My wife and I wish you all a Merry Christmas. Below and attached is this year’s Christmas letter to family and friends. Click this link to see a pdf: Christmas letter 2014. The first page is a set of images shown below; page two is text highlighting the year’s news: two more grandchildren coming in 2015, our work lives, our books recommendations and more. Enjoy.
The year’s big news: two more grandchildren coming in 2015! Our first grandchild, Ain, is approaching 18 months, a busy boy. Lord willing and the ultrasound is right this time, he will have a little brother in March. Recently we learned that Megan and Brandon are expecting their first child in June.
Our work lives
David’s job – David’s challenging work as chief engineer of Kansas’ Division of Water Resources continued to be intense but rewarding. The office made the transition to Manhattan this summer. So David is making the 90 minute commute about 3x/week (he telecommutes day a week or so). David has found he can be fairly productive on the van the agency is providing. So far the Division has retained key experienced staff and been able to recruit some good, young staff as well.
The interstate battles continue. David was able to attend oral arguments before the US Supreme Court this fall in Kansas case against Nebraska. With the conclusion of the last of 5 arbitration trials, Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado have finally started working on negotiating some disputed issues, developing three agreements for 2014-2015 as they work toward longer term solutions.
Cathy continues to teach science classes to Lawrence homeschoolers as well nearby Gardner. The three classes she is teaching keeps her busy. After developing PowerPoints for her Advanced Biology and Biology over the last 2 years, this year she is doing physical science (with Amy’s help).
Our daughters and their husbands – Everyone is well. Betsy is gradually cutting back on her work outside the home with her growing family. Amy’s piano business is becoming well established and she is doing some part-time work as a “virtual assistant”, and she has a growing number of people following her blog. Megan works part time for a local radio station, KOFO Country, writing and reading the news.
Vacations – We got away quite a few times this year, mostly to our timeshare in the Branson area including a time in June with the girls and their spouses. We also enjoyed our annual 4th of July trip to Gene and Sara’s cabin on Long Lake in Wisconsin. Finally, we also did a Texas trip with David’s work that included San Antonio and Houston/Galveston.
We continue to make health a priority by regular exercise and eating well. David’s morning exercise routine has had to change due to his commuting. Fortunately, the office in Manhattan has a shower and he has been running more regularly and was able to take a minute off of his best 5k of last year. We have started a web site on how we stay healthy (org) with favorite recipes, exercise suggestions, and more.
Book (listening) recommendations:
David – The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (D. Brown); Tale of Two Cities (Dickens); Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and …the Space Age (M Brzezinski).
Cathy – Elephant Whisper (L. Anthony); I am Malala (Yousafzai); and Invention of Wings (S. Kidd).
For years we have made health a priority and enjoyed its benefits. Many have asked us how we have done this.
While we have bits and pieces of this near on this web site and on Cathy and my joint site, David’s, we have just created a new web site, HealthSimply.org for this specific purpose. As of this writing (December 2014), we have a good outline and a list of books we have found helpful on our journey, exercise options that we have used and recommend, lots of great recipes and more.
Over time, we plan to add detailed book reviews, a listing of health habits, short videos to make health practical.
During January 2014 a Facebook friend said she just got a new android phone and wanted recommendations for apps. So here is a list of many of the apps I use regularly on my phone. I will update it from time to time. Like ios, some many options.
A desire to learn more about nutrition 4 years ago took me to Topeka’s good library not far from work. While there, I discovered their significant collection of books on CD and which transformed my daily commute from Lawrence to Topeka. After a couple of years, I began to have a more difficulty time finding books of interest and desired to listen to books on my two walks a day with our dogs. The answer: Audible.
While there are a number of way to get free book recordings, esp. of classic literature, Audible deliveries a great variety of classics and current best-sellers via purchase/subscription, conveniently and simply. Many of these recordings are excellent performances. For example I thoroughly enjoyed listening to an excellent rendition of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, a book I likely would not have been able to get through by reading.
The most common way to use Audible is as a subscription service. The basic subscription if $15 per month. With it you get one credit per month, which is in essence, one book per month. But this also allows you to buy any other book for a minimum of 30% off and to have access to other sales and specials (see more below)
Audible’s app is available for your smart phone, tablet, and computers. You can switch between devices and it keeps track of where you are.
As Audible allows you to have up to three phones or tablets connected to an account (as well a few PCs), you can share an account with other family members. I share my account with my wife and mom; I also pay for an account that my three daughters share.
Getting the most of your money
You can save 20% by paying annually rather than monthly ($150/year rather than $180 if you pay $15/month).
Sign up for their “daily special” email where once a day they deeply discount a particular book for 24 hours, typically at a price of $3 or $4.
I take time to read the reviews to see what others think of the book, both its content and the performance of it, to help me insure I am getting books I will enjoy. Many of the classics are inexpensive and there are often multiple options.
If you buy a book that you end up not enjoying, return it. Audible allows you to return books you are not satisfied with for any reason for up to a year. .
Keep a wish list. Audible will let you know if any of these are on sale.
Getting the most of your time.
I listen on my commutes and my walks with the dogs.
I also listen when I mow the yard and vacuum the house. How? I use ear buds and the ear protection I wear when I mow the yard.
We equipped both of our cars with a mount to hold our phone (approx. $20) and an FM tuner/phone charger to allow you to listen to the book through the cars speakers (another $20).
We also spend $30 on a small Bluetooth speaker that allows her to conveniently listen to books which in the kitchen.
Listen to a variety of genres. See some examples of our listening below
Don’t let listening dominate your thought life. We all need some in our lives where we are “processing”. If you fill every moment of every day with work, talking, TV, etc., etc., this important processing does not happen.
Our listening, starting with David:
Sci-Fi: Dune, Foundation, Ender’s Game and others by Asimov , Heinlein, Clarke, and more.
Classics: Hobbit, Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, Mark Twain’s Prince and the Pauper and Huckleberry Finn (read by Elisha Wood), Sherlock Holmes. I am reading Don Quixote now (40 hours)
Health: several titles.
Christian: CS Lewis’ Space Trilogy, and more; Lawhead.
History/Biographies: John Adams, Bonhoeffer
Self-help: Now Habit and more.
Cathy loves Jane Austin and has listening to some of her book club choices when time was short.
Please send me helpful articles on the subject. No politically-motivated articles, flaming articles, etc. I want to understand how it will work so I can advise others who ask and determine what I can do to encourage its reform. I think we need healthcare reform. But it is apparent that the ACA has major problems. However, ut we need to work toward solutions, not excuses or political stonewalling.
Here are a couple articles that I have come across the help me understand ACA:
The article discusses the tax implications of ObamaCare. Hopefully most of you understand marginal tax rates. As you make more money, you pay a higher % of tax on the additional income you make. The first $17,400 of taxable income is taxed at 10%, the next $53,000 is taxed at 15%, and so forth. Your marginal tax rate is the rate you pay for the last dollars of additional income you make. The higher your marginal tax rate, the more likely you are to look for tax breaks.
Under ACA, insurance coverage is subsidized for many Americans on a sliding scale via the premium assistance tax credit. As you make more money, the tax credit goes down. The effect is to increase the marginal tax rate. See the article for more clarify and examples.
You have heard a lot about the problems with the health.gov web site. In this article and the link below, there is information on how 3 young people built a functioning web site to allow individuals to find out their options under the ACA, how much it would cost, etc. Here is a link to the site they built: http://www.thehealthsherpa.com/. The web site is nice, the premiums are not (but that is the cost of the American system).
Here are tips on building your own web sites from my experience (there are many options; these work for me).
Define your purpose. It will shape many of the decisions that follow.
A personal blog. There are lots of free options (wordpress.com; blogger.com and more)
A web site designed around a topic of interest. For example, I am preparing to launching one on what I have learned on health. So I am going to get a domain name and have a hosted site.
A business web site. Here you will likely want to go elsewhere for more help.
Note: The rest of what is belong explains my experience in the second choice above.
Decide on a domain name (e.g. dbarfield.org).
Give it some thought. Unless it is really unique (like my personal domain, dbarfield.org) you may have to get creative in the name as there are a lot of domains already taken. In some cases, people register names to sell.
Is it available? I have my domains registered at godaddy.com and they allow you to determine if your domain is available and if not, they offer alternatives that are.
For my health web site, I am going to register both a .org (as I am starting off with the idea of just sharing information, a non-profit reason) as well as the same name .com. There are two reasons: 1) who knows, some day I might want to use it for commercial reasons, and 2) many people might try the .com name when looking for my site; I want to keep someone else from taking it.
Register your domain name and find a host for the site.
These are separate tasks but I am listing them under one step as I do them both at the same place: godaddy.com.
Registering your domain. It usually costs about $15/year. Or if you do a .org and .com, it will cost you more like $30/year.
Hosting your domain . With godaddy, I can host mulitple domains for about $50/year. Note you need one domain to be your hosting domain. Addiitonal domains are created as addin domains for purposes of hosting the files, but they will be viewed by the world as completely separate.
Web site Administration: I use cpanel. Godaddy has a simpler alternative. ….
Choose and install your web development environment. For hosted domains, I use WordPress.org, which godaddy allows you to install on its servers.
Creating the user name and password for your WordPress site work (this is separate from the hosting above; once you set things up, most of your work will be in worepress)
A sonogram at 18 weeks said that our first grandchild was supposed to be a girl. But the first words from our daughter Betsy was, “It’s a boy.” We thought she was kidding but Matt immediately said, “No, it’s a boy alright.” See Now the grand-parenting fun, spoken of by many of my friends, is here.
FYI, Cathy and I posted our 2012 Christmas newsletter on our web site: dcbarfield.org. It includes highlight from our full 2012 and our big anticipation for coming year: we will be grandparents (expected in June).
We have also and updated our page on healthy recipes, adding many new recipes and organizing them better.
Finally, we have also updated our list of favorite at-home exercise routines at http://dbarfield.org/healthdiet/exercise/. The benefits to heart, muscles, brains and overall health are profound and well worth it.
Driven by a family history of heart disease and diabetes and a job that is both high stress and low in physical activity, I have made exercise a regular part of my life. I started with 20 minutes a day and gradually built from there. Even though a regular part of my life, it is not always easy to get up and get it done. Is it worth it? How much exercise do I need? What type of exercise do I need? Not easy questions with all the competing information out there.
The First 20 Minutes, by Gretchen Reynolds, tackles these important questions. Ms. Reynolds seeks to provide today’s best answers to these questions by reviewing what science is currently telling us about exercise. She reviews what science says about its benefits, how much we should do, and what type we should do. And she uncovers a number of surprises uncovered by science in recent year.
In doing so, she has written a book that has helped me hone my exercise program and encourages me to keep it up.
While I think the book is worth buying and reading in its entirety, the greatest benefits will be gained in reading first chapter of the book (which may take more than 20 minutes).
While I hope to write more specifics later, here are some of the big ideas and specifics I got from the book:
We get significant benefits to our longevity from regular activity and/or exercise, esp. from “the first 20 minutes”. So, “Move More” .
There are profound additional benefits to our level of fitness for going beyond the first 20 minutes, and esp. with moderate intensity aerobic and strength training workouts. Recommended amounts of exercise for fitness is 150 minutes low-intensity exercise OR 75 weekly minutes of more vigorous aerobic exercise plus weight training twice a week. You can split them almost any way you want. I am doing the later (bolded) approach.
For the more fitness and athletic-minded, you must push yourself. Yes there is a point where additional activity yields little in the way of benefits to health.
High-intensity internal training provides a way to health benefits in even less time. Recent studies indicate there is little value in stretching (“flexibility is overrated”) nor extended warm-ups. Instead brief dynamic stretching is more effective preparation.
Diet and exercise – The book confirmed my notion that there is no pill (or powder) you can take to get in shape or that will contribute significantly to fitness. You just need to eat well.
Drink when you are thirsty; don’t over do it.
In regard to the relationship between of exercise and weight loss: if you are exercising to lose weight, you are likely to be disappointed. Instead, exercise for the health benefits, not for weight loss. Research however, does find that regular exercise benefits weight control as most people who keep weight off, exercise regularly.
In regard to strength training and workouts, the book provides two primary lessons to me:
Our form matters. For example many damage their backs by doing core training, and esp. crunches, incorrectly. I do my strength exercises with a DVD with a trainer who leads a workout consistent with best practices. (see my recommendations).
It is good to take care in activities to prevent injury as you are much more likely to get injured if you have been injured before.
Exercise also provides very significant benefits to our mind and mood. The chapter is definitely an encouragement to me to exercise when I don’t want to (for more on this see my review on Spark, the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain)
Again, there is much more and I hope in the coming weeks to provide more specifics from the book. In the mean time, you might pick up a copy from the library and read at least the first chapter.