Do You Binge Watch?

The VCR revolutionized the way we watched TV. Not only could we record something and then run it later, but it was also now possible to save a bunch of episodes from a show and watch them back-to-back.

Home video companies started releasing TV shows on videocassette and this practice intensified dramatically with the arrival of DVD. That format’s capacity meant that many episodes of a series could fit on a single dual layer disc. Depending on how long a series lasted, you could conceivably include every show in one just boxset. The capacity increased even further with the arrival of Blu-ray.

Streaming services like Netflix made it even more convenient to go nuts and binge watch, particularly since the site is designed to automatically start playing the next episode whenever you finish one.

For some, this became the most common way to digest television. On the plus side, watching one episode after another can keep up the suspense and interest. It makes a television series seem almost like an extra long feature film.

On the downside, binging can become a major time suck, taking up many hours of your day, week, or even month. There are so many options available, you can theoretically go from one binging situation to another.

Of course, another reason many people binge is to avoid commercials. DVDs, Blu-rays, and streaming services are usually commercial free, and you can always record shows and then easily skip over the ads.

The way we consume media has changed in ways that few could have imagined. It used to take years to watch a show, one episode at a time over a period of weeks. Now, it possible to binge your way through a series in only a matter of days!

What is your preference? What is the best series you have ever binged?

Why Do People Love Cottages?

I don’t know about you, but my idea of the perfect vacation involves me doing as little as humanly possible. That includes anything that has to do with cleanup and maintenance of where ever I am staying. Owning your own cottage sounds quite romantic and fun, but there is also a great deal of work and responsibility that comes with this northern prize.

And yet, many people accept that and are quite happy with their cottages. Here are a few reasons why:

A Home Away from Home

While there is nothing wrong with letting other people do the work for you, some people just to have a second home away from home. That means knowing precisely the environment they are coming to and having full control over it.

That familiarity allows them to enjoy a predictable environment away from their regular one. That sense of comfort means that they can more readily relax and take in the pleasures of this alternative location.

Relaxing by the Lake

People who lived near a lake may come to take its pleasures for granted. But for those who spend their time in the rat race of the city and the suburbs, a lake is a peaceful oasis of calm in an ever-rushing world.

Water lapping gently against the shore can bring about a sense of relaxation and peace of mind. Those are two very desirable states for most people after surviving the work week.

Bonding with the Kids

Many cottage owners have families and this getaway place provides a perfect opportunity to play and bond with their children in an environment that is quiet, safe, and filled with natural beauty.

It can be a great place to learn new skills such as swimming, canoeing, and hiking. Or you can simply practice older skills and become more proficient at them.

What to Do When You Feel Alone and Unwanted


Very few human beings can do without other people, even individuals they hardly even know. We often think things like, “Life would be so much easier if I didn’t have to deal with so-and-so; I’d be better off alone.” However, absolute loneliness is quite unhealthy and unnatural. Human beings are social creatures that do their best when they socialize and work together.

Because this is our natural state, loneliness can be difficult to deal with. If you are feeling lonely and unloved, here are some things to remember that can help:

You Will Get Through This

Remember times in the past when you have faced bad situations. You got through those, right? They might have seemed impossible at the time, but you powered through and a solution eventually presented itself. Keeping this in mind can help you to endure other similar moments of loneliness.

Put Your Feeling on Paper

Sometimes letting everything just pour out of you on to a piece of paper (or your word processing program) can make a real difference. It is like a weight falling from your shoulders. The problem might still be there, but you may be in a better state of mind to deal with it once your negative emotions have poured out.

Ignore Your Inner Critic

You know that inner voice that pops up from time to time in your head and says things like, “You’re not good enough,” “No one could ever love you,” or “You’re a phony and everyone knows it”? That’s your inner critic speaking and it is the voice of irrationality. You should never listen to your inner critic, especially when you are feeling down. However, this can be quite tempting because you are at your most vulnerable. When these thoughts arise, dismiss them as the untruths that they are.

Should You Share Your Password With Your Partner?

Relationships are about trust and sharing: sharing your feelings, sharing your responsibilities, and sharing your love. Increasingly, it is also about sharing your passwords. These could be for e-mail, social media, banking, etc. Giving your loved one access to all aspects of your life seems like the ultimate gesture, but it is also one that can backfire badly and lead to terrible consequences.

Relationships usually seem rock solid at the outset; you can often imagine spending the rest of your life with this person. However, not all of them do last and some become quite acrimonious. At that point, all bets are off: lawyers are called in, reputations are questioned, and things become quite ugly.

The internet has added a whole new wrinkle to this issue. Those who have had longtime access to their partner’s online activities often run across things that sour the relationship. It could be the partner having regular contact with a former lover or using the internet to hook up with other people, sans permission. Misuse of money can be another issue that drives couples apart, particularly when one is putting finances towards something that both parties have not agreed upon.

It also never hurts to have a measure of privacy, even in relationships where trust seems absolute. Even those with very stable partnerships might make an offhand comment in an e-mail to someone else that their loved one was never meant to see. This can cause wounded feelings and, potentially, a domino effect of constant snooping and suspicion.

The ideal compromise would seem to be finding a proper middle ground. For example, sharing the banking password, but allowing each party to have sole access to their own social media and e-mail accounts. No relationship is perfect and the majority do not last forever. It’s important to keep both of those factors in mind.

What to Do When You Have Writer’s Block

Whether you write for a living or just as a hobby, you have probably dealt with the dreaded writer’s block at one time or another. It can be especially frustrating when the words don’t flow, even more so if you write for a living. There are various things you can try to get back on track; here are a few suggestions:

Walk Away

Get up from your computer and leave the writing behind. Do other things you enjoy, run some errands, go for a walk…do anything other than write and don’t spend any time thinking about it. It might take a bit, but your inspiration will eventually return.

Try a New Space

Is your writing being compromised by distractions? If you are unable to concentrate, it can be difficult to get a flow going. Even if there are no external issues, sometimes you can get a creative boost from simply trying out a new spot.

Just Write…Anything

If you can’t concentrate on the desired subject, just start typing anything. Random thoughts, pointless rambles, anything that comes to mind…and then walk away from it. When you come back to this “mess,” chances are you will find some worthwhile content to extract and/or build upon.

Switch Up Your Writing Tool

Do you usually write on a computer? Switch to a yellow legal pad for a while. Do you usually write longhand? Switch to your computer for a bit. It seems like a very simple step, and it is, but this can actually make a difference.

Change Up Your Schedule

Many writers develop a set routine for their writing because that’s what works for them. When it stops working, you need to come up with a new one. For example: Do you usually write in the evening? Switch to first thing in the morning.

Home Security Code Tips

Home security systems have been a boon for all manner of dwellings during the past two decades. If someone should break in, the system will alert both you and the authorities with great speed, which is important when it comes to apprehending those breaking in. Today’s systems are so sophisticated, you can even program them using your smartphone while in another city.

Like your phone, you need to come up with a code. Here are some tips to think about when choosing your home security system code:

Don’t Pick a Code Already in Use

It can be very tempting to use the same code across all of our devices, but it’s a very bad idea. If a hacker figures out that one code, everything is vulnerable. When creating your security code, come up with something different from your usual method.

When choosing, try to avoid numbers that can be easily tied to your identity. For example, if you have your birthday year as the code and that information is already out there on social media, you might as well not even have a code. Take the time to come up with something unique that you can easily remember.

Periodically Change That Code

Never use the same code for too long. Change it up every six months at the most.

Give Everyone Their Own Code

Some families all use the same code, but it is actually a wiser idea for their to be several codes in use. This would not apply to young children, but having, for example, teenagers with their own code would allow you to check the system and make sure that they are remembering to re-arm it. You can also see whether they are adhering to your rules regarding how late they can stay out and when they should be at home.

Forget 1080p, Think 4K

Technology waits for no one and that is increasingly true right across the board. Let’s take television: Cathode Ray Tubes and a 1.33:1 display were the standard for over 50 years. In 1997, DVD arrived and sets soon became a bit wider at 1.78:1. A few years later, progressive scan replaced interlaced images and resolution began to march upward. From a standard of 480i, we soon reached Hi-Def 720p. Then that game way to 1080p. And now we have the next step: 4K, which offers 3840 pixels × 2160 lines.

All of those years where we were happy with standard def seems like another lifetime. TVs have gotten bigger and bigger and thinner and thinner. The images are now incredibly sharp and realistic, sometimes to the point where the program or movie you’re watching suffers under such intense scrutiny (many sets and types of make-up were designed a certain way because the makers knew there would be a certain lack of clarity to hide flaws – not anymore).

It can seem confusing for those of us out there who only think about TV specs every few years when we need a new one (I won’t even get into the current OLED vs QLED debate), but it always boils down to personal preference. How much space do you have for your set? How much money do you have to spend? What type of things do you watch?

Many people have money on their minds constantly and, as a result, are reluctant to splurge on big ticket electronics. However, as technology advances, prices come down. I paid over $1000 for my first DVD player back in 1997; now I can buy one for $30 that is just as good or better.

Large format TVs used to be the sole domain of the rich, but prices continue to drop. If you want an especially large 4K, that could set you back $10,000, but if you only need, say, 40″, you can grab one for less than a grand.

What do you need? Shop around for prices, size, and format. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Worried About Getting Malware on Your iPhone? Here are Some Tips That Can Help

Malware and viruses are a common annoyances for those with laptop and desktop computers. But did you realize that you can also get them on your smartphone? It actually makes sense as smartphones are really just tiny computers. Do you worry about such a thing infecting your Apple device? The iPhone just celebrated its tenth birthday, but you can still do your part in keeping your device safe.

Here are some steps that can help:

Avoid Jailbroken Phones

Jailbroken phones offer certain advantages, such as allowing the installation of apps not available from Apple. However, this can come at a price as the jailbreak process removes much of the device’s security protection, leaving it vulnerable to viruses and malware. On top of that, jailbreaking also makes your phone more likely to be hacked.

Stick With Apple-Approved Apps

It may sound like corporate control that is forcing you to stick with Apple products—and it is, really—but only using apps the company approves helps to maintain the integrity of your device. In doing so, you will only be downloading apps that have been vetted by Apple. The company also verifies all of the developers that produce them.

On the plus side, Malware is far more prevalent on Android devices than on iPhones (however, if you suspect there is a virus on your iPhone already, this handy guide can help you to remove it).

Hacks and other vulnerabilities are not unprecedented on iPhones, however. Wikileaks’ Vault 7 release included information on methods used by the CIA to break into iPhones and other iOS devices. Fortunately, although the information is now out there, Apple insists that it has since removed these security flaws.

So, rest assured that you are far more likely to get a virus on your laptop or desktop computer than on your phone. It never hurts to be vigilant, though.



Records are Back! Yes, I Don’t Get It Either

I’m all for nostalgia. We look back on certain periods of our life with fondness because everything seemed so much simpler before we were burdened with 100 responsibilities a week and the frailty of increasing old age.

I’m a child of the ’60s, so I certainly had my share of records. While I love music, I never loved the actual records. They damaged easily, they got scratched, they skipped. If you loved a particular song, you could wear them out after a few hundred plays (yes, I have listened to certain songs hundreds of times). I was quite happy when cassettes came along. Hell, I don’t even remember minding 8-Tracks all that much.

However, as you have probably seen, records are making a comeback. No, these are not new and improved records: they are still the same easily damaged and worn out vinyl Frisbees of olden times. Enthusiasts insist that the analog sound from records is richer and more involving. I’ll take their word for it because I don’t hear that much of a difference and whatever improvement there is gets tempered by all of those scratches, bumps, and hiss.

Fans also like to spend time with the record covers and the written inserts. Yes, these can be nice, but chances are I can also find them easily online.

People also like to have something tangible. A record definitely provides that and it is not something that can be taken away from you, like a digital file. However, if you don’t have a lot of space, you don’t really want a lot of tangible things making your life even more crowded.

There is also the thrill and distraction that comes from shopping for albums in record stores (yup, still around), flea markets, etc. I enjoy that, too, but as I age, I’m opting more for convenience. Records are a lot of things, but they are not convenient.

Do You Still Buy CDs?

Compact discs revolutionized the music industry when they were introduced in 1982. Scratchy, skipping records and easily erased audio cassettes, the standard for some time, now seemed terribly outdated. CDs provided cleaner, purer sound and the capacity to program playback and easily jump from one song to another.

Here we are 30+ years later and CDs now seem just as outdated themselves. Songs can now be downloaded in a matter of seconds. If you don’t want an entire album, no problem: just buy the songs you like! Streaming services like Spotify also provide playback capacity without the need for owning physical media.

So, CDs are dead then? Actually, no. People still buy them, though this does not get the media attention that the resurgence of vinyl regularly generates. Digital sales didn’t actually eclipse CDs until 2014, but the sales gap has increased dramatically since then.

That said, there is still a sizeable proportion of consumers who like to have that pressed disc and don’t want to deal with downloading. Over 100 million CDs are still sold every year in the United States and, while that is down from such highs as 730 million in 2000, it is still more than enough to justify the existence of the format.

Do you still collect CDs? I haven’t bought one in ages, but I do still regularly acquire new DVDs and Blu-rays. I like the convenience and permanence of physical media. Many people do not realize that when they download a song from a company like iTunes, they don’t actually own it permanently. The company can take that material back without letting you know in advance. When I buy something, it’s nice to know it is mine until I no longer want it. Then I can re-sell the material; you can’t do that with digital downloads.

Something to think about. There is no question that we are moving away from digital media, but it’s not dead yet.