards to "social innovators over 60." Honorees receive rewards of up to $100,000 each.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

05 December 2008

Shopping for Oneself


OK. I bit. The NYTimes graphics with web links for 25 Gifts under $25 led me to the air plant, Tillandsias (color: Kendra). $25. Free shipping at DWR until December 20. Guaranteed I cannot kill it. I'll let you know. I recommend you visit the NYT page for the graphics. So nicely done!

A colleague told me that she was shopping at a store in Denver and spotted a remarkable offer: 2 Sweaters for the Price of 1. She thought and thought about who would like these sweaters. Finally, she realized that no one would like them as much as she would, herself. So, she got them for herself. I applauded her reasoning.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

04 December 2008

Our Egalitarian Society & the Economic Down-turn

No, I'm not going to propose that we are all equal in our circumstances caused by the economic down-turn (AKA recession). But our egalitarian society is at play in responsibility for certain next choices.

In the olden days (I am certain this was as short as a decade ago), we were assured that financial advisers could guide us well and that we were not expected to be able to analyze markets, project long-term needs, and so forth. So, regardless of whether you took that to mean you should follow advice to invest in stocks, buy bonds, or buy an annuity, you probably nodded agreeably to other (sure) things: your employer's retirement plan and the offer of a long-term care insurance policy.

Well, times have changed.

This week, a Wall Street Journal article* reported on a change in Conseco's long-term care insurance policies that may increase premiums for the customers and even reduce their benefits in the future. The change is intended to "cast off" a losing proposition for the company as the policies are transferred to an independent trust that will handle claims as it can based on $175 million current capital. The 140,000 policy holders may or may not be well served—only time will tell. But the fact that new policies haven't been sold since 2003 suggests that Conseco predicted bad times ahead for long-term care policies.

Here's my point on our egalitarian society: the WSJ article advises that new buyers should "take particular care in picking out a financially stable insurer."

A recent conversation with a friend in Colorado underscores the power of that advisory: "Our financial guy says we need to decide about keeping Jeffrey's retirement account with the company or cashing out now. He said we have to think about whether the company will be around in 8 years to pay out the money. I told him I thought he was supposed to know. And he said, no, it's up to us to make that assessment."

Well, as I said, times have changed. Experts aren't even claiming their expert status anymore, or at least they don't want to shoulder the responsibility of analysis. And in an egalitarian society, after all, we are all equally able to make the analysis. There's the rub. It just may be that we really are equally able.

* McQueen, M. P., (2008, December 3). "Insurer Casts Off Long-Term-Care Policies," Wall Street Journal.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

03 December 2008

COBRA Update: Projecting Health Care Bills

In making a choice between COBRA options (following Tom's lay-off), we discovered that the two plans' coverage works out to "a wash" in most scenarios. The plan with a high deductible (and therefore lower premiums) requires more paperwork on the consumer's part but carries the potential of savings if health care bills are low (less than the amount of the deductible of $3000).

Our approach was to try to project health care bills for 2009. Tom phoned his cardiologist's office to see what he could learn. A nurse returned his call to report on what his next visit would involve. Reluctant to name prices, but encouraged by Tom to estimate based on typical charges, she outlined these potential costs: $1000 for the echocardiogram and $2200 for the nuclear stress test.

That amount of detail was enough; no need to estimate labs or any other miscellaneous costs. After the deductible, the two plans and their premiums work out to the same overall benefits, and Tom learned that he will surely exceed the deductible of the lower-premium plan. That means the "regular" plan is the better choice because it is paperwork-free.

So, Tom's individual COBRA cost will be $608/month. The break-down: $545 for medical, $62 for dental.

Tom was lucky in his lay-off in that his COBRA costs were covered "free" by his employer at the start. Not all unemployed workers have that luck and so must pick up their own COBRA premiums immediately. Regardless of the timing, though, one cannot help but compare medical insurance costs with unemployment checks; for Tom, COBRA will now be almost half of the unemployment check. (Obviously, a younger person may see a smaller percentage of the unemployment check needed for medical insurance.)

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

02 December 2008

Ride-on Luggage

Spotted at a D.C. airport last week: the Trunki.

Just might be the single greatest spin-off of luggage on wheels. (And it is, by the way, an openable suitcase sized for carry-on as well as ride-on for ages 3 to 6.) Boomer-aged readers will recall with me the amazement we all felt when ice chests got wheels—long, long past the time that luggage got wheels. What else have we not put on wheels?

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

01 December 2008

Another COBRA work-out: Health Insurance for Boomers

We have tackled new COBRA paperwork and... find ourselves only half-done. When Tom was in a lay-off in early 2008, he became eligible for 18 months of extended insurance benefits through COBRA. His employer would pay the first 9 months, and then Tom must pay the next 9 months. That is a lucky circumstance and does not describe all lay-offs.

Lacking information about what the personal cost would be after 9 months, we continued to check out other options for Tom's health insurance, finding them all expensive. So, we were relieved to learn, just last week and a month before the payment would be due, that the next continuation cost is affordable. Tom has two choices: $270 monthly premium with a high deductible, or $550 monthly premium with co-pays similar to his current plan.

We ran comparisons for these scenarios: no health care bills during the 9 months; $3000 in bills; $25,000 in bills; and $50,000 in bills. For all circumstances except "no health care bills" the choice of plan is a wash, no difference. What does cause difference is the amount of paperwork required (more record-keeping with the high deductible plan) and, potentially, prescription drug costs. That will be our comparison point in the coming week, along with an analysis of the dental coverage.

I know this doesn't sound very complex so far but I'm ready to assign the Complexity Scale level of "a work-out" right now, on the basis of the paperwork received:
  • White envelope with smallish print, matched by similar presentation on the letter. No opening line of text to identify the packet as crucial paperwork to extend COBRA benefits.
  • Identification of the employer name was several lines of text after the start of the cover letter so the consumer must recognize the name of the processing company to know that the sender is part of the temporary health insurance coverage.
  • Plan options were set as a table with few descriptors. No examples were provided.
  • Important warnings required complete reading of the packet: consumer must reply within 10 days of the packet being sent (interesting language!) and monthly premiums have no grace period. A late payment equals a canceled policy.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

30 November 2008

Westin gets an unofficial award


That horizontal rule in the signage is crucial to readability. You recognize the numbering system for hotel rooms and I suspect you have the same appreciation that I have for the Westin chain's helpful sign. A room sign without a dividing line can be confusing although having "ICE" in the middle would help this one.

Room signs are really pretty complex when you think about what they ask us to integrate: our own room number, the entire floor's room numbers, arrows indicating direction, and (typically) hallways that look the same in every direction. You don't have to be dyslexic to have moments of confusion when you step out of an elevator onto a floor of 50 rooms.

If I were giving awards, this sign would get one.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

29 November 2008

Online Shopping in the Economic Downturn

I went to the mall for Black Friday and picked up a couple of gifts but decided to do the rest of my shopping online. That's not so unusual (for me or for the country). News stories about Black Friday and the economy in general are concluding that (a) even with economy slowing, Americans are optimistic and want to keep the holiday as normal as possible, (b) they need/want to save money this season, and (c) they are turning to online outlets to accomplish it.

My usual starting points for online shopping are:
Shopzilla.com
Overstock.com
Half.com

Typically, I follow the links to stores from Shopzilla and rely on the "ratings" of the store provided at the Shopzilla site. For technology purchases, I always include a comparison with thenerds.net (even if that store doesn't pop up in a Shopzilla search).

And then there are the couponing sites. I have joined and quit two, learning that I am not dedicated enough to work the links. But I do check the coupon sites listed below for the leading coupons and codes for products I'm researching.

A dedicated online couponer is on these sites regularly, as a member and even as a contributor to some of them. You have to figure out the trade-off of time investment and cost savings. The additional crucial factor is the number of purchases you are making regularly. When I shopped for a household of four, I used paper coupons for groceries. As a baby boomer now shopping as little as possible, I literally do not have as many purchases to make.

YAHOO! DEALS is a shopping site with tabs for Coupons, Storewide Sales, and Weekly Ads. The site is easy to read, and especially easy to spot expiration dates. The Coupons page has an important feature in upper right-hand corner: ability to sort the coupons by Latest, Most Popular, and Expiring Soon.

Dealcatcher also presents a streamlined page for easy scanning. The Coupons tab includes links at top for Popular, New, and Expiring Coupons. I found the link for List Stores a helpful one. The site also offers deal alerts by email and RSS feed but I haven't used those.

Probably one of the most-often linked sites is Retailmenot. The web site offers a weekly email newsletter plus a Firefox extension for your browser that posts alerts about new coupons. Again, too much connection for me! But I do like the user comments on the coupon codes.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

28 November 2008

Christmas Priorities in America

A NYTimes article on mothers' sacrifices says little that is new or admirable, but the link here is worth following to read the Comments. Take note of international readers' reactions, both pro and con.

On a peripheral note, I had this reaction to the photograph in the story: Gee, the boxes for the Grand Walk-In Kitchen (presumably the child's upcoming Christmas gift) have no illustration. Oh, my gosh, is that so parents can store the box in the garage in plain sight of the children?

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

27 November 2008

Thanksgiving Turkey: A Non-Cook's Left-overs Recipe

There are many among you who will laugh at the thought that I might offer a holiday cooking tip. Laugh away. This is a tip for non-cooks and I know it is a brilliant one because I am a non-cook.

Turkey Tip for Non-Cooks:

After the turkey dinner, when you are down to turkey carcass, you, too, can have turkey left-overs. This use of the carcass does not require leeks or stock or carrots or any of the things that cooks are saving up for their left-over cooking.

1) Refrigerate the carcass; leave it in the roasting pan; this will take a lot of cling wrap.

2) Heat the oven to 350 degrees or whatever number you use on auto-pilot because 350 is merely my auto-pilot number.

3) Remove the cling wrap from the turkey carcass.

4) Put the carcass in the oven. (Notice that you did not have to wash the roasting pan prior to this. Eventually, you will have to wash it but this left-over cooking has at least delayed that chore. Unless you thought to buy a disposable aluminum pan at the grocery store yesterday.)

5) When shreds of meat on the carcass start looking pretty crispy, remove from oven.

6) Nibble on the carcass.

Now, this may not match a cook's idea of savory left-overs, but a non-cook will be pretty proud of this. I am.

On a personal note: The source for this turkey tip is my sister's mother-in-law, Cecile, who continues to use every part of the buffalo. That is an aphorism known to baby boomers raised by depression-era family. ~ Lida

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

26 November 2008

It's Not About the Lights

This blog entry is about inheriting jobs. Most boomer women know about babysitting because that used to be our job of choice. First of all, there were lots of big families in our growing-up years. Lots of babies to babysit. Second of all, we were also from big families, so at least some of us (typically, more than half...) had the opportunity to inherit babysitting jobs from our older sisters.

The timing had to be right. My sister had to start dating while her charges were still young enough to need a replacement sitter. That was the case for several families that started out with my sister and ended up with me. I benefited for years, having the longer run with these families and also still being in the picture when the parents wanted to start going away for whole weekends. By then I was old enough to be the overnight sitter. These better-paying jobs permitted me to work just one weekend a month. Ah, those were the days.

Well, the big families have shrunk. Babysitters are still needed but not for so many years. Teenagers still sit but I suspect the number of inherited babysitting jobs has dropped. And yet, as the photo above documents, younger relatives can still inherit jobs from older relatives. Our tree man moved to the west coast, perhaps not on his profits from our occasional jobs of fence-building, tree-chopping, and Christmas decorating. In fact, like a huge proportion of young people in the U.S. today, he works for a humble wage in a restaurant. But it's OK! His younger cousin is still in the neighborhood and interested in these small jobs. (He, too, works in a restaurant. Another post, another day.)

OK. Just a small note about the lights.
At our absent tree man's imploring, I set the solar collectors out in the sun at the start of November but they never charged. I found some replacement solar LED lights at Target, but only enough to cover the short pillars on the porch and a short arc of short bushes. What's not covered this year: the tall pillars. Tom Bold took apart the old solar collectors for the longer strands of lights and discovered large lead batteries that cannot be re-charged. This explains why it took weeks to get any light out of the strands last year. They were on year 3 and that obviously was the max life of their batteries. Now, I have a year to locate long strands of lights with, I hope, replaceable batteries. Because, you know, we have the new worker who is willing to carry on the tradition of getting the house in order for the holidays.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

25 November 2008

Accommodating Visitors at Home

In an earlier post about The Child Visitor, I explained the use of a indoor play yard to good advantage. We are advancing. How to accommodate The Child's continued need for a soft rubber (washable) floor and yet introduce some slightly more mature seating? How to continue to slow her down when clearly she can move faster than anyone else in the house?

The reconfigured the play yard will be tested once this week with few adults in attendance and once next week with many adults in attendance. The fact that the new configuration reminds me of a dog run is meaningless.

I am interested in accommodations. How often do we create a setting (at home or away) for the comfort of a dear friend? We ask about food preference, activity preference, even seating preference. The Sociologist always understands when I say I don't care about the food choice, I just want a warm booth in any restaurant.

Katy Bold patiently picks up my movie shawl for me, something she would never take to the cinema on her own. It's really a super soft baby blanket from Pottery Barn Kids, but movie shawl sounds more sophisticated.

And I try to plan for The Child Visitor's comfort. I wish I could say that I have her "wants" uppermost, also, but her chief want is to play with my jar of coins and occasionally put a penny in her mouth. No other friend puts me through that trauma.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

24 November 2008

Green Cheese in the Economic Downturn

Green collar jobs are promised and that means relief for unemployed Americans, with the usual delays between intention and implementation. For a short and informal analysis of the green (eco-friendly) aspects of the bailout, see Jon Pophma's Green Pork: The Kind We Like (from October 2008). Obama has indicated a commitment to job creation that goes beyond what campaigns thought would be needed just a few months ago—and with emphasis on green.

Who can go after those jobs? The folks who will be available a year or two from now, of course. But an important consideration will be the willingness of the unemployed to join those industries, giving up strong affinity with the industries they have left. Most baby boomers have formed an identity with career or company, and that's what makes lay-offs so traumatic and re-employment sometimes delayed. It's too easy to say, "If they want a job, they'll adjust."

I like Spencer Johnson's explanation of change models. His 1998 book Who Moved My Cheese? was popular for years (and is still available) and doesn't dismiss out of hand the difficulty some people have accepting change. The book's characters (mice) respond to change (cheese that has been moved by forces beyond mouse control) in ways that are suspiciously human (ranging from denial to resistance to acceptance).

For the unemployed who can overcome resistance to changing industries, there may be a green Christmas...in a year or two.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

23 November 2008

Online Communication: Making Boomers Sharper and Even Smarter

Money magazine offers a pretty cute warning about age-proofing yourself at work: by behaving more like younger employeers who are presumably less likely to make the layoff list. The magazine's key behaviors for boomers to adopt: texting, contributing to wikis, twittering, and blogging. (A wise warning is included that blogging requires commitment to a schedule, so an alternative is to subscribe to many blogs.)

I like the list. But there's more here than just image-making. Learning new technologies doesn't just make us appear young—it makes us sharper, even smarter. So, regardless of purpose to compete with younger colleagues, here are my added comments:

Texting is worth every boomer's attention. Here's what makes it do-able: moving from alpha-numeric keys of a cell phone to dedicated letter keys of an iPhone, Blackberry, or similar keyboard-enhanced phone. Visit several cell phone stores and actually type on the keyboards. After you select the one that fits your fingers best, take time to experiment with settings such as audible clicks on/off. All these choices are highly personal and can move the experience from irritating to rewarding.

Wiki-writing takes a shift in thinking from sole authorship of a document to shared authoring with people you barely (or never) know. In some workplaces, wikis work very well (documenting processes, for example) and in others, a wiki dies after the novelty wears off. For the boomer who needs to make the shift in thinking, I recommend a personal use first: set up a Google Document or an Adobe buzzword file with a friend or relative to track something specific (such as a vacation plan). When you make the shift to shared online authorship, you'll appreciate not having to keep track of versions of a file on your hard drive and not having to attach files to emails to move them across the country.

Twittering and blogging are the short and long of posting news and thoughts to a public space. They surely now influence how we communicate every other way, too. Of high interest to me: how information that is blogged becomes part of a silent conversation that may never be mentioned in any other setting but nevertheless becomes part of a shared history with a friend or relative. Then, just to complicate the matter, the blogger may assume that information communicated electronically has been read and digested—while it hasn't been.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.