Online Safety Tips From Google

I write a lot about privacy and online safety.  Today I'm letting Google do the talking, though.  They've released a great set of online safety video tips that are both helpful and easy to understand.  

"Easy to understand" is good because experts tend to use a lot of incomprehensible jargon and acronyms that make your eyes glaze over, and that's never a good way to learn.

These videos are easy to watch, they're under 2 minutes each, and they're all aimed at young people.

Here are direct links to the videos:

Think Before You Share

Protect Your Stuff

Know & Use Your Settings

Avoid Scams

Be Positive

Antibiotic Resistance

Is antibiotic resistance really going to be the next biggest health epidemic?  We’ve used antibiotics as the 20th Century “cure-all” for everything from most human ailments to animal husbandry. Even when we were told that antibiotics didn’t cure the common cold, we still demanded them from our doctors. Did you know that animals raised for human consumption are routinely fed antibiotics?  So what’s the problem with using this miracle drug? Our bodies have become resistant to them so we need more powerful antibiotics to do the same job that the antibiotics of yesteryear could do. 

As we overused antibiotics for the past 50+ years, the “superbugs” (bacteria that are now resistant to multiple antibiotic strains) need bigger and better antibiotics to kill them --- and we simply don’t have them.  Antibiotics are created from chemicals that exist in nature first, and then scientists try to replicate a synthetic version in the lab.  The easy antibiotics have already been discovered; but, new discoveries are few and far between.

The World Health Organization (WHO) just announced that gonorrhea, a sexually-transmitted disease, is becoming untreatable because of antibiotic resistance.  The United Nations General Assembly is organizing a landmark meeting to discuss antibiotic resistance because it is expected to cause 10 million deaths by 2050 – that’s up from 700,000 annually today. To give you a sense of how worried they are about antibiotic resistance, the United Nations General Assembly has met only 3 times in the past to discuss health crises: (1) in 2011 about HIV and AIDS; (2) in 2012 to discuss cancer and diabetes, and (3) in 2014 to discuss Ebola.  This is a big deal, and sadly, it’s something that we have created ourselves.

A world without antibiotics sends us back to medicine pre-1928 when Fleming discovered penicillin.  Transplant surgeries will become virtually impossible because organ recipients need to take immune-suppressing drugs for life to stop rejection of a new heart or kidney. Removing a burst appendix becomes dangerous without antibiotics to prevent the wound from becoming infected. Pneumonia may become a mass-killer of the elderly, and tuberculosis may become incurable. 

So, what can we do about antibiotic resistance?  First, we can stop overusing antibiotics for minor infections that will probably heal themselves.  In other words, don’t request antibiotics when your doctor thinks you don’t need them. We can also prevent infections by practicing good hand hygiene – yup! – wash your hands with good ol’ soap and water before touching your food, eyes, and mouth.  Don’t use antibacterial soaps because they actually promote antibiotic resistance.  Eat meat from animals that were raised without antibiotics.  And, get your vaccines so your body can ward off diseases without relying on antibiotics.

Today’s a good day to start using these practices to ward off antibiotic resistance. We really don’t want to live in a world without antibiotics – it’ll set us back 100 years!


How to Reduce the Plastics in Your Life

Living in Santa Cruz for the past 42 years makes me a target of stereotypes like “hippy” and “environmentalist.”  I don’t consider myself a “hippy” but I am a die-hard environmentalist.  I served on the board of directors of the first Ecology Action of Santa Cruz back in the early ‘80’s and I compost. Today, most people recycle paper, cardboard, glass bottles, and aluminum cans but everyone still seems confused about what to do with PLASTIC. 


Why? All plastics are made from petroleum oil (fossil fuels), which means that they contribute to our catastrophic carbon dioxide problem. 


Storage containers:
Rather than plastic containers, use glass containers with stainless steel lids.  Or, use ceramic bowls or mason jars.  Besides, glass and steel clean much better than plastic!



Serving plates:
For Thanksgiving, we normally have 20-30 people each year.  About 10 years ago, I purchased 24 stoneware plates, bowls, and salad plates on sale.  Now, we serve our guests with nice ceramic plates that we can wash and reuse for decades.  It is actually less expensive in the long run!

Trash liners:
Most trash and recycling cans in the house don’t need new plastic trash liners each week.  That’s hundreds of liners each year!  Instead, empty the contents in the trash and recycling containers each week, and only replace the liner if it is filthy.  That way, you don’t have to wash your cans when someone throws something yucky in it, and you’re breaking the habit of replacing every liner each week.

Homemade lunches:
If you make a sandwich or salad at home, not ready-made from the store or takeout restaurants, you could store it in a reusable container and have zero waste. Besides, it’ll be healthier and less expensive, too!



Glass or stainless steel water bottles:
While water bottles have been popular for years, I’ve completely moved away from plastics.  I use glass water bottles with plastic screw-on lids.  I almost never buy throw-away water bottles, but if I’m out without my own containers, I’ll always buy water or juices in glass containers (and recycle them when I’m done).

Eating Utensils:
I keep a fork and spoon in my purse and in my car so I don’t have to use throw-away plastics. I don’t like the way food tastes or feels when I use plastic utensils so I like to have my good ol’ stainless steel forks and spoons at the ready. Besides, they’re easy to wash and stash away.

Cloth bags:
Here in California, most people use cloth bags for purchasing groceries and small items because of legislation that has created a ban on plastics.  At first, it was inconvenient, and I ended up buying cloth bags when I would forget mine.  But after a couple of years, I always remember to take my cloth bags with me.  I even carry a compact bag in my purse!

Cloth diapers:

With my second baby (Jaclyn), we used cloth diapers.  Things have changed quite a bit since my mother used cloth diapers and safety pins.  With Velcro and diaper wraps, changing diapers is easy.  Besides, I still believe that disposable diapers with the chemicals and gels make it more difficult to potty train babies.  Nobody likes to sit in a wet cloth diaper!

If you think of other ways to reduce your use of plastics, share them here!

Beat the Airline Pricing Game

Now that airlines – like Amazon and other retailers – are using customer profiling (stalking your every move) to determine how you spend your money and where you want to travel, you’ll notice that airfares are all over the board. No longer can you depend on predictable discounts because airlines have become tech savvy, and they’re using your information to determine how they’ll hook you into buying airfares at a higher rate.  The airlines cater to their business and first class fliers because they’re loyal and they pay the highest rates.

Short of playing the Manufactured Spending game that gives you free flights and an assortment of upgrades, I find that the best way to get the cheapest airfare is to use Skyscanner or the Hopper app.  Because there is no way anyone could efficiently monitor airfares manually, these companies have created algorithms using airline pricing histories on millions of flights to determine if there will be a drop in price in the future and will alert you of the best time to book your flights. Hopper claims to be able to predict airfare for up to 6 months with 95% accuracy.  

The good news is that the airlines know that consumers are looking for ways to find the lowest airfares.  I’m hoping that we’ll go back to the travel days when you could get the lowest fares by flying STANDBY and jumping on a plane minutes before takeoff.  If filling their planes is the airline’s goal, then standby flights would be a win-win situation for everyone. 

Happy Bees!

With the warm weather, flowers in bloom, and careful monitoring, our 3 beehives are thriving.  We started with about 15,000 bees (about 5,000 per hive), and now our best guess is that we have over 30,000 bees!  After our first 2 hives absconded last year, Rob and John have invited Andrea Ramaeker and her mentor, Emily, to check in on our bees to make sure they’re okay. 

The bees are busy making honey and taking care of the queens.  The worker bees spend their short lives searching for pollen and keeping the queen happy and safe.  When they fill up these hives with honey, we’ll add our Flow Hives. Cross your fingers that we can keep these bees through the winter.  Just think, we’ll have honey for all of our family and friends!


I remember the first time I ate fresh-caught wild salmon.  Oh wow! It was so DELICIOUS!  It didn’t taste like the salmon that I had been eating until then, but fresh-caught wild salmon was so light and flakey that it melted in my mouth.  Spoiled by that experience, I stopped eating Atlantic salmon (which is farm raised) or any other farm-raised fish.  At first, I made this decision based on flavor only. Then, when I learned about the terrible practices of using antibiotics in treating farm-raised fish and the filthy conditions in which the fish are raised, I became even more adamant about eating only wild fish. But now, corporations have just won the right to GENETICALLY ENGINEER OUR SALMON, and what’s worse: THEY DON’T HAVE TO INDICATE THAT THE FISH IS GENETICALLY ENGINEERED ON THE LABEL!

This is WRONG on so many levels.

Here are some bullet points about GE Salmon:

  1. In Nov 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved genetically engineering food animal for sale and human consumption (Of course, the US is the first government agency to do this…)
  2. GE Salmon = Atlantic salmon, deep-water ocean eelpout, and Pacific Chinook salmon all genetically combined to create this Frankenfish
  3. GE Salmon grows twice as fast as Atlantic salmon (imagine the hormones needed to produce this?)
  4. GE Salmon will not be labeled so you won’t know when you’re eating GE, farm-raised, or wild salmon when reading the labels.
  5. GE Salmon eggs will be manufactured in Canada but GE Salmon will be raised in Panama.  The food will travel 5,000 miles before reaching the US.
  6. GE Salmon will destroy our wild salmon population and produce unknown hazards in our ecosystems.

Dr. Anne Kapuscinski and Dr. Frederik Sundstrom, National Marine Fisheries Service and Fish and Wildlife Service, oppose the FDA’s decision to approve GE salmon.  They claim that the FDA hasn’t effectively evaluated environmental risks.  Sign petitions and contact your representatives to STOP genetic engineering of salmon and all fish, and require all food manufacturers to list ingredients and food processing techniques (genetic engineering) on their products. 


We Have No Privacy - NONE

I’m an old timer.  In high school, I had to wait hours to use our family phone (aka landline) and remember having numerous arguments with my siblings about their long phone calls that resulted in that annoying busy signal of the old Ma Bell days when my friends were trying to call me. 

Then, when I got my first cell phone, it was the size of my shoe (no kidding!) and all it did was make very expensive phone calls.  I bought it when I was pregnant with Nicole and thought it was the coolest device ever because I could call Rob from my car when I went into labor. But now, cell phones are mini laptops that have amazing capabilities.  There’s very little that my cell phone can’t do and I find that I can’t be without it – ever!  So that’s why I’m so concerned about my privacy.

I just heard that if I wanted to spy on someone, I could have unlimited access to this person’s mobile device and covertly collect information about relationships, locations, phone conversations, plans, activities – whenever or wherever they are. It leaves no traces so the person will never know that you’re spying and they can’t trace it back to you.  Because this is new technology, the costs are high (just like a prototype).  For the use of this type of surveillance, the costs are between $500,000 and $800,000.  Phew!  I doubt anyone would pay that to see that I’m writing blogs or talking to college-bound kids.  But, my biggest fear is that as technology improves and more people purchase these types of software, the costs will be driven down and soon it’ll be a free app on everyone’s phones. 

The way I look at online communication today is that anything I post, email, text, or search should be something that I would feel comfortable having my enemies and the government see. It’s kind of like the advice I give my clients about social media: Don’t post photos or write messages on social media that you wouldn’t want your future mother-in-law or employer to see.  Assume you have no privacy because you really don’t.

Hmm. Looks like writing good ol’ fashioned letters and sending them snail mail may be the only way we will be able to maintain our privacy when we aren’t having face-to-face conversations.  And, that actually sounds refreshing to me!


New Super Thick Carpets in my Office!

New Super Thick CarpetMy office desperately needed new carpets.  There were spots where the carpet was bare from sun exposure and wear and tear.  Normally I maintain these kinds of things but I kept putting off this project simply because I have so much heavy furniture (oak filing cabinets and desks, huge metal filing cabinets, and thousands of books and games).  Just the thought of moving everything out was enough for me to look the other way and cover those bare spots with rugs for years. 

But over the Labor Day weekend, Knights Floors came in and removed all of the furniture, installed the most luxurious carpet, and returned all of the furniture, file cabinets, and volumes of books exactly where they were before the move.  They even replaced some flooring that was damaged by overwatering plants (didn’t know that was a thing…).  The best part, I didn’t have to lift one piece of furniture and they handled the entire installation with smiles.

Now everyone walks into my office and comments about how “bouncy” the new carpet is.  Kevin Knight, the owner of Knights Floors) put in super thick padding and the plushest carpet he could find.  It’s amazing how a little thing like new carpets can improve the way you feel while you work.  Thanks Kevin!  

TBT: Pismo Beach

TBT: Pismo BeachI’ve been going to Pismo Beach to ride dune buggies and ATVs ever since I was 7 years old.  My father and uncles built our first dune buggy using the metal pipes from our old swing set and bucket seats from old cars on the lot.  We would drive up the coast in our camper and stay right on the sand.  In the mornings, we would drive our dune buggies down the beach to find Pismo Clams.  They’re the ones that are 4-inches wide, and they made delicious clam chowder on our stovetop in the camper. 

After my daughters were born, we started the tradition of going to Pismo every September.  By inviting a group of 10-12 people for each adventure, our fun-filled Pismo tradition continues even today.  We rent ATVs from BJ’s ATV Rentals and ride in the Pismo sand dunes right on the beach.  Where else can you ride an ATV along the ocean and then race in huge sand dunes?  We always have a few crazy people who get 5-6 feet of air (Sam Artioli), roll down the dunes (Rob D’Arcy), and flip their ATV (Vicky Tian) but we always make it out alive.  Looking forward to our next Pismo adventure in 2 weeks!

Juicy Raspberries From Our Patch!

Delicious RaspberriesAbout 3 years ago, we drove up to Pescadero to dig out 50 raspberry cane from a fellow’s garden.  He had posted an ad on Craigslist that he was clearing his raspberry patch and was selling each cane for $5. 

Rob and I planted each of the 50 cane in our raspberry patch after building above ground planters and fencing around the entire patch to keep out the deer and critters.  We anxiously awaited harvest time in our raspberry patch each season only to gather a handful of berries.  Even with fertilizers, pruning, weeding, covering the patch, our berries were so small we couldn’t serve them with any of our desserts.

Then this year, we got our first bumper crop of raspberries.  There were so many raspberries on each cane that they were leaning over from the weight!  Wow!  Each raspberry that we picked was plump and beautiful. I must have eaten a quart on the first day!  I think the cane just needed a few years to establish themselves in their new homes.  With this new season from September to December, I’m looking forward to eating my favorite fruit!