The Best Genealogy Gift Ever

Digital Camera? Nope! Ancestry software? Nothing so trivial! Would you believe an old restaurant menu? Believe it. Our ancestry is almost entirely in the UK so we have been swapping information with relatives over the pond. Between relatives and online sources, like Ellis Island and, we have been able to piece together the comings and goings of my wife’s grandparents. They moved from England to Detroit back in the 1920’s trying to find work. He worked at the Studebaker factory for a few years but eventually returned to England where he became a chauffeur to Sir Alfred Dent. What I love about genealogy is personalizing history. There is nothing as cool as touching the past. We have pictures of my wife’s grandparents before they went to Detroit, while they were living in Detroit, where he worked in Detroit, a picture of the ship they came over on and a picture of him as a chauffeur when they returned to England. Pretty neat stuff, but the best was yet to come. One day we received an old photo album in the mail from England. There were various things inside, but what caught my attention was what looked like an old menu from a restaurant. Why on earth would anyone send me a menu? On closer scrutiny I noticed it had the following printed on it: “Cunard Lines” across the top, “R.M.S. Ausonia” below that, and the date, “Sunday, September 17, 1922”. Oh boy, this is a menu from that ship. How awesome is that. I now have a picture of the inside of the ship, including the dining area. Now I’m imagining them sitting down to dinner on that exact date, in that ship I have a picture of, and selecting between Roast Turkey and Salmon. I can almost see them. How cool to know they were holding and reading this piece of card back in 1922 trying to decide what to have for dinner. This is what excites me about Genealogy. It’s bringing history to life. It gives me goose bumps.

Click on these thumbnails to see the pictures:

RMS Ausonia, 1922 (coutersy Cunard Lines)

Inside RMS Ausonia (courtesy Cunard Lines)

The Menu from RMS Ausonia


A Casket For Christmas?

Can you imagine trying to scan the bar code on your casket at the checkout counter? When I was Christmas shopping at Costco the other day I spotted something that stopped me in my tracks. It was a display of miniature caskets and advertising for funeral services. It immediately struck me as funny that you would shop for caskets and funeral services along with the monthly groceries, so I checked it out. The literature included a list of things you should know about the casket. For instance, it includes an adjustable bed and mattress…is someone not getting their beauty sleep or do they need to change positions over the millennia? Perhaps the sleep number mattress is also available (Maybe Uncle Fred will need a 47 now that he’s a dead weight?) Also included were stationary and swing bar handles. These were obviously intended for the athletically inclined who preferred an Olympic style dismount as they vaulted towards the light

“Families should choose a casket based on their own preferences and the personality of their loved ones”. What pressure. It’s like buying the gift for someone who has everything!

What is “The Brian, The Lady of Guadalupe and the Kentucky Rose”? Immediately an idea came to mind; I came up with my own list of casket names:

“The Sarcophagus”; suffice to say that Sarcophagus comes from the Greek sarxophnixdjournapasdekeptpoop” meaning flesh, “phagieningpoopfatchulattedgutredas” meaning to eat, so sarcophagus means “eater of flesh”. If you think I’m kidding, look it up. Now that’s hilarious.

“The Smoky Joe” comes complete with Teflon coating. It’s high resistance to heat and corrosive chemicals make it a must if you’re not sure which way you’re going.

“The Captain Kirk” comes equipped with a cloaking device for those who are scared to venture into the unknown.

“The I Felt Alright this Morning” includes a book of instructions for those who are always behind the eight ball.

“The Ethelred The Unready” was an English king who was never ready for battle. This casket comes complete with a full coat of armor. Never get caught with your pants down again.

“The Lady Godiva” for those amongst us who prefer to travel unencumbered and feel the wind between their sails!!

“The MePod” especially designed for the techno geeks and comes with 120GB memory (that’s more than I have!) full color LCD screen, USB port, Caller ID (well you wont be taking calls from just anyone)

It’s been quite awhile since I had this much fun Christmas shopping.

The impact of diet and exercise on bone density

This is the second post in a series related to aging and it is about osteoporosis avoidance. Certainly aging and hormonal changes affect women particularly when it comes to bone density, but there are things that you can do to help the situation. According to the American Council On Exercise (ACE), current research links crash diets and sedentary lifestyles with the loss of bone density. The good news is that weight-bearing exercise improves bone density. Walking for 30 minutes, several times a week has demonstrated measurable gains. Running is even better. This is because the weight of your body is acting as a load for lower body muscles and bones to deal with. Muscle action is the key to understanding how this works. When muscles contract they pull on tendons attached to the bone. This in turn signals the bone to “be strong” at that location. The harder the tendons pull the stronger bones get over time. The body adapts to its environment, so if the body thinks it needs more bone then that is what it makes. Since load bearing is the key, neither walking nor running will do much for the upper body bones. Weight training is good because it can be targeted to specific muscles and associated bones. It can be load bearing for the upper body. A combination of walking or running with weight training is the best approach. Bone has one attribute in common with muscle, use it or lose it.

Casino Royale — A New James Bond

Bond is back and he doesn’t care if his Martini is shaken or stirred in this remake of Casino Royale.There is a departure from the typical Bond opening credits (no trademark gun barrel sequence) but it is a very clever, animated opener although the music isn’t as powerful as previous movies (Shirley Bassey, who sung on three is my personal favorite) This is not the Bond you are used to seeing: this is Bond who has only just been given 00 status thanks to having two kills under his belt. The long-suffering M, embodied by Judi Dench, isn’t sure he’s ready. Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Bond is raw, gritty, somewhat unpolished and completely disarming. I found this very compelling. Action is what you expect from a Bond movie and this doesn’t disappoint. It grabs you right from the spectacular opening sequence, which is just as much a testament to the bad guys athletic prowess as it is to Bonds. Bond is spying on a terrorist but things don’t go as planned and he ends up chasing a lead independently of MI6. Eventually he meets Dimitrios who he finds out is involved with a banker named Le Chiffre. He is no ordinary banker: he intends to fund terrorist activities by raising money in a high stakes poker game at the Casino Royale in Montenegro. MI6 finally reconnects and assigns Bond to play against Le Chiffre in the hope of beating him and destroying his organization in the process. Much to 007’s chagrin, the beautiful and sassy Vesper (played by Eva Green) is sent as caretaker to the financial investment that the British government is supplying: he immediately sees her physical assists but not her usefulness. Despite their aloofness towards each other there is an obvious sexual undercurrent between them, which unfolds with a certain tenderness as the movie plays on. This is another example of why this works so well: Bond is more human and is allowed human traits, which strengthen his character rather than weakening it. Working with a local field agent and the CIA’s Felix Leiter, the high stakes marathon poker game begins. Violence and attempts on Bond’s life follow before Bond is subjected to a very cruel torture: one that will resonate with every male in the audience; his supreme act of defiance is his cocky, sarcastic retorts. Even at just over 2 hours long this is a movie you do not want to miss. Daniel Craig has not only re-invented the role of Bond and made it his own but also brought him up to date. All the usual excitement was in there but in a fresh, edgy way that will give new life to the franchise.

My Rating: 4 stars

Retirement Income Planning — Broker Fees

I have just stumbled upon a report that supports my opinion that brokers, and I include financial planners in that group; cost you money to invest in mutual funds. It is my experience that planners and brokers represent a group of funds they sell and they are, in fact, sales reps for those funds. Like any sales rep, they earn commission on sales, which is paid for by you, the investor. So you pay the broker twice, once for his fees and once for the commission on fund sales. On top of that, the funds themselves charge fees to offset the commissions they pay to their sales reps. If the broker happens to sell you a load fund (you pay a lump sum fee up front or on exit) then it is quite likely that you will pay at least double and sometimes three times compared with doing it yourself. Why can’t you do it yourself? Maybe it’s easier to let someone else do it for you, but ignorance, laziness or just lack of confidence costs you money in the long run. Doesn’t it seem odd that so many people hand over their future to a bunch of salesmen? Let that sink in for a moment. The report, prepared by the Zero Alpha Group and Fund Democracy, an advocacy group for mutual fund shareholders, can be seen in its entirety here.

Digital Picture Frame

This is an unpaid product review so you can be certain it is an honest opinion. My wife has previously posted her list of favorite electronic gizmos so I took her word for it and purchased the number one item on her list for her birthday. After looking over the specs of her choice at the time, I didn’t think she would really be happy with it. It’s risky, I know, but I picked something different. Phillips just came out with a 9-inch Digital Picture Frame and after checking out the specs and reviews at Amazon I decided this would be a better choice. At the same time I decided to purchase a 1GB SD memory card for the digital frame thinking it was the same memory size as my digital camera, giving me plenty to play with. Included in the package are three extra frames of different colors, PC software and a USB cable. The first thing we noticed was that you can turn the frame on immediately because it has a rechargeable battery and included a demo set of pictures pre-loaded. She was immediately impressed and excited but wanted her favorite pictures on it. I loaded the Phillips software on my P.C.; hooked up the USB cable and proceeded to do the guy thing, make it work without reading the manual. Well, that didn’t work. What I thought was the instinctive approach just wasn’t. So I broke down and looked for the manual; there wasn’t one. Must be in the software somewhere? I found plenty of information about setting up the frame itself, but nothing on the PC software. I should have known better when I saw the software was Release 1.0 and no way to update online. Backup and punt? You bet. Plan B meant buying a Scandisk 5-in-1 card reader with a USB connection so I could just load up the memory card on my PC and then plug it into the frame. This picture frame system is designed to be a viewer for pictures residing on your digital camera memory card so it expects those file formats. If you forget everything else in this post you must remember that because you will not find it in the documentation. Anyway, this worked like a charm and I soon impressed her with a slide show. The picture frame comes with preset transitions and timings, all of which can be personalized. The presets make for a good show. The picture quality is good and, most importantly, the optional frames allow her to fit it into her dcor. You cannot underestimate the importance of that to a woman. The Digital Picture Frame comes with many easy to use features. The one I particularly like is automatic turn on and turn off at times I set. It separates weekdays and weekends so I can leave it off when we are not home. The unit is relatively expensive but the hug she gave me was priceless… she wants another one! What have I done? Five stars. (Except for the PC software, that’s 0 stars).

digital picture fame.JPGClick on this thumbnail to see the Digital Picture Frame in it’s natural habitat.

Retirement Income Planning — The 5-Year Rule

In order to best understand this post, you should read my post titled “Retirement Income Planning – My Guiding Principles”. If you haven’t read it, go here first. I have looked at investment company websites and generated plans according to their software but this approach has always left me cold. There is something about handing off my security to someone trying to sell me something that is less than encouraging. Besides, it always seems so complicated. It’s no wonder that people go to financial planners. Its just too darn complicated. So I set out to devise an approach for myself that was easy to grasp, an approach I can actually hold in my head and act on with certainty that I knew what I was doing. A plan I could actually visualize and made sense to me. It starts with the 5-year rule.

If you look back at the stock market it turns out that, on average, a stock market cycle is 4 years long. This is only an average but it can be used as a starting point. Each 4-year cycle is made up of a 3-year bull market and ends with a 1-year bear market before the next cycle begins. The most recent example was the market high just prior to the 9-11 event, which was followed by a bear market. It wasn’t until earlier this year, 2006 that the Dow climbed back above that high to set a new record. That is five years. The moral of this story is that if you need your money in the next five years or less, it should not be in the stock market.

It should be obvious by now that any retirement income plan must have time as an element. There are examples of stock markets falling and not getting back to the peak. The NASDAQ reached over 5000 at the height of the tech bubble and even now has not made it back to 3000. The Nikkei in Japan was once over 30,000 and today is just over 16,000. Major, long term and permanent corrections do happen. Diversify, diversify, and diversify! Short-term corrections happen. So the plan needs to be secure in the short term and also have a very long-term aspect to it. This takes us back to time being a major component of the plan. You can’t get past that.

For all these reasons what makes sense to me is a retirement income plan that has 5-year increments or buckets. I can now assign each bucket to my age. E.g. 65-69, 70-74 and so on. Now this I can grasp! This means something to me.

In my next post on this subject I’ll describe each bucket as I see it.

Marching to the Internet

As a leading edge baby-boomer I grew up in England at a time of cultural revolution in what was known as the Swinging Sixties” It was created and fueled by the youth of that era and caused a dramatic shift in attitudes by their creativity, free-thinking and expression. We revolutionized the way we looked and the music we listened to and questioned long held views on feminism and sexuality. This newfound freedom was born from an air of optimism, as the British economy was recovering from the post World War II rationing and austerity. It heralded a period where England dominated the international scene in fashion, music, and pop art. It was a powerful force much of the Western world followed. Some of the names associated with those years Carnaby Street and the Mini-Skirt are synonymous with that period. Other names became cultural icons in their fields: The Beatles, Twiggy and Mary Quant. Towards the end of the 60s music and fashion trends turned to the American west coast and “Swinging London” gave way to “Flower Power”. America’s youth had a different agenda. America saw one of their greatest achievements realized during the 60’s when they won the space race and man landed on the moon but it also witnessed the ongoing unpopular war in Vietnam and the untimely death of President Kennedy in 1963. America’s youth questioned the materialistic values of their elders and their opposition to the Vietnam War was growing. In 1969 The Woodstock Art and Music festival took place on a dairy farm in Bethel. Jimmy Hendrix headlined the event and, despite rain delays and technical difficulties, his performance of the Star Spangled Banner became a defining moment of the 1960’s It was perhaps the most famous rock concert and festival ever held and it exemplified the flower power hippies who believed they could change the war through rock music, drugs and “free love” When this didn’t happen they protested in the streets and in their songs. The Kent State massacre became front-page news when four students were killed and nine injured during a protest. Eight million students went on strike and closed hundreds of universities, colleges, and high schools. Pictures of the dead and wounded further increased sentiment for the anti-Vietnam war movement both at home and abroad. This was their cause. The youth on both sides of the pond brought forth changes that dramatically changed the world in which we live. This was the first time that youth had challenged the status quo in any real sense and made such a dramatic difference to our culture. This was our legacy. Today’s youth have a completely different agenda. They do not need to protest. Theirs is a quiet revolution, which began with the Internet and has pervaded the world of technology as a whole. The tech boom of the nineties was fueled by this generation. Young people today are technologically savvy and they speak a different language to their parents. Through it they will influence the technological changes for a generation. Their creativity and drive has changed the way we connect and communicate with each other. They will not accept the conventional wisdom of working at one job until they retire. Their expectations are different and they will have multiple careers in their lives. They see and visualize a world that we have trouble keeping pace with. The baby boomer’s children are the driving force behind this revolution. Our future is in their hands and I can hardly wait to see what they do with it.

Understanding Heart Rate

I have been a certified personal trainer in the past, so I thought it would be a good idea to write a series for older folks. Hopefully this will be interesting and informative. The theme will be aging and exercise. This post is the first and will focus on changes that occur in your heart rate that affect how you operate in the world and the impact of exercise. I will use a 20 year old and a 60 year old to explain the difference between the two.

Maximum Heart Rate

It does not stay the same. In the training world there is a formula used to get the estimated maximum heart rate that is age related. It is 220 — age. So my 20-year-old max HR is 200 bpm (beats per minute) and the sixty year old is 160 bpm. You can see that older people have a disadvantage just because they are older. This is true at all ages.

Resting Heart Rate

I have seen this anywhere from 50 bpm to 90 bpm and depending, not on age, but the condition you are in. This is significant because it’s the only one of these two heart rates you can impact by behavior.


Heart Rate Reserve

This is simply the difference between the maximum heart rate and resting heart rate. Its significance is that it is a measure of the capacity you have to work with. Let’s assume that the young person’s resting heart rate is 50 bpm and the sixty year old is at 80 bpm. Their heart rate reserve is 150 bpm (200-50) and 80 bpm (160-80) respectively. As you can see, the younger person in this scenario has almost twice the capacity of the older person. The affect of this is that an older person will feel out of breath at a much lower exertion level. Walking to them may feel the same as jogging to the younger person. Of course, if weight is a problem, the heart rate reserve will get used up in a hurry and ultimately age will make things even worse because the maximum heart rate is always moving down with age and the reserve is shrinking. In the end that person may get out of breath just walking slowly.

Impact of Exercise

Exercise affects the heart in important ways. Simply walking will lower, and keep lower, that minimum heart rate. This in turn provides a greater heart rate reserve and the ability to function better even with the onset of age. It is amazing how something as simple as walking every day for 30-45 minutes will have a positive impact on your well being and functionality just because you are controlling heart rate reserve.

O.K. Honey the gloves are off…

Ladies I’m looking for your comments too. I know that you have a wealth of information you want to share about your man.

  • Why do all of his new jackets and shirts have oil stains on them when he doesn’t work on the car? And all his old ones are in pristine condition
  • Why does he only wear the first four or five shirts in his closet? I have to put all the clean ones at the back so that he rotates them more
  • Why does he wear his new sneakers for gardening when he has five old pairs he keeps for odd jobs? He never throws his old ones away
  • Why does he spend hours playing a video game when he can only shop in ten-minute intervals?
  • Why can’t he multitask? He makes one trip to the bank and comes home, then goes out to the grocery and comes home and then goes to …they are all on the same route
  • Why does he approach all problems analytically? If I give him cooking instructions they have to be done to the last millisecond and the exact temperature.
  • Why can’t he spend more than a minute on any phone call. Hi, good, thanks, how are you? Here’s your Mother!
  • Why can’t he replace an empty toilet paper roll, or put the toilet seat down. Sometimes I’ll have to replace the toilet roll from all three bathrooms at the same time
  • Why does he wait for the last minute before shopping? “Pretty poor selection this year honey” (he says every year)
  • Why after living in a house the same amount of time does he still have no idea where we keep everyday items? Where do we keep the plastic bags?
  • Why does he flick the channels on the TV like there is no tomorrow? Perhaps the selection will change?
  • Why does this phrase apply? “never put off till tomorrow what you can put off till next week”. It will be warmer next week?
  • Why can I change drapes or pictures in a room and he doesn’t notice for weeks or months and then says “is that new?” Once he looked at a picture for a month before he said, “Is that new?
  • Why does he say, “this is your window of opportunity” when he isn’t going to need the computer and he knows that I want to? He is going to take a nap.
  • Why does he still love me? I don’t know but I’m glad he does.