pen rainbow

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday — January 2016

Positive news of January 2016

January white mums

january 2016 events

jan 1
  • Law:  The two-child policy takes effect in China, allowing couples to have at most two children.  This replaces the controversial one-child policy introduced in China 1978-1980.

jan 2
  • Environment:  The UK designates Ascension Island and its surrounding waters as a marine protected area.  This will raise the protected area of the world's oceans to 2 percent of the total area.

jan 4
  • Chemistry:  4 new chemical elements are added to the periodic table:  ununtrium (113Uut), ununpentium (115Uup), ununseptium (117Uus) and ununoctium (118Uuo).  These are all synthetic elements not found in nature.

jan 6
  • Arts & Culture:  Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens becomes the highest-grossing film ever in the U.S. and Canada, exceeding the film, Avatar. 
  • Indigenous Peoples:  Honor the Earth, a national Native organization dedicated to environmental and cultural support for grassroots indigenous communities, grants $90K USD to organizations in North America and the Pacific.

jan 12
  • Archeology:  A Bronze Age village is discovered in Cambridgeshire, UK, revealing the contents of homes from 3,000 years ago.

jan 13
  • Community:  3 winning Powerball lottery tickets are announced in California, Florida and Tennessee.  Winners will divide a jackpot of approximately $1.6 billion USD, the largest lottery jackpot in world history.

Jan 14
  • Astronomy:  Astronomers spot the most powerful supernova ever observed, an explosion so bright that it outshines the entire Milky Way.

Jan 24

Omo, the 15-month old giraffe is leucistic & not a true albino
Photo by ecologist, Dr. Derek Lee, Wild Nature Institute
  • Wildlife:  An extremely rare white giraffe calf is spotted in Tarangire National Park in Tanzania roaming with the rest of her herd.  She is leucistic, meaning that some, but not all of her skin cells are capable of making pigment.  

jan 26

Mac & Mom
Photo courtesy of
  • Cuteness:  Mac, the first 2016 foal of the Budweiser Clydesdales, was born at the Warm Spring Ranch in Boonville, Missouri.   

jan 27
  • U.S. Economy:  Commerce Dept data reports that new US single-family home sales rose by 10.8% in December to their highest level in ten months.  

jan 31
  • Environment:  Government aid in India (nicknamed FAME, Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric) offers continued incentives to carmakers to produce hybrid and electric vehicles in an effort to reduce air pollution, particularly in New Delhi, one of the world's most polluted cities.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Saturday Finances—10 Financial Resolutions for 2016

From a Fidelity Viewpoints_10 Resolutions for 2016—and How to Get Started (6 Jan 16)

Happy Financial New Year!

adapted from google images

Where to begin?

Brass tacks.  Take a look at your current spending.  Take the Savings & Spending Check-Up

What's next?

Check out this interactive management tool by fidelity

Use the 50/15/5 rule as a budget guideline.

50 percent:  Essential Expenses 

  • housing, food, health care, transportation, child care, debts
15 percent:  Retirement Savings

  • Save 15% of your pretax household income
5 percent:  Short-Term Savings

  • Emergency fund.  Enough to cover 3 to 6 months of essential expenses.
  • Set up automatic savings & have 5% taken out of your paycheck.
  • One-Off fund.  Covers one-time unexpected expenses (e.g. plane tickets, car repairs, phone replacement, new water heater, furnace or a/c repairs, etc.).

This year, I/we resolve to...

#1 Spend less.

  • Reduce your power bill by switching to LEDs.  Turn down/up your thermostat two (2) degrees during cold/hot months.  Buy a clothesline & dry clothes on the line.
  • Eat out less often; freeze leftovers for lunches.
  • Discontinue magazine subscriptions.
  • Cut back on your cable services.
  • Use e-coupons for groceries.  We save between 5 to 18 percent every time we shop!  Safeway Just for U
  • Gas prices will go by the end of the year.  Use public transportation; walk when you can.  

#2  Save more.
  • Read this:  How to Save Money
  • Set up an automatic savings plan
  • Track your spending & saving with an app_try Cinch or
  • Check your statements for extra charges (e.g. auto renews on outdated devices and online subscriptions that you no longer use).

#3  Invest more.
  • set up a 401K with your employer
  • open up a regular or Roth IRA
  • buy stock directly from the company instead of using a brokerage firm.

#4  Pay down debt.
  • Read this:  How to Pay Off Debt—And Save, Too
  • Don't run up new debt!  No new credit cards.
  • Pay a little extra on your mortgage every month
  • Pay down high-interest credit cards &/or loans first

#5  Set aside money for an emergency.
  • Read this:  How to Save for an Emergency
  • Store emergency fund money in a different place.  Don't mix it with regular savings.  
  • Consider a money market fund instead of a savings account 

#6  Have a budget & stick to it.

#7  Save more for retirement.
  • Aim to save at least 15% of your pretax income each year, from age 25 to 67.  
  • One way to do this is through a 401K and IRAs
  • If you can't make 15% annually, increase your savings by 1% per year until you get to 15%.  Keep going!

#8  Buy a home.
  • Read this:  How Much House Can You Afford?
  • Only if you are financially stable and can afford to maintain a home. 
  • Don't overbuy.  Determine how much house you can afford.   

#9  Don't save for your kids' college.  

This is where I disagree with Fidelity's advice to save for your kids' college educations.  Let them pay their own way.   
  • Invest the money for yourself in your own name, not theirs.  DON'T set up a trust account.    
  • Wait until they graduate from high school & see what happens.  There will be plenty of opportunities to gift money along the way.  
  • They should pay for their own college.  Period.  The life lesson is so much greater when they work for it and earn it themselves.  
  • College is not extended high school.  They are adults.  Let them take financial responsibility for the choices they make as adults.  The sooner they take charge of their adult choices, the better.

#10  Learn more about finances.
  • Take advantage of free financial webinars & publications.  Fidelity Viewpoints
  • Think critically and independently.  There are a lot of financial planning services available, but keep in mind that financial institutions are selling services.  Learn what you can on your own. 

save wisely • work hard • enjoy the rewards

Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Photoshop Plug-ins: Topaz Texture Effects & Impressions

My latest projects using two Photoshop plug-ins by TopazLabs

scroll over to see before & after fx

topaz impressions

Passion flower from paynes prairie preserve state park_Micanopy, Florida_Photo by dsmp
Impressions_Painting filter_Georgia O'Keefe with crop, brush, smudge & lighting adjustments

Paynes Prairie wild "cracker" horses_photo by dsmp
Impressions_Ancient filter with color, contrast & soft rock texture adjustments

Paynes Prairie Spanish Moss_photo by dsmp
Impressions_Ancient filter with contrast, lighting & texture adjustments

topaz texture effects

Mining bucket_Pioche, Nevada_photo by dsmp
Topaz texture effects_lo-fi filter with crop, hue, texture, sharpening & border adjustments

Family home_Pioche, Nevada_photo by dsmp
Topaz Texture Effects_lo-fi filter with color, light, flare & texture adjustments

desert rose_Pioche, Nevada_photo by dsmp
Topaz Texture Effects_lo-fi filter with color, texture, flare & lighting adjustments

click here to go to topaz labs

click here to view topaz tutorials

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wednesday—Good 4U, Good 4The Home: EcoCapsule

A sleek, self-contained tiny house from Slovakia

Ecocapsule_Photo courtesy of

Size:  120 square feet; 4.5m L x 2.25m W x 2.55m H, with wind turbine fully extended.

Cost: 1st-gen available now:  $89,504 USD 
(50 available) (€ 79.9K excluding VAT).

Shipping:  Approximately $4,000 or less depending on where it's going) + customs outside of the EU.

Ecocapsule 2d-gens will be available for sale in 2017.  

The cost will be lower (less than €79K) as future production increases.  The company aims to make the Ecocapsule as affordable as possible.

The Company:  Based in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, a member of the Euro Union.

You Will Need:  A permit to park it on a piece of land; your own water source. 

Water:  Rain water is collected & reverse-osmosis filtered (99.998% dirt-free) in the base of the capsule.

Toilet:  Waterless, composting & separating.

Power:  Solar, wind (batt power = 4 days). 

Click HERE for FAQs

Check out this cool video!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tuesday's Cupboard—Old-Fashioned Strawberry Jam

Strawberries are in season starting in February through June

old-fashioned strawberry jam

a sunny breakfast

  • 4 - 5 quart pot
  • canning equipment


  • 4 cups of crushed, fresh strawberries
  • 4 cups of fine white sugar

beautiful fat strawberries

can it!
  1. Prepare 4 half-pint canning jars (sterilize clean jars by immersing them in water & boiling them for 15 minutes.  Keep them immersed until ready to fill.  Keep lids & rings in scalding hot water until ready to use.
  2. Place crushed strawberries in a 4 to 5 quart pot.  Stir in sugar until well blended.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.
  4. Continue boiling, uncovered & stirring frequently for 10 to 15 minutes or until thickened.  Skim off foam, if there is any.
  5. Pour into hot jars within 1/8 to 1/4" from the rim.  Wipe rims with a clean, warm cloth.  Place hot lids on jars and screw on hot ring bands as tightly as you comfortably can.
  6. Let cool on a towel out of a draft; listen for the lids to pop.  After the jars are cool, check to make sure that the lids are down and each has a good seal. Label & date each jar.  
  7. Store in a cool, dark area.  Discard after 1 year.

•  enjoy your strawberry jam  •

Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday Linguistic Corner—Animal Onomatopoeia

Why are animal sounds different in different languages?


...Or, yip?

What does a fox say?

Language Rules

The words that we use to describe the sounds that animals make are generally considered to be onomatopoeic.  In other words, the words tend to sound like the noises made by the animals.  

An Dutch cat says, "miauw."
A French cat says, "miaou."
An Irish cat says, "meow."
A Romanian cat says, "miau."
An Icelandic cat says, "mjà."
A Japanese cat says, "nya-o."

So, why are some words for animal sounds so different in different languages?

As it turns out, it's the same reason that sounds, in general, are expressed in different ways in different languages.

It depends largely on the spoken language rules.  In Japanese, for example, words cannot begin with a "kw" sound, so the noise that ducks make cannot be "quack."

It's "ga-ga!" (Tokyo dialect).

And, because the "d" and "L" sounds do not occur next to each other in the Japanese language, the sound that a rooster makes in English is not possible.

"Cock-a-doodle-doo!" = "Ko-ke-kok-ko-o!" 

My gramma Betty's rooster & turkeys

Check out this entertaining Vimeo to hear native speakers make common animal sounds...HERE

Cultural Usage

Cultural usage also determines the incorporation of words into a language.  

In Turkish, there is no sound for the noise that a pig makes because that particular animal sound is not an important aspect of Turkish culture.  In other languages...

A Japanese pig says, "boo boo."
A pig in Poland says, "chrum chrum."
A French piggy says, "groin groin."
Pigs in Sweden say, "nöff nöff."  

For the same reason, there is no common identifying sound for a camel in either British or American English.

In fact, most of the world's languages do not have an identifying sound for a camel.  After camels were introduced into the outback in Australia, the sound that they make became a part of the Aussie lexicon.  

:::: grumph ::::

The Origins of Language

When we think about the differences in words used to identify animal sounds, we get back to why people came up with these words to begin with.  

How we perceive and imitate the sounds that animals make depends on our native language, what we were taught, and the significance of different animals in our culture.

Perhaps these words came about as a result of a human effort to understand and communicate with animals.  For early hunters, accurate animals calls would have improved the chances of  bringing in prey for meat, milk, clothing, and tools.

Early humans would have reached out to other humans by imitating sounds that had meaning.  The noises that animals made identified specific kinds of animals, and this information would have been an important part of their survival.  

Based on animal language studies, it is known that certain animals adapt their calls to their environments.  Birds, for instance, adapt their songs and calls to the sounds that they hear around them.  

Humans in one part of the world may have been hearing and imitating sounds differently than the same animal sounds heard in another part of the world.

It's a fun experiment to listen to the sounds that animals make again, as an adult.  Do they sound like the words that are used in the dictionary to describe them?

An big American dog says, "woof-woof!"
A big dog in Turkey says, "hov-hov!"
A big Spanish dog says, "guf-guf."

Small birds in England "tweet."
They "pip pip" in Sweden and Denmark.
They "tziff-tziff" in Hebrew. 

For more interesting info on this topic go to...

"Why do pigs oink in English, boo boo in Japanese, and nöff nöff in Swedish?" by Gary Nunn, 17 November 2014

"Where Does Language Come From?  Five Theories on the Origins of Language," by Richard Nordquist, updated 6 June 2015

stay sharp • learn every day • go deeper

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Saturday Finances—Updating Your Estate Plan

Estate Plan Maintenance

Rule of Thumb

Getter done in 2016!

Updating your will or trust can and should be done on a regular basis (annually, semi-annually, or longer).  

The general recommendation for updating an estate plan is every three to five years or whenever a major life event takes place.

Life Events
  • Birth or adoption of a child or grandchild
  • When a child or grandchild becomes an adult
  • Educational funding for a child or grandchild
  • Death or change of guardianship of minors
  • Changes in your number of dependents, such as caring for an adult
  • Changes in your financial goals (e.g. college savings to retirement savings)
  • Marriage or divorce
  • Illness or disability of a spouse
  • Change in life or long-term care insurance
  • Purchase of a home or other property
  • New long-term liability or debt
  • Large increases or decreases in the value of assets (e.g. cashing in investments)
  • Large inheritance or gift
  • Changes in state &/or federal laws that affect your taxes or investments
  • Death of a family member
  • Change of executor or successor trustee 
  • Launch or closure of a personal business

Doing It Right

Get help from your estate attorney to make the necessary changes.  An attorney who specializes in estate planning will ensure that your wishes are reflected accurately in your estate plan and that your beneficiaries receive their benefits without a lot of unnecessary legal hiccups.

Helpful links:

be smart • plan wisely  

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday Photoshop—Topaz Texture Effects

Playing with my new Photoshop plug-in_heavy grunge fx

topazLabs texture effects

clark county historical museum

heirloom mini-pumpkins

conestoga wagon at the clark county historical museum

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wednesday—Good For You, Good for the Stars

The planets are lining up!

Sunset in my backyard October 2015
stars by photoshop

5 planets + the moon

The five brightest planets in the solar system are set to align from the horizon to the moon

starting this week on
Wednesday, January 20 through 
Saturday, February 20.

They will be most visible shortly before dawn when Mercury rises just above the horizon, and all five planets can be seen with the naked eye.

The last time that this alignment appeared 
was in 2005.  

It will not happen again until 2018.

Don't miss it!

✵     ✵     ✵     ✵     ✵

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tuesday's Cupboard—Bittersweet Marmalade

Sweet local grapefruits & Cara Cara oranges from the local farmer's market, plus Meyer lemons from our tree

It's grapefruit season in Cali

bittersweet marmalade

From Canning, Freezing & Drying— A Sunset Book
Lane Publishing Co. © 1981 

level of difficulty:  experienced

Time required:  Overnight at room temp


6 medium-sized thin-skinned oranges

2 medium-sized, thin-skinned grapefruits

2 lemons 

2 cups water

9 cups fine baker's sugar

make it!

Cut unpeeled, rinsed oranges, lemons & grapefruits into 1/8" slices, discarding ends & seeds.  

Cut orange & lemon slices into quarters.  Cut grapefruits into same size as oranges & lemons.

Place all of the fruit & water in a 6-7 quart pot.    Bring mixture to a boil.

Reduce heat, cover & simmer for 15 - 25 minutes, or until peel is tender and translucent.  

Stir in sugar until well blended.

Cook over medium-high heat, uncovered and stirring often, for about 30 minutes until mixture thickens.  

Remove from heat, cover & let stand at room temperature for 18 to 24 hours.  This mellows & blends the flavors for a smoother marmalade.

Can It! 

Prepare 9 half-pint canning jars.  

Boil clean jars in the canning kettle for 15 minutes.  Reduce to simmer.  Place clean lids & rings in a hot water bath & keep on a lower simmer until ready to use.

Set up the counter with clean dry dishtowels, a clean washcloth to wipe the rims, a jar tong, a wide-mouth funnel, and a pair of tongs to grab the rings & lids out of the hot water bath.  Don't forget a dishtowel for holding the hot jars when you apply the lids & rings.

Rapidly return the marmalade to a boil, stirring to prevent sticking.  

Fill jars to 1/8" of the rim.  Wipe the rims with a clean warm washcloth; immediately apply the lid & ring.  Screw on ring bands as tightly as comfortable.  Let cool on a towel out of any drafts.  

Listen to make sure that the lids get a good seal.  :::pop!:::

Inspect the jars to make sure that they've all got a good seal.  Press gently on top of each lid, if in doubt.  The lids should all be depressed.  

Label & keep for one year.  This marmalade can be used immediately as a glaze for ham or roasted chicken.  Delicious as a spread on toasted bread!  

thinly sliced rinds of ruby red grapefruit + cara cara oranges + meyer lemons
make this a rich sweet-tart marmalade for breakfast,
cheese plates & roasted meats
fresh oranges, grapefruit & lemons