Among the memories from my childhood, teenhood, and early adulthood are all the incredible concerts I had the good fortune to attend. I grew up in the 1970’s – 1980’s, and was exposed to all kinds of music during that time. I was able to see most of my favorite artists perform live, some in front of massive coliseum-sized audiences, and others in cozy local venues like the Troubador. Little did I know that when I was cheering Poison and Ratt that those bands were about to hit it big on the music scene.
Here is a partial list of some of the artists I was able to see live between 1976 and 1989:
Elton John (Dodger Stadium, 1976)
Rolling Stones (1981, 1989)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1980, 1981)
I thoroughly enjoyed being in the audience, rocking with the music, lighting my lighter (who remembers doing this?), and singing along when the lead singer would prompt the crowd to join in. There was always a palpable energy at concerts, a buzz, and I’m not talking about the burning weed which circulated through the air. The audiences were always so pumped, so excited to hear a favorite band play live.
I also remember wanting so badly to attend the US Festival on Labor Day weekend in 1982, but my mother staunchly refused. Then there was another US Festival which I desperately wanted to attend on Memorial Day weekend in 1983, but my mother once again refused, pointing out that I had final exams the following week. Some of the girls in my class threw caution to the wind and attended the festival, so I was able to live vicariously through them when they described the experience. An estimated 570,000 people attended the 1983 Labor Day weekend US Festival, which is no surprise since tickets were a mere $20 for each day of the event.
Here’s a video of the full concert which Van Halen performed during the 1983 US Festival:
Other festivals have come to the forefront in popularity in, recent years, but now that we have spent the bulk of the year in lockdown, avoiding COVID, live concerts, with the audience standing in front of the band members, are nearly extinct. We now rely on livestreams and virtual concerts, which don’t even come close to creating the same magic that a live concert in front of a packed audience can do.
Ventura County Fairgrounds recently hosted a drive-in setting for a live concert which apparently went pretty well. The audience was limited to 500 cars, I wonder if this will be the new norm for concerts? At any rate, I am thankful that I was able to see so many incredible artists live, when concerts were still fun.
How many of you have gotten sucked into a TV series during this year’s lockdown? I have to admit that I definitely fell into the binge watching abyss back in June, when I watched season 1, episode 1 of Grimm. It didn’t grab me immediately, but after several episodes which I watched over three separate days, I noticed that I was developing that all-consuming curiosity, that compulsion to watch one episode, and since the next episode would be ready within seconds after the previous one concluded, I allowed the binge-watching to occur over and over.
Since I don’t really watch a lot of television, the Grimm sessions haven’t distracted me from essential things I need to address in my life, but I have definitely spent more than one Sunday evening glued to the tube, learning about all the wesen (aka, creatures) which are only visible to the Grimms. For those of you who are fans of Grimm, check out the site which offers an encyclopedic list of wesen.
I began to wonder what the wesen see when Nick Burkhardt shows up. There is a scene between Nick and Monroe, and Rosalie which explains what the wesen see in the Grimm when they woge (show their physical selves to the Grimm):
Monroe: It’s your eyes.
Nick: My eyes?
Rosalee: It’s how we know you’re a Grimm after we woge.
Monroe: They turn black.
Rosalee: Not exactly black.
Monroe: No, you’re right, actually. Black’s too weak a word. It’s more like infinite darkness. And we see ourselves reflected in that darkness. We see our true wesen nature.
Since I love fairy tales, fantasy and certain types of horror (vampires, etc.), this show is right up my alley. Especially now that lockdown has really put a damper on going out at night, I truly enjoy sitting at home and watching what is currently my favorite television series. It doesn’t matter that Grimm aired from October 28, 2011 to March 31, 2017, for 123 episodes, over six seasons. It also doesn’t matter that Grimm was canceled due to the writers’ strike. I have been immensely entertained by the series, and since I am only on season 2, I still have quite a few episodes left to binge watch!
I’m sure the majority of you are well aware about the importance of good dental health, but have you ever thought how important good dental health is in your pets? Just as in humans, the mouths of your pets are teeming with bacteria, and some of those bacteria can enter the digestive tract, respiratory tract, and bloodstream, and cause disease, particularly in the heart, lung, and kidneys.
Another factor to consider in our pets is the fact that we have domesticated these animals over the millenia, and as a result, they no longer depend on hunting to procure their food. This means that the natural form of teeth cleaning, in essence, gnawing and tearing at the flesh of their prey, has, for the most part, been eliminated, and replaced with dry kibble and canned foods. Eighty percent of pet dogs and cats who have had no dental cleaning or intervention show signs of oral disease by the time they are 3 years old.
I take all of this very seriously with my pets, and I am diligent about taking them in every six months for non-anesthetic dental cleaning. It’s worth the financial expense, even though I struggle to pay for their dental care twice a year. The way I see it, I’d rather take them in for regular dental cleaning than to put them at risk for a myriad of diseases, and have them suffer needlessly as a result. I’ve been taking them in for regular cleanings from the time they were young adults, and they have had mild issues with no need for a more aggressive cleaning with anesthetic. I realize that they may at some point need cleaning under anesthesia, but until we cross that bridge, I will continue to take them in for the anesthesia-free option.
There are definitely some limitations with non-anesthetic teeth cleaning for pets, such as the fact that only the plaque above the gum line can be removed. The veterinarian examines the pet’s teeth and gums to determine if there is any inflammation or sign of infection, and if there are any findings which are beyond the scope of the non-anesthetic cleaning crew, the pet is referred for cleaning with anesthesia.
Overall, if you aren’t paying attention to your pet’s teeth and gums, you should. It’s a good idea to ask your veterinarian at your next visit what he or she recommends in the way of dental care. There are dental chews which help to clean the teeth, and some very brave pet owners actually brush their pet’s teeth. Your vet will help determine the best care regimen for your beloved pet.
How many of you have jumped on board the smart home wagon? I have to admit that I have tiptoed through setting up my home with smart home devices, starting with two Roku Ultra units I purchased last fall after breaking up with Spectrum Cable. It hasn’t been completely seamless, and I already had a Roku remote stop working after only 5 months, but overall, I have gotten accustomed to watching shows on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.
My next step was setting up a Wyze Camera which I had received as a Christmas gift. I figured it would be a good way to watch my cats while I was away, and also ensure that no unwelcome guests were lurking in my bedroom. What I did not expect was that the camera would randomly scan the room when I wasn’t using the app, and after a couple of unnerving scans, I unplugged the thing and haven’t used it since.
Then I really took the plunge this past July, when I set up two Google Nests and several TP-Link Smart Plugs. I decided to plug in certain key lamps and three humidifiers, and programmed some of them to turn on and off at specified times. I have to admit that I love the convenience, and if I need to override the automated settings, I am able to do so easily simply by telling Google to perform a certain action.
If you are considering setting up your home with smart devices, make sure that you have a strong internet connection and a high quality internet router, or you will not be able to successfully connect your devices. The possibilities are almost endless when it comes to setting up devices in your home, and it can get pretty expensive. But the automation which you can establish in your home is pretty impressive.
I honestly dig the convenience of asking Google for the current weather, and I also love being able to start Spotify or SiriusXM on the Google Nest, so that I can have music playing in the background throughout the day. But there is a part of me which still thinks it is rather bizarre to speak to Alexa, Google, and Siri while we are in the comfort of our own homes. I am also concerned about the collection of information which I am sure is occurring every time we use these devices. It is already pretty unnerving to have a conversation with a friend and mention something like pizza, only to have supposedly random ads pop up in an email browser which feature pizza from Numero Uno. Coincidence? I think not.
At any rate, the convenience of having lights and humidifiers turn on and off automatically is worth it to me. For example, I had set up a series of lights behind my sofa when I moved in over 2 years ago so that I could have cool mood lighting, but I rarely turned them on because I had to do so via a power strip which was wedged behind the sofa. Now that I have the power strip plugged into a TP-Link Smart Plug and have it connected to Kasa and Google Home, I can just tell Google to turn the “uplights” on and off whenever I choose. Consequently, I use these mood lights almost nightly.
What do you have set up in your smart home?
Here’s a collection of some of the signs I encountered during my visit to Japan in March. Clearly there is a need for more accurate Japanese to English translation!
If you’re into fitness, then you probably have encountered elements of the exercise equipment shortage which emerged from the coronavirus lockdown. People began scrambling to pick up all sorts of exercise equipment as soon as lockdown went into effect, and suddenly, dumbbells, kettlebells, weight benches, resistance bands, etc. became as scarce as a 12-pack of Charmin. It turns out that weight training, as an e-commerce category, is the eighth-fastest growing category, even more in demand than toilet paper, paper towels, and hand sanitizer. Interest in fitness gear is up over 500% this year.
Part of the shortage is due to the fact that a large percentage of the iron used for exercise equipment is forged in China. In fact, every single piece of exercise equipment I have ordered online since March has been made in China. Many factories in China have been shut down as a result of the pandemic, causing production to plummet, and forcing distributors to find other ways to manufacture items like dumbbells, kettlebells, weight plates, multi gyms, and barbells.
Hence the shortage and the inflated prices we have been seeing all over the internet. Bowflex Selecttech Dumbbells have been selling on eBay for grossly inflated prices, jumping from as little as $200 for a pair last fall to as much as $1,500 during the peak of the equipment buying panic a couple of months ago. I have had a Bowflex Selecttech 552 set with the stand for eleven years, and I am so grateful to have it. Never once did I think about jumping on the opportunity to make a ridiculous amount of money by selling the set, because I was using the set every single day, and my fitness and sanity mean far more to me than making a quick buck. Plus, they’re pretty awesome, enabling me to select any weight from 5 to 52.5 pounds, in increments of 2.5 pounds.
There were other purchases I made which were a test of my patience. I ordered a hyperextension bench which took two months to arrive, and I went through so many sites and online searches and apps before I found items like the Marcy Diamond Elite MD-9010G Smith Multi Gym through OfferUp. I also had to pay more than the original sticker price because the demand for such items is so high. However, I swooped in on this item before prices went through the roof. The current lowest price on Amazon for this multi gym is now $2,700.99 and arrives September 25th – October 13th!
If you happen to see a piece of equipment which you want, you had better snap it up immediately, since the demand will not abate any time soon. Gyms have been shuttered, and there’s no telling how long it will be before they will reopen, so we all need to get comfortable with assembling the best home gyms possible.
Marcy Diamond Elite MD-9010G
This year has certainly been full of surprises, partially from the fear surrounding COVID-19, and partially from the economic upturns which have wracked the entire globe. From long furloughs to unemployment, people everywhere are feeling the financial effects. We are officially in a recession, which makes it even more important for everyone to review their finances and find ways to protect themselves during the financial downturn.
There are general financial guidelines which should always be followed, such as paying down debt, establishing an emergency fund, finding other means to generate income, and continuing to contribute to retirement accounts. Another vital component in good financial health is establishing a budget and really examining your spending habits. Almost invariably, people find out after they create a budget that they are spending money needlessly on frills that they don’t need. By eliminating those hidden money drains, it becomes easier to cover living expenses, thus reducing some of the stress involved in getting by financially.
I have had a budget in place for over 30 years, and I have seen the power it wields. By following a budget, I was able to pay down all credit card debt, pay off a car, establish an emergency fund, and put money aside for retirement, so I know it can all be done. Even at this point, with zero debt, I am acutely aware of my budget, and I review it on an almost weekly basis to make sure I am on track.
If you need help in establishing a budget, you can use a budget calculator. I found a wonderful budget calculator on Pigly.com which is very easy to use, and extremely thorough. It helps you break down all expenses, from the essentials to debts and savings so you can target all your goals and ensure that your income is allocated optimally. All you have to do is plug in your income, and the calculator will automatically generate a low end and high end for all the categories. So even if you have never established a budget before, you can set one up instantly.
When budgeting, don’t be afraid to contribute to your retirement accounts right now, as long as you have your debts paid down and you have an emergency fund in place. I am a big proponent of Dave Ramsey’s investing philosophy, and I am grateful that I educated myself on financial wellness and dug myself out of what once seemed like a desperate situation. It was only after I had paid off all of my credit cards and established an emergency fund back in 2013 that I began aggressively started putting money aside for retirement.
The fact is, we are living in uncertain times and need to be prepared for whatever hits. By buttressing our financial health, getting creative with income streams, and following a budget, we will be better equipped to survive the ebb and flow of the current economy.
Shopping habits have changed dramatically since the appearance of COVID-19 and the subsequent scramble to socially distance and protect ourselves. Grocery stores and retail pharmacies now have plexiglass shields at the checkout stands, and there are shoe stickers on the floors as visual reminders of the six foot distance we are urged to keep from each other.
Malls are nearly empty, and many merchants haven’t even dared open their doors. The days when you could just hop over to a local store and pick up a couple of items have been replaced with long lines of people waiting to get in, and staple items which are perpetually low in stock or completely depleted. Let’s not forget about all that toilet paper hoarding which defined the earlier part of 2020.
The new normal when it comes to consumer spending is largely confined to purchasing only the essentials, but there has also been a peculiar yet predictable surge in what can reasonably be described as online retail therapy. Since we’ve basically been forced to become homebodies, our shopping preferences have changed to reflect this lifestyle shift. Online streaming services have increased dramatically in popularity, as people search for shows and films to chew up some of their time at home.
Industries which have seen an uptick in their sales since the global pandemic hit include food delivery and takeout services, alcohol, exercise equipment, health supplies such as masks and hand sanitizer, and beauty and wellness products.
Some people have been compelled to stock up on bundles of essentials like pasta, toilet paper and the like, while others have fallen into the habit of purchasing unnecessary items, perhaps a long coveted item which was purchased with the attitude, life is short, might as well buy it.
The following excerpt from an article by Leanne Italie is an excellent description of the purchasing habits which many of us might find ourselves falling into as this lockdown continues:
“Shopping as therapy has been shown to reduce negative moods and boost overall happiness,” he said. “The big downside, however, is that such relief is very short-lived. That good feeling very quickly dissipates.”
Mr. Galak said some research points to “shopping while bored” as a variation with less emotional payout.
“Browsing for things that one doesn’t need fills the time and then clicking `buy now’ just naturally follows,” he said. “Consumers may find themselves on page 20 of a search result for a new pair of shoes, a place that when engaged and not bored, they would never reach.”
Jennifer Salgado, 42 of Bloomfield, N.J., is a shopper with many heads these days.
“Resourceful me has purchased: a pasta roller and drying rack, because now I’m Ina Garten; stuff to make hand sanitizer, because I’m now a chemist; and dog nail clippers that my 76-pound bulldog noped out of real fast and is now looking like Snooki from the ‘Jersey Shore,’” she said.
There’s also “luxurious me,” Ms. Salgado said, snapping up 96 macarons from a bulk-buying store, along with the Jennifer who needed 24 pounds of frozen peas.
“Most of the time, I forget what’s coming,” she said, echoing others who accepted long delivery dates out of fear. “And most of the time, I realize I never really needed these things in the first place.”
Kellie Flor-Robinson of Silver Spring, Md., just may be a combination of all of the above.
“I ordered a case of Moet,” she said. “I’m not sure that it was an accident, though — this thing has me buggy.”